Heard of #MemadeMay? Home sewing is making a comeback around the globe, including right here in Birmingham

This outfit didn’t come from a store–it was handmade by Charlotte Rand! Photo via Charlotte’s sewing instagram, @isewbhm

Home sewing is making a comeback. We spoke with two local Birmingham sewers about why sewing is cool again.

Slow fashion: the new trend

To talk about slow fashion, we need to discuss fast fashion. What is it? Inexpensive clothing produced by mass-market retailers. What’s the problem with it? Not only is it low quality, but it’s also often produced using labor that is poorly regulated.

There is a global backlash against fast-fashion retailers, marking a shift toward “slow fashion.” Slow fashion employs high quality fabric, sustainable practices and ethical labor standards. A big part of the slow fashion movement is making clothes at home.

Two of these home sewers in Birmingham are Charlotte Rand and Jeanette Hightower. Read our Q&A with them below.

How did you get into sewing?

Charlotte in a handmade Papercut Patterns Kyoto Tee. Photo via Charlotte’s sewing instagram, @isewbhm

“My mom has always sewn clothes for herself and her kids. I also spent time working in India with beautiful, handmade fabrics, which inspired me to turn them into something I could wear.”

Charlotte
Jeanette Hightower’s son in a handmade wool check coat. More designs at @hightowerhandmade

“I started sewing after having babies and having difficulty finding children’s clothing I liked at an affordable price. Moreover, I grew tired of poorly constructed garments that would fall apart after minimal usage. Clothing giants (such as H&M) design clothing to fall apart quickly. You are then forced to buy new clothes to keep up with fashions.”

Jeanette

Why should people consider sewing as a hobby?

Jeanette’s daughter modeling a handmade blouse. More designs at @hightowerhandmade

“First of all, it’s a creative outlet for me. Clothing is functional, wearable art. The design process along with the construction process is quite empowering. It’s a pretty special feeling to be able to take a piece of cloth and have a shirt in your hand an hour later.”

Jeanette

“You can make a higher-quality garment tailored to your body when you sew your own clothes. Clothing looks better when it fits you well. Sewing is like putting a puzzle together. It’s creative, but you don’t have to be an artist to do it.”

Charlotte

How is home sewing more sustainable?

Charlotte in a handmade Belladone Dress from Deer and Doe. Photo via @isewbhm

“Making your own clothing is more sustainable because you can use higher-quality, natural fibers that last longer. A lot of clothing that you buy in the store is polyester–you can’t recycle it. Cotton is natural, but it uses a lot of water.”

Charlotte
Jeanette’s son in a handmade camel hair vest. More designs at @hightowerhandmade

“The average American throws away 81 pounds of clothing per year. It takes 2,700 liters of water to make a t-shirt (cotton needs a lot of water to grow). Not to mention the clothing industry is essentially modern day slavery all at the cost of fast fashion.”

Jeanette

How to get started

The newest sewing trend isn’t your mother’s hobby–”indie” patterns, from independent companies, are becoming popular. Instead of going to big box stores to buy expensive fabric, the younger sewing generation is buying patterns and fabric online that are more in line with clothing trends.

These indie patterns are from small, typically women-owned businesses. And the patterns are more accessible to beginners. One maker of indie patterns, Tilly Walnes of Tilly and the Buttons, authored a book for beginners–Love at First Stitch. It’s worth checking out if you want to try sewing!

Birmingham’s home sewing resource

Erica Bunker, based in Birmingham and author of a popular sewing blog. Photo via Erica’s instagram @ericabunker

With more than 26,000 followers on Instagram, Erica Bunker is a well-known resource for home sewing in Birmingham and beyond. Check out her website and instagram for sewing advice!

Sewing kits from Alabama

If you need a sewing kit to get you started, check out Alabama Chanin. Based in Florence and born of the DIY movement almost 20 years ago, this company produces organic, sustainably sourced clothing. DIY sewing kits are available on their website.

Sewing stores in Birmingham

Although Birmingham doesn’t have many sewing stores these days–thanks to fast fashion–you can find fabric at The Smocking Bird in Homewood and The Sewing Room in Inverness. Need lessons or a sewing machine? Check out Sewing Machine Mart.

Want to see what other home sewers are doing? Search hashtags like #isewmyownclothes and #sewersofinstagram for inspiration.