Project Seam Allowance is easy enough to define – it’s the pledge to make at least 25% of your clothing over the course of the next year. They can be knit or sewn, made by machine or hand, be as basic as a scarf or as intricate as a suit. It’s not quite as easy to determine what it means to each person.

It began with Kristine of A Verb for Keeping Warm, but has grown to touch so many more people. I’m still in the process of wrapping my mind around the project and what it means to me, but here are my goals so far:

  1. Commit to making 25% of my clothing. This initially seemed a bit like madness, but after The Great Closet Purge of 2012, I have considerably fewer clothes, which means 25% is a lot less now. The hope is that by needing to make fewer clothes, I can spend more money on nicer fabrics and getting to handle nice things means I’m more likely to keep sewing.
  2. Have a better understanding of what goes into making a garment that both fits and lasts. I’ve made clothes before – basic skirts and dresses, the occasional shirt – but there’s always the feeling in the end that it looks flimsy and homemade. Part of this is time. If you hammer out a skirt at 3 in the morning, it’s going to reflect that in the final garment. Also, I’m getting tired of things not lasting through the year. So there will be a lot of learning about finishing techniques and small touches to give a garment a finished look.
  3. Increase awareness of local manufacturing and encourage a greater sense of personal responsibility. This one’s probably going to be the toughest. The quality of the clothes I buy is noticeably worse than they used to be – a sports bra from Gap used to be double layered and medium weight 100% cotton jersey, now it’s a single layer of thin modal for the same price. My jeans used to be thicker with more cotton; now they wear out quicker and have more elastic in them. We can’t afford to rebuy everything we own to support local manufacturers that provide fair working conditions and a living wage to workers all at once, but I can increase my knowledge of these local manufacturers and find ways to support them over time whether it’s a handmade dish, a few yards of organic, US-made cotton jersey, or a piece of furniture not churned out of Ikea (I know, that one hurts the most).
  4. Clothing should be adjustable, customizable, and personal. I dislike single-use kitchen tools; they take up drawer space I don’t have and tend to be a bit useless unless you use them all the time (I’m not going to go buy a cherry pitter if I only eat cherries once a month). The same should be true of my clothing. I’d like my clothes to be multi-purpose – a basic collared shirt should serve as a tank and detachable sleeves allow it to become short-sleeved or long-sleeved. I don’t know how easy this will be (probably not very), but it will make a smaller wardrobe become much larger without taking up as much closet space if I can pull it off.

So how am I doing so far?

  • I’ve started off by starting small. Making a basic cowl or wrap in colors and patterns that make me want to wear them everyday rather than just stuffing them in the closet where I’ll never see them again because I liked them that one day.
  • I’m picking a basic set of colors for my wardrobe. Everything in my new wardrobe needs to go with everything else so I no longer have that one shirt that only goes with those specific pants. Currently I’m going for browns and creams with rich, earthy tones. Eventually I’ll get to the hardware store and will start picking out paint samples that I can use as a reference when shopping or buying fabric and yarn.
  • I’m still buying clothes. Just because I want to make 25% of my clothes doesn’t mean it needs to happen right this second and it doesn’t mean I should stop buying things for myself. If I need new work pants now, I will buy them now.
  • I’m focusing on what I know how to do and expanding on that. I am not stressing about the hundreds of things I don’t yet know how to do. This entire project is a learning process and just because I can’t make a pair of slacks yet, doesn’t mean I won’t learn how later and definitely doesn’t mean I should just give up on the whole idea.
  • I’m making (and buying) clothes that fit. Over the past year or so I’ve put on a bit of weight and it’s sort’ve snuck up on me (possibly because I’ve been subscribing to the Paula Deen & Pioneer Woman School of Cooking). I’d go to put on a pair of pants that I swore fit perfectly only to find them snug in the hips or leaving a nasty indent on my stomach from being too tight. Rather than exercise like crazy to fit back into them, I need to get new clothes that fit who I am now. If I lose weight down the road, awesome; but I can’t keep wearing clothes that don’t fit my current body in hopes that they will some day fit an “ideal” body. And no, I am not losing weight for my wedding. Screw that.

So there we go. It’s on paper (well, sorta) and it’s public. If you’re in the Bay Area, there are monthly meetings where people who have all taken the pledge can come together and share their progress, their goals, and their knowledge. If you’re not local, you can still keep up with the group on their Ravelry page (sure, the site is primarily for knitters and crocheters, but nothing says you can’t join for the sewing).