A Handmade Garment Conundrum

I find myself in a bit of strange and unknown territory this holiday season, my 10+ year relationship has come to an end and I need to be out of my apartment by the first of the year. It was a bit unexpected and the timing is unfortunate, my sister and brother-in-law are in town and instead of hanging out with them I’m packing box after box after box. You get the gist, but I guess you can’t really schedule these things can you.

Anyway, It’s 4:30am right now and I’ve been packing my clothes for the last few hours, making piles to keep, toss and donate and I’ve run into a bit of a problem with my “I haven’t worn it in x amount of time and it isn’t really special” rule. I have a few really special dresses, Miu Miu, Jil Sander from when she was still designing, Peter Som, etc. that only get choice occasions out and they’re always beautiful so they’re exempt. The problem is with my handmade items. I have a lot of outdated, just plain old ugly or whatever handmade garments. Do they have the same rules as ready to wear clothing? It feels so strange to get rid of them, but I also am tired of them taking up room in my closet. I know I can donate them and give them a second life but it’s sort of hard to set your handmade clothes free.

Do you guys have special rules for your handmade garments? Should I just be strong and toss / donate them? Help a girl out!

Also, not that anyone would do this, but please no boyfriend bashing in the comments. He’s still a cool guy even if it didn’t work out for us, not that it makes things any easier, probably harder actually! Blah.

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60 Responses to A Handmade Garment Conundrum

  1. Ruffles gazebo says:

    I hope ur ok lovely ^_^ I hope ur Christmas is still filled with joy and friends!
    I seriously have had this issue a bit lately with my handmade things. I hold onto them for ages even if I don’t wear them…. I have sold a couple of times at markets where I have sold them pretty cheaply if they r still in some form of nice condition and that way I see who gets it and u could even take a photo haha.

  2. annabelvita says:

    It’s a tough question, and I’m not an experienced enough sewist to really help you out. Are there any where the fabric could be repurposed? Perhaps into a quilt or just a smaller sewn item?

    I would say, if you have space to take them with you, maybe delay the decision to a less emotional time. Could they all be folded up into a vacuum bag and shoved with sewing stuff? Then you can reassess when you’re in a new place and know how much space you have?

    I hope you feel better soon. Lots of love!

  3. yesilikethat says:

    Really sorry to hear that, hope you’re doing okay :(

    I don’t mind so much getting rid of handmade stuff I’ve sewn, but I have a real issue with giving away old knitted stuff. I never wear the first cardigan I made but it took me so long to knit I can’t bear to see it go.

    When it comes to sewn stuff, if I never wear it, I get rid of it. I just don’t have enough storage space to keep stuff I never wear, and it makes me feel strangely guilty to see it. I gave loads away earlier this year and it was a real weight off my mind.

  4. mblow says:

    I donate my hand-sewn stuff, too. If I were a really responsible person, I would put the waist or bust measurement into it so that the buyer would have an idea of size without too much guesswork. I am too lazy for that. As a plus, someone could find it and remake it into something cool. That’s the fantasy in my head.

    I wish you both peace.

  5. Sorry to hear of your troubles. It’s good to have family round at these sorts of times.

    I used to hang on to everything, but I’m more ruthless now. I’ll treat my handmade clothes as my non-handmade. If it doesn’t get worn and isn’t special, it goes. I enjoy it now. A purge will do you good.

  6. Gail says:

    Oh, Jen. So sorry to hear that this is going on for you at a time of year that not only is usually a joyful time, but also a very busy time. I hope you’re able to move on with the least amount of stress and heartbreak possible.

    As for getting rid of handmade items: I routinely go through my handknit sweaters and donate the ones I’m either not wearing or don’t like any more, mostly because I’m too lazy to rip them out and reuse the yarn! But with sewing, I find that I’m reluctant to get rid of things I feel I did a really good job on (the crap can go!), whether I’m wearing them or not.

    But YOU are a professional, and maybe you could consider adding your items to your Etsy shop. I’m sure there are a lot of people who would are your size and would love to have an item made by you!

  7. I hope you’re doing ok and that you have plenty of family and friends to help you through.

    I haven’t been sewing or knitting long enough to have the same conundrum, but, as someone who is aspiring to keeping the items in her wardrobe to a minimum, I say the handmade has to go as well. Depending on the appeal of the fabric in the garment, you may be able to re-use it when sewing something else? or donate it. I think how excited I’d be to find a handmade coat or dress from the 60s in a thrift shop today – that could be your garment for someone else years down the track :-)

  8. Kate says:

    I’m sorry to hear that. Its hard especially when you living space is your work space and there are pets involved. And yes I donate handmade stuff that I don’t wear and is outdated. Letting go of clutter feels good.

  9. carol says:

    i never have a problem donating my handmade stuff to our local thrift shop and smile when i see someone wearing one of my pieces.

  10. Emily says:

    Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear that! I’ve been there, and I know it’s difficult.

    But to address the matter at hand, I’m ruthless when getting rid of clothes. Even if I made it, I treat it like it’s store-bought: if I haven’t worn it, am not going to wear it, doesn’t fit, is out of style, etc., it goes. As a newer sewist (less than two years) a lot of garments were test garments and I just didn’t realize it at the time!

    Good luck with everything!

  11. Stephanie says:

    Really sorry to hear. Hope you still have a wonderful X-mas with friends and family. I’m ruthless with my handmade garments. If I don’t wear them I give them to charity. All of my garments have been photographed when they were made and posted about in some way or other on the internet so I figure that will do for posterity :), like if I ever feel sad I’ve thrown it away and want to look at it again, I can.

  12. megannielsendesigndiary says:

    oh honey! i’m so sorry to hear that – what a rough time. And i’m sorry you aren’t getting to hang out with your family while you pack up, but hopefully having them near is a nice comfort and support while you go through this :(
    Big hugs sweetie!!!

  13. Christine says:

    So sorry but if it doesn’t feel right now it won’t feel right later. I have a lot of garment I have made for long periods of time because they are so well made.

  14. sarah says:

    sorry to hear about your relationship ending. i’d say only keep things that you are happy to see and wear! and someone will be happy to get a handmade item at a goodwill somewhere (no idea where you take your stuff). hope your family can help you out and make the best of a hard situation–also hope you find a great place to live and start the new year in!

  15. Katie says:

    the reason I swew is so that I can create a beautiful functional wardrobe. if you aren’t wearing it, if you can’t repurpose the fabric, then it is better off finding a new home.

    I hope you find a little bit of joy this holiday season. I know we don’t know each other personally, but your blog has brought me joy!

  16. Molly says:

    I normally try to treat my handmades the same as store bought, even if it’s harder sometimes.
    You’ll get it all sorted out soon enough (and not just clothing), good luck!

  17. I would clear them out. You might not like them but to someone less fortunate, it might be exactly what they need! When I moved, I cleaned out a ton. It was wonderful to unpack so much less stuff. I wish I had been even more ruthless with my closet. Plus think of all the room you’ll have to fill up with things you like better! I hope the transition goes well for you. Take care.

  18. I always viewed my handmade as special. I saved those and might separate them to make a special quilt, scarf, or another item collectively. I did not have to use all of it, sometimes just a sliver. Especially it it was not my style or taste. Yet I liked to have a bit of it with me always. I never knew when I would use it later, want to have it a bit later. I later used parts of blouses which were handmade in some baby quilts for my sons because the colors were wonderful. And there is always some special notion, feeling, attention behind something handmade.
    All the best..to the both of you…

  19. Hey Jen, sorry to hear about your relationship. I agree with the rest, treat handmade the same as store bought. These pieces already gave you everything they could: a learning experience. It feels good to end up with only things you love.

  20. em says:

    gaaah I’m so sorry. I had a long term relationship end about two months ago and it really sucks. I have no advice for the clothes… but whatever you are feeling is ok.

  21. Quinn says:

    I’ve given handmade clothing to the thrift shop, and I’ve also bought handmade clothing AT the thrift shop. I think it’s special to wear something made by an unknown person who cared enough to make something, and I hope anyone who buys my (former) stuff will feel the same.

    I hope everything works out smoothly for you. All the best!

  22. Heather Lou says:

    Oh Jen, I’m so sorry to hear this. What a shitty time of year to be going through a breakup. I had a brutal one this year and I also have to move shortly so I empathize my dear. Whatever doesn’t kill us, etc. etc. As for all your unloved makes – LOSE ‘EM. I am on a purging tear right now and I think it is healthy to get rid of all the things we don’t need, even if we did make them. You’ll feel lighter and less baggage heavy going into 2013; fresh start, fresh closet.

  23. liza jane says:

    Aw, what a crappy time of year for this. I hope you don’t want to punch me for saying this… I went through a terrible breakup just before meeting my husband. I now know that everything happened for a reason. You know the saying that when one door closes… Anyway, I know that may not be any comfort right now.

    I get rid of old handmade stuff. I have no qualms about it. If I don’t wear it or it’s outdated, I donate it. I think about how excited I get when I find handmade things at the thrift store. Good luck!

  24. Leezee says:

    I love my handmade clothing and think they’re works of art even when they’re ugly ducklings that no one else could possibly love, so I hate to get rid of anything, ever. My trick is to go through things and put them in a bag (space bags would work if you’re short of room) and seal and date the bag. Then after another period of time, if you haven’t needed to go into the bag for anything, just give the whole thing away without opening it! If you open the bag, you could fall in love all over again. That’s ok of course, but it’s a slippery slope. Eventually you need to get rid of something, because everyone has limited room and needs to make space for newer things and someone else needs to love the older things you’ve made and give them a second life. Another trick is to put things in order of what you like the least, and then every few months give away only five of your least-loved things, keeping everything else to give away at a later date.

  25. Barbara says:

    I agree with the whole purging philosophy; I think it will make you feel better and will certainly brighten the lives of a lot of others. Could you take a picture of each item and make a kind of collage or something later as a remembrance?

  26. Amanda says:

    So sorry that you are going through this. May 2013 bring lots of happiness to both of you.
    I donate handmade things I don’t wear anymore (or never wore!) and always feel better afterward. Though if you feel sentimental attachment to any of it beyond just the fact that you made it, it might be hanging on to for a while and reassessing later.

  27. Sunni says:

    I’m so sorry you’re going through this too! Oh Jen! I wish you both the best in the days, months and years ahead.

    As for your handmade-throw-it-away conundrum, I’m totally on par with getting rid of said items. It does no good to dwell on keeping things that you’ll never wear and continue to just take up room in your closet. I still have a hard time doing this myself, but you’ve inspired me to look at my closet and UFO pile again and re-examine what will and will not get made.

  28. Norma says:

    Such an unfortunate situation, especially at this time of year! I hope the new year holds great things for you.

    Regarding the clothing question, if it is not being worn it must go. Regardless if it was hand made or purchased. I find excess clothing draining – too many items to look at each day and too many to choose from. Usually there are very good reasons items are neglected. Donating or selling unworn items is freeing and opens up space for new items you will wear.

  29. marcyhmakes says:

    I would get rid of them for a couple reasons – space is really valuable to me, I like to have a closet full of only things I really love, and I don’t like to be reminded of my sewing failues – not because I am in denial, but seeing them time after time in the box in my sewing room sometimes makes the failures seem more numerous.

    I do the same thing with photos – edit mercilessly. Then when you scan through your photos you don’t have to skip over the ones that are blurry, overexposed, blinking, etc.

  30. meghan says:

    I hope you’re doing ok. I can only imagine what you’re going through. 2013 will be better!

  31. Caitlin says:

    Oh Jen, I’m so sorry! This must be a really rough time, saying the least. I totally want to send you some good tea from my local tea shop (not Davids but goooood) to cheer you up!

    I always feel better getting rid of things I don’t wear and things I made that are just WIT [what in tarnation] was I thinking. Only a couple times have I thought I could use an item after I’d gotten rid of it. Mostly I think it’s just so nice to only have things that fit and look good. I don’t know about you but I am a major pile maker so if I can get rid of a pile, I’m doing it and blocking off that sentimental feeling of having a thing. Sometimes I feel kind of bad if I recently made an item and it turns out a dud but I will donate that sucker anyway because I’ve gotta be able to close my dresser drawers, yo!

  32. hi lady! first off, hugs to you. when long relationships end, no matter if it was your idea to end it or not, it’s just a weird head space to be in, so hang in there! as for clothing (vintage, new, or handmade), i’ve never been precious with any of it. i don’t hang onto garments for sentimental reasons, unless they were passed down to me from my family. but if i made it and never wear it, off it goes to a better life. it can be very liberating and cleansing to let it go. but i’m not a hoarder and like my shelves minimal, or else it’s too cluttering in my soul and mind. so each person’s level of comfort with that is different. just think of it this way, if you think you’d regret not keeping it, keep it. and if you think you’re not in a good headspace to judge if you’d regret getting rid of it or not, keep it. seriously, hugs to you. xoxo

  33. maddie says:

    It’s time for a change lady! I like to keep my handmade garments because there is a story behind each one. They don’t have to take up room in your closet – you can store them in boxes. Just don’t get rid of them!

  34. Shannon says:

    My advice on getting rid of clothes or stuff — handmade or otherwise — is focus on the result, not the act of paring down. If you’re like, “Getting rid of this is hard, and do I really even want to?”, that’s different than saying, “I want to open a closet and see only things that I love, stuff I can’t wait to wear. How can I make my vision a reality?” You know?

  35. Melissa says:

    I’m so sad to read your post, big hugs first and foremost. In my experience, purging/cleaning has always been good at times like these. And that includes my handmade items. The only way an item stays in my closet is if it fits, is timeless and I still love and wear it. You have very skilled hands and there is plenty of beautiful fabric in the world – you will be able to make amazing clothing for a long time to come. I always feel better with less clutter and “stuff” hanging around. I wish you all the best. Hang in there, I’m sure great things are right around the corner.

  36. Tara says:

    Sorry to hear about the relationship ending.

    If you don’t feel right about donating the items, I think you should try to sell them. I’ve sold handmade stuff before and if they are well made they can fetch a nice price, which may offset your attachment. Also, once it’s gone you won’t even think about it!

  37. Amy says:

    Oh dear, I am so sorry and know that it must be hard to do this during a time when things are busy. I hope you find practical help and comfort, even in unexpected places, when you need it. I’m not an entirely rational person when I’m going through a loss, and tend to purge indiscriminately so I wish I had level-headed ideas. But practically, I’m also at a stage where I’ve been living in the same place for 10 years and have too many things I don’t wear anymore–so I’m curious about suggestions others have, especially in the handmade department. Sometimes my girlfriends and I have a clothing exchange and I’m always surprised at what they take–often the handmade stuff!

  38. Amy Alan says:

    I’m sorry you’re going thru a rough time, dear. I hope that Sister Pug and Roamy are giving you lots of love (although I’m sure they’re no help when it comes to packing). Feel free to come have a free stay in Portland with me! I’ll take you to some really incredible fabric stores, and even share my David’s tea stash.

    I do the same thing with handmade clothes. I feel guilty for getting rid of them, but I know that’s dumb, because I’d only be hurting my own feelings. I don’t even know if you can really do that. I did a big purge recently and got rid of TONS of garments from college (ball gowns- why would I ever need those). I donated them to a local organization where girls who can’t afford nice dresses can have them to wear to prom for free.

    I think the biggest thing that helps me to get rid of stuff is asking myself, “If I lost this in some tragedy (think house fire, flood), would I actually be sad and miss it?” If the answer is no, then get rid of it. Dragging stuff around is much more of an emotional burden than you may realize.

    I hope you find an amazing place and are back on your feet soon. I wish you the best!

  39. gingermakes says:

    Aww man, I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. I hope you’re able to share at least some time with your sis and b-i-l, and that they’re able to support you through this time. I know that you’ll find a great new place soon. I recently donated some handmade things that I know I’ll never wear. It didn’t feel right, for me, to have stuff hanging around that I don’t love.

  40. Mae says:

    You are starting the next phase of your life, so you don’t want to be burdened with articles from the past that don’t deserve to be part of your future. I find handmade clothes easy to give away because I can always make more! I sew for enjoyment, not because I need more clothes. Disposing of things I’ve made frees space in my life for new things. Be generous with your handmade clothes! Make the lady in the charity shop smile, and then have fun making more!

  41. Lucinda says:

    Aww Jen that really stinks. I’ve been in the same kind of situation – I had to find a new place to live ASAP after ending a six year relationship and it was really a sucky sucky period of time in my life. To add that it’s the holidays on top of what you’re going though makes it even more difficult – sorry to hear that you’re dealing with this.

    As for old handmade clothes, I’ve donated some stuff in the past to Goodwill. You’re right, it is a weird feeling to do so, but it felt good to empty out the clothes that I made and never would wear to make room for all of the fabulous new stuff I wanted to make.

    Here’s to an awesome 2013 for you!

  42. dixiediy says:

    Ugh, I hate to hear that bad news, Jen, but hopefully the new year will bring bright new beginnings. :)

    As for clothes, I found it hard to giveaway old handmade clothes until I finally did it. Now I have no problem donating things that aren’t my style or don’t fit well and I don’t feel like fixing them. The only difficulty I have in donating is with a select few items that I love but don’t fit me anymore and can’t be easily taken in. I don’t want to donate them in case they don’t get approved for re-sale in a charity shop and instead get shipped off to some recycle with a heap of other cast offs. I’m considering giving them away on my blog, at least then I’d know they would be in good hands.

  43. Gillian says:

    Awww, I’m so sorry to hear it. Things will get better eventually though! I have a lot of faith in the world.
    As for your clothes – donate them or get them out of your life somehow. I mean, will you think about them once they are gone? Out of sight, out of mind, right? Make room for pretty new clothes you’ll really want to wear!

  44. Carolyn says:

    I like photographing old handmade items, so I’ve got a record of what I’ve made and how far I’ve come. It doesn’t have to be a particularily nice photo- just a quick snap of the items spread out on the floor or hanging on a coat hanger will do. Once that’s done- I think it’s easily to get rid of them.
    I always think about making the fabric from old handmade clothes into a quilt – but you have to be realistic about whether or not you’d actually do it. Quilting is time consuming!

    I do hope you still find some christmas cheer amidst all the chaos.

  45. Gail says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your breakup. Editing is key to a good wardrobe and we shouldn’t exempt our handmade garments from this process. I’m a cup half full to overflowing type of person, but hopefully you can look on 2013 optimistically and be open to whatever it presents.

  46. Ms. McCall says:

    It is my strongly held belief that some things can’t come in to your life until other things make way for them. People and things that were once precious go away sometimes, but that void doesn’t stay empty. It fills up with people and things that are right for you now. I hope you find that you have all you need, and are soon excited by the new things filling up your life.

  47. best wishes and hugs to you jen!! snuggle up with roamy and watch a movie you loved as a kid. in my experience, kitties make everything better. xo devon

  48. Rachel says:

    i went through this same sadness a year ago in january…it will be tough but you’d be surprised how things turn around in that time. you are loved! come to portland and meet cute boys with me! xoxo

  49. IngeMaakt says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your rough times! I hope you have your friends and family there to help and that you find the road upwards again soon.

    About your handmade clothes: this year I was so stressed that I couldn’t go to work anymore. I was home sick, and had plenty time to think about my life. I held on to stuff (and clothes) for sentimental reasons and I didn’t want all those things anymore. It turned out that the hardest thing was the decision whether or not to keep some handmade items (not a lot since I haven’t been sewing for that long, but still) I never wore. As I was sitting in front of my closet it struck me that if I were to keep it now I would have to make that decision again and again every time I cleaned my closet. And to save me that, I decided to donate them. And then it didn’t feel sad anymore, but it made me feel better, beause I saved my future self that decision again :) Maybe if you think of it like this it will help you with your decision.

  50. Belinda says:

    Oh gosh. My long term partner just dumped me unexpectedly too! And I had to move out in a week, to one room in a family member’s house. It must be the month for it. It is so unsettling, isn’t it? Dealing with the logistic and the emotional issues all at once.

    So, I’ve had a similar problem with my handmade clothes. And I’ve decided to treat them as I would my other clothing – if they are special/current enough to sell, I am selling them (as much as I can be bothered). if not, I’m donating them. And I’m letting friend/family rummage through them too.

    I thought I’d miss my ‘stuff’, but I actually feel quite liberated. And it’s helping me to move on from my relationship; a clean slate, if you like. I hope that you get the same satisfaction and benefits. :)

  51. Some how I missed this post yesterday. I’m sorry your having to deal with a relationship ending during this time of year. That sucks big time and I wish I could actually help you out with all that packing

    Personally I’d purge the stuff you don’t want to wear, it hard but otherwise it’s just taking up valuable storage space.

    Sending you some internet hugs.

  52. Jen says:

    For what it’s worth, I’m always so excited to find a handmade item in a thrift shop; I love wondering about the person who made it, and if it’s even close to fitting I buy it so I can give it a good home. Maybe it would help to think about your hand-sewn garments having a new adventure with the person who finds them.

    If you have stuff that’s weighing you down, I think it makes sense to give it away, even if it’s hand-sewn. There’s a little fabric shop in my neighborhood (Bolt, in Portland, OR) that has really taught me the value of curation – it’s a teeny, tiny shop, but literally every single item they stock is 100% amazing. They pack so much awesome into a small space, and I’ve started trying to do that in my life as well – only keeping things that I really love and need, and not spending tons of energy on stuff that isn’t useful.

    That said, there’s really nothing wrong with hanging onto it either, or putting off the decision until a less stressful time. Best of luck, whatever you decide.

  53. I also have a problem parting with my makes. I managed to donate a couple… The rest is still with me!
    Sorry to hear about your relationship… It’s hard.

  54. Daligula says:

    If it’s wearable for others I give it away, otherwise I become a butcher and make sure to recover those elements I like: lovely buttons, buckles, lace…

  55. lsaspacey says:

    Jen, I am so sorry about your relationship. I can’t even imagine how ending that long of a relationship would feel. Good luck to you.

    About the clothes, I agree with others that you should donate them or perhaps check with friends who may have admired a piece or two over the years. That is, if it wouldn’t be too hard seeing your items on others. Also sealing them in a vacuum bag and waiting is a good idea too. I just reclaimed a perfectly good skirt from a donation bag that still hadn’t made it out of my apartment for over a year! I guess I weighed a bit more than now, because there is nothing wrong with it. Maybe, those clothes just need time for you to ruminate.

    I hope 2013 is an amazing year for you. Take care!

  56. Hilary says:

    Hi Jen. I’m really sad for you and I hope you can get this all sorted so you can start moving on with your new life.

    I always find in times like this I’ll make rash decisions. I threw out a LOT of stuff when I moved. Took some to a textile recycling place and to a charity shop and it felt quite liberating to get rid of clothes from the past. Also, I had to downsize my portfolio, I only kept a very small selection of my best work. Space was the main factor but its also been a clean slate creatively, and you might find that too. Xxx

  57. Gosh, I’m just catching up on my favorite blogs, and I’m so sorry to hear about your break-up. Maybe it’s for the best, but it always sucks. But you’re going to rock the dating scene, I just know it. You’re a strong and beautiful woman any man would be lucky to have.

    As far as the handmade clothes go, I’ve gotten rid of a few pieces that have been handmade/refashioned by me. It always hurts inside to send them to a second-hand store, so I try to give them to friends and family that I know would wear/appreciate/up-cycle them. It feels so much better.

    That being said, if you want to send any old pieces my way, I wouldn’t mind! I’m sure your old clothes are cooler than the new clothes in my closet. You have fantastic taste!

  58. Julie says:

    My first time here! Linked thru One Little Minute. I think it’d be cool to list them on Etsy and let your pals and Internet pals bid on them. Use the proceeds to help you get set up in your new place. Perhaps a nice housewarming gift for yourself. Sorry to hear about the end of a relationship. One door closes, blah, blah. Moving on was very painful, yet it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me, truthfully. Power on!

  59. nettie says:

    Dude. I missed this. So sorry you were/are having a rough time! I hope you’ll let me know when you’re going to be in NY. I’d love to give you huge hug in person!

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