DIY or die

When I was 19 my then-partner and I decided to make all of our own clothes. I can’t remember now what the reason was. The environment? Unethical working conditions in garment factories? Struggles with binaried clothing? Being small and angry queer humans who needed direction in life after dropping out of school? Being very very broke? Maybe all of those things.

I can pinpoint the beginning of this project in time because I was sewing (a bikini- made from a sweatshirt) during President Obama’s inauguration. The metal sewing machine that we used somehow interfered with the radio when I pushed the pedal, so I would sew a few inches and then pause to listen. I was terrified that he would be assassinated.


My first forays into practical garment making were bumbling disasters (see above- bikini made from a sweatshirt… in January). Even bigger of a disaster was that we had committed to this project- and then given away a good portion of our clothes as incentive. In hindsight I can say that it was an ambitious project, and well intentioned. I can also see the support we had, in friends and co-workers and housemates who dropped clothing and fabric off for us to repurpose. At the time I felt so scared and frantic, but looking back I feel proud and know that I was loved. I don’t have a single article of handmade clothing left from that time. The tights I intended to knit never got past the shin and the one pattern we had for homemade underwear never did sit right on my thighs. But I have scraps of fabric from dear friends that still make it into quilts, and some of the garments I knit now grace the bodies of people I love.

I wish my 19 year old self could see my closet now. It took ten years, but I am living the reality that I so badly wanted to force myself into back then. I wish I could whisper in my own ear that these things take time and patience (and um, some learning of skills), and I wish I could say thank you to myself for planting those seeds as I took my first steps in my adult life. They have grown and grown and today they feed and quite literally clothe me.

(Photo from Victoria Weeber, roughly 2009)