Rebecca Evans-Merritt - 10 Questions
Deer and Doe Myosotis hack in Japanese Ripple Indigo (out of stock) | Cocowawa Nutmeg trench in Khaki Organic Cotton Dry Oilskin | Miller waistcoat and Eve trousers in 8oz Organic Sanded Twill Black | Camber (hacked with a gathered skirt and long sleeves) in Lean Stripe Mono | Birgitta Helmersson zero waist gather dress in Lunar Jacquard.
1. Can you tell us what you love about sewing?
I love having the ability to think up something I want to wear or seeing something on someone else and then being able to make my own version of it. It’s having that potential to create things just for me as I want them to be, in order to express myself through my style. It’s also somehow both challenging and calming at the same time.
2. Was there a certain catalyst that pushed you towards making your own clothes?
I think it stemmed from not being able to buy what I wanted in the shops and having very clear ideas of what I wanted to wear as a teenager. Being able to think something up and then find the components to make it is brilliant and fun and that’s why I’m still doing it twenty-two years later.
3. What considerations do you make when choosing to buy fabric?
Fibre content is probably my first thing to check - I have always preferred natural fibres against my skin and now knowing more about plastics I steer clear of buying new synthetics as much as possible. Then pattern/print or lack thereof - I’m really generally not a pattern person unless it’s a stripe or check, and love wearing black though conversely, I do have a penchant for bold original 1960s prints!
4. Do you have any other creative pursuits apart from sewing?
I studied Sculpture at university and worked in the jewellery industry for years and though I don’t make ‘art’ anymore, I greatly enjoy doing and making things with my hands, whether baking, gardening, or DIY. I decide I’m going to knit every few years but haven’t done so in a while - the dream is to make an outfit completely from head to toe and I do think that has to involve knitting a whole pair of socks at some point.
5. How do you plan your projects? Does it start with the pattern or the fabric?
It can really go either way. I usually buy what I love or find really inspiring, whether that’s a pattern or fabric and then find the other bits I need to make a garment. I’m quite a fan of going rogue on fabric choice and choosing something not recommended on the pattern. My projects usually start with an idea I’ll have written down plus I use Pinterest quite a lot for imagery and love seeing what people wear out and about.
6. If you chose not to make something are there considerations you make when choosing where to purchase from? Do you have any go to companies that you trust the quality and ethos that you’ like to share?
I always carefully consider where I purchase from - I have to see that companies aren’t pushing constant discounts or encouraging excessive buying, use biodegradable packaging, are more weighted towards natural fibres, might be stocking deadstock fabrics… I only buy from UK based companies to avoid individual deliveries travelling long distances as much as possible. When choosing pattern companies, I look for sizing inclusivity and that they show diversity in their models. I really like Maven Patterns/James Tailoring for more eco-friendly haberdashery, Ray Stitch for organic fabrics and mending supplies, New Craft House for deadstock fabric and Olive Road for genuine vintage fabric. Merchant and Mills is genuinely my top for both patterns and fabric choice though! I love all the handmade fabric and yarn dyed textiles.
7. Favourite and least favourite sewing task?
My favourite sewing task is sewing and pressing darts! So satisfying to pin and sew them precisely and then see how they turn a flat piece of fabric into something with form. My least favourite task is cutting out, only because I can obsess over getting it just right and using as little fabric as possible by cutting everything flat, so it takes ages before I can actually start sewing!
8. How does sustainability play a part in your sewing practice?
I try to always consider the sustainability of my sewing practice from start to finish; from considering the environmental impact of how crops are grown to how they are processed into fibres to what the longevity and biodegradability of my garments are. I’m not in the practice of making regular toiles but keep old worn-out bedsheets for the extremely rare occasions when I do and then would only make the parts of a garment I’m unsure of. I think slowing down my sewing practice definitely means less mistakes are made, and I really contemplate my makes for a long time before starting them to be sure I’ll like them and they’ll be useful, therefore meaning there is less waste overall. I try to really appreciate the resources I purchase and not to over consume in general and just be mindful of how much I already own and can use.
9. What is your favourite me made?
My Camber Set dress hack in Organic Lean Stripe Mono cotton. I bought the fabric for my birthday in 2019 and then sewed the dress in lockdown and wore it on summer holiday 2020 when restrictions had been lifted so it has interesting memories. It’s such an easy to wear piece as you can just throw it on but still look pulled together - I’ve worn it as a beach cover up but also for nights out. People always compliment it and it works just as well in the height of summer as it does over leggings once the weather becomes more autumnal.
10. Are there any resources you’d recommend to our readers who want to learn more about slow and conscious sewing?
Check Your Thread podcast by Zoe is great - she’s a real conscious sewing devotee (of the blog So Zo What Do You Know and @sozoblog) so episodes cover lots of aspects of slowing down and being a more considerate maker, from lots of perspectives. Portia Lawrie’s (@portialawrie) just had a book published called The Re:Fashion Wardrobe that focuses on refashioning existing clothes but also has lots of information and tips on ways to make your sewing practice more sustainable. Also, to really slow down your sewing practice and be more thoughtful, hand sewing garment inspiration can be found at Fibr and Cloth Studio (@fibrandclothstudio) where Alexis advocates for sewing by hand instead of machine and exploring zero waste patterns. In fact, searching online for zero waste patterns in general is really inspiring as a way to consider how to appreciate every last inch of fabric.