Sunday, 3 April 2016

Why do you sew? My odd reason...

Better fit?

Creative outlet?

Ethical concerns?

Originality?

How about comfort?  

I don't mean the comfort of well tailored clothes; I mean real comfort against the skin.  I haven't read any blog posts about this, but it's a major factor as to why I sew.  I hesitated to write about this because few people understand exactly what I mean, and when I try to explain it, I often get called out for being a little bit odd.  Well, bear with me and my little bit of oddness:


Really, Gap Body?  Were 6 tags really necessary?

Most RTW clothing can be uncomfortable to me, and some can be downright torturous.  I'm not talking about the usual scratchiness of a label on the back of the neck, although all trace of those are  painstakingly removed by me.  I'm talking about fiber content and thread itself.  I've had people laugh incredulously when I say that a linen or acrylic garment is too itchy.  I've had to turn garments inside out because the seam thread is irritating my skin so much that I'm scratching myself raw.  And wool is just straight out of the question, even cashmere, and even if the garment is fully lined.


Sometimes I do a better job of removing the tags than others
I can sometimes bear a garment for a few hours if it isn't too irritating, but I often can't wait to get home and rip it off.  It's not an allergy (I don't get hives), I don't have dry skin, and I'm not on the autism spectrum (although I do have family members that may be); I think I'm just one of those people with a really sensitive sense of touch.  

This acrylic hip-length sweater was exactly what I was looking for, but I almost tore my skin off both times I tried to wear it to work.
When I make my own clothes, I can pick the fabric and finishes that won't irritate me.  I can tweak something if I know it won't work, such as encasing elastic shirring rather than leaving it raw against the skin.  And I don't have to wear anything inside out anymore. 



Any other "Princess and the Pea" sewists out there?  Chime in so that I don't feel like the only one squirming away in anything other than cotton, rayon, silk, or high quality linen!




44 comments:

  1. While I am not as sensitive as you are -I can wear wool- I cannot stand acrylic either; it makes we very itchy. And I squirm in most polyesters as they make my skin clammy and almost fragile. Natural fibres all the way! Thankfully they are becoming more common.

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    1. I have a few garments made from ITY, which I think is polyester (??) and for some reason they are very comfortable to me. But acrylic makes me want to crawl out of my skin.

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    2. Second the vote for natural fibers! I can't stand polyester in any way, shape, or form (unless it's in travel clothes or as outerwear, and even then...squick). And the more I work with organic cotton, the more I want to wear that, and only that.

      Now if I could only find a source for high-quality linen...

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    3. I got some from Stone Mountain and Daughter in Berkeley, and it's wonderful. You could always ask for some swatches and wear them under your collar for a while! http://www.stonemountainfabric.com/shop/Fashion-Fabrics--Quilting-Cottons/Linen.htm

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  2. I have a few fiber aversion ; like acrylic is too squeaky (feels like the popcorn thing they use for wrapping electronics) and polyester get stuck on my dry skin at my fingertips... I also cannot wear lamb/sheep wool because it is too scratchy, but I am fine with alpaca! But I love linen!

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    1. OMG, alpaca...I used to have the most beautiful hand knit sweater that my father brought back from field work in Peru, but I just couldn't bear to wear it. I kept it folded in my closet for years before I finally let it go.

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  3. How interesting! And because my mind lives in the gutter, all I can think is - well, there must be perks in bed to being super-sensory! :P

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    1. BWAHAHAHAHA! This is a G rated blog, so I'll demure. ;)

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  4. I'd say I'm moderately sensitive compared to you. I'm generally ok with polyester and acrylic unless it's really cheap stuff, and cotton and linen and bamboo are wonderful. But if there is anything remotely sheepy, forget it. I learned long ago to always pick up yarn by the label, because my hands will literally start prickling within seconds if there's wool at all. Even cashmere. I thought I was ok with small amounts of alpaca, and knitting it is actually fine, but wearing it is a different story. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only sewist who isn't gaga over wool, though.

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    1. I've actually had arguments with people who insist that cashmere CAN'T be itchy! I reply that it isn't to them, but everyone's perception is different, to which they reply, "BUT CASHMERE ISN'T ITCHY!!?!??" Sigh. Empathy is not a strong point for everyone.

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  5. Sounds exactly like my closet! I think I refused to wear synthetic fibers when I was 12, haha! And there isn't a tag left in any of my clothes! Luckily merino wool is fine for me, cashmere is itchy.
    Since you have to shop at high end (and pricy) stores to get clothes made of simple cotton, I make my own! This also has the added benefit of avoiding malls full of perfume, which I'm allergic to.

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    1. I've owned a few designer dresses over the years from which I had to remove the tags, but I saved them and sewed them back in when I donated them!

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  6. Some fibers I don't like the feel of (slick ones) but my five year-old son has sensory issues and I still haven't figured out exactly WHAT about a garment will set him out. The bad part if once his alarm bell goes off, he literally CANNOT do ANYTHING else until he "fixes" the annoyance. He has come home from kindergarten with shirts ripped up with his teeth, turned inside out, tags ripped out, giant holes in an area that was "bothering" him and he literally cut his socks in half while still on his foot and in his shoe! He chooses the fabric and I make his pajamas but he wants to choose clothes for school like the other kids have. At some point that may be impossible. I feel your pain. I truly do!

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  7. My skin is moderately sensitive to fabrics, so I have a taste for what you experience with your clothing. I tend to be hyper-sensitive to light, certain sounds, certain smells, etc. Sometimes it hurts my eyes to look at pointy things, like forks in the dishwasher, or a hand sewing needle coming through fabric. Sometimes I hear high-pitched background noise in certain environments with equipment running, and no one else even notices it. This is all heightened when I am going to get a migraine. So, I get it.

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    1. You sound like my daughter (turning 17 this week). She has significant problems with certain sounds and always has - like the vacuum cleaner or blender. And, for years she has essentially had anxiety attacks about the smells in restaurants (yep, we've done the rounds with psychiatrists, etc). The texture of string cheese drives her nuts. Light touch from others on her skin is torture. Socks were apparently designed to drive her nuts, she would rather have icy cold feet. I could go on, but I think you understand.

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    2. I do understand. I hope that she find ways to be more comfortable and manage her anxiety. It's possible. I hope that she has a wonderful birthday!

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  8. Same here, but I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. People had been dismissing my complaints about my joints and skin for decades before I got the correct diagnosis. (An unequivocal gene test plus symptoms.)

    The welts do not lie.

    I need to learn how to make my own underwear so I don't have to wear it inside out.

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    Replies
    1. Butterick 6031 is easy to sew and comfortable to wear, it is the only panty I will wear

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  9. I have the same issues! My skin was always a little sensitive, but it got much worse when I entered my 40s (I've also become really sensitive to products I use on my skin--can't use any cleansers on my face, have to use special detergent, make my own moisturizer and lip balm, etc.) I got rid of all my acrylic sweaters and linen blouses because they itch like crazy now. No animal hair at all; I recently made a wool jacket for my partner and it was SO itchy through the leggings I was wearing. I don't think people quite believe me when I tell them about this! I'm sewing a lot of cotton knits these days because they're so soft against the skin, though rayon is great, too. And I use flannel sheets all year and make flannel quilts. :)

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  10. My number one reason for sewing also. The bottom half of my body breaks out in a horrible rash to any polyester,nylon,stretch fabric. Natural fiber pants or skirts are near impossible to find in any store.....so I sew. Thankfully, I can wear knits on top.

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  11. Oh YES!! Not for me as much, but my daughter definitely has multiple sensory issues. Can't stand tags, etc. in clothes, won't wear socks unless she absolutely must (ie when she attended school), etc, etc. She is now doing high school at home after some prolonged health issues, and is very particular about the clothes she will wear. Not in the fashion sense (she doesn't care at all about fashion) but in that she wears the same things over and over because they don't bother her. Combined with her being tall, finding clothes that fit and don't bother her can be a challenge.

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  12. I am not as sensitive as you but i cannot wear wool at all, even merino (which everyone tells me is NOT ITCHY -i beg to differ). Since starting to sew and making most of what i wear i have found myself being more bothered by labels on the small amounts of rtw i do still wear. Maybe i got used to them before!

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  13. I am not as sensitive as you but i cannot wear wool at all, even merino (which everyone tells me is NOT ITCHY -i beg to differ). Since starting to sew and making most of what i wear i have found myself being more bothered by labels on the small amounts of rtw i do still wear. Maybe i got used to them before!

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  14. i'm actually quite the opposite, i enjoy wearing things made out of wool, and love that 'scratchy' feel on my skin.. i guess it's because i've been wearing sweaters that my grandma knitted for me, from local scratchy wool, ever since i was a baby, and i got used to it.. i do try to avoid polyester, but only cause it can't breathe, so i get sweaty wearing it.. i do have issues with clothing sometimes, but my issues have nothing to do with fabric choise - if i wear anything that was treated with fabric softener, i get alergies, so it's banned in my house

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    1. I think this is one of the main reasons that I don't knit (I mean I *can*, but I don't). I can't stand wool, but I just wouldn't be able to make something from nasty artificial wool. I'm glad that I wasn't born in the last century, because the wool underwear would have driven me mad.

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    2. you can knit with mercerized cotton yarn, it's super soft, and it's great for light spring/summery thingies :)

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  15. Yep, I'm just the same. Interestingly, both of my kids are too. I am allergic too, but it's mostly the mechanical irritation of labels, fabric etc. I can't wear any wool at all, and also tend to take off anything rough the minute I walk in the door in the evening. Even fabric pilling is irritating. I'm glad it's not just me!

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    1. I make sure to take kids' complaints about irritation seriously. I remember what it's like to be little and sensitive, and adults just think you're being difficult. (This is part of a much larger beef I have with society in general not taking kids' feelings seriously, but I'll save that for another rant!! ;)

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  16. welp, i do get a wonderful deodorant reaction to certain polys -- in that my deodorant goes nuclear the wrong way...but no inside out seams here. what a fascinating addition to the list of reasons to sew.

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    1. Ditto - I'm trying to remember the smell of the '70s, when everything was double knit polyester, and deodorant was so square. On second thought, maybe it's something we should all just forget.

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  17. That's a great reason to sew! I so happy I'm not in that camp, though---I love wool. :) I spent some time last year teaching a friend who has allergy issues to sew---she basically only wears cotton, even bamboo rayon can be a problem---and it was a really interesting perspective to get. In some ways sewing was a great idea, in others though it was harder because all the "mystery fiber" bargains were off limits.

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    1. I'm an aficionado of Fabricville's mystery fibre deals! If it says 100% unknown fibres, I usually just walk around with the bolt, and try to drape some on my neck - after a few minutes, I can usually tell what the content is. It's like a super power. (a very weird, not entirely beneficial to society at large superpower, but whatever)

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  18. I can't stand tags, certain overlock thread and almost anything polyester. I remember MANY years ago thinking I had 'solved' the changing-of-the-overlock=-thread conundrum by using clear thread. Ha! I made one dress, out of super special rayon that I have never, ever been able to find anything as cool since, and itched SO BADLY within the first 10 minutes wearing it that I cried. I kept it, thinking I'd take it apart and just repurpose the amazing fabric but alas it was wiped out in the flood at school way back when I ran a costume shop.
    I now wear cotton almost exclusively. I've purchased a few vintage rayon pieces of fabric and finally made a dress out of one. I *may* have to start using Hug Snug to finish off waist seams since those are starting to itch. I've never thought of myself as a Princess/Pea sort of person but apparently I am :)

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    1. I've done that before! I also have one RTW skirt with an elasticized waistband sewn with that clear nylon thread, and I always have to wear a tank top to cover my belly - otherwise the itch is too much to bear.

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  19. I'd say better fit is my top reason. But I hear you with the itch factor. I am actually allergic to angora (and most other fuzzy or fluffy creatures). And I've had the unfortunate situation where I've realized that my new sweater has angora in the blend only after leaving the house. By the time I've arrived home I was practically bloody from scratching, sneezing uncontrollably and watery eyed. Not fun.

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  20. Whew.... I guess I'm not alone in this oddity, or maybe there are just more of us that are drawn to sewing because we share this sensitivity. Princesses unite!

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  21. I know other folks with the same issue! I don't have it, but I sew because I prefer natural fabrics on my body and those get more more hard to buy in commercial shops!

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  22. Me too, sewing for comfort. I have systemic sclerosis, a rare autoimmune disease, and amongst the more serious complications, I have small fiber neuropathy affecting most of my skin. Not joking here when I say I feel your pain. SFN isn't curable and the medications that lessen or mask the burning and itching leave me like a zombie. A couple of things I do with every piece of clothing are several washes in Synthrapol, a 'soap' that removes excess dye and non-permanent finishes (no perma press for me), vinegar in all the rinse water, NEVER any fabric softener, always cold wash/rinse (helps keep fibers smooth) and line drying. They all help a little so I'm going for the cumulative effect.

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  23. I know what you mean about uncomfy fabrics. I hate anything that is too synthetic, that horrible scratchy overlock thread that they use for wooly things and anything with a fibre or fluff tends to bring me out in a big rash and makes me wheeze, especially wool. Ugh. It definitely makes life a bit easier if you can sew things. :) Xx

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  24. I absolutely understand, what you are talking about. My children are the same- I once was convinced, my then 1year old daughter had develeoped some painful disorder in her legs, after I put her new terry tights on. She coud not walk properly in them - because she hated the feeling on her feet. I could go on and on, about wool, scratchy labels, thick seams on socks, noise, the taste of food, smells... - did you hear about Highly Sensitive Persons? http://hsperson.com/. The concept very much appeals to me. Greetings from Germany :-) Guede

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  25. I'm curious about what seam finishes you use? My granddaughters are very sensitive but won't complain about things I make for them. Would pinked or overlocked seams bother you?

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    1. Hi Janie - I use 100% polyester thread in my serger, and finish most seams that way. That doesn't bother me at all. Seams from RTW garments that drive me crazy tend to have nylon threads (maybe they have short prickly fibres??) My kids have no hesitation to complain when something is bothering them, so I know right away! ;)

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  26. This is my first time reading here, and I had to search for your photo to see if you had red hair. This describes my life, along with a tender scalp, and eyes and nose that start running when this nervous switch gets flipped. It can go so far my teeth hurt and I need to urinate. Nothing works for me but taking the irritant away, a little deep breathing and back to life. I was told this was because of my red hair, and ran in to more than a few red heads that agreed. There must be a study somewhere. I will say it got better as I grew older, but seems to have returned with new features now that I am old. Good luck, the struggle (I know) is real.

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  27. I cannot stand serged seams against the inside of my thigh, so that cuts out all pants. I have actually opened the serged seams in a couple of pairs of pants and reversed the seam to a outward facing French seam, but this is very time consuming. This discomfort holds true even for knit pants with a serged seam. ----I wish the garment industry would fix this.
    One more thing: I wish that all elastic, whether a waistline, in bodice, or elsewhere, were adjustable i.e. in a casing, in all garments. I'm sure a lot of other people would agree with me.

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