Reclaiming the Art of Sewing: How to Get Started

Gender norms of the past century have more or less relegated the skill of sewing to the world of women. It’s seen as a domestic task best handled by the ladies, and most of the available guidebooks, tutorials, patterns and classes are thus targeted at women. But men who are interested in learning how to enhance their garments through sewing should remember that many of the world’s most innovative fashion designers are men; men who know how to sew. And it wasn’t long ago that fashion wasn’t so fast, clothes were built to last, and there were many skilled tailors - also typically men - who were relied on to keep our wardrobes looking fit and fashionable.

For any man who cares to curate his own unique style when it comes to his wardrobe, being able to do your personal tailoring and sewing embellishments is a beautiful skill to have. Here’s some inspiration to get you started.

Basic Tailoring by Hand

Having a few basic mending and tailoring tricks in your repertoire is smart. You’ll never have to toss a perfectly good shirt over a missing button or get stuck trying to safety pin your trousers closed. If you take nothing else away from reading this post, learn how to sew on a button. All it requires is a thread and two needles. Or one needle and something skinny like a toothpick. Dead simple and you can brag to your friends and family about it once you’ve mastered it.

Another good skill to have that doesn’t require a sewing machine is knowing how to hem pants by hand. Too-long trousers can really ruin an otherwise sharp appearance. With just an iron, a needle, some thread, scissors, and some chalk, this video shows you how to get the perfect hem so your pant length will be just so.

Tailoring with a Sewing Machine

Beyond the simple hand fixes, having a sewing machine will make speedy work of more ambitious sewing projects. African fashion icon, Loux the Vintage Guru, has grown famous for his reimagining of the classic, vintage apparel that he picks up from second-hand markets around South Africa and Namibia. He always buys over-sized items so he can tailor them to his personal body shape and unique style, which is retro dandy with a South African flare. You too can create a bespoke look from vintage clothes by mixing and matching found pieces and using your sewing skills to tie the look together.

To get started with a beginners sewing machine, consider what kind of features you’ll want to have - things like buttonhole stitching or a needle threader (helpful for fat fingers) - and whether you want a simple, traditional manual machine or a computerised machine with more features. For basic wardrobe sewing, look for a lockstitch machine, which is different from others that are specialised for things like quilting or embroidery.

DIY Sewing Projects

If you’re
ready to try some from-scratch sewing projects, here’s a few ideas for your
first foray into men’s fashion design:

Boxer shorts are simple for a starter project, and the fit can be quite forgiving - plus no one has to see them if they really don’t turn out quite right. A necktie is another easy project; there are loads of patterns available for free online, and you can go wild with picking out a unique fabric. Or embellish a simple sweater with smart-looking elbow patches.

Sewing has gotten an unfair rap as an unmanly activity. Like fixing a car or building a shelf from scratch, being able to maintain your wardrobe or create bespoke items from raw materials couldn’t be a more useful and empowering skill for any man to have.