You know that thing that happens when you’ve got so much to do, a monumental stack of work to do, and you don’t know where to start so you just do none of it and go to the pub instead? I think that is the best way I can sum up the creative planning spirals I had been in since uni.
2020, the year I swore to slow down, but also speed up. It was clear that I needed to simplify the way I thought about my practise, after being so caught up in ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybe I should do this instead’ that I realised I hadn’t actually touched my sewing machine in about 3 weeks. I think that is something that comes out of trying to produce sellable work; being on minimum wage and trying to save meant that making money was honestly at the forefront of my mind, however, it stunted my work massively. I became so focused on wondering what customers would want that my designs felt flat and soulless.
To me, its important that clothing is adjustable, I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve had to unbutton my jeans after a big lunch or felt uncomfortable on a night out when nothing fits properly and my top is riding up so quickly that the slightest shimmy would expose my body to the rest of the bar. I distinctly remember the frustration I felt when rushing around the shops one New Years Eve desperately searching for ANYTHING that would suit my body type or not make me feel like I was suffocating after half a lager. This is when I realised how little the fast fashion industry caters to different body types and clothing requirements.
I took a break from designing clothes to sell and just started planning myself a new wardrobe, you know, I’ve heard that a really good way to make money out of your work is to not sell any of your work and just make yourself new clothes instead. I adapted patterns (if you’re not familiar with sewing then a pattern is a sort of stencil used for clothing construction) I had previously made, I couldn’t face forking out for the pattern paper that comes on rolls or a cutting mat at first so I stuck newspaper pages together and cut them out on the dining table. My cat also likes to sit right on top of whatever work you’re doing, so that was nice and convenient too.
I began working with scraps of fabrics I had left from my degree final collection and cutting up clothes from charity shops, just trying to keep the cost as low as possible. The first piece I made for myself was a silk velvet wrap top, I hurriedly put it together so that it would be ready for my first lockdown zoom party... Even writing that down feels like I have been placed in a dystopian disaster film, although if that were the case I probably wouldn’t have been sitting around drinking chardonnay and frantically filling my calendar with a minimum of 35 quizzes a week.
A drunken post-zoom selfie session inspired me to post a photograph of my new velvet top on Instagram, I received a lot of positive feedback which was really nice, probably the most I’d had since releasing the photos from my final collection. Not to say that if I had received negative or no feedback I would have packed it all in, but it definitely gave me the confidence to carry on sharing my work.
I proceeded to take over the spare room at the family home (my mum calls me a snail because I leave a trail of items and threads wherever I go) and turned it into a studio and cat-free zone where I recreated the same top in patchwork, repurposed fabrics. I also designed two new styles of top as though they were for myself, a crochet halter neck and a hand dyed denim halter. I couldn’t hold any photoshoots due to social distancing restrictions but what I did have was many wonderful (and patient) friends who modelled for me in their own homes, and put up with my micromanaging over the phone. I posted the photos and began to receive orders! All I can say is that you know what you do best, so do that, even if its unsuccessful, at least you will like it.
Words & Photo's by Holly Pitt-Knowles
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