Maths teacher Xin Wang says the more she sews her own clothes, the more she realises how much effort goes into making one simple garment. She cherishes garments more, whether they are made by her or other people, because of the effort and time put into them.
“I love making my own clothes because I enjoy making things with my hands. I like clothes that are different – the worst thing to me in terms of clothes is wearing the same clothes as somebody else and that applies to my two kids’ clothes as well. Finally, it’s cheaper to make my own to achieve the uniqueness rather than buying designer clothes,” Xin said.
Xin lives in Adelaide now but grew up in rural China and many of her generation from her hometown went to work in factories in big cities. “I was fortunate to have a mum who only went to Year 4 herself but could see what education can do to change a person’s life. Even though my mum is a great knitter who sewed clothes for me and my siblings, I was never allowed to touch these things. All my time was spent on studying. But I had always wanted to make things with my hands. So now, as an adult, I make things for my children from skills I learned from others from reading blogs and watching videos. Because it takes so long to make, I learn to accept that I just can’t sew it from start to end at one go. I learn to plan and take steps. I think this has made me a better person or it take me closer to the person I want to be.”
“I learned to sew when I first came to Australia when I was visiting my husband (who was my boyfriend then). I had nothing to do and I had always wanted to sew. So I joined a night sewing course called ‘Learn to sew a skirt for yourself” and three-hour lessons for about nine weeks before I returned to China.”
Xin didn’t pick up sewing again until after her daughter Flora, now 2, was born. “Since then, I have sewn cloth nappies, nappy covers, skirts, dresses, tops, pants, baby cloth shoes, bags, pouches, hats and so on. About 50 percent of the clothes I wear now are made by myself either sewn or knitted.”
The garment Xin made for The Slow Clothing Project is a smock-like blouse with front tucks. “I bought the fabric from a Rotary Club shed sale. It used to be a piece of table cloth which cost $2. I used a Japanese style pattern.”
“As I have two young children aged at 6 and 2, it is a luxury for me to have a bit of time for myself, even though I’m using it to make things for them. So making a garment like that had taken me nearly one month from start to copy the pattern out, to finally sew the neck button on. I had never done tucks before, so it took me two nights’ free time to watch Youtube videos and test it out. Then finally I did it myself! “
“I used to rush a lot when I try to get something done. I still do sometimes now and need to remind myself to slow down. But I really enjoyed doing it step-by-step and making sure each step is done properly. The more I sew, the more I realise that if I’m investing so much time and effort to make something, I might as well do it properly. Now I am constantly finding myself telling my six-year-old son. ”If you want to do it, do it properly.” I wasn’t expecting to learn a life lesson from sewing. But I did.”
She believe that fast fashion is a selfish and lazy way of living. “It’s irresponsible to the Earth. The culture of consumerism is the result of a lack of spiritual pursuit in a big portion of our society.“
“One thing I learned from a movie about Tibetan monks is that when you are at a crossing and need to make a decision, always choose the harder way. So doing it myself is the harder way I choose. I don’t farm my own sheep, but I do get fleece from my farmer friend. I clean and dry the fleece before I spin it. Sometimes I dye it with plant dye from the garden. Finally I knit it. Also making food from ingredients grown from seeds in our garden is another that ‘slow’ plays out in my life.”
“I wish I had friends who know how to sew or who experienced frustration as I have occasionally. Finding a group of people who share the same passion would be beneficial. The internet is a wonderful tool, even if you can’t meet somebody regularly, watching videos or reading blogs is just wonderful. The Slow Clothing Project lets me meet so many people and read their stories. While I was reading the story of Dr Jenny Ostini, firstly I saw the pictures, I was saying to myself, mmm, I like those jackets. Then the more I read, the more I find that we have in common. Then I found myself saying “I like her. Maybe I should meet her if she lives in Adelaide. Ohhh, she lives in Queensland. It doesn’t matter. Maybe if I ever go there, I should visit her!”
There is so much wisdom in your story Xin, thanks so much for sharing – and we hope you get to Queensland!