I’m not much of a homemaker. I don’t sew, I don’t clean much, and as my boyfriend likes to say, my fridge is “where food goes to die.” But I was inspired to deliver a column wherein you and I both could learn valuable DIY style tips, so I consulted my sister, who’s started designing her own pieces and actually owns a sewing machine. Her response was surprising: “Dude. Do not attempt to alter your own stuff. Take it to the professionals. Seriously. It’s, like, less than 10 dollars to hem jeans.” So I won’t be teaching you to hem your jeans, or take in the bust on that new dress you got, or even bleach denim. But I do have helpful insider-y tricks, as well as some big no-no’s.
GO ON, TRY IT!
1. Make old things new again.
Let me tell you about a little place I know called M+J Trimming on Sixth Avenue and 38th Street. “Trimming” means everything from appliqués to fringe: it’s like an arts-and-crafts wet dream. If you have an old jacket or coat you’re trying to bring back to life, I’d suggest getting lost amid their selection of hundreds of buttons. But be warned: it’s highly addictive.
2. You know what’re easy to make? Curtains.
Guess what, penny-savers? Curtains are expensive, but fabric is cheap. All you have to do is cut a straight line (probably a sober activity) and learn a basic running stitch for the edges. And you get to play with fabric rolls! Whee!
3. Create the perfect pair of summer cut-offs.
It’s a tradition as old as orange push-pops: cutting up old jeans and putting them through the wash to get the perfect fringe-y short-shorts. Some helpful reminders: account for at least an inch of fringe, cut ‘em longer in the back (please!), and don’t forget: Measure twice and cut once.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DON'T.
1. Make new clothes out of other clothes.
Purses out of jackets, skirts out of neckties — yeesh. I’m all for eco-centric fashion, less so for bad fashion. Glue guns are a mess, and this isn’t a third-grade art project. Save your time and money and support local artists.
2. Get “clever.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen terrible style “solutions,” the architects of which probably thought them completely genius. If your straps are too long, don’t safety-pin them together in the back. If your pants need hemming, don’t just duct-tape them up an inch. And finally: no staples. I mean it.
3. Start with a project like, “I’m going to make my own dress.”
My sister has the hysterically asymmetrical proof of her first attempts at sewing. Sure, we all have our fantasies of wearing our own creation like Scarlett O’Hara in a dress made out of her drapes, but, realistically, she had a costume designer on staff. Start with something simple (like curtains or cut-offs) and work your way up.