The first guest post by Oanh was a runaway favorite, so I’m glad I can bring you Part Two of her originally longer post. This half is about sewing. Oanh is definitely a better seamstress than I am, so I follow her blog and Instagram to see what lovely things she’s made next. She, like me, loves adding reflective details to her sewing projects; I am so happy to find a kindred spirit! And I love how her life has come full circle, first with her parents sewing for a factory, now sewing herself as well as working as a lawyer in support of such workers. This is a powerful story.
Sewing I’m sort of new-ish to, and sort of not. I grew up in a household of ‘outworkers’: my parents sewed T-shirts for a factory (through multiple middle-men down the contracting chain/network). They were paid a pittance for their work, which was often rushed and urgent. I remember waking many mornings to discover that my parents and older siblings had worked through the night. I helped out, too; I folded and bundled and my smaller fingers and better eyesight meant that I threaded the machines. My sisters and I would also use the fabric scraps to make a million scrunchies. I made bags when I got older, and I wore clothing made from the fabric scraps when I was younger. My family very much wanted to leave all the sewing work behind; it is symbolic of the early life we led in Australia, struggling to make enough money to live on and feed so many mouths. I know my parents were prepared to work for anything at all, but my paid work now (I’m a lawyer) is striving to ensure those in a similar situation are paid fairly for their labour, have safe working conditions and their health is not damaged by the work. My parents suffered from myriad respiratory and physical complaints, many of which were directly attributable to the sewing work. Knowing how to sew was always in my head, and I spent a lot of thinking time on how to modify my clothes because they did not fit me (too long, too tight in the thighs etc) or lacked things that I wanted (like reflective-ness and pockets..) I rarely got around to making the modifications, however.
One day, after I returned to Australia from our bike trip, I decided I should stop thinking and start doing, so I bought a sewing machine. I’ve since become obsessed and sewing is now a prime hobby (almost displacing reading …) and an unshakeable part of my life.
I’m loving making my own clothes, because I hate shopping and I don’t much like the fashion industry. To that end, I don’t know that much about what the women’s cycling clothing market is like in Australia. Nor the sports gear market. I am also a hiker but I really don’t know what the hiking clothing market is like, either … a bit useless, aren’t I? I dare say: very few are designing in Australia, and even fewer are making in Australia. Most clothing is ‘pricey’ in Australia for a variety of reasons (smaller market, value of the Aus dollar comparative, higher cost of living in Aus, cost of importation etc). I have some major issues about the balance between the cost of clothing production (particularly workers being paid a fair price for their labour) with the cost that we as consumers are prepared to pay (or are perceived to be prepared to pay) for clothing – whether it is technical or casual or formal. This post would become even longer if I delved into this issue but let me end with this: Cycling is my preferred mode of transport because I want to live a low-impact-on-this-earth life (simple, green, sustainable etc); making my own (and some of my partner’s) clothes ties in with that ambition. Making my clothes exactly how I want them, for everything that I might want to do in them, is a motivating bonus!
I’m in awe of someone who does so much biking, such great sewing, strives to live a low-impact life, and works to improve the lives of others. Oanh, it’s been great to have you as a guest blogger! Thank you so much for your words!
I hope you have enjoyed reading about how other women bike and sew! I hope to bring more posts like this to you throughout the year. Stay tuned!