Tips For The Reluctant Seamstress


There is no better place than Burning Man to wear what you dig. Back when I volunteered for The Man we talked about Radical Self-Expression, this idea of Going For It, of opening yourself to who you really are and letting your freak flag fly. For many Burners, costumes are the door to accessing and expressing ourselves and feeling A Part Of It.

Home sewing projects, thrift store finds, random cool junk you found: do not be intimidated. Here are a few suggestions for the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-hotpants crafter.

*When sewing by hand, thread several needles before you begin stitching. This way you can keep on sewing when the thread snags or runs out.

*Very little can be done with less than a yard of fabric. I usually buy 2 yards of anything unless I have specific pattern measurements.

*Old or discount thread snags and breaks. Get the $1 upgrade and buy the good stuff.

*There are great sewing video tutorials on the internets. Some are for specific patterns, others are more how-to. Very helpful if you’re trying to set a sleeve or learn how to hem.

*That super-stretchy/shiny/holographic fabric is tricky to sew. You will need a five-thread serger to hold the seams and if you don’t know what I’m talking about don’t go there.

*There are clips and crazy-colored tubing and all sorts of supplies to be had at the hardware store. I have seen some amazing stuff constructed with zip ties. One year fellow Burning Blog contributor Summer Burkes made pom-poms out of yellow CAUTION tape. I was pissed I didn’t think of it myself. So good. Hardware stores carry reflective materials — good to keep you from getting run over in the night.

Also at the hardware store: grommets. I have mixed feelings about grommets because hammering them can be a pain — I once grommeted part of a shade structure into the floor. The trick is to practice with scrap fabric until you’ve got the hang of it (and to not use wooden anything as your work surface). Fabric stores carry grommet pliers for smaller holes. Use an awl punch pokey-tool to mark the hole, then add the grommet. Close with cord or ribbon, lacing like your shoes.

Measure twice, cut once. Follow the layout instructions that came with the pattern or you will likely run out of fabric.

Don’t pass up the as-is rack at the thrift store. If something has a busted zipper, take it to an alterations place. Many dry cleaners offer this service for cheap.

If all this is way outside your comfort zone, I have three words: jumbo safety pins.

About the author: Molly Ditmore

Molly Ditmore

The night Molly Ditmore arrived at Burning Man 1998, she told everyone that she had come home. She didn't pack a flashlight or get any sleep. She volunteered at Media Mecca for six years, where she handled press inquiries from the music community and hosted an art tour. Costuming for Burning Man inspired her to sew again, a skill she learned in middle school home economics class. She is now a couture pattern-maker, custom clothier and rain hat maker. Molly got dusty from 1998-2009 and 2012-2015. She reads the comments.

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