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How clothing is made by an artisan in the U.S.

Updated: Jun 27, 2023


how clothing is made

Introduction:

How clothing is made in our clothing and design studio...

Have you ever looked at the seams of your clothing and noticed that they aren't all the same? What about the color or the print, ever considered how it got there?


Most of the time we just see "a shirt", but I'm going to give you a quick, exclusive tour behind the scenes of my small clothing design and sewing studio for Charlie Darwin Textiles.

Think of this post as Charlie Darwin Textiles: 'How It's Made' edition!


charlie darwin textiles logo


1. Designing

I think about what items I wish I had in my wardrobe, and which features would make my current clothing more functional. I also consider what would look good and fall nicely using linen (which doesn't have any stretch to it). This process involves a lot of 3am thoughts, scavenging Pinterest, and adjusting previous sewing patterns. Then, I draw it out!


Charlie darwin design process

2. Pattern Making

I create a sewing pattern from scratch or by making adjustments to my previous sewing patterns. I create everything in my size first, perfect the fit, then use special rulers to create larger and smaller sizes.

pattern making using rulers

3. Sourcing the right fabric

I strongly consider these 4 factors: fabric quality, the environmental impact, the ability to reorder, and price. Read more about our fabric choice here!


rolling linen fabric

4. Preparing the fabric

20 yards of fabric at a time are washed and dried so that it all shrinks before I sew it. The linen comes out of the dryer wrinkly, and I need it flat for cutting and sewing it, so there is lots of ironing at this stage!


ironing linen fabric


5. Placing the pattern and cutting

I aim for minimal fabric waste but also have to orient the pieces a certain way so that the woven grainline is moving up and down on the garment. Take a look at your shirt right now. Can you see the direction of the weave?

Cutting sewing pattern on linen fabric


6. Sewing!

This involves a fancy sewing machine called a serger, plus a regular 'ol sewing machine. (Look at the underside of your shirt, do you notice any difference between the stitching on the side seams, the neckline, and the bottom hem? Sewing also requires tons of other little tools, and lots of straight pins are used to keep the fabric in place. These tend to litter my studio floor and stab me for fun.


serging linen fabric

7. Dyeing and washing

If the garment is hand-dyed, I do that step here. I use natural plant-based dyes, and am always finding new "recipes" online to try. Dyeing takes anywhere from 1 hour to 3 days, depending on the dye. Then I give the clothing a really good washing to minimize any chance of it bleeding color in later washes.


Did you know you can try botanical dyeing at home? Check out our guide to dyeing with black tea, or upgrade to one of our plant-dye kits!


dyeing fabric with black tea and iron

8. Taking photos

If it's a new item, it gets a full photoshoot. It's often me in the photos, but sometimes I recruit friends! Either my boyfriend or my sister takes these photos. I also snap a couple of less professional pics of each of your orders to remember how nice they turned out. Read more about my experience with outdoor photography here, or you can visit my shop to See how the photos turn out >


fashion photography outdoors

9. Packaging

Every item is packaged mindfully, reducing and reusing where I can. It always includes a mending kit with matching scrap fabric to increase your garment's lifespan. Packaging is weirdly one of my favorite parts. I think it reminds me of wrapping Christmas presents!


charlie darwin packaging

10. Looking forward to hearing how much you love it!

I track the package via USPS right along with you, and can't wait to read your feedback and see some photos!


review for charlie darwin textiles

 

So that's the process, more or less!

Did anything surprise you about how clothing is made?

Now that you know how it's made, take another look at our shop with this new perspective...



 

✨If you typically shop at major name-brand stores, this process might seem a little different ✨


🌈 For one, I have the ability to make customizations for you, provide in-depth customer service, and exceptional quality control on the pieces I am sending.


👖I'm also not making seasonal clothing that is "in fashion just this year", I am making wardrobe staples that should last you a lifetime, with proper care.


🌿I take environmental sustainability VERY seriously and have the flexibility to reduce and reuse packaging materials. Made-to-order shops like mine also keep minimal inventory so nothing goes to waste if we alter our designs.


 

Inspired by...

This article is inspired by the time I was eating store-bought strawberries and realized a real person (with a name, face, talents, and music preferences) handpicked every berry that I was mindlessly eating. Call me clueless, but...


sometimes it's the simple things that blow your mind. Like realizing every product comes from earth matter and then is put together for you by another human.


Cheers to the process, and to more transparency about it!


 

📸Want to see YOUR clothing being made? (yes, I literally mean yours!)


When you order from Charlie Darwin Textiles, you can now sign up to receive order update photos of your clothing or nesting as it's being made!


This means you can watch your order be handcrafted, in real-time, by a real textile artisan.

As your order flows from concept to fabric, to the sewing machine, the dye pot, and into the wash -- I'll give you real-time photo updates on the birth of your garment.


How to sign up for order updates:

After you shop our site and place your order and you reach the "thank you" page, you will be asked if you want to sign up for photo updates. Enter your email address here to be added to our update list!

 

What will I receive with my handmade clothing order updates?

textile artist naturally dyeing with acorns

You will receive a notification email every time a new photo is uploaded (usually 3-5 photos over the course of a week). You can download or share the photos at any time. Photos may include several steps of the process, including the pattern drafting, fabric cutting, sewing, dyeing, and packaging of your exact piece of clothing.







 

I'm so excited to have you along for the ride!


Leah Widdicombe of Charlie Darwin Textiles


P.S. Want to know even more about how our handmade clothing is dreamed up and stitched together? Sign up for the Charlie Darwin email list where I share even more of the process and give you first access to new creations!


 

Swipe to see some of our recent orders, right before they were shipped to their new homes!



How is clothing made by artisans in the usa?

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