Halifax fabric store, Patch, is putting the power of making clothes in your hands
by Dina Lobo
Although she only started taking beginner sewing classes at fabric store Patch in 2016, freelance writer Stephanie Domet has already created a wardrobe full of clothes she has sewn herself, including dresses, jeans, sweaters, undergarments, and even a backpack.
“I am probably one of their most regular customers now. I would say I’m there three times a week.”
Chris Pasquet opened the store and workshop in 2014, and has since gained a loyal community of customers and new sewers like Domet.
Other than selling fabric, Pasquet provides quilting and garment making classes taught by local makers and instructors. Initially, Pasquet didn’t want to incorporate classes as part of her business plan, but realized it’s a big component of her store, both on a financial and personal level.
“It’s created a really nice community. They take classes, they learn how to sew, and really spend time here,” says Pasquet. “Also, this community informs my buying. I know what people want because I’m talking to people every single day,” she adds.
Elliot Mussett, one of Patch’s garment instructors who’s been working with Pasquet since it opened, says the store has developed a passionate group of regulars because of the encouraging atmosphere they provide.
“We make sure everyone is comfortable to talk about the fabric,” says Mussett.
Domet says learning how to make her own clothes has changed the relationship she has with herself.
“I’m always wearing what I wish I was wearing because I’ve chosen every element of it. The things I’ve made for myself fit me the way I want them to fit on my body and it feels fantastic,” says Domet.
Domet admits it’s hard to be completely ethical when purchasing products as a North American and understands that the fabric she buys might not always be environmentally sustainable. However, she feels better about not participating in the sweatshop economy by purchasing fast fashion.
“The first time I made a t-shirt it blew my mind because knits are hard to sew with and I realized a t-shirt should never cost 7 dollars. We expect to get them for nothing when really, if you think of the work that goes into them, it’s much more than most of us are willing to pay.”
Mussett says she found many of her clients coming to the same realization.
“I hear a lot of people who come to make their first piece of clothing say, ‘oh my god, I had no idea it took this much work,’” says Musset. “Once you make your own clothing, you pay more attention to the quality of sewing in the commercial making of your clothing.”
Pasquet, who holds a degree in costume studies from Dalhousie and received her masters from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, has worked in fashion for years and is aware of the problematic nature of fast fashion, but understands why some participate in it.
“I know there’s a certain privilege that comes with that. I understand why people buy things inexpensively because they can’t necessarily afford to or don’t have the time to put effort into finding out where things come from.”
One new client of Pasquet was motivated to do something with his hands after retiring and losing a loved one. Instead of lying on his couch playing with his iPad, he decided to do something productive and started taking classes at Patch.
Pasquet says that although some of her clients’ motivation is to move away from fast fashion, it’s not the same motivation for others.
“There are people who come in who are marking momentous times in their life. Everyone’s motivation varies.”
Other than making her own clothes, Domet says sewing has given her a way to make gifts that feel more personal and would encourage others to try sewing.
“If you’re someone who loves fashion and is concerned about human rights; being able to sew puts the power in your own hands.”