Free your mind and Sew Groovilly


A dear friend of mine gifted me with a wonderful series of books recently- my sewing life is about to be enriched, I feel it.

Holy Man Jam, Boulder, CO  Aug. 1970

Have you ever wanted to sew and felt like ‘the Man’ was keeping you down? Do you ever feel stifled by the institutional strait jacket of fit and structure? Don’t let it get you down and harsh your mellow- The Illustrated Hassle-Free Make Your Own Clothes Book is here for you!

son of

I have long envied bloggists that do book reviews so I am very excited to take you thru the process of this marvel of a book that will soon liberate us all from darts, bras and societal beatdowns! Here is a quote from the dust jacket:

‘Yes, here is the straight-out dope on how to make your own clothing. No more mystique, no more sexism.’…’ Homemade clothes should not only be a ‘chick thing’. Does your old man need a new sarong? Has his hemp hoodie worn out? Don’t replace- ’embroider on a pretty little patch’!hippies

One more stirring quote before I begin gathering my supplies and we get started on our adventure!

‘There’s a thing about high fashion- it’s pretty much a hype. All this raising and lowering of hemlines, these do-dos and don’t-don’t’s seem to us to be just a way for the clothing industry- big business indeed- to keep their thing going. We find Vogue and Bazaar magazines best for cutting up as collages. They are not under any circumstances to be taken seriously.’lsd_hippies

Alright. I feel less uptight already. Or maybe it’s the incense I’ve started burning in the sewing room. Boy, I wish Bruderlein would stop coughing.

Ok, our list of supplies seems reasonable and I already have most of them. Well, except the Raavi Shankar cassette and the copy of Prophet that I’m supposed to have. Well, I’ll pick those up later at the Co-Op I was told to join in the preface.


Now, what to make first.. No, don’t run ahead Anne, that’s a downer. Enjoy the vibrations of the cosmos and read some more Gibran. ‘If you reveal your secrets to the wind you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees’. Hmm. This incense is making me really wants tacos..

Basic sewing section:

Casings, clipping curves, elastic, facings, no darts. Wait, what?


‘We don’t use darts on tops because we don’t use bras- they give your clothes a funny shape. If you want to make darts, you can figure out easily enough how to add them to the tops.’2240814610_78345b0942_z

Um, I’ve never really been a fan of the braless ness. My bunnies need a hutch, you know? You really don’t get good cleavage without a bra- I can’t go thru the day lying on my side to maintain cleavage in my braless state?! Ok, chill. This is my homogenized, sanitized, commercial, heavy, repressed upbringing making me sweat this. So I’m going to remove my foundation garments (clearly a man shackle, right?) and my little bracelet that says ‘What would Dita Von Teese Do?’ for this review. Dedication to my craft- I have it. I think I have to adjust my chair now.


Sewing tip:

‘When you first need to have snaps for something you are making, buy a large card full of assorted sizes; then you have them for next time. Same with needles and hooks and eyes.’

Phew! I was really thinking that my hoarding of textiles and such was going to be a problem with this books principles; luckily I will take this as a consumer compromise.

Another handy tip involves using nylon zippers as the metal is cold and scratchy against bare skin. Why must I have so much bare skin????? You know what else is cold and scratchy? My nipples. Sorry for that info, but I’m still a little bummed about not getting to wear my underwire. I’ll try to stop bringing it up. By God I will try.bra

Most of our manuals instructions are for hand-sewing. You can’t always depend on having power to run your big business hype sewing machine and as the landfills slowly fill with Berninas and Singers, our planet dies. I’m now so overwhelmed with images of the rainforest glutted with old overlockers that have become nests for toucans..sigh…

I’m torn- to accurately review this book, I should hand sew everything I make, but, as I would like to review this book within the year, I will break down and use this corporate tool- my Singer. Please forgive my lack of dedication.

The section on embroidery and hand-stitching is detailed and thorough. I can now embroider a butterfly, crescent moon or a peace sign on all of my old mans dress pants. He is thrilled. mermaid

Special tips about fabrics:

Nap- nap feels groovy. Nuff said. DSC08608

Grain- grain is well-defined and explained in the paragraph and additional thoughts on working with bias ‘ala Harlowe’.

Taking care of materials-

‘It’s better to take off crepe clothes before frying potatoes, if you don’t like the idea of having them dry-cleaned.’


‘Constant dry cleaning knocks the hell out of a fabric and gives it an unpleasant, chemical smell. Clean wash smells and feels a lot better. Also, washing cuts down on non-bio-degradable plastic bags which end up over the head of your favorite cat or child.’  Folks at home, I did not make that last part up, I swear. Even I would place a cat ahead of a child, even a favorite

For our next installment, I will cover the section on Remodeling Your Old Clothes. I hope that you have enjoyed this peek into a classic, please stick around for more!

In the meantime, I would like to leave you with a thought from the subject of our authors other works:

“The period between four and six in the morning is called the Brahmamuhurta, the Brahmic time, or divine period, and is a very sacred time to meditate.”
― Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras

I think I will go put my bra on and watch Project Runway. Oh, and Father- that was parsley. Don’t worry.


photo credits: google Images, The Illustrated Hassle-Free Make Your Own Clothes Book, meadhawg, little me. All images remain the property of their original owners.

112 thoughts on “Free your mind and Sew Groovilly

  1. mrsmole says:

    Holy Crap, Anne! Wish I had my Iron Butterfly album with the 17 min version of “Inagaddadavida”! Have to make do with the Doors and “Light My Fire”…makes you wonder where all this happy hippy folks are now….start the search in Northern California and Oregon and follow your nose…parsley, my ass, Girlie! Just the thought of seeing embroidery on your “old man’s” pants, your faithful photographer…how could he hold his head up ever again? Tuck your titties under your waistband and get groovin!


  2. katiedmd says:

    Oh no!! I must have this book, but all of the booksellers I know are corporate, big business types! Where’s my incense?


    Where did you get your WWDVTD bracelet?? I need one. And I’m off to Big Girl Bras for a Rago longline. That might cleanse my palate.


  3. Shar says:

    I’m still laughing. I’ll have to ask my ‘old man’ if he needs a new sarong! Groovy review – I can’t wait to see what’s in the next installment.


  4. Oh, the old hippies, I swear, many of them are still in Woodstock. I kid you not…
    It seems rather pointless to worry about washing vs. drycleaning when clearly, the easiest thing to do is wear the clothes while you, on occasion, wash yourself.
    Now where did I put my copy of My Generation, or should I break out “Shaken All Over….hmmmm Better yet, Purple Haze….!!!


  5. Caroleleah says:

    Illustrated item #14: “…Sew over pins. Remove pins.”
    *races to sewing room to pat my horribly consumerist, much-beloved sewing machine, and reassure her that I would never, ever, EVER allow her to drive over um, ah, ACK – a PIN!*


      • “Funny about driving over pins. I’ve seen videos from workrooms where the seamstresses regularly drive over pins while putting together those $4000 RTW jackets sold in Chanel boutiques,” said the devil’s advocate. 😀


      • Caroleleah says:

        OMG, Tia Dia – seriously?!?!? ACK ACK ACK~!! I used to drive over pins with reckless abandon, sewing needle often hitting them dead square, chopping them in half, & pile-driving the halved parts straight into the throat plate. This may or may not have on occasion messed up the shuttle race, timing, & whatever other mysteries live in the dark space under that needle plate. *innocent whistle* I don’t drive over pins any more. *wink*


  6. ellecsews says:

    Oh my. I haven’t thought of Ravi Shankar in years. I will have you know I saw him in concert back in the day, along with George Harrison and Billy Preston. Oh god I am old. Or wait, am I , or am I just brainwashed by the Establishment? Peace man.


  7. Oh No What are you doing to me! I lived much of that. Long hair down to my hips, home made caftans, embroidered cheesecloth tops..growing herbs…the commune, the Kombi vans. Where did the summer of love go…..


  8. I’m so glad that this post is still here. I read it really late Saturday night after watching Dr Who in the cinema and I honestly thought that I’d had some weird time-travelling/sewing/blogging dream.
    This blog post and this book *actually* exist. Awesome, maaan.


  9. sara says:

    When they said there would be no more sexism and not a chick thing anymore, I thought they were going to teach men to sew, but apparently they meant that ladies CAN sew for men. No more sexism is because men wear handmades too – handmades that their ladies made for them.


  10. You just made my morning. My mom once got me a book on how women should behave. It was a book dating back to the 1930’s and I can assure you, I took it very seriously and I have my husbands’ slippers and dinner at the ready when he comes home. I also never sew when I should be cleaning and I never bother him with any of my questions or opinions because they are just not worth his precious time 🙂

    I wish I also got this book though. So I would stop giving all my money to the big corporate fabric stores 😉


  11. knitgirl23 says:

    HAAAAAA HAAAAAAAA! Am I to be evicted from the hippie commune for my love of darts? At least I can smuggle in some bras inside the stash. 😉


  12. I officially need to go to my favorite used bookstore and scour it for a new gem. My favorite vintage sewing book from the 50’s advised a girl to always put on her lipstick when she sews… never know when hubby might come home and you wouldn’t want him to see you fraying at the edges over a hem, now would you?


  13. redsilvia says:

    I adore those pictures, in fact I think I was playing in Golden Gate park in some of those photos. You have just summed up the visuals of my childhood in SF in the 70s. I swear my second grade teacher (who left mid year to join a commune – I shit you not) is in one of those piccies.

    And fyi, I’m now cleaning up the coffee I snorted onto my screen when I came across “my bunnies need a hutch”.


  14. this might be of your best posts ever!!! like the commenter above, I was a child in those years here in the SF area. we used to ask dad to take a detour around SF when we went to visit the grandparents so we “could see the hippies.” We would drive down the length of Haight St.and check them out. My sis and I thought they were funny but who knows what my folks thought. For all I know we could have seen rock legends strolling down the street. Anyway, I have found some good books at garage sales but nothing compares to this one.
    Now, try not to be so uptight and embrace your inner hippie chick ! 🙂


  15. LOL! The whole book sounds like a bad comedy sketch. 😉

    Maybe as a compromise you could sew your own bras? Would that sufficiently “stick it to the man”? I don’t think I’d go without mine either, my nipples hurt just thinking about it.


  16. You have just reignited my desire to be beautiful and wear liberatingly oversized dresses, dancing the day away with men in dreadlocks, in my own little self sufficient bubble! But doing it all in my good old Berlei ‘smoother-underwire’ bra ~ easier to run, dance, and float around the place ~ all without added back pain … J


  17. You might think a bra is about supporting your bosom but really it’s been designed by the man to restrict and confine you. Down with bras! Haha groovy baby


  18. anothersewingscientist says:

    Right on.

    Oh man, I grew up reading cheap paperback books like this that described how to “stick it to The Man”. I may still have a few around here about growing your own food, living off the grid, brewing your own moonshine, building your own home and furniture….

    Ah, but here’s my favourite one! “The Grub Bag: an underground cookbook. The practical, philosophical and political aspects of food – with recipes and metaphysics”, by Ita Jones. It even has a chapter on cannibalism, ending with the quote, “I offer up no recipes. Most people these days aren’t fit to eat”.



  19. Your friend is a gem. I recently borrowed from the library the book with the comment about not wearing bras. That was a strange sentence to write. Vintage sewing, home ec, and etiquette books are endlessly entertaining.


  20. Oh god, I haven’t laughed this hard in a while (bunnies needing a hutch, oooh boy). “Incense”. HAHAHAHA. I think all this groovy instruction should result in some sort of hassle-free threads, free from the shackles of the man, right? Which is to say, please make a dashiki or bell bottoms, star child.


  21. What a great book to have in your collection! I think I may be suffering slightly from sewing book envy! I wonder what the author would write today? … Let me know how the parsley worked! 😉 ~Laurie


  22. Lynn says:

    Oh my! 94 comments! I so hate being late to the party and I hate not having time to read them all but it’s Thanksgiving week and the big event is at my house this year and I’m stressing. Anyway, hilarious book. I might try to hunt down a copy for myself.

    I must proudly note that I, myself, am kind to Mother Earth. No I don’t hand sew everything but I do use my grandmother’s 100+/- year old treadle Singer which is the next best thing as it uses not electricity. Oh wait… I have a big old adjustable floor lamp that I use so I can see what I’m sewing. [sigh] I can’t help it. I’m addicted to electricity.


  23. It’s all been said…but an interesting side note…Shankar’s lovely daughter Norah Jones just released a duet album “Foreverly” as a tribute to long forgotten Everley Brothers overlooked masterpiece “Songs our Daddies Taught Us” recorded in 1957….her duet partner… Billie Joe Armstrong!!. Serendipity….Peace out!!!


  24. So awesome!! i have a bunch of my mum’s sewing/knitting magazines from the 60’s and 70’s and I adore going through them, but this book absolutely takes the cake!! I can’t even imagine what my “old man” would say if I presented him with an embroidered sarong LOL. Also, fortunately for me, my children ARE cats, and none of them are in danger of having their heads covered in drycleaning plastic, as I am not in the habit of a) drycleaning LOL, or b) passing out on the floor in an incense and herb-induced coma, surrounded by my peace-love-groovy hand sewing LOL.


  25. Betsy says:

    Hi! I found your blog while looking for an excerpt from this very book. I own it and the sequel, but of course can’t find it in my workshop. I actually made several items from the book, by hand because I couldn’t carry a machine on the 3 hour round trips to and from HS way back then.

    Your review made me laugh and brought back fond memories of the “parsley” shared in my sewing circles. 😉 I also did have one “old man” who wanted a sarong made by me (it was out of a cool tie-dyed recycled sheet).

    I still use some of the techniques from those books, but I now use darts and keep my bunnies firmly in their hutch.

    Did you ever make anything and post your results? I can’t tell.


Something lovely to share?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s