Erica Penton feels as if she's in a master's program of one.
The (mostly) self-taught seamstress is one year into her handmade wardrobe project, and half of her closet is now made up clothing of her own making. She'd become frustrated with "fast fashion" and had a tough time finding pieces that fit her. Making clothes started off as a hobby, but these days it's a big part of her life.
"I made one or two things a year, and now I make, sometimes, one or two things a week," says Penton, who works for Halifax Public Libraries by day.
Her original goal was to replace her entire wardrobe in 18 months, but Penton now estimates it will take a total of two years. With the help of online tutorials and independent pattern sellers—such as Closet Case and Sew House Seven—Penton has sewn her own dresses, jeans and even shoes. She recently made her first pair of espadrilles.
"There's so much information available online," she says, "you just have to go looking for it."
Penton found an "amazing community" on Instagram and has developed relationships with people around the world who share her hobby. Before starting a piece, Penton searches the hashtag to see what it looks like on different people.
"It's a really fun community to participate in."
Penton's project has had its drawbacks, too. She was particularly proud of her two handmade winter coats: They took her 60 and 40 hours to finish, respectively. One night, mice caught a whiff of the dog treats Penton left in the coat pockets and chewed right through her hard work. She was so upset that she put the coats aside, in hopes of repairing them when she was in a better headspace.
"It's so annoying, but I know I can make another coat, and that's not something I ever thought I could do before," she says. "I've had the opportunity to learn so much."
Penton has been wearing at least one handmade piece per day. By this time next year, handmade pieces might be all she wears.
"I love fashion," she says, "and I love getting to decide who I want to be for the day."