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May 15, 2012

Sewing, Hammers, and Pinterest UPDATE!


Source: google.com via Peter on Pinterest


Friends, to say I have taken to Pinterest like a duck takes to water would be inaccurate, since a duck doesn't actually live in the water, whereas I am having a hard time prying myself away from my new favorite website without gasping for air.

To think that only four days ago I had no idea what Pinterest was all about and now I'm practically the poster child.  It does seem like it's mostly women on that site or maybe they're just the ones posting the Rita Hayworth pics.

Some quick highlights:

1) Cathy fans will be happy to know that my identical cousin has her very own board that includes all her stunning outfits (collect them all) along with links to her glamorous photo shoots!



2) Forties fashion fans will enjoy my new 1940's ALL-COLOR beauty board, bursting with gorgeous vintage portraits, film stills, beauty ads, and more.  New additions daily!

3) Everyone loves cute dog pics and I have some great shots of Freddy and Willy, as well as private (well, as private as anything you post on You Tube) home videos of them exercising on their treadmill -- fun, fun, fun!

Of course there's also plenty of sewing machines, tutorial links, and many of my favorite men's sewing projects.  Put down the phone, pour yourself some coffee, and check it out!

While I'm certainly no veteran, with less than a week under my belt, I do see how Pinterest is an excellent place to collect images that you want to be able to access for whatever reason (sewing inspiration, for example).  You can search the boards of other people who might have similar interests, or upload your own images.  I find myself doing both.  Best of all, the original link is always attached to the photo (unless you change it), so you can always return to the place you found it.

The layout is very user-friendly, and it's also easy to edit captions if more information about an image comes your way.  Have I missed anything?  A few questions:

1) I'm still not quite sure what the purpose of "liking" an image is, unless you plan to put it into a board at a later time. 

2) If you have a blog, do you generally link photos to your blog only if they (the photos) are original to you, and to the place where you originally found them, if not?  

In other news, I was thinking after yesterday's post, about whether or not sewing is easy.  Readers, in my opinion, sewing is a lot of things -- fun, sometimes relaxing, often mind-expanding and even confidence-building -- but easy is not a word I would ever use to describe it.  It bothers me to think of all the sewing machines sitting at the bottom of closets because someone had the mistaken impression that sewing was easy and got discouraged when they found out it was not.  

Sewing is easy like hammering is easy.  All you need is 1) a hammer, 2) a nail, and 3) a piece of wood.  But there's a big difference between hammering a nail and building a bookcase.


And there's a huuuuge difference between building a bookcase and building a five-bedroom colonial with attached garage.  Do you get where I'm going with this? 


Sure, it's easy to press a pedal and sew two pieces of fabric together (provided you know how to thread the machine); it's a whole other thing to make a pair of boxer shorts -- and a different thing by an order of ten to make a man's shirt (or even a jersey wrap dress).

Sewing takes 1) perseverance, 2) ability, 3) the right tools, 4) time. 

I think it's this last one that is the most challenging for most beginning sewers today.  Learning to sew -- especially clothing --  is a big time commitment, which is probably the primary reason more people don't do it.  Just as people used to buy their own home-building kits from Sears and erect their own homes, nowadays most people are more comfortable hiring somebody else to do it, so most of us end up with very few practical skills.

1923 Sears house kit

I get a lot of emails from beginning sewers, especially men, who don't know where to start, so I think I'll be addressing this issue sometime soon.  It's easy to forget how daunting the whole thing can be when you're starting from zero, as many male sewers, in particular, are.

Readers, I'm curious to know what you think of my sewing/hammering metaphor, or if you can come up with an even better one.

When you talk about sewing with others, particularly people who express an interest in learning, do you ever describe it as easy?

What advice would you give to someone who wants to sew but knows absolutely nothing at all about it?

Jump in!

43 comments:

  1. Greetings Peter!

    First of all, I knew you would get Pintrest fever to the highest degree when I saw your page...... you're a natural for it!! Now the problem is that you may find yourself wiling away the hours there and not at the sewing machine! LOL!!

    As far as sewing being easy...... you definitely hit the nail on the head with your hammer analogy. A woman I know once expressed an interest to me in wanting to learn how to sew. I told her it takes time and to start by watching sewing programs or videos and reading up on it and then begin with the simplest of projects to get a feel for handling fabric on a machine. I would never tell anyone its a one-two-three presto thing, as a matter of fact I make a point of saying that I'm still learning all the time. It's always best too be straight up and not raise someone's expectations to high. I also tell people not to try sewing if you're not in that 'sewing mood', doing so will only lead to frustration and disappointment.

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    1. I wish I'd thought of "hit the nail on the head with your hammer analogy." That's the best/worst pun I've heard all week!

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  2. I like the hammer simile. And you are spot on with the time investment. Whenever anyone tells me they wish they could sew, I tell them, "you can. Just plant your rear in front of the machine for about a gazillion hours, and you'll learn."

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  3. Ha! This was my post today! Not as eloquent as yours. I said, "be not afraid - sew!". I like to encourage new sewists to start with a project. It can be a simple tote or perhaps a kit. Some of my earliest projects were patterns that were printed on a yard of fabric. Even those were difficult at times, but I believe you have to make something you are interested in. And, ask for help when you need it.

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  4. Oh, Peter... I may be the only person who is disappointed with your move to Pinterest. I work during the day for a large well-known global company with strict internet policies. I enjoy checking your BLOG for a break from the Dilbert-esque life. Sites like Pinterest, YouTube and Facebook are blocked, so all I can see is your text. It simply isn't the same!

    Under the circumstances, I must remain Anonymous.

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  5. boy oh boy oh boy...that Pinterest is a time sucker; an enjoyable one though. I've had to limit my time on it as very little sewing was getting done.

    I DO so love Cathy's board; she's a bombshell of a gal...whilst musing over her fashion pics i found myself wondering if one of the sailor boys she posed with in the playsuit, was perhaps the father of the little bundle of joy that's due later this year??? one can't help but wonder about the elicit nature of the delicate position she now finds herself in.

    Sewing easy? No...for me it's a constant learning journey of highs and troughs; successes and failures. Enough successes to make me want to get back to my sewing machine(s) frequently and not too many failures as to make me want to get ride of all my machines and patterns LOL

    PS. the initial feverish Pinterest activity does abate after a few weeks and you become a little less crazed by it haha

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  6. I think sewing is only a small portion of any garment. Fit is more important and learning to fit yourself or someone else takes a lot of determination, perseverance, critial thinking/analysis and in some cases, some brutal honesty:-)
    It was easier when I was younger to fit garments, but now as a middle aged woman it takes me a few more steps. Is learning to fit impossible? No, of course not, but it is integal part of sewing and when someone starts sewing and completes a garment and it doesn't fit due to poor fitting skills then they become frustrated and quit all together. My quilting friends always tell me that behind every quilter is a frustrated garment sewist.

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  7. If people ask me if sewing or knitting is hard, I always say: "Everything is easy to do. Everything is hard to learn." And the perfect example is walking. Very hard to learn. Takes weeks. Even for adults that have to relearn after an accident, learning to walk is very difficult, but very easy to do once you've learned it. Same with reading, speaking, skiing, biking, and every other skill you could possibly learn. Also, I like your metaphor of home sewing and hammering.

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    1. Sara, yo really hit the nail on the head! Everything is easier after you have learnt how to do it!

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  8. I would tell someone who wants to learn to sew to buy Sew Everything Workshop and actually read it. Second, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES buy a sewing machine at Walmart, go to a locally owned sewing machine shop and buy a good used machine. Third find someone to help them. Oh wait, that would be me.

    That would be it.

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    1. not everyone has the option to buy a sewing machine that way. sometimes the sewing machine at wallmart (or any other chain superstore) is what gets people started and interested

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  9. I'm glad you gave Pinterest a try...but please keep your blog going, too! ;-)

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  10. The sewing itself is not so hard once you get the hang of it, but fitting is an on-going and difficult process.

    I would encourage a new sewist to take a beginners class or find a sewing mentor to help get you started and help you set some achievable goals.

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  11. I think sewing is like any other hobby or occupation. You either have the knack for it, or you don't. Even though I am just a beginning sewer, I think it boils down to if you can invision how to fold or sew the cloth so it will look like the picture in the end. Not to mention the patience to stick with a challenging operation like a collar or a zipper-fly until it is finished. Then you realize it wasn't that difficult after all. Plus you have the satisfaction of wearing and enjoying what you created.

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  12. One thing I really like about Pinterest is the simple and well designed interface which enables me to see lots of photos for a interesting topic all at once. I subscribed to your sewing machine board for just that reason. A blog is more like a diary and Pinterst is more like a virtual bulletin board.

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  13. Those of us who took to sewing as infants are very lucky because simple stuff like dolls clothes, and making awful mistakes, is acceptable when you are 7, but hard on the brain of a 27 or 37 year old. Last night we had our first Absolute Beginners class, and o the three students, one is a natural, one will get there and one is struggling. but he is having such a good time!
    I want people to learn and would never tell them it is hard, but then as they are learning from an expert, they are in a better place than trying to go it alone. I am self taught and I would never put down learning for yourself, but as an adult trying to get started, having someone there to help keep you on track I think is really useful. And the runaway demand there is for beginner sewing classes in our city of 350,000 is amazing! There must be a half dozen offerings to choose from yet all are filling up and have waiting lists!

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  14. it also depends on how you learn. Some people can learn from books and then apply that knowledge whereas other need to be shown. Years ago that would have been to the detriment of countless new sewists, but thanks to YouTube tutorials everyone gets a chance. Then it's just practice practice practice until it works

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    Replies
    1. I learned to wind a bobbin on a YouTube video!

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    2. I probably viewed the same video, was it by Brian?

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  15. I think your sewing and hammering things are close enough. But I think sewing and carpentry are very similar for other reasons: 1/3 skill, 1/3 tools, and 1/3 materials. You don't think of it because you pay very little attention to materials :-).

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  16. If anyone came to me wanting to learn to sew (as my dear husband did a little while ago) my advice would be to start with something simple. When I learned to sew (lo! Those many years ago!) I remember practising on paper with lines drawn on it and then with curves drawn on it. Eventually I graduated to making pillow cases and tea towels. When I got sick of that (and in the meantime my Mum had gone back to work and didn't have time to teach me more) I enrolled in a class during the summer holidays and made a skirt and blouse. To her dying day, Mum complained that they didn't teach me to cut off the loose threads and make my finished work look finished.
    Hubby dearest fixed a sheet, and now often patches his jeans pockets that get holes because his keys are too sharp. He does the repairs on my cheap-and-nasty buzzbox sewing machine; I do the machine embroidery and fancy sewing on my whizz-bang computerised monster that's worth more than my car.

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  17. If Pinterest ever gets too full of women for you, Peter, there is a more "manly" version, called Gentlemint.

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  18. I will stay off Pinterest, as need to focus!!!!!! There's doggie outings, church parties (some requiring hats and dresses), and sewing. I had been in a large depression, and while in there kept up with sewing plans,sketches, charity shop fabric and pattern hunting. I adore (!!!!!!!!) my collections, and am very keen to create clothes that finally fit, as well as working on up-cycles. Adore my up-cycle violet jersey wool skirt, with gores and godets. More to come. Feels so good emotionally, is a terrific mood elevator, and so interesting. To-day reading vinatge sewing books, so inspiring. Love the alterations help. Especially useful as I am a curvy "mature" hourglass type of lady. Great blog, and great letters. Cathie, in Quebec.

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  19. I really like the sewing/hammer metaphor, so much I'm probably gonna use it soon in my class. I teach draping and sewing, and my advice to starters is to be patient and start small, sew easy and quick projects until you're really confortable, or it may be very frustrating. Oh and I never say sewing is easy.
    Your 1940's board is beautiful! I love it!

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    1. Are you familiar with "Project Runway"? If so, do you know where they get that tape that they use on the mannequins? I would like to try my hand at draping.

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    2. Scorpioninblue,

      Go to: http://www.susankhalje.com/store.html and scroll down to the bottom, and you'll find bolduc tape.

      With a roll of that, you can go drape sh*t.

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    3. As in going "ape sh*t", not literally draping that stuff.

      Sometimes a turn of phrase, forks.

      Delete
  20. I have yet to venture into Pinterest. Is that building still from Mr Blandings Builds His Dream Home? I think I need to look at your 1940s board ...

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  21. I would agree with everyone who has said that sewing isn't easy, but that it comes easier to people who have a natural aptitude for it.

    My step-daughter started to learn to sew in school last year, and spent a whole term with a hand sewing needle and a piece of paper, pushing the needle through the paper in a straight line. In that time they didn't teach her how to thread the needle, tie a knot in the end or anything. She got so bored she almost gave up... luckily I came to the rescue.

    In the school holidays we started sewing alphabet cushions. This taught her how to cut out a pattern, cutting out the fabric, sewing on a sewing machine, clipping curves, and hand sewing. She made cushions for her bed that spelt her name, then she did some for her brother. Now she makes them for each of her friends when it is their birthdays. She loves going to the fabric store and choosing fabric that is their favourite colour.

    She's caught the bug and she loves it.

    And whilst the project was simple - it wasn't necessarily easy. She had to learn to control the machine to go around curves, and she had to learn to sew in a straight line, and keep a seam allowance. However I believe that its best to chuck yourself in the deep end with a project thats just out of your reach skill-wise, and see if you can swim.

    If you don't push yourself you will never improve.

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  22. I think the sewing/hammering metaphore is good. It's all about developing skill in a craft which requires both mental and physical practice.
    I think a lot of the recent promotion for sewing (and other crafts) has been focussed on easy projects to draw in the absolute beginner. But, as we all know, such slap-dash projects are often unsatisfying and, as you mentioned, the next step up is a difficult one, which takes the investment of time and effort.
    I think the best advice for an interested absolute novice would be to take a some lessons (either from a friend or family member who sews or at some local place offering classes or with a local Burdastyle sewing club if one is available, whatever suits him/her). Although the quality and/or interest factor of lessons can vary wildly, it would allow him/her to give sewing a try before making a serious investment in the form of a sewing machine and other equipment. Some people physically don't manage to learn how to sew, others are too impatient to get the basics down... and some discover a hobby for life. Take a few lessons, and you'll get some idea whether or not you're any of those.

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  23. Just one quick comment on your first picture. It was such a treat to see a photo of Veronica Lake. You see, Veronica Lake is my maiden name and I've collected pictures and articles of her over the years. Wish my hair looked as good as hers, though.

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    1. Okay Peter, confession time......just how much time are spending at Pinterest?

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  24. but sewing IS easy! :-) unless you actually wanted everyone to say it was hard and how clever you are! Which of course goes without saying.

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  25. I think that is a very good analogy. I often have friends say they wish they sewed and I have given a few lessons. Almost none last past the first lesson, a simple rectangle skirt with an elastic waist. It's hard to feel stupid as an adult, and when sewing in a straight line requires so much concentration you break into a sweat, you feel stupid.

    They see the things I sew and know they are as smart as me so how hard can it be? They don't see the thousands and thousands of sewing hours that led up to what I'm wearing that day.

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  26. My husband is a finish carpenter and I have sewn my entire life. What I don't see mentioned in the comments is the problem-solving experience that someone gains over time. I can look at a project and know whether or not I want to tackle it; whether or not I have the correct tools or supplies on hand; whether or not the end result will be worth the effort. And I have an idea of how long it might take me to finish it. He has the same skill with building. I think this is what is so overwhelming to novices......especially adult learners.

    Sometimes we watch home improvement shows just for laughs. Transform a backyard including a tear out and replaced three level deck in a weekend! Ha! In real life, that is easily an all summer job unless you hire professionals and even they would require several days. But home improvement big box stores insist this is a job anyone with a hammer can do!

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  27. Welcome to the dark side (pinterest). May the force be with you.

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    1. That sounds ominous! LOL!!! Peter have you been sucked down into the vortex???!!

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  28. I can honestly say, that I never have met anyone who wants to learn to sew. When i say I can sew, there is usually either no comment, or people want me to sew for them. No one has ever asked to learn. They laugh it off usually, and dismiss the hard work as uninteresting. So, I don't say too much any more.

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  29. Do they ask you to do alterations? I find that's the first thing out of their mouths, which is why I never say I can! They're too cheap to pay a cleaner/ tailor and think it's no problem whatsoever for you to do it for peanuts or worse yet free!!

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  30. Your analogy was wonderful; to the extent that I've copied it and saved it away so I will remember it for sharing when people ask about the difficulty of sewing.
    What you hit on was something that I read a while back about people at the top of their fields. While natural abilities and aptitudes account for an awful lot, what makes people experts is, at the end of the day, time. The article went on about how it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in a given field, and that's exactly how sewing (and carpentry, and tile work, and...) is. Even the people who can sit down at a machine for the first time and whip up a skirt with little trouble need time spent learning and practicing to be able to get to the point where they're making tailored coats and such.

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  31. I think I love you and all your witty friends! My mother taught myself and my 2nd grade Brownie Troop to sew. Our 1st project was a kilt and I'll never forget it. I selected a pale yellow and cream herringbone wool and we learned how to match patterns and stripes. To this day plaids and stripes that do not match just scream out to me. I wonder if anyone else even notices! I see this was a May post and it is now August, I've got some catching up to do.
    PS My mom is now 83 and just recovered the valances (that she made of course) in her living room. I took her down to the 4th Street fabric district in Philadelphia.

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