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May 26, 2014

What Turns a Man On....To Sewing?



Friends, in your opinion, what turns a man on to sewing?

I ask because it has dawned on me, nearly five years after I purchased my very first sewing machine, that most home sewers out there are women.  Seriously, it's the truth.







So I've started to ask myself what makes a man want to sew.  What's the main attraction and is it different for men than for women?

For me, at the very start (five years ago next month) it was a desire to do my own basic alterations.  I'd bought a pair of thrift store jeans at Goodwill and it was going to cost more to get them shortened than I'd paid for the jeans. For the price of a used sewing machine, I figured, I could shorten my pants from then on, and the machine would pay for itself in no time.

I had absolutely no plan to sew my entire wardrobe -- and then some!







It seems like many women are initially drawn to sewing so that they can have better-fitting clothes.  Others want to make clothes for their kids.  Still others just enjoy the creativity of it.

Is this the case for men as well?



I think a man who wants to get into sewing still faces a few obstacles that women don't, things like social censure (or lack of encouragement), a dearth of male-focused sewing-related resources, and a lack of contemporary-looking men's patterns.

So, guys out there, here's my question: What first drew you to sewing?
  • Were you looking for better-fitting clothes?
  • Did you want more style options than you could find in stores?
  • Were you into old sewing machines and figured you might as well learn to use one?
  • Other reasons?
And for you women:
  • Do you think men sew for reasons that are different from women's?  
  • In your opinion (or experience), do men approach sewing differently than women do (and if so, how and why)?
I really appreciate your feedback!

***

And now for today's Daily Ditch:

I never know when to get rid of old sneakers, but these looked ready to go.  And so they did.





Have a great day, everybody!

90 comments:

  1. I don't know about men, but I know that in the 50s and 60s, women were expect to know how to sew, at least in the midwest. When I was in the 6th grade Girls' Choir, we were sent home with a page of instructions for the moms to make us red corduroy jumpers with a zipper up the front from a specific Simplicity pattern. Mom taught us to sew just as she taught us to cook, because it was a necessity. (Then she became a feminist and taught us to "dress for success.")

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  2. I have a friend who had his own manufacturing business. He was a wizz on the machines and one of his favourite bits was the pattern making. He started out by wanted to travel around Australia with his girlfriend. She thought that the swags available at the time were too claustrophobic so he borrowed his mother's sewing machine to make one with a dome at one end for head room. It was a hit, so he started selling them to the local camping stores. Over 20 years he built the business up and got to the point of manufacturing outdoor clothing. It was successful, but a couple of years ago he sold the business to China. He did help me out recently by repairing my machine when I was in a flower girl dress crisis.

    So I guess everybody starts out by wanting something that they can't buy?

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  3. I started to sew for the same reason you did. I'm only 5'5", and trouser lengths have always been a problem. Then I thought, "That was easy! Why don't I just make the entire thing?" That is when I discovered there are only about 3 wearable patterns for men's trousers. So, now I make my own patterns (shirts and pants). They fit so well they all of my work colleagues think I have my clothes tailored. I guess I do....by me. I've just begun to trust buying quality fabric online. Try buying men's fabrics at JoAnn... Yuck! My goal is to make my own suit. Actually, a tux. My skills are almost there. You inspire me, Peter. I hope you take another FIT class. I learned so much from the last one you took.

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    1. I sew for my husband and would love to know what those 3 trouser patterns are,

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  4. The only way my husband approaches sewing is giving me instructions for something that he wants me to make. And totally convoluted ones at that. Then if I drag him to the fabric store, he's thinking in square feet instead of linear and can't understand why some fabrics are 42" wide and some are 60".

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    1. Hehe, I was the same when I started out buying fabric, thinking in square (not feet) instead of linear! I even worked that into a story I wrote for my sister, where a group of friends want to buy fabric for a crafty purpose and the boys calculate everything in square meters until the girl who found the apropriate fabric in the shop points out to them it's not sold that way. :D So it makes me happy to know it does happen to others, too!

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  5. being short, my initial goal has been as you said, to alter my pants so they fit. custom tailoring costs a fortune, and honestly, most of my clothes don't need anything that professional. my other interest seems to come from a couple directions: 1), i work with a computer all day, and as a result i have been really into non-computer, hands-on type DIY projects, like canning, bread making, cheese making, etc.; and 2) i have a strong thrifty drive, and reusing fabrics to make something useful again is super fun and practical to me.

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  6. I've not been sewing long but I started because I'm only 5'2" and consequently finding adult clothes that fit was simply impossible - I was tired of shirts that hung like a yard wide sack, jeans with crotch that sat 4 inches below where they should. So far I've made a kilt (to wear at a Scottish friend's wedding and a fully-lined waistcoat. Perhaps I should have started off with a pillowcase, but I always like a challenge. I've been following your blog ever since I took up the notion of sewing - so thanks for the help :)

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  7. I've often wondered why men don't sew more often. Of course, time was the home sewing was women's work. But haven't we moved on? (It was also for less wealthy people, much of the time. You can't assume that now.) It's such an enjoyable activity - a merger of math and creativity, of hand work and thinking. Seems very "typical male" in those ways.

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    1. I agree! Sewing clothes is like architecture AND construction — how more male could you get?

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    2. Where I live, seamstresses were sometimes considered suspicious in more traditional times. My theory is that it's because their trade was too close to "male domains" for our old patriarcal society. A woman that know about geometry, angles, deformable solids and 3D transformation cannot to be trusted, obviously.

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  8. I became interested in sewing when I saw a lot of custom urban wear that I wanted but couldn't afford. I started youtube searching and found tutorials.

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  9. My interest in sewing was born of need: I had a stack of clothes that needed repairs (holes in pockets, seams coming undone, etc.) and I didn't want to toss them nor did I want to pay someone to do something I could learn to do for myself.

    However, I've found that I've been using my need to learn to sew as an excuse to buy more and more sewing machines as they are what primarily interest me. Their features, how they work, what they're made of -- all of it.

    Additionally, the lack of male encouragement is something of a contributing factor, although admitting that makes me seems really weak. (It's hard for a guy to get excited about learning to sew using a pattern for an A-line skirt, especially when he doesn't know anyone named Cathy.) Even in this day and age when we consider ourselves enlightened to equality and free of past strictures, men aren't encouraged (and are even discouraged) by lingering stereotypes magnified by an irresponsible media. But men are innately wired to be self-sufficient and while I think there is a dearth of sewing instruction geared toward men (or at least gender-neutral), I believe blogs like this one are beginning to address the need.

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  10. When I was in Africa, ONLY the men used sewing machines.

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    1. I forgot to say, I think you got your money's worth from those shoes ;-)

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  11. My mother taught me the rudimentary basics of sewing. When I got older, my wife did not sew, so if I don't like the halloween costumes in the stores, it's my task to make them.

    Sometimes I even make them for my kids.

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  12. Recently I decided I needed to upgrade my personal style but being 5'6" limited my options. I've always made things so making my own cloths was a logical step.

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  13. I started sewing because i wanted clothes that fit me! Theres nothing good in the stores now a days! I started with my ties then progressed to dress shirts. Now i want to learn to make trousers and blazers! Thats my main goal to make my own tailored suits and shirts.

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  14. My father was a man who sewed. Actually he was a man who thought he could do anything, and he pretty much could. He could and did occasionally alter clothing, and he helped my mother when she would get stuck on the tricky bits of clothing construction (though she had years of garment sewing experience and he had essentially none). He made me some very large stuffed animals when I was a child, and he did a lot of sewing associated with upholstery--all on domestic machines rescued from the garbage. I believe he sewed some costumes for himself in his late fifties. He was also a woodworker, a builder, a handyman of every kind, a great cook and an enthusiastic later-in-life dancer!

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  15. I started about 60 years ago ( my 72nd is 5/27) don't remember what was first, but I made a colonial man's coat for my kid brother for Halloween. The machine was an old heavy "portable" Singer of my mother's with a knee thingy that lifted the foot.

    I have lots of sewing books for drafting (had to take draping in college in a textile design major) and do quilting. Sometimes I make simple shapeless indian kurtas or boxers for myself. Actually making something serious is daunting for me, but I should get. over it. I stand in awe of You, Peter and other men sewers like you!

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    1. Make something serious. You will not fail! I can't cook. I've been terrible at every attempt. I also know that I can't cook because I believe I can't. It is about desire. Do you desire to sew something serious? I bet you do. Try.

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  16. Bespoke tailors are men. Most of the time. I still get eyed sideways if I, a girl in tender age of 30, say to someone I've just met that I'm a menswear tailor....wonder why

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  17. I started sewing because I was a fat kid growing up in small town Iowa and there was nothing to wear in my size that wasn't old man clothes. Eventually it got to be something much more than that for me, but that's how it started.

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  18. I think my primary motivation is the need to physically create something. My job is only about the computer world, so while I create documents or programs, I still need to create something physical.

    The dearth of patterns for men isn't an issue for me as I sew almost exclusively for my wife. At least, I sew potentially for my wife, but often it is more a matter of what I want to make than what she wants to wear.

    In terms of support, I find people are often amazed that I sew, even simple things, and the reaction is something of a motivator for me to make and my wife to wear. I have never had anyone hesitate to help me for being a guy, and couldn't have gotten this far without this blog, some other blogs and bloggers, and people in sewing stores.

    I started because we bought a machine for my wife to make dance costumes, but when it went unused I decided to give it a shot and copied a top she had, and despite many failed efforts along the way, I never wanted to stop - almost 4 years and over 50 projects now.

    Thanks, Peter, for your ongoing entertainment, information, and motivation!

    -Jim

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  19. I don't know any men that sew, but many that knit and crochet. Interesting.

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  20. My father sewed. He did a lot of other creative things like build furniture. I think it was just another creative outlet for him and I believe he liked fiddling with and figuring out the sewing machine attachments, like the ruffle. He made my older sister the most amazing Bo-Peep Halloween costume with a lace-up bodice and ruffled pantaloons. I think it is a shame that we gender-ize things. Everyone should be able to enjoy whatever creative endeavors they want to pursue.

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  21. I dated a guy whose mother being a practical Depression era woman taught her two boys to cook, sew, clean and generally take care of themselves. She raised two men that any woman would have been happy to marry.

    I know a few straight men who sew and a lot more gay men who sew for themselves and as a business. Male sailors used to sew and do other needle arts that are now considered more often female pursuits. I think that as many skills began to be taught in school instead of in families that most men got left out of sewing instruction unless they came from families or areas where the men continued to regularly use such skills like in sailing, tailoring or garment manufacturing.

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  22. My boyfriend has expressed interest in sewing I think to share in something that makes me happy. We have made pajama pants together and he was genuinely interested to learn. He has hand-stitched baby receiving blankets with me that we gifted to one of his friends and has helped with piecing a quilt for my sister. I think it's awesome that he wants to learn.

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  23. I'm a big man, so I started sewing for the first two reasons. I wanted clothes that would fit me, and I was very disappointed in the selection available in the big and tall stores, along with the cost of big and tall clothes. I've made some wonderful clothes - when would I ever have been able to purchase salmon trousers? Now I just love the experience of sewing, it's almost therapy for me. My hands are busy and I can see a tangible thing come together, all through my own agency. Love it. I'm taking a special trip to San Francisco in October to visit Britex!

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    1. I'll add here that I'm part of the gay tribe and occasionally sew for my husband as well. I learned to sew three times in total - the first, in home ec (which was mandatory in my high school for all students), the second as a boy scout, and finally last November when I bought a secondhand machine and took a class on boxer shorts.

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  24. I dont know a time when I didn't sew. I started with a needle and thread and scrap fabric when I was 5 years old.
    I do believe men do approach sewing in a different way than women. How? I think most men think architecturally first. Where the seams will be. Where will the seams lay on the body. Where a woman might think color or pattern or fabric first.

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  25. I would imagine that for most people who were not from home-sewing households and who take it up as adults, the desire to attain a better fit is what drives men and women to pursue sewing.

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  26. I took up sewing to fulfill my interest in premium Selvedge denim. I'm a design engineer and create "things" in 3D on a regular basis. Designing a scalable pattern in 2D that must fit the human body is a thrilling challenge and making jeans was a great way to explore my denim fascination while putting my engineering skills to good use. I've acquired five industrial machines, some of which I've totally stripped and rebuilt. I'm still searching for more. My dear wife thinks I'm crazy, but we both know it's a healthy hobby... much safer than my retired passion for motorcycles! I have a family to think about and this is the perfect interest to pursue late at night once the kids are in bed.

    Keep up the great work, Peter. I always look forwarded to hearing about what's new in your world. Your jeans sew along got me started when I had no idea where to begin. Thanks :)

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  27. I started to sew because I wanted things that I thought were too expensive in the stores and were made of fabric. A dog-leash with elastic in it. Mitts. And fixing some of my climbing clothes.

    So when I thought I would like to have a kilt, the price put me off and I looked for a pattern. The "X marks the Scott" forum has a very easy to follow set of instructions and I decided to try to make that. After making my first one, I wanted a shirt that would match it. So a pattern for a "French cheesemaker smock" was sought and bought. This being a really simple pattern, it turned out rather well.

    Then it was just a small step to looking for more resources and finding your blog. So I tried your sew-a-long and started gathering more patterns and a couple more sewing machines.

    I like making shirts that are a little different from what you find in the stores. The creativity is nice, and the process of making a shirt relaxes me after a day at work.

    Next up; getting my nerves up to try to make a pair of pants.

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  28. My bf has always helped me with learning to sew, as he was a carpenter and can visualize in 2d, 3d etc and he is just very smart and creative anyway, we are finishing off a our first patchwork quilt together and he has been inspired to make his own hawaiian shirt. He can see now how shoddy rtw quality is and dosent like to pay silly amounts for something that every other stylish dude his age is wearing (late 30s) he is doing so well and and is using techniques like basting which im too lazy to use lol. Its such a turn on, to see him sewing and into coming to the fabric store with me YAY!! ^=^

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  29. Fascinating thread :)
    I sew because I love to make things in general and I'm hoping to have a wardrobe of clothes that actually fit! However the bulk of my sewing is for others (nephews, nieces etc) and for the home because I like to be creative and bring the ideas in my head to reality.
    I know 2 men that sew - my uncle-in-law is 81 and has learnt sew since he was widowed. He has taken a very practical approach and mainly does altertions and mending. He's always tinkering with the machine, he likes he mechanics of it.
    My other male sewing friend learnt when he was in the army. He was saving to get married and thought the money he was spending could be saved if he did his own uniform alterations (trousers and long sleeved shirts to short). He borrowed his Mum's machine when on leave and took it back to camp. He ended up paying for he whole wedding with the money he made doing everyone's alterations. He still has he machine he 'borrowed' from his Mum, 30 years later!

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  30. Very interesting stories. I think you should keep linking to this post to try and collect more.

    I have a design and architecture background, so the fabric industry and workshops were not new to me. I had occasionally used a machine in the past to make my own pillows or slip-cover a chair, but never got hooked until the last few years. Being machineless, I bought a used machine, intending to make a few pillows. The machine needed cleaning and adjusting... the internet intervened, and I became addicted to the machines, and then started expanding my sewing experience into clothing. I think the internet is the most significant element. If I had needed to take a class or go to the library to begin learning, it would never have materialized (no pun intended). As a gay man, I was never afraid of what sewing might do to my reputation, but the interest in machines and clothing never hit the sweet spot of interest until all the elements seemed to be aligned in a certain pattern.

    It would be interesting to study a hypothesis that an increased interest in sewing (in particular by men) correlates to the increasing prevalence of the internet in our daily routine, and the subsequent opportunities to acquire knowledge and skills from the comfort of your own closet - whether you are in one or not.

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    1. The Internet has also been essential in my getting hooked on knitting. (I am a woman.) Like Papadesdeux, I know I would not have gotten into knitting had I had to take a class or study a book to acquire the necessary knowledge.

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  31. What turned me on to sewing was knowing that my mom and grandma used to sew before I was born. Around the age of eight, I started to draw big prom dresses and I loved it. It was then, that I wanted to be a fashion designer. It wasn't until I was 17 that my mom bought a Kenmore sewing machine to use it for a fashion show I was a designer in, in high school.

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  32. In my sixth decade I am a freelance apparel designer who can pattern cut, and sew just about any sewn product, but in college I was a biology major and varsity gymnast. All the top gymnasts each had their own cool gym bags, and the most interesting one was made by the gymnast himself. I thought I was kind of creative, I could make one too. I bought a Goodwill machine and a large leather coat, cut it up, and sewed my own gym bag. Then came recycled denim projects (it was the 70's), finishing a Biology B.S. degree, and finally enrolling in the Apparel Design program. Forty years later I know all the technical stuff, but that original reason for starting sewing, the desire to create something new and original, is still the reason I continue sewing.

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  33. My husband says he know how to sew, but in 20 years of marriage I haven't seen any evidence of it.

    As for myself, my mother sewed most of my clothes when I was growing up, so it just seemed a natural thing to do. By high school I was sewing most of my own clothes (including two, count 'em, two, wedding dresses), most of them on my trusty Singer 401A. I sew in order to have unique, creative , better-fitting things to wear and to feed my creative urges.

    And I would rather sew the most ridiculously complicated pattern than do alterations!

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  34. I'm a women and being of a younger generation my sewing and knitting was seen as being weird by the people I knew! even now if im out and about and I get something out of my bag to work on people can't believe there eyes! As far as I can remember I have never not sewed , it was just something that was always on offer in our house
    Frankie
    http://www.knitwits-owls.blogspot.co.uk/
    x

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  35. My son (20yo) has seen me sew all his life, including mending. He sees sewing and mending as a natural part of garment care. He repairs almost all his clothes himself either by hand or on my machine. I think my proudest moment was when I yelled at-him one morning a few years ago to hungry up to school and he call back "I'm just sewing my hem up!"

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  36. For some i think its interest, like it is for us women. For others its the need for something they cant buy, which was the reason I took up sewing again.
    The hubby does not sew because it does not appeal to him and his huge hands are better at building and fixing cars.

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  37. I learned to use a sewing machine back in the day when girls took home economics and guys took "family life" - We had to follow a pattern and make an apron. After that I just thought it was great to pick out fabric and make my own shirts. But I was a perfectionist at that time and wouldn't wear them. My sister started wearing them and they looked great on her.
    I have made many curtains for places I moved into. It just seemed very practical to me to make it myself.

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  38. What a great post. I've loved reading all the responses. I learned to sew from the Sunset series of DIY books. I've always had "champagne taste on a beer budget", so sewing was able to give me the drapes, slipcovers and upholstery that I would never have been able to afford. I never really considered making my own clothes until I saw the cover of Ryuichiro Shimazaki's book on Making Men's Coats. Bam! The seed was planted. I thrive on the technical challenge of it all, especially tailoring. I love the whole tradition of it, the skill and craftsmanship passed down through generations. There's always something new to learn, or learn to do better. That propels me from project to project. The end result is that I get to have clothes that I could never afford on my "beer budget".

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  39. Hey Peter I stumbled on the sewing my own garments after a fashion designer friend convinced me I could make my own clothes and adapt patterns, and make one of a kind designs..,, that was 20 years ago and am still making all my clothes and also machine knit my sweaters and jumpers..I agree with there are fewer men sewing out there, fewer really goo fabrics for men to choose from and apart from vogue and burda the patterns out there are so dated in my opinion

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  40. I took up sewing a year ago last April aged 40. I often thought about it before and my Mother used to sew when I was a kid but I never got around to it.
    With the big 40th birthday I decided with various monies I got I would buy a machine and learn how to use it. I'm a graphic designer and so have a creative outlook and I'm used to being patient and careful with detail in my work. This has helped but I still sew very slowly and getting my head around a pattern for the first time can still be really difficult.
    I've made loads of scatter cushions (with concealed zips), a tea cosy in my familial tartan (don't ask), a Christmas stocking and three shirts for myself!
    I hope to get better and quicker and make more things. Your blog has been a real inspiration, your projects so varied and you do so many.
    I like being creative and I like things to be unique. My aim when I started was to make the perfect Liberty pattern shirt, I'm not perfect yet but it's fun getting there.

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  41. •Better-fitting clothes? Absolutely.
    •More style options? Sure, especially casual and comfortable for my body.
    •Were you into old sewing machines? No, My roomie bought me a new one to do some repairs, and off I went into projects, patterns, et al.
    •Other reasons? Well I wanted a kilt as well. So taught myself how to hand sew and used a great book (celticdragonpress.com) to help me sew it up. I was hooked. Now off to shirts and sewing more for other men, than myself.
    •Do I face obstacles? Sure! Every time I shop for fabric. Menswear fabric is rare to find locally. Online is the solution. I sometimes get attitude from sales associates who openly wonder why I'm in the store. Fortunately, this is rare, and it inspires me to show those snotty salespersons who can sew.

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  42. My father sewed. His mother had been a seamstress and she taught all her children to sew. I never knew he had this skill until I began to sew myself and I didn't understand what I was doing and he came over and taught me everything.

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  43. I learned to sew as a child. It was just another skill that all of us were taught. I kept sewing because I could alter anything to fit me, and then I married a man who is very hard to fit (wide shoulders, small waist, 5'4") and so I kept sewing for him, and then for our kids. (I think that was half the reason he married me--I could make his shirts fit properly.) Sewing was a utility skill until about 15 years ago, when I started making quilts. That's when I really became much more creative with color and pattern. The freedom is wonderful. And I still do use the clothing skills because ready to wear remains awful. BTW, all of our kids can sew on buttons, do up hems, sew in zippers. . .all the basics. I can't imagine what people who can't sew do when they need things done. I guess they're keeping tailors in business!

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  44. SeamsterEast at aol dot comMay 27, 2014 at 11:27 AM

    I started sewing boat canvas and repairing sails because of the rather large cost savings (in a bit I was also making some pin money repairing canvas and sails for other sailor/boaters). I made a bunch of canvas bags on snowy winter days, then a Polartec jacket, and hemmed some jeans, then recut a couple pair jeans for a little better fit. I then moved on to shirts because I could make them fit better shoulder and waist, and I also wanted to use some higher quality fabric. I now want to soon tackle some jeans from scratch. I've always used tools to fix things, and a sewing machine is just another tool.

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  45. I love reading all the responses. It's part of why I sew. Every letter here has inspired me. My mom sewed like a dream. 6 kids. She had to. I have always been interested in fabric. Even when I go clothes shopping I am more apt to turn it over and see what they did with the seams. I had some schooling in sewing so I can do a few things. I make drapes, bedding and things here and there. I love sewing machines, fascinated with them. I love stitches being made, fabric being fed through. I am very tactile as I suspect most sewers are. I live in L.A. so the fabric district is very close to me. I love to go there and look and buy. Peter's blog has opened a whole new world for me. Reading his blog and many many others has become almost a vocation for me. All of them remind me, I am not alone, there are others like me who feel passionate and love the process. For that I am truly grateful. Bless each & every one of you.

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  46. Great subject, so interesting. I sew (and knit and quilt, etc.) because I like being creative, I find it interesting and rewarding. I've noticed the popularity of independent pattern designers but they are mostly women designing for women. There must be a niche in the market for indie designers producing men's patterns if, as you say, the menswear choice in current patterns is so limited. (Don't shout at me if there are already loads out there - I'm probably just looking in the wrong places)

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  47. I wish I could read all of the responses before adding my $.02, but here's the thing; men's clothing is made with comfort, practicality, and durability in mind. Not so for women. There are many pretty things out there to buy, but a quality and beauty price match is hard to find. Creativity is also a huge factor for me, but really, if I could be satisfied with what I both want and could afford in stores, I wouldn't sew clothing for anything but special occasions, most likely. It's also a hobby for me, and it took a few decades to get really good at it, so the time investment has been huge!

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  48. Oh, and I did notice my photo up there! Hi Peter!

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  49. I know several men who sew, but all of them started doing it to make historical reenactment garb. Much more interesting and fun than modern clothes and definitely a big money saver. One of my friends made all the costumes for his family and did it really well. His wife used to joke that she was better at cutting wood than fabric so he did the sewing and she did the chopping. His 2 daughters never questioned the idea that Dad sewed.

    My son learned to sew at 16 because I taught him, not because he particularly wanted to learn. I also taught my girls who were if anything less enthusiastic. My older daughter said, "My idea of sewing is to say, Mom,please make me this." I told all of them, you don't have to sew if you don't want to, but you should know how to. It's a survial skill IMO, plus it helps you when you are buying RTW clothes, you can see if it's well made.

    He's 25 now and I don't think he sews clothes, but he does repair stuff for himself.

    I was forced to learn to sew in junior high (I wanted to take shop classes) and didn't really start to sew in earnest until I was in my late twenties so you never know.

    regards,
    Theresa

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  50. Yesterday I went through my patterns and bagged up 110 patterns to donate to Value Village. Some of them date to the 70's, but alas no men's clothing. I thought of your cousin Cathy with some of the dress patterns, but am not sure they would suit her style. I'm keeping the Vogue pattern for my favorite dress from the mid-60's. Empire waist, long sleeve, collarless, front buttoning bodice. I made it from a small floral kettlecloth and lined it. I downsized last year and gave away one-third of my fabric stash to my mother, who is a quilter and has friends who also quilt. There were pieces large enough for the backs of quilts in there. It was a relief and many people were happy. I'm being more selective in my purchases these days. My huge Koala sewing cabinet was gone in less than 5 hours from the time I listed it free on Craigslist. It was damaged a bit in the move and the people who hauled it away had a carpentry shop to repair it. I bought a much smaller one on Craigslist that suits me so much better in a smaller space. I'm nearly organized now and ready to get sewing.

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  51. This was meant to go into the Daily Ditch blog. Sorry.

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  52. Naturally because we can ( and because we do it better than women) ....

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  53. Put me down as another person who wanted better fitting clothing. I would try on retail clothing and one size would be too small and the next size up would be too large. My goal was to have my clothes fit. Next I worked on small projects that I knew I had a chance of finishing successfully. Then a friend gave me the Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing. From then on the projects became a little more ambitious and I had more successes than failures. I learned that good tools were helpful and over the years collected what works best for me. I have had different sewing machines but found a work horse of a older model (1973) Kenmore that is still my preference today. One goal was to sew as well as what I could buy in department store and the next goal was to make the clothes of better quality than what could be found in department stores. I have achieved quality and now my goals are to learn something new, however minor, from each project and not burn out the pleasure I receive from sewing.

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    1. A big 'Yes!' to vintage Kenmore machines, especially those from the 1970s.

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  54. My first husband was taught to sew by his mother and even as a man's man loved having the skill. He altered and/or created a lot of his outdoor and survival gear. When my brother's girlfriend asked me to teach her to sew, he was the one who really had the patience to get her going.

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  55. I sew for my son who is a supervisor for the state and needs nice, well-fitting shirts with a professional appearance. There are NO shirts on the rack that fit him, no matter the size. He is tall but slim, with a long torso and arms. I lengthen a standard pattern 5-6", trim the body and make dress and casual shirts for him. I LOVE sewing for men.... they are SOOO easy to please!

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  56. I'm not a man. :)

    I started sewing about a year and a half ago because well...I always wanted to learn. I am in love with sewing.

    My husband doesn't sew...hasn't touched the machine besides cleaning it for me, yet he has a way of thinking that is often VERY helpful for me. He has helped me understand steps of the construction process MANY times.

    I am *always* surprised that more men don't sew. I then attribute it to "society" and the belief that it's "woman's work" yet many (most?) top clothing designers and tailors are men. (I feel the same way about cooking...cooking at home is "woman's work" yet many (most?) head chefs are men).

    Very interesting discussion indeed.

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  57. Practical creativity drives me, it's the ultimate outlet.

    There is something about fibers, and how the colors, textures, and shapes can be altered.

    A few years back I sewed on cable access.

    With Project Runway, the whole "man sew"-thing is less sensational (progress!).

    About a year ago a friend mentioned "finding this cool sewing blog" - I laughed! Your blog is opening doors. He's now making really cool bags.

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  58. In my big Idaho Mormon family Mom and all 6 sisters were always sewing. Dad did repairs on work clothes or tarps. I wanted to make Barbie clothes. I got to play on the Bernina enough to jam things up.
    As a grownup I've always done design and décor related jobs and even dated a guy who sewed in a high end home dec. workroom.
    I finally got my Elnita at the thrift store across the street here in Seattle for $25. I tried a little home dec. for my place but as I researched online I got very interested in learning to make clothes, especially when I found this blog. I got a little ahead of myself when I got turned on by pattern drafting and tried to draft everything myself before really learning how to construct. Now I'm calming down and learning to construct using vintage commercial patterns, also from the thrift store.
    As an artist and designer I love the idea of making something of my own fabric choice and something that fits me perfectly.
    Maybe the sewing and painting will have a nexus at some point.
    Thanks for the great blog and inspiration Peter!
    How much fun to come out from lurking for this great thread.

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  59. I start sewing so I could make puppets. That was 70 years ago. I made costume for theatre while in high school, made my wife's wedding dress, my daughter's wedding dress, baby clothes, toys, my tuxedo, and I'm still sewing!
    Love Peter's blog

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  60. Such an interesting topic and so many good comments. My dad did not sew but was very involved in my mother's upholstery, luggage and outerwear projects. Mom taught my brother to hem pants and put a replacement zipper in jeans. He will sometimes come borrow a machine to repair his sporting gear/tents/cold weather clothes. Sewing was a life skill in our home. Thank you, Peter, for your many interesting posts and for sharing your knowledge.

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  61. I couldn't help but to laugh when I read this post. You are not alone to ask this question. I just handed in my BA thesis on the subject of crafts and how it is associated to gender. I Sweden the crafts are divided between male and female crafts or as we say hard and soft. It is a bit silly but the main reason for this is that we are raised to believe that men don't sew. Well unless they are a men's tailor - because that supposed to be harder than a women's tailor. I'd say it isn't. In Sweden we also have obligatory crafts classes in school from the age 9 to 16 so most people at least knows how to hem a pant and sew a button.

    My reason for sewing is that I'm 6'7, and rather bulky. I can't find clothes that fit and the fashion here is to be tiny in every way. I can't even find jeans that I can get on because my feet are to big for the skinny jeans and straight legged once are apparently something that is impossible to find in my size.
    I did have a grandmother that sewed and a mother that knows how and they both taught me little tips and tricks down the path and the both have always supported me in my crafts.

    Thanks for great post and inspiring clothes!

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  62. The responses have been marvelous to read and I'm delighted to see so many men sewing. If I had more skills and time you can bet that immediately I'd be starting my own line of indie patterns for men! Though I've not made many things for guys ever. My beginning as a sewing enthusiast when I was probably four or five. My mother had a sewing basket for very basic repairs and I kept getting into it. I've always loved creating things with my hands. My mom didn't sew back then so I'm self taught. Thank God for the public library. The funny thing is that since my mom retired from nursing few years ago, she's gotten into making drapes and pillows. The Internet is fabulous tool for us all. Yay for humanity!!!!

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  63. Initially I wanted to learn something new that I had zero previous experience with. My wife always had a sewing machine lying around (which she no longer uses, and has pretty much become mine), and I loved the challenge of taking on a new skill.

    I also like working with my hands, and have an interest in menswear. Sewing is the perfect combination of these two areas and a fun creative outlet.

    You are absolutely right though about the dearth of male oriented resources and patterns. Early on this drove me to learn how to draft patterns, and this part of the process has almost become more interesting to me than the sewing, although the two certainly go together.

    Keep up the great work Peter! I've always enjoyed your blog and thoughts on sewing.

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  64. When I was a boy my mother sewed all my shirts. So, when I wanted a Halloween costume, that couldn't be store-bought, she took me to the fabric store, showed me how to find a pattern and how to purchase fabric. Then it was up to me to actually follow the directions and make it.
    I absolutely loved it. To this day I say there are fewer things that give me more joy than sewing.
    I don't make my own clothes, just the occasional product that can't be found anywhere else - a vest for Christmas, a jacket made from rich upholstery fabric (to match my fez), and the occasional fanny pack or shoulder bag with just the right pockets and zippers.
    The only thing that keeps me from sewing more is that I don't have a permanent home for my machine - it rides the dining room table.

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  65. As a guy who sews, here are few answers to the questions:
    1. I started sewing when I was 10 yrs old and need some garments made for a craft project in school, I got on my grandmom white sewing machine and made the clothes for my french man craft project,
    2. Sewing then turned into making "reproductions of rtw clothing for my mom in the 70's at that point i started using patterns, burda, simplicity, vogue etc .. i made my mom buy me a kenmore sewing machine with zigzag and i started making everything
    3. I continued on sewing for myself in high school making clothing that wasn't boring, incorporating women's wear into men's wear, also when your 5'10 and 135-140 lbs it made it easy to translate styles.
    4. I stopped sewing for many years expect to do alternations. It seems like that you always have to fix off the rack rtw clothing.
    5. I got back to sewing in the early 90's and starting making clothing that I could wear to work that was more interesting. I was determined to make clothing that looked liked rtw, I got my first serger in the 90's and was so impressed with the clothing I made and the professional finish.
    6. I dropped off sewing for a few years and got back to it. I ended up doing everything for the new home my mom moved into, purchase fabric and 2 kenmore mechanical sewing machines, did all the home dec, curtains, slip covers, duvet covers, you name it, i did it.
    7. and this one is for Peter, I got back into sewing more professionally since reading his blog and due to his blog, I got into vintage sewing machines, at the point now I can even fix them myself. I still do alot of alterations, but also getting into making new and interesting clothing. I have gotten very skilled in fitting and working with different body shapes to give style and help someone look good. also pattern grading
    8. My next steps are now to take a runway collection and reproduce that collection. I have a TON of FABRIC and WOOL. I am learning to make my own patterns from blocks, couture sewing techniques, thanks to Claire Shaffer and at some point, might even consider attending FIT for menswear in NYC.

    That is my sewing story (3 sergers, 15 sewing machines later)

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    1. Cory, from one guy to another. I posted my story which involves finishing a Biology degree, the finally deciding to start an apparel design program several years later. My only regret is that I didn't attend FIT (the Harvard of Fashion Design!). My advice to you, think about entering FIT's program. If FIT is like the scary deep end of the pool, get your feet wet by taking some community college classes in art, design, and pattern making if they have it listed. Anyway, some advice from someone who has been there.

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    2. Thanks, I appreciate the input, I will apply directly when I fell I am ready. I did my degrees in engineering and finance. Being doing IT work/projects, totally hate it, its time to focus on doing something I enjoy for change, sewing is a great creative outlet for me and a joy to do.

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  66. don't know what life skills are taught in high schools these days. I went to an all girl high school in the 1970s, in the inner city, now gentrified. Home ec was an elective, cooking and sewing, the other thing taught was typing. Boy's high schools taught carpentry and auto repair, maybe drafting.

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  67. Hi, men part time sewing. Started 2 years ago and I like it. I like to compare sewing with geometry/origami with flexible materials 'fabric'. Also attention and patience are needed; sewing is a great way to practice. Unfortunately men sewing does come with history/culture and sexual orientation stereotype. First time I asked for a local sewing classes the teacher asked me if it was for my girlfriend. Made an outdoor hoodies and every women in the class were jealous 'was the only men'. Don't know why more men don't sew, need time/patience or fear of being judged.

    >>Were you looking for better-fitting clothes?
    I'm 6'1" and usually the sleeve are too short. So I decided to make my own. Outdoor clothing fit best, tall/slim but quality is going down and price up each year.

    >>Did you want more style options than you could find in stores?
    Yep definitely, starting to make my own pattern blocks. I don't want to look like a cardboard box.

    >>Were you into old sewing machines and figured you might as well learn to use one?
    No, but my bedside table is a mechanical Necchi. Stitch quality is awesome and used for heavier materials !

    >>Other reasons?
    Outdoor gear to repair/save money and custom fit.

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  68. I started sewing in my mid 20's, because I wanted more exciting clothes to wear than I could find in stores, and wanted to create them myself. I started by taking a pattern drafting class in night school, and started learning to sew to support work in the class.

    Since then I've gotten interested in old machines and various other aspects of the craft, and now aspire more towards classic quality, less towards the urban wacky look that I used to shoot for. And now I make stuff for my kids.

    I am an engineer to my core, and sewing is just another discipline of making things. Most people are not that interested in making things. And in the crowd of male engineers I hang with (who do like making things), most of them are not that interested in clothing. I think you need interest in both areas in order to think of sewing. Plus there is the cultural barrier in american culture which makes people think of sewing as a dowdy female only activity.

    I have long felt isolated as a male sewer; I've only ever met one or two guys who have ever done any real sewing. All the other people, and the teacher, in my night school pattern drafting class were women, for instance. So finding Peter's blog was awesome, and I still enjoy coming here.

    I love sewing, and hope to teach my daughters and some as they grow up. I only wish I was better, faster, and had more time to do it!

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  69. Vintage sewing machines started my interest in sewing, and I started with the attitude "how hard can it be?". I still have not learned to sew correctly, instead it´s more of a construction process.
    I look at clothes that I have and try to figure out how they are sewn together, and then I try to get something together with a design and twist that make it more personal. I also have a tendency to overconstruct everything, as if it is going to be sewn for a lifetime of use.

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  70. I guess I am pretty typical- I started sewing because I am only 5'5"- and nothing fits. I hem pants constantly, and now that I have learned how easy it is to re-sew the side seams in a shirt, I can take in the torso of dress shirts so that I don't spend half of my day re-wroking a military tuck to keep from looking frumpy (I am OCD about blousing shirts). Now I am interested in garment construction- but have not actually taken that step yet. My job provided a $300 Amazon credit last year, and I thought "what the heck?", and bought the top-selling sewing & embroidery machine (Brother SE-400). Now that I know a little better- I will buy a higher quality machine next time around.

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  71. My daughter's boyfriend sews. They are both architects, so putting things together make sense to them. His grandfather was a tailor, so he comes to sewing from the point of view that it is an honorable and skilled trade. For an architect, he is a very hands on guy; he loves doing construction work as much as drawing it. Building a building and constructing a garment both involve sequential thinking, and the ability to think in several dimensions.

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  72. I just want to add that my mother is having her house renovated and I'm over there making most of the decisions. In talking with the contractor (the last person I'd ever assume sewed -- I guess that shows my cultural bias, doesn't it?), the subject of sewing somehow came up and he enthusiastically explained how he loved to sew, the machines he owns and learned on, etc.

    In medieval times, one of the skills a guilded carpenter had to know was sewing and other needle arts. Throughout the Renaissance, Enlightenment, etc., professional tailors were male (although I'm sure many women could sew just as well). Even in Victorian times, males frequently sewed. When did sewing become so female-centric? Why did males largely abandon the needle arts -- social pressures, the working male vs. stay-at-home female construct, economic reasons, moving away from an industrial economy to a service economy (is this a First World phenomenon?), changes in ready-to-wear and males historically being able to afford ready-made clothing due to higher incomes overall...?? I'm reminded of the fable 'The Emperor's New Clothes' and the two male tailors that swindled everyone. How different things are today (male tailors) and how similar they are today (swindlers)!

    I'm glad that there are people out there who are keeping the needle arts alive. Most of them are women and to all of you women (and a few men) out there, thank you!

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  73. My 8 year old son is learning to sew with me because he "is going to be an inventor, and might need to sew some bits". So far he has made an apron, but now he wants to make things for his little sisters. :-)

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  74. I started out sewing by taking an automotive upholstery course. Then I wanted a red Eisenhower jacket and a red plaid blazer. I couldn't find either so I'm teaching myself tailoring now. My grandmother was a quilter but rarely made any clothing.

    Coming from the upholstery side, you pattern everything from the old or cellophane over the foam so following a store bought pattern the first time was weird.

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  75. Actually, my girlfriend pushed me into sewing for my own good :D years ago I've already done a few simple bags for a handy or flashlight, but now we're both happily sewing steampunk-style and victorian women and men's wear as well as jeans etc.! If someone had told me a few years ago I'd do this sometimes and enjoy it greatly, i'd declared them insane XD

    Of course I got some very strange looks from my male friends when I started sewing, as it's not a common hobby for a thirty-something ^^ But after inspecting my home-made trousers, shirts and waistcoat, these looks vanished very quickly XD

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  76. Despite being a fundamentalist mormon my mother taught her seven sons to knit and (hand) sew and her three daughters to change a plug and put water in a car radiator. However, the knitting and sewing just stuck on me. Having only sewn buttons or darned stuff for years, it was actually "The Great British Sewing Bee" (I think it's like Project Runway in the US, but for home sewers) that inspired me to get a sewing machine and make something. I have not stopped since. The pleasure of being able to make something, to adapt it to your taste and needs, and to be able to make things for other people who really treasure the fact that they are unique (and a sign of your love for them) then no wonder I cannot stop. The best thing, though, after years of knitting is that sewing is SO QUICK in comparison!

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