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Oct 21, 2010

Spreading the home-sewing meme

Friends, do you ever feel like you spend a disproportionate amount of your day talking/thinking/writing about sewing?

Do you ever catch friends or colleagues, when you mention sewing, rolling their eyes, glancing at their watches, and suddenly having to catch the 5:15 train -- and they drive to work?  Do you yourself retreat daily to the comforting, marshmallow, everybody-sews-here worlds of Pattern Review, BurdaStyle, and Male Pattern Boldness?

Between my 30th high school reunion earlier this month, recent family get togethers (my brother's wedding is three weeks away), and my busy work-the-room lifestyle, I find myself talking about sewing all the time.  I have told the story of how I learned to sew (which you can read here) so many times, I can recite it in my sleep.

Sometimes I feel like the President of the Treadle Association of America or the International Mens Sewing Alliance. 

But do you think I'm converting anybody?  I wonder.

Wise readers, what's the best way to spread the home-sewing meme (a meme is essentially a message), in your opinion?  How do we grow home sewing?

Yesterday I met up with the friend of an online sewing friend, a lovely young woman from France, for my third visit to the jaw-droppingly wacky "Japan Fashion Now" exhibit at FIT and a stroll through Chelsea with the chihuahuas.  We talked a lot about sewing machines, sewing, blogging, fashion, you name it.  I had such a lovely time and it was a real spirit-lifter, but I didn't get the sense that Anne was going to start sewing any time soon.

For one thing, she has our mutual sewing friend making a lot of her clothes.  This must stop!

I know many of you have been sewing for decades and have lived through the dramatic contraction of the home sewing industry: local fabric stores closing, fewer independent sewing machine manufacturers and vendors, an increased focus on quilting among the vendors that remain, fewer patterns for sale, and so on.  It's admittedly depressing.

Yet at the same time we have all these sewing websites and communities, countless online fabric and notion resources, sites like eBay and Etsy where you can purchase old patterns, books, and vintage sewing machines, and countless sewing blogs.  Nobody with Internet access needs sew in isolation!

Could it be that home sewing has bottomed out and is growing once again?  Has a generation raised in Gap clothes soured on mass-produced fashion?

How can we successfully spread the home-sewing meme?  What do you think would help convert non-sewers into passionate sew-zombies like us? (What turned you into one?)

Have you ever successfully turned someone on to sewing?  Did you actually have to give them a machine to get them started?

World conquest may not be within our reach -- not right away.  But a little benign evangelism never hurt.  It's in our collective interest to take action.

Let's think strategically.

Ideas, people, ideas!


  1. Well, my mother taught me to sew many years ago when she was still actually doing it. She hasn't touched a machine in probably 20 years, but I think my 're-connection' may have inspired her to dust off her old machine and try again. Does that count? Making a sewist out of a former sewist? It's a stretch, I know. I'm not a very good evangelist. ;)

  2. Yes, yes yes! More home sewers would be a good thing.

    I think the quilting stuff is positive. It gets new people into sewing which is better than nothing. It keeps sewing machine manufacturers going, and sometimes the fabric design gals make diffusion ranges of fabrics suitable for apparel (eg. Anna Marie Horner's violes, etc.) I started out making some curtains for a new house, then a quilt for a daughter moving out of her crib to a big girl bed and then realised through reading blogs that sewing clothes for myself would be a lot more fun.

    Ultimately, ultra cheap, disposable, fast fashion keeps people from home sewing. Sewing no longer saves money. In fact it is a rather expensive hobby to start up (machine costs, and other bits and bobs) compared to something like knitting. Most people would rather buy something from the "high street" or "mall" and spend their disposable income on other sorts of leisure activities.

    Sewing's best bet is blogs like yours or Gertie's or the Selfish Seamstress that get lots of hits and inspire newbies to give it a try. People need to set their sites higher than competing against whatever is available at Old Navy or the like. If you are satisfied with the fit and quality of low end rtw, why sew? On the other hand, if you aspire to better end tailoring etc. you might just be able to make yourself something you could never otherwise have. Now that is exciting!

  3. I think I converted someone yesterday! My younger daughter's teacher was admiring a dress I had sewn for her and asked me where I get such whimsical fabrics to sew with. I just sent her an enthusiastic email with links to all my favorite sources and an offer of help if she needed any. I also do the newsletter for an American social group here and put in an ad for sewists who would like to make fabric buying expeditions into the interior warrens of Napoli . . . perhaps it might intrigue the uninitiated to come along. But saying all this, I have read your tale of sewing revelation, yet, Peter, were you someone who enjoyed another type of handcrafting hobby before? I find that most people have established tendencies for "making" -- in all its forms -- from an early age and then there are those who just do not. So I think we have a better shot with beaders, knitters (though they can be an obstinately anti-sewing bunch), weavers, bakers, gardeners, and even carpenters, before we could get the all-thumbs types to convert.

  4. For me, passion for sewing has just always been in my blood. I have pursued every angle of it since I was quite young. Loving fashion hasn't hurt, either. I don't think you can do much to inspire people to be avid sewers. You can teach them the basics, so they can be self-sufficient enough to hem their own pants (wihtout asking their sewing friend!), but I think that the process of sewing is highly meditative, and tends to be a solitary pastime. Most people seem to be uncomfortable with the thought of not being entertained or active, and perhaps intimidated or too lazy to learn a skill like sewing. Thank goodness for the internet, and sewing blogs-MPB, Burda, and sites like Etsy, Ebay, et al. I live in the Midwest, which is a bit of a sewing wasteland. Most sewers in my area buy A LOT of fleece....and while fleece does have its place, it is not sewing, for the most part. I take encouragement and inspiration from all the sewers out there sharing with each other, because there is no one here for me to talk sewing with...except my poor husband! He has become pretty good with the sewing/fahion terminology, and is very supportive of my enthusiasm for sewing. Once in a while I even get a shirt done for him....

  5. My Mom and aunts are sewers/quilters/crafters, so I grew up around a machine. Thus, the idea to pick up garment sewing wasn't weird or intimidating; it wasn't a foreign concept that people could sew.

    I often think that I would not have even had the idea to begin sewing if I hadn't been exposed to people who did. So perhaps that's the way to spread the word: tell people you sew, esp. if you're wearing a homespun piece. If people see you in a lovely garment that you made for yourself, that might get the possibilities rolling in their minds.

    I wish I practiced what I preach. I don't share that I sew - people outside our little sewing blogging world think it's a weird hobby. When I mentioned to a colleague at work that I was sewing curtains over the weekend, she guffawed and asked if I was Amish. When I'm complimented on a piece that I'm wearing that I've made, I don't say "Thanks, I made it actually." Perhaps I should.

  6. OMG, I'm just the opposite, Rachel: I tell people I've sewn even what I HAVEN'T! LOL

  7. When Project Runway began, there was a noticeable shift. Simplicity pattern books in particular suddenly had a higher grade of paper, more inspiring designs, and some connection with Threads magazine. You could feel and see that something had happened.

    As well, our one and only fabric store is noticeably busier and the staff tell me that there is a shift away from quilting. Since many quilt shops are closing, that seems to be valid.

    Converting people? Hmm... if I knew the answer to that, I would convert my daughter who is naturally gifted and not at all interested. Sigh.

    A friend who was once the manager of a fabric store but hasn't sewn in twenty-five years was inspired to sew bras. I took a course last year and have since taught her and another friend. They're sewing luxury bras as opposed to practical ones. The one friend in particular is really into it. She's been acquiring a stash of bra fabrics.

    Surprisingly, sewing a bra is less expensive than buying one in many cases. That doesn't always happen which is why I promote sewing as a creative outlet, for fun, with the (sometimes) bonus of a garment that works. I think that's the catching point. Most people want instant, wearable, glamourous, results for cheap and they want to be an expert without practicing.

  8. I think I was drawn to sew from the get-go. I started at about 5 and have been obsessed ever since. I think years back when it used to be cheaper to sew than buy RTW- people turned their noses up at sewing. But now with fantastic sewing blogs (such as yours)- and beautiful hand crafts sold on Etsy- people are wanting to sew again. I have a few friends that want me to hold classes (I just can't find the time!) I also sew for my daughter- she is a walking advertisement for sewing.
    I too, have seen the eyes glaze over when I talk too much about my projects or fabric and pattern acquisitions. Thank goodness for blogging!!

  9. I have 7 granddaughters and I MAY get one hooked on sewing. Her eyes lit up when she saw a Singer 99K (just her size) that I had just purchased. She was excited that I had enough machines and room for all of us to sew when they come over. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Today I have 2 granddaughters (7 and 9 years old) coming over for a couple of days and we are going to sew for Halloween.

    I also gave my son's girlfriend a machine for graduation. She wanted to be a decorator so I figured that she needed to know how to sew. Now she is sketching dresses. She's making Halloween costumes this year so no fear of mistakes will help her feel more comfortable. I made her a winter coat from her design last Christmas and I think it kind of pushed her to look at the possibilities of sewing. Another finger crossing situation.

    The part I hate, hate, hate is if people know you sew they want to bring all their mending to you. I'd rather clean their toilet! If people think sewing is mending no wonder they don't want to sew. They have to see the possibilities and have a creative spirit.

    I wish Joannes and Hancock Fabric would have a sewing center open all the hours they are open. A center that would have an experienced sewer and machines/supplies that people could come and sew when their time permitted. No mess at home, time to themselves, help, no fear of running out of a supply, no fear of purchasing a machine/supplies before you know what you are doing and new/old friends. And put it in the middle of the store rather than isolated.

  10. Couldn't read to the end of that post... phobia inducing photo alert. Is there a name for a fear of sewing tattoos? I see that photo and all I can think of is sewing machines crushing my windpipe... Representations of sharp instruments on (into?) the flesh are only marginally better... I know it's not real and all, but that's not how phobias work. Roll on tomorrow's post. Please...

  11. I've tried to convert people but I've found that they have to have the desire to learn. Learn being the key word here! I've met many who wish they knew how but very few with the desire to put any effort into it. I've offered free lessons, the use of my machines, and an emergency sewing hotline but sometimes there is just nothing you can do, and I'm okay with that now. I still make the offer now and then but I end it with a "let me know when you're ready". Sadly, they seldom do.

    On a positive note I did get my mother to sew again. She makes pillow cases for my kids and even made a simple pullover top for herself. Of course she gets derailed whenever she has to rethread the machine but it's definitely progress.

  12. I think home sewing is making a come-back as part of the DIY meme. Although, maybe that is just how it appears to me. I definitely get a daily sewing fix on the internet and as a new sewista, it kept me inspired and encouraged.

  13. I've always been drawn to sewing. I wanted to learn when I was in my early 20s, but didn't seem to have the motivation to actually do it. I am glad I waited. Even ten years ago I would have lacked the necessary patience. I would not have been able to handle the steep learning curve earlier in life. I am not known for being easy on myself.

    Now, at 44, I have been sewing since August. When I am not sewing, I am thinking or reading about sewing. It's sort of taken over my life. I love it. We no longer have a dining room people; it's now the sewing room!

    What finally got me to attempt sewing is the very thing some say prevents others from doing so: cheaply made RTW. Over the past decade, it has become increasingly rare for me to find anything I want to buy. Nothing fits. The fabric is often poor. The prices are inflated. (Nearly $100 for an elastic waist polyester skirt cut out of two panels and lined with Halloween costume acetate?!) I finally said enough is enough. I started resent the time and effort I put into trying to find garments I liked. This is what pushed me over the edge.

    I have yet to make a garment for myself that I love, but it's only been three months! Surely I'll get there. I can hardly wait.


  14. Very very frequently when I mention sewing, I get a vague, "Oh, I'd like to learn to sew but... mumble mumble mumble." I think people think it's this unattainable, mysterious thing. I think the key is demystifying sewing and helping people understand that the process is a huge part of the fun and if you don't end up with something you love, you can try again and you definitely learned something.

    I've been taking classes for two years and I have a wonderful teacher. But our local technical college (which is how I found her) keeps cutting cutting cutting the sewing classes, and scheduling them at times that are difficult for most people to attend (Friday afternoon? Who can do that?) Then no one signs up and they say, "See? No one is interested in sewing!"

    So, in my opinion, making it seem doable for people, and then making it EASY for them to get started are the keys. If the sewing gene is there and a person is the type to get hooked, I think all it takes is one semi-successful project to get them started!

  15. I started a sewing blog just so I would quit talking the ears off everyone in my everyday life. I won't say I've started anyone sewing, but I like to think I've planted some seeds of ambition among the "lapsed and lackadaisical" sewists of my acquaintance---people who know how to thread their machines and maybe whip up the odd Halowe'en costume or set of curtains, but who don't really aspire to create garments. I know this was a big step for me, going from making stuff that was a) dead easy, or b) it didn't matter if it was less than perfect, to making stuff that I will actually wear everyday. That's intimidating. :) I've been trying to convince my Mom that she should sew more, but she keeps complaining she has no time (and then complaining how badly RTW fits, sigh).

    I hope it's catching on and growing. I love the sewing blogosphere and sites like PR and Burdastyle... I think they give a kind of community that was often missing for sewists in the past. It also makes it possible to learn so much even if you don't have money for lessons or anyone around you to teach you. :)

  16. I agree with what Leigh just said. And it’s also true that a lot of people don’t like solitary endeavors. I had a friend who was shocked that I don’t go to movies. He said, “Then what do you DO?” Good grief!

    My mother taught me how to sew starting when I was about 13. I knew how to embroider and handle a needle when I was much younger than that. She sewed all of her own clothes and all of mine. I grew up thinking the only way to have clothes was to make them yourself! The only clothing we ever shopped for were shoes and underwear. Here I am over 35 years later and sewing more than ever. Whenever someone finds out I have made what I’m wearing, the reaction is always amazement. Amazement? Sheesh. These people are used to having everything pre-made for them. Just look at all the women out there with pants so long the hems are tattered. They don’t even know how to hem their pants or sew on a button. It’s like calling in a repairman to change a light bulb to me. It’s okay not to want to sew a garment, but a button? Man, I don’t like to cook but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to make a sandwich.

    I haven’t tried to convert anyone myself. It can be expensive, even at the beginning. People are often envious but not enough to actually try to learn. People seem to think you have to start young. I just wish they could realize that you can make nice stuff that’s stylish right at the get-go. The pattern companies do make that easy enough. There are plenty of very simple patterns. If fabric stores would cut back on the fleece and polyester and put more effort into offering good quality garment fabrics, I do think home sewing could get bigger than it currently is.

    Thank goodness for the internet, though! I live to read these blogs every day. They keep me so inspired!

  17. yes! i convert people by stubbornly refuse to sew for them :P when they really love my dress, i tell them that i will teach them how to sew it, but not sew for them. my two best friends started sewing because they really wanted some sewn garments! one of them got a free machine from freecycle, the other one got a hand me down from a friend. all the sewing parties also helped some people get on/back to sewing as they are normally too busy for it!

  18. Doreen, I love your idea of a sewing area in sewing stores where people could meet and sew. I see some of that happening when I read australian sewing blogs. It would be so lovely.

    Another thing we SHOULD do but never will is make sewing and woodshop part of school again. My mother sewed but never took the time to teach me or my sister. I had sewing in school and have sewed all my life, my sister didn't and I don't think she owns a needle. I ardently believe we need longer school days and longer school years and more subjects taught. People need these skills to live a real life.

    Personally, I think that by buying vintage patterns etc we keep these things alive for future sewers. Pattern companies may go out of business but we will always have our own private archives that we can pass down from sewer to sewer. That belief, or hope, is probably why I cannot pass by something made of rayon, cotton, linen, or wool, without wanting to take it home and save it for the someone in the future.

  19. I discovered most of my shirts didn't fit right. I'm doing alterations on them now and it is amazing to have the shirt sleeves go to the right spot and not to have so much excess on the sides. Now I am so fussy about them I can't stand it when they are not just right. I keep my sewing to myself-too embarrassed to bring it up. Guys don't talk about things like that usually.

  20. Recently, when I try and lure members of my (admittedly geeky) peer group into sewing, I've been starting them off with William Gibson's new book Zero History (Pattern Recognition is good too). Both books have a lot to do with clothing and branding, especially 'stealth branding', and what makes garments useful and desirable. Chatting about those books and the characters' relationships with ready to wear clothes leads pretty naturally into talking about sewing.
    And the other thing that I've suggested for years is... (looking around furtively)... hand sewing! Not everyone can (or wants to) commit to having a sewing machine. But hand sewing can be functional, beautiful, and meditative. Just like hemming and mending can be considered the PB&J equivalent in the sewing world, hand sewing is a lot like the Slow Food movement - not something you do for every meal/project, or to build an entire wardrobe, but so enjoyable. Not just for the product but for the process as well.

    If you want to see the pinnacle of the Slow Crafting movement (IMHO), take a look at Alabama Chanin's work. Amazing!

  21. I, too, love Doreen's idea of having a sewing spot in fabric stores. Stores that make and sell stained glass used to do this so people could share tools and get used to them while learning.

    I've never converted anyone in the 50+ years I've been sewing (yes, I was a toddler.) I've had the full range of comments from the "wow, you made that", through the snearing "oh, you make things" which is less common now, but never, ever has anyone taken me up on an offer to learn even though I've stressed how easy some patterns are. Same with knitting: the total newbies want to make the most complicated sweaters in the book and get discouraged.

    I learned to sew on my own as neither my mum or grandmother sewed except the odd thing for the house. I've only met one other person who sews: my former boss who was from England and made beautiful suits for work. I love the sewing blogs and craftster which sometimes makes my cringe at the workmanship, but the girls there have spirit and a sense of adventure which doesn't always accompany sewing. Plus, there's a couple who's work is real designer quality.

    In my city, it's the new immigrant women, esp the Muslim women, who keep sewing alive. There's not much to buy at a reasonable cost or that isn't too fancy for every day if you have to wear traditional clothing. The stores love them as they buy 6 - 10 yards at a go. We also have a couple of fashion schools here which means we still have places to buy findings and tools, although my favourite silk pins have disappeared. I think there's still hope.

  22. I've been sewing since childhood, have a home ec degree, worked as a fashion designer for years. My teenage daughter didn't gat interested in sewing until she met a classmate who could sew.

  23. I had to learn to sew. Its hard for me to purchase clothes off the rack with no alterations. After a million alterations, I learned it would just be easier to make my own. I have convinced others that its easier to make than buy.

  24. Hear, hear! Longtime lurker, first time poster...but I have loved your blog since discovering you at PR. Yes, I have definitely turned one young friend onto sewing and watching her "grow" along with me has been a ton of fun. Her enthusiasm to dive in without fear and ignoring rules has been an inspiration to ME. She's now onto a second sewing machine and happily owns a serger after playing with mine. That being said, she is FINALLY learning that I may have a point after I tried to (hopefully gently) give her advice about a need for pressing, basting, using proper fabrics, etc....and, lol, she works at Jo-Ann's.

    Now, OTOH, something has to be said. A lot of people look down at Wal-Mart fabrics for a lot of the right is an awful truth, the loss of that dollar table and that sewing area has disaffected a lot of other sewists from their hobby. At WM, they were not kidding themselves about the quality; they loved that the fabric was just as "disposable" for experimentation, quick projects, or teaching their own kids as much as current RTW is "disposable."

    Since I worked at that DREADED STORE's fabric table, I have learned that a lot of my customers have given up their hobby as they find the fabrics they would like to try just too expensive for the quality they get at the chain stores left in the area...and forget about boutique and high-end fabrics. And that makes me very sad.


  25. My sister, the one with delusions of sewing, is moving back into the area around Christmas and wants sewing lessons. My sister-in-law, who brings me her buttons to sew back on because she doesn't know how to fix them, says she wants me to teach her how to sew. Right now she doesn't have the time or energy for it, but if things work out the way we're hoping and praying for and she'll be able to stay home with Evie and any others that come and I'll be able to teach her. Most of it is because RTW isn't a good fit. And she loves what I've made for her daughter, and wants to learn how to do it herself.

    I sew on a severe budget. As in, I can't afford high end fabrics for the most part. I can't really afford to sew at all because money is always tight. But I've learned to shop around, buy on sales, and how to sew on the cheap. And best of all, people who know I sew give me fabric and sewing supplies that they're either not using or can't find a use for. And I break rules. I don't care about the intended use of a fabric. If I like it and it drapes well enough for my purpose, I use it. This includes quilting fabric. I know TPTB say you shouldn't make dresses out of it, but most of the "it doesn't drape" is sizing, which washes out, and people have been making clothing out of cotton for a long time.

    I get a largish bag of leftover home dec fabric every few weeks for nothing. It works well for little girl dresses. Anything I don't like, I pass on to Goodwill. I buy yard sale fabric and sometimes I buy fabric from the thrift stores. I've had people donate boxes and boxes of fabric that they don't want to me. I buy notions in bulk and regular buttons come my way on sale and clearance.

    One of these days I'm going to do something to talk about sewing on a budget. I think the cost and time commitment is what keeps lots of people from sewing. Cost is my main problem, because time I have in spades. It's one of the few advantages to being disabled--I have all the time in the world.

  26. None of my friends want to sew...if i mention sewing their eyes glaze over...i want everyone to sew and then we can have sewing parties and talk about sewing and go to sewing shops :)...there are only so many times i can bribe my fiance!

  27. I think it is easier to convert people to sewing if they have an interest in fashion to start with, and visions of what they want to create.
    Probably the major hurdle is the initial investment in a sewing machine, and the cheaper models are likely to be rubbish - it sounds like a browse around your neighbourhood is more fruitful!! I would definitely recommend investing in a good old basic machine rather than a cheap newbie.
    Having worked in the garment industry, I find some of the sewing instructions unnecessarily complicated, often time-consuming and involving hand-sewing which puts many off. There are much easier ways that are still of high quality, and I like to document them with tutorials on my blog so sewers have more efficient options of garment construction.
    And there is nothing like a fabric store to get your inspiration going but unfortunately they are in decline - seeing and handling the fabrics is far superior to an online description and thumbnail!

  28. Hmm, have I converted anyone to my obsession?

    Well, a coworker recently "caught the sewing bug" after taking a local class and we started having conversations about machines and seam techniques. I can't claim to have 'converted' her but my office gifts are usually sewn and I sometimes recruit my work colleagues for taking pattern review photos of me, so I guess I'm an 'example' of someone who sews.

    I gave my teenage niece a series of sewing lessons for her entrance portfolio to FIDM. I don't think I converted her either, as her interest is primarily in design and would just as soon skip the construction part if she could.

    And I'm teaching my two daughters to sew and they are proud to show people what they've made.

    I think you can only turn people on to sewing who already find enjoyment in making stuff. And if they see you making stuff that they would like to create for themselves, that's really the best way to evangelize.

  29. Oooh, I let people think it's a dark mysterious art so that they remain in awe of my incredible skill and dexterity ...

  30. I am a total beginner and very late to sewing (I've just turned 40). I worked in fashion retail for many years and although I toyed with the idea of sewing (my mum sews), it never really gelled. Part of the reason was being surrounded by some gorgeous RTW and store discounts and part was my own personality (leaning toward perfectionism!) and my fear therefore of, as someone else put it, the 'mystery' surrounding sewing. I thought it sounded too hard, quite frankly, and that I wouldn't be able to do it as well as I would like to. Too time-consuming too. However, I have since left retail and become a sahm and got really hooked on thrifting and vintage again and this woke something in me due to the possibilities of altering garments, or rescuing and refashioning them. I also got fed up with wearing only 80% of my wardrobe and started to wonder what I could do with the clothes in there that would make me wear them. This coincided with a new sewing magazine coming out that had alot to do with refashioning and recycling/reducing waste and I won a sewing machine in a competition they ran!! In the last couple of months since, I have had a whale of a time altering, repairing, refashioning, building a small thrifted stash of vintage patterns/notions/fabric and sharing stuff with my mum. I know it's not 'real' sewing yet but I am finding my way around my machine in a practical way, with the safety net of there already being a sound garment in there to begin with! I'm taking baby steps but I have got so many ideas!!! I am really excited about beginning to make my own clothes. This is why I read your blog and others like it. I am learning that mistakes are there to learn from.
    Sorry for waffling on - it probably makes no sense whatsoever - but for me the reason I didn't sew was a fear of not being able to do it well enough, of wasting time and money and of not being able to wear the end products! Your 'sewing police' though I admire and respect them hugely and can only dream of having their knowlege and skill scare the living daylights out of me! It's been hugely useful to me to read certain books/ certain blogs where the message is just jump in and try! It never used to be an elite club, after all, just about everyone used to sew.
    I would love to go to a sewing cafe/sewing area in a store/sewing circle, etc. and am looking into classes anyway, but as someone else pointed out, the times aren't always ideal. It would be good to share ideas, share mistakes etc!

  31. Catherine, they scare me too! (There's another blog like mine...?)

  32. Well, I live in New Zealand, where there are two choices in fashion - wear exactly what everyone else has bought from one of about 5 chain stores, or make your own.

    When someone comments on an interesting item I'm wearing, I can tell them that I'm a beginner sewist but I made it myself out of $2/m fabric and a $200 sewing machine... for plenty of people, just wanting to look different is good motivation.

    So by telling people that it is relatively cheap and easy (and being available for advice), that seems to be enough motivation for fashion-forward wannabes!

  33. I spent years slogging through sewing projects, and sobbing over the half-ruined results. I gave myself permission to quit.

    Years later, I've started reading sewing blogs and wondering if I should try again. My tastes are more defined now, so maybe I could make clothes worth wearing. My research skills have improved considerably, I'm older and more patient.... ... but I'm afraid I'll just end up sobbing into my projects again.

  34. Those here in Melbourne, Australia might like to check out Threadden ( - they offer classes and a sewing lounge. Lovely people.

  35. I had a hand-me-down machine that a friend asked to borrow to make cushions. When she gave it back, I had been doing a lot of Etsy browsing and occasional buying which was very inspiring and I thought, I should give it a try. I also have a fabric shop just around the corner. So I re-started sewing maybe a year ago and haven't looked back. (Building on skills my mum taught me years back.) The friend who borrowed my machine has become my best sewing-buddy and we talk sewing a lot and email loads of links to each other. The online community has been a massive, massive help and ongoing inspiration. A friend at work is a long-time sewer so we talk a lot too. Also my sewing machine repair shop was very encouraging of my obsession with old machines rather than treating me like I was crazy. I haven't 'converted' anyone exactly but I like to take some credit for my friend's growing interest.

  36. Hahaha - no Peter, there's no blog like yours!! Catherine x

  37. I did my bit to spread the sewing meme today! I'm active in the union movement, and I'm in Melbourne at a Union conference. At the end of the day, in a taxi to a pub to drink beer with fellow trade unionists, the topic of conversation turned to hobby craft projects. The group was mainly male, and the the discussion was DIY boats/planes. I proudly announced I was planning to make a Chanel jacket! The mostly male group seemed interested in hearing about the project and actually started discussing people they knew who sewed.

  38. The most positive thing I've seen in the sewing revival is that it's now seen as a creative means of expression as opposed to being just a trade skill, which is the way sewing was taught in Home Ec classes before Title IX changed education forever. The internet has also been a great boon, although I have to saw that genuine sewing skill (e.g. couture and bespoke) is like tennis or golf; to really advance a serious sewer needs good on-line lessons and/or in-person classes because with being solely self-taught it's all too easy to acquire bad technique, which is very hard to un-learn. DIY will only get a person so far when it comes to sewing.

  39. Another european standpoint coming:

    Here in Denmark fashion-sewing has been on the rise for quite a few years. I think it really started with Kaffe Fasset and similar knit designers sparking an interest in creating, which has spread.

    I live in a town of approximately 220 000 inhabitants, and we have 3 sewingmachine shops and 7 fabric shops - only one of which is primarily for quilters. Quilting is a relatively new art form here - but garment sewing is by now not out of the ordinary at all.

    I think there are two reasons for sewing - fit: When you dont fit the block used by store-manufactureres - the high round back and lack of waist or have a sway back. Or when you don't want to wear the same boring stuff that you see on 1 in 5 on every street. Those at least are the reasons I hear when talking to people around me.

  40. I'm new to sewing, but obsessed enough that I want to keep talking about it. My friends ooh and ahh every time I show up to events in newly made creations, but their eyes glaze over when I start to rhapsodize about the process of actually making my clothes. I actually got my mom, who hates to sew, inside a JoAnne store yesterday so she could buy the stuff to make a Halloween costume for my niece. Somehow I ended up going home with all the supplies and sewing the costume myself. Sigh!

  41. I get 'em while they are young. At least once per month our local ASG group has a "teen sewing camp" where we teach teens to sew. All they need is a working sewing machine (but we have been know to provide them if needed). We have made up several kits of easy things for them to make. The teens love it! Most are generally "forced" into the day by a parent who use to sew... they start the day with a scowl and end with a smile. We also have a teen (and by teen I mean anyone that can successfully use an iron and sew an almost straight line, we have teens as young as 6) neighborhood group that meets 1x per month for a few hours at a local quilt shop. We have a specific project on these days and all sew the same thing. There's about 15 girls total and generally 3-7 show up at a time... each month varies depending on their schedules. Both sewing groups are free and supplies are donated by ASG members.
    A "bonus" of having these teen groups is that generally a parent or grandparent use to sew, and become inspired to get back into sewing and then join an adult neighborhood group. It's a win win for all!

  42. Here in Sweden, kids still do both textile and wood crafts in school. Most people still think of it as a) something grandma did to save money, and now it doesnt save money anymore, what's the point? b) crafts are for kids, or c) it's just too hard.

    Reality tv seems to be the most efficient way of raising public interest. Until now, it's been about diy home improvement, ballroom dancing, and marrying farmers. We need a home sewing show with lovable participants and just the right amount of drama. Combined with a makeover - someone who dresses terribly, learns to sew, and at the end of the series they have made an awesome wardrobe for themselves!

  43. OMG Peter. I've been reading your archives and I had to comment here although I don't know if you see comments on your old posts. The first pattern I sewed when I was about 7 years old was that short baby doll pj pattern you posted here. I sewed it on my Grandma's neighbor's treadle machine. You are bringing back too many fun memories today.


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