Get Threads magazine!

Subscribe Renew Give a Gift

Sewing Is More Than Just A Creative Pastime

Does your school system teach sewing?

Does your school system teach sewing?

Photo: Emily Berube

It saddens me that sewing isn't taught in many schools today, and if it is, it's often taught only to those students who plan to continue their education in areas such as fashion or textile design. Thankfully, there are 4-H, Girl Scouts, and other programs that are filling the void where the schools have slacked off. We do see some signs that sewing is on the upswing. TV shows such as "Project Runway" in the United States and "The Great British Sewing Bee" in England have encouraged the trend, and hopefully will continue to do so.

I wonder if school administrators realize how much more is involved in sewing besides creativity. I teach sewing in a local adult education program, and I often find that the adults (who weren't offered sewing in school) have difficulty following the directions in the pattern packet. These are intelligent, educated adults. For many of these women, the sewing jargon used in the instructions stopped them cold. They gave up trying to sew before they even began. Following directions–whether to make a garment, to put together an entertainment center, or to hook up a DVD player–is a skill that our kids should practice. Being able to follow directions is critical to ANY employment environment, essential in advanced education, and basic in life.

What about the measuring and math skills that come into play in planning fabric needs, placing a pattern on fabric, adding ease to a garment, understanding body space, and so many other sewing tasks. These are math skills that are far more practical than just rote learning. Too often we don't think of all the academic learning required to sew a basic garment, bag, or accessory. How much more is involved in being able to construct something more complicated, detailed, embellished, etc. Monica Brinkley, a Country Extension Director in Florida, and the 4-H Youth Development Agent there, is a major advocate for sewing in our schools, and she agrees that there are numerous academic and other side benefits gained while learning to sew that are important skills our children should learn!

Some schools are making good use of their sewing machines in a creative way. Volunteer students in Skaneateles Middle School in New York State stitched new microscope covers for their school's Science Department. The cost to make a cover for every microscope was equivalent to what they would have paid for one cover from a science supply house! The sewing machines were purchased with a grant from the Skaneateles Education Foundation in 2012. Other students used the same machines to make tablecloths for the Hoedown for Education in October. It's an annual fundraiser for the Skaneateles Education Foundation–which provided grants for the sewing machines in the first place. That's what I call "paying it forward"!

Tell us about sewing instruction in your town. Is it taught to all students or only a few? Do you see this trend changing?


Comments (2)

ErinGoodwin ErinGoodwin writes: If I have to compare sewing with other activity, I would compare it with cooking - it is complex, requires some math skills and sharp senses, it's creative. And yes, sewing should be taught more in school, so as cooking. I can't begin to tell you how easier my life would be if someone taught me how to cook, instead of doing it myself. I would save a tremendous amount of time, burned or simply failed meals, lots of money and so on.
It was me who decided to stand before the cooker and learn how to cook - it is an essential skill that anyone should possess.
And I think the same of sewing.
Posted: 7:29 am on September 14th

ArtemisKeane ArtemisKeane writes: I picked up sewing about a year ago AFTER visiting my daughters' 7th grade Life Skills class. I was so impressed with the classes projects and pleased to know my daughter was learning sewing basics.I had such a slight grasp on handsewing, I felt I didn't have any knowledge to pass on. Last Summer was my first experience with a sewing machine. I found a pattern I liked and followed the instructions. I know I have a lot to learn, but with wonderful resources available on-line, like this site, I haven't stopped sewing. I feel good knowing our school district also sees the value of teaching such skills. Yes, there wereplenty of boys in these sewing/cooking classes, too!
Posted: 6:57 pm on August 3rd

Log in or create a free account to post a comment.