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How did you learn to sew?

Many schools in today's world no longer offer sewing in their Middle School programs which is a huge loss for today's students.

Why are some kids interested in sewing and others aren’t?
My husband and I have 2 daughters who are 3 years apart. I find it interesting that our younger daughter loved to create and sew from the time she was quite little. Our older daughter didn’t have one speck of interest. I can’t begin to guess why they are so different.

Then I wonder why I became an avid, passionate sewer in my early youth and teenage years, and my sister (2 years younger) only sewed when it was a mending emergency and she couldn’t convince someone else to do it for her. Our mother was a stay-at-home mom who sewed clothing for us and for herself from the time we were very young, as well as doing lots of home decor sewing, so we both had a ready and willing mentor.

What motivates children to sew?
I don’t actually remember learning to sew. I suspect it was through “osmosis” by observing mom and asking questions (which I was famous for). Mom allowed my sister and I to try to sew whenever we expressed interest. When we were about 10 or 12 years old and clothing suddenly became very important, she encouraged us to sew in an unusual way. She shopped with us for new school clothes in September which she paid for, but if we wanted additional clothing during the school year, we had to buy our own. There was a twist, however. If we were willing to SEW something to expand our wardrobe, she offered to pay for the fabric, pattern and necessary notions and, of course, help us through the process. I hated to spend my hard-earned baby-sitting money, so I jumped at the chance to make new clothes without having to pay for them. I made many of my clothes at that time. My sister wasn’t hooked.

At one time sewing class was mandatory in most school systems.
By the time I reached 7th grade with its mandatory sewing class, I was already fairly adept at sewing. We were required to make an A-line skirt.  A-line skirts had gone out of style 5 years earlier, so as far as I was concerned this experience was nothing short of a waste of my time. I knew I wouldn’t be caught dead in the skirt even if it did come out well. None of the girls wore their skirts, even the girls who had learned to sew for the first time. I suspect the teacher turned more girls away from sewing than she motivated or encouraged them. I gave my skirt to my sister. Now that I think about it, maybe that’s why she never became a sewer!

What was your first experience with sewing? Did you have any stumbling blocks along the way, or did you find inspiration and encouragement in your learning years? Did your motivation change over the years, and if so, why?


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  1. Cherlyn | | #1

    I learned to sew from my mother. By the time I entered high school in the late 70's, I had made a few simple things and was ready for something with some challenge to it. My mother began teaching me to sew when I was in midle school. I wore all hand made clothes throughout elementary and then a mix of store bought and homemade through middle school and high school.

    I remember going fabric shopping and hating that experience. I wasn't sure how to read a pattern or how to visualize the garment made in a fabric I liked. My mother was better at this and I developed the talent over time.

    My first home economics class was being taught at a beginners level, but the teacher knew that I had been sewing for three years at that point so she took all of that into consideration. I wan't the only student who had been sewing for awhile. We were paired with inexperienced sewers so we could halp teach! I thought this was smart for the teacher to do this.

    I got to make a pair of pants and a simple jacket for my project where first timers were getting to make just pants or shorts. Another girl with experience got to make a lined dress!

    Now that I'm back in the high school again as a teacher, I am floored at how little sewing is taught in most schools. Students have purchased kits that have the worst fabric I have ever seen! The patterns come with the kit. When did we decide the student didn't need to know how to read the back of a pattern?

    I account for the decline in fabric stores to the fact that sewing has not been taught in the schools for so many years. I think that shows like Project Runway have created some renewed interest, but just as it took time for this decline to impact our communities, it will take time for it to impact the communities in the opposite direction. I find that there are students that want to learn, but they need to be taught by people with experience. The teacher we had here didn't sew for herself; therefore, the students constantly came to me asking questions the year I collaborated with the teacher. (I'm in special education.)

    I think the technology used by the designers on Project Runway to create their own fabric would be cool to have in the schools. Our students today are not afraid of technology but embrace it. I can see students enjoying creating a fabric and then making something from that fabric.

    It would be nice to see Threads offer competitions that target hgih school age groups only such as the ones that you have but are open to all readers.

  2. Wendelizine | | #2

    I learned to sew from my mother and I remember practicing on her old Serger,the same machine she used when she was young to sew her own clothes and clothes for her sisters. My sisters never took any interest in sewing, however I once I realized that I could make new clothes for cheaper than store-bought clothes and that they would fit so much better, I was sold!

  3. User avater
    Racy1Red | | #3

    I was always interested in sewing as a child. My grandmother was a seamstress, my mother and father also sewed. I took a sewing class in home economics in elementary school but never made anything except a pillow and clothes for my dolls. About 2 years ago, I went to bought a sewing machine; I didnt remember how to thread the needle or make a bobbin or anything. I just knew I wanted a sewing machine. It sat for months and finally one day, I went to the fabric store; I didn't know what to get or what I was going to make but i knew I wanted to sew. The salesperson asked if I knew how to sew and i told her I didn't but I believed that I could.

    The fabric set for about 8 months and finally, i cut a little piece of fabric and sat down to figure out "how to sew". To my amazement, I remember how to thread the machine and make a bobbin. I sewed a straight line and was so excited. The next week, my boyfriend's mother told me she would help me sew. She was an EXCELLENT teacher and I was making and wearing garments in 2 weeks. It felt like second nature.

    It has been about 7 or 8 months since I offically learned to sew. I make most of my clothing and sew for several people. I enjoy it so much. I get excited when i get home and have a chance to sit down and create "art".

    Sewing was a dream that has become my passion.

  4. User avater
    Kate_W | | #4

    I begged my mom to teach me how to sew -- I loved the gadgets -- the iron with the cloth covered cord that hissed steam, the big black handled Wyss scissors that could not cut anything other than fabric if Mom was looking, the Sew-More sewing machine with the adjustments, and cams and tension and a push button with a red 'R' for reverse. OK, I was six, my mom wielded the scissors, iron, and had me sew a pocket and the edges of a yellow gingham apron with white ribbon ties and bows. I still have it. Somewhere. I'm sure.

    Sewing was a necessity if I wanted any wardrobe diversity. We shopped in the seconds basement of Herbergers for fabric. I was sewing most of my own clothes by the time I was in Jr. High. Somewhere in my thirties, I took about 5 years off.

    I have made many mistakes over the years. My favorite was running low on fabric for a dress. I still needed to cut out sleeves. A miracle occurred and a piece of fabric materialized by my bed (I was cutting out on the floor, and pun intended). I cut out the sleeve. Held up the rest of the leftovers only to recognize that the sleeves were cut out of the dress skirt front. If I recall, a Threads contributor had a similar story. You can't pay for that kind of learning.

    My most recent disaster was taking a twirl at the circular jacket project posted here on Threads. Or maybe it was the 4th-time-is-a-charm zipper insertion in the straight skirt I made at Easter ... I'm still in my learning years --intermediate sewer with advancing skills which match my age.

    My motivation for sewing now is creating. If all the stars align, I create a garment that is unique, comfortable, and fits.

  5. alotofstitches | | #5

    I learned to sew sitting at my Mother's elbow while she sewed. As a very young child, my job was to run the elastic thru the casing on my white eyelet trimmed panties. I guess my first real excursion into sewing was a 4-H gathered skirt when I was in 6th grade and my Mother insisted I learn to put a zipper into the seam. Sewing is something we've always enjoyed talking about & sharing new techniques, etc. Mother's health is failing & her memory for doing things is going so now I sew for my Mother just like she sewed for me. I'm passing sewing on to my granddaughters (I had 3 sons) and so far they've all taken to it.

  6. CherieNightOwl | | #6

    My mother taught me to sew first by teaching embroidery skills, then with small projects such as pillows. She taught me to hand sew before machine sewing. I remember sewing being part of Home Ec in middle school, but I didn't get much out of it. I made pillows and some other craft projects until high school, where I graduated to quilts and clothing. My high school still offered a sewing class, and I made my own prom dress.

  7. User avater
    eternal8song | | #7

    two years ago, i asked my mom to teach me to sew, because the anime convention was only two months away and i REALLY wanted to cosplay (costume play)as my then-favorite character. if you've never been to a convention, it's amazing. nearly EVERYONE comes in costume, and nearly all of them make their own costumes. the level of craftsmanship is staggering. the masquerade (costume contest) is the biggest event, and the sheer level of effort and time put into the costumes, every intricate and superfluous detail, was enough to put a casual sewer like me to shame. anyway, i asked mom to teach me, and she did, helping me draft a pattern using a dress i already had, and then let me go from there. now, in hindsight, i really shouldn't have waited until two months beforehand to start, but it actually came out amazingly well for my first project. now i'm gearing up for my third convention, my skills have improved significantly, and (if i may say so)i think my skill level may be getting closer to the pros of the masquerade. when i showed mom my cape, she accused me of being obsessed, however...

  8. JenEagles | | #8

    I don't remember 'learning to sew'. From a very young age I created clothes for my dolls and made toys by cutting up old clothes and handstitching them. My favourite memory by far is the stable full of sock horses, my mum went mad when she realised that I had used dads socks to make about a dozen of them. I realised that not many people could do it and started selling items I had sewn, crocheted or knit to other kids for pocket money.
    I first used a machine when I went to senior school and had to make an apron for cookery class.
    All through college I made clothes just using a dressmakers dummy and creating my own look. I didn't use a pattern until I made my wedding dress.
    I sewed all through my 20's for my kids and others and then suddenly stopped. I don't know why.
    My son's fiancee, lamenting the price of wedding dresses had re-ignited my passion and I am happily creating wardrobes for us all again. thank you Threads for helping me re-learn this essential skill and by the way I agree that it should be compulsory for schools to teach needlework.

  9. Teachable_Momment | | #9

    I learned to sew in grade 7 home ec. I made a stuffed cat that turned out so badly, it looked like roadkill. In grade 8 I serged a t-shirt with a very wavy hem and 2 different length sleeves. In grade 9 I signed up for a sewing elective because I couldn't take drama until grade 10 so I had space in my timetable for something fun. I made comfy pants, a button-down shirt, a skirt, and a dress. I took a break from sewing for the rest of highschool (I wasn't really passionate about it at that point) and it wasn't until I was in university as a drama major and had to take a costuming class that I rediscovered it. I started sewing for fun and to expand my skills throughout university. I went on to work in theatre for a number of years, often in costuming departments. I've since had a career switch. I am now a highschool teacher. I teach family studies (what grew out of the old home ec courses in Ontario), specifically the fashion courses. I am teaching a whole new generation how to sew and it is wonderful. In the past few years I have used my skills to safe money on expensive child items (fitted cloth diapers, sleep sacks, etc). I am now pretty much exclusively sewing my own clothes (my post-baby body doesn't fit off the rack at all). I use sewing as a way to relax.

    I think my middle school home ec teacher would be shocked that I am now teaching people how to sew. I have come a long way.

  10. Ckbklady | | #10

    It's been such a pleasure to read everyone's stories. I love the "roadkill cat", Teachable Moment! :)

    In the 70s my mother decided that my sister and I should learn to sew. I was 11, my sister was 13 and just starting junior high home ec with the grumpiest, most abrupt home ec teacher who ever lived. Mum thought that having a machine at home would help my sister get her homework done and would create a friendly sewing environment. We bought a basic machine at Sears and attended basic lessons there. I remember not really following what the saleslady was showing us - she wouldn't let us touch the machine (a floor model identical to the one we'd bought).

    My sister did well in home ec, so the next year it was my turn. I hated the teacher - she was short-tempered and critical of the smallest things. I sailed through the cooking section, but floundered in the sewing. She made me rip out seams all day. I finally took the pencil case to my neighbor, a retired tailor. She quietly sewed the case for me and I handed it in. She got a B-!

    Not until I was in my 20s and felt the desire for a machine of my own did I get back to sewing. I bought a machine and every volume of the Singer Sewing Series and taught myself. From those books I made bedspreads and tablecloths, curtains, a slipcover for the couch and then my wedding dress. I figured that "advanced" patterns simply had more steps; they would only be tricky if I was intimidated. Since then I've become a truly advanced sewer with a largeish vintage sewing machine collection and a stash that I love to cut up.

    Oh, and my husband's Mum turned out to be a home ec teacher, as is my best friend's Mum. It's funny how the sewing world comes and finds us!

  11. kapnoel | | #11

    I learned to sew on my own after having observed and helped my mother sewing with Burda patterns for years. At that time, my mother was a quick sewer that cared more for production and less for perfection. My granny who has been sewing for years was the exact opposite. Time did not matter, the project simply had to be perfect. I am in between the two: there is pleasure in making something quickly, but there is also pleasure in making it perfect!

    My mother appreciated my help, but would not let me use her machine. In my 20's, my boyfriend at the time bought me an Elna. I loved the machine and married the guy some 12 years later! I started sewing almost immediately. In the beginning I used Burda magazine for the patterns, but I really needed more instructions and explanations than the ones provided there. In Europe, Burda has been for years the reference magazine for all sewers. Burda is a monthly magazine with some 40 patterns per month, the latest designs available, but bad instructions. So, after sewing series of sleeveless T-shirts, shorts and pocketless jackets, I stopped. I felt that I needed somebody to tell me how to sew better. It wasn't until I had my third child that I discovered simplicity patterns and books and a little later Threads magazine. Since then, I am sewing all weekends all the things I dream of. I sew for my family, my home, my kids and of course for myself. My mother and my granny leave in another country, but when I sew I feel as if they were next to me. Sewing allows me to test how fearless I can be and I love that! It also allows me to get better every day and for that I have to thank you, dear Threads.

  12. Skymom | | #12

    So many of our stories are similar--for those of us who began our careers (however shakily) in the 1970s or before. I learned to sew from my mother, who was a dressmaker when I was growing up. There was always something hanging from the closet door, awaiting a client for a fitting. So when I took home-ec in 7th grade, I was looking forward to learning to sew "for real," with patterns, and at full-size (not Barbie-size). I had a sweet teacher, who know my mother well and gave me an A based on my mother's excellent skills, I think. We were supposed to make wrap skirt and wear it to school at least once. I was allowed to do a jumper with a zipper, which I never finished, but I think I made some other skirt on my own so I had something to wear to school.

    I'm fascinated to read about the younger generation who didn't have the advantage (if you choose to call it that--I'm not sure all of us considered it such at the time!) of in-school sewing classes, and mothers/grandmothers/aunts who sewed at home. It's inspiring to hear from those of you who have taught yourselves to sew without that support system. Although from what I'm seeing here, many of us, home-ec or not, are ultimately largely self-taught--because really, learning to sew is about diving in, giving yourself challenges, and accepting that there will be misses as well as hits. It's definitely a trial-and-error process, no matter what your background.

  13. amm | | #13

    I'm also amazed at how many of you are self taught. I'm so glad Threads has been able to help you fine tune old sewing techniques and learn new ones. If you know anyone, young or old, who is learning to sew, please tell them about our new online video series called "Teach Yourself to Sew." It's on our website, and it's free-- (https://www.threadsmagazine.com/teach-yourself-to-sew). Right now there are about 15 different segments of online beginner sewing "classes," but we're adding new segments regularly. You might even find a sewing tip or two you didn't know about before! As I'm sure you'll all agree, watching a video to learn a technique has definite advantages.

    Thanks so much for all of your comments. Keep them coming!

    April Mohr

  14. loisgs | | #14

    My grammie taught me to sew before I could do my abc's or read. When I entered first grade I could not read, but I could sew and embroider. No, in those days there were no kindergartens for me where I lived.

    Sewing classes were no fun in school as I was way ahead of the class when I entered 7th grade sewing class thanks to my grammie. Mother never sewed. There I sat making an apron by hand when I was making dresses and things to wear at home. It was boring for me.

    But somehow I got through all those sewing classes in school and here I am - still sewing.

  15. DrivesSewMachBest | | #15

    I had finished 5th grade. My parents decided to transfer both my brother and myself out of parochial school so that Andy could take trumpet lessons in public school. Only one problem with this scenario; that being that I had no dresses to wear to a regular, public school having worn uniforms for 5 years.
    So, that summer, my mother came up with a rather simple yoked dress pattern (early 1960's) and some "material" as it used to be called and set me down to start sewing my first dress. After accomplishing the first one, I moved on with only slight bits of help for the second one. As I recall, they were both dress weight cottons, not like the quilt weight cottons of today and this is how I started.
    Maybe I should say that I am the oldest in the family and my mom was a very busy mother of at least 4 of us by the time I was in the 5th grade, and eventually 7.

  16. User avater
    foozy | | #16

    My mom was a professional seamstress when we were growing up -- one of the few ways a woman could make money at home. She had learned to sew in Yugoslavia, from an itinerant seamstress who came to stay once a year, sewed all the clothes the family needed, and then went on to the next home. Mom set up her machine on the dining room table; she bought me a little toy machine (it made a chain stitch), and set it up on a low table next to her. I would make doll clothes or potholders while she worked. When I got to be 8 or 10, I helped her with her clients -- I did all the hemstitching, by hand. (I'm nearly 60, and I think I've probably sewn several miles of hems!) We spent hours and hours planning my school clothes every August, nabbing fabric bargains and remnants. When I went away to college, she made me a trunk full of little wool tea dresses: elegant, but hard to wear at a California university in the late 1960s. Mom and I got all our ideas about college life from movies set in the 1930s, so what did we know? I wore them: I didn't have anything else! And I was proud of them, so it turns out I cut a distinctively eccentric figure -- an advantage in those times. I missed sewing so much that she found a 1948 Singer and gave it to me at the end of my freshman year. I kept that machine until about 10 years ago, and I have never stopped sewing.

  17. User avater
    Lainysews | | #17

    4-H! Our first project (1954) was an Indian Head scarf. The "Indian Head" refers to the fabric, I am sure. Green, durable cotton. We learned to hem, and to make a fringe. Then on to gathered skirts - which were so popular at the time. Three yards of gathering, and hemming - so tedious!

    By the time I was 13 I was making my own clothes, and changing up patterns. "Newberry's" (the "dime store") in Brawley, California would sell flat fold fabrics - usually in 3 and 4 yard increments for 25 cents a yard! By 16, I was "in business!" - when Aunt Norma hired me to sew my cousin Diane some straight skirts.

  18. User avater
    eternal8song | | #18

    it makes me sad that my high school only has one fashion design class, so there's only a limited amount of kids that can take it each semester. i would have liked to take the class if only for some hands0on experience with an experienced teacher, but there simply wasn't enough room for me. i wish our arts department got more funding, it really is important that we have an opportunity to learn how to create. ah, well...

  19. Stitichy | | #19

    My fascination with sewing started at a young age. My mom died when I was 7, so I'm not sure how much of it was her influence. But from around that age, I was always fascinated by the treadle machine (which didn't work)we had. My dolls needed clothes, so I started designing in my head and went onto hand stitching. I received a "Skipper" doll for my birthday - she was flat chested and it was easy to make V-neck shifts.[Rectangular piece of fabric the correct width, fold over, cut a hole for the head and stitch up the sides, leaving the armholes open.] It all evolved from there. By junior high my dad decided I might be serious about this (he loved to renovate our home and carpenter) and bought me a second hand sewing machine that worked like a charm - all it needed was a new belt. I started receiving the "Miss Chatelaine" magazine (yes, I know I am dating myself) and poured over the fashion pages. I found a dress I loved, wrote down the pattern number and ordered the necessary pattern and stuff from Sears - yes, they sold fabric in the catalog. I conned our neighbor, a young mom with a seamstress background (she also had several young children and limited time) into helping me. I watched - she sewed and tutored about layout, marking, etc. The next year I started high school, had an awesome(perfectionist) sewing teacher and never looked back. And that's how my passion for sewing has evolved. I like creating from scratch. I love the colors and feel of fabrics - I'm not too big on mending.

  20. Aspydelia | | #20

    I started sewing at about age three when my grandmother taught me to sew doll clothes on her old black iron electric Singer. It had a knee bar that controlled the speed. She also taught me hand sewing and embroidery. As I remember, the first thing I ever sewed for myself was a red a-line skirt when I was about 10. I remember sewing lots of clothes for myself as a youngster and I loved wearing them. Even that first red skirt was worn out by the time it got too small for me to wear anymore. I made my own dress for the prom and baby clothes for my son as a young mom. I don't think I've ever stopped sewing for any length of time over the last 50+ yrs.

  21. mitty | | #21

    I, too, started handsewing before machine sewing. I embroidered, did needlepoint, knitted, made doll clothes. When I was in jr high school Mother bought fabric for my clothes, but she had no free time to sew. Mother had a Singer with a knee bar control. I was too gawky to have a smooth start/stop experience. So I took my project to my Gran's house. She had a treadle machine that I loved to work on. I made all of my clothes in high school, college and early adulthood.
    Now I make wearable art as handbags and evening wear. I love to handle fabric, play with colors, use my sewing machine, embellish fabric surfaces. I am thankful for the gifts and talents I was given.

  22. sewunusual | | #22

    My mom says I started to sew as soon as I could crawl. My favorite place was sitting on the sewing machine pedal. I started to beg to use the machine at about 6 but had to spent a year or two with hand sewing. My mom made most of my clothes until I was in 7th grade and I became critical of her sewing and was told to make my own. I loved Vogue patterns and especially the designer ones, I know my mom cringed with the thing I took on. I later went on to the University of Rhode Island to study Textiles and clothing. Always wanted to own my own fabric store. Finally I landed a job as a sales clerk in a great fabric store in Poughkeepsie, NY. It was the best of both world I got to help with the buying and merchandising but it wasn't my money. At this point I became a dressmaker and designed and sewed for others for a number of years. I am back living in RI after a number of years in AZ. Thinking of going to URI to retake the draping class.(would love to try out for Project Runway but my draping skills are weak, Flat pattern is more to my liking)

    somewhere along the line I learned to quilt and now that is one of the things I really enjoy , also making dolls particulary Eleanor Peace Bailey dolls. If you like doll making and can take her class Do It!

  23. schoolmaam | | #23

    I started to sew when I was about 6, because I copied my mum. I loved doing it, but nothing seemed to fit right and I never really liked anything I (or she) made.
    When I was a lot older, I tried again, and I thought 'there has got to be more to this!' I read the pattern and saw that the seam allowance was 5/8 of an inch and thought well that makes sense, an actual measurement, not just what I feel like! I taught myself from the patterns and books, then at the ripe old age of 25, I returned home and taught my mum how to sew.
    She had never had any training or read a book of any sort abut sewing, and she was totally amazed when I told her to do such things as iron the pattern before cutting, and having a uniform seam allowance. The first garment she made, we spent a few hours on it, then my dad poked his head in asking to see it. My mum told him it wasn't ready yet, and when he asked what was taking so long, my mum told him "because she is teaching me how to make a blouse, not a floor cloth" as all of her other endeavors had ended up as rags.
    My mum now makes (and wears) most of her own clothes, even more than I do, and will tell that story to anyone who will listen!

  24. LivingLRG | | #24

    I used to watch both my grandmother(Mom's) and my Mom sew all the time. The only time I received new clothes was when they were sewn. I started on a small sewing machine with Barbie doll patterns at the age of 6. Also my Mom taught me crewel and embroidery to help me with stitches. The first garment I made was a T-shirt from cotton broadcloth. My mom recommended jersey but I was adamant. It was for an after school program and when I finished I had learned more than if my Mom had told me what to do.
    In high school we had Home Economics. I was blessed with an amazing teacher who saw the potential in a few of us and spent the summer between grades 9 and 10 teaching 4 of us tailoring. Because of her I can sew anything with confidence.
    My daughter expressed an interest in sewing at very young age. At the age of six she made a quilt with my Mom. Together we made babydoll clothes from patterns and this March break she finshed the blouse she started at Christmas. The tradition will continue.

  25. Ecologia | | #25

    As a youngster I always had a sewing needle, a spool of thread, yarns, pretty ribbon, buttons and scraps of fabric...inspiration came from my mother who was a lace maker from Spain. My first sewing expericne came from an Aunt, who took me to a fabric store to select a pattern. My first project was a blouse, and of course, I had to select a fabric that was a plaid! My Aunt was very kind in letting me use the plaid fabric for my first choice. I learned so much about working with a pattern, cutting out the fabric, getting all the lines to match up on the plaid and to get to sew my project on a sewing machine! I even wore the blouse! I was eight years old and this first experience opened up the door to a lifetime of enjoyment and accomplishment. From that time on to the present I have been
    enthusiastic about these skills which I took to other purposes of embellishment for clothing design, accesories, wall hangings and fabric sculpture.
    I knock myself out with all the possibilities and the discoveries that I have made over the years. I learned so much, continue to explore, teach others and thank all others who have collected my work and those who support me in my quest to do my very best, over and over again.
    Be stylish and enjoy your projects! Thanks for the opportunity to tell you my story.

  26. dreamie | | #26

    I never started to sew until I was past 30. I can remember sitting in front of the machine, afraid to touch anything in case I did something wrong. Then I took a basic sewing course at night school. Once I started, I proceeded to make all the clothes which I wore to work, which I only started the following year.
    I stuck to basic designs at first, can only remember maybe one PLAID outfit which I never wore, but everything else was certainly ok.(At least to me). Then as the family grew into teenage years, I stopped entirely. When I picked it up again a few years ago I found I had to get the book out to thread the machine.
    Now at 70 I have a new machine, and am starting over again. My lack of self-confidence prevents me from going anywhere near a serger, but I have everything I could ever imagine needing in my machine. If there is a moral to this, it's don't let uncertainty stop you from trying new things, or you can be missing out on something you'll really enjoy.
    I've loved reading all these stories, how can you not be inspired when you read them? Also love the idea about getting sewing tips on-line.
    I hope the comments column continues, it's so interesting hearing others stories.

  27. Mariesainte | | #27

    So many wonderful stories! I have always loved needlework, taught myself to knit with two pencils and a little help from my aunt; made crude doll clothes by hand until my mother noticed my perseverance and organized a small sewing class for me and several other girls. On our Singer Featherweight straight stitch machine, I made a truly hideous orange plaid dirndl skirt, but I was launched. I was a hobby sewer for a long time, but started to get serious in college--made some nice clothes entirely by hand, and later borrowed a machine to make things to supplement my cheap work wardrobe. It wasn't until I was a young bride with a husband in graduate school and a job in a very conservative firm that I got very serious indeed about tailoring for myself, and about menswear for my husband, and comfort wear for my aging mother. Although some projects were just doomed--the sewing fairy forgot to give her blessing--I have learned so much and enjoyed making beautiful one-of-a-kind clothes, especially from the gorgeous silks and other fabrics my mother bought in years of residence in SE Asia. Sewing has given me appreciation for so much, and so much pleasure and comfort for me, my family and friends. Can't imagine life without it. I'd be naked!

  28. Mariesainte | | #28

    Not sure what happened to my earlier comment--but would like to add that none of the K-12 schools I attended in the U.S. and Asia taught sewing. Neither of my two sisters were interested, but I was inspired by the wonderful fabrics in the markets and fabric stores, and by the fact that the ready-to-wear industry has ignored those of us who are short hourglasses. Shopping was so stressful and time-consuming, sewing began to be a better bet with a better return, as well. From early years of hand sewing, knitting, and crochet, to learning to use a machine and serger, I have made all kinds of clothes, luggage, curtains and drapes, slip covers and bedding, table linens and doll clothes and specialty items like clothes for longterm convalescents. I have enjoyed the inspiration and instruction from Threads although the fabrics and findings are elusive for those of us in rural areas. Even with mail order I can't often justify making dressy clothes when I don't go to many cocktail parties any more, or other dress-up events. It is still exciting to learn about, though, and adaptable to my needs as a college teacher and faculty spouse. My husband enjoys compliments on the custom shirts I make him, and he gave me a splendiferous sewing machine this year, a special treasure.
    It appears to me that sewing might succeed in the schools again if it is taught to both boys and girls, as a survival skill. Shouldn't everyone be able to sew on a button or mend a crucial hole? Sailors and soldiers are taught these skills, and they are consistent with greener and thriftier living, both of which are being thrust upon us whether we like it or not. At one time in my life I thought of my cooking and sewing skills as "poverty survival" skills, but now I see them as valuable assets for our future. My current project is a gorgeous robe for a friend who is facing very delicate heart surgery, and her husband and I are surprising her with a custom robe. It feels so good to be able to help her feel a little less hospitalized, a little more comfortable and feminine--pink Japanese print with peonies and pearlized snaps...

  29. LucyJane | | #29

    My mother was very relaxed about me sewing using her old singer. I was quite young. It had a knee pedal. My brother gave me a Terry Lee doll and I was off and running making probably the worst doll clothes ever. My mother never said anything negative. I was hooked. Most people hate mending or fixing something but I love it. People come to me with their mistakes. My greatest joy was teaching a summertime boarder who worked for us who went to Vassar on scolarship.
    She begged me to teacher her how to sew. Thus she did allot of mending for the "rich girls." And she sewed dresses for their graduation ceremony called a Daisy Chain. She made enough money to go on an overseas vacation in 2000. When
    I turned 50 my husband asked me what I wanted? I quickly replied, "A serger." He said, "what?" And I said come with me. I am now on my third serger. Love it and have done so many home dec. things etc. Still need a sewing machine and
    hand sewing........ I am amazed at how many people were turned off my sewing with their 7th grade home ec. class.
    What a wasted opportunity. I have my mothers hand sewn
    samplers with every stitch imaginable. (b. 1904) And completed when she was 12. I can't imagine kids today doing such intricate work. I had a cub scout group once and taught them how to sew on buttons. I still have my son's sampler of buttons and intend to give it to his wife who can't sew on a button! I must have come from another world.

  30. deathofme | | #30

    I started sewing going into the summer of 6th grade. My mom sent me to sewing school where we learned basic pattern drafting for blouses, skirts, dressses and this continued for several summers for more advanced classes. I became the sewer for the family; mom, dad, brother and aunts. I got my first sewing machine at 15! A Singer featherweight machine which I still have and use after 35 years! I continued to sew for the family up until 10 years ago when I had more time. I now have a new computerized sewing machine and started to sew again. I still have to pull out my drafting notes to refresh my memory from years ago to get the basics down but it all starts to come back slowly. You just cant beat the fit of a custom made clothing. I still sew for my brother a Hawaiian print shirt with a matching pocket if I do find a fabric to his liking. I keep a sewing kit here in the office to sew buttons and mending too as everyone comes to me for aide.

  31. Marcyfay | | #31

    My mom couldn't sew, she could hardly mend. I had a girlfriend who was a tomboy and a sewer due to her mom's influence. They had a treadle sewing machine and she taught me to sew. I was eight. She and I made full skirts with under slips and silly head pieces that stood up with help from bent coat hangers. These became our play costumes. I had a very cheap White sewing machine and I started sewing. By time I was a teenager my got me a top of the line Kenmore that I used (and sometimes still use) for 30 years. Then one night I was walking through a fabric store and I saw the new embroidery machines and I was rehooked. It is a wonderful profession or hobby. I'm glad my girlfriend gave me a chance.

  32. LucyJane | | #32

    Ohe more thing. I had forgoten about this until I read someone elses comment. Sometime during one summer in elementary school I took a summer sewing course at
    Singer's. I remember there was this other girl with an unusual first name and she explained the reasoning for her name. Her parents took the first letter of her other
    sibilings and created a name for her. I remember during the 1980's I saw her name on the roster of a big decorating/crafts magazine. Believe me no one in the
    world would have a name like that! So maybe that sewing class
    propelled her into a career when she grew up.

  33. zedemel | | #33

    I was about 4 years old, when I decided to imitate mom at her treadle sewing machine - I took a piece of yarn and tried to sew it. Seeing me fiddling on the machine, mom was quick to come over and show me the proper way, with a piece of fabric. I soon started, with her help, to try to make doll clothes, mostly for my baby sister's dolls. They were very primitive clothes, but mom kept encouraging me, and I remember clearly, being frustrated at one point, that the sleeves stuck straight out of the armholes on a doll's shirt I was trying to make. I didn't know why it was wrong, but I knew it was. Mom was my first introduction to patternmaking when, at that juncture, she showed me how to cut a "cap" in a sleeve. It was THE "aha!" moment that stayed with me and kept my interest all these years. I continued to sew, adding to my repertoire embroidery, and even crochet with mom's guidance. As I grew into teenage years, I was making my own clothes - not all my clothes, but at least three or four pieces per school year. By the time I was taking sewing in high-school home economics classes, I was quite an accomplished sewer, finishing my projects with professional ease compared to other students. Post high-school, I ended up in a cutting apprenticeship, and have never looked back....I've been a professional theatre cutter for over 30 years. Even though I've done so much, in so many different periods - men's women's, and children's clothes - (I mostly cut now and don't do much sewing. I now teach and try to inspire others to love it) I still learn new things, still develop new techniques, and still find immense joy in a beautifully executed garment. I hope I can never say I know it all!

  34. User avater
    yousewsmart | | #34

    I first learned to sew doll clothes by hand using scraps of fabric, ribbon, and lace my my mother had left over from making her own clothes. When my foot was finally able to reach the pedal I was allowed to sew simple things like aprons on the machine. When I graduated to making my school clothes, the style was dresses with a fitted shirtwaist bodice and very full skirts with a side zipper. By the time I took sewing in home ec I was already a skilled seamstress and assisted the teacher by showing others the basics. It started when I observed a classmate put a zipper foot attachment on the machine upsidedown. I was so nieve - I thought everyone learned how to sew at home. Every female in my family for generations has learned to sew from a family member. Not so in today's world...kids could not care less. They seem to be addicted to cell fones, texting and computer games, none of which requires a whit of imagination or the satisfaction of a job well done.

  35. themotleymuse | | #35

    my grandmother was an accomplished seamstress. from the time i was born until way into my young adulthood she made my clothing. she also sewed for herself, my mother (her daughter)and, later for my children. this question has caused me to look back on that time and i realize i was almost always around a buzzing sewing machine! when i was very young the treadle machine was a prominent feature in her dining room. (i used to play with it a lot until i ran the needle through my finger which i didnt quite get out of the way! ouch!) later, a gift from a loving family, she received a more modern electric machine with a zig-zag! goodness, what she could create now! i watched her fashion up all sorts of dresses and suits and pants and coats. . .whatever we wished for, she could and would sew it up for us.

    while i can't quite call myself a seamstress like she was, i guess i learned to be the sewing person i am today from her by osmosis because i never remember sitting down with her to to learn or be taught many of her tricks. i now am sorry i didnt ask more in the way of instructions, for a lot of her tailoring and stitching secrets left when she passed away many yrs ago. i sorely miss, for instance, handing her one of my worn coats, showing her how the lining was torn or worn. in no time at all she would hand it back to me, fully lined in a much better way, using a beautiful fabric that made the garment much more fashionable than it already was!

    from my grandmother i learned my love of fabrics. she was a wealth of knowledge! she and i would go "downtown" to one of the major department stores of the time, into the basement where the yardage department was located. we could spend hours there, perusing patterns, matching them to the available yardages. she knew all of them, how they were best used and could readily determine the finest "hand!" oh, and the notions department! why, we could spend half the afternoon just looking over the buttons, trims and zippers, not to mention linings, threads and other embelishments we might fancy! after we had made our purchases, she and i would go to have lunch at the fancy hotel across the street . it was a delicious time!

    i began using my mother's sewing machine when i was sometime in my teens, when i took a sewing class in jr high school. (didnt we all back then?) after that my mother, who wasnt very interested in the craft, let me move the machine into my room. i sewed a lot then, experimenting, not always successfully, building my own wardrobe. later, as a young woman, wife and mother, i sewed for my home and my daughters. my 2 girls wore these creations until they were old enough to protest and demand their clothing have designer labels in them like every one else had! it was then i rather gave up the craft.

    now, many years later, i have rediscovered the unique love and joy i once felt so long ago! a recent forced retirement due to a disability has caused me to look within myself for "something to do." i opened up my old-time friend (yes i had kept the same machine i got as a young bride!) and found it too now suffered from the disability and a cantankerous-ness of old age! so my husband, bless him, bought me a new one! its not fancy but it has varied stitches and works at my command with little of the touchiness the old one had. and now i am creating again after all these years. and i love it, again. i have taken to making clothes and accessories for my three little chinese crested dogs, and, lately i have found true delight in creating pocketbooks and purses and accessories! some of my designs are downright beautiful, if i do say so myself! dare i dream of becoming an actual seamstress?

  36. mlk1953 | | #36

    My Grandmother was my first exposure to sewing, although she did not have a machine. She would go to the more high priced stores, look at a garment closely and return home and recreate it by hand! I am not quite that talented, although I learned a few techniques from her. My dear Aunt Helen - now passed- was the first to introduce me to the sewing machine and taught me many basics while creating lovely fashions for my Barbies. My mother,alas,was not as interested in sewing. After she passed, we found a dress pattern pinned to fabric and cut out in her closet - I believe it was there at least 30 years! My sweet little 5 year old grandaughter now sits with me in my sewing room , keeping me company and asking when she can sew on the machine. Soon, very soon, sweetie!

  37. User avater
    sewold | | #37

    I haven't seen anyone mention the earlier patterns which were not printed but on plain tissue with holes punched in for darts, matching, etc. They were much harder to follow. My first project was an a-line skirt with side zipper. I had a piece of iridescent chambray. The zipper was the hardest part - no zipper foot at the time. My mother sewed and I had an aunt who was a home-ec teacher so I did have some help. Mother's sewing machine had a knee lever which I still prefer, but have only owed portable machines for myself so I have to use the foot pedal. I have since made many clothes for me, for my children, grandchildren and others. Now I do a lot of craft sewing - quilts, pillows, stuffed animals. I think everyone should have a sewing machine just for mending! How many clothes could be "saved" if people could learn to mend. I am so pleased that my daughter has been bitten by the bug. She does much more advanced sewing than I ever did. Her latest project was an authentic kilt for her son to wear to the prom! That takes a lot of confidence for a teen age boy to wear a kilt! It was a beautiful project.
    Keep on sewing!!!

  38. donnanucci1 | | #38

    It's wonderful to share my Grandmother Laura with all of you.
    She was a "Piece Worker" and a "Peace Worker." In the factories of Beacon, New York (it was a textile and hat producing town) she made felt hats, rubber rafts in WW11, and everything else that came down the assembly line. My memories are filled with hours and hours of learning to sew with her. Me, I sat on the floor next to her so she could follow my hand sewing progress. I had to over if it wasn't right, learning patience and staying with something from start to finish! She always had time for me. Poodle skirts came into vogue and she loved them! I didn't, but I had two of the best! Someimes I would wake up and there would be new matching outfits for me and my "Victoria Doll." Very Sweet memories.

  39. bagpipegnat | | #39

    I used to watch my mom sew, by the time I was 5, I started making my own doll clothes. I just picked it up and used the needle and thread by copying the same motions Mother made. She had an electric machine but I had to use the treadle with no backstitching capabilities if I wanted to use a machine. I figured that out quickly by turning the fabric around. Don't ask me how I knew - I just did. By the time I was in 4th grade, I was in 4-H and winning blue ribbons in the local fairs in Southern California. It's been a great friend for me, helping me thru hard times with sewing for professional women and dancers when I was a single mom. I love to walk into high-end stores to see how they made really lovely clothes. My daughter had the prettiest prom dresses that cost less than $20, & a beautiful wedding gown that mimicked the coutier gowns from the bridal shop. Thank you Mother, thank you 4-H and most thanks to the sewing fairy who tapped me on the head when I was little. :)

  40. SCsewer | | #40

    My grandmother taught me to hand embroider before I was old enough to go to school. She was a deaf-mute, so she would show me what to do, and then watch as I tried to repeat her actions. If I made a mistake, she would show me how to pick it out, and then have me re-do the stitch. When I look back at some of my first projects, I am amazed at the perfection in those tiny stitches. I don't remember my Mom specifically teaching me to sew, but I do remember watching her when she sewed. Before long, I began asking her for scraps of fabric, trim, etc. By 5th grade, I was making some clothes for myself, and even when Mom made my clothes, I would pick out the patterns and the fabrics myself. Mom made me take home ec classes in middle-school so I would learn to sew "the right way" (she was self-taught).

    My Mom taught me a love of good fabrics. She did not believe in spending time and effort making garments out of inferior fabrics. Fortunately, we lived in an area with many textile mills, so it was easy to find good quality fabric at a bargain price.

    Over 50 years have passed since my Grandmother taught me how to thread a needle for the first time, and I love sewing today more than ever. One of my passions now is teaching others to sew. I've taught friends, co-workers, and young girls at my church. I cannot imagine life without the ability to sew!

  41. marose | | #41

    As a child I watched my mother participate in a sewing group. She was successful because her friends helped her so much. When sewing was offered in Home Ec in the 60's I was given my first chance at a sewing machine. I made myself an apron out of some wild lime colored paisley cotton fabric. I became hooked, mostly because I felt such a huge feeling of success from sewing a bunch of straight lines, pressing well and being able to use the item! I loved it way more than cooking, which to me held all kinds of booby traps!!! Since my mother never excelled in sewing, I was on my own. I remember wanting clothes so badly in 10th grade that I bought my own patterns and fabric and made my own 'baby-doll' tops for school. One night I was up late trying to figure out how to put in sewn down pleats on my top. I read the instructions and re-read them until I was finally able to get it right. I will never forget the feeling of accomplishment that experience gave me. I had actually figured out instructions from a pattern!!! I've been sewing for 43 years now and will only stop when my fingers are too crooked and my sight is gone! Lord willing, that day is far in the future! I am currently enjoying quilting, plus sewing for grandchildren. Life is Good!!!

  42. Sevenofnine | | #42

    I learned to sew in High School from a teacher who had to know how to sew in those days; she had Anorexia Nervosa and she wore a size 1 or zero. She showed me how to put in a zipper without giving me fits and gave me some good sewing tips. She died unfortunately before I graduated. Whenever I either look at a sewing pattern or cut fabric, I think of her.

  43. User avater
    KraftyLizard | | #43

    My mom was one of those great seamstresses. She could sew anything. I learned in high school, back in the 70's. It was ok, but didn't really push me into sewing. Then my dad got sick (collapsed lung), he quit smoking and finally put on some weight (tall, very slender man). The extra lbs looked great on him, but his work clothes needed some alterations, take out some waist seams, plus one of his legs was about a 1/2 inch longer than the other, so I started doing his alterations for extra cash. My mom showed me how and since I had the sewing basics, it was cool. I did a little sewing here and there after that until my girls were born,then I started sewing them little outfits that they loved. For holidays if I made the outfits for me and my girls, their dad would get a matching tie. I still sew, but more craft type sewing. I create my own patterns now and love it.

  44. ARFARF2010 | | #44

    These forums are my new home away from home. I love to read the sewing advice and see pics of all the different and exciting projects. I learned how to sew 26 years ago in 7th grade and dabbled a little with my mom's machine to mend clothes. I just started up sewing again and got my Brother sewing machine during the first week of May, and picked up the basic pillowcase pattern at a sewing machine / notions store. I was a bit nervous at first, but after I set up my machine; I purchased my material for the pillowcases and finished the two pillowcases in about an hour. That scenario seemed like such a long time ago because now I'm a pillowcase sewing fiend and I love it! I have since sewn 3 pairs of pillowcases and one little decorative pillow. I am much more confident at the machine and absolutely love working with different color combos (solids mixed with prints). My advice to anyone thinking about starting this new adventure: Just start! Do not put any pressure on yourself, but enjoy every sewing moment. Lastly, try to sew as frequently and consistently as your schedule allows. It has become a special time for me every week and I look forward to my next pillowcase project.

  45. kaylaesq | | #45

    Home Ec was required when I was a freshman (9th grade) in high school(1958)in a little town in Texas. However, it was actually my mother who taught me HOW to sew. She had an old black and gold treadle Singer Sewing Machine that flipped up out of an oak table. The treadle and "legs" were made of loopy wrought iron. My first project was a brown linen skirt. The pattern had no waistband (shades of the future!), but it did have darts and a zipper. I didn't like the nasty old teacher and don't even remember if she showed us anything at all about using a machine. It was a very frustrating experience, but I finally got it all right (my mother didn't believe in doing my homework for me), and got an A. I do remember having an argument with some girls in my class who insisted that hemming required a double thread. The teacher (yes, the nasty old one) settled that in my favor. Everyone was so surprised, because I wasn't exactly the Home Ec type.

  46. fourh | | #46

    I learn watching my mother she sew clothes for all of kids clothes 11 in all. I couldn't us the sewwing machine so I did my by hand, starting 4H my stitches was so fine I had to relearn to do basting you couldn't take out the stitches. I continued to sew making my children clothing boys suits and my daughter her party dresses. My boys were slim so I learn how to make jeans and designed them with my Golden touch and sew by singer.
    I'm a desendant of the White family I have the patent of the sewing machine I don't remember it but my Aunt left it to me.

  47. Kskat629 | | #47

    I learned to sew by using my mother's scraps and making Barbie clothes. She made dresses for Christmas, and Halloween costumes. I began to sew in seventh grade, and made a Tshrit. My favorite memory is the trips to the fabric store. Hours (it seemed) pouring through pattern books and dreaming about all the clothes, or putting my face into the fabric and smelling the 'newness'. Looking at all the buttons, and colors of thread in rainbow order. Even now, the fabric / craft store is my favorite (and most dangerous) place to shop. I've been able to make extra cash altering prom dresses or hemming pants, as well as making fabulous outfits for myself!! My mom also taught me to proudly say "Thanks! My mother (or I) made it!"

  48. Sebau | | #48

    I'm still in the process of learning how to sew, though I don't think I'll ever be "finished" learning. I remember being little and my mother teaching the basics of sewing by hand. I enjoyed it and made a few little stuffed Christmas ornaments and cat toys. My grandmother tried to teach me to sew on her old Singer 301. I guess I was about 10 at the time, and it was so difficult to use the knee lever control, even when sitting on a stack of books. I became frustrated and after making a pillow, didn't really do anything else. Fast forward 20 years, and at a flea market I see an old Singer for sale-a model 66, electrified. I swear it was calling to me. Needless to say, it followed me home. I found a shop that could clean it and get it properly timed, and then started the process of learning how to use it. I started by sewing dog collars and then fleece coats and dressy brocade coats for some very spoiled hounds. While it can't do any fancy stitches, it will sew through just about anything. I've also made more practical items like curtains for the living room, purses, and a padded sling to help my inlaws' senior dog walk. Now it's time for me to take it up to the next step- I really want to try making more difficult items like suit jackets, corsets and period reproductions (like a frock coat). Who knew that the kid my grandmother couldn't get to sew would love it so much?

  49. User avater
    ajohn075 | | #49

    I learned to sew watching my mother. She was extremely skilled with a needle and thread, and there was nothing she could not make. She sewed for others, and I saw her make some very elaborate garments for women, men and children. In my early twenties, I worked in a fabric store, and being in such a creative environment helped me learn more. Over the years, my desire to sew has come and gone, but lately it has increased. My daughter attended the senior prom a few months ago with a friend, so I constructed a fitted, formal dress for the event - saved a mint over buying the same style dress, too!! I love pushing my skills to new levels...but I know I owe it all to Mommy!

  50. User avater
    Trudy66 | | #50

    I learnt to sew in school when I was about 12 years old, during the late 1970's. My mother mother bought me my first Brother sewing machine when I was 14, it came with it's own wooden sewing table. My sewing teacher was a lovely middle aged, elegant lady. I can't actually remember her name. However, there are a few things that stick out in my mind when I think of her. She always wore a cardigan, a scarf, straight knee length skirts with court shoes to match.

    She would always tell me that I had great potential. I really enjoyed sewing and learnt quite quickly. I learnt to sew with commercial patterns. I use to make simple dresses, skirts, trousers and tops for family and friends in my teen's but stopped sewing for a long time. I only recently took it up again.

    The one thing which my teacher repeated time and time again was "girls I should be able to wear your garments inside out without anyone batting an eyelid" she always insisted on perfect finishing. By the way the first garment I made was a pair of yellow cotton shorts.

  51. sfsewer | | #51

    I learned in 8th grade Home Ec. I sewed over my finger and the teacher almost fainted. It's a wonder that I kept sewing after that.

  52. SWoerner | | #52

    I, like many of my generation started sewing in high school. I became infatuated with all the creations you could do. My one memory that I will never forget and neither my mother was my assignment to make a jumper. I was so excited purchasing the fabric and I knew exactly how it would turn out. What made this a memory not to forget----I was raised Strict Southern Baptist, which meant everything my sister and I wore had to be at least 2" BELOW the knee. At that time MINI skirts were in fashion. I always wore skirts to school and of course being the rebellious one, rolled them up when I got to school. You can guess by now what I did. That's right---The hem was ABOVE my knees!!! It was beautiful, the fabric, colors, technique I was so proud of myself. That was until my mother saw it. I never saw that jumper again, but I will never forget it.

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