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Why More Men Don’t Sew

Home sewing books from the 1940s and 1950s were marketed to women.

It seems like a truism to state that home sewing has largely been part of the women’s sphere. Historically, men have been involved in the so-called needle trades, dominating the fields of tailoring and fashion design. Domestic sewing, and the industry that supported it, however, was marketed to a strictly female audience.

1950s book on sewing for the home
In the 20th century, nearly every publication and sewing-related product was aimed at the female consumer.

Button covers in original packaging picturing a woman home sewer

Old Talon zipper ad aimed at women
Zippers are used in both men’s and women’s clothing, but you wouldn’t know it from this vintage Talon zipper ad.

From sewing books to sewing classes (perhaps at the local Singer sewing center) and from print advertising to packaging, sewing catered to women.

An online community sharing resources

As someone who came to sewing a decade ago as an adult male, I was fortunate to have access to the internet. The online world is diverse. Through the Pattern Review website community, I became acquainted with experienced male sewers who guided me, something which would have been impossible a decade or two earlier. From them, I learned about relatively obscure men’s sewing books, hard-to-find vintage men’s sewing patterns, and instructional videos about sewing menswear (specifically Margaret Islander’s tapes from the 1980s). Thanks to online booksellers and sites like eBay, I found many of them through the years.

Editor’s note: Margaret Islander’s teaching legacy continues through books, classes, patterns, and videos sold by Islander Sewing Systems, which is owned by Margaret’s niece, Janet Pray.

A selection of six books on sewing for men
Menswear books can be hard to find. My library includes in-print books by former Threads senior editor David Page Coffin (such as Shirtmaking [The Taunton Press, 1993]) as well as more obscure, out-of-print titles like Jane Rhinehart’s How to Make Men’s Clothes (Doubleday, 1975).

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  1. User avater
    SeamMistress | | #1

    Yes! Yes! Yes you all you men get sewing ! My man is a machinist and made a deal with me... if I taught him to sew, I would learn to use a south bend lathe and his bridgeport machine . Sounds like a deal! We have been sewing masks for 2 months now for everyone who needs them.

    I also recommended to my lovely daughter that while my grandson was in quarantine he should learn to sew. He is 5 and I think it is a great time to keep his mind going and talents growing!

  2. User avater
    cco | | #2

    Great article. I follow several men sewists as I tend to like the classic styles of men’s clothes. Let’s hope more join sewing as a way to be creative, feed the soul and look fabulous at the same time.

    1. User avater
      SeamMistress | | #3

      You rock! It really is all about the creativity and there is (hopefully) no shortage of that from any individual!!! I am going to be working with my man to learn fine sewing details in clothing and quilts. He loves the experience and I do hope to teach my grandson a stitch or two when I see him. :-)

  3. User avater
    patsijean | | #4

    Peter's blog, Male Pattern Boldness, and "Mainely Menswear" , are both a do not miss. Not only am I entertained (yes, sewing blogs are entertaining and interesting) but I learn sewing techniques too. I've sewn camp shirts for my husband, and dress shirts for him and a few other male friends and relatives. I own Islander and Janet Pray's tapes and men's patterns (beautiful men's shirts). One of the special shirts is below.

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