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Conversational Threads

Encouraging people to sew

karenb | Posted in Feedback on Threads on

After reading some posts, I began wondering what ideas everyone has to encourage more people to sew.

I notice that knitting has become very cool—all the Hollywood types knit as do everyone of my girlfriends and some of their children. With all the children knitting now, I suspect it will be healthy for awhile.

But what about sewing? Any ideas?



  1. stitchmd | | #1

    Knitting and quilting are the currently most fashionable, "in" trends. Crocheters are also wondering why knitting is considered preferable by so many people.

    I don't know what we can do to influence trends in progress or lack of progress. A lot of the knitting hot air has come from magazines pushing articles about celebrities knitting and you know how important it is to be just like a celebrity. If I knitted as badly as some of the things I've seen on those magazine covers I'd bury my knitting needles.

    I'm not sure what is driving the quilting fad, which seems to have cranked up a lot over the past few years. Lots of independent quilting stores and quilting classes are popping up as garment and home dec sewing is dying. I think part of it is you can be creative with a quilt and not worry about the fit.

    If you sew a piece of clothing or something for your house there is size and adjustments to make. I used to make all my own curtains to save money, but lately have been buying them when I find they cost less ready made than buying the yardage.

    I've tried to interest people, have offerred to help or tutor people, but nobody seems to have the determination to work at learning something complicated where there is a chance of frustration or failure. I talk to people who have given up after taking a class and not getting the individualized fitting help they needed, so they can't wear what they made. I've also seen people knit so slowly and painstakingly that I can't imagine how they could be enjoying it, but something is motivating them. Media hype and lots of friends also doing it.

    1. katina | | #2

      The cost of equipment may well have something to do with the craze for knitting;  a sewing machine is not only expensive, but buying one can be quite bewildering.  By contrast, knitting needles and yarn can be purchased very easily, and there's usually great support and encouragement at a yarn store.  The luscious yarn collections are most enticing, as are the knitted items on display, while there are plenty of books, magazines and all sorts of other items like buttons to capture one's interest.  Knitters meet and interact in all manner of groups - it's hardly practical to carry one's sewing machine to a coffeeshop, whereas knitting is easily portable and requires very little space and tools.  Some of the latest yarns are works of art, so even the newest knitter can achieve the pleasure of wearing something special made with their own hands. I'm very fortunate to delight in both sewing and knitting - can't imagine my life without them. 

      1. marijke | | #3

        That argument also works for quilting, at least for those who handpiece.  That is also very portable.  I don't know what proportion of quilters handpiece, but does that explain the attraction of quilting?

    2. sarahkayla | | #14

      I think that the general public is terrfied of sewing and sewing machines. I try to demystify sewing for the folks who compliment me on my clothing...most of which I have made.

      I was just asked to teach a sewing class to a group of women. I'm planning to make it pretty low stress. I think that i will have them make clothing not from clothing patterns but from skirts that they like and fit them.


      I think that teaching the basic physics of clothing ..what those basic shapes are and how they relate to a human body will be a good place to start. once you understand that..you can make anything. so far the women who want to work with me have little girls. I may start with something for their little girls to wear...it is a smaller project and the rewards will be quicker..then we can move on to something for mom. probably a skirt..

      sarah in nyc



      1. kjp | | #16

        What about starting with a great fashion accessory??  I think there would be a great demand for a unique fabric tote or purse.  Then fit isn't an issue and they can master the basics of fabric and machine use.  Or...although the season is ending... a sarong style beach wrap would be neat. 

        I do think that the 12 + group is starting to want to learn to sew.  It's the next natural step from knitting!  Most girl scout troops around me are looking for that type of project for the girls. 

        A thought -- sewing machine companies, Bernina, Pfaff, Singer, etc.  should be targeting hollywood for some advertising.  It seems the concept of cameo appearances on shows sells products well.  Just get Jennifer Anniston (or Angelina Jolie) to work on her Bernina and people will buy!

    3. TSews | | #21

      "I've also seen people knit so slowly and painstakingly that I can't imagine how they could be enjoying it, but something is motivating them."

      That's funny!! You're right.  I'm a crocheter.  I'm not really big on detail instruction.  I discovered a book "Modular Crochet" by Judith Copeland!  I LOVE that book!!! I whipped out dresses & sweaters like mad.  With modular crochet you decide what size hook you want to use and any yarn you like.  I've attempted knitting but I'd drive myself insane trying to follow instructions that I can't comprehend. 

      1. stitchmd | | #22

        I was talking more about forming each stitch with so much effort and time expended. It's true that freeform is much easier to do with crochet than with knitting and if you read knit and crochet forums people are also struggling with directions. I do both and find each works better for different types of items, rarely have trouble with directions and do often design as I go, more so with crochet than knitting. Knitting requires more planning based on gauge, while crochet can always fill in or add on pretty easily.

  2. Lynnelle | | #4

    Personally, I started sewing because I was tired of finding petite pants that are still too long (I'm 4'11").  I attempted, on a number of occasions, to contact the marketing and design departments of some of my favourite stores.  Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful.  So, instead of waiting for them to get it right, I decided to do it myself.

    Also, in these hard economic times (stupid war...), I find that it's much more inexpensive to buy fabric and make my own clothes.  I recently made 3 skirts for under 20 bucks.

    I don't know if this is motivation for anyone else, but it sure worked for me.

  3. mimi | | #5

    Karenb:  I recently had a conversation about sewing with a friend that left me both bewildered and amused.  I ran into a friend who was purchasing craft supplies for her grandkids.  When asked what I was doing with my summer I replied that I was making my daughters wedding dress and that it was almost finished.  My friend expressed astonishment and then asked "Do you know how to hem, too?".  I thought she was kidding and said that yes, after making a dress hemming was easy.  She asked me to hem some things for her, and thinking she was still kidding I replied that hemming was so easy I could teach her to do several variations in about ten minutes.  Oh no, she didn't want to do the actual hemming.  She just wanted to have someone do it for her and she was willing to pay them to do it.  She was serious!

    So, unfortunately, I don't think sewing will make a comeback the way knitting has.  It will continue to be passed down from mother to daughter.


    1. roone | | #6

      Hi mimi I just read your comments with a chuckle regarding hemming. I agree that sewing, to be encouraged will have to be passed from mother to daughter. I'd like to take that one step further and suggest that all of us who sew should encourage those who don't to try it or at least take their daughters for a session and try to encourge them then maybe Daughters will encourage Mothers.


      1. stitchmd | | #7

        My daughter has zero interest. I feel I possess an endangered skill and have no way to help it survive.

        1. MaryAnnD | | #8

          Have faith everyone, there is interest and you may find it quite by accident.  Last fall I recieved an email from a young lady who introduced herself as the representative of her high school's newly formed fashion club.  The girls were interested in various aspects of fashion: design, modeling, etc. and had created a number of drawings they wanted to recreate in fabric for a charity fund raising fashion show.  Members of my guild met with them a few times to review their sketches and provide some reality as to what could/could not be recreated on their time schedule.  To make a long story short, we worked with them from before Christmas to mid June and had a blast taking them fabric shopping, helping them fit, teaching them to sew (we wouldn't make the garments for them) and watching their eyes light up along the way.   Some of them knew how to sew, some of them knew how to thread a needle and some of them started from the ground up.  While all had access to a machine (not through their school) none of them had mothers who sewed.  The machines ranged from new in the box (3 yrs old, never unpacked) to one recovered from the trash at the curb.

          Bottom line, they are all looking forward to next year and so are we!!!

          1. carolfresia | | #9

            It's so encouraging to hear that someone saved a sewing machine from the trash heap. Even better that she's gone on to sew her own clothes. Today, as in the past, an interest in fashion seems to be one of the strongest incentives to get people sewing.

            Many of us "older" sewers who learned our skills in a home ec class were taught to sew as an exercise in frugality, not style. No wonder so many women gave it up, especially with readily available, inexpensive ready-to-wear. I love to think that today's novice sewers, of whatever age, are seeing sewing as an artform that enables them to express themselves and to develop their personal style. I wonder if we started to call it "Fashion design and construction" or something if that would make it more appealing?


          2. kjp | | #11

            Good suggestion!  Fashion design and construction sounds so much more appealing.  Hope you don't mind if I use it for our teen sewing classes! 

          3. TJSEWS | | #69

            I think your suggestion about calling sewing "Fashion Design and Construction" hits the nail on the head!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I think the word sewing brings to mind to many people, especially young people, mom or grandma at the sewing machine. 

            Most young people are greatly interested in fashion and teaching them how to "construct" their designs and teaching them how to recognize quality garments from cheap garments would attract these creative young people.

          4. sbmore | | #20

            I graduated from high school in 1998 with at least 3 years of sewing classes under my belt. The friends that I'm still in contact with continue to sew to this day. Our teacher had a huge impact on our creative lives. I actually think that if anything home dec sewing stands to make a comeback. If you watch shows like trading spaces and while you were out on TLC you'll see the cast working on vikings and the like to create the room makeovers. Those shows have a big following and make the projects look manageable. I tend to less fashion sewing because I wear a standard size and don't find it to be more economical than buying off the rack. Although I have dabbled in sewing with vintage patterns that I picked up at flea markets (if only I didn't work so slowly I would have been way ahead of the stores). I tend to do a lot of home decorating projects, curtains and the like because even though you can buy curtains cheaply, I like to choose fabric that matches the decor exactly. I also have to add that I'm very pleased with myself today as I finished hemming all of husband's pants that he's been asking for for months last night.

          5. kjp | | #33

            Excellent point about the TLC and HGTV shows!  Although, they do make it look TOO easy.  I do think home dec is a good way to get adults into sewing!  Do you think that teens want to do home dec or fashion? 

          6. sbsterling | | #38

            It's hard to say... I think that at that age it's hard because you're so limited as to how you can modify your surroundings, but that some might be interested in a sort of low-tech makeover that parents would approve of (i.e. no paint or added holes in the wall).  I guess the overall problem with doing home dec at that age is the high quantity of yardage that you need for a lot of projects and while a lot of it only involves straight seems and a basic skill level, working with all that fabric can be tough. 

            This isn't to say that I don't think that there would be an interest.  I suspect that those small canopies that hang over the head of your bed might be popular along with some nice pillows etc.  Maybe some more unusual projects like covered cork boards or wall hangings that are a little funky, or even a padded headboard though the materials might prove a little unwieldily.  Big throw pillows for the floor for lounging, pet beds, I can think of a couple of ideas that teens might take interest in.  Of course don't forget pet accessories... coats and carriers, etc.  I guess that doesn't really fall under home dec.

            I picked up a vogue pattern not to long ago for making pillows with a cat or dog on the front using faux furs and other embellishments to create a sort of homage to fido or fluffy (I posted the link below).  I think something like that could work. 

          7. User avater
            Thimblefingers | | #40

            I have found that kids really do want to make clothes for themselves.  So what I did was focused on clothes, but in the middle of a project to give them a break and a little change of scenery, would have a "pillow class" or "Chrsitmas tree decoration class" or something like that which was a one class deal.  They liked that and then wanted to get back to their clothes again!

          8. sewanista | | #54

            I've been teaching sewing for 4 years, and I've noticed that young professional women are coming to my evening and weekend classes. (They often say their mums used to sew, but now only make quilts.) They are lawyers and accountants and PhD graduates, who say they always wanted to sew, but were in the academic stream at school.. Now they have time and money they are buying machines and trying it out. Some have small children, but many are there for themselves. I think that it's a shame that making one's own clothes got edged out of the fashion arena as the mass market and women's lib really got up a head of steam. (I'm definitely not against feminism - I just suspect we may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater) I have old fashion magazines, which always features patterns as well as ready mades. In fact, Australian Vogue, March 1968 featured a Vogue Designer pattern in it's editorial. (And I have the same pattern in my collection!) Nowadays, fashion and sewing are kept poles apart. Sewing is a craft and a hobby, and fashion is big business. An Australian glossy recently featured different cities, and one of the "So Perth" things to do was to "make your own clothes" and yet they didn't have any patterns or fabrics featured. The name of the magazine is Shop till You Drop, and last I checked, I spend far more on fabric and patterns than I do on readymades, and I'm youngish and (hopefully) hip enough.

            I think that if the sewing community can capture a celebrity sewing (I believe Nicole Kidman sews - she'd be a catch) or do some product placement in movies and TV, young people will take it up again. Just imagine if What Not To Wear had featured a sewer, or if Charlotte on Sex and The City had run up a little pencil skirt. Desperate Housewives featured homesewing twice, so that's a start, I guess.

          9. Jean | | #55

            When my DD's were young I used to stay up till all hours of the night, sewing when it was quiet and I could do so uninterrupted.That was 40+ years ago.

            I loved sewing for them and would love to sew these little dresses again, but do little girls even wear dresses like these anymore?

            They had just fallen off the trike and bumped their heads. The scallopped apron fabric was a pink and white stripe as was the trim on the bodice of the younger one's dress. The pink was a polished cotton. How i wish i had saved some of those little dresses! 

            When I ran across this picture earlier today, the thought crossed my mind about how unappreciated all this has been.  Taken for granted, yes. It's a good thing I got so much satisfaction out of it!!

          10. mimi | | #56

            Oh not underappreciated!  I'm sure they loved everything you sewed for them.

            Little girls wear dresses like that nowadays for Church, Recitals and Kindergarten graduations, at least in my experience.  With little frilled socks and patent leather shoes :)


          11. carolfresia | | #57

            Now, that is priceless. I was just complaining to someone about the advent of digital photography, when we delete all the "oops" photos, and are left with the collection of "perfect" images in which everyone's smiling and looking happy. I love this kind of picture, which captures the reality of life--boo-boos and all, AND adorable dresses lovingly created by mom.

            I did save some of the wonderful dresses my mom made for me, and have really enjoyed taking them out and looking them over recently. I think my daughter will be wearing a very cute one that belonged to my sister, when she start kindergarten in a couple of weeks. The monogram won't be quite right, but the tradition is there.


          12. Jean | | #58

            LOL.  We have an album reserved for 'second best'.  Guess what - it's our favorite one.

          13. sewingkmulkey | | #61

            Yes, Jean, little girls do still wear pretty dresses like the beautiful ones you made for your girls many years ago.  My three-year-old granddaughter wears nothing but dresses and is very much a little girl despite the influence of her two rough and tumble older brothers.  I, too, sewed numerous dresses for my daughters and kept many of them for memories.  Now I pull out a few each year for my granddaughter to wear and enjoy.  Of course I make her new ones much to my delight. 

            Karenb talked about the decline of sewing popularity.  I made sure my daughters learned to sew and had success by gearing the sewing to their interests.  My oldest loved horses so I obtained patterns of "horsey" items including simple horse blankets to equestrian show jackets and riding pants.  My younger daughter took a shine to dancing so I supplied her with the appropriate patterns and fabrics to fit her desire. 

            So, fellow seamstresses, let's make an effort to find out what each young person is excited about and gear sewing to their passion.   I desperately don't want the fine art of sewing to become obsolete and will gladly pass on my knowledge and joy to whoever will show desire.  I believe we need to be open to the new ideas of young people and encourage them to sew even if the item does not suit out particular tastes.





          14. Sewperfect | | #71

            You're absolutely right Steph.  The new trend in home renovating will attract skills of sewing again.  It's not the cost of the curtains or drapes that is the issue....it's the creativity that will make a come back.  I look in the Sears catalogue and see the same styles over and over again.  Boring!!!!  I live in a small town in Northern Ontario, Canada and we don't have the shops to give us very many choices.   I do a lot of custom made drapes and home decor and I'm really really busy.  They are tired of the same old and want something new. 

            In our area, the seamstress and very few.   I teach a few sewing classes every week.  My students are mostly young and very creative.  They want to learn how to sew so that they can make original clothes that no one has seen in any department stores.  They can't afford the expensive clothes.  

            In our area, they don't teach sewing in school anymore eventhough many young girls would probably love to learn.  We only have 2 fabric stores that offer classes but they charge a little too much for these young girls.  I teach for a very reasonable price because I want to give back to the community.  It's my way of contributing to the new generation of seamstresses.   I think that if we all shared our talents with even one person, we might be able to bring back some interest in our own towns and from there.........who knows.......maybe sewing would come back a popular passtime. 

            Let's hope for the best in the future.

            Sewperfect from Canada

    2. kjp | | #10

      Just a comment for a laugh --  I'd rather make a wedding dress or any other garment than hem a skirt or pants ANY day!  My sewing pile is full of mending tasks that I just can't get inspired to complete - most of them hooks or buttons needing to be resewn. 

      1. mimi | | #12

        kjp:  That is the sort of thing I can sit and do mindlessly while I'm watching a movie.  If I could figure out how to "mend" and read at the same time I would consider myself blessed.  Something to do with having four hands...;)


        1. Elisabeth | | #13

          Sure you can read and mend at the same time! Well, have someone read to you anyway on tape or cd that is. I have found some great audio books at the library that are so interesting that I need to be doing something awfully mindless like hemming while I listen. I go around my sewing room looking for boring mindless work to do so I can hear the next chapter!Going back to the topic, I saw some sewing ideas in a magazine called Bust or something like that for independent thinking women that had several fun sewing projects. One was taking a large men's hawaiian shirt from a thrift shop or such and cutting off and sewing up the armholes and putting a waistband somewhere below the shoulders and above the pocket to make a really great skirt. That kind of sewing might be a good way to get people interested in sewing. I think often the whole process of the fabric on the bolt to the finished garment is a bit much for someone who has never sewn.

          1. barbchr | | #19

            Books on tape are great.  But I found an old time radio web site I love.  I listen to old radio programs from my computer while I sew. I listen to them right from the web site and don't even have to download the programs to the computer to take up disk space.  http://www.rusc.com

            The subscription fee is modest and a whole lot cheaper than buying books on tape.  I  don't have anyone to borrow them from and don't get to the library very often.

            I love to sew and don't mind fussy details.  But I, too, hate to hem store bought clothes.  I'm not crazy about replacing buttons either.

            I don't knit very often, but I do crochet a lot and often read a book (the printed version) while I'm doing it.


          2. sewwhat | | #27

            Thanks for the website information.  I have wanting something to "listen" to.  I plan to give it a try.



          3. SewTruTerry | | #36

            I have my own sewing business and I just had a new client drop off 38 (yes 38 of them) Cubscout and Girlscout badges for me to sew on.  And she did not bat an eye when I told her that I charge $1 per badge. I guess if everyone sewed then I would be out of a job and broke LOL. 

             But seriously I think the idea of sewing for most people seems to bring to mind frugality and grandma straining to see to mend Jr's pants.  I also hem pants and do alterations and had someone drop off 25 pairs of pants and shirts that needed the sleeves and pant legs shortened.  I think there are some people that just don't want to take the time to do the job or are scared to do it because they don't know the proper length and are afraid they may cut off too much and then they will feel that they have ruined thegarment. So when they bring it to me or anyone else that sews if they are not happy with it, they have someone to blame.

          4. stitchmd | | #37

            I think you could easily double the price you charge for badges and still get that business.People will even pay someone to sew on a button. They lump all sewing skills into some mystery that they aren't in on and aren't willing to even try it.

          5. carolfresia | | #41

            FYI, I heard that someone paid $30 just to have the basic badges sewn on her kid's Cub Scout uniform--not even the merit badges. Now, I personally have sewn on many badges, and found it a bit of a nuisance to do those big ones on very little sleeves, so I can see why you'd charge a buck apiece.

            Alas, I am faced now with removing all those badges from the navy shirt and restitching them onto DS's brand new khaki shirt. I think I might have put some fusible web on the back of some, so who knows how those will be when it comes time to take them off! Well, DS and DH (who's a den leader) are both extremely proud of their uniforms and various badges. I just wish there were a SEWING badge for Cub Scouts, which called for attaching their own badges!


          6. mimi | | #42

            We live near an Air Force Base, so I have sewn on my share of badges.  It is truly a pain in the neck!  I don't know why they don't use a fusible backing on them.  The dry cleaners around town do a lot of this work and charge an arm and a leg for it!


          7. SewTruTerry | | #44

            Carol don't waste your time trying to remove the badges as they are not meant to transfer.  By the time they "graduate" from the blue cub scout shirt to the tan webolos or boy scout shirt then you will be getting different badges.  Also I really encourage you for the ones that might somehow be duplicates just buy new patches and put the new ones on the new shirt.  If you are lucky and they get all the way to Eagle Scout (which is a really big deal) then you can display his cub scout shirt and all the other ones that he wore when he was smaller.  Around here my sons scout troop produces an average of 10-15 Eagle scouts a year.  The troop is 97 boys strong at this point.  Really big and have been around for over 70 years continously.  Something they are really proud of.

          8. carolfresia | | #46

            Terry, thanks so much for that advice! Mr. Den Leader husband obviously didn't think to tell me all that. I'll send him out for more badges pronto, because "the guys" are leaving in a week for scout camp, and need their uniforms. DH never made it to Eagle, but he's very strongly encouraging DS to maintain his interest.

            now, is there a secret to putting badges on pockets? So far, I've just sewn the pocket closed, figuring it wasn't all that useful anyway. Or maybe there are no pocket badges on the next shirt up.


          9. Elisabeth | | #47

            I have only sewn nursing school badges on lately for DD and I used an overcast type stitch (hand sewing) since the single thread sort of melded into the satin stitch around the edge of the badge if I angled the thread in the right direction. Maybe that would work on the pocket badges?

            Edited 8/10/2005 9:50 pm ET by Elisabeth

          10. SewTruTerry | | #63

            Carol I actually take the time to unstitch the pocket and then I can use a narrow zigzag from my machine and stitch the badge onto the pocket and then stitch the pocket back on.  Just remember the shirt is a polyester and unless you poke it with a sharp scissor or seam ripper the shirt is stronger than the thread.  I think they understand about boys being tough on clothes.  The troop that my son is involved with has 100+ boys and I have never heard of a mom complain that the shirts rip or anything.  I don't think they even stain to any great extent.

          11. solly | | #43

            Hi. Thanks so much - I think I've just found a birthday present for hubby - your old time radio suggestion! He'd love it and I could sew more during the evening and even listen, too. A win-win.
            As for inspiring sewing, hardly anyone I know still sews except quilting. The ones that do seem to get involved or expand from quilting when they have those cute grandkids to sew for.

          12. barbchr | | #45

            Enjoy! My son found that site for me. I was always nagging him to find old time radio on line. He insisted I try it, and it was sure a winner. Besides keeping me company when I sew, it keeps me company during the day in the office. I work alone for the most part in a very quiet office, and it gets a little creepy without the "company".

          13. vaaardvark | | #52

            My library has books on tape and books that you can download onto an ipod or mp3 or CDs.  My husband bought me an MP3 and I tried to download a book to play while I am working in my sewing room.  I haven't had any success in the downloads.  It plays the radio very well.

            I am not a very good knitter, but I wanted to try it and made a couple of hats that I wear in the winter.  I love the great yarns.  The knitting shops around here offer classes for beginners to very advanced. 

            I don't know if I want people to see my method of knitting.  I have had some neurological damage and can't hold the needles up in the air so I stick one of the needles between my knees and knit to it.  I know, it's strange, but it works for me.


          14. katina | | #53

            Hi Becky

            That's the whole point, isn't it, that it works for you?  Enjoy!


          15. barbchr | | #59

            Just a thought, but have you ever tried crocheting?  There's only one relatively short needle to hold and you don't necessarily have to hold it up in the air.  I knit every once in awhile but I'm not especially good at it.  I do love to crochet, though.

          16. vaaardvark | | #60

            I probably would do better at crocheting with only one needle.  I tried it a few years ago and  had a tough time controlling the tension.  I would start out really loose and relaxed and before long, I wouldn't even be able to stick my needle through because I had tensed up.

            I guess, like anything, it takes some practice.  I know that I could go to a good yarn shop and get some lessons.

            There is a great yarn shop in Williamsburg that offers classes for all levels. It's called Knitting Sisters.


          17. barbchr | | #62

            Hi, Becky.  I think we're better at what we enjoy doing the most.  I have a problem controlling the tension in my knitting.  I knit too loosely and my stitches aren't always even.  I've been crocheting and knitting for something like 50 years and I'm still trying to get my knitting stiches to gauge and even.  My crocheting is just fine and the more intricate the pattern and the finer the thread, the happier I am.

            Some years ago, I managed to develop bursitis in my shoulder from knitting.  Thanks to my doctor, it was quickly fixed.  But I'm also wary of carpal tunnel (did I spell that right?) problems when I knit.  My hands tense up but my stiches don't.


          18. SewTruTerry | | #64

            I don't remember what group of knitters it is, whether the Swedes or the Irish but I remember reading in a Tauton Press publication about a group of knitters that actually used a special belt that held one of the needles and knit essentially with one hand.  I say whatever helps go for it and don't be ashamed.  After all there are plenty of us out there with 2 perfectly good hands that don't knit.

          19. vaaardvark | | #65

            Thanks for that.  I do agree.  I get embarrassed about the silliest thing.  And the hats turned out well enough to wear in public on a cold day. 

            I would love to learn to make a sweater some day.  But, I don't know what I would be willing to give up to make the time for that....

            take care,


          20. Marionc032 | | #66

            Interesting comments on this thread. I started sewing as an economy measure, or to put it more accurately, I didn't want to spend the money I did have on clothing, and it pleased me to no end that I could not only make my clothes for a fraction of what store-bought cost, but also that what I wore was one-of-a-kind. Nowadays, the cost of RTW has dropped considerably in relation to income, and it often seems to be cheaper to buy something, especially in the lower-end casual clothing market, and we all seem to be dressing more casually. Add to that the trend to being "label conscious", and its easy to see why home sewing is suffering. I think Carol Fresia is onto something when she says we should not teach "sewing classes" but "Fashion design and construction". The perception of "home sewing" seems to be that you sew because you can't afford "real" store bought clothes. Maybe we should borrow a page from the marketeers where image is everything and start to refer to what we do as "creating custom-made clothing". The next time someone asks me where I got something I'm wearing, I'll look at them with an air of superiority and say, "Oh, its custom-made!"MarionEdited 8/20/2005 4:47 pm ET by Marionc032

            Edited 8/20/2005 4:52 pm ET by Marionc032

          21. SherryG | | #67

            I'm all for encouraging more people to sew.  And Threads keeps saying that they are trying to draw in more people with the changes that they are making at the magazine.  So I wanted to ask,  why in the world did you put the picture of pins on the cover!!  My first reaction was yuck!!! (not very inspiring at all).  Not intended to dis the article - it was actually quite useful to me.  I learned things about pins I didn't know and the article actually helped me with a problem I had (I am working on a antimascascar set and needed a reliable way to secure them to my chairs).  But initially I was not interested in reading the article at all.  But there were several other items in the magazine that would have looked so much better on the cover.  Like that wonderful piped jacket!!  So why did you put such an uninspiring picture on the cover.  I just can't see that cover drawing in ANY ONE!!  It sure turned me off, and I love to sew and have been since I was a tot (I grew up in a family where most of the women sewed, crocheted, knitted, or quilted and would make doll clothes from my mother's scraps).  When I am not sewing, I am dreaming of what I can sew (or crochet, knit, quilt, etc.).

            Okay, that was my 2 cents....

            Sherry G

          22. marywings | | #70

            I agree that sewing magizines are instrimental in recruting new interest in sewing. Perhaps threads scould start a sister magazine geared towards younger sewers with a trendier cover, or advertise in popular youth magazines, stressing the perfect fit and fashion design. I think one of the best groups to target would be teens and college students. I happen to be at a junior college living at home and I have alot of extra time on my hands and I'm not allowed to work during the school year. I don't get very busy until the final month of the semester. When it finally occured to me that maybe I could make clothes that actually fit me It was nearly impossible for me to find a class that offered patteren alterations.
            I think that pattern companies should make more junoir patterns and just run them through larger sizes. The current patterns for junior plus sizes are laghable because they are simplified ugly versions of the worst junior clothes, althogh I do think it is nice that they have aknowleged our demographic. The sewing industry could be rectuing young people in droves if only they would meet us where we are, in the middle of pop culture.

          23. SherryG | | #73

            I think that elementary fitting needs to be incorporated into the beginning sewing.  I know that lengthening a hem and sleeves could be considered simple, but even more could be taught.  Like what ease is and where it needs to be the most. Different parts of the body need more ease than others.  Maybe at the early stages the emphasis should be on accurate measurement and identifying the individual body types.  This is instrumental in selecting the proper pattern size to begin with and a style that compliments your body.  Simple basic patterns are great for starters to teach the basic shapes and their spacial relationships to our bodies.  Also with basic patterns, it is easier to embellish and learn embellishment placements.  From there they can proceed to harder patterns and the different ways to alter and embellish them. 

            I know that not everyone is interested in sewing, but with the number of girls and women who are interested in fashion, you would think that more would sew.  I don't consider myself trendy, I usually don't care for the lastest and greatest, but I do know what looks good on me and how to work certain elements of the lastest trends into what I do like.  And I don't have a standard body size to work with.  I am 5'6" at 165.  I have long legs and long arms with a moderately short waist and a long seat (length of my stride to waist).  Pants and shorts are a challenge to make right for me.  I think I have just found the right source to learn what I need to do to make decent pants and shorts, but I'm still learning.  Dresses, skirts and blouses I can make without a lot of difficulty, but I am still learning what to do there.  But I have good sewing skills and look forward to learning and discovering.  It all makes life more interesting.  And the results are always good.  I like nice dresses that I can wear to the office or church.  And those I can still make nicer and cheaper than what I can find in the store.  I am not a 'career' woman, but I do make a nice wage, so I try to be frugal where I can, and I come out so-o-o-o-o ahead when I sew for myself.

            LOL, Sorry, I got kind of long winded there.

            Oh and if any pattern companies are lurking out there, please bring back the half sizes.  My mother still mourns their demise.  The pettitable patterns just don't cut it.  There is more to the proportioning than the length of arms, legs and torso.

          24. User avater
            Thimblefingers | | #68

            I also agree about the "home sewn" thing.  I have taught many sewing classes over the years, and what I tell my students is "It's better than bought."  Or, in my couture sewing classes and with my clients, to compare the garments to Holt Renfrew (that's Canada - in US that would be like Neiman Marcus), not Sears or Walmart.  They're getting designer quality and originality, so that's what they should be compared to.  When you look at it that way, you do save money!  In Alberta, what used to be called "home Economics" is now "Human Ecology" and in High School what used to be "Clothing and Textiles" is now "Fashion Studies" (perhaps more appealing to the younger set).  The cirriculum is wonderful but I have yet to meet a teacher with the skills to teach it as effectively as it has the potential to be taught. 

        2. kjp | | #15

          mimi:  I became addicted to knitting when my son was born because it was more portable.  So...I guess that's why my mending is piling up!  When I sit to watch tv, I knit.  And I actually can knit and read, but it's not too convenient.  :)

        3. stitchmd | | #17

          I second Elisabeth's suggestion. I "read" while I do housework, garden, and especially when I sew. I can't hear over the machine, but I can lay out and cut a pattern, baste, pin, etc. while listening. Just be a little careful to keep your focus on the sewing and avoid getting distracted and making mistakes. Recorded books are a wonderful invention.

          1. mimi | | #18

            I have to confess that I have never listened to a book on tape.  That would make me the only person in the western hemisphere I think!  I'm going to have to break down and try it.  Maybe the next time we take a trip :)

            Are there any you would recommend?


          2. amyL | | #23

            Hi mimi, I love to listen to books on tape when I drive, quilt or clean house.  I discovered them when my family took a 3,000 mile road trip about 6 years ago.  We listened to the whole series of James Herriott, with Christopher Timothy as the narrator.  We laughed a lot and when the driving part got rough it really helped to have a dog story etc. to listen to.  I have discovered a fun series of cozy mysteries by M.C. Beaton called Agatha Raisin.  She is a middle aged gal with a "prickly" personality. The narrator is great too.  This should get you atarted, I am hooked, just like on sewing, I hope you find something you enjoy!

          3. mimi | | #25

            Thanks, I will look into those!   mimi

          4. User avater
            Thimblefingers | | #26

            In my part of the world, Northern Alberta, my experience with the younger generation learning to sew has given me some food for thought. 

            1.  Sewing at school has been dumbed down.  When I learned to sew, we learned incresingly difficult skills so that by Grade 9, we were fairly competent sewers.  Even friends who never sewed much after that, a least know what to do if they have an emergency and need to hem a skirt or such.  High School sewing focused on expanding and developing on the basics which we already knew - tailoring, specialty fabrics, flat pattern design ....  However, nowadays, the kids make fleece hats, pencil cases, teddy bears, boxer shorts, and, if they're lucky, a pair of pyjamas.  These projects are supposed to get kids interested in sewing.  But all the kids that I talked to who were in sewing really actually wanted to learn to sew something worthwhile.  They didn't care about those silly projects so either quit or didn't bother with the course.  We need to get back to giving the kids some credit for intelligence and the desire to seriously learn a skill.

            2.  As a result, I taught kids to sew in my business.  I started at 8 years old.  Within 4 months, even the 8 year olds were capable of sewing pj pants, using a pattern and an iron, laying out and cutting, and operating and threading their sewing machine, and using the serger.  Kids were teaching their moms to sew!  (And the moms loved it!)  We made useful items that increasingly developed their sewing skills, and every so often, I threw in a "just for fun" class - Christmas tree decorations, or pillow which were used to enhance their sewing skills.  They couldn't wait for the next classes where they started sewing serious clothes for themselves - and even the young kids were more than capable of handling it. 

            3.  Kids are giving up because we hold them back by not allowing them the challenge.  They really are very capable!

            4.  Another problem in the particular school district I was associated with, was that they hired teachers to teach sewing who themselves could not sew!!  I kid you not!  One teacher was hired because she was fluent in French but had never even threaded a needle.  The School Board paid me to try to keep her ahead of the kids in sewing.  Thus in Grade 7 they sewed a triangle santa hat by hand out of fleece, in grade 8, made a pillow out of 9 squares of fabric, and in grade 9 made boxer shorts.  The teacher had to get the kids to show her how to thread the machines because she could never remember how it was done.  It is highly unlikely, unless very motived, that any of those kids is ever going to want to sew again.  At the same time, the school district lost a wonderful High School Sewng Teacher because her husband was transferred out of town.  So, to keep costs down, they transfered one of their now obselete Special Needs teachers to sewing.  Her experience?  She took Home Ec. in Jr. High (she was 55 when she became the new sewing teacher) but had not sewn since.  The School Board paid me to "refresh" her sewing skills over the summer.  The next year, they entirely cut the sewing classes because "there wasn't enough interest"!! 

            5.  Another issue I have with the kids learning to sew at school.  They generally stream the kids who aren't "academic" into the sewing classes.  Even when I was in High shcool some 30 years ago, and wanted to take Clothing and Textiles, I was told that I was an Honours student - what in the world did I want to take that course for - it was for the "non-academics".  That cuts out a lot of young people with incredible talent and makes it appear that sewing is only for those who are perceived to be less intelligent!  (One man told me, when I was trying to offer my flat pattern design and couture sewing classes through the local college, that sewing was something that bored housewives did when they didn't have anything better to do with their time.  He wouldn't have sewing in his college but Belly Dancing was offered!!)

            6.  My experience is - the younger you get them, the deeper their interest develops.  By about 8, they are more than capable of handling a machine, before that, they can hand sew.  And the youngsters are exuberant sewers.  They suck up the instructions and techniques like sponges and enjoy doing it.  By the time they become really interested in "fashion", they are competent sewers. 

            7.  Sewers of the world, unite!  We are not dumb; no matter what our IQ is, we are talented!  Sewing is fun, challenging, productive, fulfilling, skillful, creative, and we need to pass our passion and love for the craft on to the younger generation.  It's not the kids who have no interest, but the adults who aren't there to encourage and help them.

          5. mimi | | #28

            Thimblefingers:  you are right, the schools do seem to divide the kids into academic and service  groups, to the detriment of all involved.  There is more to life than being an MBA or a fry cook!  In our school district, home ec is only offered in the lower middle schools (ages 10-11).  I taught my daughter to sew when she was about seven, but we have pictures of her standing behind me on the chair at the sewing machine when she was about 12 months old, looking over my shoulder!  She has always had an afinity for fabric and has very high standards for ready made because she knows about hand, drape and workmanship.  Once she learned to sew and mastered the basics, I allowed her to sew whatever she wanted.  She took that creativity and applied it to making jewelry too, becoming the youngest participant in the Governor's Fair craft fair at age 12!  She made and sold jewelry all through high school, learning economics, marketing skills and design along the way.  Today she has a degree in Marketing and plans to apply it to her jewelry making skills!

            There are no children who cannot learn, but there are a lot of school administrators who don't know how to run a classroom!


          6. User avater
            Thimblefingers | | #29

            Kudos to your daughter!  And to you for teaching her!  I have heard so many moms say, "I'd never let my daughter use my sewing machine, she'd wreck it."  Or "when she's 13 I'll let her start using my sewing machine".  Well, sewing machines don't break that easily especially when the kids are taught to respect (but not fear) them.  And often 13 is too late to get them interested.  My mom taught me to sew by hand before I started school.  I still have the little doll coat I made - from a real pattern - still have the pattern too!  By the time I ws in Grade 4, I made my first dress for myself.  But my mom let me use the sewing machine when she wasn't and I was allowed to use all the scraps I wanted.  Still have many of those inevitable tube dresses for my fashion dolls.  But it was a big encouragement to just have fun and sew.  

            I taught my daughter to sew when she was young, too.  Now she sews many of her own clothes, and she is very creative!  She says she picked up a lot of what she knows by osmosis.  Even when she was younger, I would go somewhere and leaves her with some instructions for sewing, and came back to find that she had altered the style of the pattern and completed the garment without ever having been given any instructions on how to do it.  She set her first sleeves that way.

            The funniest was when she was 11 and I left her to serge up some seams in corduroy overalls she was making.  I didn't bother to change the thread colour because the seams were inside anyway.  When I came back, she had serged the seams - with a matching colour!  I asked her if she had changed the thread colour, and she said "Of course, it didn't match."  So I asked her how she changed the thread (I had never shown her and didn't think she knew how to tie the threads and pull through).  She said "Well duh, Mom, the  little door on the front of the serger has the instructions".  She had managed to remove all the threads and re-thread the whole thing and get it sewing again without any problems!

            My point - kids sewing doesn't have to be dumbed down to make it more "fun".  They're quite capable of learning complicated procedures and it really gives them a sense of accomplishment when they produce something worthwhile.  It's our fears as adults that inhibit them.  They are not inhibited about sewing at all, and happily forge ahead without worries about being perfect, but learning and devoping their skills!       

          7. mimi | | #30

            I liked your osmosis idea!  I swear that is how my daughter picked up her hand sewing skills.  When she was little, she would sit on my lap while I handsewed "around" her.  Later, she was beside me.  Now she can do it on her own (she is 800 miles away), but calls me on the phone to talk while she does it. 

            Her friends are always astonished by her skills at hemming, sewing buttons, and altering ready made stuff.  It is becoming a lost art.


          8. karenb | | #31

            Reading all the posts about schools teaching sewing has really made me think. When I was in middle school, we had to learn a little woodworking, a little cooking, a little sewing. Granted, it wasn't much, but at least it was something constructive.

            My own daughter is 13. She spends those same "elective" hours in worthless "technology" classes (outdated computers and useless assignments) and computer classes. I understand that kids need to be around computers, but they can also benefit from real skills training.

            I'm not sure they even teach real sewing classes in the schools around here anymore. By the time I got to high school in the early 80's, my home economics class was predominately focused on what it was like to have babies (sort of a sneaky sex ed class) and home finances. We didn't really do much with our hands.


          9. mimi | | #32

            The problem is money, or lack thereof.  District with enough money  to teach technology are doing so at an early age.  Districts without money can't afford to do it.  They lack the facilities, and the the money they do have goes to teaching basics (Math, English and Reading).

            I agree we need to get back to teaching life skills, but that isn't a priority under No Child Left Behind.  It is all about the TESTS, and sewing isn't on them, unfortunately.


          10. kjp | | #35

            WHY do we need computer classes for our kids???  They know how to use them already - most kids have their own! 

          11. kjp | | #34

            Your story made me laugh!  It also reminds me about how we learned to use computers when I was a teen and then taught our parents.  It came so easily to me because I had no fears. 

            So, you think 8 is a good age to start to learn to sew in your experience?  How many students would you put in a class at that age?  I ask and am reading this thread carefully because I am in the process of setting up a new sewing class program for our local fabric store.  Our goal is to really focus on children/teens.

            I really appreciate what you said about the complexity of projects.  It seems that a lot of kids who are interested in sewing want to design their own clothes.  We shouldn't be afraid to give them the tools to do that!

          12. User avater
            Thimblefingers | | #39

            I find 8 is a good age because they have good fine motor skills.  At a younger age, their fine motor skills are not as well developed and they will have problems with the sewing machine.  Younger kids could sew by hand.  You will still have some 8 year olds with problems because kids develop at different rates but for the most part 8 is great.  I always limited my classes to 6 and I found that was about right.  Classes were 1 hour long - so I made them 1 hour 15 so that they had set up and clean up time.  I purchased cheap plastic bins where they could store their things so that they didn't have to bring them home every week - otherwise they'd be forgetting.  First class they sewed without thread.  I went through all the parts of the sewing machine and they got to move things up and down and push them , etc.  They we sewed on paper - they could see the holes and see what the machine was doing.  I made a list of "good sewing habits" which we went over at the beginning of every class.  Then we talked about patterns cutting and pinning.  They made a tote bag and painted it with fabirc paint for first project.  For pressing, I taught them how to use the iron and then I had a bin of scraps.  If they got done before we were ready to go to the next step, they could practice ironing scraps (they absolutely loved this!)  We did things like dot to dots on paper to help them learn to control the machine and turn.  I just photocopied from a dot to dot colouring book.  I also had other little sewing or fashion-related  things for them to do if they were waiting for others. I had stools for kids who were really small, to put their foot pedal on, and big books (old pattern catalogues work great for this) to sit on.  Rather than supply machines, I had them each bring their own.  That way their moms could help them at home if they wanted to sew at home, or they could teach their moms.  It was a little extra work, and you have to have a little experience with different machines, but the moms ended up liking it because many of the kids really did practice at home!  And the moms could see their excitement and that they were learning.  I also had a couple extra mchines on hand because someone inevitably would forget or for those who didn't have a machine at home.

            That's a start - hope it helps!  If you want to contact me further, I'm at [email protected].

          13. Lainey | | #74

            My local sewing shop has started a series of sewing classes for those age 10 and up. The students are at different skill levels. The teacher has 2 or 3 helpers who are there to encourage the students as well as provide help, and each student is evaluated before using sewing equipment which is considered to be dangerous. Sewing should be encouraged as a creative outlet.


          14. Teaf | | #48

            You're not the only one...I have listened to just one book on tape, The Princess Bride, but had to stop because I missed my exit and was late to work!  It was fantastic, compelling, and highly entertaining, even at 7:30 a.m., but I realized that I wasn't paying any attention to traffic on the interstate--not good!  Check your local library for Books on Tape that you can try.

          15. mimi | | #50

            Teaf:  I can see myself getting caught up in sewing and a book on tape and not emerging for days at a time! 


  4. lin327 | | #24

    I would love to see more programs like "Project Runway" on television. I've had a few people ask me for sewing lessons after they watched "Project Runway." Everyone of them, without exception said that they didn't realize that fashion designers knew how to sew, nor did they realize that sewing could be so creative. One said she learned to hate sewing because of all the "rules" she learned in Home Ec classes, especially when she would get in trouble for not following pattern directions exactly. She lost marks for doing her own thing.

    Yet that doing my own thing is what I find so wonderful about sewing and designing my own clothes. Yet many are embarassed to admit that they wear something that they made themselves. For some there is a stigma attached to home sewn clothes, as if it says "I'm too poor to afford to shop for something new." My mother still feels that way...poor people made clothes, rich people bought them. That certainly isn't true, not with fabric prices the way they are, but the perception exists.

    In my not-so-humble opinion, much of the population will never return to sewing, not when it's easier and cheaper to buy from the Gap or Wal Mart or American Eagle or whatever. And many prefer to have ####brand name label attatched to themselves, for reasons unfathomable to me. And honestly, good riddance to them. They can be clones of each other. The ones who should be recruited to sewing are the creative types, the unique individuals, the ones who aren't afraid to show a little style and stand out from the crowd. They are the ones who will keep sewing alive. Also emphasize the high fashion aspect, many girls love fashion and sewing can be a way to have one's own interpretation of the latest fashion before it hits the stores.

    I think by emphasizing the creativity sewing offers it will attract new sewers. (Or sewists? I hate that people who sew and the pipes that carry waste water share the same name, just pronounced different!)


  5. Teaf | | #49

    Lack of space may also be a factor in the decline of sewing; it's hard to fit a sewing machine, fabric stash, and supplies in the corner of a tiny apartment or starter home.  I agree that time and complexity are also factors; it's impossible to finish projects when I'm working full time, parenting, and commuting long distances, while fitting challenges make the outcome of so many garments so uncertain that the investment of time and money is risky.

    Also, although I'm an experienced sewer with good access to bargain fabrics and patterns, I often find a RTW piece that's on sale for cheaper than I could make it, even if I could find a comparable fabric (good knit yardage is just not available anymore), and I know immediately whether or not it will fit.   Only skirts and upholstery seem to be cheaper to make than to buy nowadays--not much incentive for new sewers, most of whom have wardrobes composed of mostly jeans and knit tops instead of tailored separates and woven fabrics.

  6. barbara | | #51

    Quick story... I was asked to teach some women how to make curtains for a homeless shelter. One woman came to learn, and I showed her the steps. She made twelve 8' curtains, developed confidence in herself and her sewing, enjoyed the process, and just made and sold a quilt for $600 at a community service auction. Bravo!

    To encourage others to sew, try a group project such as making "ugly quilts."  These are quilted sleeping bags for the homeless that are distributed through local shelters. Google "ugly quilts" for more information. The required sewing skills are basic and the process and product are worthwhile.


  7. Sewperfect | | #72

    As I said to steph, my idea is to share our skills with others, even if it's only one person at a time.  I give sewing classes to young girls.  I don't charge much because it's my way of contributing to my community and to the new generation of seamstresses.  If every seamstress did that, we would certainly spark a new interest in sewing. 

    My classes are 2 hours, for 8 weeks in the fall and 8 weeks in the winter and 8 weeks in the spring.  I charge $10.00 a class.  It's not that much time, and it gives the students time to practice on their own. 

    I get as much out of it as they do.


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