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Conversational Threads

How old were you when you learned to sew

carolfresia | Posted in Talk With Us on

How old were you when you first started sewing? Who taught you? And most importantly, did you have fun?

I’d also like to ask what kept you sewing, or brought you back to sewing?





  1. Tessmart | | #1


    I was in 4th grade (9 yrs old) and my Dad got my Mom a sewing machine. I thought it was the neatest thing and took it over. I basically taught myself by going thru pattern directions, making mistakes because I didn't follow them correctly: but I was taught to make things work so I learned to make my mistakes into something that worked out. i.e. I was making a dress, instead of cutting the center back seam on the fold, I cut it as if it was one to be sewn, in order to make it work, I butted them together and sewed a placket onto the right side, and I had a back.  As I got older and more mobile, I got involved in a sewing  store in town, learned from them, hung out there sometimes to learn things. I ended up teaching myself to make items, brought them into the store and ended up teaching there. (Until it closed). I just kept teaching myself, findings ways to learn how to use new fabric and trying different ways/fabrics until I found the best way for me and my equipment.

    I love to sew, I have a creative nature and get a lot of fulfillment in sewing. My husband was very ill many years ago and I used sewing as my therapy. I made more clothes than I knew what to do with, I ended up giving a lot away. I sew every day, even if it's only for 1/4-1/2 hr.

    I like to learn new techniques and learn a lot from this forum. Sometimes I get a mental roadblock when trying to do something, I go looking thru this forum and usually find the answers.  


    My newest venture to learning to make my own designs, right now I mix and match patterns: make different sleeve types for tops to experiment. They don't all work, but I learn something from them. I also own Bernina's and go to club meetings. I check out different stores to see what classes are being offered and make time to go to the ones I have interest in. I've done quilting, but I'm not a quilter. I like fashion sewing and will stick with that.

    I enjoy this forum, THANK YOU!



    1. tipdee | | #2

      i learned to sew when i was seven  both my grandma and mom sewed . For christmas my grandma bought me a dress pattern and fabric with kittens on it and i have been sewing ever since. I into quilts now its the best.

  2. Susan -homedecsewing | | #3

    I was 8 when I started making doll clothes , leather fringe purses and vests by 14 and designing different pattern configurations by 16 making maxi coats and my wardrobe. In my 30's I had an alteration business and now at 51 I have a home dec sewing business and just love working with all the beautiful fabrics in the fabulous homes in Fort Myers, Fl.I got my artistic talents from my beloved Mother who passed when I was 19.  She was a wonderful artist.My home ec teachers were great back in Bedford Ohio and let me dream big and be creative. All of us sewers are really blessed with our capabilaties , so many don't have a clue what we do, are'nt we lucky ?



  3. stitcher | | #4

    I was 12 and my Aunt Frances came for the weekend. She was an upholstery seamstress for GM in Detroit. She also did beautiful tailoring. I recall two coats she made for me. Both were made from old coats which had belonged to the man who lived next door to her.

    My first project was a bugundy plaid wrap skirt. 43 years later I can still "see" that fabric in my mind's eye.

  4. sewingkmulkey | | #5

    At the beginning of every summer my beloved Grandma would bring out all the fabrics and remnants she had purchased during the year to make school dresses for my sister and I.  At the age of 9 I convinced her that I was interested in sewing.  I, too, can still see the green and white striped seersucker that we purchased to make my first garment - a straight skirt with numerous kick pleats.  I was immediately "in love" with this new hobby Grandma shared with me and spent the next few months making newspaper patterns and sewing fabulous (or so I thought) wardrobes for my dolls.  The next summer at Grandma's house I expanded my skills and she bought me my first sewing machine.   I was totally "hooked" and have been so every since.  Sewing for others paid for my singing lessons as a teenager and doing alterations while my girls were small earned me money to purchase - what else - FABRIC!

    I've never liked the term "dressmaker" so after 50 years of sewing for myself and numerous others, I call myself a fabric artist. 

    My daughters can sew but don't have the passion I feel.  Here's hoping that I can inspire my granddaughter to love creating garments...

    Keep up the good work Threads.   I cherish every single issue!

  5. sueb | | #6

    I started sewing in the seventh grade - back in the early 70's when girls had to take home ec and boys took woodshop ! I remember making these really ugly bue shorts from this aweful scratchy cotton that I bought in K Mart. They had an elastic waste and the crotch was waaaaay too long. But as hideous and as ill fitting as they were I was fascinated with the whole process of choosing a pattern, picking material and then getting to cut it up and turn it into something that nobody else had. Something created just by me with my two hands. I still love that feeling. The urge to work and create with my hands is very strong for me, it always has been.

    1. carolfresia | | #7

      Sue, you and I are probably of the same vintage. I had learned some sewing at home before 7th grade, but I think that was the year I used a "real" pattern for the first time. It was a jumper, with bust and vertical darts, facings at neckline and armholes, and a big long zipper up the back. My mom gave me some fabric that must have been from her stash. It was quilted, of all horrible things, and brown with little blue flowers on it. The print wasn't so bad, but sewing all those darts and facings and a zipper into stiff quilted fabric was pretty unpleasant, not to mention cutting the thing out with the dull scissors provided by the home ec class.

      I think maybe she chose that fabric because I'd had a quilted jumper as a little kid that I absolutely loved. Well, I never finished the jumper, but I did learn some good basics that I used when I did my subsequent projects. Most of those were done at home, under the helpful eye of my mother. And all the tricks I learned for making sewing fun and interesting I learned from her.


  6. Teresa | | #8

    I can't even remember exactly when I learned..my mother sewed a great deal of my clothing...mine & my sisters and I always would watch, and take scraps  for doll clothes.  When I got my first job in my early 20s, I passed by a sidewalk sale where fabric was for sale and I bought a few yards for $1.00 and so it began and I haven't stopped since.

    In my early 30s I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and received a certificate in Women's Tailoring...and took a few courses in Pattermaking.  I honed my skills and learned some wonderful techniques in tailoring as in back to basics with lots of hand work which really makes things professional looking…I just love to sewand I've never stopped!

  7. Teaf5 | | #9

    At around age 4 or 5, I was allowed to pump the treadle on my mom's old machine while she hemmed curtains and to "sew" with tapestry needles, yarn, and paper or paper plates. I've been hooked ever since! My mom sewed nearly all the clothes for all eight of us, so the main electric machine was in the center of the house and nearly always in action; all of my brothers and sisters learned to sew.

    By age 7 or so, my threadless sewing was accurate enough that I was allowed to use the electric machine; I learned by watching and by thousands of trials and errors. By age 10, I was making many of my own clothes, things I wanted but couldn't afford to buy. The economy and opportunity for creativiy has kept me sewing; now the superior quality and fit are added benefits.

    Although I mostly sew out of necessity, it has always been fun for me, despite its many frustrations. Handling the fabric, seeing the lovely colors, and listening to the rhythms of my machine or hand sewing are very soothing activities I enjoy after a long week at work.

    1. tzipi | | #29

      It seems most people in this forum started sewing when they were kids but I really started as an adult. True I made a skirt in home ec but then I forgot about it. About 10 years ago, I decided I wanted to have beautiful clothes that I couldn't afford so I signed up for my first sewing course. I was hooked from the first class!! Since then I have taken many more courses and have made beautiful things for me and my daughters, sister and mother.  Sometimes months can can go without touching the machine , but then I always come back to it. I love reading Threads and sewing books. I love fabric stores and have become a fabric junky , I guess like most sewers. The challenge for me is always finding the time for all of the projects I have swimming in my mind since I have 5 kids and work in my profession which is far from sewing. But I always describe sewing as my occupational therapy. It relaxes me and gives me a great feeling of satisfaction when I see my clothes being worn by one of my relatives.


      Good luck to all of us in all of our endeavors.



  8. mygaley | | #10

    Mother's first career choice was fashion design and she sewed for relaxation.  I had the most fabulous clothes with great trims, all designed and sewn by her.  I spent all my early childhood with women who sewed, and of course I was fascinated by the scraps and doll clothes that appeared.  At around age 6 I was given one of those toy motor-run sewing machines, and promptly discovered that quality of tools is extremely important--one of my favorite rants--give a beginner quality scissors, machine, tools; to give them any less is to make the job harder.  I did make a pieced doll quilt with the fabric samples that came in catalogs, and I still have the first fashion doll outfit sewn by hand to fit a pre-barbie doll.  It's a black velvet jacket, trimmed with silver thread, along with charcoal grey satin trousers!  Fortunately I fell into the hands of the 4-H and at age 9 wore my first garment in competition.  From that time to this, I have sewn to have the clothes I want at the price I wish to pay, done dressmaking and home decor to pay the bills and work at home, and sewn bridal, formal, pet, dolls, costumes, for the fun and adventure of constructing them.  Once I read that there are two kinds of craftspeople:  Process--one who is interested in the details and how anything is constructed, and Production--one who is only satisfied with a finished product.  I am a process, and that is why I don't do quilting or make items to sell, I just don't want to do the same thing over and over.  I am the queen of the UFO!

    I had some severe challenges at around age 40 and did not sew for two years.  When I returned, sergers, stabilizers, computerized machines and many other tools and techniques were new to me, and sewing has been great ever since.  My three happiest sewing occasions were when first my daughter, and then my dnl asked me to sew their wedding gowns, and then the day my oldest granddaughter asked me to teach her how to sew.

    I wish more of these garments and products had been documented.  I am currently making drawings of all the garments I remember to keep in a notebook.  Sometimes I can copy vintage covers of the same patterns online.  God bless all the sewers out there.  Galey  PS  I now sew on 60 year old singer, 35 yo Singer, and Pfaff1475CD. 


  9. Beanhi | | #11

    I started sewing in the 2nd or 3rd grade on my mom's industrial Juki. My mom sewed piece work in order to earn money and stay home. It was a necessity as we were refugees and came here with literally the clothes on our backs. When she had to cook dinner, I would take over and sew the pieces that required straight lines. I was a great point turner (using chopsticks!) and an expert seam ripper.

    My mom was an amazing seamstress. She would draft patterns right on the fabric just from your measurements and a picture. I loved watching her more than sewing myself. Plus my finished products never looked as good.

    I only recently got back into sewing because I missed having clothes that fit, were unique and of decent quality. Having curtains, placemats and cushions that were perfectly matched to the rest of the decor is also plus. There's never a time that I'm without a sewing project. I just need to figure out how to work on my projects on a plane or in a hotel room.

  10. meg | | #12

    I was 9 or 10 when I began making doll clothes.  My mom always sewed our clothes.  She had a White sewing machine which probably wasn't grounded properly, because it gave her electrical shocks.  She bought a Pfaff 260 after a while of financial scrimping and used that for years and years.  I had the obligatory Home Ec class, too, and we made an apron with no pattern.  I always wondered if that teacher knew how to sew, or figured us all for dolts.  The pattern required only rectangles.  It is a wonder that I didn't quit sewing after that!

    I've made ski jackets, drapes, mountains of clothes, repairs/mending, and for the last decade, quilts.  I like being able to wear original clothes!

  11. Andie | | #13

    I was about 8 or 9 when I first became fascinated with an old hand crank Singer that was in the basement. My mother didn't sew, and she didn't know where the bobbin was for this antique, but recognize my budding interest. My parents registered me in sewing lessons at the Singer store in our city. I was the youngest student there. It was downtown and after a few classes, I was allowed to take the bus home alone - another new experience! They also shared the cost of a small, black used Singer sewing machine with me. We paid $39.99. I had to contribute $20 of that total - a huge sum for a young girl in 1964. I have kept the machine for the sentimental value.
    I loved sewing right away and haven't stopped. I was fortunate to have some great "home ec." teachers who encouraged and supported me, and a family that recognize this hobby was my way of expressing my creative side.
    I have two daughters so I had lots of opportunity to sew for them when they were young and I have had the priviledge of making both their graduation dresses as well as a few grad dresses for their friends. I have also made a number of wedding dresses. Recently, I learned to make kilts from an excellent book and have completed three so far. We are currently renovating our basement and my husband suggested the biggest space be for my sewing room. What a great guy!

    1. Marionc032 | | #14

      Wow! Compared to some of you, I was an old-timer when I started sewing. My mother never sewed and what little I know of sewing, I learned from my grandmother, but she really only sewed to repair clothing. I had to take a home economics class for one term when I was 12 or 13 and I hated it! We had to make a reversible tote bag and a gathered skirt. The tote bag was ok, but the skirt was godawful. The next thing I sewed, about 5 years later, was a red suede jacket. Fools rush in but it turned out surprisingly well. My aunt had given me a huge piece of garment suede and for my pattern I decided to take apart an old jacket I loved but which was falling apart. Looking back, there are some things I would do a little differently now, but most of the techniques I used based on gut instinct were sound. I wore that jacket for years. After that I continued sewing because I needed clothes for office wear for summer jobs and making them myself was the cheapest way to go. I guess it was during that time that I really got hooked on sewing. Yes, I produced some wadders, but I also got compliments and I really enjoyed the satisfaction of completing something and then being able to wear an item of clothing that was not mass-produced and no one else had.Even though I really enjoy sewing and I find the process almost soothing, I really don't like sewing for others (I don't have kids) or doing alterations on RTW. On the few occasions where I have sewn for others, like my Mom or my husband, I miss not being able to wear the item myself!Marion

      Edited 5/20/2006 8:20 pm ET by Marionc032

  12. Elaray | | #15

    I first learned to sew when I was about 10 or 11. I took a class at a community center in my neighborhood. My first project was an apron! My next experience was in 7th grade home ec. class, back when schools offered Home Ec. Classes! I made a green denim jumper and we had a fashion show to model our creations. I took more sewing classes at the community center and my love of sewing was born. I got my first sewing machine when I was about 14 and have owned one ever since. My sewing gene came from my mother. She and her sister sewed and learned from their mother - my grandmother. As a matter of fact, one of my earliest memories is me standing next to my mother's sewing maching, watching her make a dress for me. I still rememer the dress!
    I'm so glad I learned to sew. It's one of the few things in life over which I have some amount of control. And, after spending hours doing someting I truly enjoy, I have something new to wear!!!


    I sew, therefore I am

    Edited 5/20/2006 9:50 pm ET by Elaray

    1. solosmocker | | #16

      I acquired my passion for sewing around age 5 or maybe even before. As gar back as I can remember I spent entire summers from Memorial Day to Labor Day with my grandmother in New Orleans. I was allowed to raid her fabric closet, heaven, and pick out whatever I wanted in fabric and trims for her to make a wardrobe to take home each September. I was probably far too young to make these decisions but she spoiled me rotten, magically weaving my choices into the prettiest little dresses. I was mesmerized at her side as her legs pumped that treadle and formed the most beautiful dresses I had ever seen. She also taught me about quality and acquiring a stash, two things I have never forgotten. To me she was magic. I actually learned to sew when my mom, who sewed out of necessity, needed a new machine. I went with her several times to the Singer store and asked her if I could take the sewing lessons I saw happening in the store. I was ten. The store turned me down, saying I needed to be 12 for the classes. My mother said the only way she would buy her new top of the line Singer was if they allowed me to take the classes. She cajoled them with tales of my intelligence and willingness and good behavior. They acquiesced. I will be eternally grateful for a bargain hard driven. That first dress I made in my Singer classes was just ugly but I knew if I made another it would be better, and so on to this day. I will be forever grateful to my Mom and my Mamee for the passion I have for this craft, the encouragement and inspiration they both gave me, and the pride they always showed in what I did. I pray I can provide the same for my grandaughter.

  13. goldenneedle | | #17

    I began my passion for fashion in the third grade. I had a great home economics teacher that developed my foundation sewing in jhs. I continued my studies at the High School of Fashion Industries and in college.

  14. Vick | | #18

    I don't remember not sewing. My Mom was a Home ec. Teacher.

    I   remember guiding the white scraps of fabric while my little sister would "work the peddle" I think we traded places every so often.

    Our room as little girls, had the sewing machine our mother,grandmother and great-grandmother learned to sew on. Its a 1868 Singer with the "Egyptian" head painting on it.

     I'm happy to say I still have it and all it need is a new belt and it will be fine for my first grandchild to learn on.

    I didn't have daughter ,but, my sons learned to sew on it as well.

    I have heard the belt is still replaceable and I think that's wonderful. If anyone knows exactly where I can get this done I would be very interested.


    Edited 5/22/2006 11:46 pm ET by Vick

    1. smmrsew | | #19

      Well I'm 28 and I'm just learning to sew this year. I've been wanting to learn since high school, but we didn't have home ec.

      I'm so excited, I should be finishing my first garment (a sleeveless shirt) this week and I just purchased a bottom of the line Viking sewing machine (for $300!!!).

      1. solosmocker | | #22

        Congratulations! I hope these stories inspire you. It is a passion and it sounds like you have the bug. Welcome to this sorority/fraternity.

        1. smmrsew | | #23

          Thanks! I want to sew everything right now, but I'm trying to take my time and learn the basics well.

      2. mjorymer | | #25

        I wanted to sew the first time I saw a needle and thread in my mother's hand---(I might have been 3) unfortunately (in a way) for me it was an embroidery needle with ecru floss--she was embroidering an exquisite cut work linen table cloth and 12 matching napkins (yes--57 years later I still have the cloth and napkins and still use them.)  My mother did not own a sewing machine and hated the idea of making clothes.  That did not deter me.  I recall at 5 figuring out that a garment was made by sewing 2 flat pieces of fabric together.  I put my chubby bodied baby doll on the fabric, traced around it and cut two pieces and sewed them toghether--needless to say it did not fit.  Through trial and lots of errors, I taught myself to sew on a little toy SInger that I received for my birthday when I was seven. 

        My mom borrowed a friend's machine when I was 11 and wanted to make a party dress.  I used that thing (no reverse) and no zig-zag for 8 years until the witchy lady wanted it back! 

        Being originally self taught has advantages and disadvantages.  Regardless, I think most people do best if they have a good teacher.  I was determined to learn and did but I also tried to teach myself to play the piano and my determination didn't get me very far.

        Marijo Rymer--VP Public Relations--PACC

    2. Teaf5 | | #20

      Of course, the first place to look is online, but my father made a replacement belt for my treadle machine from a length of nylon cord--clothesline, I think! He adjusted it to the correct length, spliced it, and melted the nylon together, and it has worked like a charm for the last thirty years.

  15. marijke | | #21

    Enjoyed reading through everyone's stories!

    I cannot remember when I learnt to sew but it was before first grade and my mom taught me.  I still have the first thing I made: a doll jacket.  It still has the tailor tacks in it that indicated the seamlines.  I never took them out...

    Home ec at school was the most useless waste of time.  We got to stitch seams BY HAND.  We took a whole semester to stitch by hand what I could have done in an afternoon at home on the machine.  The teacher's priority was getting us to make nice, even handstitches, not getting us to like sewing...  We never made any clothing items either (I remember oven mitts and such things).

    I'm glad I had a chance to learn to see sewing as a creative outlet at home.   My mom gave me access to all fabric scraps and her sewing machine.  (I once made a summer dress out of a patchwork of leftover pieces of polyester lining fabric. )


  16. ceebee | | #24

    I am another product of the summer Singer sewing classes.  I was 14 and able to take a bus downtown to the store by myself.  My mother and my aunts were all sewers and wonderful needleworkers with skills brought from "the old country".  My mother made most of the clothes my sister and I wore in elementary school.  I had some experiences making doll clothes but had never made a garment.  So it was the Singer classes that started me on the path to being an independent sewer.  I made a corduroy jumper in that first class, not the best job in the world but I did wear the finished garment.  By the next Easter I was able to make myself an entire outfit - I can still see the 1960s Jackie Kennedy inspired style.  It was an orange "Butcher linen" sheath dress with a matching jacket.  I sewed through the rest of high school, college and beyond  because I was so short and thin that I could not find ready made clothes appropriate to my age.  I've made all my clothes for years.  I can count the number of dresses that I have ever bought and it doesn't take the fingers on both hands.   

  17. Dorothy80516 | | #26

    I made my first garment in fifth grade, a brown cotton print gathered skirt.  To this day I remember top stitching the waist band and how I could not sew that seam straight for the life of me and how my Mom finally realized it was "good enough".  She did the zipper for me, BTW.  And of course, I sewed lots of doll clothes, lots and lots of doll clothes, which were the most fun for me, since I could try any technique and any color combination and didn't need my mother's OK; which of course I did need if I were sewing a garment for myself.

    I bought my first sewing machine in college; I continued to sew through law school and as a corporate lawyer.   I've accumulated a fabric and button stash that makes DH wince whenever he thinks about it.  

    Why do I sew? Three reasons.  It's impossible to find tailored RTW suits in the style and color I want and with the fit I need.  It's a series of creative expressions for me, from buying the fabric, deciding what will be the perfect garment from that fabric, sewing it, and then, of course, wearing it.   Finally, I enjoy the challenge of learning new things, both taking classes with other women and making new friends or the satisfaction of figuring out something for myself.

  18. autumn | | #27

    There have been so many replies to this question that I doubt anyone can read them all, but here goes.

    As far back as I can remember (2-3 years old!) I was very interested in sewing and knitting because my grandmother did a lot of it. She made most of my clothes then. Before I was 10 I had a "model doll", something like Barbie but not as sexie, that I draped with scraps and beads. I spent hours dressing her and designing her clothes. Then when I was 10 I joined 4H and that's where I really learned to sew. I won a Grand Champion at the county fair on the first dress I ever made, and blue ribbon in the fashion modeling.

    I've been sewing ever since. Even when I was in elementary school I used to stop at a fabric store on the way home from school, buy a pattern and material, and make myself something.  I made my own wedding dress and truseau when I was a senior in college, clothes for my kids, shirts for my husband, etc.etc. Later I made wedding dresses for both my daughters. Now I'm teaching my granddaughter to sew (she's 12).

    I've been told that my great-grandmother made her living sewing when she first came to this country as a 17 year old (alone!), so I guess it runs in the family, although my mother did not sew very well and did not care for it. I still remember the prom dress she made for me! Oh, well, nobody else had a very nice one either.

  19. Hansi | | #28

    I had home ec in junior high and played with my mother's machine a little bit in high school, but mostly it frustrated me.  Then 3 years ago, I was working in a middle school and my room was across from the Teen Skills classroom (the modern word for home ec.)  I saw the kids laying out patterns in the hallway and thought they looked like they were having fun.   A week later, I was walking down the street in my neighborhood thinking about it and wondering if I should buy a sewing machine.  Just then, my neighbor stepped out of her garage and said, "Hey, do you want a sewing machine?"  Her aunt had died and left a 1959 Singer, very similar to my mom's.  So I had it serviced and started sewing.

    I think it's fun to make useful and creative things for my family.  But what is very attractive to me about sewing is that the problems that come up in sewing aren't very important problems.  What I mean by that is that I have to try to be a good mom and I have to try to do a competent job at work, but if I goof up a sewing project, it truly isn't important. 


  20. MarcyAF | | #30

    I was 12 and in 7th grade, the first year of Junior High. We had to take Home Ed, and we made an apron. Sewing just "clicked" with me. That Christmas, my grandmother gave me her 1940's era black Singer sewing machine that only did forward and backward. I began buying fabrics and patterns and through practice started making my own wardrobe. Not only did I save money, I had original "designer" clothes. I sewed all through high school and college, upgrading my machines over the years by going to garage sales. When I got married, I made the bridesmaid dresses, then later I had two daughters so I made all their clothes until they discovered the word Jordache. It was over until their proms, but I still sewed for myself. We also had two boys, so for about 10 years I only sewed for myself. Then, since 2000, our daughters have blessed us with 6 grandgirls, so I'm back in the saddle again! Each of our daughters have three daughters ages 2, 4 & 6 and our oldest just had a boy, so I'm back digging through my old patterns for layette outfits. I also make placemats, tablecloths, curtains, and other home decorating items.




  21. TJSEWS | | #31

    Hi Carol!

      I first began sewing when  I was around 13 years old.  My father got my mom a sewing machine and she showed me how to use it.  My mom made simple sheath dresses for me and my sister by cutting them right out of the fabric without a pattern. 

      I decided that I wanted to sew garments as well but wanted to make garments other than sheath dresses.  So my mom and I went to the local fabric store and bought a beginner's how to sew book, notions and supplies, patterns and fabric.  I taught myself the basics by reading the book and following the pattern guide sheets.  I remember making pants and blouses for myself as well as a simple jacket.  I also made little dresses for my baby sister.   I loved sewing and piecing together everything - like putting together a puzzle!  Sewing brings back such fond memories!

      Then I got married at 18 (way too young) and moved out.  Since the sewing machine was my mother's, I had to leave it behind.  Life got too complicated and I stopped sewing.  I decided to go to college (I did graduate), then I got pregnant and had a baby, then I got divorced and was a single mom for about 11 years.  It was a really tough time with no money to purchase a machine nor the energy nor motivation.

      I met a wonderful man and remarried.  Several years later, the sewing bug came back to me all of a sudden and my husband got me a mechanical Singer sewing machine from a discount store for $250.  My daughter was now in her mid teens and I had more time to sew.  That was 6 years ago.  I started sewing with a vengeance....almost to make up for lost time.  I then decided to take formal classes at FIT in New York City and earned a certification in Ladies Tailoring.  Now I am taking classes in Draping and Patternmaking and after I get a certification for that, I will pursue a certification in Couture Techniques. 

      I just can't imagine giving up sewing ever again....I have a demanding (and tedious)  job and sewing keeps me sane.  I like to challenge myself and learn new techniques.  I also upgraded to a computerized Bernina machine but still have and occasionally use that Singer.  I make a lot of the clothes I wear day to day.  I have made a tailored suit jacket, dress pants, jeans, a jeans jacket, a safari jacket, shirts, blouses, skirts and even a winter coat.  As soon as I finish a project, I start another one.  It is so satisfying. 

      My dream is to someday make a living out of sewing or teaching sewing....I have no idea how to make something like that happen but I figure I'll just keep learning as much as I can at FIT and I just joined PACC as a student member. 

      This is all more than you probably have time to read and I am not usually this verbose but your question was about something I feel passionate about so I couldn't help it!

      Thanks also for a great magazine that supports and encourages all of us sewers.  Have a great day!! 

               Tomasa Jimenez

  22. Shene | | #32

    I was 5 years old.  My Mother had always told me to change into my play clothes as soon as I got home from school.  She arrived home 45 min. later.  I forgot one day and was playing cowboys and indians with a neighbor boy and caught the sash of my dress on a car door handle.  I knew what was ahead so I went home opened up my Grandmother's old treddle machine and sew it back on.  Back then we had to iron everything and when my Mom ironed the dress she asked who fixed it for me and I said, "I did!"  She didn't believe me so she made me show her how to open the machine and use the treddle.  I had hung over her and both my grandmothers as they were sewing and learned more than either of us realized.  Mom said, "Well it is time for you to learn to sew>"  The first item I made was a little girl's slip, very simple

    but quite thrilling.  I am now 67 and sew almost everyday.


  23. JACQUEKAY | | #33


    When i was 4 my mom showed me how to take 2 pieces of fabric and make a small running stitch and then turn it right side out--i was fascinated and sewed every thing together i could get my hands on. i remember sitting in story time in kindergarten examining the stitching on dresses, seams, hems etc. i guess there really is something about things being inborn! my mom could sew and did a nice job on the things she made for us 3 little ones, but didn't enjoy it. when i was 8 she got me flannel, corduroy, and pattens for a nightgown and duster. i got tired of waiting for a time for her to teach me how to use a  pattern etc, so one day i just laid it out on the ping pong table in the basement and cut it out myself and started sewing! in jr. high home ec, the teacher was frustrated with me cuz i didn't stay with the class plan and always moving ahead. made all my clothes, wedding party and all my kids clothes from the 50's on. there isn't much i haven't done, or attempted over the years. i don't sew many clothes now, not enogh time, getting older, working full/over time 12 hr nites ob nurse, and dealing with rheumatoid arthritis, and 25 years ago quilting took over my interests, but i can't imagine my life without needles, thread and fabric.          jacquekay

  24. bjane | | #34

    Hi Carol:

    I learned to sew at age 8.  My dad was a tailor and my mom worked in a men's shirt/pj factory.  My grandparents likewise, were a tailor and a seamstress. So, it comes kind of naturally.  I liked having new dresses for parties and my mom made her special creations from remnants she brought home from the factory.  One day when she didn't have time to make a dress I decided to do it myself.  It wasn't perfect and she fixed the sleeves, and I wore it, very proudly.  I will be 68 this September and I still love sewing.  I do all sorts of dressmaking, tailoring, wedding gowns, prom gowns and home decorating (window treatments, pillows, etc.-but not slipcovers or reupholstery).  Sometimes I design. Sometimes I use a pattern.  Yes, it's still a lot of fun as well as challenging. 


  25. jchrist877 | | #35

    I learned at my mother's knee, maybe about age 6. She made all of her clothes, plus my brother's (when he was little) and mine till I got to Jr. High. I started for myself when I got my one and only Barbie - so easy to make grest evening gowns!
    I ended up breaking my mom's 1953 Singer and we both sewed on the new 1968 one she bought to replace it. In college I sewed on a 1914 treadle, and then back to the 1968 Singer till 1995 when I got a (WOW) Bernina. I sew for myself, my family, and occasionally for special friends. If I want something, I make it. My clothes, my daughter's prom dress,drapes, quilts, whatever.... I'm a sewing machine junkie. I've got 9, yep, 9. And if the 1968 Singer hadn't bit the dust, I'd have an even 10. Can you tell I like to sew?

  26. mimi | | #36

    Carol:  I started sewing at around 5 (handsewing) my aunt would give me her scraps to make doll clothes when I was around 5.  Needless to say, I was hooked on the something for nothing concept.

    She sent me to Singer to learn to sew by machine at around age 9.  I bought my first (used) sewing machine eight years later with my very first paycheck.  I have progressed through 4 other sewing machines over the years and currently have a Viking, which I love.  I can happily "lose" a whole afternoon sewing:)

    I sew for fit more than anything else; when I was young I was too tall and thin to fit into anything comfortably so I altered all my patterns to fit.  Now--sigh--I am too tall and plus sized to fit into anything off the rack, if it existed!  There are very few attractive plus sized clothes on the market at any price, unless you want to wear black. 

    I have learned how to alter patterns over the years, by instinct and by Threads.  This is what has kept me sewing.  I applaud all the manufacturers who have produced patterns for the plus sized market, they are fueling a new resurgence in sewing.

    Sewing feeds my creative soul, that is what keeps me coming back!


  27. JannaWilson | | #37

    My birthday present when I turned 8 was two patterns for Barbie clothes and permission to use the sewing machine.  I have a summer birthday, so I spent hours creating a doll wardrobe while my Mom, a home ec teacher who left her job to raise a family, watched carefully and made me rip out and start over.  I remember the frustration when the scraps of fabric weren't enough to make the chosen doll outfit. My mom insisted that every scrap I used had to have a selvage, because she made me measure the arrows on every tiny pattern piece to have the grain straight.  I desperately wanted to make a coat and shift dress from red velveteen my mother had use to make me a Christmas dress and my brother a coordinating vest. There weren't enough scraps with selvage so my mom "eyeballed" a couple of pieces to achieve the straight grain, but forbade me to ever do that.  By the following school year, I made my first project for myself:  A lined jumper with a zipper in the center back.  My mother insisted it was easier to make linings than it was to make facings, and now, 35 years later, I tend to agree.  Current project is all the nursery decor for my newly-adopted nephew, including a quilt, bumper pad, bed skirt, sheets, stuffed bear, floor pillows, play mat, diaper caddy and lamp shades, etc.  My sewing room has four "oldies but goodies" Berninas: an 801 Sport, 830 Record, 910 Electronic and a 1230.  The 801 goes to classes, the 910 goes to my brother's house as I custom fit some of the nursery items.  The 830 & 1230 are work-horses, always threaded, one with thread to match a current proejct, and the other with whatever thread matched my latest quick mending project!

    1. DesignsByEvelyn | | #38

      I've enjoyed reading everyones entrys ,It's so wonderful to hear everyones stories!!!!, I think I was around 6-7 years old when I first started learning how to sew, Both of my precious Grandmothers were great seamstresses! I would sit quietly and watch them sew either by hand or by machine for hours!!! Sometimes getting so close that they would have to remind me to move back a little so that they did'nt poke my eye out with the sewing needle!!! I took sewing classes in Jr High school and made a handkerchief top for my mother, and a Tennis outfit for myself. Then We made the cutest animal pillows out of craft fur, I designed my own and sold a few to other teachers in school, My first selling experience!!! Then I Took sewing Classes in High School, The only Class I really Loved!!!! I made my first Lined Jacket and skirt and vest in that class, my only regret is that while I was sewing outfits, I didn't also learn to quilt, too!!! I kept on cotinuining to challenge myself with harder and harder patterns and trickier fabrics as well... Until I landed a job with Tuxedo Wholsalers in Scottsdale Airpark, Scottsdale, Arizona. Making Theatrical pieces out of recycled tuxedos, what a wonderful job, and wonderful friends I had made working there!!!! Then We moved to Tampa Florida and I landed another DREAM JOB at Busch Gardens, Tampa Bay! Making costumes and fitting , and maintaining them for the performers at the park, Those years and those friends, too, I will forever cherish!!!! Now we have moved to Southern California and I have my own sewing studio out of my house where I sew what I want and sell on E-bay!!!! I Just Love to sew and Design and have my Beautful Grandmothers to Thank so much for my love and my inborn love of the art!!!!


  28. greeneyes21 | | #39

    Hi - I began sewing before I was 7 years old. When I was very young I used to sit on the opened-out part of the sewing machine while my mother treadled the machine making clothes for us children. I used to get really frustrated and upset when trying to use the machine. If you didn't get the rhythm right on the treadle the thread would break. However, I kept at it and finally got it! When I was 8 I made baby clothes for my new brother. I found as I got older that it was easier to go downtown, buy fabric, come home and sew and wear it out that evening, than to go to the store and try on clothes. I still feel that way.

    1. greeneyes21 | | #40

      I find all your posts really interesting. I have to add a note here.I received a Singer sewing machine as a wedding gift in 1947. In 1955 my mother bought a Necchi which would do embroidery, etc. I used to borrow it to make my daughter's school dresses really special. When my mother passed away in 1959 I took the Necchi, gave my sister the Singer. I am still sewing on the Necchi. I've sewn seat covers for my cars, Heavy draperies, dainty baby clothes for my girls. I had a Bridal dressmaking business for a few years, sewing on all the fine fabrics. I've make doll clothes and quilts and wonderful cloth dolls and this machine still sews like a charm. I had to sand the "metal bed" of the machine recently as it was flaking. I don't think machines today will stand up to this kind of usage and last as long.

    2. Quilter | | #45

      I was in grade 7, just 12 years old.  The most boring Home Ec class in the world.  That first half year we made (in order) a dish towel from pure linen that we blind hemmed by hand, a pot holder made with flannel for the filling and sewn on an antique Singer treadle sewing machine, and then a bib apron and we hand embroidered our names on the bib.  Next semester, we learned to make (again in order) plain muffins, baking powder biscuits and apple butter.  And yes, it took us the better part of 4 1/2 months to make those three items.  Unbelieveable.  The following year Home Ec started with the cooking component and we learned to can peaches and then I don't remember what came next, but we finished up with boiled dinner! And the last half of Grade 8 we made the most ugly, sleeveless, jewel-necked, box-pleated cotton dress that we were forced to model for our parents at the end of year fashion show. All the sewing was done on the old treadle machines.  Needless to say, I didn't sew again until I was married and had children.  And I basically taught myself.  Over the years my skills have improved quite a bit,  starting with clothes for my toddlers and as they got older, making more complicated garments for them and in the past 20 years I have successfully tailored myself several winter coats, and I make most of my own clothes. The kids are grown and gone, but occasionally my daughter calls and asks me to make her something. Over the years I've tackled quite a few things, and I made teddy bears from recycled fur coats and collector bears from mohair. In the past 5 years I've taken up quilting (bet no one guessed that! ;-) and I absolutely love it.  So much fabric...so little time!  And I've really enjoyed reading everyone's sewing experiences. 


      Edited because sometimes I just can't type.

      Edited 5/26/2006 10:52 pm ET by Quilter

      1. greeneyes21 | | #54

        You made me laugh! I had to take Home Ec in Jr. High , Gr. 7,8,9, and in first year of High School. Somehow I got through the boring classes. I remember Waldorf Salad (with apples and nuts) that I hated and we had to make creamed, chipped beef on toast. When I made the sauce,after the teacher graded, I put the whole thing in the sink to soak. I wasn't about to eat it! In high school, my friend and I sewed "nose bags" to keep our noses warm on the long walk to and from school. (Got sent to the office for that one because we giggled so much in class) I never baste. So, in High School, I'd "baste" with no thread in the needle, run up to the sewing machine when teacher wasn't looking and put the garment together. It's a wonder anyone sewed or cooked after having home ec. in school.

        1. Quilter | | #55

          Time then to admit to something about those dreadful dresses we had to sew.  This was way before anything like a serger and of course those old treadle machines just straight stitched so...we had to fold over and stitch down the edges of the sleeve facings.  I made a horrible mess of mine, and the teacher took one look at them and told me to take out the stitches and re-do them.  Well, I wasn't going to go to all that work, so I just took my scissors and trimmed off the offending edges and then folded the raw edge over and stitched them down and then handed in the garment for marking.  I still remember the comment on my report..."those are the shallowest facings I've ever seen".  I got a glorious 67 percent on that project.  No wonder I didn't sew again until I was in my 20s. 

        2. SuzyQ2u | | #68

          5039.69 in reply to 5039.56 

          Greeneyes21,  I enjoyed you talking about home-ec.  I am glad I did not have a teacher like yours.  Only one of my home-ec teachers was not fun.  That was in my senior year of hs.  I loved taking home-ec from the 7th - 11th. grades.  I will admit is was because I was teachers pet all those years.  I got to help the girls and boys that did not know as much because my mom, grandma and aunts had taught me so much before I stared home-ec classes it was just a plum class to me.  Always my easy A class.

          But my senior class was the pits.  I totally disliked the teacher and we came to agree just to stay out of each others ways.  It worked and I still got my A.

          I have always liked basting anything I sewed by hand first.  I just loved to feel the texture of the fabric.  I loved feeling the movement of the fabric and seeing how it draped.

          My mom and dad had a motel and cafe so cooking was a blast for me.  I did get in trouble for not following the recipe.  I always had to add my own favorite seasonings.   

  29. milch | | #41

    My Mom sewed and when i was in 4th grade she signed up my sister and me into 4H because they were teaching sewing at that time there. We were making a gathered skirt. I took each lesson and when i went home, my mom sewed it for me. The one day she said, "I sewed through this waistband 3 times, so you won't have any trouble about it coming apart." Don't ask me why a sewer would do that and maybe i didn't understand her right, but that's what i came away with. When i went to my next lesson, the teacher said, "Sorry, girls. My instructions how to do the waistband were incorrect. Now you must rip it out before we go on."  So ripping out was the rest of my time spent there. I ran fast and far from sewing till i had sewing in 7th and 8th grade (required)

     with the most wonderful home ec teacher.  I found I was really good at it and loved it as well.  I've never stopped sewing since.  I am 60 yrs old and it's all i want to do.

  30. gwenc | | #42

    Hi all

    My mother sewed most of our clothes out of necessity, and I really longed for "bought" clothes like my school mates had until I was in high school.   Then, we (the girls) did needlework which encompassed basic hand sewing and a little embroidery, knitting and moved on to simple machine sewing (apron, slip) and later, to a lined winter skirt and more adventurous patterns.  When I went to university I sewed some clothes but didn't do anything very exciting until I bought a new sewing machine in my thirties to replace my elderly Singer which only went forwards and backwards.

    My first evening gown was a simple empire line dress which I made for a stuedent formal.  If I had not sewn it, I could not have gone as my means were very limited.  I have gradually learned more skills but still feel there is much to learn.

    Now in my fifties, I love working with a range of textiles and modalities, and my main problem is squeezing my activities into the limited time I have for them after work and family.  I also use an overlocker (serger), blind hemmer and an embroidery machine.

    My other crafty passions are cross stitch, knitting, beading, paper crafts and silk paper.

  31. user-160296 | | #43

    I must have been 6 or 7 when my dad-granma decided that if I could hold a knife and fork, I was ready to sew. Both of my grans were seamstresses and embroiderers, probably out of necessity as school was out of the question back then. My work was inspected and commented on, with corrections pointed out with love and respect for the effort made. My proudest moment was when I hand-embroidered and hand-finished a tray set for my Granma and sent it to Wales for Christmas.She sent back a photo of her and the Vicar of our old church proudly displaying the precious gift.When she died, the tray set was found in a drawer, still wrapped in the tissue I sent it in.My mom brought it home and it is still being used now.The lessons taught to me stay with me, and I try to pass them on to my girls in the same way.By the way, that was 45 years ago.

  32. Sewwhatsports | | #44

    Like most of you I was young when I started.  My Grandmother first taught me how to do simple embroidery.  She drew a teacup on muslin and taught me stem stitch.  She learned to sew at the adult classes they had at the local high school to make clothes for me and my sister.  When she started me sewing she had me sew on lined paper without thread until I could sew a straight line.  We progressed to angles and then spirals.  After I mastered them all I got to make my first skirt.  The most memorable piece I did with her was a red jumper.  I took that zipper out so many times that the fabric started to shred.  But She stood behind me with a hand on my shoulder saying "Keep going, you'll get it right."  And eventually I did.  I then progressed to the classes at the Singer store until I was 16 or 17.  I remember during my senior year in high school I did a tailored jacket with bound buttonholes while everyone else was doing dresses with set in sleeves and a zipper.

    I continued to sew all during nursing school to supplement my income.  As my kids grew up they had many outfits.  My daughter eventually did not want me to make things for her in high school but now loves when I do things for her.  And now I have a grandson and 2 special neices that benefit from my sewing.

    I took a break from nursing for a little over 3 years to follow a dream and worked as a manager of a company store and a educator for a major sewing machine company.  I loved every minute of it. 

    I continue to do all types of sewing and now machine embroidery and design.  I am working on my first book, an embroidered quilt.  Hopefully it will be out within a year.

    Like all of you, I could not see my life without the joy of sewing.  It is my passion and my saving grace.  I will be forever grateful to my Grandmother for teaching me.


    Rena in Delaware


  33. user-160364 | | #46

    I don't remember learning - my first memory is about age 7 or 8 - making doll clothes by hand on the back porch out of my dress scraps.  This was about 1953.  I must have been very young when I learned - I also don't remember learning how to embroider - I just always seemed to know - My mother did not like hand work so she taught me early to sew buttons and snaps.  my first garment was a red and white polka dotted skirt that I gathered by hand and I basted the side seams so the dots would match.  I was 8 at the time.  Yes it was great fun - my mother made all my clothes.  and I loved being unique.  no one had pretty clothes like mine.   Thanks for bringing back the memories. 

  34. mayoja | | #47

    I was 9 yrs old when my mom taught me how to sew at her Singer machine. I enjoyed it better than sewing by hand and lost interest in my piano lessons.

     I haven't stopped sewing since that time of learning. I have continued to try new things and have been self-taught. I didn't have Home Ec class in high school to learn sewing. My artistic talent helped me develope my sewing abilities. Reading "Threads" magazine has helped me to develope my sewing skills. I enjoy the "Master classes" and even a refresher class from the "Beginner basic" articles. From the information gathered from "Threads", I have expanded my business of sewing to include slipcovers for furniture. Soon to purchase an embroidery machine to add to my  services that I can provide to my customers.

    I enjoy sewing because I can create what I want & how I want. I'm in control of my wardrobe. I don't have to wear what the fashion industry says is in style. Sometimes it is something that is not flattering to my heavy hips. I can be comfortable in the fit of my clothing.

    Always sewing, Mabel in Philadelphia PA

  35. veevee2001 | | #48

    I was actually introduced to sewing with a VERY basic method. When I was around 5 years of age my mother cut a brown paper bag in half and threaded a very large plastic needle with yarn. She told me to sit and stitch.

    Once I was of school age my grandmother would occasionally pick me up from school. She would give me scraps of fabric and a threaded needle and let me stitch for hours. My grandmother was always sewing so I had alot to practice with.

    One summer my mother enrolled me at a basic sewing camp for children. I believe I was around 12 years old. I had never seen so many beautiful colors. I learned to use a sewing machine at that time. It was wonderful.

    I have sewn on and off for years with my mother's sewing machine. Sewing kept my mind at ease during difficult times. More recently I have come back to sewing. I am now 27 and have 2 little girls. I was appalled at the fashions for my almost 5 year old. My husband and I were having a terrible time finding suitable clothing for her. Shorts are way to short and halter tops for children, it's horrific. After researching sewing machines I bought one as my mother's day gift to myself. It has been lovely. I am working on having a wardrobe of Capri style pants for my school age child as well as lots of pink dresses for my youngest.

  36. user-160393 | | #49

    I was 10 years old.  My mom had gone to an estate sale and come home with an old Singer "pedal" machine.  For those of you who don't know what that is---it's a machine that uses good old foot and leg power to run it.  My sister and I looked at it in absolute horror!  Then mom told us  that when we learned to sew using it, we could use her new Viking.  I jumped right in and never looked back.  I've continued to sew for another 42 years.  My first machine was a Riccar 600FA that I purchased the year I got married.  30 years later and it still runs like a dream! 

  37. user-21371 | | #50

    Hi! I started to sew in 7th grade. I was 12 years old. Being tall and skinny and couldn't find clothes to fit me, my mother found a woman tailor from the 'old country'; somewhere in Europe to teach me and others. It took a lot of practice, however, by my sophomore year in high school I began to sew without using patterns. I cut and sewed as I thought it should be. No one could tell my clothes were made by me. I've been sewing for over 40 years now. I should say I don't sew much clothing now. I got into quilting and enjoy it for the camaraderie of the quilt guilds. I teach some sewing and quilting.


  38. flossie | | #51

    I was eleven when my mum bought me a Singer 99K machine because she had never learnt to use one (she always sewed by hand). I started making my own dresses and learnt from the pattern instructions. I am now 54 and on to my fourth machine and I also own an overlocker and a coverstitch machine. I sew for family and friends and have made dance costumes, deb dresses, wedding dresses and even a suit for my adult son because he couldn't find exactly what he was looking for. I mostly draft my own patterns now and its good  to hear my son and daughters say "no, I didn't buy it - Mum made it"

    regards Pauline (Melbourne , Australia)

  39. SuzyQ2u | | #52

    My mom told me I started sewing hems in everything that I could get my hands on when I was 4.  I still like sewing hems by hand. 

    I started sewing on a machine when I was 7.   I loved making hankys.  I still do.

    Sewing always make we feel at peace and still give my great joy after 54 yrs.

    My greatest hero's are my sewing teachers.  They are my mother, Becky, my aunt ,Annie Laurie, and my grandma Lucy.

    Edited 5/27/2006 12:53 pm ET by SuzyQ2u

  40. sherimy | | #53

    I started sewing when I was 6 years old, back in the 1960's. I started out with simple doll clothes. My grandmother lived with us and she taught me how to sew on her treadle sewing machine. I loved to sit at that machine and make the needle go up and down by rocking the treadle with my feet!

    My mother always sewed a lot--she made most of my clothes. I remember taking home economics in junior high (7-9 grade). I lived about two blocks from school and in the summer they offered sewing classes. You could make anything you wanted, so I made skirts and purses.

    Years later, I have kids of my own and I still sew. Most of my sewing is creative alterations or embellishment of clothing for my kids. Sometimes I can't find what I want in the store, so I just make it! My mother is 76 and she still sews, too. She has a huge stockpile of fabric, buttons, trim, thread, zippers...you name it. I always go "shopping" at her house before I start a new project.


  41. user-160759 | | #56

    I have been sewing as long as I can remember.  I was raised by my Grandmother who said that I started asking for a needle a thread as soon as I could talk.  She would always say " No, you'll stick yourself".  She said she finally got tired of me asking and gave me a needle and thread and told me to go ahead thinking that the first time I stuck myself in the finger, that I would stop hounding her all the time.  Well, the rest as they say, is history.  I never put that needle and thread down.  I also remember being barely tall enough to see the bed of the treadle machine that my Grandmother always used.  But that did not stop me.  I would stand in front of the machine, treadle with my right foot and guide fabric with my hands and sew and sew and sew.  My Grandmother had a dear friend who was a seamstress in our town.  She would let me come over now and then with 2 paper grocery sacks and go through her scrap boxes.  Oh, what JOY abounded on those occasions.  I would come home with satins and brocades and ginghams and all sorts of what I considered to be treasures.  I made Barbie doll clothes, pillows, treasure sacks, pot holders and anything else I could think of.  I still have the first rag doll I made thanks to my Grandmothers wonderful insight.  I must have been 5 or 6 when I made it.  I still sew but I have moved on to bigger and better things.  I sew anything from home-dec, costumes, clothing, doll clothes, but my passion is heirloom sewing.  I have two embroidery machines (Viking), and two sergers.  I have taught childrens' classes as well as heirloom sewing.  If ever the day comes that I must give it up, I will probably be ready to meet my maker.



  42. MarshaK | | #57

    I first learned to sew 'properly' in junior high's Home Ec classes, as well as basic cooking. I do have vague memories of sitting with my grandfather with needle and thread, can't remember what we were sewing though. One of my uncle's taught me how to knit, he learned while working in a logging camp in Ontario. I sewed some garments for myself during my school years, on my grandmother's treadle sewing machine, then when I moved away from home I stopped sewing. I am 5'11" tall, I could at the time get away with buying men's jeans, the fit was perfect on me. Years later when I married I began sewing again, I had ordered a dress from the Sears catalog to wear to a wedding, and saw the same dress on two other women at that wedding! The sewing machine that my husband had bought for me to do mending on came out with a vengance and I haven't stopped sewing since. Now my wardrobe has very few 'store-bought' garments, looking at some of the things that are offered for sale in the stores and catalogs makes me very thankful that I have no need to follow the 'trends' as so many out there do, (and look absolutely terrible in the garments that don't suit them, but fashion magazines and Hollywood dictates that they MUST buy and wear!) I like to have clothes that are individual, unique and Me. To this end some of the things I make are embellished in a great variety of ways. One of the girls who went to school at the same time I did, always compliments me on whatever I'm wearing, but it seems to be a back-handed one, she makes it sound as though it's so hard to believe I'm clever or talented enough to be able to sew something that is good enough to wear in public. My husband told me it's just jealousy--I wear designer clothes, and I'm the designer. I sew his shirts as well, even made him a pair of 'cut-off' jeans that had one of his sister's asking him why  he cut a new pair of jeans up. Since that first sewing machine, I have added six others to my collection plus two sergers and a treadle machine.  I think sewing with a treadle machine would keep our feet, ankles and legs in better shape than any StairMaster could!


  43. Herring | | #58

    I'm a newbie to this message board so hello everyone.

    The first bit of sewing I remember doing was a doll's skirt for a 'Bring & Buy' sale while I was on holiday at my grandparents' - aged 4.  It was hand sewn and had unpressed pleats and a contrast waistband!!!  I think my Gran must have shown me what do - she was a beautiful seamstress and my mum and dad always sent me to visit in my oldest clothes.  I'd come home fully kitted out in new clothes from head to toe.

    We began sewing at school around age 7  with handstitching and embroidery before graduating to a treadle machine.  Although I'm old enough to have been at school when sewing for girls was a compulsory part of the curriculum until age 14, I learned more about sewing, knitting and crochet from my mum and grandmothers. 

    By the time I became a teenager I was making many of my own clothes and the skill enabled me to keep up with the rapidly changing trends in 'street fashion' required to keep my end up at the 'dancing' at the weekend.

    I started earning money from sewing at about age 16 by making things for friends.  This became a professional practice when I moved to the USA aged 25.  It also kept the wolf from the door for a few years when I returned to Scotland 13 years later.

    I still accept the odd commission from friends but mostly now sew for myself.  I do it because I love fabric, I love clothes and sewing has got me through some tough times both financially and emotionally - I hand crocheted lace edgings for every roller blind and lamp in the house while going through a marriage break-up.  It was either that or a nervous breakdown.

    I'm well on my way now to winning the 'She who dies with most fabric, wins.' contest and plan to leave my collection to the nation along with the world's largest collection of pillow cases - I swear - 40 at last count!

    1. User avater
      LLaMona | | #59

      My first sewing project was when I was around 5 or 6 years old.  My Grandmother was the sewist in the family.  She gave me a Singer, hand cranked mini-sewing machine on which I learn to sew squares together and made a small quilt.  I still have that machine.

      I then took sewing in Home Ec. a required subject in the 7th and 8th grade.  I made a blouse which ended up fitting my mother, not me.  I then made a skirt.

      I sewed off and on during high school.  Then quit for awhile.  My Grandmother purchased an old Singer machine for me when I got married and I sewed clothes for myself with that, this was early 70's.  I traded the machine in for another Singer machine with cams that allowed for fancy stitches.

      I continued to sew until early 80's then quit for awhile and started again in the late 80's and have continued since. 

      1. carolfresia | | #60

        What a great start to a post-holiday weekend! Thanks to everyone who has shared a story about early sewing experiences--you've certainly brightened my Monday (no, I guess it's Tuesday) morning with your memories of learning to sew. And with your obvious love of sewing today, no matter how long you've been at it.

        My one complaint: I wish I'd managed to squeeze in some sewing time this weekend! My sewing space has windows all the way around three walls, so it's almost like being outside. On a lovely weekend like this one, it's delightful to work there, watching the maple seeds helicopter down.


        1. Elene | | #90

          Aside from home ec, I learned to sew as a young bride at 20 y.o. My mother and grandmother had always made all of my clothes and I got the bug to start one day. I bought a pattern, fabric and pins, but didn't think about a good scissors. After work, I laid out the fabric and pattern on the bed, but my cheap scissors wouldn't cut the fabric. I could not wait until the next day to buy a better pair, so I cut out the entire dress with my manicure scissors! Because of the curving blades, it looked like it had been cut with pinking shears. We lived 90 miles away from my mother so if I had a question, or got stumped on how to do something, I had to wait until the weekend to bring the dress home to her to ask.  I learned to have more patience, but I never lost my passion for sewing.  I am now 67 and have made just about everything you can think of. I love a challenge. I even made my husband a "Neru" jacket when they first came into fashion and also a corderoy sports coat. I've made him lots of ties, which are an easy project. I took a course in drapery making and  I made all the drapes for my house ( 11 windows) and all of the drapes for my husband's office in an old victorian house.  I made all of my clothes and all of my children's clothes until they were old enough to realize that they wanted "store-bought" clothes like everyone else (jeans and t-shirts and stuff).  I don't make my clothes any longer, mostly just do alterations and sewing "projects" like garment bags, tote bags, pillows, etc. I just always seem to have to sew something !! The urge never goes away.  

          1. Ralphetta | | #91

            You are MY kind of sewer.  I laughed really hard about the manicure scissors because I am just as determined/stubborn and could see myself doing something like that.

          2. Elene | | #92

            This column has really helped me to see that others do similar crazy things as I do with my sewing. I'm always hesitant to admit my mistakes to friends who don't sew and think I'm a genius because I can. Why disillusion them????

            I took sewing in Home Ec in grammar school, but I actually semi taught myself to sew (with my mother's advice and guidance) at age twenty when I was first married.  Since then, I've read books and magazines (Threads,in particular), taken a few advanced courses, and made thousands of garments and other things, teaching myself by trial and error.   A lot of costly errors, I'm afraid.

  44. User avater
    Becky-book | | #61

    I think I was 10 years old (that would be 42 yrs ago) when my Mom let me touch her Singer Featherweight portable that sat in its card table in the corner of her bedroom.  She showed me how to use it safely then let me raid her scrap box to make doll clothes and pillow critters.  By the time I hit Home Ec class I had already made several aprons, so I got permission to make a gym bag like the boys.  That only took a part of one class period so I asked the teacher if I could bring in a project from home; my green corduroy jumper. I did not really want to be graded on the finished product; I think she gave me a B because the gathers in the front yoke were not quite even. I wore that thing for years.

    I had to sew in order to get clothes to fit myself and my three girls and I enjoyed making matching outfits for us.  Then they each developed their own sense of style and our matching days were over.  Each of their wedding gowns was a unique creation.  The youngest wanted to wear my gown but was too tall so we made a new skirt for it based on the original design.

    Now I teach (informally) other's girls until my own grandchildren are old enough to "reach the pedal" of my machine.

    1. solosmocker | | #62

      One of the things that repeatedly comes up and amazes me in these "learning to sew" posts is how many of us learned at the Singer store. I know machine stores today that have classes that are machine related, or more related to specific garments or quilts, but I don't know of any that teach young girls to sew like the Singer company did. What a wonderful thing it would be to offer classes to our young people! Talk about gauranteeing a customer for life! I hope some store owners will latch on to this concept. Teach one, reach one, and that one is a customer as well as a sewist.

  45. estelle | | #63

    42 years ago,  I was a new bride of 19 years recently transfered to my new husband duty station.  Within a short time I was alone as my husband was deployed with the Navy.  I taught myself to sew to keep from being lonely as I was away from my family and friends.  Many mistakes and tears later, I finally succeeded in being able to sew a decent garment. The rest is history.  I love to sew more than anything.  My husband is still my biggest fan in all my sewing projects.   

  46. Bettefan | | #64

    I started at eleven. My first project was a skintight fitted sheath dress - for my Barbie! There were doll patterns that had instruction booklets with all the basics on hems, darts, etc. My mother was a great sewer, and she must have encouraged me to try...there were tons of scraps around the house.

           I went on to skirts and jumpers...and I was off and running! Back in the '60s department stores all had fabric departments, and there were Grants and Woolworth, so fabric and patterns were everywhere.

           I have made just about everything, and I am lucky enough to have two daughters, so sewing is a big part of my life.  And I adore Threads...I've learned so much from it.


  47. JanF | | #65

    Hi - i'm new to this facility - but not to sewing - in fact can't really remember when I learnt to sew but I presume it was before i was about 4. i expect i started by knitting - as that was what Mum did a lot of the time - but my Grandmother was a seamstress in London around the 1910 mark and was always sewing whenever we went to see them. in fact she specialised in hand decoration of Edwardian clothing and i think that is where my love of sewing comes from.

    My first machine was working my other gran's treadle sewing machine - so I think as I needed to reach the treadle I must have been about 6/7 yrs old. I did do hand stitching before that!

    In the 60's I used to make my friends mini dresses - which didn't take long - or much fabric - and I used to spend hours searching a weekly street market in the locality (North Wales) for cheap fabric etc.

    Sadly those days of cheap GOOD fabric have gone. Here in Uk I'm afraid to say that dressmaking fabrics are either expensive - or cheap synthetic stuff - which I hate to use - even though I can appreciate their diversity!

    I am a teacher of textile arts in the local secondary school, for my sins, so I have literally spent most of my life to date working with machines/young adults and fabrics! I like to specialise in machine embroidery - when I get the chance to do my own stuff and I have a penchant for making corsetry - so im thinking that this will be an avenue for me when I retire from teaching!

    I have to say I only found Threads magazine by chance 2 years ago - and since then have constantly been reminded how there is always something new to learn! I love the magazine - but hate the amount of advertising - especially as its all over there and not here!!! I do wish there was more involvement from textile workers in this country - but it may be that I just miss those letters. I'm sure there is a lot of textile work going on over here that would be of interest across the Pond! and perhaps Ill find the time now to contribute to the mag. (needless to say at the moment I'm at home after having surgery to remove my gallbladder - I'm not usually able to spend this time surfing!!)

    I'd love to hear any comments from other UK readers but would welcome any info/ideas etc. from others as to how we can still carry the torch for textile work.

    I do have one querry - felting fabric - I've had a divil of a job trying to find a supplier of wool jersey for me to felt as per info from the mag - anyone know a good supplier that I can access via the net?

    sorry - realise I'm going on - obviously spent too much time at home - I need to get out! Good thing when I can get back to driving - needless to say I have already been on my sewing machine!

  48. Simka | | #66

    Hi everyone!

    I learned to sew by hand for my dolls starting with dresses made from paper napkins, back in 1960 (I was 6 years old). When I was 12, I took Home Ec and started to use a real sewing machine. My sister and I were always arguing over clothes.(Mainly because she would just go to my side of the closet and take stuff without asking me). She was a "clothes horse" who was big enough to fit into a variety of sizes. My parents were always buying her whatever she wanted. I was a "runt" who could never find anything to fit and any store bought clothing was always a little too big. When I complained, my mother's reply was..."I know that you know how to use a sewing machine". One day, my sister grabbed a jumper that I had just finished the night before. She had a tantrum that went on for 15 minutes because it simply didn't fit her!!!! BIG LIGHTBULB MOMENT!! Needless to say, revenge was sweet:)and I have been sewing ever since. I am still so addicted that I am planning to start my own sewing business this summer. Thank you Tauton Press for this forum!!

  49. rekha | | #67

    I cannot see the point of this exercise unless you are trying to establish whether prior learning behaviour affects later use of this skill. So what?

  50. ladyrider | | #69


    I'm not sure how old I was when I learned to sew.  I just know I was very young and learned at my grandmother's knee.  The first project I can remember sewing was a simple apron. You remember, (or maybe not, I don't know how old you are, but they ARE in the pattern books now --- I think) the ones that were a simple square or rectangle gathered on a "string" waistband with a couple of square pockets added to the front. And it was made entirely by hand. Grandma taught me to sew by making strip-quilt blocks pieced onto squares of paper cut from old catalogs. I remember her making sure that my stitches were consistent and the same size. I'm sure they probably weren't as small as they should have been at times but she kept encouraging me.  This started my love of sewing.  She also taught me to crochet but couldn't slow herself down to teach me to tat.  She pieced quilt tops until she couldn't anymore.

    My most memorable project at a young age, I amazingly still have.  My mother saved it for me.  I think because she was so amazed that I made it.  When I was in the 3rd or 4th grade (8 or 9) I called her at work and asked for a piece of material out of her stash (she didn't sew but had a small collection of fabric for some reason) that I was enamoured with.  It had paintbrushes and paint palettes on it. At that time 9 (the late 60's), the "sailor" skirts were in style --- the ones with the four gold buttons in front. I had never made any clothing but I was determined to have one of those skirts! No, I didn't have a pattern but I figured out how to make it look how I wanted it to.  I even sewed in darts in the back to fit me.  I made a 3-4" hem so I could have a hidden pocket in the hem and I cut slits for the buttonholes.  I didn't know you were suppose to bind the holes and you weren't suppose to cut away the extra fabric in the darts. And yes, it was all sewn by hand.  I had never been introduced to a sewing machine.  When my mother got home, she had a curious look on her face and asked me to show her why I just HAD to have her material. She was amazed that I had made that little skirt.  And yes, I wore it to school and wore it proudly.

    Since then, I have sewn for my children as they have grown (they miss that I haven't sewn for them in the past several years) and I've even done custom sewing from my home in past years.  I love the creativity of making something whether it be sewing, crocheting, woodwork, etc.  I haven't gotten to sew for a few years but now I have a motorcycle so can you guess my next adventure to try?  Yep, a pair of custom chaps! And maybe a vest and eventually a jacket....hmmm......just have to figure out the leather thing!



  51. SchnauzerMom | | #70

    I'm not really sure how old I was, I think about 7 or 8.  My mom taught me to sew and I made doll clothes.  She let me use her machine, it was a Sears Kenmore.  As I got older I started making clothes for myself and have been doing it off and on ever since.  I'm almost 52 now!  I loved it as a child and still love it today.

    Edited 7/16/2006 12:36 pm ET by SchnauzerMom

    1. meanmommy | | #71

      I was probably about 12 years old...I wanted a pair of hot pants and a pair of bell bottoms....My mom has been making me very frilly , girly clothes...she said to me...If you can make it yourself, you can wear it...I haven't looked back since.   

      My bellbottoms were purple with Indian Braid at the bottom...and the hot pants were tastefully done in black with a striped t-shirt that went with them....I'm now 47 y/o and I still have those patterns, as well as any other pattern I've used since then.



    2. cheetahgirl | | #72

      I was bored the summer I was 10 and taught myself how to sew.  The first thing I made was swimsuit.  It was very easy...I made it out of very lightweight terry cloth.  Needless to say it was a soaking disaster the first time in the pool!  It fell off!  It was too too funny.  I'm still sewing 32 years later.  Now I'm starting to teach my young nieces (7 and 14) to sew. 

      1. SchnauzerMom | | #73

        I was about 7 or 8 years old.  The first things I made were doll clothes.  I didn't start making clothes for myself untill I was about 12 or 13.  Been doing it off and on ever since.

        1. bobbysox | | #74

          I first remember sitting on the floor under the fold-out extension of my Mom's sewing machine table while she sewed - I was about 6, and was sewing doll clothes while she made my clothes.  Back then, they either didn't make doll clothes patterns or we didn't have the money for them (I'm 60 now) so I learned to sew by actually fitting and cutting the fabric to fit the doll's body.  Didn't know about seam allowance at first, but I learned fast!  I continued making doll clothes that way as long as I made them... they were one's-of-a-kind, and my cousin still talks about the doll clothes I made for her dollies.  My mother taught me how to use a pattern, and I began sewing for myself about 6th or 7th grade, and by high school age, Iwas sewing for her. 

          I find particular satisfaction in altering clothes so that you can't tell it's been done.  Have worked for retail stores, dry cleaners and for myself doing alterations, and of course, sewed for my children and myself.  It's a wonderful stress-reliever!

      2. user-167104 | | #75

        THAT is funny! I smiled reading that thinking when you said you made it of terry cloth what it must have looked like wet, before I read what it did look like. Didn't think of it falling off! That's a great story.

        I started sewing not too much after that. I think the first time I sewed was 7th grade home ec. been sewing since. Did quite a bit during teen years. With God's grace and busy sewing machine pretty well stayed out of trouble. Then I began quilts and other things. Still like to sew clothes, but added other sewing to my schedule and wish I had more time. So many things to do, and so little time to get it all done.


        1. thehat | | #76

          Hi  just came on line and and seen your thread just started quilting about 5years and been doing it on and of f I have been sewing for 40 years .and the first outfit was a dressyellow/small flowers and a purse to go with it nothing spectacular  but I liked it my mother had an  elna and we either had to make it oursef or we did`nt have new clothes and we would pour over the the fashion mag - that was what you did when you had a sister s that was alwas using you as their fashion  dress fourm and I was short and they would stand me on the table to see if this or that looks like it will make a good out fit.                                                                                                     this thursday I have quilt club  and I would like to play a game does any one know of a game that    older ladies .can play and have a good time doing it       thanks for your help

          1. fabricholic | | #77

            Every six months or so, we have game night at our church. We have some bought games such as: Pictionary, Scattergories, and Uno. Partner up and try some of these. I'm sure you can pick up these at the local Wal-Mart store in the toy section. Have fun.Marcy

          2. mawsev | | #81

            I learned to sew when I was about 5 years old on a tiny Singer sewing machine made for children in the  60s . My older sister encouraged me and I wanted my Barbie dolls decked out in high fashion. My mother and grandmothers all sewed. The Singer Touch and Sew was a cherished machine, not to be trifled with. Unfortunately, since I learned to sew on a machine, my hand sewing has never been anything to write home about although I can embroider very nicely.

            I love wearing clothes which fit. I'm only 5'08", but have a really long back. In junior high, I had to make my skirts because store bought were too short for the dress code. My back-waist measurement is about an inch longer than average, as are my arms, so if I wanted a prom dress to fit correctly, I made it myself.  I also have a large difference between waist an hip- 13-14". 

            Sewed for money at home while I was pregnant and until my son was a year old. It sure was challenging to sew for people who insisted they were size 8 and they needed a pattern size 14!

          3. user-197424 | | #82

            I believe I was about 8 or 9 when my mother started teaching me how to sew.  I have small Singer childrens machine that my mother bought me to sew on.  You would have to turn the handle to make it go.  Later I was sewing on her Singer machine and that was a good running machine.  I loved it.  I started making all of my clothes back then even challenging garments.  My mother made me make her an evening dress and I was very nervous.  But it came out beautiful and she wore it to a function and told everyone I had made it and they could not believe it.  I was about 12 years old then.  My dad had me duplicate a work jacket he had.  I took it apart and made a pattern out of it and made the jacket exactly.  He was so happy.  He wore it work. I think I still have it too.  I first real sewing machine was a Kenmore from Sears.  Now I have many machines and I love them all.  I miss when my dad used to take me to the fabric stores and wait for me to buy all the items I needed to make an outfit for myself.  He was very patient with me with my sewing.  I also know how to hand embroider, crochet, and knit a little.

          4. thehat | | #84

            My dad would take my sisters and  I to a town and drop us off and let us go shopping all day and we had a fabric store and we would pour over  the pattern books and then pick a pattern and then go pick out fabric and stay with in our limit because we still had the rest of the day and that included food

          5. user-197424 | | #86

            That sounds like it was a lot of fun.  None of my friends that I grew up with sew.  Now I wish I had a sister that knew how to sew, so I would of had someone to sew with.

          6. thehat | | #83

            hi ya I know how that goes I was in my freshman year in school and this lady asked me to make a square dance outfit  what fun she had just almost enough cloth it was a good thing that she was short the hemwas aturn over and the cancan was longer then the skirt andI made it look like I did it on purpose thanks to a few left over scrapes   but as you said the size they believe they you have to be nice a bout it and just ask to just to make sure and you agree and make notes and add=and add    HA

          7. Ralphetta | | #85

            l learned to sew when I was about 5.  I sewed on my mother's machine and I made a white flannel kimono for my baby doll, with a red ribbon around the neck that tied under the chin.  When I washed it I learned a valuable lesson...not to put a red ribbon on a white gown because it "ran" all over the gown.

          8. rauth96 | | #87

            I learn to sew when I was five at my grand mothers treadle sewing machine, making doll clothes. About two months later I sewed through my index finger on my left hand and had to get stitches. I wear my scar with pride and look back at all of the clothes I have made.

          9. thehat | | #88

            the clothes that I love to make are the ones form the 40`s  and 50`s  and the out fits from King Arther time and ware them when I go out I love hats and wareing them I am going to make gloves to go with the out fit it should be fun  the Idea of having a complet outfit that makes people stop and look is fun.


  52. pamvancouver | | #78

    Hi Carol,

     Like most of the posts here I come from a family of sewers.  Both  my grandmothers' mothers were professional seamstresses.  My greatgrandmother Wood has a couturiere in London Onterio, While my greatgrandmother Rouleaux  supported her children as a dressmaker in rural alberta.  The first project I remember was when I was about 5 years old. I "helped" my grandma make me a peasant blouse and then I used the cams on her new elna to make rows & rows of colourful stitches around the neckline. My grandmother loved to sew and I truly miss the times that we spent together in her sewing room.  I remember shopping for beautiful fabrics back in the days when all the department and specialty stores would have liberty cottons and luxurious wool crepes.  What has kept me intrigued with sewing all these years is the creativity of making something beautiful.  Also even as a teenager I had a very small waist in proportion to my hips  - about 15" - and I couldn't buy cloths that would fit me.  I sew to have beautiful, well made clothes that fit and flatter me.  I have to admit I am glad that I learned at the age I did.  At 5, I wore that peasant blouse with pride and enjoyment;  at 42 I don't know if I would have the patience to allow myself the "learning" experiences" and spend the time I needed to master fitting, garment construction and what flatters my body type.

    1. Wilie | | #79

      I truly don't rememberwhen I frist learned to sew.  My Mother and both grandmothers sewed though none were professional .Their  sewing was for need or they couldn't find just the right dress. The first "real" sewing I remember was the jumper in junior high school.  I got the arm facings in upside down and backward I still don't know how I did it. The project came home and Mom helped to fix it. She taught me the trick of zigzagging facing eadges to make a flat finish and using the zigzag to attach the hem binding.  My home ec teacher had never seen such a thing.  She also didn't tell the class to preshrink thier cotton corduroy fabric which was necessary then if you planed it wear the dress more than once.  You know    what happened. I wore mine for many years. 

      I'm still sewing more than 40 years later and still loving it.




      1. Leetee | | #80

        I remember my first sewing lesson at 5 years old. My grandmother handed me a box of buttons for a quilt she was finishing and taught me to sew the first couple on and then I did the rest! That day I learned to sew buttons and to count to 50! From that day until she died, my grandmother taught she everything she knew about garment making. My first solo outfit was at eight years old done on a singer treadle sewing machine for Easter Sunday.

  53. Georgette | | #89

    I am only 4'10" tall, and as a teenager was a size 2 ... so I learned to sew in desperation, because I didn't want to still be wearing clothes from the children's department when I was 16 years old.  It didn't take long for me to be completely hooked, and since then I have sewn a million miles ... clothes, curtains, soft furnishings, dance costumes, halloween costumes, baby clothes ... the list goes on.

    When I was in my early twenties I would go fabric shopping at lunch time, cut out and sew the garment that evening and wear it to work the next day ... and revel in all the compliments I received.  I couldn't understand why anyone would pay lots of money to buy clothes that weren't unique.

    When I retired my husband and I bought a large Victorian home (1872) with high ceilings and many, many large windows. So now that I no longer need smart clothes for the office, I'm busy making drapes and blinds as well as cushion covers etc.   I have a small sewing room where my machine and serger are never put away.   Along with gardening, sewing is my therapy.  And a month ago our first grandchild - a darling little boy - was born, so now I have a whole new incentive for sewing.

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