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sewing circle?

marijke | Posted in General Discussion on

OK, this wasn’t in Threads, but perhaps other Threads readers also are uncomfortable about how sewing is portrayed in the July issue of Parents Magazine.  An article with the title “Sewing Circle” claims that “Nobody makes her own clothes anymore.”  Later, the author states that if her kid showed up at preschool in a homemade outfit “she’d probably be laughed out of circle time.”  However, more problematic to me is the article’s attitude that making clothes just isn’t worth it, because you can buy things so cheaply. 

I’ve written Parents about this.  It’s offensive to me to assume that people sew only out of necessity.  Sure, it saves me money when I can make something nice for my daughters for less than something like that would retail, but the whole point is to do something creative.  More than anything, I hope my kids will learn the joy of creating.  I also hope they will learn that not everything has to come ready-made from a store. 



  1. kai230 | | #1

    That is interesting. I've never read the magazine (not a parent), but there are pros and cons of buying and making. Most thinking people know the difference, e.g., can I buy a $120 sweater for $5 at Goodwill? (yes).

    Sounds insulting to me--and perhaps the little folks are running the show, i.e., wearing something homemade is probably not the exact same thing their buddies are wearing (off the rack), which puts them in the "out" crowd.

    It was always a treat for me to wear clothes Grandma made for me--I didn't mind the attention so much back in those young days. She may have had a bit of Brooke in her as she made a darling dress for me (and a matching one for my doll, JoAnn) that had tiny pink flowers in the design, and a petticoat of the pink, just slipping below the skirt line. Girls did come up to me and say "Your slip is showing" and I had to say "No, it's meant to be that way." :-) Grandmas RULE! (She played piano at silent movie bars, so, perhaps that explains it!)

  2. Jmars0727 | | #2

    With attitudes like that showing up in a parenting magazine, it is no wonder that the average young person can't even hem a pair of pants.  I think that is obscene.  It could be construed as telling parents it's not 'cool' to teach your child a skill, or even to admit to having that skill.  Even more disturbing to me is the idea that the magazine, in a round-about-way is telling parents that above all, they must encourage their children to conform and play 'follow-the-leader".  This day and age, that is a very deadly game to teach your children.  My guess would be that the author is probably a frustrated seamstress whose child probably was laughed out of circle time for wearing something her mother made.  Doesn't say much about the neighborhood or area she lives in either -- or the values[?] she might be teaching her children, consciously or unconsciously.  And she writes for a parenting magazine?  If I were a subscriber, I think I would demand my money back.  My Mother's philosophy was: "If they don't like what you are wearing, tell them to buy you something better."

    Maybe this author is right, it is possible to buy a lot of things more cheaply than you can make them, but, she must be too young to have learned 'her lesson' -- you get what you pay for.  She also would appear to place no value whatsoever on all the love that is sewn into everything we make for our loved ones -- last time I checked, that was priceless.

    Aside from all that, I personally believe that she is dead wrong.  35+ years ago when I was sewing my own clothes in High School, my friends asked me to make some for them too.  25 years ago when I was sewing for my young daughter, my friends with young daughters of their own, would trade babysitting time for my daughter's hand-me downs -- and they frequently 'reserved' the clothes before they were outgrown.  Two months ago my daughter was married in a gown that I made, and 2 of her bridesmaids asked if I would consider making theirs - someday.  While there are many who don't particularly value the creativity (and work) that go into everything that is made by hand, I have yet (in 40-45 years of sewing and creating) to meet anyone worthwhile who laughed at those who tried.  I think that parents everywhere would be better served with articles that helped them teach their children the difference between the worthwhile and the not worthwhile, as well as how to be the leader, not the follower.

    I am ranting again, aren't I?

    Julie M.

    Please post an address.  I have never been a subscriber of this magazine, but I feel a real need to tell them what I think of them and their ideas.

    1. marijke | | #4


      Their website is http://www.parents.com, to write to them use [email protected]. I did. I got an automated response, so I know they got my message.

      I think you are so right about the value thing. It's an important reason why I do make an effort to make my daughters' clothes (I work full time).

      Peer pressure is a difficult subject. Since my daughters are 3, it's not yet much of an issue. I am sure that will change over time. I hope that I can raise them to have enough self-confidence to withstand much of it, to have their own compass. I guess an important start is to set a good example.

      Parents magazine often has good things to say, but this one article really bugged me.

      Thanks for your 'rant'! And thanks also for everyone else's responses.


      1. ChrisHaynes | | #5

        What a HOOT!

        First off... I gave up on "Parents" magazine over 10 years ago.  I will glance at it only when I'm waiting in the doctor's office.

        Just today my daughter went off to school in a top I made for her.  It is a simple knit top... BUT what makes it different is that it is made of a silver shiny velour.  It was made from a chunk of remnant she found in the remnant bin (normally an outrageous cost per yard... but the little bit that was just enough for a shirt was very discounted).

        She has more than a couple of favorite dresses and shirts I've made for her, usually with her input.

        Also my kids are usually the envy for Halloween costumes.  And even last year two of them helped put together and SEW their outfits.  We may even be wearing them to the Harry Potter party when we pick up the #5 book on the 20th.

        Absolutely no one belittles my sewing... and during the school auction the costumes I create are in good demand (pictures of some of the costumes I've made are in the "Halloween" thread in the Photo Gallery).

    2. rjf | | #8

      ......"I am ranting again, aren't I?".....

      I'll join you on this one.  The author of the article knows not whereof she (I assume) speaks.  Probably she never experienced having something Mom or Grandma made especially for her.  Perhaps she is still feeling envious about those who did. 

      Most of the responses here come from the sewists.  I wonder how the people who don't sew and didn't get the benefit of someone sewing for them felt about their classmates who did.  No one has responded from that point of view.  Is the author really right that home sewing is ridiculed in the classroom?  Or at the least snickered at?                                                               rjf

      1. Tish | | #9

        If school children in home-made clothes are being "laughed out of circle" the problem is in the school, not in the clothes.  there is no excuse for a school allowing taunting. 

        In the DC area where I live, high school students have been killed for Nike shoes and Eddie Bauer jackets.  I'd prefer to see everyone in home made clothes with labels that say, "I'm me."

        I do fabric painting with stencils, and I've considered doing a workshop at church called "design your own designer label," so people who have to have a label on the outside of their clothes can make one that reflects who they are.  Mine would be crossed rake and shovel with loom, book, saucepan, and needle and thread rampant.

        1. JeanetteR | | #10

          I agree!  Just last saturday I finished knitting a little jumper in random bright purple Courtelle yarn for Eleanor (3) and she was really impressed as she had seen each peice being knitted then sewn up  over the previous week and said thankyou Mummy without any prompting and proudly showed it to her Grandma and then to anyone else she could pin down.

          The pleasure it gave her, with it being so quick and cheap to make, far far outweighed the 'effort' to make, as I can knit (plain stuff) without even looking.  More to the point she understood the process of how it was made and would try to learn knitting now when I find some time to show her, to make a tiny weeny something for her tiniest bear, hopefully this is the sort of thing that gives children the confidence to make their own clothes later.  Certainly this is how Mum and Nana taught me, and one of my bears still has its checked waistcoat (plaid vest for you Statesiders!) I designed and kniited when 8 or 9-ish.

          1. marijke | | #11


            That purple outfit sounds very cute! I am not very good at knitting, but I agree about the excitement generated by seeing the process. My daughters hang around the sewing machine all the time and even pretend to sew, mimicking the sound of my sewing machine (they are 3). Seeing the process is probably the first stage in finding the desire to learn.


          2. stitchmd | | #12

            There was a similarly disparaging piece about knitting in a newspaper recently, which had a huge response on a knitting board and many people wrote to the columnist to set her straight.

            My kids are usually thrilled with their custom made Halloween costumes which they design, and with clothing made to their specifications. Other parents express admiration and downright jealousy at my skills. I was thrilled as a child to receive a beautiful red velvet dress from my aunt who is a custom dressmaker. My sister got an identical one, with another little one for her doll.

            I don't know what motivated this writer to be so bitter, but clearly she is.

          3. JulieP25 | | #13

            The article in Parents shows how narrow minded a writer can be. My own daughter wears and wore with alot of pride whatever I had made for her ( she's now 25 and still asks for speical clothes). And much to my surprise and delight she had taken up the sewing bug. She came home after a shopping spree, in which she declared " in gap they had tirred skirts, you know Mom the kind with three gathered layers. and elastic waist." She did not pay the $30.00 plus for the skirt. Instead she bought material in colors of her choosing and made 3 little girls skirts for that cost. The lucky girls of these skirts wore them with great admiration. And she and I are passing the sewing lessons on to her daughter too. She also refused to pay $75.00 plus for a blue jean skirt  and said Mom show me how to make one. We've made ones for 8 of the area teenage girls, using things each loved. All woren with pride.  I truly feel that the article is incorrect, sewing is not a dying art.  It is growing and changing with the times. I used to sew for savings, I now sew for creativity and relaxation. Even Brooke Delorme's designs have a place. My only hope is the article might spur someone on to try sewing. Jules

          4. JeanetteR | | #14

            Oh, when I wrote 'jumper', I forgot that is a pinafore frock in the US - I meant sweater/tunic, it goes over leggings or trousers and has a frill in garter stitch of eleven rows (instead of a basque or ribbing),  of 3* the number of stitches in the front and back body peices, then slip one, knit two together, pass slip stitch over, all across on the twelfth row.  It is really cute as the frill is the level of the derriere, so it bobs up and down as she runs (never walks anywhere!).  this is a very cute idea from an old English Woman's Weekly magazine pattern that is adaptable to any classic plain pattern, any ply - just make the body longer and start with the frill!

        2. rjf | | #15

          The image of rampant thread will stay in my mind forever!  If someone should jump into the grocery line before me or turn left without a signal, the thought of rampant thread will save me from wasted anger.  Thank you!      rjf

          1. ccolehour | | #16

            I went out and read this article, and I didn't think it was anti-sewing at all. She says she used to like to sew, gave it up as an adult and now, while she is teaching her daughter to sew, she remembers how much she loves it and how it is valuable to create something even if you could get it cheaper at store where it's made in China. I had no problem with this article.

            As for the being laughed out of preschool, I think she's commenting on the pressure to conform, which is very real. I've known about women who sew in labels to their handmade clothes, or make sure to finish them in such a way that they look RTW, for their kids. I don't see the problem in this. I think it's sweet.

      2. punky | | #17

        I'm not a parent, don't read Parent Magazine (probably won't, now!), but I have to say, all my non-sewing co-workers have mentioned at one time or another how jealous they are that I sew most of my clothes. My technique isn't the most refined (that's why I read Threads, to get more input on how to do things right), but my clothes are always creative and different, which is what my colleagues respond to. Yeah, I could buy all my clothes, but then I'd look like a carbon copy of whatever is trendy. Since most children are a reflection of their parents, I imagine the writer's attitude is being passed to her child.


    3. ablakemo | | #18

      I APPLAUD AND AGREE!! Ranting?? Nahh--it's good to be passionate!

      I like to think of my self as a "young" person (in my twenties) and have been sewing my own clothes since senior year in high school. Most of my peers found home made clothing much cooler than off the rack--the occasional insecure snob would try to snub that it wasn't up to par since it didn't have a "brand". I always retorted that it was designer--designed by me!

      Being a professional artist I am always appaled at others need to conform as well as worship the dollar. Most of the off the rack clothing I find lacking quality and craftsmanship and thus worthy of the low price tag.

      Saddened as I am by mass media's desire to teach people shallow values--I am heartened by a growing interest in the creative. In a high tech world people are turning to crafts and other hands on hobbies for fun and therapy. (there was an article the other month on the rise in popularity of knitting, etc..)

      I would love to respond to that article--does anyone have a link to it??

      1. stitchmd | | #20

        Here is the knitting article


        It disparages other traditionally female arts but the knitting was stressed because it was brought up in a knitting forum.

        1. Jean | | #21

          That's the most stupid thing I've read in a long time and I wrote and told her so.

          1. JeanetteR | | #22

            I thought the current knitting craze was put down to Monica Lewinsky!  But for what ever reason, it's just great to see the resurgence of interest and that the younger ones, uni students and even primary school kids are asking their  Mums to teach them.  Unfortunately all the small shops that stocked wool have closed down so here, the few specialty shops that still stock them are charging a small fortune despite the fact that Australia produces the vast majority of the world's wool.

          2. rjf | | #23

            I agree!  Admiring someone's knitting (or whatever) skills is not necessarily casting aspersions on those who don't knit.  Because I like blue doesn't mean I don't like pink.  I could never play basketball very well but I don't look down on Ms. Jameson because she can.  She was free to make that choice.  What is this business of evaluating everyone's choices?  Knitting is not a crime; and she does not have the right to assume why anyone chooses to knit.            rjf

            I went back to her article and sent a letter also.  Sometimes I think they write those things just to get a rise out of us?  Why would the world be picking on knitters?  Are they jealous?

            Edited 6/20/2003 7:34:03 AM ET by rjf

          3. jscraphappy | | #24

            Gosh what a cheek to write that rubbish re:knitting.I have also sent a strong letter to the editor about "Tonya Jameson" article.grumblingJune

        2. marijke | | #25

          Read the article referenced. Quite offensive. She seems to think that playing basketball is a better way to spend one's time than making something with one's hands. And then she puts a feminist spin on it (her foremothers fought too hard for her to go knitting...). That's the ultimate in buying into a patriarchal value hierarchy (i.e. women's work is valueless, even nonproductive traditionally male activities like sports are valued more).

          I have nothing against basketball and shooting hoops, but I dislike Jameson's negative attitude towards creative endeavors.

          1. kai230 | | #26

            Perhaps if I had been really good at sports I'd encourage more women/girls in that mode. And there is something to be said abt competing in a male world where cooperation is uncommon, or at least not "manly" during the actual competition. That said, to denigrate knitting (!) as something that is not good for girls (or boys) to learn is absurd.

            I hope the paper publishes your responses.

            This still does not account for the inequities in playing a game v. clothing the gamer/afficionado-->groupies. 

  3. Michelle | | #3

    "she'd probably be laughed out of circle time." 

    I think that this remark is indicative of a generation that is governed by an illness known to some of us as "Peer Pressure" - a shocking malady that paralyses the brain, so that virtues, such integrity, originality, and down right common sense get flushed out of our cultures..... (heaven forbid!)

    (Artists - take head  :)    )


    1. Jmars0727 | | #6

      Really sad for the child that her Mother's way of dealing with peer pressure is to give in to it before the child has to face it.  We could speculate that peer pressure is more of a problem for the Mother than it is for the child.  What an example she is setting!

      Julie M.

  4. Judygoeson | | #7

    Hi, Marijke and Everyone,

    It is a shame that a magazine like Parents published such a sad article.  They need some attitude adjustment.  I remember sewing some beautiful dresses for my daughter from preschool on up.  She did not have the motivation to sew but her 3 teenaged daughters are now making their own beautiful clothes.

    My son's oldest daughter is only 3 but she is thrilled to show up at preschool in clothes made by either of her grandmas.  In fact, she requested a dress just like the one her heroine, Snow White (who hugged her at Disneyland) wears.  And she lives in the Bay Area of California among the Baby GAPs yet!

    One of the things we need to think about is improving our skill to the point that it is superior to anything commercial!  As Threads readers, that is just what we do, so no need to worry.  Nobody we sew for will be jeered out of preschool.  This is an attitude we must seek to instill in others!  The sewing circle is POWERFUL!  It reaches around the world.

    Take Heart!  And remember the words of one of sewing's great cheerleaders, Sandra Betzina:  "Remember...Teach someone to sew before you die!!!"

    Happy Sewing from JudyG

  5. anneelsberry | | #19

    So funny. I made a great deal of my daughter's clothes when she was little and still make her church dresses and dressier casual clothes now she's in the jeans and t-shirt stage. She was never laughed out of circle -- on the other hand kids and moms always seem to be impressed at her pretty clothes, especially when they matched a doll dress. And I never had a problem with her wearing what I made -- she has always loved to have clothes that we "designed" together. Granted, these days we make things that are more contemporary, but she still has a soft spot for the smocked heirloom clothes I made.

    And I've always gotten commissions from other moms when they see the things my daughter is wearing.

  6. Bettefan | | #27

    Hold on thar!!!

    I went out and found this article, and all I can say is that you are wrong! The writer started out by saying that she is teaching her daughter to sew, and she started to think about why she had stopped making things. She then reflected on popular feelings (Why bother when you can buy it so cheaply), but returned to the idea that you do it for yourself...to feel good about making something and taking pride in it. She also touched on the idea of cooking rather than ordering take-out all the time. That's someting else I feel strongly about...homemade food is about a million times better for you and it tastes better too. So please look at the article before you rush to judgment against Parents Magazine!

    1. rjf | | #28

      I think we've got two writers going.  I haven't read the Parents' article but I did read the Charlotte Observer.  The one you reference doesn't sound like the one I read.  Maybe someone who's read both can tell us.                         rjf

      1. jscraphappy | | #29

        ditto rjf reply.must be 2 articles of a similar type.I only read the Charlotte Observer article which made me grumble.):been beautiful & sunny to-day.so alls well.

        1. jscraphappy | | #30

          p.s.started knitting a winter cardigan in the sunshine to-day.

          1. JeanetteR | | #31

            June, We're pretty spoiled here, it's our mid-winter and there was a high of 19C, fine and sunny.  My friend in Dublin emailed last week to say that everyone was sunbaking and getting burnt in a heatwave of 20C!!! 

            I too started knitting again last week, an Aran in a very dark purple DK in Alpaca Classique, bit different!, but found it really hard to narrow down which pattern to use, having many Arans.  In the finish went for one already made twice, but will put saddle shoulders in, and make it more like tunic length.

            Still looking for another 4-ply Nowegian challenge knit pattern!

          2. jscraphappy | | #32

            storms to-day): knitting "Salsa"dk sidar lovely feel/washes well works nice as well.??4plyNowegian Challenge Knit pattern.I have just read the pleated skirt ???I have a lot of old knitting books.so just going to have to look 7 see if I can help as well.Have the "readers digest complete guide to sewing" but not the knitting1.speak soon.June

    2. marijke | | #33

      I read the article. I read it several times before posting my first message.

      Despite the superficial veneer of pretending to advocate sewing, the Parents magazine article said disparaging things (the one from the Charlotte Observer was perhaps even more offensive, it didn't even pretend to value anything handmade).

      One afternoon of handstitching doesn't make a love of sewing, especially not if it is done in an environment where consumerism runs rampant. My kids see me sew all the time. They know what it takes to make a pair of pants or a dress. At 3, they have done some "stitch and flip" crazy quilting to make pillow covers and loved it (they want to do it again). They are intrigued by what's "mommy-made" or otherwise handmade.

      Seeing something done once makes it a curiosity. Seeing it done on a regular basis imparts a quite different message.


  7. reddragonfly | | #34

         I think it's a shame that so many people can't do so much as hem a pair of pants.  Some of my best sewing memories are of the times me, my grandmother and my mother would work on prom dresses for me together.  I would much rather have had a homemade prom dress than one bought in the store and not for economic reasons either.  I certainly never had the problem of having someone else show up in the same dress. 

         Now at 32, with 25 years of sewing experience behind me, people are always begging me to make them clothes because the clothes I make are much more creative than what you can get in a store.  Recently I cleaned out my closet and my co-workers begged me to bring in my discards for them to go through instead of donating them to charity.  It was a little embarrassing but gratifying to have people vying to be the first to go through the clothes. 

    Sewing may not be as popular as it used to be but that makes our skills that much more precious because of their rarity. 

  8. backcountryhome | | #35

    What would the Parents writer have thought when my teenage son went to the prom in a "homemade" tux???  I had only made vests for the boys to go with a purchased Value City tux for a couple of years until my youngest asked me to make him a western-style tux and he wanted it shiny and with a "snakeskin" vest and those texas star buttons.  He wanted to be different than everyone else.  I know, the thought of so much work for a couple of hours wear was exhausting just to think of it, (and like I could find a pattern), but I obliged and he was not only impressed with how it turned out, but with himself for designing his outfit complete with the boots with shiny silver tips and cowboy hat.  Afterward, he held up the little 1-yd piece of snakeskin twill I had used to "copy" the pattern and iron it onto a piece of the poly shantung (shiny silver) for the vest collar and asked if there was enough to make him a pair of shorts like the khaki painters he has.  It didn't look like quite enough, but I squeaked them out.  He wore them to a large "public" high school (shock!) and many times I might add.  Of course, there were the costumes and shorts, pjs, etc. when they were little, make constant repairs on RTW for them and DH and I sew for myself all the time.  DH has as many pairs of the "perfect" shorts as he could possibly need.  Oh yeah (Parents writer), my boys are quite the macho-type, raised on a farm, football players, you know, the sweaty, muscled up-type.  They are not afraid of who they are and all their friends knew that mom made whatever it was, because when they got "ooohs and aaaws" they were not embarrassed to tell them.  Those vests have been borrowed by other boys and there might be a prospect to get a second wear out of the tux when he gets that age!  Thanks for letting me get my 2 cents in.


    1. marijke | | #36

      Thanks for sharing your story!  Your sons sound like great individuals --  and it sounds like you have a great relationship with them!

      Just wished I could see that very special tux!


      1. Jean | | #37

        Certainly you must have a picture to post of your son in that special tux. Please!

        1. backcountryhome | | #38

          Hi Jean, thanks for asking.  I don't have a digital picture and my scanner is on the blink, but whenever I get it together I will. 


          1. backcountryhome | | #39

            Can you scan a photo at the Walmart booth and have it saved on a disk?  I have a few others I need to do too.

          2. jscraphappy | | #40

            you must be very proud of your two sons & loved your description of them.A glorious sunny day here in the UK.finished knitting back & 2 fronts now of my sweater(:June

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