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Conversational Threads

When did we become “sewists?”

BernaWeaves | Posted in General Discussion on

Not you personally.

I can’t find the word “sewist” in the dictionary and I just don’t like the way it rolls off my tongue.

I thought one who sews was a “sewer.”

I realize that that could be confused with a pipe that takes away sewage, but still, when did the word “sewist” come into being?

I’m also a “spinner” although the correct term for one who spins is a “spinster.”  Guess who had time to do all the spinning?  The single ladies, of course.  Hence the shift in naming convention.

Thanks, Berna


  1. NewHampshireRobin | | #1

    How interesting! I guess spinner (which by the way, was the name of a poorly behaved dog I once had) was intended to get away from the negative connotation with the word "spinster".

    What is the source / meaning for the term "torn", as in torn project? I've seen it several times on this list, but never before that.

    Thanks in advance,


    1. jjgg | | #2

      Several people have asked about the term "torn project" I don't think there has been an answer yet.the first time I heard someone talk about taking a 'spinning' class, I thought they were learning to spin fiber on a spinning wheel. When I found out it was a 'cycling' class on an exercise cycle I was surprised!

      1. NewHampshireRobin | | #3

        Well I guess too much time on an exercise cycle could make your head spin,

      2. gansettgal | | #149

        Torn Project---

        In the BMCC there was a wonderful book published on Torn Projects. A Torn Project is just that---a project than can be made by tearing the fabric on the grain rather than having to cut it.  It was written by the late Kitty Rotruck.  The projects were: poncho, the Magic Evening Cape (which is the project that Forums member donnakaye first contacted me about,) the gazelle scarf, a bias scarf (this one is FANTASTIC,) poncho for a layered look, a shift, hobo bag, overskirt, a rose accessory, an umbrella sheath, a rain hat, and another FANTASTIC project--the circle cape stole. All of these project are based on straight of grain. On the circle cape, there is some actual cutting but the projects are all quite simple and easy to make. 

        So, that is the term "torn project."  It was created by Bishop!


        1. katina | | #150

          I so enjoyed reading that - thanks."Torn project" has a different connotation for me - many's the time I'd have liked to rip a failed project up....!


          1. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #151

            Katina, you are funny....but i understand...fully....:p Cathy

          2. katina | | #152

            Well, I've had so many learning experiences I ought to be fully accomplished at something by now....

          3. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #153

            Perhaps you are an accomplished learner?

          4. katina | | #154

            That's it, Threadkoe - trust you to understand. Yes - I'm a very accomplished learner, probably, I'd say (ahem, modestly) I've attained a post-grad level. However, I'm not doing well at learning from my mistakes...

          5. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #155

            If we all learned the first time from a mistake, what would the challenge in life be from that? I figure each time I attempt something that I fail at, the next time will be better, and that practice makes perfect (eventually?) :) My philosophy in life has always been that a day without learning something new has been a wasted day. Sometimes that means re learning something I have forgotten......Cathy

          6. katina | | #156

            Ah, you're a philosopher, Threadkoe; I have to laugh about it all, or I'd cry....

      3. ellaluna | | #157

        I can't resist throwing my opinions into the discussion. I believe that words are powerful, and so I do refrain from using the term "seamstress" because it does, in fact, imply that you are doing something gender-specific.I've worked in professional costume shops for years, and there are specific jobs that are indicated by the job titles. You usually start in a costume shop as a "Stitcher" (basically, the person who does the pinning and sewing) and you can progress to "Cutter" (the person who lays out and cuts the pattern) a "First Hand" (the assistant to the draper, who oversees the cutter and the stitcher and can also do either of their jobs) and the Draper - the person who creates the pattern for the women's garments. Then there is the Tailor, equal to the Draper but focusing on menswear. The Draper and the Tailor are the most highly skilled of the technicians and the most highly paid, but in costume shops, there is real respect and demand for good Stitchers, Cutters, and First Hands. I've worked in all of these positions and I'm a much better cutter than I am draper or stitcher. And tailoring? Forget it. I still struggle with menswear. My favorite place in the Costume Shop is Crafts, which encompasses an insanely wide variety of some of the crazy things I have done for theatre.My favorite word? "Artisan". To me, it means the marriage of art and craft.Oh... and just a sidebar: "Spinning" (as in the class in which you cycle on a stationary bike) is trademarked, and you can only use it if you are certified by an official Spinning Professional. The classes at my gym aren't part of that program so they are called "cycling."

        1. BernaWeaves | | #158

          I had no idea when I started this thread that it would take off like it did.

          The comment about "Spinning" being trademarked tickles me because I'm a REAL spinner.  I have 3 spinning wheels, not bicycles that don't move.  I remember being outraged a couple of years ago when the courts wanted to outlaw spinning wheel covers.  Why?  What does keeping the dust off my precious spinning wheels have to do with anyone.  Oh, they mean those hubcaps that keep twirling when the car is stationary.  Well, why didn't they call them spinning hubcaps, then.



          1. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #159

            I was one of the original 'bra burners' back in the day, not that I really could, but figuratively, doncha know. Anyhow, I was gung ho for gender-neutral titles, and I had suffered real discrimination and continued to do so. My stories are legion. That said, I've reached an age where a title is just a non-starter, so I get my mail from a postman who is a she, the chairman of the one last committee to which I belong is a she, and my favorite nurse is a hunky man I might put the make on if he weren't married.....
            (Just kidding, just kidding, I'm not much in the mood for that, either.)The Spinning trademark thingy reminds me of the Shabby Chic stupidity, uhhhh, controversy.

          2. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #160

            Shabby Chic, isn't that the furniture style that made all my old battered stuff "in"? Cathy

          3. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #161

            That'd be it! Ask me how I know.

          4. Tangent | | #162

            Ok....  How do ya know?????

          5. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #164

            The agent for my home owner's insurance told me as she inventoried prior to writing a new policy. She asked if I had any furniture over 5 years old, and I told her I didn't have any UNDER 5-years old. She said, "Oh, Shabby Chic!" Therefore, Threadkoe's comment resonated with me. LOL

          6. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #166

            I actually prefer to refer to my furniture as Early Canadian Attic. Style is probably Icklectic. tee hee Cathy

            Edited 8/12/2008 11:26 am ET by ThreadKoe

        2. jjgg | | #165

          "and so I do refrain from using the term "seamstress" because it does, in fact, imply that you are doing something gender-specific."Well, I for one am very gender specific! I am a woman, I am not ashamed of being a woman, I have no problem with terms such as "mother" - that is very gender specific as well, and being a mother is one of the best things I've ever done.I do refer to myself as a 'custom dressmaker' because thats what I make 'custom dresses', dresses are for the most part rather gender specific as well.

          1. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #167

            I have to agree with you on that point Jigg. Gender specific titles belong to gender specific job. If the gender need not be specific, as in a listing for a position, ie sewist, for a gender specific job, ie dressmaker, then the terms are appropriate. If I were a customer, however, from a personal comfort level, I would be more comfortable knowing the gender of the person who would be constructing a personal garment for me, before approaching them for a job. In the end, the gender does not matter, their skill does, but I would rather be prepared. Like having a male nurse in the maternity ward. That happened to me, and it threw me for a few minutes. I was ok with it, but some people would not. Cathy

          2. ellaluna | | #178

            "and so I do refrain from using the term "seamstress" because it does, in fact, imply that you are doing something gender-specific."Well, I for one am very gender specific! I am a woman, I am not ashamed of being a woman, I have no problem with terms such as "mother" - that is very gender specific as well, and being a mother is one of the best things I've ever done.I do refer to myself as a 'custom dressmaker' because thats what I make 'custom dresses', dresses are for the most part rather gender specific as well. </i>
            What a "seamstress" does is NOT gender-specific. A seamstress sews, perhaps even patterns. A male OR a female is capable of doing that. A mother, on the other hand, refers to the FEMALE parent, so the definition itself is defining femaleness. When you say "Seamstress", you are implying that you are doing something that only a woman is capable of doing, which doesn't happen to be the case. Seamstress is often used as a pejorative term as well.And men wore dresses before women did, as well as corsets, and wigs, and high-heeled shoes.

            Edited 8/13/2008 11:43 pm by ellaluna

          3. Ckbklady | | #179


            I just wanted to jump in and add that JJgg is on to something. What makes the word "seamstress" feminine is the "ess" at the end of it, not necessarily the description of the function. Technically, a male version would be a "seamster". Historically, men of course have used the word "tailor" instead. I wonder why "tailoress" never caught on? You are right, too, of course- either gender can certainly sew. I haven't seen "seamstress" used pejoratively, thank heavens. What a shame that some have used it this way.

            "Mother" and "father" are words in a different category. Good thing, too, since I doubt many Moms would like to be called "fatheresses"! :) I like that JJgg is proud of doing something traditionally womanly. I am proud of doing the same, although I'm more inclined to call myself a humble "sewer" or "fabric collector" or "sewing machine collector", LOL.

            Oh, yes, those powdered wigs! When hubby gets sniffy that I'm letting his mending pile accumulate because I'm short of time to get to it, I remind him that he's lucky he's not in the days of men wearing high-heeled shoes and bloomers and puffy shirts (have you ever seen a portrait of Beethoven? The poor guy - the hair alone must have taken hours every day! LOL). Sewing the odd cuff or button takes a few minutes. If I had ruffles to fiddle with, Hubby'd NEVER get his clothes back! :)

            :) Mary


          4. damascusannie | | #180

            I have an entirely new perspective on the term "seamstress" since I discovered Terry Pratchett's Discworld book series. They are laugh-out-loud funny and are a combination of political satire and humor deftly built upon a fantasy/sci-fi framework. Anyway, in the large city of Ankh-Morpork, the term "seamstress" is a euphemism for an ENTIRELY different type of feminine employment, if you get my drift! These are easily the funniest books I've ever read and I especially like them because he doesn't need to use graphic language or descriptions to make his point. A bit off the subject, but I'm reading one of the books now and thought I'd share. If you really want an interesting perspective on gender roles, read "Monstrous Regiment"--you'll never think of socks in the same way, either.

          5. sandyszoo | | #181

            Hi everyone,  On this discussion, I just remembered what my granddaughter and her little friend called sewing. It kind a brought it down to the childs logic, ( which often makes more sense if for no other resaon the simplicity of it )  They were sitting on a couch in my daughter's sewing room  doing a little hand sewing and said look " We're needleing!!!"

             My daughter emailed me a picture of it, they were so cute.  They're both 7. 

                Just thought I'd put another spin,( Not be confused with spinster) on the subject. Of course now I know why the term used for heckling or bothering someone could be called needleling   LOL  Sandy Houston

          6. rodezzy | | #182

            Now, that was cute.  Some old folks call it that too!

          7. damascusannie | | #183

            "Needler" would be perfect name for me--in either context!

          8. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #184

            Out of the mouths of babes....Cathy

    2. Ckbklady | | #10


      I think I can answer the "torn project" quesion you had. I've seen it mentioned only once in a book. In THE BISHOP METHOD OF CLOTHING CONSTRUCTION (a sewing instruction book), the beginner projects at the front of the book are "torn projects" in which the beginner learns to sew basic projects like aprons and such from rectangular fabric sections that were torn on grain from the yardage. The idea is that the beginner learns about grain and uses the scissors as little as possible, so as to focus on sewing first and on cutting later on in the book.

      :) Mary

  2. Teaf5 | | #4

    "Sewist" is a relatively recent term, perhaps developed on online forums by people who didn't like the reference to sanitation systems. 

    However, "sewer" as "one who sews" isn't in some dictionaries, either, because the old term is "seamstress," with that unfortunate gender label plus a suggestion of laboring class.   And one of my sources lists "sewer" (pronounced with a "u" like "steward") as a medieval word for someone who seats guests in a large hall!

    As a linguist, I can't help grouping "sewist" with "sexist," "racist," and "age-ist," even though "linguist" ends with the same suffix.   I don't use the term "sewist," but I have learned to recognize it, and, as a linguist, I am fascinated by it as an example of language change, innovation, and variety.

    1. NewHampshireRobin | | #7

      I've solved that whole problem. With so many other distrcations these days I'm really just a "fabric collector".

      1. jjgg | | #8

        I love the "fabric collector" but I call myself a "professional dressmaker"

    2. Ceeayche | | #143

      another reason not to be anti "ist" titles:  publicist.

  3. damascusannie | | #5

    In the olden days, a woman who sewed was a "seamstress" and man who sewed was a "tailor" at least in the garment industry. "Sewist" is a relatively new term, meant to be gender-neutral and to include anyone who sews, whether garments, home dec, quilting or whatever. Our language is living and this is one time when we get to see it evolve, I guess. I personally am a seamstress who both sews garments and quilts.

    1. GailAnn | | #29

      Just what I was thinking, about Seamstress and Tailor! 

       I'm proud being feminine and not the least put off by gender designations.

      I blame John Wayne and the Shootist, circa, what? 1972


  4. katina | | #6

    Good point you've raised, Berna; it will be interesting to see if sewist catches on.


  5. Ckbklady | | #9


    I commented on the word "Sewist" in a post here a while back and was gently chided for wanting to be called a sewer. Good thing I'm awfully friendly! :)

    I didn't think that "sewer" was politically incorrect - after all, it is gender neutral in the modern sense. Men and women both can be sewers. I like being a sewer, and wish we could all just name ourselves what we like best (like dear Annie's "seamstress" - and on that note, were the men ever called "seamsters"?). Those who wish to do so may call themselves "sewists", but I'm equally free to be a "sewer".

    I've heard the same growing intolerance for the moniker, "quilter" which some sewers/sewists/whatever (!) associate with Granny piecing quilts on the back porch. Frankly, I have tremendous respect for Grannies who do so, and don't think that it diminishes the lasting impact of their work to be called "quilters". Apparently, there are many out there who would rather be called "quilt artists". Whatever. I'm a beginning quilter (and a lousy one at that), and like the connection of the moniker I prefer to the Grannies with their wisdom and experience and family connections and sense of history and talent and sense of humor about things like monikers.

    :) Mary

    1. damascusannie | | #12

      Mary: I TOTALLY agree with your viewpoint about the term "quilter." While I call myself a seamstress when talking about sewing in general, most of the time when someone asks me what I do, I tell them that I'm a professional quilter. I'm proud to be a quilter and to be equated with those grannies " piecing quilts on the back porch". Good grief, anyone that thinks that such an association is demeaning, REALLY doesn't understand the challenges that these women went through in order to make a quilt! I'm PROUD to be a quilter and I don't need the word "art" in my job description to somehow validate what I do. If the artistic merit of one of my quilts is not obvious to the viewer, then I've failed in my effort and the quilt doesn't deserve that sort of recognition anyway. On the other hand, the need to separate the traditional style quilter like me from the quilter who works in more abstract forms, with untraditional techniques and materials, is necessary, hence the term "art quilter." Unfortunately in today's quilting world, we are seeing a generation of people who are choosing to explain away their technical deficiencies by calling themselves "art" quilters. They seem to think that if it's art, it doesn't have to be executed well and that anything goes, so what we are seeing are more and more quilts that are badly made AND lacking in artistic merit because the "artist" has neither artistic training nor good quilting skills. It's a shame, really, because when done well, art quilts are just that: well-made quilts that are works of art. A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate to meet a GOOD art quilter. McKenna's quilts are well-designed, thoughtfully embellished, beautifully pieced and quilted, and the bindings were perfect. THAT's what art quilts should be. I'll get off my soapbox now!

      1. Ckbklady | | #18

        Hear, hear, Annie!

        Kindred spirits, eh? I agree with you about the need for the term "art quilter" to define someone working with less traditional media. I agree that the term is often used too loosely, too! Hopefully those who haven't quite earned the title yet can keep on learning and improving to fit the name better, I guess... It's dicey, isn't it? There ARE standards (how else could you have juried shows?) but so many people are touchy about being evaluated, and want the title before they've reached the level it describes. This has become a world in which we take ourselves too seriously and want shortcuts to everything - what an unfortunate combination.

        I have endless respect for those Grannies I mentioned. In a recent issue of Quilter's Home, the dear editor reminded readers that those Grannies may have danced naked at Woodstock and may be politically active, and may have survived widowhood or divorce or bankruptcy. These ladies are strong and are an inspiration to us. It should be an honor to be associated with them. As my Mum would say, "Grey Power!" :) Not wanting to be connected to the root or foundation of a craft baffles me. Fashion sewers pay homage to older fashion designers, so why not honor the Grannies too?

        :) Mary

        (To those of you who haven't seen Annie's work, y'all should get over to her webshots page pronto. You'll be delighted and amazed by her skill. I had the great pleasure to see some of her work in person at a local get-together recently, where another quilter (yup, I used the word!) showed a completed exchange block quilt that contained a block from Annie. A ruler couldn't have made straighter lines!)

        1. GailAnn | | #32

          I sometimes use the term "Needlewoman", which I like very much.  I shy away from the term only for fear of being confused with a woman selling illegal substances.  Gail

      2. jane4878 | | #22

        I REALLY agree with you as well.  All these ridiculous fancy titles to puff people up to make them sound like they have more education and a more meaningful job/skill/talent then they actually do.  I have a brother who is a professional watercolour artist (which means he basically lives below the poverty line and works other jobs).  He doesn't feel the need to congregate with others and brag how he's an artist.  He paints because it is who he is.  My husband is a very skilled carpenter.  He doesn't need to be called a "craftsman" as if excelling at a trade is somehow demeaning.  He's as bright as any engineer and does superb and creative work.  His aunt is a quilter and she is incredible both technically and artistically. (as are you, Annie)  She won't even take orders for quilts anymore, she does what inspires her and she might sell one if she feels like it. 

        The same disease has infected my profession as well--medical lab technology isn't good enough any more--it's medical lab science.

        I'm cool with seamstress/tailor.  Sewer is better than "sewist".  The p.c. term for fishermen now is "fishers" (I keep seeing the furry little predator called a fisher when I hear that!)  Trappers, swimmers, carpenters, farriers the list goes on and on.  We don't call a farrier a "farrist!!.

        1. Gloriasews | | #23

          You're good, Jane - your 'farrist' could become the 'farrist of them all'!  While we're at it, there are no secretaries anymore, either.  They are now administrative support or administrative assistants, but their jobs, like the receptionist, have expanded greatly to include accounting, payroll, etc. & have become quite stressful with a much heavier workload, but the pay hasn't gone up accordingly.  Sad.


          1. sewslow67 | | #24

            Hey Gloria; interesting conversations today, eh?  Now then, instead of "sewist" ...how about "fiber engineers"?  NOT!  Just a joke ...sort of a take off on, "domestic engineers" ...which absolutely cracked me up, when that term came out.  I went through a stage when I kept nicking myself with a needle, so my (then 7-year old) daughter thought I should be a "needle poker" rather than a seamstress. ;-)

            Personally, I don't really care what people call my art form, mostly because I do most anything with a needle, i.e. sew by both hand and machine; (my applique is most always by hand); clothing - both hand and machine; embroidery, both by hand and machine; canvas work, i.e. needlepoint ...mostly texture on canvas using silk, wool, and metal threads; bead work, i.e. making jewelry ...mostly my own designs; and now learning beadwork on fabric, all by hand so far; and fabric stenciling, i.e. embellishing fabrics - mostly with Diane Ericson's designs (I just love her work).  Actually, I'm going to decorate my kitchen cabinets with some of her designs, too. 

            A few friends call me a "fiber artist", but that is not accurate, because I'm just not that talented because I get most all of my ideas by looking around me at nature, museums, books, magazines, "real" artists work, etc.  My goal is to have fun with what I do and just enjoy the process and hopefully, the result as well.  And yes ...try not to poke myself too many times and bleed all over my project.  LOL!

          2. Gloriasews | | #25

            I love it - needle poker!  We all do that, I think, on a fairly regular basis!  I agree with you - I don't consider myself an artist of any kind, either.  I do what I like & hope it turns out really good - the satisfaction of a job well done is worth all the effort, eh?  I, too, dabble in various needlework projects (my favourites are sewing & quilting), as well as painting pictures - whatever calls me loudly enough that I just HAVE to do it now - but I'm certainly not an expert.  It's just important that we do what we like to, without titles, & that we are pleased with the outcome (in most cases, as we do have the occasional failure, but that doesn't allow us to give up, thank heavens).


          3. jjgg | | #26

            Shakespeare said it well "A rose by any other name...." I remember getting such a kick out of "human resources" instead of "Personnel office"

          4. Gloriasews | | #37

            The language keeps changing with the times - as seen in that funny, but ridiculous, 'corporate speak' buzzwords thread of a week or 2 ago.  It almost seems like snobbishness that people want to elevate their positions to seem more important than they are - a status-seeking device.  Look how people look down upon garbage collectors, labourers, maids, plumbers, carpenters, paving crews, etc., yet these people are skilled, proud of what they do, & an extremely necessary part of our society.  So what if they're not university grads?  Some of them are.  What the snobs forget or choose to overlook is that their lives would not function as smoothly as they do &, more importantly, our society could not function at all without these other important jobs.  Somebody has to do those jobs!  If you've seen the TV series Dirty Jobs, you've got to greatly admire the people doing them - many for their entire lives.

            As someone once said, "Call me whatever you like, just don't call me late for supper."


        2. Ckbklady | | #34

          Ooh, I have to jump in and say how funny it would be if there existed words like carpentists and swimmists! Man, oh man! If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

          Thanks for the chuckle!

          :) Mary

    2. Tnuctip | | #15

      I am in the UK and people who piece fabrics do Patchwork and those who also pad their work (by hand or machine) do Quilting.

      I, who machine and hand knits, crochets, make tatted lace, machine embroiders, constructs garments and home decor, and cross stitches, while avidly learning new needle skills whenever possible,  consider myself a Stitcher.

      1. Ckbklady | | #17


        Oh, sure - don't get me started on the folks who think piecing patches is called "quilting"! :) Patchworkers do step 1, and quilters usually do steps 1 and 2.

        I really like your term "stitcher" - that pretty much covers everything we do here and talk about here. Even when we use sewing machines, we're stitching, even if it is with a little help!

        :) Mary

        1. User avater
          ThreadKoe | | #20

          My apologies for not being precise in the difference between a patchworker and a quilter. But that just proves the point about what we call ourselves...... Cathy

          1. Ckbklady | | #33

            Oh, no worries, your comment was fine. Quilters DO make decorative pieced items. I get wrapped up in the semantics of it all.

            I got a chuckle out of your mention of the "domestic engineer" - I haven't heard that one in a while!:) Mary

    3. GailAnn | | #30

      Do many folks want to be gender neutral????   Gail

      1. Ralphetta | | #36

        Well, actually I do. A carpenter is a carpenter, a singer is a singer, a teacher is a teacher. I guess I'm a little touchy about it because of irritating personal experiences. When I give my occupation to government employees or office people, I always answer, actor. Sometimes I am "corrected" by the pencil pusher in a really condescending, superior way and told, "You mean actress." I refrain from saying that all of the unions I belong to call me actor, all of my legal contracts refer to the "actor", and even the IRS calls me an actor. Only someone who knows nothing about the job would have the audacity to smugly tell me I don't know what I do for a living. If they are just asking, rather than correcting the dimwit, I can be nice and explain "why." Unfortunately, that isn't usually the case. The dictionary says someone who acts is an actor. Except for awards, etc., there really isn't any reason to separate. Personally, I like the equal, inclusive term. There are a few women who do prefer the term actress, and I have no problem with that. I've enjoyed reading the different views on this current subject of "sewer" and can understand why some people have such strong feelings.

        1. Gloriasews | | #38

          Many years ago, when we were young, female actors were called actresses.  I've only noticed in the last 10-15 years that they are now called actors.  With some of the strange Hollywood names nowadays, at least, with actress, you know that it's a female, if you've never heard (or seen a picture) of her.  But, you're right - they are both actors.  Now, what about starlet?  What is the male version, if he's not yet a star?  :)


          1. Ralphetta | | #39

            I have no idea, (don't think that term is covered by the union..ha ha) My rant was directed toward business people rather than audience members. I probably sounded harsh. It's just an example of "how" people say things rather than "what" they say, you know? It isn't like someone calling a woman an actress in a polite way, it's a case of someone taking it upon theirself to teach/correct with a smirk and an arrogant manner. I noticed that some of the people on this thread had strong feelings about the way their jobs/hobbys were labeled.

          2. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #43

            I noticed that some of the people on this thread had strong feelings about the way their jobs/hobbys were labeled.I guess when a person's livelihood depends upon being labeled by the proper name for what they do, It would matter. Cathy

          3. Ralphetta | | #46


          4. Gloriasews | | #51

            I know what you mean, Ralphetta - there is a lot of arrogance (& everything else) out there.  I'm surprised, too, about the strong feelings on this thread, but it's OK - we are all entitled to our feelings, eh?  Live & let live.

          5. sewslow67 | | #55

            I'm with you, Gloria re surprised about strong feelings on this Thread, but also agree that all have a right to their own thoughts.  Frankly, I don't really care for titles, but that's just me.  I do my thing, enjoy it, and keep on going.  But then, I don't sew or anything for a living, which probably makes the difference.  I still do free lance work, but since I work for myself, I haven't given myself a title.  I sometimes ask myself for a raise, but so far ...nada!  LOL!  Sorry ...I have a somewhat weird sense of humor ...or so my family tells me.  ;-)

            Edited 7/9/2008 1:26 pm by sewslow67

          6. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #56

            That is the problem with being self employed! Can't get fired, can't really quit, can't really ask for a raise or a promotion either and the boss is impossible to work for. :) I think I finally found a title for myself or rather a few: Fabric Freak, Textileaholic, Stashmaster... Cathy

          7. sewslow67 | | #57

            You are so right.  Giggle!  Thanks for a great laugh ;-)  And ...I love your titles!

          8. damascusannie | | #58

            I could never call myself "Stashmaster" --Stash Slave is more like it. Someone may be in charge of my stash, but it sure ain't me. 8^)

          9. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #59

            I have a son who is a farrier. As a whole, you'll find a lot of testosterone in this profession -- except for the wonderful female farriers, of course. Anyway, he went to a convention or some sort of gathering of the state organization for farriers to which he belongs. The marquee at the hotel read, for the whole world to see: Welcome Fairies

          10. damascusannie | | #60

            TOO FUNNY!!! All farriers that I know are definitely NOT fairies in any sense of the word. It's not a profession for the delicate. Our daughter thought about going into it but decided that it was too dangerous and would probably only be a short-term career option at best. Instead, she has a job as an assistant manager at a stable at a Bible camp in NE Wisconsin. She loves it and while there's sometimes a bit more excitement than they plan on, overall it's a bit less risky than shoeing.

          11. sewslow67 | | #62

            Good thing I've got good bones ...because I nearly fell off my chair laughing.  Thanks for a great giggle!  That's rich ...really, really rich!

          12. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #64

            Thank You for that Giggle. Now I have to clean up my coffee off of my floor. :P Thank goodness it didn't come out my nose. Cathy

          13. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #65

            Glad y'all enjoyed it. I thought it was pretty funny myself! The post script to that is that the marquee was changed before sundown that day.

            Edited 7/9/2008 7:56 pm by JunkQueen

          14. Gloriasews | | #67

            Hilarious!  Thank heavens they changed the marquee later, eh?  There were probably some embarrassed & very apologetic staff who were responsible for the lettering!


          15. Ralphetta | | #69

            You probably heard me laugh...where ever you are.

          16. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #63

            Quilters are probably the best/worst stash keepers I have ever met. I think their fabrics actually breed on their own! :) One Quilter I met in New York State even had her ceiling covered in baskets full of fabric. Cathy

          17. Gloriasews | | #66

            And I thought my stash was bad!  How did that quilter attach the baskets to the ceiling & how did she get them down?  At least she's using all the space available creatively - I would have never thought of doing that.  Thanks for the story.

            You may be right about the fabric breeding on its own - maybe I should put little battery operated lights in the fabric bins so they're not left in the dark to their own devices overnight :) - it might slow the breeding down for the more shy fabrics :)


            Edited 7/9/2008 8:40 pm by Gloriasews

          18. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #70

            They were hung by hooks and chains that she just took down by climbing on a step stool. A little claustrophobic for me, but whatever works...Cathy

          19. Gloriasews | | #71

            Yes - you'd feel like ducking when you're in the room, as if it might fall on your head.  I couldn't do that, as I'd hate to climb up on a stool all the time to get the baskets down, but, again, she was making use of available space - you've got to give her credit for that.  Pretty innovative!


          20. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #72

            They were not big baskets, and it was attractive tho. Cathy

          21. Gloriasews | | #68

            Yes, professionals do need a title.  At least, it's helpful to have a title.  I'm with you in the matter of it not being important to us, though, when we sew just for the pleasure & challenges.

            If you don't mind me asking, what kind of free lance work do you do?  Do you divide your day for it & your other stuff, as I assume it's part-time?


  6. Jaytee | | #11

    I call myself a seamstress.  It's femine, antiquated, and not necessarily creative, but people understand what I do.  Jaytee

    1. katina | | #13

      Hi Jaytee

      It's not antiquated at all - it's a most descriptive word. As you say, people understand what you do. And being a seamstress is, IMHO, very creative. "Sewist" means nothing to me. It sounds like some kind of philosopher, as in a follower of So!

      Here's a link I found - interesting.




    2. GailAnn | | #31

      Wonderful attitude!  Amen.  Gail

    3. Cherrypops | | #52

      I also use "Dressmaker" and "Seamstress" . My friends know I know how to use a needle and thread and sewing machines. Then I explain what I can sew for them.

      I do not design patterns/clothes. I work from Vogue patterns etc. Makes Dresses from patterns.

      I can Mend existing Clothes.

      I am not confident enough to make Bridal Gowns etc. and they are pleased with my honesty.

      I can make a small quilt.

      I can machine embroider small designs.

      I can make simple home dec. sheets/pillowcases, cushion covers.

      I also do clothing alterations - mainly keeping to hemming pants and skirts.

      I also charge accordingly.




      1. Jaytee | | #54

        Cherry, you're my kind of gal.  Bless you for forthrightness and perserverance.  Hope we mesh on down the road in other topics.  Thanks for your reply. Jaytee

        1. Cherrypops | | #61

          Thanks, I hope we mesh too.



    4. Loey | | #114

      Seamstress- feminine, antiquated, and not necessarily creative- yup- it fits! that's me! :)Loey

  7. SewingWriter | | #14

    As a writer, the sewist/sewer thing makes me choke.  In speech, sewer could not be misunderstood because it is not pronounced the same way.  In print, if someone reading a grammatically correct sentence including the word sewer in the context of written material about sewing and still be confused, I'd say there was something wrong with the writer, not the word!

    1. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #16

      All this politically correct nomenclature for describing what one Does.
      Dressmaker, seamstress, tailor, all tell us exactly what one does. They all construct garments to wear,or other fabric items. A quilter makes decorative pieced fabric items. The terms are precise. These words are like proper Nouns, person words.
      A sewer uses a variety of sewing skills to construct a variety of items. It is not as precise, it is a general term used to cover a wide range of skills. It is more of a Verb or action word.
      Sewist fits neither. It is neither precise nor informative. It gives no clear definition of an action. It sounds like a word made up to puff up an ego. Like calling a homemaker a domestic engineer. Cathy

      1. SewingWriter | | #21

        ThreadKoe, you directed your reply to me, but I was not the original poster.  The original topic was about use of the term "sewist" and I agree with you on that.

        1. User avater
          ThreadKoe | | #27

          Oops, Sorry, Meant to change it to All and forgot. Will be more careful in the future. Cathy

          1. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #28

            We play a little game here to amuse ourselves. We love to play with words. Take a simple job title, like farmer, and turn it into something that "sounds" more important-Agricultural Engineer. We will laugh ourselves silly over it. Creative Bafflegab at its best.
            It still doesn't settle the issue of what to call what you do. I have always felt that a seamstress, tailor, dressmaker were titles one earned after an apprenticship, and indicated that a person was a professional with training. While a sewer was a person who sews. Not an indication of skill or training, just that they did not do it for hire. Not that it is important, they are just labels after all.
            An artist creates from the soul, whatever the form it takes. The need to create is the main thing, no matter where your inspiration comes from. If you create, therefore you are an artist. Cathy

          2. Ckbklady | | #35

            You're right - tailor is a term earned after an apprenticeship. For that matter, so is Chef. In most Western countries there are certification exams one must sit before one can call oneself that. And you can't sit the exams until you've accumulated YEARS' worth of work hours in the industry. After culinary school I was horrified at my 18-year old classmates wanting to be called "Chef". Nope - there is an order to the process.

            :) Mary

    2. Ckbklady | | #19

      Absolutely - the context provides the pronounciation! It's about sewing, not cleaning drains! :)

      :) Mary

      1. moira | | #40

        I think you meant to use the word 'pronunciation'!M

        1. Ckbklady | | #41

          Wow - are you a proofreader? Thanks for catching my typo.

          :) Mary

          1. moira | | #42

            No - maybe a proof readeress! Just joining in the spirit of this thread! I'm afraid I just have an eye for spelling and grammar - but we had this discussion a few weeks ago and I don't mean to start it up again. Also, for some reason, I no longer have spellcheck on this site and I'm afraid of getting caught out making mistakes of my own!I often describe myself as a dressmaker, and I have the training and the qualifications to justify it, but I do sometimes wish for a job title that would reflect a degree of professionalism. 'Seamstress' just doesn't do it for me and I suppose that's because seaming is the most basic part of what I do and gives no indication of the art and skill involved in creating lovely garments.Edited 7/7/2008 5:24 am ET by moira

            Edited 7/7/2008 5:25 am ET by moira

          2. twreeder | | #45

            I see nothing wrong with the word "dressmaker" for someone who creates a garment from beginning to end whether it is a simple outfit or an elaborate wedding gown.  My grandmother was a dressmaker (I am 70) and supported herself and two daughters doing that after her husband died.  She also made wonderful doll clothes for me and took as much care with them as she did with full-size garments.  I always have fond memories of my grandmother when I someone say that she is a dressmaker.  Maybe I am old-fashioned but I think that it is a good word.

          3. moira | | #48

            Your recollection of your grandmother making your dolls' clothes reminded me that that's where I started my dressmaking career, over 40 years ago. My Sindy doll had quite a wardrobe and I think that some of those clothes might still be in our attic. I can remember so well the smell of the plastic she was made from, and for some reason I have a vivid memory of a dress made from a sock! One of my daughters who used to cry regularly at having to go to school, was encouraged to brave the ordeal by the promise of a new doll's dress at the end of the week!

          4. woodruff | | #49

            I do proofing and editing, and have to say that the word "sewer" drives me nuts, bonkers, barking mad! It works marvelously in the context of plumbing, but gives me whiplash when i see it used to describe a person who sews. Ick, ick, ick.I'd go with dressmaker, tailor, or even the somewhat artificial 'sewist' every time.

          5. katina | | #50

            Yes, it's a very good and appropriate word.

            I was quite taken aback to read in a knitting blog that the knitter (of some very nice hats) had used the Internet to learn how to sew on a button, so she could complete her gift hats. Shouldn't we be teaching these basics in school? Young people are taught so many coping skills to prepare them for life, yet it's staggering how many throw out a garment when it loses a button, or has the hem come undone.


          6. Tnuctip | | #73

            I agree. Its particularly sad to think that many of the fashion clothes worn by the non-stitching young are themselves made in 3rd world sweatshops by children younger than than their intended wearers. Surely we are almost canabalising the youth of one group to feed the whims of the other?

            If we all take the responsibility to pass on our skills to at least one other person in our lifetimes, then we can't fail to improve something for someone somewhere.

            Edited 7/10/2008 7:43 am by Tnuctip

          7. katina | | #74

            Passing on our skills is a very valid point, and it needn't be advanced skills either, but just some basic repair techniques at least. Knitters have Knit in Public Days, and other such activities. Perhaps we could start "Learn to Sew on a Button" days!

            As for 3rd world sweatshops - a very complicated issue. In an ideal world these wouldn't exist, and children would most certainly not be working in them. The sad truth, though, is that in many cases these children are putting food on the table. I don't have any answer to this. I have seen firsthand what devastation is wrought when such employment opportunities cease to exist. It's very important that people contine to be aware, as you are, of these most unfortunate and undesirable conditions.


          8. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #75

            I have been following the conversation between you and Tnuctip. It is one reason why I love to teach, esp. kids. I am very discouraged by the current school system. They no longer teach life skills. They teach job skills. "As for 3rd world sweatshops - a very complicated issue."
            We ourselves are only a couple of generations away from that situation ourselves. We are so lucky to live where we are. But at what expense? With the current economic situation, many families here now depend on their teens to work. I believe that awareness and the support of fair trade practices will help push improvements in these areas in developing countries. It is a Global economy, with Global responsibilities. Cathy

          9. katina | | #76

            Yes, school systems seem to be in crisis in several parts of the world. To compound matters, schools are often having to take over some of the teaching that should ordinarily be done within the home setting.

            With regard to economic situations, these differ so much from country to country and community to community, that one group's 'poverty' is another's height of luxury. Unfortunately. Interestingly enough, many self-help schemes in developing countries employ women (mostly) who are able to sew, knit, crochet, embroider, do beadwork on items for sale, though one must be alert as to what proportion of profits actually goes back to the artisans. In such countries, teaching needlearts in the schools is often a priority - the principle of teaching a man to fish. A woman may have little use for formal learning in her home environment (again, most unfortunate, and a topic for discussion elewhere) but value is attached to being able to provide clothing for the family.


          10. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #78

            Maybe I am old fashioned, but I still feel that a person, male or female should still be taught to "provide" the basics for themselves. Basic skills, like cooking, mending or basic needlework, basic repair work, should still be taught at school. A lot of parents seem to be unable to do these things themselves, how can they now teach it to their own children? My younger brothers never got the chance to take the basic cooking class that my peers did. We moved before they got the chance. Thank goodness my Mom and I have taught them. They are all self sufficient that way and are good cooks. My Daughters friends love to come here because I let them muck around in my kitchen and in my craft stuff. Otherwise some never get the chance to learn. You cannot support yourself if you do not have the most basic of skills.I was watching a program on TV one night about how someone could loan a woman in a developing country as little as $25 to start her own business. That the program was really successful. I have also seen others where teaching women skills has improved the life of the whole family. These women's networks that are being set up seem to make sense, as women tend to put their family welfare first.

          11. jjgg | | #79

            I heard a program on NPR a few days ago about some technical colleges in Alabama starting up, they are 1 - 2 yr technical programs to get people into the workforce without doing general college stuff. There was a lot of flack by the regular colleges about it! I know in Texas they do have a 'Workforce Program" in the community college system like this, all the things they used to teach in high school auto mechanics (granted that has changed and gotten enormously more complicated since I was in HS) air conditioning, etc etc.
            They do need to put these programs back in the public high school system where the less affluent can get this sort of education for free.You could teach alterations, put the kids in alteration shops for internships and they could get good jobs right out of high school, and soon start their own business.

          12. geriroyer | | #80

            I love this topic. Got a lot of good giggles out of it. Thanks. As for me, I consider myself a seamstress. I am also a secretary! In fact, I'm the Secretary to the President of a trade association. I am proud of the fact that I am a secretary, but I laugh at how some just can't stand to be called that - male or female. I guess I am old-fashioned. I'm not really concerned about titles except for one and that is Mrs. I will correct people that put Ms. in front of my name. I tell them nicely that it is Mrs. and has been for over 30 years and I deserve the correct recognition..... ;-)I have a small personal business that I call Needlin' Women for a historical craft fair that I participate in every year. I not only make clothing but I have made some patterns for our historical site using that as my 'brand' name. I am a historical reenactor at Sutter's Fort in Sacramento, CA. I sew clothing for many of our docents.

          13. immc | | #131

            I like 'Mrs.' vs. Ms! Perfect marriages are like perfect lives - fantasy! But DH & I are still on our 1st, each, and I ain't a 'Ms.' I've earned the title.

            I used to live w/in 100 miles of Sutter's Fort, enjoyed visiting, and of course enjoyed seeing the few patterns available 10 yrs ago. But homeschooling didn't leave much discretionary income, so I wasn't able to buy any. Instead, I spent hours making my own, based on pics & illustrations, and came astonishingly close to patterns I later bought. Historical costuming is my first love, the reason I learned to sew as a child.

            Sewing on buttons & doing hems are good practical skills, and as much as I agree that kids should learn, there is such a thing as running into a wall with a kid who refuses to learn - my daughter. Her younger brother made himself a shirt when he was 8! Go figure.

            If the world were  my version of perfect, I'd call myself a 'petite couturiere', since that's an apt description of what I do, and who I am, but it doesn't make as much sense in the world I live in as it did in French class. The best titles can do is describe a skill, or set of them. Describing either me, or the things I do, takes a long list.


          14. geriroyer | | #132

            I know what you mean about the patterns.  I generally use them as a base to start from.  I am a plus size so historic patterns never fit me.  I have to adjust, alter and change them to fit me.  I also sew for several of the folks at the Fort and seem to have to do the same for them.  Rarely do I get to use a pattern without some sort of adjustment.  Of course, some are much easier than others.   I've been at the Fort for over 21 years now and really enjoy it.  Who knows, we may have met sometime when you came to the Fort if we had an event or training going on.  I'm usually in the kitchen, which is my other love.

          15. Tangent | | #133

            When I lived near Barkerville Historic Town, B.C., Canada, for a decade, I researched a lot of info about Victorian cosumes, and what the miners would have been wearing out in the wilds as they were prospecting for the elusive goldmine in the 1860's.  The merchants and ladies soon followed the miners wherever a camp sprang up.  The fashions of the day were worn by those who could afford to, and those who had to 'make do', did.  Many of those who started out for the area were not prepared for the climate,  and the scarcity of places to get supplies.  The average age of people in the old graveyard is 31. Now the 'historic' town is brought to life each summer by costumed interpreters.  Most of the costumes came from the theater, (last year's outfits) and some were made/assembled by the interpreters.  I made a few, starting out with an awful 'pioneer' outfit, and learning as I went along, until making the full outfit- corset, pantaloons, petticoat, bustle, skirt, overskirt, and blouse. I based my patterns on the historic costume research, making scale-model mock-ups, and muslins, adjusting to fit the customer, and trying to get the 'look' right even though they needed to use poly-cotton for easy maintenance.  My sewing skills got a lot of fine-tuning in those days!

            And I was called a 'seamstress' or 'dressmaker', even when I was making a vest, shirt, and trousers for a man, or drapery for a window.  Kinda liked the title.  But it didn't cover the range of what I was doing.   Close enough, though?

            And what should I do with all those notes and patterns now that I have a different life?  BTW, the corset/petticoat is seen from the back, in case you're not sure.


          16. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #134

            Have you been in touch with the people that you used to work with to see if they want your resources? Or contacted other Historical rreenactment places to see if they want them? Many do not have the resources or the budget to purchase the patterns or information that you have collected and would probably be thrilled to have it. You Could also post your information on a website also, so others have a list of resources as well. Cathy

            Edited 7/27/2008 11:26 am ET by ThreadKoe

          17. Tangent | | #135

            Thanks for your advice, but it's not likely anyone back there would want what I have, or if they did they'd want it for free.  They already have access to the same research or more, and a new batch of last season's theater costumes each year. The theater group has a professional costumer do the designing and making of each season's outfits, before they arrive onsite in the spring. When I was there I did mending/alterations and custom sewing, but it wasn't steady work. 

            Historic re-enactment tends to be very time-specific, and most of mine centers on the B.C. gold rush days of 1868-78.  I have no idea what to ask for the notes and patterns.  I might even have some 'Goldrush' books left, but it's all buried in a storage locker, that I don't have easy access to.  Which means I won't be giving it away because it would take about 2 days and freight costs to put it together for the person who wants it.  So, it will keep. 

            In my present location I don't have room to do much sewing other than occasionally.  Gradually working on that, but there are so many other things competing for my spare time it's a slow process. 

          18. damascusannie | | #136

            I'd definitely be interested in your research materials. Historical costuming is a passion of mine that grew out of my other passion--antique sewing machines. I wear period costumes when I demonstrate, anything from about 1860-1950 works into the era of the "people-powered" sewing machine.

          19. katina | | #137

            Annie - it's on my lsit of things to do (before I die!) to see you in action.


          20. damascusannie | | #139

            I'd love to meet you and the other gals as well. Maybe we'll have to try to have a reunion one of these days.

          21. katina | | #140

            Good idea! Let's see if we can

          22. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #138

            I also meant to compliment you on your outfit, but got cut off from my end by having a bad thunderstorm blow in. I understand that you wouldn't want to give away all your resources for free, I was thinking of your notes, Books and such cost a fortune. The Costumes are expensive to make, The ones at Fort Steele near Cranbrook were fabulous. I expect the ones you did were of a similar nature.
            When you do get to the bottom of your storage locker one day, post a list of the books and patterns, someone will be interested. There are lots of sites for used patterns and books that will be a good guideline for prices in the meantime. I have family out where you are, maybe some day we will get to meet. Cathy

          23. Tangent | | #141

            Thank you for your kind words.  Some day I'll dig out that storage locker and have a garage sale! 

            It would be fun to meet you, and any of the others on this site!  Some of you post comments often enough that it's like getting to know you.  I agree with the poster who said we should all fill in at least some of our info in the Profile, like where in the world we're at. With the Internet, we are connected even though we may be in Sweden, Australia, Canada, or wherever, and it adds to the fun. 

            This is the only outlet for me to 'talk sewing', as I have no friends or relatives who are into it. I love how the subjects jump around, the interesting comments, various viewpoints, and that the conversations are not just collections of profane insults.  Sometimes we get to see interesting projects or explore a link to a site we'd otherwise never have found. We can ask for advice or opinions, give our own input, and newcomers are welcomed.   Yep, it's a great site!

          24. katina | | #142

            Yes, it really is a fabulous site - IMHO it has no equal. Those who find things of mutual interest unrelated to sewing can continue to chat happily by email to each other.


          25. katina | | #81

            No, not at all old fashioned, but practical, pragmatic. Here's a link to the organisation you speak of: Kiva


            I miss the days of the kids hanging about with their friends while I sewed Halloween outfits, hemmed prom gowns. Enjoy while you can!

          26. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #82

            Thanks for the link. My youngest just graduated HS so I think the days of kids just hanging around are soon over. At least I know I have succeeded in teaching them a thing or two. They still complain when I make them sew on their own buttons as " But Mummy, you do it so much faster and I need it NOW!" :P My youngest asked me to teach her to sew this summer, between her jobs. Now if I could only nail her down for a few minutes to make some decisions on when.... I'll make a sewist out of her yet! tee hee Cathy

          27. katina | | #83

            Oh yes, even now I get that "...but you're so much better/quicker " story!

          28. LadyTaraC | | #77

            The third world issue will always be a complicated issue.  I've always heard of the horror stories of sweatshops abroad just as children have heard for years "eat all your food, there are children starving in China.    I know others state that many times these people are feeding their families with their income and I've even read where some say  "they don't have the same living standards that we do, therefore, getting paid what we consider to be practically nothing per day is enough for them in their society.  I watched a story featured on BBC news a few months ago about the sweatshops in India and it made the situation much more real to me.  It was sad and eyeopening.  The link does not show the news feature in its entirety but what is shown is food for thought.



            Sorry to be off-topic so I will add that no matter how artificial I like the term sewist and use it all the time; I've even seen the term used in sewing magazines. Sewer . . . sewist . . . whatever suits your fancy.

          29. Ckbklady | | #47


            I have to agree with twreeder, I think "dressmaker" is a wonderful word. If you want added professionalism, how 'bout "professional dressmaker"? And in the spirit of the thread, maybe it should be "dressmakeress"? Ok, now I'm dizzy, tee hee.

            And I must add that you and I differ in that I'm not afraid of making spelling mistakes or getting "caught out" as you put it, if I do. ;) If that's the worst thing I do today, I'm golden, LOL!

            :) Mary


            Edited 7/7/2008 4:41 pm by Ckbklady

          30. Jaytee | | #53

            Your viewpoint is interesting, and I appreciate it.  Meanwhile, let me say the real criteria is when you artfully construct a garment (in my case), wear it, and are complemented, it doesn't need more definition.  That is the real statement of your skill. You know what I hate? When you say seamstress and the person says, Oh, can you hem my slacks for me? That's a no brainer.  Jaytee. 

      2. immc | | #88

        Context is everything! My grandpa gave a sewing tool to my mom one Christmas, who looked at the tag "To my favorite 'sewer'?", pronouncing it like a pipe to carry sewage. Mom has a degree in Home Ec, has been sewing for 60 years, you'd think she would have known. 30+ years later, we're still laughing about that one.

        Sewist? I am well aware that languages change. I've taken courses in 5 languages, have a minor in French, and words that were slang when I achieved that are now common, and slang is different. Look at fashion terminology: sack can describe both a style of man's suit and a woman's dress. Chemise - French for shirt, but used in English to mean both an undergarment and a dress that can also be called a sack!

        But Sewist? There's such a thing as too PC! I've earned income repairing farmer's jeans and coveralls. Does that make me a repairist? Not very descriptive of the fact that I am a talented, skilled sewer with over 35 years of experience, is it? I admit that darning jeans is not at all my favorite type of sewing, but it certainly served a much needed purpose. I'd much rather sew designer fashions and historic costumes. I'm working towards a business doing just that, in the few minutes I can manage to squeeze between working, being the mom of teenagers, etc

        I remember reading an article once in which a man called himself a seamster, which I thought was an appropriate way of expressing what he did. Weaver, spinner, knitter, crocheter, quilter, tailor,professional dressmaker, designer, costumer, custom clothier, even alterationist, are all gender neutral and far more specifically descriptive of the work we enjoy doing. We'll just have to wait and see whether that one catches on or not.

        1. User avater
          ThreadKoe | | #89

          ...seamster...an appropriate way of expressing what he did. Weaver, spinner, knitter, crocheter, quilter, tailor,professional dressmaker, designer, costumer, custom clothier, even alterationist, are all gender neutral and far more specifically descriptive of the work we enjoy doing.Perfectly stated. Cathy

          1. Cherrypops | | #90

            I have been tagged, Clothier, recently, by one of my friends...now I feel I have to sew something grand. ... lol .. I had forgotten about that term.

          2. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #91

            I dare not tell my DH that a sewist just may be a "more creative sewer". He will start calling me a "drivest", since he thinks my driving skills/habits are pretty creative......

          3. damascusannie | | #92


          4. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #93

            loll!:) Cathy

          5. katina | | #94

            Hi there

            Oetzi, the Iceman, was wearing very sophisticated garments when he died. The quality and style of his clothing has completely changed the way scientists viewed the domestic and social order of his time as these showed the existence of artisans fully occupied in the manufacture of various form of apparel. I wonder what they called themselves?

            I particularly liked his hat - made of very small pieces of bearskin and shaped to fit the head. Did these early patchworkers simply make excellent use of their scraps, or was this a design element to ensure a snug fit?


            "Ötzi's clothes were quite sophisticated. He wore a cloak made of woven grass and a vest, a belt, a pair of leggings, a loincloth and shoes, all made of leather. He also wore a bearskin cap with a leather chin strap. The shoes were waterproof and wide, seemingly designed for walking across the snow; they were constructed using bearskin for the soles, deer hide for top panels, and a netting made of tree bark. Soft grass went around the foot and in the shoe and functioned like warm socks. The vest, belt, leggings, and loincloth were constructed of vertical strips of leather sewn together with sinew. His belt had a pouch sewn to it that contained a cache of useful items: a scraper, drill, flint flake, bone awl, and a dried fungus to be used as tinder."


          6. Ckbklady | | #96

            Maybe Oetzi was a finalist in the Project Runway of the time? (giggle)

            I love the mental picture of competitive sewing in that era. I'd give a prize for the grass socks!

            :) Mary

          7. katina | | #97

            Mary, you're probably exactly right - there would have been competition involved!

            Oetzi: "I'm having my leggings made by Neo-good-with-a-bone-needle-Lithic. She did a fine job before."

            Oetzi's spear-throwing clansman: " You go to her then. I'm sticking with Neo-good-at-cutting-hides-Lithic as he always gives me a good fit. Anyway, he doesn't demand as many freshly-killed deer as she does for his work."

            Seriously, the clothing was of a quality not previously known. It was assumed that garments would have been very crudely made.

          8. Ckbklady | | #99

            Oh, yeah - all giggling aside, he WAS pretty advanced. I've enjoyed reading more about him via Google thanks to your mention.

            :) Mary

          9. katina | | #102

            He fascinates me; I've followed the story since he was first found, about 3 hours drive from us, and have been to see him a number of times. The clothing's truly remarkable.



          10. Ckbklady | | #106

            Oetzi's a 3-hour drive from you? Oetzi DRIVES???

            Sorry, it just made me laugh.

            Tee hee,


          11. katina | | #109

            Always good to laugh!

          12. Ralphetta | | #98

            Oetzi was a "fierce" designer.

          13. Ckbklady | | #100

            Oh, yeah - he was "fierce" - like a blue leather Kenneth Cole suit was in the mid-80s. I loved that word for its descriptive qualities then. I'm gonna dust it off and reuse it (since the suit no longer fits, LOL!!).

            :) Mary

          14. Ralphetta | | #101

            In case you didn't watch Project Runway last season, that was the favorite word of the winner and that's why I used it.I'm still pondering the blue leather suit...hmmmm, could be cool/rad.

            Edited 7/16/2008 1:01 am ET by Ralphetta

          15. Ckbklady | | #105

            Hiya Ralphetta!

            No, I didn't watch P.Runway. I tried once but found their endless rudeness and sniping too hard to take. The fashions are too young for my taste anyway, and even with the sound off, I don't get much out of it. I'm hoping some new contestant will decide to be a better person and be an example of class, manners and kindness. When I hear that has happened, I'll tune in again. Even if the clothes don't do anything for me.

            No, the blue suit wasn't "fierce", really - it was ridiculous! It was bright royal blue with big shoulders (like everything in the 80s), a tapered double breasted panel, and a miniskirt so tight that I had to flatten myself against the wall to zip it up. Versace made one around the same time that was more expensive, but I would have loved it too - it had gaudy gold chain epaulets on the shoulders! Maybe it was "fierce", but really, as we used to say back then, it was "gag me" material. No article of clothing has made me laugh so hard as that one.

            Well, that's not entirely true. I hit the pinnacle of silliness last Christmas. I saved and saved and saved and finally bought a longed-for Escada cashmere jacket last year to wear during the holidays. It was a bright reddish-orange, double-breasted, with big gold buttons and a mandarin collar. I proudly wore it with black stovepipe pants and high-heeled boots to several parties, until I heard a little boy at a buffet line say, "Look, Mommy, the nice lady dressed up as a Nutcracker!" i nearly dropped my plate I was laughing so hard! He was right! Well, maybe not a nutcracker but a nut anyway! Now I put on the jacket and laugh my head off. No piece of clothing will ever do me so much good! :)

            :) Mary

          16. Ralphetta | | #107

            I'm still laughing. Did you have BIG hair with the blue suit? Your orange jacket sounds beautiful, but one single negative comment can really take the fun out of things.I will admit to having a cranberry crushed velvet pantsuit with big lapels and bell bottom pants. It was worn with a gigantic hair-piece of curls perched on the back of my head and tinted glasses. Thank goodness there are no photos.

          17. Ckbklady | | #108

            Big hair? You betcha - the BIGGEST! :)

            Oh, it wasn't a negative comment - the little kid actually looked quite delighted! i think I made his day. And today I'm still laughing about it! It sure didn't take the fun out of things for me - it made the jacket more fun than I already thought it was. It's nice to spread a little happiness with one's wardrobe, LOL! Besides, it really DOES look like a Nutcracker jacket. Maybe this year I'll buy the top hat to go with it! :)

            A cranberry pantsuit? But that just sounds darling!

            :) Mary, Fashion Victim, LOL

            Edited 7/16/2008 11:02 pm by Ckbklady

          18. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #110

            You and Ralphetta are making me smile this am. Or cringe. The 80's were the sweet days of my youth. We thought we looked so Hot! Cathy

          19. Cherrypops | | #111

            aahhh the 80's fashion. . i was a teenager then. what fun it was. i still have my straight skirt pattern with the waistband on the natural waist, that I used in home ec. I was by no means a 'sewist' then,,,too interested in boys. Now that I am a wife and mother, I love my sewing... and still love the male species haha.

          20. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #103

            I have met Oetzi before, on TV, or in a magazine. I was fascinated then. When the Bog People came through the Museum of Civilization a couple of yrs back, I was fascinated by their clothing also. At least with Oetzi, they actually studied his clothing. So often, it seems that "primitive" peoples clothing has been bypassed in favor of their tools. Yet the quality and form of that clothing probably made the difference between life and death in difficult climates. Why wouldn't a people spend just as much time and craftmanship on their clothing as on their tools? Doesn't make sense to me. I'll bet he was a real Dandy in his day! Cathy

          21. katina | | #104

            Hi Cathy

            You have a very good point about clothing/tools. In Oetzi's case, being properly outfitted would definitely have been a priority. His cape is very interesting in the way it's woven (basket making techniques were very well developed by then), how it's shaped and the fact that it would have served the purpose, yet allowed his arms to be free. It is COLD up there!


          22. Tangent | | #115

            Thanks for the link to the Iceman, it was very interesting!   I was thinking about Oetzi a few days ago, about his clothing, such as the grass cape.  It was a welcome surprise to find this information!  You've SEEN him?  Wow!

            I don't think modern people are any smarter than people of ancient times. They were just as creative/intelligent as us; they just had less technology and synthetic things to work with. What we have nowadays is built up from centuries of progress (using that term loosely).

            I've often wondered, if you could do a 'student-exchange' sort of thing, bring some people from the distant past to our time, and some from our time to theirs, who would adapt and fit in better?

            The term 'Sewer' isn't one of my favorites, but 'Sewist' doesn't quite feel right either, somehow.  'Seamstress' excludes males and doesn't cover enough territory, but it seems none of the terms do.  Rodezzy's right.... "don't care what you call me, just don't call me late for the fun stuff!!"

          23. katina | | #116

            I've been very fortunate to have seen Oetzi several times in the Museum in Bolzano, or Bozen as it's known in German. Whenever friends and family come to visit, a trip to see him is a must. There's a delightful medieval festival each year in Bolzano; I particularly enjoy it for the music and dancing through the streets by a group of professional players who wear wonderful reproduction garments. There's great attention to detail in the outfits, which include doublet and hose, wonderful blouses and bodices, elaborate hats and caps, slashed sleeves, and the like.

            I agree with you about ancient peoples. They accomplished the most incredible things with what they had available. Oetzi's an excellent example - compare his clothing and provisions with all the hi-tech gear and hi-energy foods available to mountain climbers today. Yet essentially, there's not that much difference in the type of clothing. Oetzi had just what his modern counterparts have - undergarments, leggings, warm footwear, upper body gear, hat and outer garment. I'll give him your best next time I visit!


          24. starzoe | | #117

            It's interesting how things happen by coincidence -- was in a thrift store yesterday afternoon and there was a book about the iceman, $3.00. I read a good part of it just standing there. We in Canada have a more recent iceman...can't remember his name but is called something like "long time hunter".This sort of thing happens a lot with me, never heard of a person/word/occasion and it turns up once, twice, three times in the next book/movie/newspaper.As for "sewist", I don't care for it. "Sewer" doesn't bother me, if a reader can't figure out what is meant by the context that's their problem.

        2. Ckbklady | | #95

          Alterationist? That won't be catching on with me, LOL! When I'm cooking I'm not a stirrist or a vegetable washist, or a cake bakeist - it's all too silly! :)

          I don't know that I need one word to cover all talents - your long list sounds fine to me. We all do numerous tasks that can be separately identified in our jobs, lives, etc. Many chafe at the word "housewife" for long-discussed sexist connotations, but back in the 70s it was known to cover cooking, cleaning, sewing, entertaining, decorating, raising children, gardening, etc. I'm with Rodezzy on this one - the name isn't as important as making sure we get to take part in lots of fun stuff in our short time on earth. But I still call myself a sewer, LOL, and I firmly believe that others are free to call themselves whatever they like. I just hope everyone can do so lightly and happily and not take the whole thing too seriously.

          :) Mary, the Sewer, LOL!


        3. GailAnn | | #112

          Anyone familiar with the term "Sempster"? Or alternately "Sempstress"?  I refer you to the mystery novel by Margaret Frazer, "The Sempster's Tale", a Medieval maker of vestments.  Gail

          1. katina | | #113

            Interesting. Never heard of it. Is 'seamstress' derived from this word?

  8. sewelegant | | #44

    How about couturist?  Are we not technically fashion designers when we are called upon to fashion something to the customers specifications?  Because the French language seems to hold such fascination for the typical American, the word couture is very impressive.

    cou·ture [koo toor]
    1.  fashion design: the design and production of fashionable high-quality custom-made clothes 
    ist     (suffix)
    1.  somebody who practises a particular skill or profession such as psychologist,  
    etymologist, (or sewist?)                                                                   

    Encarta ¯ World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

  9. User avater
    ceeshell | | #84

    Personally I decided to be a bit elitist and call my self a wearable art creator. Really I think that we have gone over board with the gender neutral thing. I grew up in and have a degree in theater and It is making me nuts to hear women referring to them selves a Actors. I could go on, waitstaff or server, flight attendants, chairperson or just chair. I am aware that at 62 I am becoming an old fuddy duddy curmudgen, but I really would like for language changes to make things better because sure as shooting, the terms will change again. thanks for letting me vent, back to lurking mode.

    1. katina | | #85

      Absolutely! We've gone overboard and are now drowning in a PC sea.


    2. SewingWriter | | #86

      It's not elitist at all! Please don't apologize for calling yourself an artist.  If there is such a thing as a silver lining to the decline in sewing, it is that the fewer of us with sewing skills, the more unique we become  :-)

      Anyone who needs a nudge to think of sewing as art is encouraged to read The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.

  10. rodezzy | | #87

    Life is short, and I don't care what anyone calls the talents that were given me, just don't call me late for the good stuff i.e. shopping, eating, dancing, flea market, whatever the fun is!

  11. Flackmistress | | #118

    I totally favor losing the term "sewer," is indeed it means bathroom plumbing.  So gross.  What ever happened to the term "seamstress?"

    1. User avater
      JunkQueen | | #119

      Are we to discard ALL our homographs?
      WoundAnd that's just off the top of my head. It's all in the context. The English language is a wonderfully interesting and complex one, having derived from the world of languages. I'm teasing you, of course. Isn't it wonderful that we may call ourselves whatever suits our fancy? My preference is the term sewer for myself. I sew.

      Edited 7/23/2008 1:04 pm by JunkQueen

      1. User avater
        ThreadKoe | | #120

        If we didn't have homographs, we wouldn't have puns, or plays on words. And if you can't play with words, what's the fun in that? There is just too much seriousness sometimes. Yes, there is a time to be serious, but also a time to play, and now, I'm going to play with my sewing machine.... Cathy

      2. BernaWeaves | | #121

        I still laugh at the fiber artist who was surprised when paramedics knocked on her door and an ambulance arrived.  Her friends were concerned when they called and got this message on her answering machine.

        "Hi, I can't come to the phone right now.  I'm dyeing."


        1. User avater
          ThreadKoe | | #122

          Bet she felt a little sheepish. Cathy

      3. SewingWriter | | #123

        Adding few more:

        invalid - resume - read - sow

        Admittedly, I would not choose a vanity license plate reading SEWER, but I challenge anyone out there to write a grammatically correct, three-sentence paragraph on the topic of sewing that uses the word sewer in such a way as to be ambiguous.  Consider it a creative challenge!

        1. katina | | #124

          OK, I'll kick off

          "She came into the cutting room to add more fabrics to the piles already on the tables, noting that only a few pattern pieces had been cut out and pinned together during her absence. How were they ever going to get all the machine sewing completed in time, never mind the hand finishing that would still need to be done on the garments? Scissors, rotary cutters, pins, needles, threads, zippers, chalk and tape measures lay scattered about near the sink which was full of dirty water, and suddenly she began to panic, wondering if the sewers were actually working in the basement."

          1. damascusannie | | #125

            Good one, Katina! Here's mine, not nearly as detailed as yours, but I think it's definitely ambiguous! She went into the basement to check the sewer. Things were a mess! The sewer just wasn't getting the job done.Annie in Wisconsin, USA
            ~~Doodlestein Designs Quilt Patterns
            ~~Finely Finished: Machine quilting worked on a treadle sewing machine.
            See patterns, quilting, and National sewing machines at: http://community.webshots.com/user/damascusannie

            Edited 7/24/2008 1:12 pm by damascusannie

          2. katina | | #126

            Great fun, isn't it?

          3. jjgg | | #129

            I love it! keep them going, this 'thread' has gotten very intersting

          4. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #130

            Bravo to both you and Katina. Well done! Cathy

          5. SewingWriter | | #127

            Laughing so hard I'm crying........which will soon flood my own sewing room.  Thanks for "getting it" !!

          6. User avater
            JunkQueen | | #128

            Nicely done, Katina -- and Annie. Your passages are much like talking to my DH. As clear as mud. So, I just keep listening, and eventually the meaning is made clear. Likewise, I'm thinking that the next couple of sentences in your stories would make the meaning of your words abundantly clear. It's still all in the context, isn't it? I love the English language. And this forum with so many talented and intelligent women. And yes, men, too, though their numbers here are few.

        2. User avater
          ThreadKoe | | #144

          I know I'm a little slow off of the mark, but I needed time to think this through: All day the sewers had flowed through the conference hall doors. Now, all that lay behind were puddles of fabric and thread scraps that had pooled under the tables amongst discarded coffeecups, paper napkins and lost tools. Susan surveyed the mess with disgust and thought to herself, "I'm going to be here all night." Cathy

          1. katina | | #145

            Really enjoyed this, Cathy! So glad you joined in


          2. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #146

            It was fun. Thanks Katina. Cathy

          3. SewingWriter | | #147

            Fun, fun, fun! Another person who "gets it"!  The effort it takes to create ambiguity in the context of three lines of print is notable.

          4. User avater
            ThreadKoe | | #148

            Thanks Stephanie, It takes a bit of thought, but it was fun, and sure gave the ol' brain cells a few push ups! Cathy

  12. sandyszoo | | #163

    So what happened to the word seamstress?????  LOL

    Sandy in Houston

    1. sewingkmulkey | | #168

      Say, Sandy, I also live in Houston (actually Atascocita next to Kingwood).  Do you attend any sewing workshops, groups, etc.? 

      And there's nothing wrong with the title seamstress as I use it when people look at me funny when I say I'm a fabric artist.



      1. sandyszoo | | #169

        Karen, No I don't belong to any sewing groups, and at the risk of sounding patheticlly needy I would LOVE to even know some one who sews, knits, even a quilter ( I don't quilt, but that's beside the point )   I do not have  one single friend who  can sew, or create much of anything artistically speaking anyway. I know what you mean about the fabric artist.  I am a floral designer, when I lived in a smaller town in south Tx the guys down there were so funny . When I said I was a floral designer they would say " oh you do floors huh.....  I learned to say I do flowers LOL   As for sewing events I am going to Dallas the weekend of the 22nd of this month. Unique patterns , out of Canada, is going to be there with their body scanner.  You go in strip down to your underwear and they have a laser that measures your whole body.  They in turn, use those measurements and make patterns for you.  I've used their patterns for years and they fit beautifully.  Before the scanner, we had to measure almost every sq inch of our bodies, send them the measurements and so on.  I am so excited about this because I have big boobs and it's so hard to make anything fit.      Well I've gone on and on, if you're still reading this, I would love to get together sometime.  I would drive up there, or over there or down there ( can you tell I'm directionally challenged ) LOL      My ph is 713 492 2205  cell 281 682 8132.   Regards,  Sandy Franklin

           [email protected] 


        1. starzoe | | #170

          My dear, not a good idea to put all that information on a forum - any forum. You can be contacted through your profile without anyone ever knowing any of this information. Then, if you wish, you can answer the emailer and only then will they have your email address.

        2. User avater
          ThreadKoe | | #174

          Sandyszoo, we really care about our friends here on Gatherings. We want you to be safe. Please remove your personal information from the open board. If you wish to exchange personal information with someone, just click on their name and a box pops up. You can then email them safely through that way. You can also chat on other subjects with someone that way. Your personal safety is our utmost concern. Cathy
          PS Sewing and crafting is often something that women are more interested in than men. This would make this site a prime target to peruse for those types of creeps. I am saying this as a cops daughter.

          Edited 8/12/2008 6:39 pm ET by ThreadKoe

        3. Ralphetta | | #176

          I'm still laughing about "floral designer." You needn't worry about sounding needy because your complaint about not knowing anyone who sews is the same one that most of us have.

        4. Cherrypops | | #177

          As Per Forum HOUSE RULES:

          2. Private informationTaunton's Discussions are accessible to the general public. We discourage posting your private information, such as addresses and telephone numbers.

          SandysZoo: I highly suggest you remove your personal information. You are able to edit your post and reply via email to the Member you wish to continue your discussion with.

      2. sandyszoo | | #171

        So don't call me

        1. BernaWeaves | | #172

          I have to agree with the previous poster.  It's like safe sex for forums.  There are some real sickos out there who could stalk you or steal your id.  You might want to edit your entry and remove your personal info.

          Seriously, Berna

          1. sandyszoo | | #173

            Ya know folks, while I appreciate your concerns about my posting my info, I find it hard to believe that any  sickos out there would even be inclined to find this site, let alone read it. I may be a little pollyanna about life, but I'm not going to worry about something like that.  This is not MY Space, Match . com, facebook or any other well known site. So please don't worry about me,apparently I have more faith in the human race than some.  Sandy 

          2. Ralphetta | | #175

            As the others said, without knowing your actual email address, any of us can still contact you by just clicking "respond by email" instead of "posting a message" to everyone. That way we each have some control and security.

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