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When did you learn to sew?

GailAnn | Posted in General Discussion on

Morning agian ladies:

I just finished asking Why you learned to sew?  Wondering too When?  Where?  How?  Let’s take a little walk together down memory lane…….Gail


  1. user-217847 | | #1

    Hi GailAnn,

    I enjoyed sewing in primary school, wonderful teacher, bestest Nan in the world, working mother. Then came high school, no Nan, great teachers. Loved the theory loathed the sewing, mum with the help of neighbour passed all my sewing exams with distinctions might add. I loved the craft side, My clown doll is still on display at the local high school, so I am told. Next came nursing, at that time very little money, living in Sydney. (My mum did give me a sewing machine for Christmas when I was 14). Put that machine on the train in Newcastle back to the nurses home. With no interest from the other girls I set about learning to sew, bought the pattern what it said to buy. Lots and lots of disasters, if it got finished I'd wear it, looking back on photo's I was very brave they were disasters to.   Got my degree and back home, lots of money no sewing, with the arrival of dd took some classes improved some.My dd gave up on me when she was told 'NOT COOL TO WEAR HOME MADE". Then came 3 nieces differ"nt as chalk and cheese no. 1 hates florals and frills no. 2 a chafe bag if I embroidered a flower onto it (so loved this one) no. 3 exclusively theres not allowed to sew for anyone else. Then "NOT COOL TO WEAR HOME MADE". Now have been told to learn to sew like the experts, they can't afford boutiques, so I am giving it my best love the forums just like a sponge I soak up everything, I am learning I'll never be as good as some of the talented ladies here but I will get better.

    Warmest regards,



  2. Crazy K | | #2

    when...............oh many, many decades ago.  My Dad bought mother a beautiful Pfaff sewing machine for Christmas one year.........I was the one that sewed on it!  We were small farmers and mother helped outside since I was the only kid.........no boys to help with the farm work.  I helped outside, too, but still found time to sew.  I started with doll clothes when I was about 9 or 10 and then started making some goofy creations for myself..........remember the old kerchief blouses??  Then I bought a pattern for skirt and top and some fabric...........not too bad but I had no clue how to do the waistband...........put it on wrong but wore it anyway!  I made several skirts and dresses throughout high school.  I must say, my abilities have improved over the years but I still consider myself barely an intermediate sewer.  When I hear of all the wonderful tailored things people are making........complete with many alterations...............gives me shivers!  I did sew for kids........then, they got to 'that age' .........NOT COOL, so I gave up on that.  Then work, home, family life, more work, divorce, more work made it impossible to spend my time sewing.  Then the grandbabies started arriving, a new life with a few more resources than before and I started itching to sew again................new and improved machines (I had been sewing with mother's beautiful Pfaff all those years) and lots of new tools to make the whole process more fun.  Now the grandbabies are starting to get to that NOT COOL age...........soooo, I'm sewing for charity and the few little grands left that enjoy my efforts!

    Thanks for the memories!


  3. rodezzy | | #3

    I learned to sew at the age of 15 in Home Economics classes for three years with Mrs. Langworthy at Three Rivers High in Three Rivers Michigan.  I lived there from the age 10 until 18.  Half the school year was sewing and the other half was cooking.  I made special occasion look-a-like outfits for me and my best friend.  I made my gown when I ran for Miss Three Rivers and I won second runner up in that high school pageant.  I'm still making things and sending to her and she's in Ohio.  I used to come home and cook full meals sometimes after I got home from school. 

    1. User avater
      dayenu | | #4

      they tried to get me to sew in 7th grade hone ec but I resisted mightily. Then at age 17 I was incarcerated in a home for unwed mothers and to keep us busy they had classes. one was sewing- with classical tailoring technigues. I wa hooked and have been sewing ever since.

      1. fabricholic | | #22

        Reminds me of 7th grade home ec. that my mother insisted I take that year. I wanted to be back in art class, but I had fun in home ec., also. Mothers usually know best, but it takes a while for some to realize it.

  4. dressed2atee | | #5

    I learned to sew doll dresses by hand from a Childcraft encyclopedia in the early 70s when I was about 12 years old, from there I took home economics classes the 7th grade.  We started a skirt and didn't finish it...I took my uncle's sewing machine home and finished it at home.  I have been sewing ever since.  Over the years I have taken classes at sewing expos , watched countless videos and dvds, read magazines and books to refine my skill----and just did a lot of trial and error.

    1. Crazy K | | #6

      It's been fun reading these posts.  Seems that many of us who love to sew started either as children or teens.  I guess I found that interesting.  (Doesn't take much to entertain this one!)  The girls (and boys) of today are missing it.........why???.......possibly too many other things that occupy the time and mind??


      1. Ckbklady | | #7

        Hiya Crazy K,

        I share your puzzlement at modern teens' lack of sewing in their lives.

        Three teen girls in my neighborhood complimented me on my tote bag at the mailbox a couple of weeks ago. They were, I thought, unusually surprised to hear that I made it myself, so I asked them if they knew how to sew. All three quickly said no, and in a chorus replied, "Sewing's too haaaaard!" I was boggled and said so. Their generation picks up the latest technology like they were born for it. Why would they be defeated by sewing? One replied that it would take too long to make something that was wanted immediately, and another agreed, saying that the latest fashions come out too fast to be able to keep up even with the shopping (she seriously said this - did I feel OLD). Then they rhymed off the expected list of things that fill their days - college prep classes, text messaging girlfriends and such.

        I'm a child of the 70s. I think we had more free time then than modern kids do, since so many new inventions now considered "necessities" (cellphones, pages, video games) eat up modern teens' time in a way nothing did when I was a kid. That few schools are teaching home ec seriously affects this too.

        Of course, the whole pace of life has supposedly picked up for adults too - every magazine article today is about time planning, quick meals, instant decorating and organizing frantic family schedules. If the parents who sew are already distracted by all that, there is little doubt that they're unlikely to pass on their sewing skill. If the schools aren't teaching home ec and the parents are up to their eyeballs with shuttling kids to afterschool activities, there's no one left to teach sewing to the younguns.

        So three cheers for 4H, the American Sewing Guild and Threads - may they keep us all from feeling like dinosaurs.

        :) Mary


        1. Crazy K | | #8

          I am a bit older........child of the 50's and early 60's.  I lived on a farm......an only child........so I was mom's helper as well as dad's hired hand.  I worked in the barn, the garden and the field.........but I didn't have a cell phone glued to my ear and text messaging was not even a dream.  Due to helping at home I didn't have tons of free time but I did find time for sewing.  Maybe living in the country gave more time because I didn't have girlfriend just a door or two away........it was a healthy walk, bike ride or maybe a ride from a parent.  Oh, yes, I did have a social life........roller skating almost weekly at a local rink and dates as I got old enough, Church functions, etc.  I'm sure it would seem terribly dull to the kids of today but I think we had it better...........much less in terms of material things but lots more in terms of 'life'.  And I'm sure many of you out there learned much more 'life skills' at the end of your mother's apron strings.......and maybe standing at Dad's elbow to help him as well.........I know I surely did!

          There........you have my nickels' worth!

        2. Ralphetta | | #9

          I was very surprised to recently learn how many H.S. students in my area were working 40 hours a week. They told me it was for college money.  It's easy to see why they don't have time to sew, they can barely keep their eyes open during class.

  5. Mobleygirl | | #10

    Love this question, and I enjoyed all the responses.

    I am 35 and learned to sew about 3 years ago, so I'm a newbie to it, but only in actual hands-on work. My mother sews, her mother sewed, and her mother sewed, and on and on. As a young girl, I ironed and cut out pattern pieces for my mom and knew a lot about sewing but never did it. She made all my clothes, and ugh, it was NOT COOL. As soon as I could save my allowance to buy the things everyone else wore (being a sheep was cool at "that age"), I resisted anything home sewn. Flash forward to when I was pregnant. I wanted to have nice crib linens for my son's room, and I didn't want to pay a fortune. I was also deeply depressed about the maternity clothing available--nothing really stylish and professional for a working mom-to-be. So I took a class at Jo-Ann and learned to make a tote bag. I made a bunch of bags and then improvised on the nursery linens. I made the window treatments and a crib skirt with box pleats! I finally got the guts to make clothing. My first pattern was a Butterick See-and-Sew that made elastic-waist pants, a simple top, and an easy unlined jacket. While getting my body back after pregnancy, sewing was great because I could make all sorts of things that could accomodate my extra curves.

    I now am the proud owner of a new Viking Sapphire 850! I am making a lined skirt out of a pretty taupe tweed. I am a Project Runway addict...season 4 is almost here.

    I, too, am amazed at how young gals today aren't very interested in sewing and say they don't have the time. They want everything instantly...no patience for anything. If only they could feel the thrill I've been feeling for 3 years! I love making something and knowing that nobody else will be wearing it, and I get an even bigger thrill when someone says, "Hey, I like that! Where'd you get it?" Sewing has brought me much closer with my mom, and I only wish my grandmother, who sewed out of her home as a business, was alive today so she could see that I did come around!

    1. GailAnn | | #11

      Young girls with no time to sew?  I KNOW I can make a skirt in way less time than it would take me to buy one that fits!!!!

      Ever get caught with no dinner and think, well, I'll just run out and pick up something?  After 35 minutes breathing gas fumes in a hot drive up lane,  the idea of whipping out the old cast iron grill pan and searing your own hamburger sounds like a pretty good idea.

      It's the same thing.  We old dolls just laugh and laugh.........Gail

    2. rodezzy | | #12

      What a wonderful story.  After the basics, then come the outrageous.  Talk about Haute Coutour, you'll be the bell of the ball.

  6. User avater
    VKStitcher | | #13

    Good afternoon Gail Ann and everyone.  I've enjoyed reading the responses to your question.  Here are my memories of learning to sew....

    I grew up out in the country, at the end of a dirt road on my Grandfather's farm.  Mom made most of the clothes for my little sister and me (and herself as well), on her Singer 401-A.  I loved to cut up and play with the scraps.  I remember my first "outfit" for Barbie, made from light blue cotton when I was about 6 years old.  I cut out a rectangle, cut two holes for her arms, wrapped it around Barbie and sewed on a snap to hold it closed.  It had a nice wide collar from turning down the top of the rectangle (sort of like DonnaKaye's mom's "torn projects" in another conversation here...)  Mom showed me how to sew up the sides of two squares and put elastic at the top to make a skirt for Barbie.  Voila--Couture Barbie!  :-)  I made lots and lots of Barbie (and Ken) clothes and in doing so, improved my skills considerably.  Our friends always liked to play at our house because our dolls had the best (and largest) wardrobe!

    I loved to go shopping for fabric with Mom.  She let my sister and me help pick out fabric and patterns for the outfits she would make for us.  Once in a while, she would let me pick out something from the remnant table, as a treat.  The first skirt that I made for myself was from one of those remnants, a chartreuse and white stripe with an elastic waist and the stripes going 'round my hips.  Whoo boy!  Thinking back on it, it was probably a hideous thing, but I was proud of my new skirt that I made all by myself--I think I was in the 4th grade at the time.  By the time I got to high school and had to take Home Ec, I was already making most of my clothes and some for my sister as well.  I made prom dresses, jeans, skirts, vests, jackets, and purses.

    During college, I would sew when I came home on breaks and in the summer.  At one time, a certain designer sundress was all the rage (can't remember the name now, but ALL the popular girls had at least one).  I couldn't afford the designer dress, so I made my own--a border print at the hem, with an applique on the bodice.  When I moved out on my own, I bought a basic sewing machine and continued to make my clothes and also ventured out into home dec with curtains and pillows and things for my apartment.

    And all these many years later, I'm still at it--and still learning and improving my skills.  I love it!

    1. rodezzy | | #14

      Wow, you must be really good and with that type of love for sewing, I'm sure you are challenged by high end clothing patterns.  You probably make your own patterns, mix and match pieces to arlter the styles.  Do you even use patterns at this point?

      If so what types of patterns do you like most and do you sew for other people for extra money.  No, I'm not the IRS, just nosey?

      1. User avater
        VKStitcher | | #15

        Hi Rodezzy,

        I had to go back and re-read my post.  I have been sewing for a long time, but I'm nowhere near the expert that you think I am!  HaHa!  :-D  But I've never been afraid to attempt something difficult, and probably the only thing I didn't sew was my wedding gown!

        For clothing I still have to have a pattern to follow, but I do often make changes, add details, or combine patterns to make something that's "me".  I use the "Big 4" patterns, but lately I've been trying some of the independent patternmakers too.  I really like "The Perfect T-Shirt" from Pamela's Patterns and the "Paris Blouse" from Ann Person/Stretch & Sew, but I wasn't as impressed with a Silhouettes pants pattern (maybe I didn't measure myself correctly?).  I've also seen a Sewing Workshop blouse pattern that I'd like to try.  In the past couple of years I've been learning more about fit and pattern alterations, so I'd like to think that I'm improving in that area, but I still have lots to learn.  My ASG chapter has a "Couture" neighborhood group that I've been attending.  One of the members used to have a tailoring business, and she is very generous in showing us high-end techniques.  Over the last 3 months, she guided the group in making a Chanel jacket with all the hand-quilting and hand-sewn details.

        With home dec, I do often wing it.  Pillows and drapery panels are easy.  I made slipcovers for the sofa and love seat when we moved to our new house.  I first had to make a pattern by draping twill over the sofa.  It took a long time, but I think they turned out pretty well.  Attached is a photo of our living room, showing the drapes, slipcovers, and pillows.

        I have a "real job" that I have to go to 4 days a week, so what little time I get to sew, I sew for my pleasure.  Clothing for me, things for our home, and gifts are what I do.  If I did it for money, it would take all the fun out of it!

        1. rodezzy | | #16

          Hi Vickie:->

          I stopped sewing during my earlier adult years and started crocheting.  I've worked two jobs and a third floral design business at home.  (silk flowers only).  Made all sorts of vases, wall pieces, beaded holiday pins, and ID necklaces for working people in the past for extra money.  Sent my son through Catholic school.  I've made curtains, drapes, beadspreads, pillow cases, and other things for my living spaces before.  Nothing complicated, I work too much.  But people always enter my space and go WOW, you made those?  Can you.......no, I can't.  Don't have time.  I've made things for relatives throughout the years and charity. 

          I just recently got seriously into "me".  I've never heard of Big 4 patterns, or the other pattern makers you mentioned.  I stick mainly to the main stream pattern companies.  I love watching design shows, and needlework shows.  I have about 30+ recorded tapes of Simply Quilts, America Sews, Sewing with Nancy, Martha's Sewing Room, Sandra Bethina, and lots of other needlecraft, home improvement, sewing and cooking shows.  I recorded while at work.  I belong to a quilt guild.  Almost tired of that.  I don't want to spend all of my time doing one thing, I have a short attention span, need to switch up after a couple of years of concentrating and learning something.  Need new challenges and projects.  Doing a lot of crochet and expanding my knitting skills.  Actually learning to do more than a knit & purl scarf combo.  Making a baby hat at present.

          I hear you when you say production sewing for others takes all the fun out it!  I say the same thing all of the time.  People just don't understand.  A few lucky people with inspire me with a project (usually a family member) and get me off and running for a project for them.  Quilted a large wall hanging for a cousin with cathedral ceiling over kitchen.  Made baby blankets and gave to little cousins.  Quilted blankets for my grand daughters and made halloween costumes and special occasion clothes for them.  I have two girls 15 and 9.  Teaching both to sew when they spend some time with me.  Gave the 15 yr. old one of my machines. 

          Love the picture of your home and drapes, that would have cost a fortune to have a professional make, but then when you are the pro - who needs them (smile).  You do great work.  I hope to get my picture thing together to show my crocheted items and now my knitting and quilts.  I don't have a digital camera, but I'm trying to get these loose ends tied up.  Sounds like you are taking some great classes.  Sounds interesting.  I don't have any groups I'm with, but my sister law and I are starting a quilt-as-you-go quilt for my niece this saturday.  It will be good to have someone to sew with.  I have one other very good friend who is as craft crazy as me, only she has more family things to do.  I'm an only (old) child and my family is very small.  I've probably gone on too much and I guess I had better say until til we key in again.  Got to do some work now.......(smile)

          1. User avater
            VKStitcher | | #17

            Hi again,

            We have a lot in common.  I like to crochet also, and was once paid for an afghan that I made for a friend's friend.  It turned out nicely, and I was glad to get the money, but I had a deadline and it wasn't fun and relaxing to do.  Mostly I make afghans for baby gifts and Project Linus now.  I never learned to knit, and although it is all the rage now, I don't need another hobby!  :-)

            I recently made a couple of skirts for my sister.  She is having a tough time of it this year (divorce), so I was glad to help her out.  I've done some mending and simple alterations for family, but otherwise I don't sew for others.  When we moved to our new house, my great-aunt (who lives just down the road) asked "Do you take in sewing?  I've got some pants that need to be hemmed, and..."  Another friend asked me to make a purse for her--she would pay me.  No...sorry...don't have time.  And they don't understand that most of the time it WON'T be cheaper for me to make it for them than if they bought it at the mall.

            I joined ASG a couple of years ago, and it has been more than worth my annual dues!  I used to go to a neighborhood group meeting where there were a lot of quilters.  Although I admired their work and was inspired by their creations, I was more interested in garment sewing.  I have made quilts, but I like to sew lots of different things.  Lucky for me a new Couture group was started, so now I go to that meeting.

            By "Big 4", I meant McCalls, Simplicity, Butterick, and Vogue patterns.  Sorry to have not been clear about that.

            I'd love to see pictures of your creations, especially your crocheted jackets.  But if no pictures, keep posting and describing them.  Although my Mom still sews some, I don't have any close friends who sew--that's why I enjoy going to ASG meetings and hanging out here.  I'm always inspired by everyone's projects.

          2. rodezzy | | #18

            I had was typing you a good response but our system went down and now I'm busy.  I'll have to respond tomorrow.  So far, I've refused to put a computer in the house.  I love this "gatherings/discussions" site.  Did you get your new copy of Threads.  I will have to renew my subscription tomorrow. 


  7. BJB1929 | | #19

    I started making garments at the age of 9.  All were hand sewn with very small stitches.  My mother thought her "treadle" machine was too dangerous for me to use.  When I was eleven I was allowed to use her new Singer featherwwight, which I inherited when she passed on.  I have recently given it to our 10 year old great granddaughter who has made a corduroy jumper with it.  That machine is now 67 years old and works very well.  I took every sewing and tailoring class I could while I was in high school.  I have enjoyed sewing all of my life and enjoy designing clothing from children's clothes (boys and girls), adults (men and women) including western outfits.  My primary machine is the Viking Husqvarna Designer 1 upgraded to USB.  Our grandson when he was eight went with me to select the fabric for his tuxedo he wanted me to make for a big event we were going to.  It was so much fun to answer his questions about the fabrics and see him feel them.  He did a great job selecting the fabric.  Our great granddaughters love also to go and help pick out fabric for the outfits they want Granny to make.  One is very interested in sewing and the other two are interested.  It is so pleasurable for me to create beautiful things.


    Edited 9/13/2007 4:18 pm ET by BJB1929

    1. User avater
      blingy | | #23

      I never learned, which is why I keep coming to this place, hoping to learn.  No one but no one tries harder than I do!  If only I could make somthing that actually fit......

  8. cat42 | | #20

    This is a fun thread.
    I'm 58, and I learned to sew at age 2. Mom gave me one of those card books with holes punched through each page. You threaded a large needle with yarn and connected the holes to make a design. After that, I pestered her to show me how to sew fabric and I began sewing clothes for my dolls. When I started first grade, Mom bought me a Singer hand crank sewing machine and some yellow flannel with tabby cats printed all over it, and I made a night gown for myself. In 3rd grade, she let me use her Singer Featherweight to make a pair of shorts for summer. By hi-school I was making all my clothes, and started a sewing club with 5 other girls. Each week we met at one of our homes and worked on our projects, learning different skills from each Mom. I also took home ec, but the teacher said I knew more about sewing than she did, so she let me teach half the class.

    Over the years, I've discovered that I need to make a lot of modifications to patterns. If I buy RTW, I have to take it apart and remake it, so what's the point? In the last 15 years, I've slowly gained 60 pounds and have had to learn how to fit my matured body. Each time I get it figured out, I gain more weight and have to start over.

    I moved to Portland Oregon from Montana in the early 70s, where sewing garments is considered an art form. I entered and won several Sewing-as Art contests with my fine technique--I believe in having no exposed raw edges (even on the inside) unless it's part of the design. I absolutely LOVE to sew. Now I'm retired and back in Montana, where the only sewing is quilts. I miss the challenges provided by my sewing community in Oregon, but I love Montana and don't plan to leave.

    1. GailAnn | | #21

      Up until that last paragraph you sound like ME.  I've never won any prizes for my sewing technique, but other than that.....................Gail

    2. sewelegant | | #24

      This was an interesting site for me to read too.  My first sewing project was a drindl skirt for 4-H when I was about 8 and I think we had to make a scarf with self fringe.  Anyway... there were no fitting problems there!  I was lucky enough to be able to just cut out and sew a size 10 or 12 for years and therefore concentrate on perfecting the sewing skill.  Now that time has taken it's toll and I, too, have to take any purchased garment apart and resew it.  In fact I usually have to buy something too big to make sure I have the fabric I'll need to fit around the "apple" middle and make bust darts.  I like to put these bust darts in the armhole because it seems to make the dress hang better.  I either make pleats in the shoulder seam to take up the excess fabric, but do not like the results very well, or add shoulder pads.  The joy of sewing for myself has been rekindled (why not just start from scratch?)  I discovered Petite Plus patterns and enjoy the results.  I have to alter very little and it's great to have the proper shoulder width and bust size to begin with.  I'm not quite as short waisted as these patterns, but that's easy to alter. 

      cat 42:  I too am a product of Montana and that 4-H was in Livingston.  I will never return though.  I have to go to the Old Faithful web page every day to get my nostalgia fix.

      striving to sewelegant!

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