A reader comment on my last post got me thinking about how I stumbled into sewing.
My mom was a sewer, I believe from an early age, and she was a home economics teacher so teaching sewing (for at least part of the school year) was her job. Growing up I always had a good supply of hand-made clothes. Of course I never appreciated them, because to me hand-made clothes were what the poor kids wore. Cool kids shopped at the mall and at The Gap; we shopped at the Jones Store and fabric stores. I joke now that everything down to my underwear was hand-made. And seriously it was. My mom made the best underpants. When I went to college and started buying my own I was always befuddled why they always gave me wedgies; Moms hand-made underpants never did. And knowing what I know now about the frustrations of sewing with knits I have no idea how she managed to make these said underpants and has moved up in my tower of sewing worship to demi-god status.
Now hand-made clothes are cool again. Kitchy, retro, earthy, personal; everyone loves to have a hand-made something-or other. Commercial clothes are ‘out’, hand-made ones are ‘in’. It makes them feel warm and fuzzy I suppose. I think the popularity of shows like Project Runway and online outlets such as Etsy have made sewing and hand-made crafts even more popular.
Our costumes were sewn by mom, and so were Christmas dresses, swim-suits (how I ask, HOW did she sew with LYCRA!), prom dresses, graduation dresses. It was rare that we went to anything but a fabric store to pick-out something for a special occasion.
Needless to say I learned a lot by watching my mom. I was dragged in and out of more fabric stores than I will ever be able to remember. I helped her pick fabrics, look at patterns, and pick out the notions needed for said patterns. This is how I learned. No one teaches you how to read a pattern and figure out what you need and how much of it and the general knowledge of knowing if a certain type of fabric will work for that project. I’ve had 30 years of watching my Mother work at this and it just sorta stuck.
I have very fond childhood memories working on sewing projects with my Mom. I think my absolute favorite was my Junior Prom dress (unfortunately I do not have a photo of it here) that was made from a 1970’s dress pattern that she had used for herself once back in college. But there were so many others too. I remember outfits that she made that I would wear, and wear, and wear. The fun thing is she saved the scraps from these outfits and made me a quilt from them. I hope to be able to do the same for Sydney someday.
Now I myself have never had formal sewing training. I never took a home-ec class and I never really sewed anything substantial growing-up in a house that had two sewing machines. I started sewing when I got my own machine a little over a year ago on June 14, 2009. I then found some sewing classes offered at my local fabric store. I learned by doing (and re-doing). I’ll say that sewing bags and baby bedding were probably the easiest projects I tackled. Sewing clothes can be fussy but I’m learning techniques to make things simpler as I go. The internet has been a great resource. There are free tutorials galore out there (like this one I used to learn how to shirr) for just about anything you want to learn; you just have to find those pockets of information and amazingly they link together. The sewing world is small. Of course I still call my Mom quite a bit to ask silly questions like “what is this” or “how do I do that” or “where will I find this”.
My Mom could probably answer this question better than me after trying to teach snot-nosed kids how to sew for 30+ years; but I think anyone can sew. It’s a learned process, but it is just that, a process…not necessarily a talent (I don’t think everyone can play the piano for example; that is a talent). I suppose people who like to put things together, especially from unclear sometimes shoddy instructions, may enjoy sewing more than others. One must have a good ability to follow directions, but be level-headed enough to know when the directions suck and another way is better. Good spatial orientation is helpful too since a lot of the stuff you are putting together is inside-out and backwards. Patience is also necessary when sewing cause you will do things wrong and will have to rip things out. The thing that is fun about sewing is that it is methodical; the pieces go together in a certain order to create an item. There is something about that process that makes me tick. You also learn from every project which helps for the next and the next. So if you do decide to go for it and get a machine realize that your first project will be terrible, but you will eventually have the tools in your tool-box to put together almost anything.
A lot of my friends say I’m a better Mom because I sew and I couldn’t disagree more. Some of my mom friends run marathons or do triathlons; I sew. Others travel a lot for work; I sew. Others scrapbook, I sew. In the entire scheme of things my hobby may be domestic and more useful (I can hem my own pants and jeans!) than other hobbies but it definitely doesn’t make me a better mother. I just means my kid will be better dressed than theirs! ; D