Friday, January 21, 2011

The Art (and Necessity) of Sewing

If you are like I was not too long again, the site of the word sewing might make you shudder in fear. But, before you roll your eyes or bite your nails anxiously because you don't know how to sew, you should know that I am new to the world of sewing. In fact, I would still consider myself a Sewing Novice.

I grew up in a household with a mom who could use a sewing machine. It wasn't unusual to find her hemming pants, repairing a torn seam, or even making a household item or two. At some point in my tweens, she decided it was time for me to learn how to sew. I spent the summer learning to make little throw pillows and even made myself a couple pairs of shorts.

However, the years went by and I didn't sew. Pants needed to be hemmed and I asked my mom to do it because "she knew how." I got married and my husband needed his pants hemmed. Guess where I went? My mom helped me and my sister this way for years. After all, she had the machine. We were busy. She didn't really seem to mind.

But one day, she announced that she thought it might be time for us to learn (re-learn) how to sew so that we could repair our own family's clothing. She might have said something about needing to know this skill because someday she might not be around. She might have...but whenever my parent's talk that crazy talk about them not being here someday, I go into 2-year-old standing with the fingers in my ears mode.

Some of that talk registered though. I was feeling bad about bringing my piles of mending over to my mom and dropping them off like she was my seamstress. Not too much later, I was browsing the end caps of Target and my eye fell upon a sewing machine. It was a basic Singer model on clearance for $35. Now, I didn't know about sewing machines, but I knew it was a great price. So, I put in my cart.

Then I unboxed it and put it in my closet.

It sat there awhile.

I mentioned my purchase to my friend, Sarah, who is a gifted seamstress. She agreed to hold a series of basic sewing classes over the summer. And the rest is history.

I want to reiterate that I am a sewing novice. I have learned how to thread my bobbin and put it in the machine, to thread the machine, to sew a straight line, and to change needles, tension and stitch length. I can even trouble-shoot my machine a bit. But, I am still tentative when I sew. I'm not completely sure of myself.

However, I am pretty satisfied with what I've learned and how I've used it to make our family's well-being better and a bit more frugal.

Now, instead of throwing out ripped up pants, I know how to trim off the ripped portion and hem the pants into shorts.  I can do minor seam repairs and even cut down a dress from my 8-year-old to fit the 5-year-old. And yes, I can hem pants and jeans.

My mom was so encouraged by my progress (or maybe she was just relieved to not be sewing so many extra garments) that she decided it was also time for my sister to learn/relearn. Pretty soon my sister was taking piles of her family's garments over to my parent's house and using my mom's machine. And recently, she received her very own bright and shiny sewing machine for Christmas.

The whole thing has me thinking about how we as a culture -- and especially as women and mothers -- have really gotten away from sewing as both a skill and necessity. It wasn't too long ago that clothing "off the rack" was more than anyone could afford. If you wanted curtains in your living room, then you had to choose your material and get to work.

Nowadays, you can pretty much buy those things cheaper than you can make them (which I think is a sad comment on our consumerism society) which had caused sewing to go the way of the RSVP. But, much like that antiquated but highly appreicate social grace, I honestly believe that sewing is still relevant and still has a place in our households. And, it appears I'm not the only one who thinks so. Sewing is on the rise. Check out this fun blog post from the UK about their resurrgence and some history of the sewing machine.

I may never have the natural gifting and talent that my friend Sarah has with sewing. I'm okay with that. I can always commission her to make what I cannot...or I can ask her to teach me and practice. But, beyond that, I think it's important for me to know the basics so that if it ever came to it (apocolypse, embargo of products from China), I could keep my family clothed and my house arrayed in window treatments.

I actually think that this is something we should all know. It's a skill. It's a craft. It's an art. And it makes frugal sense -- which if you haven't guessed, is usually one of my bottom lines.

Take for instance this pair of jeans that I am excessively proud of "rehabbing" (just ask my family...they will tell you that I've made them all listen to the story). My children -- much like yours -- are very hard on clothing. I've resewn on buttons and clasps, repaired tears, made cut-offs, and of course, hemmed pants that were too long, frayed, etc.

But this pair stumped me. My daughter had somehow taken her months old jeans (that I scored at Target for $4.34) and ripped a large "L-shaped" tear into the upper thigh. I could not see my way around to making them into cut-offs unless I wanted my 8-year-old to be sporting Daisy Dukes. And so, I decided to patch them from the inside. Then I bought a large fabric applique/patch and sewed it around the edges.

And...voila! Rehabbed pants...ready to be put back into service.

Really...if I would have known how much satisfaction I would get from taking care of my family in this way...and just the overall sense of accomplishment...I would have done it years ago.

So, take it from me. If you are thinking about joining the world of sewing, jump on in...the water is fine.


Pam Nelson said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Great blog Heather! I've always been a proponent of the necessity of being able to sew. So, I taught all my kids to sew at an early age. Sabrina and Erika even made some of their own clothes at a very young age and won numerous ribbons at the fair for their beautiful creations. Sabrina was even asked to model one of her dresses for a special fashion show at the fair when she was 9. Alas, guess who now brings all their mending to Mama! Of course....all my kids! Like your Mom, I love doing it, but maybe it's time I push my little birdies out of the nest! Pam

Mosaic Momma said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates're definitely a Sewing Pro! You definitely could fill us some Sewing Basics classes, and more.

I'll bet your kids would pick it right back up...muscle memory right? I'm sure some of it has to do with the warm fuzzy feeling of having your mom help...but yes, knowing how to do it for oneself (and to teach our children) is important.

I should say that whenever I get stuck or over my head, I still call/go to my mom!

Patti Muscarella said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Ditto what Pam said. I have sewn since I was in junior high. I learned to make over clothes given to me, and was making all my clothes for church and school. I always changed the pattern a little, so it was like none other. I made all the formals for my girls' proms. I taught them how, and now Heather does costumes for the movies, and modeling jobs. You never know how much you will use the skill, until you have learned it.

Amy said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I don't remember if they have a Jo-Anns in Fresno or Clovis, but get on their mailing list. They will email you coupons for fabric which comes in handy because some of it gets spendy. When you're ready for patterns, I prefer McCalls to Butterick (wait for the 99 cent sale). Flannel pants for your entire family can be whipped up for a few dollars. Kids pants take about 2 yards. Not bad when flannel goes on sale for 1.49 a yard.

I highly recommend knitting as well. I got into this when I moved to DC and love every minute. I've made baby blankets, toys, sweaters, purses, scarves, hats and so on. There is nothing like saying you've made something!

By the way- how did canning go?

Connie said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Dearest Heather, How I loved reading your words - such an encouragement to me. There are times that I think sewing will become a lost art; but not if you and others rediscover it and spread the word. P.S. I remember the labour of love making curtains with your Mom for the E.C. home. Wonder if they are still hanging there......

Mosaic Momma said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Patti and Amy...I completely agree...the pride in the accomplishment is awesome.

Connie...I think it's become a rediscovered art. I saw a gal about my age taking lessons for a "grandmotherly" type at our local fabric store. She was so proud of what she was learning.

I remember those curtains...and all the other things you made for the girls. Didn't you make some of Beth's bridesmaids dresses?

krystinblogs said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I vote you offer a novice, novice sewing class this summer. sign me up. I will be there.

Patty T said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

You are so inspiring...I have wanted to take up sewing a couple of times but never get around to it. My mom made most of my clothes all through high school, including some of my formal dresses, so I should really be ashamed of not learning. To this day I still give her stuff to hem up, sad Huh? I will make it a goal this year, at least to get a sewing machine

Mosaic Momma said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Krystin...ha ha! The idea of me teaching anything sewing still makes me laugh out loud! I'd be up for another group class. Sewing with a pro around always makes me feel better. didn't know about your mom making your clothes. It's definitely an art/skill. I say definitely get your own machine and enjoy the bonding time you two will have as she helps you learn how to use it. Those will be memories to last a lifetime!