Why I Sew June 24, 2014 – Posted in: Family, Sewing
When I sat down to write this post, I wasn’t sure exactly what I would say. Why do I sew?
I guess for me, it’s in my blood. I didn’t realize how much sewing has become a part of my identity. Is it all I am? Of course not! But it drives me. Sewing is something I’m passionate about. It’s a calming influence in my life and it allows me to express myself in the way I know best.
It’s no accident that I love to create, though. I’m the fourth generation of avid sewists, and I’m sure it goes back farther than that, but those women died before I was born. I know my Great Grandmother was extremely talented with all things crafty. She and my Great Grandfather raised 4 girls through the Great Depression in Georgia and I can just imagine the repurposing that went on back then. She died when I was in the 8th grade and though I wasn’t into sewing or needlework, I remember her often wearing handmade items. This picture was taken 5 years before she died, and you can see her decked out in her handiwork, yarn in hand, still creating. She was 84 here!
I also have to mention my Great Grandfather’s sister, Aunt Marion. I would have LOVED to visit with her as an adult. Aunt Marion never married and lived in Greenwich Village in Manhattan in the 50s and 60s. She worked for a magazine, was a writer, and also created with her hands. I’ve got little Christmas trinkets she made and I’ve heard hilarious stories about my Dad flipping through her sketchpad only to be surprised by images of nude men drawn from life (from a class she took, I’m assuming!). She led a fascinating life and I wish I could know more about her.
But back to sewing. So, 4 generations of women creating (I’m the baby):
My Great Grandmother taught my Grandmother, who sewed for my Mom as she grew up.
When my Mom was 13, my Grandmother taught her to sew. She furthered her knowledge in Home Ec in High School. My Mom made herself the most adorable clothes in the late 60s and 70s! She tells me this outfit was light blue with navy contrast. Precious!
This is my parents in college about 3 months after they started dating. They got married 7 months later and 40 years later they’re just as adorable! My Mom made this amazing dress she’s wearing.
When my Mom graduated from college, she asked her parents to buy her a Singer sewing machine. She put millions of stitches on that bad boy. We moved all over the world with my Dad’s Army career and my Mom made curtains, pillows, all kinds of decor for each place we lived. She continued to sew for herself on special occasions, but mostly she sewed for us. She made me and my sister these adorable dresses.
And she saved them! My oldest niece and Sofia are 5 years apart in age like my sister and I are, so we were able to get pictures of them in our heirloom dresses. (What I remember most about this photo shoot is that we had to convince Katelyn we wanted her to keep her eyes open for the pictures. She wanted to close them so she could be just like her Mom in the old picture!)
I wore handmade dresses my entire childhood. I ADORED the process of helping my Mom choose a pattern and pick out fabric. I’d go to bed at night listening to that Singer whirring and I’d wake up to an awesome new dress hanging on my closet.
(the early 90s were not kind to anyone!)
When I was growing up, it never really occurred to me that sewing could be a past time for a child. I was busy dancing, playing sports, doing school plays and hanging out with friends. When I was a Junior in High School I found a box of old fabric and I cut a bunch of it into squares. Then I hand stitched them together and made these itty bitty lined bags for my friends. My Mom caught me trying to figure out how to put buttonholes on them and taught me how to use her trusty old Singer to finish the job. It wasn’t until my Freshman year of college that I became interested again. I came home from college and announced I wanted to make all my friends pj pants for their Christmas gifts. I’m sure my Mom groaned on the inside, but she hauled me to the store, helped me choose a pattern and fabric, then very patiently started teaching me to sew. By the next Christmas she’d gotten a new Bernina so I borrowed her Singer and I’ve never given it back.
My friends in college teased me often about having a sewing machine. I vividly remember one weekend we were expecting snow (a HUGE deal in the South), so my 3 roommates and I made a trip to Walmart to stock up on beer and snacks and they all bought flannel for me to make them cozy pajama pants with. We sat in our apartment and watched girly movies in our new pants for 3 days! I found other uses for it when it came time for sorority socials, too. I bought every neck tie in every thrift shop in our tiny town to make 3 tie dresses for the one garment social. They were a HIT!
And I started making bags. I discovered I really loved making them and there wasn’t a whole lot to know. All bags are pretty much constructed the same way and I quickly started churning out totes, purses and clutches. I designed several purse patterns myself and got my first taste of patternmaking. I couldn’t get enough. After college I got my first “real” job and started sewing myself dresses. My Mom was so patient on the phone with me while I cried to her about the incoherent pattern directions. But I powered through and wore those dresses with pride. Soon after Sofia was born I really started sewing but I wasn’t quite good at it yet. I struggled with paper patterns for her because the sizing was SO off.
So I started making things up myself. I found a simple pillowcase dress tutorial and tried my first ever non-pattern project. It was also enormous, but I learned a lot! I also discovered applique. I made it up as I went along and it wasn’t very good, but I’d opened a can of worms I knew I couldn’t close.
Soon I started appliqueing everything I could get my hands on. I sat down a few days ago to count my applique projects over the last 5 years. I stopped counting in the 400s. I didn’t become good at it overnight, I’ve worked hard at it over the years!
But I kept sewing. I learned how to change ill-fitting garments. I started blogging and sharing tips, tutorials and tricks I’d figured out. Mostly I just kept sewing.
Am I an expert? No way, Jose. I hope I never consider myself an expert because there is always something new to learn or improve upon. I’m much more comfortable with my talent and abilities now and feel like I’m in a place where I can help others learn. I’ve got a voice in this space and I want to keep using it. Starting to draft children’s patterns scared me and as I was gearing up to do my first pattern, I distracted myself with genealogy instead. Imagine my surprised when I started looking into my Dad’s side of the family and discovered this little gem. My Grandpa’s Mother immigrated to the US in 1921 as a 26 year old single woman. Her occupation? Dressmaker.
Sewing is in me. It’s been ingrained in the women I come from for generations and it delights me to know it’ll continue on for generations to come. Why do I sew? I sew for joy, for pleasure, and because it makes my soul sing. I sew to continue on the traditions of the women before me, and treat my children to handmade work. My kids drift off to sleep to the same whirring from the same sewing machine that gave me so many wonderful memories as a child. I get to pass along my passion to my kids watch them delight in creating with their hands. Is there anything better than that?
6.22.14 | Sewing Mama RaeAnna | Simple Simon and Co. |
6.23.14 | Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy | Nimble Phish | Sprouting Jube Jube | Paisley Roots | Made For Mermaids | Glitter and Wit | Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop | Rae Gun Ramblings |
6.24.14 | Shaffer Sisters | Sew Like My Mom | Bebe Lambs | EYMM |
6.25.14 | The Sewing Geek | GYCT | Lulu and Celeste |
6.26.14 | Ruby and Jack Patterns | Muse of the Morning | Fishsticks Designs | Little Kids Grow |
6.27.14 | Make it Handmade | Rebel and Malice | Ali Cat & Co. |
Why do you sew? I’d love to know your story!
Natalie June 24, 2014 - 09:10
I love this post! My mother was a crochet and sewer! She loved to create and did all kinds of things like cake decorating and pottery as well. She passed when I was little and I wish she was still here for me to share my creativity with. She left me 4 sisters and they all are creative in their own ways. One of my sisters sews and 2 of them crochet and 1 is an amazing artist. It’s nice to share this with them and I look forward to sharing my love of crafting with my daughters. For now I just keep knitting them fun stuff!
Meghan June 24, 2014 - 09:43
I loved reading your story! It is so special tha sewing is such a rich tradition in your family. 🙂 I’m going to have to check out your appliqué tutorials. It’s something I’ve always wanted to learn but didn’t know where to start.
MO June 24, 2014 - 10:10
Love this! Thanks for sharing!!
Diane J. Reed June 24, 2014 - 10:54
I am utterly in love with this post–I cried when I read it! It just fed my soul to see this beautiful history of sewing in your family & the way each woman’s craftsmanship was passed down like an heirloom to you. Truly beautiful to read!