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Home Sewing experiences Renaissance

Updated on May 27, 2013

It's Sew Cool!



For many people, mostly women who grew up before the late 70s, the mere mention of sewing brings back memories of struggling to make a fringed pillow in their home economics classes.  Recently, however, sewing has made a comeback thanks to shows like “Project Runway,” and a myriad of do-it-yourself shows on HGTV.

My best friend Bea is an avid sewer, “I can’t imagine life without being able to sew.  I’ve always made all the curtains in my houses over the years.  It’s an incredibly valuable life skill, plus you sure are popular with all your friends who can’t sew!”

1933 Farm  and Home Exhibit
1933 Farm and Home Exhibit | Source

The Death and Rebirth of Sewing

After the home ec boom of the 50’s and 60’s, sewing started to decline in most parts of the country by the ‘70s; by the mid ‘80s, sewing had for the most part disappeared from the American classroom. Even though many of us don’t have happy memories of that crooked apron or dowdy skirt we sewed way back then, when we see that gorgeous pillow priced at $75 in the stores, it’s enough to make us drag out the machine and try again.

In a New York Times article, columnist Michelle Saltalla wrote, “In fact I never expected to have any sort of voluntary memory of my early sewing class experiences after spending so many years trying to repress recollections of being in that last wave of girls, in the ’70s, who were expected to master the domestic arts in school. (Hence, the ill-fitting corduroy wrap skirt I made after finishing the pillow.) Then I swore off sewing. Forever. So three decades later, as sewing has become a trendy hobby among younger enthusiasts who never were subjected to the tyranny of Home Ec, I’m surprised to find myself among those who are taking it up. ‘Taking it up’ is an understatement. I am obsessed.”

Sew Easy (Well, Easier...)


Sewing machines have become less difficult to use making it easier to become creative. Sewing technology has progressed to the point that thread and needles are designed to be used with particular fabrics, and the machine figures out how to keep a seam pucker free.

Sewing machines come in a variety of prices with basic machines available for less than $200 to top-of -the line machines costing up to $10,000.

According to the Home Sewing Association, there are approximately 35 million sewing hobbyists in the U. S., up from 30 million in 2000. Perhaps it is that feeling of “I made this,” that drives the home sewing industry. 

A Growing Community


A quick internet search yields 2,290,000 sewing articles and 2,910,000 sewing blogs. One popular blog is Erin McKean’s A Dress A Day, a blog dedicated to dresses and sewing, with many of the dresses being made from vintage 1950s patterns. McKean (whose day jobs have included editing dictionaries and starting Wordnik) is happy to see the resurgence of interest in sewing. “Now when someone asks me where I got my dress and I say ‘I made it’ the response is often ‘I’m learning to sew too!’ instead of ‘People still sew?’”

A Dress A Day gets 5,000 visits everyday.

Serious sewists can make a living from sewing. Many stay-at-home-mothers started sewing for their own homes, which led to making things for friends which led them to start their own businesses.


Thanks, Martha!


“My mother taught me the basics of sewing at a young age and I have had Singer sewing machines in my home since I was a little girl,” stated Martha Stewart, host of Emmy- Award Winning Martha Steward Show in her 2009 press release announcing her partnership with Husqvarna Viking, Pfaff and Singer Sewing Machines, “I used them to make many of my clothes in high school and college and I even sewed my wedding dress.”

Sewing is a skill that will last a person a life time.  “Sewing is a wonderfully useful skill. It enables anyone to create beautiful and functional projects or even enhance something as basic as a paper gift bag,” Stewart said. “I’m delighted that sewing is enjoying a national renaissance since I know very well the pride and pleasure that can be derived from this rewarding pursuit.”

Sew, now what?


The important thing to remember is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. If you are interested in sewing you can teach yourself through You Tube videos, books, and  “learn-to-sew-patterns.”  Not a good self learner? Look for local sewing shops or sewing clubs, most other home sewers will be glad to help you get started. Some local technical colleges offer sewing classes as well.

After years of making Halloween costumes, slip covers, duvet covers, pillows and curtains without  using a pattern, I realized I  if I could do that, I could make a dress.   I started with a simple pattern that had no zippers, buttons, or sleeves.  I got tons of compliments and even had a friend ask me to make her one. I eventually overcame my fear of zippers, sleeves and button holes and started making more complicated items. Some were a little wonky at first, but I wore them proudly. I went from sticking only to patterns marked easy to patterns marked advanced and very advanced. I talked to other sewers in sewing stores, at work, anywhere I could find them.  I read everything I could put my hands on about sewing.

Sew or Die, that's my motto!
Sew or Die, that's my motto! | Source

Sew Obsessed


I had come possessed. I still am. My entire left forearm is covered in a sewing tattoo of my scissors, pin cushion and a pink button. There is a ribbon banner that says “sew or die.”  It was my first, and to date, only tattoo.  For my 42nd birthday I asked my husband for a Husqvarna Viking sewing machine. When he teased me saying he was unable to get it because of the household budget,  I was so disappointed I cried. (That caused him to give it to me three days early.) 

For me the best thing about sewing is my clothes actually fit me! My top half is two to three sizes larger than my lower half so, finding clothes off the rack that fit is an exercise in futility. Also, everything I make is one of a kind.  The other benefit of sewing is that it is my therapy.  Looking at patterns, starting a new project, wearing a finished one for the first time, all of that gives me such happiness and a huge boost of self confidence. My favorite part is when someone says, “You MADE that!”

Whatever you are passionate about, whether it’s sewing or something else; don’t worry about being the best at it, just start! And have fun.


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