Yesterday's NY Times ran this article on McCalls Patterns and the home sewing industry in general.
It was obviously written by someone who puts sewing in the same category as hand waxing wood floors but that aside here are my own thoughts, and I am dying to hear your own reactions:
OK, I admit it, sewer turned designer after starting to sew four years ago leapt out at me.
As a teacher I would never dis the devoted learner. I learned a long time ago that it is entirely possible to do something for 50 years and to be doing it badly for all 50 (we all know cooks like that). I also would never ever under any circumstances under estimate the power of determination to learn in turning anyone, fairly rapidly, into an expert.
I well remember a sewing student I once had who took her first class in September, unable to thread her machine, and by the beginning of the next summer was making insulated winter jackets.
I also remember how hard she worked, and the fact she asked a million questions of me non stop. She took every class I taught and it was always "Can you look at this? What did I do wrong?" and "Is this better?" Over and over again.
The point too is that she got great really fast but she wasn't doing this on her own.
We have all taught ourselves, sometimes largely, to sew from pattern instructions. It is also true that there is just so so much you need to know that those guide sheets don't tell you.
There is a reason the guilds had apprenticeships and why trades today do too. Apprentices and journeymen, residents and doctors, sous chefs and chefs.
Experience is a teacher and life without rules of thumb can be heavy going.
Which is why sewers like me feel a strong obligation to pass what we have learned to those just getting going.
If I know a way that will help you do it without crying I am pretty sure I should share that.
The second thing I felt when I read this was that the journalist had let cliches get in the way of accurate reporting.
We aren't that quaint anymore kiddo. Where have you been?
Crafts, sewing and home based art are not marginal any more.
Has this person heard of Etsy, or yarn bombing, or Indie patterns or sewing lounges? Urban gardens? Mason jar lunches? Breastfeeding and blogging? Things having to have joy for goodness sake?
Listen there might have been a generation skipped over the power suits but young women, my 35 year old daughter's age for example, all tell me that learning to sew is in their bucket list. Soups are no longer coming from the can for these girls. Clothes still don't fit.
Six year old Miss Scarlett's friends have a sewing and knitting club.
Come to think of it give me four year experts any day if it's about the energy.
There is nothing like a half life spent in meetings without end, or magazines where you have to get to page 47 before you are past the ads, or hours spent unpacking things where the packaging is 90% of what you've bought and the what you've bought turns out to be pretty tiny, to make you want to stir your own pot or press your own seam.
Sewing can make you feel powerful, fulfilled and happy. Real happy.
So that's what I think.
Now how about you?
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- I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon