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I am a mother, a new 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 first book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge will be published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Sewing for family

Most of us who sew have had periods in and out of family sewing.

 Note I do not say sewing for other people. I decided a long time ago, around the time a girl heard I sewed and phoned me up to ask if I would "run up" a wedding dress for, her that I would only sew for those related to me by blood or marriage.

When my kids were small I sewed for them a lot. They still laugh at the clothes, my various experiments in decorative sewing, big in the '90s, in particular. They were good sports though and wore everything.

Of course at some point they grew up and into their own taste and ability to buy their own clothes. At this point it is fair to say that they also grew into having better taste than their mother. I have always had an eye for the bright shiny object and restraint is not one of my defining characteristics. The term a "classic Mom outfit" is not to be confused around here with a classic outfit.

As adults I have continued to do some sewing for them at specific request, shirts for the boys, and dressy dresses for my daughter. I have done very little sewing up to now for the little girls however - they have 4 female cousins in Boston a couple of years older and regularly receive massive amounts of hardly worn hand me downs from them.

Lately though that's changed. 

My grandson Billy is obviously not getting anything passed down to him and he and the girls have their own ideas of clothing that is not unlike my own. I have a window of opportunity here until those guys develop good taste and stop having their heads turned by everything that sparkles.

I have also decided to make most of what I give everyone whenever I can for life events. Even though there is probably as many misses as hits with this system, my reasons for making gifts are this:


  • Amazon doesn't love you like your mother
  • I enjoy the dialogue in planning projects
  • It feels I am still doing something useful for my big grown up kids, and they indulge me in this
  • When I meet their friends they tell me they love what I have made the kids and I enjoy the head swelling effects on my own head
  • If there are some mistakes or something bombs, it's family and they don't mind
  • Often because this is someone else's idea I have to learn something new or stretch my creativity
I sort of space a project for me with something for someone else and that is a good balance for me.

Right now I am making a Batman costume, and owl costume, and trying to persuade someone else to wear a red, not pink, rabbit suit because I have a pile of cheap polar fleece I would like to move out of here.

I am also pondering my answer to the question "Well Babsie what are you going to be?" 

I guess something.

Now I have a question for you.

What do you sew, or not sew, for other people in your life? What have been your biggest successes and failures. I am of course interested in the failures because I have a fairly impressive section there in my own portfolio.

I always love the listening I get to do in the blog.

24 comments:

Laura Casey said...

For friends and family, shoe bags (4) for women, with silk drawstring, maybe a couple for the men for their golf shoes or when traveling, even though they seem to prefer plastic bags from the grocery store.And luggage tags, you can buy clear plastic at a craft store, if not I use muslin and then they write their own info. These 2 items have been my biggest successes....

Jacq C said...

You made me laugh, thank you. I sewed a little for my kids when they were small, mostly costumes - I think my favourite was St George (plus horse!) and a damsel. I have two 6 year old nieces who love the bold fabrics I really want to sew with. Like you I'm making the most of it. I stick to family sewing and for a few close friends who I know appreciate the love that gets sewn in x

Sasha said...

I am being forced, for the third year in a row, to sew on a Star Wars stormtrooper costume for my youngest. I knew when I began that it was a labor of love, the last big gesture for my son, the last Halloween costume I was likely to sew. The end of an era, if you will. Unfortunately the costume wasn't quite finished the first year, and so it was brought out again the next year. Also unfortunately, the child in question is quite big for his age, his age being the beginning of puberty, and he has grown quite a LOT since the project began. I have no idea how I will embiggen it for him this year, but since last year I failed to complete the ENTIRE costume, this year I have to add gussets and wingdings as well as a tool belt and boots. This will be the last year I am shackled to the Star Wars stormtrooper costume, as God and the sewing community is my witness. #neverendingufo

bbarna said...

I have sewn my own clothes since the age of 13. For my kids while they were preteens I did everything from underwear and bathing suits to jackets and jeans. When they hit the teen years, I gave up briefly. Now for the grands, I do pjs, hoodies, and tshirts. I have 10 grandkids, so I don't take requests for costumes- too overwhelming and time consuming. I did, however, make matching hi-visibility vests for my twin grandsons who live on a farm ( they are 21 months old). Safety first.
Barb from Prince George.

Susan S said...

I don't sew for anyone else (any more). Disasters: The beautiful wool crepe skirt in the perfect color-but once I sewed it up, it was clear that the pattern only barely resembled the illustration. This was many years ago. I got rid of the skirt. Then there was the lovely wool gabardine-in that perfect, once in a lifetime color (I'm a redhead-hard to find suit colors that work), being made into the lady executive suit I needed for work. But before I finished the suit, I moved across the country to work at a "wear jeans to work-or at least settle for business casual" workplace. Threw it away unfinished. The things I accidentally nipped a hole in while cutting out or sewing (so far, fixable), The dress pattern everyone raved about as fitting a figure like mine-but no, it did not. I'm not even counting the sleeves put in the wrong side, the zippers put in the wrong opening...But there are also the perfect t-shirt, dress, skirts-which I've worn to shreds. The beautiful and flattering wool jersey everything (dresses, tops...). Even a lovely rayon crepe blush colored mid-length dress (yes, I wrestled with that slinky mess of a fabric) that became my wedding dress.

karenviser said...

I'm making my 7 year old grandson a Paul McCartney suit - he is obsessed by the Beatles! I wish I had saved my son's Pee Wee Herman grey suit that I made him at the same age...
I try to sew for my granddaughter but haven't had too many hits with her. She likes plain and I like crazy.

Mary said...

Sewed various items for my children, and now my grandchildren. I made Halloween costumes for the two oldest grandchildren who were living in Japan at the time (military base, so Halloween was being celebrated). One was a French period dress for a 3 year old which was not a problem. Her 8-year old brother wanted to be the guy from The Matrix. So I bought a pattern for a cassock. It turned out to having a lining and was a fairly complicated make. Surprisingly, to me at least, it turned out well (not talking about the prodigious amount of swearing I did in the making), but I was happy to see the end of that project. Haven't made a Halloween costume since...and those kids are now 16 and 21. There are still other small grandchildren around, but luckily their parents are into yard sales/etc..

Ruth k said...

I'm mildly entertained by people who pick up that I enjoy sewing so much (I really do) that they offer to buy fabric for me so I can enjoy myself by sewing something for them. It's....shall we say....a misunderstanding.

Moosiemoose said...

Made lots of clothes for my niece and nephews when they were young. But you just can't have a red bunny (having made a white bunny costume back in the day). How about you do something in red for Halloween for you and find some pink for the bunny? Just a thought. In any event, looking forward to seeing the costumes when they are done. Jean

Alerina Healer said...

I've never actually made anything practical for my kids! Well, when they were babies, I ran up a joblot of flannel baby blankies, burp cloths, fleece diaper liners and the like - but when they were little, I made many costumes with bold colours and sparkly capes.

I will see for CLOSE friends, but insist they keep me company and ply me with tea for the duration of the sewing, and that's working out! I get a visit, and appreciation for the sewing.

Dawn said...

I used to sew for my son when he was little. Now I sew for my Mother who needs natural fabric only, mostly silk....and try to find THAT on this side of the border! Camisoles, nightwear and light blouses mostly. I do a few knitting bags etc.for friends. The rest of the sewing is mine...and almost everything is an experiment. Working on activewear these days, since I took up walking half marathons for fun at age 60. Totally off the rails.......

Esther said...

I vowed only to sew for people living under the same roof as me. However, I have made two exceptions with a newborn niece and a one-year-old nephew, to whom I sewed small items. I plan to go on like this and have actually become even more selfish as my daughters have hit the teen years and don't want mom-made clothes any more. I have to say I said No when both my sister and sister-in-law asked me to sew clothes for them..

Leigh said...

I like sewing/knitting/beading/quilting for others with the following caveats:
I sew what *I* want to sew them
there is no timeline
I have 85-100% of the decision making about whatever item it is.
These caveats don't result in me sewing for other people very often.

Those who I sew for are very likely to be makers of some kind so that they appreciate the work that went into whatever it is I made them.

One of the more successful gift items was a Secret Santa gift to a co-worker. It was during the time when Downton Abbey was so popular on TV and there was a line of Downton Abbey fabric in the quilt shops. She LOVED Downton Abbey, so I got a print, and also a 'logo' design fabric and made a really nice project bag for her (she knits and sews). It was pretty much a me-designed bag with a zipper, an inside pocket that fit a folded-in-half sheet of paper (for knitting patterns), another inside pocket that zipped, and a little handle. It ended up not being much of a secret as she recognized immediately that it was a made-not-purchased item, and I was the only one at work who could do that. It fit a 3 skein project, and her tablet perfectly and she loved it. Wish I'd written down the pattern for it.

Anonymous said...

These days I sew for myself, my husband and grandchildren. My girls were born in the 80's in the time of long cotton dresses, Blossom (etc) hats, sweatshirts with quilting cotton appliqu├ęs. One of them at five was too tall for the 6x pants yet not yet built for the 7-14 wear so I embraced jeans, another was always too long legged for RTW so it continued, they third one wore whatever I could make from the offcuts of her sisters, as teenagers all they wanted was PJs. There were plaid bottoms and full sets of bright often cartoon favorites, this lasted until university dorm days were over. I don't make a lot for them now a days, what I do they accept graciously but there aren't a lot of requests. The one with the long legs still would like PJs, full set( no bottoms and tees please) however I have gotten very tired of PJs. One of them wants a Rashguard and is interested in Merino base layer stuff. The third asks for nothing, still traumatized by wardrobe of scraps I guess. My granddaughter however is a different story, as my daughter said " she really loves the stuff you make her, not like us"???? I don't get to glitz things up for her, she has a strong opinion and it is about plain and comforable. My grandson is 11 months, I am now making him a tweed Newsboy hat and vest set. I'm sure his parents will like it and when he is older he will roll his eyes at old pictures like his mother does. My husband was a bit slow to come aboard, took a while to get past the colours on pattern fronts. Was scared I would spent hours making things he didn't like. He now vets every piece of fabric that comes into the house... sorry not for you! He has long arms and is thrilled with covered wrists, also turning into a bit of a fabric snob. I used to make a lot of gifts, but like others found that recipients thought they took less time and money than they did. I now often throw in a handmade item with baby gifts, but that is about it. I don't sew for others, different times when people suggest it, I offer to have them come over and I will help them make it themselves. Never have done that, though my granddaughter( 6) wants to make shorts, maybe I could talk her into PJ bottoms, get her making her own early!!!

Janet said...

I have a friend who doesn't understand why I don't spend my whole sewing time making gifts for everyone. She clearly doesn't understand why some people don't wear ready to wear clothing. I enjoy making for my daughters. I don't do much, but I have had some successes. The Closet Case Files Sallie jumpsuit for my 21 year old. Not too much fitting hassles. Also a housecoat for my 17 year old. When they were small I made matching nighties for themselves and their dolls. I have offered to make something for my sister but she is shy about giving measurements. So it is pretty much rarely and it has mostly worked out, because I have a selective memory!!

Laceflower said...

I used to sew lots of my DH's corporate clothes; suits, shirts, ties, overcoat and his leisure wear too, bathing suits, shorts, jogging pants, fleece-boot slippers,etc. I don't any longer, I sew for ME because my clothing sew time is limited. I've morphed over to making Art quilts and dyeing fabrics.
I did have a bathing suit disaster; it was for me and I whipped it up really fast, and then threw it in the trash.

Ms. Russell said...

I learned years ago that I only like to cook for me and my family so that's what I do. I've only recently returned to sewing and I apply the same rule to my sewing. I don't mind mending for others, but I only sew projects and garments for my family and me. Cooking and sewing are labors of love and I want my family to enjoy my efforts.

Jean said...

My biggest success was a remake of a truly atrocious silver/turquoise floral brocade floor length cheong sam into a tiny strapless cocktail dress for my daughter. I matched the flowers, reused the zipper-it was so cute. My funny failure-I have so many failures-is Bert and Ernie shirts for my college age son and his roommate while learning to use my serger. The shirts didn't quite fit-they had too many muscles-and the serging was iffy, but they worked as costumes...I only sew for blood, too.

Heather said...

I have made clothes, blankets, nappies, burp cloths etc etc but NOTHING has ever been loved like the rabbit with the cool wardrobe Luna Lapin. They are adored and consequently I am making 7 by Christmas. The clothes are easy to get on and off, cool as get out and are fun to make. I am NOT planning on making any more rabbits after this effort but I have no doubt I will be making loads more clothes and accessories. ther than that I only make clothes for myself - I am very appreciative of my efforts!.

LinB said...

I have one neighbor whose selective hearing never works when I tell him, "No. I will not do those alterations for you. No, I will not hem those jeans for you." He shows up on my doorstep with armsful of garments, anyway. Easier to do it so he'll go away.

Anyone else gets a polite but firm refusal.

Patricia Ferrito said...

I sew Xmas gifts for the support staff in my office. There are 4 women and every year I make something little and cute- ornaments, fabric boxes, etc. They wait to see what I come up with each year.
For my sons who are in their 20s, I hem pants and mend. Occasionally I will make boxer shorts when I find funny fabric. I will make neck ties for hubby the teacher, also when I find funny or appropriate fabric.
My mom still sews boxer shorts for my boys. When they were in high school,she made them wild shorts- dollar bills, pizza, footballs, fish, etc. Everyone in their team locker room wanted their boxer shorts- and grandma made many pairs for their friends.

Marishka said...

Babs, you should consider costuming as Einstein, because Babs, "You're a genius!!" Really truly!

Marishka said...

Babs, you should consider costuming as Einstein, because Babs, "You're a genius!!" Really truly!

jane said...

My favorite people to sew (knit or quilt) for is family. It began when I made my boyfriend (now husband) a brown corduroy shirt with snaps and a hand embroidered yoke of a sunset in 1974. Same boyfriend bought me my first Viking sewing machine (another for my 50th birthday)
He loves the gizmos on sewing machines and has always done my buttonholes!
I sewed a sundress for my daughter each summmer and the fancy formals. Now it is so much more fun to sew for toddler grandchildren.
A Minnie Mouse costume, a Thomas short set and the like. One thing is for sure nowadays, we seem to be past that “loving hands from home” dowdy image of homemade. Now everyone’s eyes light up at handknit mittens or a baby quilt,