Why Millennials Should Learn To Sew

Millennials Should Learn To Sew

I think millennials should learn to sew and here's why.

One of the fastest growing waste products being thrown into our landfills nowadays is textile waste. In the United States alone, it is estimated that there is an alarming 3.8 billion pounds of textile waste that's being dumped into the country’s landfills every year.  Additionally, lots of byproducts come out of the textile manufacturing and disposal process resulting in a staggering total of ten million pounds of hazardous waste contaminating the nation’s waterways annually.

The irony of all is that 95% of this textile waste can be recycled.

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Millennials Should Learn To Sew

Textile Waste

The Main Reason Why Millennials are Generating Textile Waste

Research shows that millennials are wasting scores of textiles more than the baby boomers simply because they don't know how to sew!  Most of the textile waste is due to clothing being discarded just because of minor tears or missing buttons.  This is an easily repairable damage if only the owner knew how to fix it. Sewing, hemming and button repair used to be common skills.  Everyone did this at home to save a dress or a jacket.  Unfortunately, this just isn't the case anymore.

Compared to the baby boomers, millennials are far more averse to winding a bobbin, threading a machine, inserting a zipper or making a buttonhole.  Since damaged clothing is often now simply discarded, more and more textile waste is produced every year.  Something has to be done about this concern and hopefully, millennials can do their part and learn to sew!

Decomposing Textile Waste Causes Global Warming and Clogs Waterways

Aside from clogging the waterways, decomposing textiles also release methane into the air.  Methane is a harmful greenhouse gas that causes global warming. Aside from this, dyes and chemicals in textile wastes can also leach into the soil and contaminate surface and groundwater. A high price to pay for not sewing a patch or a button!

Millennials Should Learn To Sew

Recycling Textiles and Clothing Repair Should Become Common Practice

How do we start addressing this problem before it gets too big?

Aside from learning basic clothing care, millennials should also be taught the importance of recycling textiles. They should be aware that one recycled rag, for example, saves 17 gallons of water and 66 BTU’s of energy. So every time you recycle a rag, you are doing the environment a favor.

There is an urgent need for increased education so that the future generation will become aware that every textile they throw away harms the environment. As such, recycling textiles and knowing how to sew should become a common practice, not only in our homes but also in the offices and schools.

Basic sewing skills should be taught at home or perhaps in secondary schools like before.  Learning how to sew should be considered cool for millennials because it means they help save the environment for the next generations to come.

If you know a millennial who you think would like to learn to sew, you might want to direct them to our page on Easy Sewing Projects for Beginners which would be a good place to start.

Easy Sewing Projects for Beginners

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42 Responses to Why Millennials Should Learn To Sew

  1. Hayley says:

    This whole article reads as exceedingly condescending. “Millennial” refers to an entire generation (and you’re talking about people as old as 38). You’re lamenting the removal of education like “home ec” but you’re placing the blame squarely on those who weren’t old enough to vote about things like education budget cuts during that time frame. You’re placing blame of textile and environmental waste on them as well–but don’t you belong to the generation responsible for tearing holes in the ozone with your cans of Aqua Net?

    You want to to increase your millennial audience? Try not being a condescending, arrogant a$$hole.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Calling people names is not an argument but rather is just verbal abuse. Why don’t you use your words and tell me how would you write this article better? All you are doing is pointing the faults in this article. Let’s start a debate…Please do show me how your generation would argue your point of view.

  2. willowtower says:

    There is a company in Brooklyn NY, USA taking charge of how to handle fabric scraps. They work with the designer firms and gather their fabric scraps for selling to the public. I wish I lived in their area so I could see all the fabric, shop and even help sort it. They do have an online shop too.

    Check out their web site: https://fabscrap.org/ or follow them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook as @fab_scrap

  3. GJ says:

    As one of those much-maligned “millennials,” I must say I’m quite put off by the sewing community I have encountered. While I hate to think that this is the norm, I have been met with the same basic reaction in three different geographic areas in the USA. I learned to sew as a child and had Home Ec. classes in junior high (required for ALL students, not just the girls). Unfortunately, when I have attempted to join into sewing groups, I am treated as though I had never seen a sewing machine before. There are times I would like to tell these sweet-looking ladies that their behavior will be the death of their groups. There is a misconception that none of us know how to sew. While there may be many of my generation who sadly fit this mold, there are a lot of us who do not. The idea that groups should only meet during the day (when the vast majority of us are at work) and the insane emphasis on making quilts out of “only high-quality materials” alienates those of us who would love to be involved. As a young mother, my disposable income does not lend itself to $20/yard quilt fabrics for decorative wall-hangings. I am more concerned with making use of what I have and can afford and creating things that my family needs. My observation is that the general crafting/sewing community has aged in a very ungraceful manner. There seems to be a verbal wish for the younger generation to carry on the traditions, but a behavioral demand that everything be done the same way and on the same schedule as those who are leaving the community. If there is a sincere desire to increase the participation of these groups, I urge you to consider these when you approach your existing groups.

    • Marlette Louisin says:

      Dear GJ,
      I’m very sorry that you have had subhead experiences. I have been sewing since I was 5 and quilting for the last 30 yrs. I totally understand your position about using very expensive fabric for decorative items or even simple baby or childrens’ quilts that will be “used up” in a short time. I even have this practice!

      However, I follow the advice of using good quality fabric for other quilts and for sewing clothing purely because I don’t want to have these items wear out before I would expect or desire.

      This doesn’t mean you need to spend $20.00/yd. There are less expensive sources of better quality fabrics online such as Connecting threads, Fabric.com and Thousands of Bolts and Only One Nut.

      As for evening guilds, ask at local quilt shops or perhaps one of the large craft stores if they have info about such a group.

      I hope you’re able to find a welcoming group in your area. You might try the American Sewing Guild website to see if there are any that have evening meetings.

      I commend you for speaking out and for a beautiful letter.

    • Stacy says:

      I’m not a millennial but I’m several decades younger than the average person who frequents a sewing or quilting store and I agree with this. There is at least one well-known quilt shop here in town that I won’t visit because they are invariably rude to me. There is definitely a lot of elitism which comes out in the “JoAnn’s fabric is no good” attitude that GJ mentions (and I say that as a quilter). Shops that offered classes on basic or useful sewing skills in the evenings and on weekends would probably find themselves with a whole different clientele.

  4. Peggy says:

    I have been sewing since childhood, learned from my grandmother on her old Singer treadle machine. We had sewing class in 4th grade, and still remember the apron, clothes- pin hanger and eyelet baby pillow case I made for my expectant mother.
    As an adult, having to go out to work, I made all my own dresses. Later, joined a quilt group and have been a member for the last 31 years.not to mention learning how to spin raw fleece into yarn, and knitting many hats and garments. At 79 yrs old, I no longer make large quilts, but small items – quilted bags , etc.
    The ages of our group members range from 9 to 89. The 9- yr.old is able to come to meetings as part of her home schooling. She has already made several small quilts, has her own sewing machine and is now learning to knit.

    Yes, it is too bad we no longer have Home Economics in our schools, but it is not too late to teach children if we have those skills. I have taught my grandchildren , and they were thrilled to learn, but I am afraid the new generation is too involved with the new technology to take time to put their I-phones down and learn new skills.

  5. Louise says:

    As a home sewer and newish quilter, I too wondered about the mountain of scrapes generated! I,ve made a lot of scrape quilt blocks, recycled some clothing into placemats, chair cushions , chesterfield toss cushions, and what scraps I couldn’t make use of sewed up a large bag left a small opening and cut up scraps small and just filled bag over time. When it was good and full, sewed up the opening and took it down to the SPCA , to use for a pet bed or pillow, one pillow weighted. 19 pounds. All washable, so I don,t have any waste fabric, and the SPCA is only to happy to accept

    • Donna60 says:

      This is such helpful information, Louise! you are truly a recycler at heart! I appreciate that nothing goes into the landfill. The doggie cushions are a genius idea.

  6. Becky W says:

    When I was in Jr High sewing (as well as cooking and shop) was required for all students. It didn’t hurt any of us. I didn’t sew again for 6 years. I sewed all the time after that, for my kids, husband and myself. Now, I added quilting too. I think it’s a shame kids are not exposed to these things any more.

  7. Charlene L Amsden says:

    “Make the schools teach it” — but don’t raise our taxes to pay the teachers or buy the supplies.

  8. Bob says:

    Interesting topic. I read a fascinating book, “The Lost Art of Dress” which chronicles clothing through a lot of this nation’s history and covers the intentional removal of home economics classes in school. The home economics classes were beginning to be phased out about 40 years ago.

    I agree with the comments on the clothing available today. It is designed to be thrown away as it is made cheaply with limited runs and will be replaced by the next fad as dictated by the “fashionista’s” on youtube. Good clothing is expensive. Good homemade clothing is expensive. I have a shirt made for me that is 25 years old and other than faded, is in perfect condition. Not even a button has fallen off.
    Cheap fashion is going to keep this cycle going. We who sew are an oddity, but I hope that will change.

  9. LadyD says:

    Sewing was part of the Home Ec class when I was in school. Cooking was the other part, AND all the girls were required to take that class or could not graduate from high school. Home Ec should not only be required for the girls now, but encouraged for the boys as well. Time learning practical skills is never wasted.

  10. Karen says:

    The Goodwill stores by us will take any donations of unwearable items and they recycle them. It also provides employment for those who sort things.

  11. Lori B says:

    You can’t just say,”You need to learn how to sew,” and expect people to agree. You have to give them a reason that appeals to them. Some millennials are concerned about the environment. Some are not.

    I remember when my oldest son was still in school he refused to make himself something to eat because he said it was “woman’s work.” He’d been spending time with his grandfather and the old goat decided to teach him about women. Geez. Anyway, I pointed out to him that a man that has to depend on a woman to cook for him has to settle for whatever woman is willing to cook for him, whereas a man that is self-sufficient can pick and choose because he doesn’t need anyone to take care of him. In the 10 years since then he has learned to cook, he does his own laundry, does housework and, if need be, he can sew on a button.

    You have to sell your point but also tailor it to the individual. No pun intended.

  12. Kathy Kalousek says:

    I would love for the schools to add a mandatory life skills class that teaches basic sewing, cooking, cleaning, budgeting, investing, financial responsibility, etc. All the basics needed to run a household for when kids get out on their own.

    • Charlene L Amsden says:

      Who is going to pay for it? As a teacher i supply paper and pencils for my students out of my own pocket. Now you expect me to buy them sewing machines, fabric, and thread, too?

      • Marlette Louisin says:

        It’s deplorable that teachers aren’t paid a wage commensurate with their chosen career that certainly is a labor of love. I think teachers should never have to purchase the necessary items for students to use but I know many do.

        In order for students to have access to life skills classes residents have to be willing to pay a bit more for taxes.

        That said, I and others I know have volunteered time to teach young students how to sew quilt blocks together to make a quilt for a deserving teacher or quilts for the needy.
        Two of those student s wanted to continue learning sewing skill and became my students. We all loved the time we spent together.

        Unfortunately these classes won’t even be considered unless parents get together and ask for them.

  13. Ellen B says:

    I hope someday soon there will be comparable outrage over the working and living conditions of garment workers that there is for livestock in food production! People will pour their well-meaning passion and energy into protesting how an egg-laying hen is treated and never give a thought to the child laborer who made their cheap garment possible.

  14. Angela M. says:

    I completely agree that society as a whole needs to know basic sewing skills, such as sewing on a button, etc. I grew up when sewing was a part of home ec, although it wasn’t taken by everyone. I know that industrial clothing generates a lot of waste, but unfortunately, so I do when I make clothing. No matter how careful I am to buy only what I need, fabric scraps are produced and I have no idea where to take them for recycling. Finally, the sad truth is that today, sewing a garment from scratch can cost significantly more than simply buying one. I can’t say that sewing has saved me money, because I was never one to buy expensive clothes. Certainly a home-sew garment may be better made and better fitting, but those skills do take time to hone.

    • Connie says:

      Angela in our community the local Opportunities Unlimited and also our civic theater take fabric scraps and our unwearable clothing and sell the for rags. It is a win win, the groups are paid by the pound. It is amazing how quickly my fabric waste bin fills up. I give larger scraps to a frien who sells doll clothes. With little extra effort I am am to reduce my sewing waste. I do agree garment sewing is more costly and learning to properly fit clothing is joy easy. That’s why I quilt and craft.

    • joy says:

      Most communities have a quilting group that would be delighted to have good quality fabric scraps.

  15. Patti V says:

    In my day we were taught how to sew in the home economics class. No longer do kids have this class. I often wonder why this was cut. I was already an avid sewer by the time I took home ec. My Mom taught me early. I was sewing clothes for my doll at 8 or 9. There isnt anything I cant make. Kids of today are too busy on their phones and gadgets to learn basic sewing skills or anything else for that matter. Last summer I had my 10 year old granddaughter help me with sewing strips for a charity quit I was making. She enjoyed it. I think its up to us baby boomers to teach them. My kids never wanted to learn to sew and now they say “why didnt you teach us”. Sewing has always been my passion. I have lots of other hobbies, but my sewing machine always calls me back. I buy shirts at the thrift store and somethimes they have a booboo I missed. I can fix it, add some lace or something else and presto I have a wearable shirt again. Fixing and sewing things has become a lost art that needs to come back among this throw away society.

    • Amy Lynn says:

      Home Ec was cut from the curriculum because of the rising need for special education, student aides, teacher aides, etc. This due to children eating diets high in refined sugars and IQs lowered with routine vaccinations that cause encephalitis. But I digress.
      Home economics and many fine arts programs were cut due to a higher need for special education. It’s quite sad to know we can’t really prevent this dumbing down of the masses or doping up of our babies. “Well Dr., if you think methamphetamine will help little Jimmy focus better in school, we’ll just have to take your word for it.”

      • Marlette Louisin says:

        I agree with some of you statements but saying vaccinations cause encephalitis is simply not correct.Not vaccinating children against diseases that once killed thousands is irresponsible.

        Look to countries that don’t have vaccines available to their children and you will find children who are deaf from measles,
        scarred from chickenpox, crippled from polio and dead from these and many other diseases that are not seen in our country and other advanced countries.

  16. Diane Reid says:

    I think recycling of clothing is a must. Not sure I agree with the comment about Millennials. I am one and everyone I know sews. Quilts using recycled fabric. clothing etc. I believe its the generation AFTER us that need to be taught sewing. I have 3 daughters and none of them are interested in sewing even though I have always sewed for them. Not 1 younger person I have come across sews. Their comment is no one sews anymore. They are too tied up with their electronics. I guess Millennials are now the fall guys. How about putting the blame where it belongs. The generation now! Schools do not teach sewing anymore.

  17. Moira says:

    Everyone seems to have a different idea of what a millenial is. I’m either Millenial or Gen Y, depending on the definition. My son’s definitely a millenial and I’m making sure he knows how to do this stuff since it’ll save him a fortune. Unfortunately, the services that do mend your clothes for you often cost more than the clothes themselves so it doesn’t seem worth it. My husband loves that I can mend his clothes, take up his hems, take in his pants and make him bags and clothing.

    It’s a bit of a dying art in my generation but I taught myself how to knit and crochet, and I grew up in a family of quilters so sewing was always around me.

    One thing I’ve really enjoyed seeing on YouTube is the ones around my age that go thrifting then turn it into something else that looks more modern rather than dated. I want to try that sort of thing out myself, especially since it’s so hard to find things I like that are funky and in my size.

    The one thing I find really daunting is pattern making, and I get a bit lost when I try it. So I’m hoping that at some point in the future I can work out how to make my own patterns on paper then turn those into my own custom clothing.

  18. Phil Clark says:

    I sew, a lot, and generate a lot of scraps. But I also see part of the problem is the number of clothing stores selling more garments that might just be worn once. They aren’t being discarded because of lack of a button. They are discarded because they have been replaced by a newer garment.

  19. Caroline P says:

    Fantastic article! Teach them while they’re young and it becomes a way of life…

  20. Sue says:

    I think you really have something here that’s very important to mankind. It would be nice for beginning sewing classes to be taught to Jr. High students or even 6th graders as a mandatory class, not only for girls but for boys as well. Everyone needs to know how to sew on a button and repair a ripped seam. Sewing used to be taught when I was in high school, but it is no longer. This is a tragedy.

  21. Mayra, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article. I had no idea manufacturing clothing caused so much waste – actually, I just never gave it much thought until I ready this. I am the Atlanta chapter president of the American Sewing Guild and we also want to teach the next generation to sew, no only for the reasons you stated, but because it is a wonderful skill and hobby. Our biggest struggle is finding those people. Our membership is aging out and it is not being replaced by younger members. I would love to hear any suggestions you might have as to how we could attract the 30-50 year olds.

    • Shanna says:

      Hi Shirley,
      Social media is your best bet to attract the younger generations in your area. Places like Meetup, Instagram, and Facebook will help spread the news in your area. You could also reach out to your local schools, or fabric stores asking to leave flyers – and waive any fees to anyone who brings in a flyer or answers an ad from social media (for the first month or year if you have any fees to join).
      Plus, look in your own backyard! Ask your members to help spread the word. You could have business sized cards printed up cheaply and leave little “invitations” at places you visit…. Tip your server at a restaurant and also leave the card. Take some to your church youth groups, etc!

    • Linda says:

      One problem is the local quilt shop wants $20 a person for the space, just to social. Lots of fabric to recycle does not make a quilt. The picture of strings could make art but not clothes. Knits tops from China need the dump. It has taken me years to make something from my Aunt sample heavy fabric. I have made a bag, never a quilt.

    • Kaitlin Brentana says:

      Hi Shirley! I’m 23 and have been sewing by hand and on a machine since I was 5. There are lots of people like me, even if you don’t know us personally. I may be able to give some insights to the problem:

      First off, the problem has a lot to do with the topic of this article; I love Mayra’s site but now I feel alienated by my age. I avoid sewing communities for this same reason, because I get more attention based on my age than what I can bring to the group; last time I went for a quilting meet up (free community help, yay right?) the 50+ women cooed over this little “millennial babydoll” and I was asked to be their “mascot.” Ouch.

      This is why I prefer online communities where age is irrelevant. I don’t like to comingle with people who act like I’m some exception to a made up rule about seamstresses/tailors/quilters under 50. You could try to reach out through online communities by networking with young sewing bloggers/YouTube-ers, and mimic the relaxed coffee and sit ‘n stitch environments we create for meeting in person.

      Also as a side note, the word “Millennial” is so overused it has become ridiculous. People apply it with such a wide stroke that most generalizations don’t apply to me at all. I’m sure you recognize that within your own age group people are diverse, including my Boomer parents who rely on me to hem and mend for them because they don’t have that skill. Just as a generalization, boomers need to stop attributing that millennials don’t know how to do x, y, or z due to being born within a certain year, because it’s about as accurate as palm reading. 😂

  22. Paula Leonard says:

    I quilt so anything large enough for a seam goes into crazy quilts. Anything smaller than that gets saved in a box for the spring and I put it out for the birds. They build some beautiful multicolored nests with it.

  23. Janice says:

    How can you recycle fabric scraps? I hate to toss them in the trash but I have to get a grip on saving teeny tiny bits of fabric. I make fleece blankets for Project Linus. Some of the selvages are a couple of inches wide and need to be cut off.

    • Hogan says:

      Check out on Pinterest or Google about how to sew fabric pieces into larger pieces. Once your sewn-together fabric is large enough you can then cut out patterns to make new clothing. Vests are a good option, as well as simple skirts and sweat shirts. The result is a funky multi-coloured, multi-textured garment. Very unique!

  24. Laurie says:

    We have watched students in grades 6-8 in New York State public schools, go from learning basic sewing and cooking skills to focusing only on money management and career choices. Really? Is this the correct time? By learning how to sew and cook students feel proud of their accomplishments. And they have fun.

  25. Michelle James says:

    Thank you for the great article. I have been teaching sewing since 1964. I taught in the public school system, as a 4-H clothing project leader and as Extension Clothing Specialist, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Arkansas. People in general, schools and government agencies seemed to lose interest in teaching sewing in the year 2000. My entire career went down the tubes and I was forced to retire early. I didn’t give up sewing, however. I’ll be 74 this month and I still sew for enjoyment, teach anyone who wants to learn, and alter and repair clothing for the seniors where I live. They don’t want it “free” but insist on paying me. I give them a huge senior discount and together we keep a lot of textiles out of the landfills. When I was a young mother I recycled previously worn clothing to make clothes for my children. They had a lot of lovely clothes and I saved a lot of money.

    I’m still recycling……take a look at my Etsy store, MickieSueToo. Some of the things I sew are at least partially recycled.

  26. Miriam Zhu says:

    Thank you for this article. I love sewing. But protecting our precious environment is something we have to do. Starting from little things, and we can all achieve big things.

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