Sewing back then
When ready-to-wear clothes were not yet popularly available, generations of women learned how to sew for home and hearth. And they usually started stitching when they were still at their mother's knees. Others learned sewing from their home-economics and 4-H club teachers, but unfortunately, this practice has been done away with some years ago. And during the height of the feminist movement in the 70’s, many women stayed away from the sewing machine as an act of protest. While we certainly don't support any of the negative stereotypes, you have to ask how a skill that makes you more independent and self-sufficient should be seen as a negative..
Sewing in the 1990's
It was only in the 1990’s when sewing at home became popular again, landing seventh in the Fortune Magazine 1991 Investor's Guide’s list of most promising industries.
Back then, most women who sewed at home were between 25 to 45 years old, college-educated, and mostly had a household income of $35,000 to $40,000 –which was quite a lot back then. Studies showed that there was a directly proportional relationship between advanced education and women who sew. In the US alone, there were more than 21 million people who sewed –mostly women. While most of the data we have is for the US, it wouldn't be surprising if the same holds true in countries like Canada, Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Today, the sewing revolution rages on and here’s a look at the women who have joined the movement.
The reason behind the increase of home sewers is not always economic. Women who sew at home are also discovering its therapeutic effect. For them, stitching clothes stimulates their creativity and provide balance in their lives so that having a stylish and unique wardrobe is just an added and welcome perk. Still, for others, sewing is an extra source of income. In fact, many women have gone into sewing full time and are in the enviable situation of enjoying what they are doing and making a tidy sum too!
Some famous women who sew at home include television actress Daphne Maxwell Reid, Olympic gold medalist Florence Griffith Joyner, Today’s show anchor Deborah Norville and Houston criminal court Judge Carol Higley-Lane. Also, not many people know that actor Tim Reid’s wife sews her own suits, coats and gowns, about 30 items a year, and she saves a lot of money by doing so. And I believe that with the advance in sewing machine technology, making her own clothes is sometimes less time-consuming for her than combing the racks for the right outfit.
Katherine Heigl is another celebrity who has recently dusted off her sewing machine. She has talked to several magazines and newspapers about her love of sewing. Shortly before their separation, Tom Cruise bought Katie Holmes a sewing machine for her birthday. Julia Roberts has also talked about taking sewing lessons and is proud to say that she is making cushions for her twins and trousers for her husband. And who would have thought that George Clooney, who once came to his date's aid when her zip broke on her dress, has a tailoring experience? According to the tabloids, he ended up stitching the back of her date’s dress!
The graphic above is a snapshot of the So Sew Easy community. You'll notice that it's mostly female, but we're doing our best to encourage and support the men who love to sew in the community.
This trend is becoming so strong that our article was recently picked up in the Huffington Post in France!
Our age demographics are pretty well distributed with the largest segment being 25-34 years olds. About half our community have children and half do not.
I dare say that there is no doubt that a sewing revolution is still underway and aren’t you glad that you are part of it? Please let us have your thoughts and share your experiences below with the changing perception of sewing over the years.
You could of not been rude about feminism. How do you not see that a thing that was expected of women and only women to do for everyone could be problematic?
It is history, nothing to feel offended about. I think that we have come a long way with education to feel proud of what we have accomplished. Don’t you agree?
I learned to sew when I was 8 years of age (I’m currently 70.)My uncle was a professional tailor and have my sister and I sewing tips in exchange for fabric scraps and foot pedal machine sewing time (we made fool’s clothing.) This skill came in very handy when I had my daughters and even today as I continue to sew for another generation of family members and friends. And, by the way, two of my family members went on to formally study fashion design and pattern making. We are proud of our family tradition of sewists.
Just a few days ago, I was reminiscing about how I got into sewing and what was my very first machine sewn project. This article just reminded me of that. When I was a child I grew watching several of my aunts sewing in their own machines. Some had electric motors but one of my aunts had, I remember, a treadle sewing machine. I saw many of those in the country side of my country in the furniture stores. I have so many memories of my aunts sewing in them and sewing some clothing for the dolls my cousin and me had back then. It was not until I was in grad school when I got my first sewing machine in a pawn shop. I still have it and I love it to pieces. I started to be an avid sewist after graduating from grad school. Then, I found the best sewing teacher I have ever had. Around the sewing classes, machines, threads, projects, some frustrations, and fabric we tailored a friendship that has stood the test of time. Today, we continue to be friends and sharing projects. I can say that I am in my happy place as I am sewing in my sewing room. As of my very first sewing project, it was a bag for my collapsible music stand. I still remember it. The best part of all this sewing journey is that I was once told in Home Ec class that I would never be a good sewist neither with a sewing machine nor hand sewing. This as a middle school girl kind of floored me. Gazillion moons later… I have proven that I not only CAN sew my own garments but also can make hand made gifts for everyone around me!
Sewists UNITE. I love the meditation of sewing, I love the feeling of accomplishment and I love the compliments. BUT I also love the camaraderie of in person meetings with the local chapter of the American Sewing Guild. On line classes are convenient, but sometimes I just need a real person in real time.