The Sewing Revolution

Sewing RevolutionSewing back then

1When 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..


photo credit: 1957 Simplicity Fashion Layout, with Singer & TV Star Gisèle MacKenzie, Sew for Spring in Rainbow Colors (2 pages, full color) via photopin (license)

Sewing in the 1990's

2It 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 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.

Sewing today

3Today, 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!

sewing revolution

The So Sew Easy Audience Demographics

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.  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.

For Men Who Love to Sew

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.

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18 Responses to The Sewing Revolution

  1. Barbara Dobree says:

    Who is actor Tim Reid’s wife? It seems appropriate that she is named since she’s the one doing the sewing!

  2. Dara says:

    Hi Mayra, thanks SEW MUCH for this informative post! Happy Sewing!!✌

  3. My world was filled with sewing my entire life. My grandmother made underpanties for my sister and me out of patterned feed sacks. (On the farm in Kansas.) My mother sewed every dress we ever wore as little girls. I learned to sew in 4-H, and also in school home-ec class. For my final project in 4-H I made a wool suit with bound buttonholes. I wore it in a style show.

    Later, when married and the kids came along, I was constantly sewing. My daughter, while in grade school, would describe what she wanted in a dress and I made it for her.

    The only thing that stopped me was that my love for writing finally took precedence. Now, 50 published books later, I still relish my memories of the creativity I enjoyed by sewing. And now my daughter loves to sew — for which I’m very thankful.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Norma Jean, thanks so much for sharing your story. I’ve been sewing all my life as well. Congrats on publishing 50 books!

  4. Eileen Fac says:

    I’ve been handling a needle since I was 18 months old (I am now 60). I used to sew buttons onto bits of cloth while my mother nursed my sister. I cannot remember a time that I didn’t sew and my enthusiasm has increased through my lifetime. My dolls were the best dressed dolls in the neighbourhood!! I remember in the 70’s, buying a yard of fabric for a skirt on a Saturday morning for next to nothing and wearing it to the disco later that evening! Oh happy days.
    I am still sewing and now work in a fabric shop which means I am in seventh heaven. We get many young sewers through the doors too so I know that the craft won’t be dying off in a hurry and is in safe hands.

  5. “Others learned sewing from their home-economics and 4-H club teachers, but unfortunately this practice has been done away with some years ago.”

    Sorry but this is just not true. 4-H is alive and well and still teaches sewing as well as many other skills.

    Home Ec was renamed Family & Consumer Sciences and is still in schools. Granted, not every FCS program teaches sewing, but many do.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Vanessa, that’s really good to hear that HomeEc and 4-H are still going in some places. Where are you?

  6. MJD says:

    Like Carol, when I attended High School, Home Economics was one of the choices and ways to learn sewing. at our high school we had a couple or rebels. Two boys took the Home Ec. classes (their reasoning was because it was the class with the most number of girls! :-)) At that time I was not interested in learning to sew. My mother who grew up in a generation where sewing was a necessity, admitted she was not very good at it. When I finally became interested in learning, she was unable to help me with my chosen projects. At that time the High School I attended didn’t have a Home Ec. class. There were two ladies who helped me get started. Aside from the two projects they helped me with, I am mostly self-taught. Thanks to Threads Magazine, and the TV show sewing with Nancy Zimmerman I am now vaguely competent at the sewing machine. Along the way I taught both my daughter and son the little that I knew about sewing. Am I part of a revolution? I am not sure that revolution is quite the right term. Perhaps Rediscovery is a better term?

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Thanks for sharing those experiences. You’re right, maybe Rediscovery is a good term for it. Revolution is a bit more dramatic though. I too like Threads Magazine.

  7. Carol G says:

    OK I’ll admit it – I’m one of those antiques who did needlework as a high school subject in the 60s and have used those skills continually over the years. I constantly remember things I learned in that class from slip stitching to french seams. It was fabulous and so useful. It should still be available and to boys as well of course. Now that I’m retired I can indulge in my love of sewing and even make a little pocket money from it, but the best satisfaction is from finishing a project that looks fabulous! I’m continually learning more and love your site for tutorials and inspiration. Congrats on winning the best blog award – well deserved!

  8. debbie says:

    It is very hard to read your posts because of the G+, Twitter and other symbols on the left. You often come up in my bloglovin feed and I don’t read because I know it frustrating when I try to read. Thanks.

    • Mayra at So Sew Easy says:

      Hi Debbie, sorry to hear that. What sort of device are you using to view the site? That really shouldn’t be happening. On mobile devices, those tags are removed completely and on desktops, they should be far to the side. Let us check it out and revert.

  9. moois van me says:

    I always knew my mother as a feminist and I always knew my mother sewing/knitting our clothes 🙂 . I don’t remember that in the 70’s women didn’t want to sew anymore. My mother made it feministic by teaching my brothers and father how to knit and my father and mother also shared a love for spinning wool 🙂
    My mother also made our clothes herself because of our financial situation. Back then it was still cheaper to make your own clothes than buy then.

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