This afternoon, while on Facebook, Brewer Quilting and Sewing Supplies asked the question “Why did you decide try sewing for the first time?”
I thought that was a great question. As a sewing instructor, I’m always fascinated by the reasons people have for learning to sew. Some say they want to learn because they want to sew for their children the way their mother sewed for them. Others are inspired to learn the art from watching shows like “Project Runway.” Some want to learn because they have inherited a nice, expensive machine with all the attachments and don’t want to part with it, but they can’t see having something so expensive without knowing how to operate it. Still others want to know how to make curtains or sew pillows to decorate their own homes.
And then there are the lifers like me – the people who can’t remember the first time they picked up needle and thread and discovered the magic of stitching fabric together and getting something entirely new. When I tell people I’ve been sewing for at least forty years, I get a lot of doubtful looks. But it’s the truth. I do NOT recall ever learning to sew.
When I was just a little thing, I would sit playing in the floor underneath my aunt's sewing machine table while she made so many lovely things. To keep me out of *her* projects, she taught me to sew. While she would work on a dance costume for my sister, or a dress for herself, I would practice different types of hand stitches in scrap fabric. I remember some of her more comprehensive lessons in working with commercial patterns and increasingly complex stitches. If I concentrate hard, and really exercise my memory, I can remember sitting on the avocado green carpeting in her family room dutifully threading one needle after another for her. I wasn't even four years old at the time.
I soon graduated to baby clothes, mending, and Barbie clothes, using scrap fabric and trims for some pretty outrageous doll fashions. My sister had received a Singer Child’s Sewing Machine for a gift. A hand crank machine, it was a simple chain-stitch machine. By the time it came to me, it wasn’t “real” enough to suit me.
When I was five years-old my aunt found a toy sewing machine that seemed to fill the bill. Mattel released a sewing “machine” called “Sew Magic.” The set included cartridges of fabric glue, some fabric and some patterns, and a pair of electric “safety scissors” which my aunt immediately talked me out of. I quickly realized that while it was good in theory, the glue cartridges were expensive and impractical, (not to mention messy), and I was better off using needle and thread, and sewing by hand.
And I continued to sew. By the time I was in Junior High School, I was making some of my own clothes. By the time I was in college, I was sewing more of them. Though I had access to my mother’s Singer 403a workhorse machine, I still preferred sewing by hand. It wasn’t until I took up quilting as a young adult that I bought my first REAL machine.
I still have that machine. It’s the one I use the most. It’s the machine that my daughter will remember playing on the floor underneath while the needle, fabric, and a steady beat magically produced dresses with twirly skirts and stuffed toys that just match her room’s décor.
My ever helpful little three year-old wants to cut patterns and pin pieces together and share in the transfiguration of simple fabric into fun pretty clothes and fun toys. So I stop what I’m doing, and thread a blunt tapestry needle and hand it to her along with some loose-weave fabric and teach her the magic of a running stitch. After all, it keeps her busy while I’m working on *my* projects.
So why did *you* decide to try sewing for the first time?