Saturday, January 4, 2014

Rambling about home sewing

I first fired up a sewing machine shortly after I turned 30.  I wanted to make some flannel baby blankets for my then-gestating daughter, as well as some other babies that were soon to be born to family and friends.  Mike and I had gotten a machine for our wedding but I hadn't used it until then.  I discovered that I really enjoyed sewing, so after sewing a mound of baby blankets I started searching the internet for tutorials on how to sew more things.  Once I stumbled upon modern quilting it quickly became my first love and took up most of my time, but prior to that I was more interested in sewing clothing.  I made some skirts for myself and dresses for my daughter, and even a couple pairs of pajama pants for my kids.  Very basic garments.  And even though I don't sew many garments I'm still fascinated by the idea, and I hope to get back into it once I'm not so intimidated by it.

I read some sewing blogs, and one of my favorites is Male Pattern Boldness, written by Peter Lappin.  He sews using vintage machines (he even has a Singer 66 treadle, though he doesn't seem to use it much) and sews clothes for himself and his partner. He recommended a book called Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion.  The book discusses the economic, human rights, and environmental impacts of how clothing is made today, and how cheap and low-quality today's clothing is compared to clothing 25 or 50 years ago.  I was surprised at the parallels between what is discussed in the book, and in the sewing blogs I read.

When I started sewing I knew nothing - my mom gave me a quick crash course on using my machine but I was still woefully ignorant.  In fact, when the bobbin ran out of thread, I let the machine sit for days because the idea of winding a bobbin was just a monumental task.  I've learned from sewing blogs and tutorials on the internet.  However, it seems like some of those women were also self-taught...which is fine, except that they see the stuff for sale in the stores as the ultimate goal for home sewing.  If they can make their projects look like the things for sale in department stores, they've done a great job.

But the stuff for sale in stores now is so cheap.  It's barely worth owning, let alone making.  When you aspire to store-bought clothing, it sets such a bad example!  For instance, it wasn't until I read that book that I realized that using a serger is a shortcut instead of a preferred method...I read so many sewing blogs that talk about investing in a serger to achieve a professional look.  I always doubted that I could make anything of good quality on my old straight-stitch machines, when in reality they've probably made things of higher quality than I've seen lately.

I really love the resurgence of interest in sewing in my generation, but we need to aspire to more than running two pieces of knit through a serger and calling it a professional-looking skirt.

I'm not sure what the point of this is, but I do know that after reading that book I want to sew more of my own things.  Maybe I'll have my mom teach me what she knows.  I also want to teach my kids - my son as well as my daughters - the basics of sewing.  Hopefully that will help, in some small way, to carry the information through to another generation.

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