How did you start sewing?
I think I was maybe 20 years old when I decided to set up my mom’s sewing machine and started making bags. I remember feeling overwhelmed by the pattern I bought. Soon after this, I found a sewing teacher. She was a retired Home Economics professor. I took weekly lessons from her, she taught me to iron, cut, sew, she gave me a serger (a friend of hers needed to find a home for it, and I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time).
I was a sewing machine operator at a furniture manufacturer for a few years, that was dull but taught me some good sewing work habits, how to keep the cloth moving straight through the machine, how to hold my scissors for quick clips, how to cut squares to make pillows with welted corners.
Then I found a job as a sample cutter for a women’s fashion house. I loved that job! It was a fast paced job and I drank up techniques, approaches and ideas. I worked with some fabulous pattern makers, sample sewers and people. I watched as my boss came back from fittings, kept an eye on her as she would add volumes, shift darts, lengthen, shorten and fix garments. It was a very interesting job.
During this time I began quilting, put the sewing away, even told myself sewing clothing was too fussy and difficult. Normally, I sew clothing in the summer time. Skirts, dresses, reconstructions. I don’t know that I have the skills to sew a silk blazer, but I do know how to set a sleeve. So here I am, living in NYC, near some of the best fabric stores in the worlds and the clothing sewing bug has bit me hard.
If you would like to do a sew along with me, I have been looking for free and interesting patterns for you. Can you handle that? Japanese sewing patterns for women, men and children!
I will reveal the entire blouse soon.
So, tell me about you. How did you get into sewing? Did you always quilt?
23 thoughts on “Tell me.”
I love to hear how people started sewing – I’m interested in reading other comments!
As for me, my mom gave me a needle and thread when I was 6 or so and told me to fix my doll dress myself (I had three younger sisters – she was busy.) I have very few memories of my early years, but that particular one is just as clear as day. A navy blue doll dress, white thread, the floral sofa in the background – I can see it all.
We moved to the country when I was older and I sewed in 4-H. I continued clothes construction for myself until I was out of college (I’m an accountant), then decided that clothing was too bothersome to sew, especially since it cost more to make clothes as to buy them! I started quilting when I was in my mid-twenties, and am primarily self-taught.
Thank you again for the blog and the chance to remember that doll dress one more time . . .
Do you think garment construction is too fussy now?
I do think clothing can be over-thought –
Could it be that the interest in Japanese styling is a bit of a reaction to that?
However, that said, I personally have to be more careful because easy-peasy oversized clothing can look frumpy and dowdy on this new body that God gave me in menopause.
If you saw me, you’d see me in the same Chucks, tee shirt and jeans of my youth – but the fit is far more conscious and I concern myself with giving my body a SHAPE. I am tall, but not thin. Putting “oversized” on a 5’10” farm-girl frame can just too much. That’s the one thing that gives me pause when I think about sewing Japanese patterns.
I am very interested in seeing what you come up with – your style is hip and organic (how do ya like that description?) and this might be one of those times I sit on the sidelines and see how it works for you.
If I feel like something might work for me, I’ll jump in, for sure!
I agree about Japanese clothing having the tendency to look frumpy. Or not tendency, but ability. Most of the models in the books and magazines are pencil thin and tiny.
My Mom says I was born creating. I stayed with my Gram a lot when I was young and she was always making something. I adored her and wanted to do everything she did. I had a thimble and sewing kit at her house and the rag bag was my stash. I would sit and “sew” with her before bed. I also had the little sewing cards made of cardboard and thick yarn for thread. I got my first toy sewing machine at 5. I was going to sew my own clothes out of the rag bag. This was back in the 50’s and I wore dresses everyday. I was into Boro and didn’t even know it! My Mom hated to sew and still does. She refused to teach me how to use the sewing machine. My Grandpa Evans liked to “irk” my Mom, so he gave me my Grandma Evans’ treadle sewing machine. She had died when my Dad was 7, so there was this mystical quality about her and I knew her sewing machine was magical. I read the instructions that came with the machine. Dad helped me clean and oil it and I was off. I sewed a blouse when I was 7. Gram gave me real fabric to experiment with and to press her daughter’s buttons. 😉 My Mom gave up and decided to teach me to sew. Painful! She made me sew lines on paper so I would learn to sew straight seams. I hated that! I took Home Ec from 8th grade on. Half the year was sewing and the other half was cooking. I loved both. In high school I took tailoring. The teacher hated me and I her. I didn’t like to follow rules or patterns, so we butted heads. She gave me a D for my clothing and my best friend an A for the clothing I had sewed for her. (Witch!!) I sewed all of my clothing, even formals (Gram helped me make a prom dress with a lace overlay. The hem of the skirt was the scallop of the lace, lace covered buttons, etc.) and suits until I was in my 20’s. Homemade clothing had a stigma and I wanted to fit in. I had always wanted to learn to quilt. My Gram was dieing of cancer, so I would spend the weekends taking care of her. I would do her gardening, canning, cooking, etc., and then in the evenings we would quilt. We had gone full circle. Those memories of her teaching me to sew and quilt have kept her in my heart for the past 40 years. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. My Mom’s comment about me being born creating was an exaggeration, but I know I will die with my thimble on. xoxo
In Home Ec, they made us sew lines on paper. What is that about? Yawn. Way to get a kid interested in sewing! I am glad they had Home Ec when I was growing up though.
I learned to sew from my mother and grandmother. Not because they wanted to teach me but because I nagged them incessantly about wanting to sew and that was the only way to silence me! First I made doll clothes and progressed to making my own clothes by 5th grade. As a teen, I loved being able to make things that actually fit my body in the colors that I liked. I would love to participate in your sew along. I’ve never used a Japanese pattern….I wonder do they come in a U.S. size XL?
I love that web site!
Me too. I have another couple of free patterns I will post ASAP.
I started sewing when I was about 5 or 6. Making clothes for my troll dolls. I made clothes for myself from age 10 through high school. I made one of my first quilts in college, which you can read about on my blog:artfiberthread.blogspot.com. March 31, 2010. The last time I made an article of clothing was a dinosaur costume for my son, about 20 years ago!
I got to do all the hemming for clothing my step-mom made for us back when I was in elementary school. I had two horrid experiences in sewing classes in Jr. Hi., and it set me back years before I was willing to try sewing again. Making things for the house was more my speed – curtains, pillow covers, etc. But eventually, I did get back to making clothing, although to this day I shy away from anything with zippers or button holes… just too complicated for my simple brain! But give me a basic, easy to sew, and I am good to go! I bought a pattern from CNT Pattern Co (www.cntpattern.com) called “A Little Somethin’ Jacket”, and plan to make my first one as soon as I have created the fabric… a rayon twill that I plan to dye/batik. It has no buttons or zippers, and is a nice loose design meant to be worn over a t-shirt or tank… even I can sew this one!
My mom and her 5 sisters sewed their own clothes so I guess it is inherited. I sewed as a child (had the cardboard sewing cards) and when I was 10 or so I joined 4-H. My mom taught the girls in the club sewing and we all got blue ribbons at the county fair. We had sewing in high school so I was always sewing, made a quilt in 1976 but thought it was boring doing a pattern. In 2000 I discovered Art Quilting and my art took a swing in that direction. In 2007 I was juried into Quilt National and my quilt hung next to Mellie’s! Lucky me.
What a great trip down memory lane! My mother and grandmother would sew on the old Singer treadle machine in the afternoons after doing all the house work and washing in the morning. When I got home from school I was allowed to pass the pins or snip the threads, and as I got a bit older I was allowed to use the machine for a few minutes after they had finished and make clothes for my dolls. We moved from England to Argentina when I was 12 and sadly old singer was sold as we couldnt take many of our belongings with us, I wish I had it now! In Argentina though my mother bought an primitive electric machine and she and I sewed clothes for me. When we moved to New Zealand when I was 17 again we had to leave the machine behind, but for my 21st birthday my parents bought me an inexpensive but new machine of my very own, which I used to sew all my own clothes including my wedding dress and bridesmaids dresses. Then I progressed to making lots of clothes for my three children which I loved doing until they got to that age where they would rather die than wear anything homemade, which is when I started quilting as I just have this compulsion to sew! It started slowly because at that stage it was scissors and cardboard templates which are not my thing, but once rulers and rotary cutters and free motion quilting were invented I was totally hooked, and here we are today totally obsessed!
Melanie, I was at your presentation 2 years back at the Houston Quilt Festival and enjoyed listening to you share about your art quilts. Here’s my story about sewing that I posted on my blog awhile ago:
Sewing has been part of my life since I was 8 : I would knit rectangles, than sew the ends together, by hand, to make small skirts. Then I learned some sewing through Home Economics in grade 8, I was eleven then. When I was 12, I started mending my own clothes and I spent some time decorating the back of my jean jacket : made a peace sign end sowed it to the jacket (I guess I can call that my first try at hand appliqué!), embroidered my first name… At the age of 13, I moved in with my grandmother for a year : she could sew anything and could make a pattern from a picture in a magazine; during my stay with her, she worked in a fabric store! she would bring home some discarded patterns of barbie clothings : I have never played with barbies in my life (I was the tomboy type!), but I made all those beautiful barbie ball gowns with the nicest sophisticated fabrics! When I moved back with my parents, I started sewing my own clothes on my mother’s sewing machine : I had to negociate with her to get some sewing machine time! When I got married and moved out of my parents’, the first thing I worried about was not buying furniture, it was about getting my first sewing machine which I did before I moved out! Then I took “Haute Couture” classes, where I learned to sew 2/3 of my clothes by hand!. Then I took sewing classes, commercial style: making the best use of your sewing machine, by using all the different feet, learning all different ways to sew zippers, blind hems, how to fit clothes and make necessary adjustments, and of course make clothes : lined skirts, shirts, lined dresses, pants, jeans, etc. etc. I am still sewing all my skirts, and most of my tops, I also make jackets, dresses, pants. I made a teenage mutant Ninja turtle costume with the stuffed shell, many many other Halloween costumes, graduation gowns etc.etc. I started quilting app. 7 years ago and I was so thrilled to see a whole new world opening for me! I also do some beading, embroidery, canvas work, knitting. But the love of my life will always be sewing : sewing helped me go through many difficult times in my life and will always be a big part of my life, for better or worse!
I would love to participate in a sew along with you!
Anne-Marie B. (Quebec, Canada)
Anne-Marie, I made the Teenage Mutant Ninja costume for my nephew ages ago. I drove the 200+ miles to Seattle to give it to him for Halloween. I got a lot of horn honks and strange looks on that trip. I can still recall the look of joy in his eyes when he saw that costume.
Ages ago, you are right! I would say 20 something years ago! I made the costume for my son who was 4 at the time – He is 26 now! Yikes time flies. I still have the costume : I would love to have a grandson some day and have him wear the same costume as his father! Who knows…. Jeannie, do you know what happened to the one you made?
I remember learning to sew buttons and darn from my grandmother when I was very little, but avoided Home Ec like the plague. I did start sewing clothes when I was in my teens, and got my first sewing machine shortly after I was married. (My first husband expected me to sew slip covers for our couch!) I was definitely ambitious, however, and can recall my mother buying material for me to make a suit for him (cordouroy, no less!). Obviously, she had a lot of faith in my potential. I did take a sewing course between marriages and learned a lot about tailoring, including how to make a muslin pattern.
My first quasi-quilt was made for my daughter when she was a baby, but I didn’t seriously start quilting until she was in her teens. I sewed a lot of clothing for the kids through the years. The first serious quilting project I made was a quilted coat for my daughter. I haven’t stopped quilting since, and have also continued to make clothing, though not as frequently. Plans are in the works, however, for several pieces for myself this year, at least. While I agree with the comment about not sewing clothing for a while because it was less expensive to simply buy it, I have a hard to fit figure, which makes buying clothing a real trial.
I remember my paternal grandmother, Maude Tucker, giving me a small hoop with an embroidery pattern stamped onto the cloth stretched in it. Later, I was very taken with an old Singer Treadle sewing machine I discovered in my maternal grandmother’s attic. My father found a treadle machine in a garage sale and bought it for me for $5. I was about 9 years old. I started sewing simple clothing for myself on that treadle machine.
Later, I labored under the shrewd eye of Miss Johnson, my home-ec teacher in junior high. She sure took some of the joy out of things for me! Ha! I got older and, for a few years, I guess I thought I was too damn cool to sew. What was I thinkin?!
Fast forward to the late 70s: I’m out of nursing school and working in Labor and Delivery. One of the nurses on the night shift would come in early and sit in the lounge with her quilt. I was intrigued. The next thing I knew she had taken me under her wing and I was learning to quilt. I’ve never looked back.
I recently rekindled my love of hand-stitchery by spending a day in the presence of the wonderful Mary Ruth Smith. I’m so glad I love this stuff. I have a great life!
My grandmother was a seamstress who sewed all her dresses. My mother sewed and crochetted.
I started very young sewing for my dolls! I took home ec in high school and the rest is history. I am an
amateur, but love sewing, and will tackle anything from quilts to doll clothes. It is so zen to me.
Love your blog and your art work as well. I am now doing mixed media as well.
Thanks for sharing your work.
I started sewing when I was 10. A smocked sundress. The relatively instant gratification was all I needed. I learned to sew many garments and cherished the ability to have one of a kind pieces. I am so thankful to my Mom and Grandmother for sharing their skills and love for fabric with me. All three of my kids have learned to sew, to me it is a basic lifelong skill.
Hardly a day in my life without a needle in my hand. I’ve done it all: underwear, ski clothes, bound buttonholes, French seams, velvet and satin, piped edge pillows and those window blinds that fold up with string pulls(?), but at some point jeans and easy knits took over my wardrobe and I stopped sewing so much. About twenty years ago I started quilting and that became my main sewing focus. Now I’ve had my fill of big quilts, I’m moving into mixed media and other smaller art quilts, loving hand embroidery and ready to go back to some clothing sewing. (Oh, and along the way I taught middle school and high school home ec, although only a third of it was sewing in any session.) I’ve recently discovered the styles of Alabama Chanin and very excited to try their “slow” and artistic hand methods.