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Readers, do you ever feel like you spend a disproportionate amount of your day talking/thinking/writing about sewing?

When you mention your sewing projects, do you ever catch friends or colleagues rolling their eyes, glancing at their watches, and suddenly having to catch the 5:15 train — and they drive to work? Do you yourself retreat daily to the comforting, marshmallow, everybody-sews-here worlds of sites like BurdaStyle or your favorite sewing blog?

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Whether I’m writing about my sewing projects on Male Pattern Boldness, or about vintage sewing machines and men’s sewing here at BurdaStyle, I find myself talking about sewing all the time. Sometimes I feel like the president of the Treadle Association of New York or the International Mens Sewing Alliance! (Is there one?)

But I often wonder if I’m converting anybody.

Are you familiar with the word meme? A meme is an idea that spreads throughout the culture, for example through a social networking site, till it seems that everybody has heard about it.

What’s the best way to spread the home-sewing meme in your opinion?

Stated another way: How do we grow home sewing?

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A few weeks ago I met up with a woman who reads my blog (a non-sewer), the friend of someone I met here at BurdaStyle. “Marie” is originally from France, and we met for coffee, visited the wonderfully wacky “Japan Fashion Now” exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and strolled through the Garment District. We talked a lot about sewing machines, sewing, blogging, fashion, you name it. I had a lovely time but I didn’t get the sense that “Marie” was going to start sewing any time soon.

For one thing, she has our mutual sewing friend making a lot of her clothes!

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I know many of you have been sewing for many years and have lived through the dramatic contraction of the home sewing industry: local fabric stores closing, fewer independent sewing machine manufacturers and vendors, an increased focus on quilting among the vendors that remain, fewer patterns for sale, and so on. It’s admittedly depressing.

Yet at the same time we have all these sewing websites and communities, downloadable patterns, countless online fabric and notion resources, sites like eBay and Etsy where you can purchase old patterns, books, and vintage sewing machines, and countless sewing blogs. Nobody with Internet access needs sew in isolation!

Could it be that home sewing has bottomed out and is growing once again? Has a generation raised on H&M and Forever 21 soured on mass-produced fashion?

How can we successfully spread the home-sewing meme? What do you think would help convert non-sewers into passionate sewing fanatics? (What turned you into one?)

Have you ever successfully turned someone on to sewing? Did you actually have to give them a machine to get them started?

World conquest may not be within our reach — not right away. But a little benign evangelism never hurt. It’s in our collective interest to take action.

Let’s think strategically.

Ideas, people, ideas!

~Peter

When native New Yorker Peter Lappin bought his first sewing machine two years ago to hem a pair of thrift store jeans, little did he know he was initiating a journey that would bring him fame and fortune. While awaiting his fortune he stays busy writing “the world’s most popular men’s sewing blog,” Male Pattern Boldness, and now contributing to BurdaStyle.

“For more than twenty years I’d lived on the edge of the Garment District without even knowing what a seam ripper was. Now I rip daily!”

176 Comments

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    Apr 15, 2011, 04.35 PMby uniquelyme

    I’ve found the best way to make people consider learning to sew is to wear clothes I’ve made that fit perfectly or as close to that as possible. Much of ready made clothing is designed to fit a number of body types which results in looser armhoes, buttons not placed properly, loose fitting cufffs, etc. When you get into better lines of clothing, fit improves and is often sewn to make alterations easier. You may find a line of clothing that fits you better than another line. But nothing garners more positive comments than well-fitting clothing. Yes, learning to fit can be a challenge, but there are ways to learn so it’s not complicated. You can be very encouraging to those who haven’t sewn, but may consider it due to your appearance and style. This applies to all body types and shapes!. Where I live middle schools teach an elective class that includes a unit on sewing. They only make pillows, pajama bottoms, etc. However, I have noticed more teens in fabric stores lately. BurdaStyle is great to refer someone to as it shows cute clothing that has been made by new sewers. Though I’ve sewn for years, I LOVE BurdaStyle. I’m always amazed at the creativity everyone shows. And it inspires my creativity!

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    Apr 14, 2011, 11.14 AMby Paula Lucas

    I have started my very own website and blog to teach my love of sewing to the world. I would love to teach classes in sewing locally, but there is a quilt shop in town that runs “learn to sew” classes, and they do not get much response. As for the fabric stores closing and/or focusing on quilt fabrics, I rage (inside, of course) at the fact that I have to travel 50 miles to get to even a Jo-Ann. Now, I have nothing against the company, but I prefer to work with 100% natural fabrics whenever I can, and those are NOT usually found in a store such as this. Hence, I must purchase online – which is better than not getting the fabric at all, but is a real pain as I have to order swatches first, and then purchase the fabric. Takes up a lot of time! Anyway, just my 2 cents. Paula http://www.learnhowtosewnow.com

    1 Reply
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    Apr 14, 2011, 07.21 AMby cottonrose

    Started reading all through this blog and went to your home page. Great. I am the only person I know, other than a male at our sewing group who sews men’s clothes. My husband has been difficult to fit with off the peg clothes and generally had clothes tailor made in Asia when he was in the merchant navy. Naturally as a sewer I have made him shirts, jackets, trousers and a “monkey jacket” (Don’t know the term for a white shawl collar, fitted waistcoat with long sleeves, often worn by waiters and was part of his Merchant Navy summer dress uniform. ) Had no pattern and made it up as I went along. Will scrutinise everything on your site. Who knows what I will find for a skinny -bummed long legged male.

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 14, 2011, 10.44 AMby Peter Lappin

      I did a men’s shirt sew-along in March, and have a jeans sew-along beginning in May — those might be interesting to you. Then there are the dresses… ;)

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    Apr 14, 2011, 05.14 AMby jvanvelsor

    I remember when sewing was normal. My mother made her and her children’s clothes and taught us girls how to as well. I was sewing doll clothes before I was 8, and experimenting with my own clothes when I was in my teens. We even had a local shop that would hem stitch items so you could sew a crocheted edge to it. My opinion is that we have bottomed out. The knitting rage has spilled over into to other creative pursuits and sewing is a natural “go together” with knitting. I still know only a few who sew a lot, but am teaching my children and their spouses how. My youngest son was the first of my children to request a sewing machine for his 30th birthday. The method I have to interest others is by example. I make my own clothes, made my daughter’s wedding dress, the bridesmaid dress, flower girl dresses for several weddings, baby clothes, gift blouses etc. This all gives the realization that it can be done, and I teach whenever I can. I buy used sewing machines when I can find them cheap, and give them away to anyone that expresses an interest. I agree that the fabric store availability is diminishing for now, but also remember when patterns came in only one size. There were no multisize patterns when I started sewing. I see so many many sewing/embroidery related blogs online it is a real cause for hope for the future.

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 14, 2011, 10.43 AMby Peter Lappin

      Very inspiring, jvanvelsor!

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    Apr 14, 2011, 12.00 AMby dcfog

    I, like some of the others here, learned to sew at a young age. It was great when I was 16 and going to the local armory to dance to just whip up my own version of a purple satin bell bottom pants suit…lol… It seems very expensive to sew now even if the youth would like to do it…Something they need to think about is this: I buy patterns when they are on sale (and they are still in fashion); take patterns that are classic (the little black dress) and put your own spin on it like sparklies, words, etc. and use those JoAnn Fabric coupons if you have this company in your neighborhood. 40% off a piece of non-sale fabric is a great deal!!! Sewing is basically learning how to operate a machine —like driving. That’s how it might be less gender identified if the word could get out!!!!

    1 Reply
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    Apr 13, 2011, 09.15 PMby djd0070

    Like many, I’m the only person in my area except my Mother who sews. Everyone thinks that it’s “old Fashion” when clothes can be bought in stores or on-line so easily. But it seems that when they need something repaired or children’s costumes for Halloween, I seem to get many “Friends” who would like me to help them out since it cost LOTS to have items altered at the cleaners. I’m slowly teaching them the art of sewing for fun.

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 13, 2011, 09.55 PMby Peter Lappin

      Maybe soon they’ll be able to alter YOUR Halloween costumes in return! ;)

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    Apr 13, 2011, 05.15 PMby kathysch

    I started my daughter sewing when she was 7. We bought her a very simple “Hello Kitty” sewing machine. She is 9 now and has made a skirt at a Joann’s sewing for kids class and is very proud of it and wears it all the time. The best way to promote sewing is to start young in my opinion. I started in high school and took at least 5 different classes. This was in the early 80’s and lots of people were still sewing. No one in my family liked to sew, my high school sewing classes is where i got my start. Thank you Miss Gedert! (the teacher)

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 13, 2011, 09.03 PMby Peter Lappin

      You were so lucky to have those classes (I envy you). I hope your teacher reads this! ;)

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    Apr 13, 2011, 04.40 PMby shiborigirl

    to really get it back it needs to begin with teaching kids. if we don’t/can’t teach it in school, then perhaps in afterschool programs. groups like 4H, scouts, community rec programs are possible. do some hand sewing in art classes where they still exist. teach kids to appreciate the where fabrics come from-silkworms are endlessly fascinating to kids. spinning wool is too. get a little fiber in their diet and some will carry it on with them throughout their life. just my thoughts…

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 13, 2011, 09.03 PMby Peter Lappin

      You’re so right. “Fiber in the diet” — that’s hilarious!

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    Apr 13, 2011, 01.43 PMby cur-jargon

    for starters, become a member of BurdaStyle! I was already interested in sewing before joining this network, but a little shy about my love of sewing. I felt that the over all impression of someone who sews was not viewed as cool. The culture here on BurdaStyle defies that notion and encourages the sewers of this world to be quite proud of their abilities and wares without shame, if you will. The talent displayed in the work of those who post here, from members to guest bloggers like you, Peter, motivate me and also give me something to share with others. My personal sewing journey has increased in interest and production since I’ve been on BurdaStyle, creating a place for me to showcase my own creations and share with other non-members. Getting the feedback from the virtual world on my projects is such an awesome thing! I agree with the very first post in this article about the place of community that sewing provides. So true! I’ll take in person connection any day, but the virtual community here is truly something special. Thanks to everyone who shares their gifts and talents daily! GO SEW!

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 13, 2011, 09.04 PMby Peter Lappin

      Works for me! ;) Thanks for the great reply!

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    Apr 13, 2011, 11.03 AMby susanringsbells

    I’ve been dressmaking in my spare time for over forty years.

    About five years ago a friend asked me to teach her. I suggested we met for an evening every two or three weeks to sew together at my dining table. Now she and her daughter (11 years) come regularly, sew confidently and chat every week or so. And another friend and her daughter often come too.

    So a sort of sewing club seems to work but my dining table is becoming too small!

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 13, 2011, 11.15 AMby Peter Lappin

      That sounds great, Susan!

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    Apr 13, 2011, 07.35 AMby BellyMumma

    I started sewing last yr. I had knitted a couple of things and then decided to make a personalised cushion for my daughter because her brothers both received them as babies. I’ve made around 50 or so now. My friends love it & I’ve inspired a few to start sewing. I still maintain that I can’t sew and I think it’s because I never did it at school. My mother & grandmother sewed & tried teaching me when I was quite young but I didn’t take to it. They’d give me hankies to sew & being so thin (& me so impatient) they’d get jammed in the machine & it turned me off.

    I have LOADS of fabric. I make softies now too (some from patterns, some from my own patterns) but I think until I can find someone that does dressmaking lessons (as opposed to bags, pillows etc) I’ll maintain my inability to sew.

    I’m preparing for a market at the moment making lots of softies to sell but after the market I am determined to make a skirt or two. You know, “proper” sewing. Actually I recently altered a dress I got from an op shop and turned it into a costume for a fancy dress party. Lots of people commented and said they couldn’t do something like that, but you know I think they could.

    Still, I’d love to learn to sew.

    Oh, & thanks. Thanks for the subject & thanks for getting us all thinking about it even more, because YES, I do think about sewing all the time :)

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 13, 2011, 11.16 AMby Peter Lappin

      For someone who doesn’t sew you’re awfully productive! LOL

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    Apr 13, 2011, 03.07 AMby enchantedpines

    I wear lots of things I make to work and my students (I teach 7th grade) know that I sew. They genuinely like a lot of my stuff and I hope that I may inspire some of them to sew some day. If nothing else, they recognize that I can produce nice things that are unique and not the same as everyone else is wearing.

    1 Reply
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    Apr 13, 2011, 01.54 AMby janxangel

    The DIY revolution is in full force these days. Granted it’s more obvious in tech/building circles, but it’s out there. Generating more interest in home sewing (to me anyway) means taking it from being about “fashion” and more about being an individual, creating something new and unique. I think you’d get more interest from the geeky crowd if pattern drafting was made more accessible. As it is now, to learn anything more than the very bare bones basics, you either have to go to a class, or shell out major bucks for one of the really good texts.

    I know I’m probably in the minority here, but I couldn’t care less who’s wearing what. I think designer stuff is mostly overpriced and trends are just a way to make people spend more money without thinking about it over a really quite trivial goal of being “trendy”. Those people who are like me could see home sewing as a way to follow their own path instead of what a magazine tells them they should be wearing.

    The other subset of that group is the costumers and cosplayers who currently are buying their outfits online or from other people who sew. Present classes/tutorials on real sewing in terms of making character outfits and then carry it over into “Hey, you already made a skirt/shirt/pair of pants for that costume, you can make regular clothes too!”

    Minor thought – Better color and print selection at the fabric store. All the prints are geared and priced for quilters who aren’t going to use nearly as much as a garment sewer. Fabric customization can be a craft all it’s own…

    I agree with the previous commenter who remarked about making a sewing machine less a symbol of the domestic and more an art tool. Just like the bot builder and woodworker are proud of their tools, so should the sewer be proud of theirs.

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 13, 2011, 02.02 AMby Peter Lappin

      Amen! Thanks for the wonderful comment!

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