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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

  • Chemcamp_large

    Apr 12, 2011, 02.47 PMby angelical

    I have converted my bff into sewing. I brought my sewing machine to her house and helped her sew a LARP costume. Within a week, she had bought an identical machine and a small fabric stash.

    1 Reply
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    Apr 12, 2011, 11.44 AMby tilshmil

    I have taught my kids and friends to sew, knit and crochet. I love passing on what I know! Plus, they can understand my madness for all things handmade.

    1 Reply
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    Apr 12, 2011, 10.27 AMby coffeeaddict

    I’m a self taught seamstress and I was lucky to grow up in an environment where any crafts are considered an artistic expression and are encouraged. I’ve never “turned” anyone but unlike you people don’t roll their eyes or yawn visibly when I talk about my DIY. Sewing isn’t my only hobby and people have come to accept it as part of my personality: always dabbling with this or that. I also make a lot of things as presents and everyone is always delighted. My boyfriend is a crafter as well, he makes Chinese and Celtic knots, jewellery out of beach pebbles and so on.

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 12, 2011, 12.57 PMby Peter Lappin

      How fortunate you are! Of course, you realize, people are not LITERALLY yawning in my face: that was a bit of literary hyperbole. LOL

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    Apr 12, 2011, 08.30 AMby loulourosa

    I’m not against toy sewing machines, I just think that it is a waist of money to buy one if you allready have a verry good sewing machine. A friend has bought a “bernina” toy sewing machine for her daughter, and now her daughter has caught the sewing microbe as well. :-)

    I also think that it’s good thing to include sewing and other crafts in the program at school, and start when the children are verry young. At my daughters school they have crafts workshops (from the age of six) two afternoons in a week. The parents or grandparents share their knowledge with the theatchers and pupils, so the real world comes to school. There is a choise of workshops: knitting, carpenting, sewing,… These workshops are really popular, the children are proud of their result and of their parents!

    2 Replies
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 12, 2011, 01.05 PMby Peter Lappin

      That’s great. When I look back, even though I wasn’t exposed to sewing, I did a LOT of crafts in school, after school, and in summer camp. It’s important to nurture a child’s creativity early.

    • Missing

      Apr 12, 2011, 03.27 PMby Rhonda Griffin

      Loulourosa, you have the key to opening up the world of artistic freedom thru sewing.CHILDREN. Peter Lappin is very extraordinary in that he willed himself to commit and grow. And all of the sewing artists that “just start” as adults, they really have to be committed to the hundredth power!!! I can look back in retrospect and see that had I not tinkered with the old $5.00 pawn shop Morse that my mother had, I would have struggled more thru learning. When we start as children we see it as fun. The anticipation, fun and excitement will over shadow the WORK and perseverance needed to complete a project. Sewing requires some engineering skills. Engineers are problem solvers, and that is where the challenges enter the picture. All five of my children are in fields where TONS of problem solving is involved. If we take a close look at all forms of employment, we will see that problem solving is involved somewhere. Sewing is none the less a problem solving endeavor. The hottest news in the sewing world is Kate Middleton. Not her handsome Prince William. Why?Her bridal gown the whole world wondering.Why?The media wants to know who is the secret shining star(s) that is SEWING fabulous Kate’s wedding gown. We call them designers, whoever they are. But they are still SEWING. They are SEWING history that will live thru the passing of time. And to think, I read that the Prince admired a dress in a fashion presentation that Kate modeled. Excuse me, but the dress that caught the Prince’s attention that Kate was wearing was SEWN by someone or somewhere. We are overlooking the sources, and only seeing the glamour. The sewing needs to be reconnect with the glamour as it was in days gone by. Dressmakers were connected with the glamour in the past. In America, many children thing that food comes from the grocery stores. The farms and growers have been disconnected from the whole process. We see the stars in the "drink milk advertisements, but we never see the stars milking the cows…save Paris Hilton when they worked on a farm in the reality show. Now if Paris owned a farm and had a reality show based on her farm, and was milking cows, many of her followers would have been influenced. And so it is with sewing. The work part must be connected with the glamour.And children need to be bought into the equation.

  • Dodo_large

    Apr 12, 2011, 07.04 AMby lila-1

    Show a non-sewer something they’ll love but cant buy. Something super-easy, like the Hood Wrap pattern (thanks mimishim!!) which is free on this website. Then refuse to make it for them.

    I guess for a lot of women, there is the stigma of it being a housewife activity in a world where we value “real” (plz note the " ") jobs that earns $$. That’s why I wasnt allowed to learn sewing as a teenager. What might be needed here is to show that sewing is a lot like painting or sculpting (which I think shows like Project Runway achieve), so an accomplished professional working woman can add that to her portfolio of skills rather than hide it as asign of ‘domestication’. The same thing once applied to baking, but now you see a great number of young working women whipping up batches of beautifully decorated cupcakes and that’s perfectly acceptable.

    2 Replies
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 12, 2011, 01.09 PMby Peter Lappin

      Great points, Lila! I’m of the generation where the women I knew who were my age were the first to be able to go to graduate school and study (and become) whatever they wanted.

      Their mothers didn’t encourage them to do domestic activities; these were looked down on.

    • Missing

      Apr 12, 2011, 03.50 PMby Rhonda Griffin

      Very well stated,Lila! I adore how you used the cupcakes to show that it can be done. Enough of us working together bring about a sewing revolution. The cooking shows have done it. The only sewing shows on television is the quilting shows. We all need to have a TV show, and show men and women that sewing is not about domestic work. Sewing is another art form. Let’s all get together and do some great how to videos. My grandmother was in a sewing club called the Friday Evening Sewing Club. They were hand stitching the dresses, and interior projects, just as Coco Chanel did. No sewing machines were allowed. And they had a community end of the year show where they raised charity funds for the March of Dimes, and the Heart Fund. And they auctioned the projects that they made. We should have some sort of think tank with goals and steps to revive home sewing. It will have to start with us.

  • Kirsty_large

    Apr 12, 2011, 01.03 AMby Kirsty Hosking

    mmm loving this post. I’m 29 years old and I started sewing when I was 27 and lived in London. Most of my friends thought I was trying to turn into a stepford wife and laughed me off. Now I have my own online fabric shop here in New Zealand, www.sewpretty.co.nz and all I want to do all day is inspire others to sew! Especially the younger generation. I was at a womans expo on the weekend and some of the teenagers came to “ooh and aahh” over the Dr Seuss fabric, but on one of them mentioning the word “sewing” the other said “no way I am staying as far away from domesticated as possible” How could they be so wrong? How I would have loved to have been inspired by someone when I was 17 to start sewing instead of becoming an accountant? There is no comparison! You’ve inspired me to blog about it! Thanks Kirsty

    2 Replies
    • Missing

      Apr 12, 2011, 04.49 AMby Rhonda Griffin

      Kirsty, I adore the Stepford Wives’ costumes. The teens you are refering to have not realized that sewing is an art form that include FREEDOM of expression.If the Hollywood stars were seamstresses, then all of the teens would follow. There is a correlation between persons that sew, and strong leadership skills.Rhonda

    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 12, 2011, 01.13 PMby Peter Lappin

      Right, Kirsty (and Rhonda)! We need to stop thinking of sewing machines as equivalent to a dishwasher — a symbol of domesticity — and more akin to an artist’s palette — a tool for artistic expression.

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    Apr 11, 2011, 05.43 PMby gedwoods

    One of the reasons I got interested in e-sewing was as a way of interesting young boys and young men in sewing. It works also for tech-conscious young women. The combination of electronics, computer programming (albeit very simple elements) and sewing and design make an engaging combination for young people. There are so many possibilities for interesting projects for relatively modest sums of money. It’s a real adventure.

    Also, from my own experience, I discovered sewing to be a very calming activity, more so than most other things i had done before, but nobody talked about this aspect of sewing until I discovered it for myself. In my very busy life, sewing calms me right down and gives me a measure of “slow time” it is difficult for me to get by other means. This is another aspect of sewing that could be used to “spread the good news”, especially for people who complain about not having enough time to do things.

    Ultimately, however, I find sewing to be a “complete” activity – it includes intellectual challenge as well as technical know-how and learning-by-doing, as well as the satisfaction of making things that are actually worn, either by myself or people I make things for. I think if people understood more directly how sewing covers so many bases, the activity would be more attractive to a broader base of people.

    2 Replies
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 11, 2011, 06.18 PMby Peter Lappin

      You make some great points, Gedwoods! I totally agree.

    • Missing

      Apr 12, 2011, 04.14 PMby Rhonda Griffin

      Gedwoods, I frequent several small town country roads fabric stores. I have seen many men purchasing fabrics for quilting. Saw one this past weekend that was making an embroidered table cloth for a wedding. I am a fifties born baby boomer, that had a tailor, and 3 top of the line dressmakers across the street from me.

      One of the dressmakers,Rosa, was a baker also. I was a frequent visitor in her kitchen. The smell of those home baked goods( cakes, pies,truffles,divinity,wedding cakes,biscuits, cornbread, and more) would travel all throughout our neighborhood. Rosa was raising and rearing some of her orphaned neices. All four of her neices sew and are exquisite cooks. The sewing was very therapeutic for the four neices who lost their parents at very young ages. The cooking was also therapeutic in a different way. When I was in college, and had to do lots of research(long before the internet) I would sew from 9pm to 12pm about 3 or 4 times a week. Sewing was very relaxing for me. You are right on the bulls eye. We have no idea how sewing has lots of therapeutic benefits that can be life changing. I think my neighborhood would have missed some of its richness had Ms Rosa not been there. Hats off to you, I admire your insightfulness.
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    Apr 11, 2011, 02.59 PMby ajtak7171

    Great post, and an interesting subject… I have started a blog very recently, and what I really want to do is be a link from sewing blogs to fashion blogs. I have discovered that those are two really separate worlds and I actually wonder why. All these fashion bloggers out there, why don’t they start sewing? Why? I’ll try and “catch” them eventually. It’s like others have mentioned: sewing doesn’t seem to be cool…

    3 Replies
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 11, 2011, 04.54 PMby Peter Lappin

      Some fashion bloggers (like Sally of Already Pretty) read my blog and vice versa. I think many people either don’t have the time or can’t imagine having the skill. Or what interests them is collecting fashion (as opposed to making it) and styling it.

      Think about it: a lot of people collect coins but most people aren’t minting their own. LOL

    • Missing

      Apr 12, 2011, 04.27 PMby Rhonda Griffin

      Ajtak, how clever. We should post awesome sewing projects on your blog to show the fashion followers what can be done in the world of fashion creators. We can do this.

    • Blogportrait_large

      Apr 13, 2011, 08.48 AMby ajtak7171

      Thank you Rhonda and Peter for your input! My Blog is still new, but I will start posting some “fashion-philosophy” posts very soon. Because I believe it all comes down to courage. Clothes are there to express who you are, and it takes more courage to wear something you have made yourself, than something that has a label in it… right?

  • Fb2227aaf242c0d041dbcd583baae4e4ccfba73d_large

    Apr 11, 2011, 02.43 PMby loulourosa

    I started sewing because my mother worked at home and was a seamstres. I saw here creating all these nice clothes, so you could say I started sewing in a natural way. Now my 8 year old daughter wants to start sewing to, I’m not going to buy her a toy-sewing machine. She can use mine. And this week we will start with making a simple skirt. When children start early with learning tecniques and when they know there is a possibility to make and create their own clothes, maybe they still use as a grown up,…

    Here in Belgium, sewing is getting more and more popular again, a lot of people have enough of all these cheap crap clothes that are affordable for smaller budgets. The quality in shops like H&M or Zara is getting worse, and besides, the idea of children making our clothes in the worst imaginable circumstances makes people deciding to make their own clothes. Friends often ask me if I don’t want to start a sewing club in my studio, and although I like the Idea, I prefer working on my own.

    2 Replies
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 11, 2011, 04.51 PMby Peter Lappin

      Great to hear your perspective, Loulourosa! I’m totally against toy sewing machines. With supervision, a child can use an adult machine and make something real, which is much more exciting I think — don’t you?

    • Missing

      Apr 12, 2011, 05.02 AMby Rhonda Griffin

      All of America is weary of the imported looks, some know it, and some do not. We are all looking like androids over here. Good for you and your 8 year old, that her Mom is spending that precious time with her on a REAL machine. I did the same with 4 daughters. Two out of the four own their own machines, and are making works of art.Rhonda
  • 555601_501658813193233_862358384_n_1__large

    Apr 11, 2011, 08.49 AMby joost52

    Very nice article Peter.

    I have started serious sewing since the beginning of this year, and I’ve gotten absolutely passionate about it in no-time. I think it is an absolutely wonderful way to express your creativity for people like me who can’t even make a shopping list look good.

    I also feel like I want to spread this passion for sewing, more specifically among men (as myself) because I think it has a lot of appeal to men, especially the geeky kind who like to tinker with things. There is probably no one-stop solution that will make sewing popular across the board, so maybe we should all try to spread some of the sewing-love around. I have started a blog recently (http://sartorialdiy.com/) and although it’s not explicitly stated, It’s sort of a ‘by-men for-men’ kinda thing. I am posting my experiences, the stuff I use, where I got them and the patterns that I made, hoping that others will be able to benefit.

    I think my job of spreading the passion for sewing among men would be a lot easier if there was some sort of over-arching sartorial brotherhood that would give men a sense of belonging to a peer group they can identify with. Perception is everything, and the way things are now, sewing ain’t considered to be very cool. I think it is, but we need to do a better job selling it.

    As I said before in a comment on an other article of you, I am more than willing to join forces with some of the men here and put the kick-ass back into sewing.

    Joost

    2 Replies
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 11, 2011, 11.19 AMby Peter Lappin

      How to make sewing “cool”…..that’s a toughie! The coolness factor may not be its greatest selling point, frankly.

    • 555601_501658813193233_862358384_n_1__large

      Apr 11, 2011, 12.05 PMby joost52

      Well, I can see this ain’t going to be easy if I need to convince even you ;-)

      I guess I’ll have to brood on my plans for world domination a bit longer.

  • Davitar_large

    Apr 11, 2011, 05.28 AMby GinghamGrrl

    I think the reason most people don’t sew is because it is so hard. I wanted to sew for years before I really got into it for that very reason; I couldn’t do it. I had to get a computerized machine because I couldn’t sew with the manual ones. After I learned how to control the machine, then I had to learn how the patterns went together. That is something I still work on because I am a relatively new sewer. It is really hard, but when you make something and it turns out the feeling of accomplishment and self satisfaction is awesome. Nothing pleases me more than making something by hand and seeing a quality finished garment.

    2 Replies
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 11, 2011, 11.16 AMby Peter Lappin

      GinghamGrrl, I agree that sewing is hard — it was for me, especially at the beginning. I think it’s funny you found a computerized machine easier to use: those things intimidate me!

    • Fb2227aaf242c0d041dbcd583baae4e4ccfba73d_large

      Apr 11, 2011, 02.56 PMby loulourosa

      I agree, sewing is hard to learn. I’ve been sewing for almost 30 years now, and I’m still learning. For me this is what makes sewing interresting, every new thing you make needs different skills, the fabric is different, you choose a pattern that is more difficult,..etc
      The first time I used one off these invisible zippers I freaked out, I never taught I was going to be able to put this in wathever, but now it’s easy. And I’m proud I know this tecnique now,…

  • Missing

    Apr 11, 2011, 01.06 AMby dalya

    I believe that sewing is slowly going up, but with cheap goods and classic laziness, it’s not enough. I’ve been sewing for about 2 years, I’m into bags, home decor, but am looking into making basic clothing :) I don’t know any sewing people in person. Some people I know say they used to knit/crochet, but don’t really follow along with any creation craft now. I do feel like an alien. People will complement..but then they give you a weird stare and ask why you spent so much time making it or that it’s cheap at (insert store name). Ugh, how insulting!

    I love to sew because I’m very picky. I love to pick my own fabric and sew something my own way (I hate raw edges of fabric)!

    I would love to teach my twin sis how to sew, but she is in total fear of needles. She currently crochets, so we are both crafty and appreciate handmade things. Besides that, I’m really greedy with my fabric and notions, plus I wouldn’t let anyone near my main and new sewing machine! I really absolutely hate making things for people I don’t like. Recently I was asked to make a headband wedding veil. I spent a whole weekend making it, some of it involved hand sewing..and the bride used another veil and never apologized to me. I’d rather keep to myself, sadly :( I’ve had people ask me if I can make them something, but they are probably expecting it to be free or something like $10 worth of time/supplies.

    I cannot imagine sewing without any online sewing communities/blogs. The sewing machine dealers are concentrated more on quilting then clothing construction and other things. It’s really annoying, in my opinion. I never got into sewing to make quilts, it was to make bags and learn the basics. There is a lot out there such as patterns and inspiration. I have a small group of sewing buddies where we all share what we sewed, we all comment and share links!

    :)

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 11, 2011, 02.13 AMby Peter Lappin

      Dalya, it sounds like you’re doing well, and learning what you want to sew (and for whom) and what you don’t. It’s great that you have found sewing buddies who share your enthusiasm!

  • Missing

    Apr 10, 2011, 09.14 PMby Rhonda Griffin

    Hi Peter, my story is similar to yours. My mother purchased an old 40’s Morse machine from a local pawn shop for 5.00 us dollars. I turned it into a toy, and by 7 years old , I could make Barbie doll dresses from my paper dolls as inspiration. During my junior high years, my Home Economics teacher expected perfection from me as she saw my potentials. during my college years I used sewing projects to help fund my education along with waitressing at Shoneys. After college graduation came marriage, and later, daughters and sons that needed school play costumes, recital dresses, pageant dresses, and much more. Two of my four daughters bought sewing machines immediately after their college graduations, and are now sewing. They were very impressed at the work they have seen me do, and were fascinated by the completed projects. All of the garments that I made for them were show stoppers, and they would always gobble up all attention. During their brother’s wedding, 2 of the girls wore imported dresses from a fine dept store. The other 2 girls wore dresses that were customs, and they looked like movie stars.

    Do you get the picture now? What has evolved over the years is that CHILDREN are no longer fascinated by watching Mom or Grandmom CREATING their favorite childhood fantasies. My daughters were in awe to see their pageant dresses get the final fittings.

    The next issue, is that most people do not know how to shorten the steps. I worked for a swimwear manufacturer that marketed thru the Miami Apparel Mart and the Jacob Javits Convention Center NY. From this operation, I learned how to look at a garment, and reduce the steps for most basic articles of clothing. On the historical garments, it is almost impossible to reduce the steps, and remain true to historical correctness and historical accuracy. So, with the exception of the historical clothing, most everything else can be reduced in the steps. I think if potential sewing students knew the “art of step reduction” I believe that most would commit to learn.

    I went from primary easy patterns to intermediate patterns. I moved to advanced and difficult at age 17. By the age of 21 came my own pattern drafting. Overall, I never would have reached this point had I not been able to tinker and play with mothers’s old Morse machine. So the answer with the future, and the future is with our children, as in all things. Children can revitalize the home sewing industry.

    How to do it? Most children love the custom made costumes for fall festivals. Children need to see these show peices being made. They need to be allowed to assist in the construction. Just like the county fairs move from place to place, why can’t childrens’ sewing booths be set up at carnivals and fairs, and the likes. Parents will easily travel to Disney World. Why can’t a childrens sewing center be set up there to engage the children in sewing? Why can’t the children just watch the ruffling made to put on Beauty and the Beast Bell’s yellow dress, instead of just purchasing the dress from the Disney Store? that is why the industry has gone flat and lost its sparkles. We can bring fireworks back into the industry if we approach it from the children of the future. I can see it now, the good fairy from the Wizard of Oz with her wand watching over the children as they watch their costumes being made. All of the Disney Movies should have some sort of set up where children can watch their costumes being custom made. The cutters should be wearing clown uniforms. And of course there are safety issues to be considered. So why can’t some sort of plexi glass shield separate the sewing machines from the child, but leave an opening so that the child can actually touch some of the fabric and pattern peices as it moves thru the machines. I allowed my daughters to sew on my machines after I knew they understood the safety measures. I would also lightly supervise them until they were about 14y/o. The future is in the children, and even they are weary of the imported looks.They wish to have that oh so special appeal in their clothing again.

    Glad to see that you were not afraid to tackle your jeans.That is the issue with most adults. Fear has set into their brains. The number one reason that they blame it on is time. Time can be set aside, but they must first have enough excitement to override their fears. I believe that their children can somehow excite them, and cause them to become more engaged in the process. This can lead further. Remember Peter, when you purchased the machine and had a firm resolve to alter your jeans? Excitement had set in. I too was excited about producing dresses for my barbie dolls from my paperdolls.EXCITEMENT is the key to unlock this door. GOOD DAY,Rhonda

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 10, 2011, 09.54 PMby Peter Lappin

      Fabulous comment, Rhonda. You’re right about fear, though: I think as adults we’re less able to accept not knowing to do something. But you have to begin from the beginning and that can mean a lot of wadders along the way. Children seem less judgmental and more open to experimenting.

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