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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

  • Me_large

    Apr 8, 2011, 01.20 AMby queenorivers

    I know its selfish but for me, sewing is my ‘thing’ – I meet other sewers and we chat and it’s great but if everyone did it I’d feel just that little bit less special for it :3

    3 Replies
    • Me_large

      Apr 8, 2011, 01.21 AMby queenorivers

      Having said that if someone brings up that they want to do it I will literally flood them with useful links.

    • 958f82a55d1f911aea11daf7f2e4e6295bbe805d_large

      Apr 8, 2011, 07.44 AMby bohemiannow

      I’m afraid you’re right!

    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 8, 2011, 09.47 AMby Peter Lappin

      Hey, that’s allowed! ;)

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    Apr 8, 2011, 12.19 AMby thecuriouskiwi

    Ohh I like this idea of world home-sewing domination, count me in!

    Running a BSC here in Perth has helped me convert a few friends but mostly I find that there are actually quite a lot of people who do sew, perhaps not at the obsessive level I aspire to, or want to learn sew, but have no idea that there are others who want to as well. It’s not that it’s taboo, I don’t think there’s any shame in mentioning it, but it’s just doesn’t come up in conversation. Once I catch the slightest wiff of interest I go into recruiting mode. If I can get them to a club meet we can sweep them up in our enthusiasm, then I’ve got them hooked. I’m trying to convert every one I know! :)

    1 Reply
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    Apr 7, 2011, 11.44 PMby caramia-made

    After I’d been active here on Burdastyle for a few years, I decided to make a special photo album on Facebook to show my friends (99% of whom are non-sewers) what I’d been up to in my spare time. The reception and feedback I’ve been getting from my friends and family is absolutely phenomenal!

    I’m not sure if I’ve inspired anyone else to give sewing a try (perhaps they are self-conscious and not ready to talk about their new hobby just yet) BUT my best friend started taking sewing lessons and her fiance bought her a sewing machine for Christmas! She loves her new hobby and has been sewing things for her son. I’m hoping to give her a bunch of beginner patterns this summer at her wedding so she can practice sewing garments for herself :) Vive la Revolution!!!

    2 Replies
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 8, 2011, 12.29 AMby Peter Lappin

      Awesome, Mia!

    • 5_large

      Apr 8, 2011, 02.17 AMby susanne2011

      Hi Mia, I get the same response with placing my stuff on Facebook. I think I might have influenced some friends to start sewing in that way…

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    Apr 7, 2011, 09.57 PMby juebejue

    im proud to say that i’ve converted quite a few — i like to host sewing parties and introduce sewing to a few friend or re-ignite their passion for sewing. so far 4 of my friends bought/borrowed sewing machines after i’ve introduced sewing to them.

    my proudest conversion was tracyx (here on burdastyle!) — she bought a sewing machine and started sewing tons of great stuff on her own after coming to my sewing party and learned how to sew a pillow!!!

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 7, 2011, 10.49 PMby Peter Lappin

      What a fantastic idea: a sewing party! I think I’ve seen pictures of these on your blog, come to think of it… Excellent!

  • Missing

    Apr 7, 2011, 07.21 PMby Susan Combrinck

    My mother taught me to sew – my grandmother taught her. When I was in school I was more interested in sport than in sewing. When I moved into my own flat I decided that it was time for my own sewing machine – that was in 1985. My first really big project was the sewing of a bridal satin ball dress – the dress came out well and I was so proud of myself (and enjoyed the ball). About 2 years ago I taught two ladies to sew – the first time for them. The one lady made Christmas presents for her family that year. She now has some medical problem and took her machine out again. I am learning from the Web and once again I make money from my sewing. I say to people that if you can sew you can sew things in the color, style you want – in need on a handbag, shopping bag or jacket, make it yourself and be the envy of non-sewers.

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 7, 2011, 08.57 PMby Peter Lappin

      So true, Susan. And it’s great that you’re making money at it!

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    Apr 7, 2011, 07.10 PMby wendymichelle1015

    I decided over the winter break (from first year law school) to start crocheting again. I soon realized that I was not 15 anymore and no longer had the finger joints of a 15 year old either. Lightbulb! I could get a cheap beginner sewing machine, and a one yard wonders book, and teach myself to sew. I immediately found burdastyle and that was it. After much practice on bags and home accessories I jumped into sewing my own clothes. Sewing, to me, is Zen. I forget EVERYTHING else when I’m in the midst of a project. Once I’m done I can’t wait to start the next one. Not sure what the magic was for me, but I do want to convert all of my friends. I did end up giving one of my newlywed girlfriends my beginner sewing machine (I upgraded to a computerized which I love) but even still she was not instantly in love like I was. All of my friends are astounded that I can MAKE CLOTHES!!! I try to convince them that it’s not rocket science, but they don’t believe me…maybe one day I’ll meet another sewist IRL….dare to dream.

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 7, 2011, 08.59 PMby Peter Lappin

      LOL! Wendy, I agree about the zen thing: there’s something about be totally focused on something like sewing that is deeply relaxing and centering. Other concerns fade into the background.

  • Missing

    Apr 7, 2011, 06.58 PMby stephanieb

    If everyone realized that sewing is not some form of magic, that it’s simple and fun, there would be more sewistas! I learned to sew as a young girl but did not actually SEW for myself and for pleasure until after my children were in school. I started out simple and have worked my way up and am getting ready to try a few couture techniques on a costume for my daughters upcoming 16th birthday. I’m excited about it and talk of it a lot – and yes, I see the occassional eyeball roll and know they’re thinking I’m nuts. However, I am their go-to girl when they need a dress for a wedding, banquet, etc…. I have learned to say no when overwhelmed and decided a good way to handle these situations was to offer to teach them to sew so they could do this for themselves. Some have taken me up on it and some have not. Sigh…. I can also state that I have 2 daughters – both know how to sew. One sews rarely – usually it is to refashion one article into another – no pattern or direction involved. The other (my 15 year old) loves to sew. She sewed her first banquet dress at 13 years old and it was beautiful. The only thing I helped with was the zipper! My observations based on these experiences is that there are people out there who love to sew and people who would love to learn to sew, but are afraid because of a lack of understanding at how simple, easy, fun and theraputic sewing can be. Blogs like Burda Style and MPB help! I LOVE your blog – keep up the good work. You make me smile, daily.

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 7, 2011, 09.00 PMby Peter Lappin

      Thanks, Stephanie! The Internet has definitely created a supportive community for people new to sewing. If you don’t know someone who sews the whole process can be intimidating — especially at the beginning. Sewing is fun, as you say, but not always simple, imo.

  • Missing

    Apr 7, 2011, 06.55 PMby VictoriaR

    Peter, I have been sewing since I was a child. I now have a daughter, age 11. I have been teaching groups of her friends to sew. Many of these girls do not have sewing parents and this has been their first exposure. I have only taught a basic course, but I’m hoping to do some more advanced stuff. I think learning young let me make a lot of my mistakes early when I had more time. These girls think sewing is fun and I want to encourage that.

    1 Reply
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      Apr 7, 2011, 09.01 PMby Peter Lappin

      That’s great, Victoria. They’re lucky to have you!

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    Apr 7, 2011, 06.54 PMby janul

    Great post, I love the ilustrations – is she talking about “knee control” in one of the pictures? I´ve never heard of that, and I imagine it could be more difficult than pressing the foot pedal (or whatever it is called in English :). I started to sew because I found myself living in the village, with small child and little oportunity to go to shops… sewing is a great way to obtain some cute clothes (relatively) easily. My friends are interested and often say they would like to sew too. One of them got a sewing machine (she borrowed a vintage one), but we couldn´t figure out how to turn it on, lol :).

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 7, 2011, 09.02 PMby Peter Lappin

      I only started using a knee pedal recently — it came with a vintage sewing machine (and table) I bought a few months ago — and I love it. It’s nice not to have to have one more thing on the floor collecting dust!

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    Apr 7, 2011, 06.37 PMby gaidig

    Well, I consider myself to be a wishful sewer, not a sewing fanatic. I have a number of resources, I follow several blogs, and I kind of know how to sew. The biggest problem for me just just getting started. If I had something scheduled like a class or a meeting, it would give me the extra boost I need because someone else is expecting me, and I can’t just make excuses. My next obstacle is not knowing when to apply what technique. I’ve tried different seam finishes, for example, but I don’t really know which one to pick in each situation, or when to add additional stabilizing techniques, etc.

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 7, 2011, 06.55 PMby Peter Lappin

      The more you sew, the more you’ll figure these out. A lot of it is experimentation, especially with stabilizing techniques like working with interfacing.

      With seam finishes there’s always a choice, as opposed to one right way and many wrong ones. Remember: most people are not going to be inspecting your seam finishes — provided your clothing isn’t inside-out of course! ;)

  • Lulusroom_large

    Apr 7, 2011, 05.36 PMby vintagerouge

    I teach sewing classes and I absolutely love seeing beginner sewers get into sewing for the first time, it’s like their world just opened up! I can only hope that with the whole DIY movement it’s kind of growing organically, people choose it because they are drawn to it in some way since it’s becoming rare to learn the skills in school. I can only hope that these new sewers will share their excitement with their non-sewing friends.

    I hear you, Peter, I’m also in the industry so I’m constantly surrounded by sewing stuff and it can seem like “everyone” is sewing!

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 7, 2011, 06.29 PMby Peter Lappin

      Thanks for the comment, Vintagerouge! It’s so hard to gauge the size of the DIY movement. I think it’s growing — or am I just more aware of it? Hard to know…

  • 12cfe8078e6c40b7a244c200f024e2f46c986c4a_large

    Apr 7, 2011, 05.31 PMby lindsay614

    Yes, I did convince two friends to sew projects (on my machine) at my house, and I guided them through it. And another friend now has her own machine—score!

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 7, 2011, 06.29 PMby Peter Lappin

      That’s great, Lindsay! You need to be making commisions. LOL

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    Apr 7, 2011, 05.16 PMby tamalicious16

    I convinced two of my friends to get sewing machines, and another to register for one for her wedding. After her wedding, I’ll be hosting a sew along on my blog to teach them all to sew, starting with a reusable grocery bag and moving on to the coffee date dress.

    When patterns went on sale with Vogue/Butterick/McCall’s the other week, I convinced 4 people (2 of the same people I mentioned above) to buy a big order of patterns with me for future sew alongs.

    I guess I’ve always found people are super interested in learning to sew and hearing about sewing, so convincing them wasn’t too difficult! I think especially in my age range (20-30), people are interested in principle but worried about time commitment, so I’m hoping my blog sew along will get them started at a good pace. I think since most of my friends live a flight away (and none of them live near each other, either), we’re constantly looking for things to do “together” while we live in different cities—we have a gchat book club, and the sew alongs will give us something else to do and talk about!

    1 Reply
    • Jeans_sew_along_best_large

      Apr 7, 2011, 06.30 PMby Peter Lappin

      Sounds like a great idea, Tamalicious. Good luck with it!

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