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Passing Along the Love of Sewing

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The marketers of sewing materials need to understand that while they have to generate an income, they need to appeal to the basic foundation behind sewing. People sewing for a reason or because they have to. The have-tos need affordable equipment and supplies. They need to be able to find the fun and beauty in sewing if they are ever able to turn into one of the want-tos. The want-tos also need affordability but are a little more willing to look for the affordability for their interest. Some of them may have a little disposable income they are willing to spend but it has to be worth it for them.

The have-tos need opportunities to learn more about sewing efficiently and economically. The world of fabric has changed so much in the last 20 years. What was once a bargain or necessity is no longer available to us thanks to our current factory production issues. It isn't as easy to find a bargain to sew clothes; we do need to learn how to alter and repurpose items, however.

Training needs to begin in the home and then spread out to the community. I drool over the sewing conferences that are far away but cannot afford the $1000+ price tags to attend. Those can't be the only thing out there to look forward to.  Many smaller communities have very little to offer in the way of fabric shops and sewing materials.  One has to travel to get to one.  The internet has some wonderful resources for all of us, but the joy of touching the fabric and personal hands-on selection is missing. 

The mucky-mucks need to focus on localized issues and training.  There needs to be more affordable options out there for those of us that have-to.  There needs to be more opportunity to give all of us a reason to sew - whether it be for enjoyment, therapy, or charity works.  Those of us who already sew need to open our arms to others that may have a different definition or need for sewing than we do.  We need to expand our horizons and in the process we will be able to expand theirs.  My daugher will say she doesn't like to sew, but I have seen her make quilts, halloween costumes, and a few other items here and there when the reason arises.  She just wants it simple though.  Nothing she sees as challenging.

I have appreciated all the comments made in this discussion.  I haven't really brought up anything new - but at least I can add my voice to those already spoken.

Kathy Smith

Utah

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My Mother was my first sewing teacher as I watched her take feed bags and make them into wearable clothes for the three of us girls. I then was required to take home economics in school and we had a very precise teacher in the class. As I struck out on my own I wanted to continue with sewing and ventured out in many ways to accomplish this. That was my first fantansic adventure in seeing all the pretty things I could make to wear and make to improve my home on a very limited budget as I was raising my son. I then wanted to pursue quilting and venture as far as I could with the beautiful quilts I could make and the possibilities were unlimited. I first did hand quilting and piecing but have come a long way since then. The sky is the limit and the rainbow of colors never cease to inspire and lead me into the next project. Celebs might do these things but I am not fascinated with them. I can't imagine with their lifestyles that they themselves do much of the work.

Susan Teets WV

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I have been quilting for about 15+ years, but did have some sewing in my "early years" when it was taught in school and in my "Brownie" group.  It was easy to fall right back into sewing.  I have taught and encouraged my oldest granddaughter to quilt.  She was about 8 years old when we started.  We had a weekly class, after school, with a few of her neighborhood friends.  They all loved it and were so proud of their little quilts.  They will always remember this experience and perhaps return to it in later years.  The seed has been planted!  That's the trick!  Catch an interest in the "formative years" and they will come back to it.  Each time my granddaughter comes to visit, she wants to make something with Nana's sewing machine.  She's only 13!  I plan on leaving one of my sewing machines to her when I am no longer "here" to sew more quilts!  I hope that's many years from now!

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Dear Jodee,

I am a 60-something grandmother and I learned the art of sewing initially watching my grandmother sew, tat, knit, crochet, etc. when I was in elementary school.  She was originally from Belguim and as a young girl worked in the lace factories there.  Everything she sewed was by hand.  It made a great impression on me that she could take an old taffeta breadspread and turn it into Halloween costumes for me recycled over several years.  She lit my sewing "fire" which I will always be thankful to her for.  That is why I feel the focus of passing along the love of sewing should start with the youngsters.  I mentored my children, son and daughters, and am now mentoring my granddaughter.  There are so many different kinds of sewing, and I think it is important to show them what types  are available these days -- embroidery machines, quilting, fashion sewing, applique, etc.  When I introduced machine embroidery to my granddaughter, I could see her sewing "fire" start to burn and was amazed at how fast she learned.

It's a shame that sewing is no longer taught in the schools, but we can get the young people involved through 4-H, Scouts, after school sewing clubs, etc.  or even sewing camps in the summer.

Sandi in Houston

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EDEC replied on Sun, Nov 15 2009 7:22 PM

I  have 4 grandchildren ages 3rd gr. to 7th,  2 boys, 2 girls.

One grand daughter , now 5th gr., has raided my fat quarters every time she comes over,  and has started sewing on her own using  my   machine,  to make  a sock monkey and 2  pillow cases.  To the other granddaughter, 7th gr.,  it's "ho-hum".  Her brother,  who is in 4th grade,  gets down his mom's machine each time we travel to see them and will grab a remnent and create something on his own.  Last month it was a hand puppet.  To the brother of the first mentioned girl,  who is in the  3rd gr. , it's "girls' stuff". 

So to ans. your question: We each must grab 'em when you can, let them loose to explore and have fun.  Young or old,  one never knows when the interest will be kindled.

ede

 

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strevey replied on Mon, Nov 16 2009 11:20 AM

I know I may be a little late answering your question but I don't get to my computer everyday.  About getting people to sew, I started my 3 girls sewing in 4-H.  We had a small club and I was their leader at the time but others in the club also started after my girls were out of the club.  Now that they have families of their own it is hard for them to quilt but they are very interested since I made every grand child a baby quilt and there are 7 of them now.  I really think they will quilt and sew for their daughter when time will let them but at least they can repair and hem things and not have to find someone to do it for them or throw things away.

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SUSANL-4 replied on Mon, Nov 16 2009 12:32 PM

I know that jr/high schools are no longer teaching sewing as a class but why not as a club.  Focus should be on quick easy projects that teach basic skills but have instant results.    

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Thea replied on Mon, Nov 16 2009 1:04 PM

Jodie, I have been reading through all the posts to your question and the same theme is given over and over - and it is beautiful. 

I have read all these answers over again and something came to my mind ... television and computers - we have this club here and there are more things out there bringing our youth back to the arts - a great tool right now is the computer - getting it out there is making it easier for sewers to learn - all the lessons that used to be taught by our mothers/grandmothers/aunts are now becoming available on the internet - maybe having a link page for all these that are found and the biggest thing - keep the price down - for all the QSs and others - keep the prices reasonable - we are told over and over that things are being outsourced to other countries because it is so expensive in the USA - well if it more inexpensive to have the products made over there then why do the prices keep going up - Quit trying to become millionaires and make it reasonable for every person to do it... if the prices in some shops are $5 a yard then why is that same fabric $10 in another store...

This is a list of what I found in most of the replies....

1) start them young with an introduction

2) reduce the cost - how I don't know but there has to be a way -

3) clubs, church groups, 4H , girl scouts - pass the passion on

4) quilt kits make it easier

5) Mom's don't seem to have the time but Grandma's need to pass on the talent... (this one I don't understand because my Mom was in school and still found time to teach me all the home skills)

6) volunteer your time to teach the youth or the older ones wanting to learn - step out of your comfort zone

7) communities need to jump in and offer the programs being cut from our schools

8) In every "sewing school weekend" there should be classes for the beginner and wannabes. 

9) In every "sewing school weekend" there should be classes for the beginner and wannabes. 

10) How do you get this message across, Facebook, You Tube, fashion shows at the high schools and middle schools, boys & girls clubs, even at the homeless shelters.  Once you teach people how to make it a valuable skill that will help them, they'll move to the next level once they begin to see the possiblities. 

11) forget the celebs touting it - get regular people

12) stop paying for endorsements and keep prices down

13) once you buy the machine having dedicated classes that you can take to teach you all the tips/tricks to your machine... so many people are told these classes are available by the manufacturer but end up not being or no one is qualified to teach them

14) have the machines warranties for life - you pay a good price for the high dollar machines and they should be warratied like a car - 10,000 hours of sewing... not 2 years and then you are paying high dollars again should somehting break...

I want to Welcome each of the new posters here to QCA - I didn't want to interrupt the flow of this thread each time a new person answered but after 5 pages thought I should stop and take the time to welcome you and say please continue to enjoy and participate in the rest of the site.

Lconklin, Cathy Shoey, EstherB, Millie, RJC, fun2Quilt, Billiebee, quiter1(Maddy), GwenH, thimblemom (Mary Lou),quiltmaven (Phreddie), TaylorMP(Mary), Deanne000, karen Howell, Susie in GA, kcdesigns, qcoajas, rit731, xmas158, sjknower, sewcool, joycemosbey, sherrill, nfahlgren, acrabbs, mcjem, digindirt, cjfllyntz, bikenuts, gmaloney, sisevich, kathy smith, cntrysue, snndi kissinger, EDEC, strevey, suanL-4 

 

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I have made quilts for two children (cousins) in my neighborhood....recently, the 12-year old (boy) visited me, saw my sewing room and commented "wow!"  and he indicated he wanted to learn to sew...his 11-year old cousin indicated she did too.  Their great-grandmother was a quilter/seamstress, but no one since.  I have offered to teach them over the school holiday break (since I'm too busy until then), and they are currently thinking of what their projects will be. 

I did not have a sewer or quilter in my immediate family, although I had several aunts who did sew or craft.  I learned to sew through my Middle School home economics classes back when, and I think it is a shame there is no opportunity to expose the newest generations this way.  I will teach any child who indicates an interest.  I have already exposed a co-worker by showing her the general rules of measuring, sewing, etc. because she wanted to be able to do home decor (we made a throw pillow) on her recently purchased $100 machine.  I am giving my practically-new Singer to my daughter-in-law for Christmas (I have purchased two Berninas since buying it). 

I guess this is the way we will spread the word into the future---that and showing what joy it brings us by giving sewn gifts. 

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CORINNER replied on Mon, Nov 23 2009 5:03 PM

Jodie,

  My mother didn't know how to sew..I taught myself. My children watched me mend, create draperies, costumes and even Prom Gowns over the years and the girls never showed any interest in learning. My daughter-in-law , Joslyn, saw some of my quilts when she joined our family and now when she visits, I give her "homework" to do while I'm at work. My motto with everything in life is "If I can help just one person,  I have made a difference".  We're planning another quilt for her to make during her Christmas visit.

Mickey Ramey

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Martha replied on Wed, Nov 25 2009 12:00 PM

Jodie:  You said the Muckety-Mucks are looking for the game-changer, the "Arthur Godfrey of Sewing", as it were.  And for those of you too young to know what I am referring to, when I was growing up, Arthur Godfrey's endorsement of any product was considered "gold".  Anyway, it appears that the current "star power" available to the Industry lacks the requisite credibility. 

I was thinking about the sewing industry over time, how the sewing machine itself was developed by men, and as far as I am aware, all of the sewing innovation to date has been implemented by men - although at the behest of the women who use the machines.  And, as I look over the current list of names of directors of the sewing machine manufacturers, I find the names of very few, if any, women.  The manufacture of sewing machines remains dominated, if not monopolized,  by men.

When I was growing up, every fabric store I was ever in was run by men.  When I went, with my father, to buy my first sewing machine, the salesman (yes, man) talked with my Dad - not with me.  Machines were all mechanical at that time, and he wanted to make sure my Dad knew how to maintain the machine for me (I was 9 - my mother didn't sew, and I learned from a neighbor).   I recall that my Dad was very impressed by the 1.2 amp motor, and the fact that the machine could sew through a wooden ruler - not any purpose for which I planned to use the machine.   I don't recall any women demonstrating the sewing machines in the stores until the mid-to-late '70's, after Women's Lib, and women began making more of the household spending decisions.

My point is that, in the old days, men were selling sewing machines to other men - and they knew how to do it, because it was like selling cars - all they needed was a powerful engine (1.2 amp motor), and some sexy trim (I just saw an old Kenmore on eBay that has trim just like a car or an old Fridigaire).  It's a different ballgame now, because women not only contribute to the buying decisions, when it comes to household appliances, we usually make all the decisions, and it takes more than fancy hood ornaments and sexy trim to impress us.   But, the hefty price of some of the newer embroidery machines is heart-stopping!  Must they really be so expensive?

The idea of the "game-changer" endorsement is valid, but icons from the '70's and media moguls older than 30  are not going to have the "credibility factor" with teens.  My 20-year-old son says he doesn't know a single girl his age who sews - however, he's sure they all would if a certain young CW award-winning singer told them it was cool.  But, how long would that last? 

I would suggest that Lord and Prince Honcho learn to "think outside the box", while still applying their "tried and true" marketing principles.  They just may have to spend those marketing budgets in non-traditional ways - like supporting local charity-quilt sewing events, or in traditional ways - like buying advertising space at local school sports fields - right next to the car dealership ads.  Brand identification is very valid with the teen crowd.  Take some of those same ads that appear in the sewing magazines and plaster them on a billboard!

Unlike cars, however, where almost everyone needs one, sewing machines are optional now.  But even if your only reason to own one is artistic expression, that should still be viewed as a valid reason.  And, I'm not talking just about a decision to be made within the home.  Think of the last decorating magazine you looked at - were there suggestions for sewing room layout and design?  Probably not.  Sewing has been relegated to the "spare" bedroom, or the kitchen table in the past 25+ years.   

In the '70's, the sewing machine ads frequently featured furniture-style cabinetry that fit in with the Living Room decor.  Only recently have I seen such an ad for present day application.  And I can't remember the last house I was in that included in its original design a "dedicated" sewing room - although there might be a "craft" room, with a small area for the sewing machine.  At present, society still marginalizes sewing.  We have to do something to change society's attitude toward sewing.  And therein lies the true value of a marketing budget.

For starters, the industry could begin "partnering" with education - the UK and Ireland still include Home Ec as an optional subject for their equivalent of our High School graduation - perfect for students who plan to pursue art in their secondary education.  Some of that wonderful embroidery software could have applications not only in the art room, but in the computer room as well.  How about offering college scholarships for a winning sewing project?

Don't get me wrong - sharing our love of sewing one-on-one is still effective, and very valuable for both the student and the teacher.  And it is the cornerstone of the craft.  It's just difficult to compete with the "Starbucks effect" unless we find a  way to make sewing "cool" once again.

Happy Sewing!

Martha

 

 

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Jeanine replied on Wed, Nov 25 2009 4:53 PM

Martha :
And I can't remember the last house I was in that included in its original design a "dedicated" sewing room

I enjoyed your post.  It is amazing how far we have come and how far we still have to go.  I wanted to add that my house was designed around my quilt studio thanks to my husband's support and to the amazement of the contractor and others who worked on the house.  My husband would tell them "if she said she wants 6 banks of lights, that's what she wants" or "if she wants her walls painted bubble-gum pink, paint it".  The room kept getting a little bigger and a little more equipped as the building went on.  I love it.  I think there is a revolution in progress with quilting and it will take time but as we continue to make an impact in our own communities, the love of quilting will spread.

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Wow! Your responses are fantastic! I_hopefully_have an opportunity early next year to have three industry leaders in one room with just me to t alk about this. Each comes from a different perspective and each has his own opinions and viewpoints. I can't wait to share some of your responses with them--straight from the quilters' mouths. Fingers crossed that it comes about.

~Jodie

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Nana replied on Sat, Nov 28 2009 1:59 PM

Good Luck with that Jodie...

Vinton, Virginia

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I have been sewing as long as I can remember. I learned on a hand cranked Singer, on the dining room table. My mother made clothes, coats for 4 children, curtains and sliper covers. I can't remember the first things I sewed, but soft toys and clothes soon followed.

I made clothes and toys for my children. I dressed the beds, the walls and even the furniture. It was the greatest gift my mother gave me.

Mary

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