Thoughts & Memories

The Explosion of Home Sewing Enthusiasts

A little off topic today, but here’s a Buzzfeed article I recently wrote…

Goodbye cyber cafes; hello sewing studios.

In Paris, you can rent a sewing machine by the hour to go along with your coffee and croissant. From Redondo Beach, CA to Manchester, England, sewing studios are providing opportunities for people to connect, share, learn, and experience a skill that, until recently, appeared to be disappearing.

But the art of sewing isn’t limited to these corner cafes. In places like Sacramento, CA, not only can you check out a book on sewing, you can also borrow a machine to go with it.  The Sacramento Public Library’s Library of Things program includes six BabyLock portable sewing machines, and based on the number of people currently in line waiting to borrow one, they could easily use about ten more.

According to a December 2014 report by IBIS World, fabric and sewing stores have rebounded from recessionary lows and revenue is projected to continually increase over the next five years thanks in part to the popularity of do-it-yourself fashion trends. Websites like Etsy, Craftsy, All Free Sewing, and are helping to spread the sewing love to both new and seasoned sewing enthusiasts.

Why the seemingly sudden surge in home sewing interest? Many sewists (the preferred term for someone who sews) began sewing as children, taught mostly by their mothers or grandmothers. Denise Golden of Arkansas states that in 1960 her “Nana gave (her) a Barbie doll, fabric and threaded needle and said make her a dress.”

Misty Littlejohn of New Mexico also learned from her grandmother.  “She was my mentor” says Littlejohn.  “Her funeral card sits with me now whenever I sew as a reminder of who she helped me become.”

Sandy MacMaster of Maryland was taught by her aunt. “She didn’t know what to do with a 13-year-old for the summer, so she sat me down at a sewing machine and taught me how to sew!” MacMaster’s further sentiments echoed among the more than 300 home sewists interviewed for this article: “She gave me the best gift I had ever been given and I blame her today for my sewing addiction. It was a true blessing from the heart, and she had no idea the positive seed she planted that year would blossom as it has!”

Casey Lee Snyder’s story helps show what keeps these young learners interested in sewing, while many other childhood pastimes fade with age.  “I learned how to sew by hand in Girl Scouts and was hooked” says Snyder, of North Carolina.  “Later in high school it was super cool to sew my own unique punk clothes. Now I make the cutest personalized clothes for my son and it’s the best!”

But not everyone learned to sew as a young child. According to Amber Balek-Lenius of Iowa , “I taught myself to sew because I couldn’t find clothes in my rural hometown that inspired me, so I made my own. This is the reason I continue to sew for myself and my family! I’m just too picky to shop at the mall.”

Her story is not unique.  Says Sara Girtz Brull of Texas: “My third child was born, finally a girl, and I could not afford the cute boutique clothes.  So, I started sewing.”

18-year-old Julia Michala Johnson of New Jersey “got really inspired to dress modestly and started sewing  (her) own clothes.”

Nicci Schroeter of Kansas says, “Home Economics wasn’t offered in the parochial school I went to…but I always wanted to be able to sew. So at the age of 46, I got a machine and am teaching myself.”

Amber Dalrymple of Indiana decided that rather than paying someone else, she would teach herself to sew her daughter special outfits. “Now I can design from my own ideas” states Dalrymple, “Instead of endlessly searching for something someone else has made.”

Still others have turned what was once a hobby into a full-time, often very lucrative business.  Donna Jordan of North Carolina says, “Although I had the desire as a child watching my mother sew, I started sewing later in life as a way to relieve stress. I got lost for hours. It’s meditation, and I come out with beautiful garments to wear to work. Now my garments are a part of the brand DonNaturaL.”

Candace Diane Bonilla of Oklahoma has a similar story. “My Mema taught me to sew when I was around 8 or 9” she says.  “I always looked up to her and knew one day I wanted be just like her. Now 16 years later I own my own business and sew everyday.” You can find her cloth diaper business, Teensy Trousers, on Facebook.

Mandi Budvarson of California started sewing full-time so she could be a stay-at-home mom. “My youngest is disabled” she says, “So trusting someone with my boys, especially him, was hard for me. It has now become a fun thing and my two boys like to help me and model for me.” Her store, Duo Jumping Bean Style, specializes in children’s clothing items and custom orders.

Tiara Cameron of Georgia started sewing when she wanted to use cloth diapers for her newborn son. Now she makes his clothing, her own clothing, and has a high demand for custom pieces for clients. Her store, Mommy and Mason, sells boutique children’s clothing “without boutique prices.”

Finally, Brenda Haas of Michigan started her home sewing business out of necessity. “My daughter Lucy dances…a lot. When I looked at the available leotards and dancewear I was very disappointed with what I found” she says. “One thing led to another, I opened an Etsy store…and I do a lot on Facebook.” Haas used to consider herself an “engineer by day, booty short maker by night,” but now works full-time creating pieces for her LucyLu Dancwear shop.

Inspired?  Interested in connecting with other sewing enthusiasts and aspiring newbies?  Check out these Facebook pages:

1. Sewing Inspiration and Tutorials. With nearly 39,000 members, this page caters to sewists of all levels. Administrator Daria Ross believes her group “gives home sewers and professionals a place to share and ask advice. We encourage and cheer one another on. The members share projects, tutorials, reviews, and so much more!” But in an effort to not scare away beginners, she emphasizes that “we laugh together and celebrate together, but I think the biggest thing we do together is learn. There is always something to learn when it comes to sewing, and with almost 40,000 members, it’s safe to say there is a new lesson almost every day.”

2. No Drama Mama Sewing.  There’s a  great mix of both advanced and beginner creators here. Get questions answered, seek advice, and get sewing machine assistance. For hobbyists and professionals alike, and a great place to vent when you just can’t get a sewing project to work right or when life prevents you from sitting at your sewing machine.

3. Sew and Tell.  A terrific community for sharing fabric store coupons, project ideas, and photos of your latest sewing project. This is a great place for newbies to get help, and to show off their creations in a kind, supportive environment.

4. Spandex Doesn’t Scare Me!  A small group compared to the others listed here. This group is focused on sharing ideas, buying/selling/trading spandex and other stretchy fabric, and asking for advice about sewing things like bathing suits, skating dresses, dance outfits, and leotards. A fun community of both beginners and professionals, and a perfect place to connect right before bathing suit season!


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