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Friday, June 5, 2009

The Sad Loss of Sewing Know-How

As I have started into living simply and frugally, I have found that skills that all of our grandmothers most likely possessed have almost vanished from the skill set that we have been given as kiddos now venturing out into life. My mother knew how to sew, and I was given the simple knowledge of how to do that. Nothing in depth, but it was enough for me to venture out into the world of sewing which I find almost to be a necessity for frugal minded folks.

Don't be intimidated. Pick up a machine (I got an older model at a thrift store for $20 and a electronic one for $40 at an auction) and play! I had to buy a manual for the Elna machine I bought, since it didn't come with the item, and I couldn't figure out how to thread it. I don't remember where I bought it from; I think it might have been this one, but you can get manuals for second hand machines though you may have to pay. This site may help you find a manual as well.

I really have to say that the basics I was given at home and the making of play clothes and other items that I wasn't too worried about looking sloppy, has been what made me confident enough to refashion a sentimental item of clothing into something I would wear in public. I don't think I would have attempted it a year ago even. And I know I still have a long way to go in learning how to sew well.

I think it would behoove anyone to learn how to sew. Hopefully you have a mother or grandmother that could teach you; I bet they would be happy to do so! If not, you can always learn the basics and play until you build up your confidence. Look up community college classes if that is available to you or below are some free instruction books on pdf. I am actually wanting to follow the old hand sewing books from 1901 and 1915 when I get the time! I have also easily picked up old sewing books from like the 1960s (maybe there was a big rage for learning to sew back then?) that have lots of in depth instructions on sewing. Like how to do every kind of pleat imaginable to vinyl bedspreads for your child's room. Ok, so most of the designs are way outdated (who would ever want a vinyl bedspread!) and make you wonder why anyone thought that was cool, but all the information on how to sew arm holes and pleats and such is worth a quarter at a garage sale!

Free Sewing Book for Beginners

Hand Sewing Lessons

When Mother Lets Us Sew

And remember, if you know how to sew pass it on to the next generation!


Cathi/Mike said...

My sentiments exactly. I learned to sew when I was 12 (when patterns seemed to have more instructions), and now I'm sewing for my granddaughters. As a sculptor, I am amazed at how I draw from my sewing construction experiences. My husband is amazed that I have an eye for 5/8" (the width of a seam allowance)!

Katidids said...

I have to agree with you so many of the "Arts of yesterday" are being lost! We were never alloweed to "just watch TV" (after we got one!) we were always knitting, crocheting, macrame, needlepoint or sewing. Mom even made us learn how to Darn! Some time of handwork. I was nothing to try and watch a program with someones bottom in your way a they were on the floor pinning a quilt! I am ever grateful for that rule, for many years on my own it was a sourse of survival!

Andrea said...

I touched on this topic in my blog a few months ago...not on sewing specifically, but on the many other skills that have been lost; gardening, simple woodworking, DIY, cooking, baking, canning. I shudder to think how we'd afford to eat had I not learned how to garden, can and cook from scratch, all at the elbows of my mom and grandma. There are so many folks in a real 'pickle' now that the economy is in a turn down, gas and food prices are up...if they had only learned how to grow a tomato, fix a leaky pipe or hem a dress instead of spending their days at the pool and watching MTV.

dani' said...

I am embarrased to admit that a sewing machine is something I won't "make do with the not-so-new." I inherited my great-grandmother's and I will always treasure it and keep it, but it's stuck on zig-zag, and there just aren't that many things I want to applique. To fix it would cost more than it's worth, and my brand new Husqvarna will do anything I tell it to. Its hefty price tag pretty much guarantees that it won't pay for itself any time soon, but it is the ONE thing I allow myself to splurge on. I make purses and baby clothes for a hobby and a small (very small) business, but if I were just a dabbler, there is no way I would have spent so much on a machine. Now my serger was an amazingly lucky find from a garage sale. A $1500 machine for $25? Yes please. So if I average the two machines, I've still come out ahead, right?

Melissa Jagears said...

Dani', I would have loved to have found that serger bargain, so I'll give you a pass! :)