Talking About Sewing with People Who Don’t Sew Anymore

You know, it’s funny because I’ll wear my little handsewn outfits to work and of course, now that everyone knows that I sew my own clothing they will inevitably ask, “Did you make that?” Sometimes, I get an eye roll as they ask, like the “you are so amazing to have made that, but I hate you because I don’t sew anymore” look. I really do. I don’t know why people are like that. Usually I try to get it out of them. Talk to them and say, “You could do it too, you know.” Inevitably, I get the “Oh, I used to sew everything. Jeans, dresses, coats, you name it. But I don’t sew anymore.”

So what does this really mean and will I feel this way when I’m older? I don’t want to feel this way, because I enjoy the art of sewing so much. I have to say that my grandma and aunt have sewn a lot of their garments and such since a young age and they still sew and find much enjoyment from it.  I want to be like that. I still want to love it and I still want to make smashing clothing items even in old age.

I was finally able to get something out of someone at work one day. She loves my handsewn fashions and just thinks they are the most wonderful things she’s ever seen. She falls into this category of used to sew but doesn’t anymore. She bluntly told me that she was completely jealous of my talent and that I had gotten her starting to think about sewing a skirt for herself. She ranted and raved about her various sewing machines. I mean, to think, she has a vintage Bernina and a great Singer Serger and doesn’t even use them! She says she sews a few things here and there for her grandchildren, but nothing for herself. This is wherein I do believe is the heart of the problem. Really. Who wants to sew something that takes loads of hours, bleeding from pin pricking, cutting out, pre-washing and pressing your fabric only to give that away? I realize I’m stealing a little Selfish Seamstress thunder, but I completely and whole-heartedly agree. If you don’t make anything for yourself, then why do it? This is where I find it hard to say no too. When someone finds out that you sew, they want you to sew things for them, thinking it will be fun for you. Ha ha ha.

Take my Raindrop Coat, from the Lady Grey Pattern, everyone wants one of them. I had this one lady at work who kept asking me how much I would charge to make two of them, one for each of her daughters. I just looked at her and laughed and finally I said, “One of these would run you about $500 and that’s not even including the fabric.” But even for $500, I don’t want to do it. The sewing part is the enjoyment for myself, not for someone else. They can make their own. I mean, that’s why there are these things called sewing patterns right?

This also brings me to another point. How do you feel about telling people that you’ve made something that you are wearing? I used to think I should tell the whole world and be proud of it. But now I’m to the point where I would rather lie and say, “Oh no, I bought this” and then they wouldn’t pester me about:

  1. making them one
  2. asking me if I made it everytime I wear something cute
  3. asking me for alterations
  4. rolling their eyes at me because I actually make my own clothes and they don’t

Call me crazy but people are actually starting to get a little annoyed when they ask me if I made something and then I say yes.

What do you say? Does this ever happen to you? Thoughts, philosophies? How do you react when someone rolls their eyes at you after you have poured your heart and soul into a garment?

Sewing comic images courtesy Bitter Betty Blogs and yes I do find it hilarious that in the top comic the homemaker makes her own clothes because she finds it’s easy, not to mention a few other things but we’ll save that for a later post


20 thoughts on “Talking About Sewing with People Who Don’t Sew Anymore

  1. I’m don’t think people around me are annoyed, but it gets me when they say that I’m old or like a grandma when I sew or knit. It is little annoying when everyone always asks if I made something that I’m wearing, but I’ve said no too many times (because I don’t have a lot of handmade clothes yet) that they’ve stopped asking. 🙂

  2. I’ve just discovered your blog, eve though I knew you before from the BurdaStyle. And I love what I see here!
    I am still spreading the word of my sewing skills, I am so proud of myself (ah, vanity!).
    I’ve had recently an awkward situation with my close friend’s boyfriend. It was my second time I saw him when he asked me to fix some pants he had. I said no. In return, he complained to my friend I was rude and very unpleasant with him, and that I made him feel uncomfortable. (!!!) It made me think of my blabbing about sewing, and that I should keep my mouth shut.

  3. I completly agree with you : I’m a selfish seamstress too. I like to wear my handmade outfits. I’m very proud but when people ask if I made these clothes or compliment me and look at me as if I was an extraterrestrial just because I sew, I feel unconfortable and embarrassed… I’m afraid they think I’m boasting or something…So I usually prefer to say nothing…

  4. I have just started sewing in the past few months. I am really enjoying, but obviously I am a beginner that makes tons of mistakes and I am learning from them. I haven’t had a chance to wear anything I have made out, but that is because of my family really. My family and friends don’t get that I can’t whip them up everything their hearts desire. My best friend is making me into the nurse scrub top factory and my mom is trying to get me to make pajamas for all of her grandkids (my neices). At first I didn’t mind much because (1) I didn’t know what I was doing and they knew there was a big chance of me screwing it up and were fine with it. Why not practice with someone elses fabric and money if they are cool with it and (2) I was eager to sew anything and everything. Well, now almost 3 months later I am sick and tired of sewing plain jane easy scrub tops and I am not thrilled in the least to make pajamas for every one of the grandkids. Plus now, it has turned into me hemming everything, mending clothing for everyone and their brother, create clothing for them from the pattern I cut out for me (like I want them in the same outfit as me! not to mention I am not grading out a pattern for you when you are about 5 sizes bigger than me) and the whole reason I bought the machine was for me! I don’t want to be rude to them, but it has really got to stop. Learning to sew is a lot of fun, but oh man I have opened a can of worms on myself too! haha!
    I really enjoyed this post!

  5. I think it is a generational thing (and I am older, so..). The ‘new sewing movement’ (that is, the internet, the blogs, etc.) is capturing a very different demographic and ‘teaching’ in a very different way than people of my generation learned how to sew. If we learned in Home Ec classes in junior high, what we learned how to do was laying out, cutting, basting, sewing together. Not fitting. I also took a half year more advanced sewing class in high school and I learned how to make a wool suit – again, laying out, cutting out, using interfacings to build up the jacket, make pleats in the skirt, put in zippers, put in shoulder pads. That’s it. No fitting. For those of us ‘of a certain age’ or ‘of a certain size or body configuration’ – I think sewing became highly dissatisfying once we got into sewing things for ourselves where they did not fit straight out of the envelope anymore. After you produce 4-5 ‘wadders’, sewing is not a whole lot of fun any longer. One of the big differences between the way we got taught how to sew and what is happening on the internet NOW, is the emphasis I see on fitting, learning how to fit, how to use a muslin to fit, how to change patterns and so on. The ‘new’ sewers now see an emphasis on ‘getting what you want and getting it to fit’. So, that is part of the ‘jealousy’ – people who do not sew anymore because they don’t know how to make it work for them are upset with you because you know how to do something they don’t – and they don’t know how to get that. Just sewing for the sake of sewing is ok..but not a big thrill.

  6. I’ve only recently stumbled across your blog and I’m really enjoying it. I’ve had similar experiences to yourself and I’m slowly learning to just politely say no! We’re in the process of building a new house and my very proud husband keep stelling everyone that one of the large rooms will be a sewing room – you should see the looks that gets!!

  7. I am of the older generation and I sew a lot now, but only quilts and home dec, or clothes for the grandchildren, not clothes for myself anymore, so I guess you could say I’m one of those who “used to sew” for myself and don’t anymore. I don’t know how old you are, but I’m guessing that you are young. When you are young, sewing clothes for your nice, fit young body is fun. But when you get older and the butt and boobs sag and the waist thickens, it’s not ‘sew’ fun anymore and the fitting problems are horrendous. But I still love to sew, just not my own clothes.

  8. If someone wants you to sew for them (without pay, of course!) offer to teach them to sew, or quote a price. Either one usually gets rid of them…

  9. what happens to me is every one says “oh you should sell those you’ll make so much money” but like you said then its not enjoyable, I am not a machine!, I also agree with claudia – I am only 32 but I don’t sew clothes for my self anymore I can’t tolate to measure myself ( I have had some weight gain) so I plan to reward my future weight loss with sewing because I miss it terribly

  10. I know what you mean! What sort of irks me is when people found out I made, say the dress I’m wearing, and then they tell me they have a bunch of buttons they need sewn back on, and would I mind doing that for them.
    I want them to know firstly that anyone can sew buttons on, and I’m not particularly good at hand sewing myself. And second, my pile own of things that I need to mend/repair is certainly not shrinking! Just because I love picking out fabric and designing new patterns doesn’t mean I’d love to take in the pants you bought on sale a few sizes too large.. oh well. 🙂

  11. People who don’t sew don’t really get it. It may be financially cheaper for the sewist to sew her own clothes, but for other people they don’t get what really goes into making clothes.
    When folks ask me to make something for them, I make sure they truly understand the investment. I make them purchase the pattern, the thread, fabric, and even the bobbins and all notions. Then the have to sit with me while I cut it out. And if they are gully enough, they will sit with me while I sew it up. Once they see the amount of work that goes into it and pay my fee to actually sew it, they won’t ask a second time unless it is a special occasion. Folks are really disassociated with where there stuff comes from.

  12. Found you on Sew Retro – love your blog so far! I think Serenity is right on that people are disassociated with where clothing comes from. Americans have been cultured to want everything cheap, cheap, cheap. Sure you can go to Sprawl*Mart and buy a skirt for $10. But that’s because it was made in a foreign country that paid a worker $1 a day and is made out of sub-par materials and crappy workmanship. When I tell people what I charge, their attitude is, “Humph! I can get it waaaaay cheaper at Target…Walmart…etc.” Sure you can. And then we wonder why all our jobs keep going overseas and why nothing is made to last anymore. No one really appreciates what goes into quality workmanship. I’m just sick of people expecting me to give up all my free time to sew something and then give it to them for nothing.

  13. I totally agree with your comment. In fact, I never really understood the point of a muslin until reading blogs. Then, I also learned that a muslin should be created from similar fabric for it to be a meaningful process.
    Oh, what I have learned from other sewists thanks to the WWW.

  14. These are great comments. The last two comments are of particular use on a broad spectrum of crafts (applicable to the arts in general). Entitlement and Disassociation are two big reason why people are surprised at how much a product of high quality and by the human hand really costs. I am just parroting! Great discussion.

  15. No one asks me to make them stuff any more because they know I am a busy mom and professional. However, they do ask me how long it takes and the skill level required. Because they know I won’t make stuff for others (except exceptionally cute children), but am always willing to share the know-how.
    5 years ago, a millionaire did ask me to make him a sweater like the one I had just finished. But I told him that, at my consulting rate and the time required for that complicated pattern, it would cost $5000. He backed off.

  16. Great post – I can totally relate! In high school, there was an awful bunch of girls in my sewing class who were there just for easy marks. They used to sit at the back, write notes all day, and make snide remarks like ‘did you make your jeans? did you make your backpack?’ to those of us who enjoyed sewing. So I used to stop telling people I made things. Isn’t that sad?
    And of course, people always think you can turn out projects for THEM, too! I once had a friend who asked me on a Tuesday, to make him a suit for the weekend. Are you kidding? A men’s suit??? “Can you do it?” he asked, and offered to pay for the cost of materials. Hilarious! I get mending and hemming requests too, as if I want to spend my precious sewing time fixing other people’s damaged clothes. There aren’t enough hours in the day to get through the sewing I actually enjoy!
    Isn’t it sad that we can’t be prouder of our successful sewing projects, instead of embarrassed to brag, or wanting to avoid the inevitable requests of ‘make me one!’
    Love your blog by the way, I found after admiring your beautiful blue Lady Grey coat!

  17. I never tell people that I’ve made something unless they ask. Since most people don’t even think of the possibility, that nips most of that problem in the bud :-).
    Otherwise, I just tell people that I don’t have much time to sew, so I only sew for myself. They don’t need to find out it’s occasionally not true, and in fact I do only ever sew for very close people so it’s easy for the ones who do find out to realize a coworker’s roomate’s stepmother is not on the same level as my adored little sister. If pushed, I can come up with an estimate based on generous labor costs at roughly minimum wage (more like $10/h), coupled with fabric cost that doesn’t include looking for a bargain. That’ll stop demands immediately.
    And finally, for my own personal bête noire, I find a good alterations place in every new town I live in, and carry their address on me at all times. I heartily recommend them as I give the info. In a pinch, I’ve been known to claim that alterations are a totally different skill set (not -entirely- untrue) and that they’d do it much better than I ever could.
    Really, lying is not so serious, compared to being driven to murder by unreasonable demands..

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