I’ve been sewing for many years and one of the things I hear frequently from my friends is, “I should really learn to sew.” And usually they seem to feel guilty about not sewing. A lot of times I wonder if these friends would really even enjoy sewing. I wonder if they understand all of the detail that is involved in sewing. I wonder why they feel pressure to do something that that might not even enjoy. It’s true that anyone can learn, but it’s definitely not the right hobby for everyone.
So before you heap loads of guilt on yourself for not being able to sew, let me share a few things you should know before you learn to sew.
Sewing does not make you a better mom. At least not anymore. There was a time when women needed sewing skills to clothe their family. But sewing is no longer a necessary skill for every woman to have. Sure, it’s nice to be able to repair clothes or make unique gifts, but your kids will be warm and well-fed even if you don’t sew.
Maybe you believe in providing your children with handmade, natural toys and feel guilty about not making them yourself? Try Etsy or the local craft fair. Most likely you will be supporting another mom that believes in providing children with beautiful handmade toys too…without the frustration of trying to make something that doesn’t turn out the way you planned.
Maybe you feel guilty because you can’t teach your kids sewing skills? There are often free community classes or inexpensive classes at local sewing shops. So I can teach my kids to sew, but if they want to fix cars I’ll have to send them out to learn from a friend. Maybe you can teach your kids to fix cars, but not to sew. Embrace the gifts and talents God had given to you, and share them with your friends when you can.
Sewing is not cheaper. Definitely not at first. And only maybe…if you get really good. Depending on what you make, you need a machine, a pattern, thread, fabric, buttons, buckles, interfacing, extra needles, zippers. This stuff adds up quickly. Plus you need to factor in several hours of your time. I can almost always buy something at Target cheaper than anything I can make, even when I don’t factor in my time.
You have to decide if sewing something is worth it. For example, I can buy a finished pillow for around $10. Something similar might cost me $20 to make. And yet…I make pillow covers. Why? Because I am not limited by what’s available at the store. I have the freedom to choose colors or quality of fabric. I can add zippers or embroidery. If I want a custom color, size or style, I sew it. If the goal is to save money…I don’t sew it.
I have found that this was not the case as when my sewing skills became more advanced. To make a simple t-shirt I might spend $20 to make a top I could have bought for $10 at the store. So I generally still buy my jeans and t-shirts ready-made. But…what if I wanted to make a blazer like one I saw at a high-end mall store. For the same $100, I could make a blazer with nicer fabric, custom fit to my body shape, and with nicer details. It’s only after you have put in hours of practice that sewing begins to pay for itself.
Sewing is detail-oriented. If you aren’t a detail person, you may not be happy with your finished projects. The details are the difference between, “Oh, what a quaint homemade dress…” and “What? You MADE that?! I thought it was from Anthropologie.”
Changing something by a 1/4″ can ruin an entire project. You need to pay attention to figure out which needle size to use when there are dozens of choices, or to figure out the difference between jersey knit, ponte knit, lycra knit, and interlock knit. If those kind of details make you crazy, sewing might not be for you.
Sewing requires a lot of preparation. When I tell people that I like sewing, they imagine me sitting at my machine feeding fabric through a whirring machine. But that part is only about 1/4 of what I spend my time doing.
Before sitting down at the machine, I read through my sewing pattern. If it’s a PDF that requires printing and taping, that can take another 20-30 minutes. If it’s a regular printed pattern, I lightly iron the tissue paper pattern, find the correct pieces and cut them out…also about 20-30 minutes.
Most fabric needs to be prewashed, so that’s a load of laundry to be done. If you want to make alterations to the pattern, you’ll need to spend some time doing the math, and redrawing pattern lines. Laying out the pattern pieces and cutting out the fabric can take an hour or more if you do it properly.
This morning I spent over an hour cutting fabric, cutting interfacing, and ironing on the interfacing before I even sat down at the sewing machine. I’m constantly running between the machine and the ironing board (and around the house to help the kids…) because each seam should be pressed after stitching. It’s all part of the process.
There are parts that I enjoy more than others, but if I didn’t find some satisfaction in the planning and preparation, sewing would not be enjoyable for me. This stuff is all part of “sewing”, and I think you should know before you invest your time and energy into learning.
There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. You may find that you don’t like all of the preparation, but the satisfaction of the finished projects makes it worth your time. Maybe you have found ways to cut your costs. Or maybe (like me) sewing helps you to relax and it does help you to be a better mom. Maybe the details don’t matter to you and you just like to break all of the sewing rules to make some other kind of fiber art.
So, should you learn to sew? Maybe…it’s up to you. But please don’t feel guilty for choosing not to sew.
Sew because you love it. Love the process. Love the challenge of figuring out new ways to put things together. Love the struggle of doing something hard and the feeling of accomplishment when you get it right. Love choosing fabric. Love studying the details of things around your house to see if you can replicate them. Love making meaningful, and personalized gifts for people. Love repurposing old things to make something new.
But please, sew because you want to…not because you “should”.