When I was in middle school (mid-80s), I remember dragging my mother to every store in the mall looking for a skirt, a very specific skirt. Denim yoke, 3 tiers of gathered ruffles (pink, please) and ending above the knee. 25 years later, I can still see the image of that skirt in my mind's eye clearly! Well, my dear mother (God Bless her) was exhausted at the end of our fruitless search, and took me to Joann fabrics, where my sewing education began. She showed me the pattern catalogs and how to read the envelopes, and as they say, "The rest is history". My very first sewing project's point: To make the dream reality. To have that skirt I saw in my mind's eye really happen. While I don't have a picture of that first skirt, I have a whole album of all the garments that came after it!
|That Kenmore was my first, and still works great! I sewed in my bedroom...|
As I sewed more, I found that I loved making formal dresses. In high school, the "red carpet event" was Homecoming/Prom. No girl ever wants to show up wearing the same dress as someone else, and sewing my own meant that I could insure my individuality. By my Senior year, my friends knew what I was up to, so I made 2 other girls' dresses as well. What was the point of that sewing? To create a unique garment, a "one of a kind".
|My self-made prom dress (left). 1992!|
|The bridesmaids sleeves were the same lace as the bride's!|
My plans to study fashion design in college did not come to fruition. New York and L.A. seemed like a death sentence to my parents, and they refused to send their youngest off to the wolves. So, I changed plans, and teaching math became my career choice. Sewing took a back seat for a very long time, as the demands of college classes and lesson plans took over. When I was planning my wedding, the thought of making my own wedding dress was something I very much wanted (I had kept a Vogue wedding dress pattern for years and years, with that plan in mind!), I was simply too busy with my first year teaching. The only sewing I found myself doing was quilting, as it allowed me to satisfy my need to "create" in small time allowances, and I could easily walk away and pick up where I left off. These quilts became gifts for my mother, my mother-in-law, and my niece. The point of sewing these quilts: To create a memorable gift.
|My first quilt, for my mom. Resides on my couch now. <3>3>|
|Made from the train of my wedding gown. 2011|
Sewing cute stuff for my little girl made me want to sew cute big stuff for myself. The lesson planning had lightened up, and I found myself sewing when the little one was napping. The internet brought a whole new level to my sewing world at this point, and my discovery of "Threads" and "PatternReview" meant that I had other people that I could talk to and learn from. My mother had taught me the basics, but I was left to my own devices with more technical challenges like zippers and pockets. I started following blogs, and made friends around the world, like Bunny and Angie and Michelle and Dawn. This was the first time in my life that I felt like I was part of a community. The quality of my sewing increased exponentially because of these ladies and so many others out there blogging, sharing, teaching, explaining and laughing. My sewing had new purpose: To achieve great fit and create garments that were flattering on my frame.
All of this "learning" boosted my sewing confidence, and I found myself trying new challenges. I found myself entering contests and participating in sew-alongs, sewing sometimes just to prove that I could meet the goal.
These days when I flip through a magazine and see a beautiful garment that makes me think, "Ooh! I want that!", I look at the price tag and start thinking about fabric cost, style lines, pattern adjustments, closures... but, if it's affordable and I love it, I'll buy it. Last month I was in debate about patterns and fabrics for a dress to wear to a wedding. So, I went and tried some on, only to find the perfect dress on the rack, so I brought it home! No knock-off there, I couldn't improve on the style, the fabric, the fit, or the price.
|That "Ralph Lauren" guy knows his stuff! No Knock-off here!|
Beyond all of these reasons, the real bottom line for me is that sewing brings me joy. It makes me happy to create something pretty, something that makes my child smile, something that brings comfort, something that makes me feel like a million dollars when I wear it. It gives me a sense of accomplishment, whether it's recreating a designer look or making my daughter a new dress for her doll. My math loving brain enjoys the engineering of a garment, the problem solving of construction, and the sensory stimulation of a fabric's color, drape, weight, and feel. The thought of tackling the challenges that I still want to learn (sketching, draping, and pattern drafting) makes me excited for my sewing future and my continued "sewing evolution". I just submitted my first entry for the "Passion for Fashion" contest at the American Sewing Expo in Novi, Michigan in September. It's a contest I've always wanted to enter, but wasn't sure I was ready for. Maybe I'm still not ready, (considering the past competitors are Rhonda Buss, Angela Wolff, and Gretchen Hirsch), but I feel ready to TRY, I feel ready to put myself out there and give it a shot. I'll hear back soon, so I'll keep you posted.
Whether the "goal" image is a designer look from a glossy magazine or the front of a Vogue pattern envelope or an original from my own mind's eye, if I can match it (or improve on it) in a way that is appealing in appearance and fit... perhaps the question isn't "why sew?" but, "WHY NOT SEW?"
Gail, thank you for your question. I really enjoyed writing this post and reflecting on the past. I count you among my "worldwide sewing friends" and appreciate your kindness and support! I look forward to continuing this journey together!