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So, you want to sew!

A stitch in time ... does save

May 8, 2011
By KIM LOCCISANO - Times Leader Staff Writer (kloccisano@timesleaderonline.com) , Times Leader

So, you like to sew, or at least you think you would like to learn. If you just aren't sure where to turn for reliable information and guidance, especially since it has been at least a couple years - or more for most of us since the last time we headed into that great equalizer of courses; "Home Ec" class, you might be surprised to know there is a whole new world of "tricks"?out there.

These days you might find out the timeless art of sewing is a tradition experiencing a tremendous resurgence in popularity in communities all across our country, and I do mean all across the country.

The trend is being seen everywhere from the average person's home's craft room to the spare room of some rather upscale residences found from coast to coast.

Article Photos

T-L Photos/KIM?LOCCISANO
This antique sewing machine is easily enjoyed today simply for its beauty. Those who would have had the chance to sew on this machine would have considered themselves lucky to own such a reliable and innovative machine for its day. The sewing cabinet typically would have several deep drawers as part of the unit. When not in use the machine would have stored in a fold down position within the center of the cabinet, and the extension of the top seen to the left of the sewing machine lid was hinged and with a fold back as an additional layer on the top of the cabinet when the machine was in its storage space.

The reasons for the uptick in its popularity is likely a combination of many things, but at the root it is likely be the troubled economy and its impact on almost every household in the country.

How we each deal with the realities that everything is costing more varies from household to household, but there are solid resources we can pay more attention to without necessarily having to shell out more of the shrinking dollars in the household budget.

The catch is: only you are going to know if the items decorating your home or being worn by family or friends are off the rack at the local store, revitalized vintage items from a favorite consignment store or are true "original designs" crafted at your own "house of design".

One of the easiest ways to get going on your effort to revisit those sewing and tailoring skills is to dust off the family sewing machine and make a point to get reacquainted with the basic skills most Americans first met in junior high school: Home Economics or the later addition of the course in the early 1970s which was structured for guys alone, Bachelor Living.

Whether you prefer tackling favorite sewing projects with the help of some of today's high tech, and even computerized, sewing machines or in the timeless tradition of handcrafting with needle and thread; access to quality instructional resources valuable for everyone from hobbyist to highly skilled seamstresses and tailors has never been easier.

In celebration of this sudden resurgence of interest in sewing Singer, one of the leading brands of consumer and artisan sewing machines, has recently coordinated more than 800 sewing parties being held this weekend in private homes across 37 states.

The machine being highlighted to some 12,000 sewing enthusiasts is of course from among Singer's most recent generation of machines which integrate aspects of what were once considered specialty items on machines into a design that is meant to reassure users they are fully capable of tackling just about any project that might come before the home-based sewer.

The name of the machine was of course certainly chosen with a great deal of purpose: the Singer Confidence Stylist, into the hands of knowledgeable sewers across this nation.

Technological improvements have created incredibly intuitive machines with features making sewing easy to learn and easy to enjoy for all age groups, said singer officials.

"It is not your grandmother's sewing machine anymore," is the catch phrase being tagged to this generation of sewing machines by Singer.

They certainly got that one right, but I'm pretty sure there is input to the design of these machines that could be traced contributions made by several generations of grandmothers.

I grew up believing both my grandmothers were capable of making just about anything appear from a seemingly simple piece of fabric, given a couple hours of quiet time to work their magic with such simple tools as a sewing machine, a pair of scissors, some straight pins and a couple pieces of chalk like marking materials.

Compliments to Singer for including recognition of the most important keeper of sewing knowledge, experience and tradition in just about every family: grandmothers.

(Just a note of fact among many families including my own: grandmothers - or "Nana" as she is known in my family - is the undisputed reigning monarch of the sewing realm - but now has resources for successfully tackling all sorts of specialty sewing projects - much to the delight of children and grandchildren in particular.)

While you may not have been invited to attend one of these parties being organized to feature Singer's products, there are several avenues to quality information at your fingertips - if you happen to have access to the Internet at home or even through your local library.

Another means of connecting to excellent sewing skills development information is through your local Extension Office, 4-H program, or retail store based sewing classes which usually include access to certain machines.

My grandmothers found both time and patience enough to help guide me through what were monumental decisions for a young sewer: such as what on earth do darts have to do with sewing skirts dresses or shirts. I thought they were a game.

What the heck was interfacing and what could it possibly have to do with having the neckline of an easy to sew jumper lie flat, or making a waistband on a skirt look and fit much better than it would without that extra little structure that spider's webish looking stuff could provide?

Why would you need to learn to sew a blind hem stitch, and how on earth was it any different from something called a blanket stitch?

Could someone please explain to me why two different stitches had to be used to make one item of clothing, or a table runner, or a granny skirt?

My grandmothers, and my mother were smart enough to leave the basics of this kind of teaching experience to those who were inclined to help anyone wanting to learn a life skill through the wonderful organization called 4-H.

A good decision then as well as now for anyone who happens to be able to connect to a local 4-H Club, and the area's university extension service resources.

A quick check of the Internet revealed there is plenty of good information available to those wanting to begin or better their personal sewing skills, with state level extension resources among the best.

Ohio State University Extension project booklets are available through the web, and have obviously been updated on a regular basis - making them timely and up to date on the fashion trend end of things.

The 4-H program booklets will move participants through the basics and into increasingly challenging projects at a steady pace - which is never meant to over whelm.

I don't know about anyone else's household, but I grew up believing my grandmothers could sew just about anything and their summertime visits meant it was time again to revisit the world of magic - what others might call "sewing".

Somehow they managed not to laugh too hard when I could not understand that learning to install an invisible zipper meant I really was sewing a zipper into a piece of clothing, but the technique would be a little more demanding: as I wasn't supposed to be able to really "see it" like you could every zipper I had sewn into previous skirt or dress projects.

And yes, it was worth the 25 or so times I had to tear it out and start over again before I felt comfortable in my abilities to get the "invisible" part of the process done correctly without needing the reassurance of my Mom or one of my Grandmothers patiently monitoring the steps of the process.

Learning to sew is something of a tradition in many families worldwide.

I have to say the singer company has a great idea in throwing a party to celebrate anything that has to do with perpetuating the tradition of handing sewing skills on to the next generation - (even if we have to dust them off first.

These days I do most of my sewing with little more than a needle and thread, as hand sewing has become a favorite pastime in recent years.

I never really gave much thought to the idea of whether or not my daughter even paid any attention to the little sewing project things Mom picks up to take in the car, to the ice rink or usually has not too far from where we sit to watch TV together.

But when she asked me to mend a friend's bookbag seam which was beginning to pull free I have to say I thought it was pretty cool.

It was even more fun to get a smile from both daughter and friend when she handed the restitched book bag back to its owner and both smiled after checking the seam's new condition.

But, the very best reward for my magical sewing skills having been employed was simply the "Thanks, Mom" I got from my daughter.

So, the way I see it, there is certainly no better choice of dates on which to celebrate the traditions of sewing than on Mother's day weekend.

 
 

 

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