I came across a delightful site today while gallivanting online. In a thought-provoking post (HERE) about why so many people are returning to the creative arts, especially sewing, knitting, and crochet, Deborah Moebes basically posed the questions: Why sew? Why now? How/why did you learn? So I thought I'd answer her here.
I learned to sew in home-ec class even though I could've learned at home since my mother and grandmother were super-talented, non-professional seamstresses. Gramdma made everything, mostly amazing quilts and rugs (on HUGE looms), but she also crochetted "granny" squares, fashioned paper-bead necklaces, and made us our very own PoundPuppies! Mom made mostly "functional" items: beautiful clothes, wedding dresses, Halloween costumes, birthday gifts, holiday gifts in large quantities, and other quick projects she could fit in as she found the time. We genXers thought of our home-ec classes as a sure "pass" grade, but wholely unnecessary to our "modern lives". Through high school and college I made maybe one item per year -- a straight stitched curtain here, a gift for a friend there. But it was incredibly frustrating to use my mom's machine and could never remember which way the bobbin thread needed to go, or how to judge seam allowances. It was certainly more frustrating than enjoyable, but it was a means to an end! THEN, we bought our first home, received a sewing machine as a Christmas gift, and within months seemingly every surface became adorned in fabric: curtains, box-pleated valances, upholstered headboard, accent pillows, etc). Although, for me, the all-out return to handmade came as part of pregnancy! It was really more of a boycott against plastic toys, and a protest against ridiculously expensive burp cloths, and such. "Designer" Burpcloths...Pa-lease!! The "I can make THAT" attitude resurfaced with nesting hormones as its propeller! What I make isn't always that stunningly beautiful or well-made, but the simple fact that I know how to sew/crochet/etc makes people ooh and aah!! As if they had never seen anything handmade before!
I agree with so much that was written in her post, and in the comments, but as to why women "stopped" crafting: I'd add that it's also a time consideration. Raising a kid and home-making in the distant past didn't involve as much "away-from-home time." Cars were invented so we (our mothers, really) traveled more in summer, and met up with friends for playdates, and "ran" to the grocery store, and chauffered kids to soccer, and could travel in winter thanks to 4-wheel drive. So they were no longer "stuck" at home trying to find things to do with their hands by the fire!
What's interesting to me is not why I learned to sew, but why I *continue* to sew, and that the reasons change each time I sit down at the machine. One day, it will be to "get away" from the rest of the house's chaios. Another day it will be to make a special gift for a friend's baby! And next week it may be less sentimental, say to learn/practice a skill I picked up online. But more and more, I'm sewing/embroidering, and working crochet as a way to fulfill the desire to master a craft, maybe to have some sort of tangible legacy after I'm gone. Yet, even I who LOVES to sew, crochet, embroider, etc simply don't always find/make time to do so. Believe you me, I have WAY more project ideas, than I have the time in which to create them. I have the space, most of the materials bought and ready to go...but I cannot justify time away from my little munchkin to craft. Afterall, that's why I'm a SAHM!! So, I do it when he goes to bed, IF I have the energy...
What about you -- why/how did you learn to sew!