The cool new thing with tweens? Sewing.

Discuss

51 Responses to “The cool new thing with tweens? Sewing.”

  1. Gideon Jones says:

    I hate e-fashion. It’s not electronics. It’s crafting, and it has no place in the electronics hobby.

    Can’t help but hear the sexism in this statement.  It sounds very much like the art/craft dichotomy that goes on in a lot of places, I think most notably in the ceramics and sculpture worlds.  The work identified with women gets labeled “craft, not art”, and demeaned in various ways, while the one identified with men is labeled art and treated seriously.  

    • bcsizemo says:

      I didn’t really take it quite like that.  As someone with a background and schooling in electronics I almost feel it is a reaction to a perceived “dumbing down” of the whole electronics side of things.  I think it’s great that there are really basic kits to teach kids/people about things like the Arduino, but at a certain point some blinky lights becomes a novelty.  At the same time I feel  the whole e-fashion thing is in a very early and awkward stage.  There isn’t a whole lot of useful things that can be easily built yet, but without people building those simply projects you’ll never get to the more complex stuff. 

      • Is it really bad that it’s being “dumbed down”? I say that in quotes because making technology accessible to folks that would never normally feel they could make a novelty blinking light item is really freaking cool. My anec-data is I’m a 40 year old housewife, and if it wasn’t for Make: or these “dumbed down” things, I’d never have wired my first LED a couple years ago. 

        I also think it does get you too the more complex kind of stuff. I would have never even thought it possible without the simpler stuff. Now I can look inside a basic electronic doo dad, and know what I am looking at, and sometimes effect repairs. All because of some simple “dumbed down” novelty kits. 

        I agree with the first poster. Fashion, and sewing is traditionally feminine, and has always been barred from craft. I see the electronic side being disparaged as more of a boy’s club reaction from some members, and rather non inclusive. 

      • CLamb says:

         Most of fashion is a novelty.  Sure its avoiding the need to learn electronics but it is also avoiding the need to learn growing cotton, spinning, and weaving.

    • The Doctor says:

      I’m sorry to say that I think you nailed it in one.  Sexism (unconscious or otherwise) in geekdom as a whole is, unfortunately, not dead.  I’ve seen it a couple of times at hackerspaces from people who should bloody well know better.

  2. ether78 says:

    Regarding some of the online hate: it’s an online forum and there’s some hate. Unless there’s some sort of huge, bizarre backlash, I would just leave it at that and move on.

  3. John Young says:

    Sewing is a great, technical tool and skill. Grandma is a badass at it. If you’re lucky enough to have a sewing grandma, you can go ask her about how to adjust a pattern. She can help you figure out why your centerline is pulling to the wrong side.  She has the experience to save you DAYS of aggravation on your very first project.  And she might have that fifty-dollar foot you need, just sitting in her cabinet, ready to go. “Bernina buttonhole foot? Yeah, here it is!”

    My eight-year-old daughter with her shiny new Babylock Nine would be pleased, proud, and honored to be categorized along with her sewing mom and her sewing grandma.  

    • Bevatron Repairman says:

      My Mom is that sewing grandma and is very much of the view that sewing is “thirty hours of learning, thirty years of tricks.”  

      And by god, she has every sewing foot known to man.

    •  My grandmother has been hand-sewing Revolutionary War-era costumes for more than 40 years.  I am proud to follow in her footsteps – except with a machine.

  4. freshacconci says:

    Not to be a pedant, but is a fourteen-year-old a tween? I would think that is pretty much a full-membership teen.*

    *And if someone can come up with a term for somewhere between young adult and middle-aged, I’m all ears.

  5. Jennifer Nieland says:

    “Home” sewing is engineering, in some aspects. You have to take a flat piece of fabric, and turn it into a structured, wearable garment that fits properly, is made well enough to stand up to repeated use and laundering, and is comfortable and stylish. Plus, it’s a good way to teach kids problem solving, crafting skills (which in art terms means being able to cut or draw smooth lines, accurately, and generally make well-made and finished products), and a practical skill that will serve them their whole lives. 

    I want a LilyPad to play with, but I’m saving up for a new sewing machine right now… 

    As for the person who said this – “You seem more focused on the fashion part (Hey look at me, my shirt shows when I’m aroused, aren’t I cool?) than the engineering part… Outside the raves and clubs, this is useless junk.” – there is nothing wrong with focusing on the fashion aspect. It’s just another way of geeking out!

    • hymenopterid says:

      It’s exciting to me, because this sort of skill-set and knowledge doesn’t have to be limited to just garments.  As you say it’s the ability to design a three dimensional object starting with just flat pieces.  I have to think that if you can design a pair of pants that fits, it shouldn’t be much of a stretch go to designing inflatable boats or hovercraft skirts.  Sure, that would involve taping the seams instead of sewing, but it’s the talent to design and plan the piece that a person would learn from sewing.
      I guess what I’m saying is it doesn’t really matter what you’re working on because it’s such a powerful conceptual ability.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Even if you were plasma cutting pieces of carbon nano-linen and lasering them together, you’d still have to know how to fit a collar.

  6. It’s simply evolution that electronics and textiles fuse together.

    Thanks for the great article supporting what I do all day, everyday.  

  7. Rider says:

    Somehow I doubt it’s anymore popular then it always has been.  Anecdotes and no real stats.  I’ve always known a good number of  people that sew and they all started around this age.

    • IronEdithKidd says:

      Have you set foot in a fabric store anytime in the last 25 years?  I have.  Rather constantly.  It’s only been within about the last 3-5 years that I haven’t been the youngest shopper there.  BTW, I’ll be 40 this year.  You have a rather unique subset of acquaintances. 

  8. Greg Miller says:

    Couple thoughts:

    1) Whey the hell couldn’t this have happened 10 years ago? If it did, there’d be females of my age in Jo-ann’s when I go in to buy thread or sewing machine parts. Instead it’s all older ladies (who are, in their defense, making some pretty awesome quilts and stuff) who aren’t exactly in my dating age range.

    2) As far as ‘e-fashion’ – I can think of all the wonderful things that I could sew into some of my outdoor gear – avy beacons, altimeters, thermocouples with displays… I think they’re just jealous that you’re cooler than they are.

    3) I hope they don’t expect that $200 sewing machine to last the girl’s life. However, if it gets her interested in sewing enough to start making cool stuff, it’s money well invested.

    • paulj says:

       To your third point, having paid for several generations of machines for my wife, I can see where this leads. A $200 machine is the equivalent of a beginner’s electric guitar kit: a small investment to see if there’s real interest, but once they get serious, add a zero to the price tag, and repeat every 5 to 10 years as new generations of machines add more cool features.

    •  I still have my mother’s 1957 cast-iron Singer.  It needs the bobbin feed repaired, but otherwise it works just fine.  The machine I have now has been running for a good 10 years with no problems.  Sewing machines really last if you take care of them.

      Of course she may want a fancier machine as she gets older.  That’s the only reason I replaced my mother’s Singer initially.

    • Independentwmn says:

       The fabric store at which I worked had a set of elderly men who showed up every Thursday.  It took me awhile to realize they were at their equivalent of the ‘bar scene,’ and had figured out that the elderly women they were interested in were most likely to be found at the fabric store.  It was actually really cute. 

    • IronEdithKidd says:

      To your point 3) – I’ve been waiting 18 years for my $200 machine to give up the ghost so I have an excuse to get a fancier one.  Alas, no, a tune-up once every 15-20 years is all the beast requires to continue humming along.

  9. mudrummer012 says:

    Great, now all the renfair kids are going to start acting like hipsters because they were making their own outfits before it was cool.  =P

  10. Bevatron Repairman says:

    My Mom is a serious sewer and — as a Depression Baby — a bit of an accumulator.  She made tons of awesome stuff.  None of the five of us kids (nor any of her 11 grandchildren) have ever had a store-bought Halloween costume, she made several wedding dresses, and once one morning decided she had nothing to wear to a party so found a pattern in her enormous pile of Butterick patterns and put the entire thing together in six hours. 

    It’s great to grow up with a sewer.  I don’t have a lot of DIY talents, but I grew up instinctively thinking that that’s how it ought to be.

    • Shane Simmons says:

      Along with having several of my Grandma’s quilts and other things, I have her sewing machine.  It’s a Singer treadle sewing machine, and the last I checked still works.  She used it mainly for doing the actual quilting; quilt pieces were always sewn by hand.  We took her to the American Quilter’s Society show one year (this was well after her eyesight was too poor to drive on her own) and the one thing I remember her doing was shaking her head, constantly.  There was all this beautiful, intricate work being done, absolute works of art…and she was aggravated because the people in the show had done all their stitching by machine.

      I don’t sew; I just learned enough to do some extremely basic mending.  It was a revelation to me, though, to find out that, in eastern Kentucky, several of the men of the family had sewn.  I got to see this beautiful double wedding ring that was sewn by one of my mom’s uncles.  Well, come to that, take several of the stereotypes you hear about the region and throw them out.

      • octolover says:

        i am finally, at the age of 36, learning to machine sew, and i’m doing so on my late great-great-aunt’s singer 127 treadle machine (made in 1919 or 1920, based on the serial number).  both my aunts and, progressively enough, my father, all learned to sew on it, and i love that i’m following in their footsteps.  

        use your singer regularly, and make sure it’s oiled.  you may already know this, but just in case, you can go to singer’s website and download a reprint of the original manual for free, if you know what model yours is (and there’s a website for that, too, if you google)!

  11. Art says:

    This is absolutely fantastic!  Thanks for the post.

  12. Amália says:

    My eight year old son and I are currently sewing ultralight backpacks for the upcoming season and beyond.

  13. David Pescovitz says:

    My 5-year-old son enjoys hand sewing. (His mom and his grandma are both lifelong sewers.)  He received a “child’s sewing machine” for the holidays and it was utter crap. So his grandma replaced it with an entry-level Singer that was the same price. 

    • jvdh says:

      Excellent!  Boys should be sewing too.  I’m a boy (+ a few years), and I can’t.  Yet.   I couldn’t help but notice the gender bias in the article.  It is wonderful for girls to reclaim sewing, especially given the constant assault of fashion and consumption culture.  However, we can also fix some gender issues, and possibly address the art/craft war, if more boys/men also took it up. 

      We need more gender-neutral making skills.

  14. RichardHenderson says:

    Men (and teenage boys), take note:

    Learn to sew. Seriously.
    Not only will you likely be the only guy in a class FULL of attractive, crafty, friendly and hip women, you’ll be able to alter your own clothing… and the difference between how off-the-rack vs. tailored clothing looks is *very* measurable. Even if you’re a little on the heavier side, wearing clothes that were built to fit you specifically will make you look amazing.

     OR take something of fantastic quality you’ve found in a thrift store and completely alter it to fit. Old super-wide neckties can easily be shrunk down to a more modern slim look, dress shirts that are too wide (I suffer from the tall but not very wide ‘problem’) can easily be darted to fit, etc.

    You can build an incredible wardrobe for what one decent suit new would cost.

    And don’t get me started on making your own throw pillows or duvet covers…

    • The Doctor says:

      Some of us already do.  I’m the corner case here, but I was taught to sew (and later figured out how to use patterns) at the same time I learned to do my laundry as a kid.  Being able to sew and repair clothing is just as useful as knowing how to use a washing machine and take care of special items (dry clean only, hand wash only, et cetera).  Learning how to make clothes using a sewing machine and hand sewing is a natural extension of that.

  15. Manny says:

    I would like to sit all those dismissers down with a blank piece of paper, a pencil, and knitting needles. “OK, now make a lacey sweater.” Aesthetics are part of the design process, of course, but that is also part of designing cars and robots. The part of knitting that people see is the execution of the program, without realizing one has been written.

    (And yes, I have multiples of every knitting gadget. Toys are fun.)

  16. emoney223 says:

    Speaking as a teen sewer (or is there a better term?), I like sewing because not only is it art, but when sewing clothing I can make things that I like that I can’t find in stores. For example, I find that most simple skirts/dresses now have become quite short, and I prefer a to the fingertips length. I haven’t gotten good enough to make my own shorts, but I’d really like to, because of the same problem. I always get compliments on my clothes when I wear the things I make myself. I also second the comment about guys learning to sew. It’s useful and artistic. It’s also fun because while I can’t draw or paint well, I have an artistic skill many people don’t.

  17. Doug Nelson says:

    All the “computerized” sewing machines I’ve ever seen seem hopelessly mired in the 1990s. They rely on proprietary memory cards, with no USB connectivity, let alone WIFI, and clunky circa Win95 software. The stitches and embroidery patterns you can purchase are more heavily DRM’d than any song or ebook I’ve ever encountered.

    • redstarr says:

       I saw some the other day at the sewing machine store that seemed very up to date.  I believe they were wifi.  They were Janome brand.  Might be worth a look if you’re hunting for a better computerized machine.  I didn’t look them over too intensely myself because I was shopping for a mechanical rather than computerized machine. 

  18. scrodmonger says:

    The article’s speaking of young women reclaiming sewing made me think of the mediaeval tailors’ guilds,which made me smile, as these were almost exclusively male in their membership.  The comments from presumably male sewers made me grin, as they are reclaiming some “man’s work” that was made feminine.

    For the record, I am a male member of the SCA with degrees in engineering and physics who goes so far as to cast pewter buttons to hold his garments together.  I frequently use simple geometry and trigonometry to make patterns for hoods, cloaks and tunics, and have been known to tell folk that Euclid is all you need to know to master sleeves and collars.  I also came 3rd in my year of ~220 in year 8 sewing; the next bloke was 50-somethingth.  I am happy to have continued sewing as an adult, as it gives me a creative outlet, is fun, and you get awesome looks from the ladies at fabric shops when this 6’1″, long haired and bearded and ask where the silk brocade is :)

  19. apoxia says:

    Sewing is one of the best skills I learnt from my mother. I’m glad I learnt most of it as a child/young teen, as I’d hate to have to learn it as an adult (I think of it in a similar vein as learning a language). I bought an expensive sewing machine as a present for myself when I finished by PhD :) Not many people my age (30) can sew a professional looking men’s dress shirt.

  20. I own three sewing machines, and I have stopped buying clothes in 2010 (I still wear my own clothes). I try to make everything myself, and it’s crazy fun.

    I work in IT, and I’ve always been creative. I can’t draw or paint to save my live, so my creativity was always confined to the virtual world. Graphic design, websites, that sort of stuff.
    In sewing, I have found something that allows my creativity to spill into the real world. It doesn’t require me to be able to draw, and a lot of my geeky skills are really handy when sewing.
    There is nothing like wearing something you’ve made yourself. I would advise everyone to give it a go. And don’t let the trolls get to you. I’ve made a ton of friends online solely based on the fact that we both like to sew. 
    I learned to sew on my own, and I started after 30. Sure, I’m no genius, but the jeans I make are pretty effin darn fantastic, to me :)

  21. redstarr says:

    I think part of it is that we’ve advanced far enough in the empowerment of women that women can feel comfortable sewing and teaching their daughters to sew again.  It used to be something all women did.  Some genuinely liked it, but some, it was a part of their expected role in the household and the world.  Then when women’s lib came along, it became uncool for strong liberated women to be into the traditional “granny” hobbies like  sewing, baking, gardening, and knitting.  But I see a lot of women in our 30s taking back our power to like those things and like them publicly.  And a lot of the tweens are probably the kids of moms that age.  They are growing up seeing that being free and equal means being able to do what you want to do, regardless of what gender did it first or does it most.  

  22. redstarr says:

    I’m surprised that today’s kids are dealing with the forums and stores and such that are populated by the older folks that don’t “get” what they’re into in the first place.   I would have thought they’d have their own pages and forums and such aimed at what they’re into and how they see things.  Even as a 30 something, I’ve at times on traditional sewing websites and in major chain craft stores felt like they were a little out of touch with me and my friends and what we want to do and needed to know.  Luckily, I did find plenty of other places on the web and a local sewing shop that seems to be spot on with the younger crowd.  Kids today use the internet so naturally.  In fact, I bet they’re using the internet more often for sewing related stuff than the grandma’s age sewers do.  Why aren’t teens just dominating the online sewing world? 

    While I know kids aren’t going to start up a store, you’d think they’d have tapped into the internet more and harnessed it to cater more to their own sewing subculture.  And that some adults might have seen the trend and made a website with the products and answers and vibe the younger set is wanting.  Seems like a niche market that is underserved.  Either an upstart that “gets it” could have some real opportunity or a traditional sewing company could branch out and start serving the young market.  They could not only make lots of sales on the kids while they’re tweens, but start building loyalty now to retain their business as adults.

    Especially with sewing being an interest a lot of parents could easily support funding.  Lots of moms my age would MUCH rather buy their daughter or son a new sewing pattern than a Justin Bieber CD, a new sewing machine than a new handheld video game console.  They’d rather have them sewing cool clothes of their own than following whatever trend Abercrombie or Hot Topic is pushing this week. 

  23. Sewing electronics into clothes has real and useful application, connect it to a bio monitor and the kid prone to fits might just light up or alarm before the fit hits (during the halo stage). Or the kid that wanders out of of the GPS range built into their pants, the kid that falls into a pool of water, or the elderly person falls out of bed.  It is unobtrusive and especially useful for young kids. Okay so it starts out as flashing eyes on their younger siblings teddy bears, but let the technology evolve and let the blinky kids have their fun.

  24. Julie Dole says:

    I just hate it when peers and such harsh on something you think is fun.  “Grandma” as insult, indeed!  My mom taught me to sew, and I was good at it, but it was likewise looked down on as we got older and clothes were supposed to be slicker, more sophisticated than homemade.  “Did you make that?” morphed from a compliment to derision.

    Decades later, enter burning man and punkadelic DIY, un-harshing my sewing buzz.   I picked up a turquoise, vintage, all-metal workhorse of a machine at a yard sale for $20, and got back to work.  Another decade later, and that bugger still sews everything from handwoven silk to leather and everything in-between.

    Keep sewing!  And like anything else, remember to disregard anyone who tries to harsh your innocent loves.   When they try to make fun of you, it really is their problem.

  25. maco says:

    If that photo is of the “authentic” medieval gown…that’s not authentic. It’s clear from the shape and particularly the sleeves and the belt style that it’s modeled on a 12th century bliaut, but inset sleeves didn’t come in for a few hundred years after that. The sleeves would’ve been attached to the side of the rectangular (no princess seams, as in the picture–those didn’t come in until around Tudor times) bodice, and would have slid down to be on the bicep as the neck pushed the collar open. The lacing would be on the sides, but since it’s not visible in the picture, I imagine she put it in the back. There don’t appear to be any gores in the skirt either. (And there wouldn’t have been a corset involved in the 12th century. Women bound their chests for support. Stiffening of the bodice is something you don’t see become popular until the 15th century, and even then… is it the dress or an undercorset doing the stiffening? Depends on time, place, etc.)

    I don’t deny that she can sew, but that’s pretty clearly what you get when you use a Simplicity pattern for a Halloween costume.

  26. This is an article that needed to be written!   My tween granddaughter has a grown-up machine that she creatively makes skirts, stuffed-animal clothes, back-packs, and whatever else her imagination and enthusiasm direct her to make.  And now there is a high-tech component, so I can’t imagine that she won’t incorporate some awesome ideas into practical fashion!   Get over the fuddy-duddy factor all you skeptics.  I’m a grandmother who can’t cook or sew and wish I could. I had one experience with a sewing machine and that pulsing needle scared the wits out of me!   There’s true art…..and now science…added to the sewing options of today!

  27. DIY says:

    I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again:  Soldering and sewing are complementary skills.  If you can solder even a tiny bit, you can fix/customize 1,001 things around your house, car and job.  If you can sew even a tiny bit, you can fix/customize a 1,001 small things on your clothes.  Me, I use $3.99 sewing kits from the grocery store and keep the buttons attached to my favorite shirts and pants.  I’d love to get a little better at it, but I don’t need to go whole hog just yet.  Meanwhile, what that person said above about tailoring clothes so they fit right rings very true, whether you DIY or not.  

  28. susana porcu says:

    I love sewing.  I can make something useful or fun out of a flat piece of fabric by using my computerized sewing machine and tools.  Put my machine in front of some one that thinks they are a computer geek and all they would be able to do is turn it on.  Maybe. 

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