What’s Your Sewing Heritage?

Nancy Zieman Sewing Then and Now

What’s Your Sewing Heritage?

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Nancy Zieman Sewing Then and Now

When producing the 2-part Sewing With Nancy series, Sewing Then & Now, I was prompted to think about the women in my life that paved the way for my interest in sewing. One of the sewing machines used during this 2-part series belonged to my grandmother, Georgina Schaefer Larson, an excellent seamstress.

I really never knew my Grandma Georgina. She passed away when I was 2-years old. She made cute little dresses for me when I was a baby and toddler. My mom depended upon her mom to do the sewing. I was so pleased when my mom, a saver of all things precious, gave me one of the dresses made by Grandma Georgina.
Nancy Zieman Sewing Then and Now
When going through an old photo album, I thought this was me in the peach dress. After seeing the image enlarged, it isn’t the dress, but I’m guessing that Grandma made that one too! (I just love those saddle shoes!)Nancy Zieman Sewing Then and Now

My grandma was a stitcher all of her life. Depression era bride, she made her wedding dress and often lamented, according to my mom, that she couldn’t believe the width of the hem in her wedding dress and that the  hand stitching was so evident! No matter what era, we tend to point out the mistakes rather than looking at the positive. When I look at this photo I see very happy and attractive people—full of hope and promise. I don’t see a wide hem nor the hem stitching. My Grandpa Loyall Larson is the tall light-haired man. A sister and brother served as the attendants. I adore this photo!

Loyall Ethan Larson and Georgina Marie Schaefer 11-29-27

Twenty-five years later, Grandma made her dress for the special anniversary.

Loyall Ethan Larson and Georgina Marie Schaefer 25th wedding anniversary

Even though I can’t remember her, Georgina’s friends and relatives kept her memory alive when I was a young girl, recounting her many sewing accomplishments. I feel a kindred spirit to her due to our love of sewing. She was one of the many women who gave me my sewing heritage.

After grandma passed away, my mom knew that the sewing torch had been passed to her. (I’ll tell you more about my mom’s significant influence in my sewing heritage in a later blog.)

1940 Sewing Machine makes a debut on Sewing With Nancy

For many years, the cabinet with my Grandmother’s machine stored inside has served as the bedside table in our guest room.

Sewing Then and Now by Nancy Zieman

When the idea of this mini-series came to me, I decided to give the 1940 machine a tune up and test stitch. (I also changed the needle!) To my amazement, it purred like a kitten. I got a lump in my throat.

Sewing Then and Now by Nancy Zieman

You’ll see it used during Sewing Then and Now. Watch the TV program online. It’s the featured streaming video of the week. Or, watch on PBS or on your iPad, iPhone Touch, or iPad.

watching Sewing With Nancy online

During this series I show sewing techniques from the early 1900s and then show you how things have changed and/or stayed the same! (Mainly they’ve changed!)

What’s Your Sewing Heritage?

If you have women or men in your life that inspired you to sew, please tell me your story. If you have photos to share or if your story is long, send the info to [email protected].

Share this blog with others!

I know there are many sewing heritage stories to share. Send this blog to your friends, just click the icon along the side.

Bye for now,

Nancy Zieman The Blog

Content in this feed is © copyright 2012 by Nancy Zieman and may not be republished without written permission. You’re welcome to forward the email to a friend or colleague but it’s not okay to add the RSS feed automatically as content on a blog or other website.
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  • Pat Hersl
    August 9, 2012

    That little peach dress is so you! I could just picture you in it. I was lucky enough to have had my Mom-Mom and spent my early youth tied to her leg, so to speak, watching every move of her hands as she crocheted. I have a few pieces left but I will always see those hands.

  • Michelle Costen
    August 9, 2012

    This blog touched me.
    I see a peaceful landscape quilt here.

  • My mother sewed on a great old Singer. I am the oldest of 12 children – 8 girls and 4 boys. My mother made countless dresses for all the girls for decades. My mother inspired my interest in sewing by her example. At 10, I took a sewing class at a Singer Sewing Center with the Girl Scouts. Generously, my mother let me use her Singer sewing machine without hesitation. I made most of my own clothes from 10 – 19. Then, I did not sew for decades with a few exceptions. However, I have been building my quilting stash the past 10 years. Now, I am getting back into sewing. My primary plan is to make quilts and clothes.

  • Marsha
    August 9, 2012

    The pictures are so precious. They help us know where we came from. The sewing machine is the same one I have of my Nana’s. She also made all of my clothes, from slips to coats, for a long time. A prom dress too. Every time I sit down to sew, I smile thinking of her.

  • Andrea Meche
    August 9, 2012

    My first inspiration is my mom who sewed for all four of her children as well as herself, and is still our sewing inspiraiton today. We all had beautifull clothes and dolls growing up and would sneak into her closet to play dres up in her lovely dresses. We spent many, many hours at the fabric store playing hide and seek in the big round fabric displays. We still attend the Sew Expo every year together and thanks to the magic of Skype and Facetime we now can sew (or cook) together anytime.

    My second inspiration was you Nancy. I lived across the country from my mother most of my life and in those days we did not have video so I watched you, every Saturday morning, you helped teach me to sew and I am ever grateful.

  • Judith
    August 9, 2012

    What a great story about your G’ma and what a wonderful legacy she left you. My mother taught me to hand sew, first, and then to sew on a machine. I am old enough in that ‘Home Ec.’ was a required course for girls in jr. high. I am thankful for all those sewing women who have gone before me and all that I have learned from them.

  • Janice M. Cochran
    August 9, 2012

    My mother died when I was 11 years old, but I have vivid memories of her sewing and handwork. She always worked on a crocheted bedspread, as well as embroidered tea towels, pillowcases, etc., crocheted dresser scarves — I could go on forever. I have snapshots of Mother and me in the mother/daughter dresses which she made on her Singer sewing machine. Those things which she made, the memories she made, are very precious to me, so I am now working on some memories for my children and grandchildren, hoping they will be precious to them. Nancy, thank you for your invaluable help, making memories.

  • Sharon Blaylock
    August 9, 2012

    I learned to sew on my mother’s old pedal Singer. My mother was a seamstress and made all of her children’s ( five daughters and 2 sons) clothing. I remember dresses and coats that she made for me. She was also a quilter, but I don’t remember her doing quilting as much as sewing.l I remember when she got her electric Pfaff and it sewed with a zizgag stitch!! The pedal was on the side of the machine instead of the floor. It also was in a cabinet like Nancy’s grandmother’s machine. Both of those machines are long gone but I have good memories of sewing on both of them as a young girl.

  • Diane
    August 9, 2012

    My sewing came about because of a wonderful mother of my best friend growing up and still today. Irma Ilderton had 5 children and made their clothes on an old Singer pedal sewing machine. When her husband bought her an electric machine, she put the old machine in the playhouse outside for us to play with. We made lots of doll clothes and sold them to our friends. What fun we had with that machine. But it instilled in both of us the love of sewing and after 62 years, we both still love to sew and quilt. My Mom never sewed, except by hand so this was like heaven to me. I will always be grateful for her inspiration.

  • Janice King
    August 9, 2012

    My dear grandmother taught me to sew. Also, her oldest daughter, my aunt Leola, helped. My mother never caught the bug…ha! My grandmother would “take in sewing” to support her family. Folks would bring her a picture out of a magazine and she would make their dresses. She made all her own clothes and mine when I was younger. When my children came along, she advised me when making their clothes, and using the scraps for quilts, which I still have.

    What blessing it is to be able to look at a quilt or leftover dress from long ago and know how much love was put into it just for us. Warm fuzzies….

  • Shirley Covert
    August 9, 2012

    I was taught to sew by me sister who is 23 years older than me and now living with alzheimer’s. She received her education in a girl’s boarding school from 9th through 12th grade and she used that education throughout her life. I appreciate her so much for bring this passion to my life.

  • Linda M.
    August 9, 2012

    My Mom was my inspiration too. She sewed for all of us (6 girls and 5 boys) making matching holiday dresses for us all, almost every year for Easter and Christmas. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the “bug” until I was about 21 years old, married, and wanted to make some dresses for myself. At that point, I bought a used Singer machine just like my Mom’s. However, mine was not very good, so my husband bought me a new Golden Touch and Sew machine that I had for years. I took lots of lessons, even making a pair of men’s dress pants once! And when I had two daughters of my own, I also sewed most of their clothes when they were young. Now I have moved on to Bernina machines doing embroidery and quilting, and love doing both. I think I have taped every Sewing With Nancy show over the years, and bought quite a few of the booklets that went with them. They make great reference materials. I hope someday to pass on my love of sewing to any grandchildren that come along. Thanks for all the memories, Nancy! I hope you continue to teach us for a long time to come.

  • Judy
    August 9, 2012

    My Mother taught me to sew at a very early age. She was a great seamstress and a wonderful inspiration. By the time I was 8, I was allowed to use her old (1940’s era) Singer electric sewing machine that was very similar to the one pictured in your blog. I would have to stand while sewing on the machine in order to reach the pedal and the machine sewing surface at the same time. I was inspired to make clothes for my Barbie and Midge dolls after receiving a beautiful Barbie doll gown sewn by my mother. Later, I made my wedding dress on that machine! I continue to have a passion for making doll clothes, particularly for Barbie dolls, though now also enjoy making quilts as well.

  • Sandy Yavor
    August 10, 2012

    My mother had a sewing maching that had a knee pedal. When I was about 5 I was allowed to sit under the machine and work the knee pedal while she guided the fabric. Looking back I think that must have taken a lot of patience on her part! I made almost all my clothes during my teen years and designed and sewed by wedding gown and those of my attendants. Haven’t done clothing sewing for awhile, but I enjoy quilting. Thanks for sharing your story to help us remember ours.

  • Gloria
    August 10, 2012

    My grandmother adopted my brother and me when we were very young. She had a teadle sewing machine and I sewed on it. My cousin has one of her machines and it is mine when I can find a way to make the trip to pick it up. I remember how my grandmother quilted on wooden frames. I have a crazy quilt that she made many years ago. She passed away in 1967 and I wish I could tell her how much I appreciate all the sacrifices she made for me.

  • Linda
    August 10, 2012

    My mother sewed some and I had sewing in HomeEc but I wasn’t very interested in sewing until it was time for my oldest daughter to start school. My parents gave me an inexpensive sewing machine and my mother-in-law gave me a sewing book and some fabric. Before the three girls of ours left home, I had made everything from their panties to their wedding dresses. I loved sewing for the grandchildren, too; but now that they are all grown, I make and sell useable fabric items at craft shows. One of my daughters makes clothing and one quilts. Even one of my grand-daughters has used sewing to express her creativity. My sewing has kept me busy and entertained the last 5 years while I’ve been on dialysis and I am always inspired by you, Nancy, your show and even you catalog makes me want to try new projects and keep sewing.

  • Paula Knight Bradshaw
    August 10, 2012

    I really don’t know who inspired me. My mother was a single parent so she didn’t have much time to sew. I do remember in high school I begged her to make this one dress. I loved it. I didn take sewing in homemaking class in 9th grade. It was a gathered skirt and my teach had to finish it. It wasn’t until after I married that I took a 6 weeks sewing course at a Singer store and I was hooked. I made a lot of dress (1965) for my self, those little shifts, the called them. No zipper and no sleeve and strait lines. I eventually bought an Elna Super (which I still have today and is still humming) and made a sport coat for my husband and a suit for my dad. YOu have to really love them alot to do that. Then when my daughter came along, she didn’t have anything store bought until they started wearing jeans (1st grade, Jordache. Back in ’73 a neighbor and I visited my grandmother Branam and she gave us lessons on quilting. She would tend her flowers and her garden in the summer and quilt during the winter. She had wooden frames and ladder back chairs and she didn’t believe in rolling it up so she mounted to the ceiling and it hung on the ceiling until she was ready to get back to it. I cherish that time I spent with her. Since then, sewing has been my therapy. Now I’m retired and have a sewing room all my own, just as I dreamed of all my later years and I have a fancy babylock ellageo to play with (and my wonderful Elna).

  • Sallie Sirhal
    August 10, 2012

    As a child, I spent a lot of time with my maternal great grandmother, who taught me to sew on a treadle machine. I received a sewing machine as my high school graduation gift in 1965 and made a half dozen jumpers — paired with turtlenecks they became my weekday uniforms at college — no ironing with turlenecks! Never stopped sewing and after raising three boys am enjoying a new granddaughter — and entering a world of ruffled onesies, headbands and smocked and appliqued dresses! Her mother sews, too — so the tradition carries on!

  • Vicky Douglas
    August 11, 2012

    My mom was my sewing teacher and inspiration. My brother had shirts made from feed sacks and Dan River fabrics. His friends would have their mothers ask where he got his shirts. At first she was embarrassed to tell them, she had made them. They would ask if she could make them for their sons. Those boys ended up wearing my brother’s shirts as he out grew them. I don’t remember a store bought outfit until I was six. I know I had some, but they were usually hand-me-downs from friends and I loved them, but Mom’s handmade were the best. I can remember Mom sitting at the treadle machine and sewing for hours on rainy days. I still have the Atlas machine she bought at Moye’s Sewing Center in Savannah, GA when I was five or six. Both machines still work. Mom is gone now and I miss her so much. I am still sewing….

  • Cindy Million
    August 23, 2012

    I stumbled across this quite by accident.I have read all the post about “our sewing heritage” and it brought back so many wonderful memories,so many that I haven’t visited in such a long time..THANK YOU
    My precious grandmother taught me to sew.My mom is a whiz but does not pursue the hobby any longer,I’m not real sure why..
    My first lesson was for a badge I needed to earn in Girl Scouts,you got, it a sewing badge. My grandmother was TRILLED…she claimed what a simple and EASY dress they had for us to make..she let me dig through the piles and piles of stored fabric she had stashed,and when I settled on my choice the adventure began. You must first understand my Grandmother had the patience of JOB…The dress was a simple wrap around style…no matter what she tried and the million’s of encouraging hugs she gave me,I just could not GET IT..I had NO patients…I didn’t want to “pin” the pattern,what a waste of time just hold it as you go,as for transferring marks and making notches…armature stuff…so
    13 knotted up bobbins,6 broken needles and 4 days later it was time to model the master piece…mind you by the 2nd hour into this project I had asked my grandmother to”let me do it myself” and gracefully but I am sure with GREAT relief she bowed out…after 30 mins of trying to get the dress on I burst into tears as I walked into the living room where my family anxiously waited,none could hold back the snickers and giggles,but there sat my grandmother in her chair beaming from ear to ear and EXCLAIMED HUSH I am sure she meant for this darling dress to have THREE ARM HOLES….Thankfully she helped me to fix it and I acquired my badge vowing NEVER to even thread a needle again…Then I became a wife,mom and home maker…the inherited desire to create began to grow inside me,but but most precious grandma was gone…but I forged ahead and miraculously as I struggled to learn, EVERY SINGLE LESSON she ever TRIED to teach, every technique I ignored somehow filled my heart and I could almost here her telling what she tried so very many years ago to share..she is with me every time I walk in my sewing room and sit to create, I wish with ALL my heart she could be here to see the beautiful dresses I have created for her grandaughters and great grand daughters as well as all the other projects that are ALL due to the love she planted in my heart.
    I LOVE to sew and machine embroider
    Thanks for letting me share My story.

  • Barbara Palmatier
    September 9, 2012

    Where do I begin? Well when I was a child my English grandmother could knit without watching what she was doing. I was so impressed and about 4 years old. She was like a machine. She never looked at what she was doing and knitted like crazy. Then once she came to visit and she had made me that prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep” in little x’s it looked to me and a small girl on her knees praying. She said it was very special and it was behind glass. I was not to touch it. Well as soon as her back was turned I picked it up and of course it slipped out of my hands and the glass broke. She was mad as a wet hen and swore she would never make me anything again. Not one of my better memories, but a strong one.
    Then there was my Aunt Barbie in N.J. Who I always loved dearly and still do. She use to whip up a skirt in an afternoon. I was very impressed with her. Anything she did made an impression on me. She was very pretty and slender and things she made just looked great on her.
    Of my mother I can say she tought me to hand sew very well. We did not have a sewing machine. My fondest memories of her was trying to mend sox on a wooden egg by hand. Times where tough after my father left us and every penny counted.
    As for me, in 7th grade we had to make a bouse which consisted of a square with two slits for the arms and another one for the neckline, then of course a hem. In 8th grade we had to make a skirt, with a zipper, ” OH NO” and belt loops and everything. I never thought I would survive the task. During those two years we had to learn how to use a sewing machine too. Whew.
    I had made a lot of Barbie doll clothes as a child, money was tight so I had to. But sewing with a machine was different.
    In high school I took one year of sewing and that is were the sewing bug really hit me. I realized i could not only make myself clothes , but pretty ones at that. As a child growing up with a master pie maker as a father, we all tended to put on a lot of weight. We where my father’s test subjects . So buying clothes to fit me that where pretty was out of question. Everything was dark and drab. Now I realized I could pick out a pattern and the material did not have to be drab or something you would wear to a funeral. I had all those bright and pretty materials to pick from. It was just wonderful. I begged my mother to buy us a sewing machine. She said she would have to take the free lessons that came with the machine and then she took an adult education class in the evenings. Her heart was just not in it, but she went anyway. Well she stared to. One night she came out of class and put the box with all her sewing accessories and pattern and cut out skirt on the roof of the car, while she put the sewing machine in the back seat. Well guess what she did then? Yup she pulled out of the parking lot with the box still up there and all her things went flying. She did not notice until she got home. We went back with flashlights scanning the road for pins and needles, pattern pieces, material, sissors that where her mother’s (You remember the story about my grandmother right??? The pressure was on!). What a mess. Cars had run over everything. We found most of it in the ditches. Well that ended her sewing career.
    When she got home she was not pleased to say the least . She told me that machine better not sit there for a year without you using it. Gulp. Well guess what happened…it sat there for a year. But then I started sewing at 17 and have not stopped sewing yet. What got me going was a real pretty material…I just had to do something with it. I even made my wedding gown. Two layers and my veil. I have made clothes for all my family members. I even made a tent from the olden days so my husband could do reinactments of 1800’s . Primative campng they call it. I sewed his outfits too. One I sewed by hand and one lady who made clothing by machine to sell, could not believe I made it by hand. She said the stitches where so even. I guess making all those Barbie doll clothes payed off.

  • Harriet McCutcheon
    November 24, 2012

    I started sewing when I was about 9 years old. And been sewing ever since. Having 3 girls kept me busy. And now I teach the woman at our church. we are called the morning glory girls. I Have 3 Bernina,630,1230,and serger plus I have a elna. now i asked for a BSR foot for xmas. I will be 71 years old and don”t expect to stop. I never miss your show HARRIET MCCUTCHEON

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