Who Taught You to Sew?

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Who Taught You to Sew?

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Whether you consider yourself a sewist, quilter, or embroidery enthusiast, in my mind you sew. After all, you use a sewing machine! So when I ask, “Who taught you to sew?” the field of creativity is broad.

My story is common among young girls growing up in rural mid-America during the 50’s and 60’s. The 4-H club was my introduction to the art of sewing, actual the 4-H project was called clothing, not sewing. The first year the projects were, hmm, a gathered skirt and a fringed scarf. Never mind that I never used the scarf and only wore the skirt to the 4-H style show, the important part was that I got bit by the sewing bug.

You might wonder if I remember the name of my 4-H leader. It would be impossible to forget, it was my mom. Starting at the age of 10, ending at age 18, mom taught 6-8 eager kids to sew. Starting in the spring, we chose our project or projects to be completed in late August in time for the county fair.

In the early years we all made the same outfit. Year two, reversible, yes reversible jumpers were the suggested project. Mom was never one to set the bar too low.

Sewing gave me confidence. Confidence that was sorely needed by a young girl with a facial paralysis and unruly blonde curls—mom also believed in Home Hair Perms at least twice a year. Even though back then I wanted to blend into the background (notice where I’m standing in the photo), these learned sewing skills were a springboard to a creative outlet and eventual career. What a great gift my mom gave me!

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Valerie, Vicki, Peggy, Beth, and Nancy—all wearing reversible jumpers.


Who taught you to sew? Please share your story. We’ll choose a random posting, sending you a trio of Sewing With Nancy videos: Sew with Confidence, Quilt with Confidence, and Machine Embroidery with Confidence. Why those videos? The answer: so you can teach someone else to sew!

Bye for now,

Nancy Zieman Signature


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  • Christine Martinson
    July 5, 2011

    Who taught me to sew??? Umm, I think it was a combination. I watched my Mom sew and decided I would try at the age of about 4. Mom only allowed me to use a needle and thread at that age. My dolls always had clothes. Somewhere along the way I started using scissors and whenever she needed them would ask me where they were. She said I was the one who always had them. My Grandmother started teaching me to make a quilt when I was old enough for my feet to touch the treadle machine plate and still be able to steady the material. I remember getting angry when I would go too fast and the thread would end up breaking because I lost the rhythm. Aw, memories.

  • Peg Yates
    July 5, 2011

    My grandmother taught me. The same story as your’s, as my grandma was a 4-H leader. The White Cottage Happy Homemakers. I was not a part of the group, but she had me stay overnight with her on a Friday, and Saturday morning, we got up and made a jumper for me. It was an uneven plaid, and it matched EVERYwhere. it had a top yoke, and a pleat down the front. Every seam matched the plaid, not only horizontally, but where they met on the sides because the jumper had a slight flair. Each line of the weave met on point, like the letter A. It ruined me for buying plaids off the rack, because that was the first thing I looked at, and they never matched.

    She too, set the bar high for me for a first project, but we did it together. We also made Barbie Doll clothes, and she actually saved my life. I had taken a thimble off of my finger with my teeth, and when I breathed in to say something, it went down my throat, blocking my air. I ran into the dining room, pointing at my mouth, and slick as anything, she put her index and middle fingers in my mouth and pulled it out. I was weak and crying with gratitude, and no-nonsense grandma said, “You’re okay, go back and finish what you were doing.” I loved her.

  • Kuby
    July 5, 2011

    A few of my friends Mom used to sew and I really wanted to learn. My mom couldn’t understand it but did have a friend of hers give me a few lessons. I got my first sewing machine when I was 13. i mostly learned to sew from reading the pattern directions although I did have lots of frustration and ripped up garments. After college I became more and more passionate about sewing and read every magazine and publication I could find. (Remember when Sew News was just a newspaper?)

  • Marisa
    July 5, 2011

    I learned in Freshman year of high school. Mrs. Colletti was the teacher. I think of her every time I sew. She always emphasized that the pattern placement, pinning and cutting was just as important as the sewing. Of course all I wanted to do was sew but over time I realized how the end result of your project relies on those rules.

  • Jean Bradford
    July 5, 2011

    My mother started teaching me when I was 7, and was home sick for a few days. She showed me how to hand-sew some doll clothes. But the bug didn’t really bite me till Home Ec in 8th grade. I was the only person in my class that loved to sew, and hated to cook (nothing has changed!) They called me “Lead Foot”. When I realized I could make clothes for myself (since I couldn’t buy any in those days), I was hooked! Now it’s my creative juices that keep me flowing!

  • Abiga/Karen
    July 5, 2011

    My mom inspired me to sew by her example but did not actually teach me. When I admired my richer cousin’s outfits my mom bought patterns and material and started sewing them for me. They turned out beautiful even though I was embarrassed. No one wore homemade outfits in my class. Previously she had never sewn anything before but only had a machine for mending holes in clothes. Years later I decided I could sew if I tried so I basically took a couple classes and learned on my own for all the rest.

  • Karen Adams
    July 5, 2011

    I learned to sew in 7th grade. My junior high school home economics teacher, Mrs. Justice taught me. It was 1957, and we used the old Singer treadle machines. Mrs. Justice was a perfectionist and we all had to stitch on paper without thread in our needles to make sure we could follow a straight line. I remember being impatient to create something to wear but Mrs. Justice’s strong, basics have served me well. My first item was an apron for my mother. Then a blue jumper. Sadly, I don’t think I ever wore the jumper. My parents bought me my own sewing machine when I was 14. It was a portable but so heavy, I could barely move it. I sewed outfits through high school. In my early 20’s, I made clothing for my 3 children and all my maternity clothes. I can still hear Mrs. Justice’s instructions in my mind. Her words slow me down and remind me to carefully stitch something so I won’t have to rip it out. During the late 60’s-90’s, I had a busy career and and a growing family, so my sewing machine sat in a closet. Then in the late 90’s, I bought a new one and started sewing maternity clothes for my daughter. Now I am ready for a new machine as I am quilting, creating totes and wall hangings. My granddaughter is 12 and seems interested in learning. I hope to keep the love of sewing and creating alive through her. For me, personally, I get such a positive, satisfied feeling from sewing. Some 50 years later, the lessons I learned as a young girl are still incredible gifts.

  • Linda
    July 5, 2011

    My mom taught me to sew. I began sewing at age 9, but I had watched her sew from my infancy so it was a very natural part of life and still is.  She was the 4-H clothing leader. The first year I made an apron with big pockets and a tea towel and I modeled it at the fashion show  in the spring. It was exciting to see the older girls model the formal prom dresses they had made. That was in the late 50’s so they were full skirted and beautiful.
    I think my 22 year old daughter has a little of the bug, and I sew with my 10 year old granddaughter when we can get together.

  • Celeste
    July 5, 2011

    My grandma taught me to sew. She would make most of our clothes as we were growing up. Summers my sister, my cousin and I would spend or week or so at my grandparent’s house. I would sew away on grandma’s machine using the scraps she left in one drawer. My sister and cousin had no interest and they would draw usually while I sewed. Then I took lessons in high school and have been taking classes ever since. Now I share my love of sewing with neighborhood children. I taught my three children how to sew but none of them really cared for it. This past school year two of my students, sisters, made all the costumes for their school play with a little assist from some other girls. These are middle school girls. I am so proud of them and all my students.

  • Marcia Spencer
    July 5, 2011

    I taught myself to sew on my mother’s machine.  My mom taught me how to thread her Free Westinghouse sewing machine at around age 7 or 8 and I took it from there.  I made curtains for my Barbie doll’s house, and many, many sleeveless sheaths for Barbie.  (Tube dresses!)  I added rickrack or lace, varied the fabric and length and made matching purses as well!  Today, I sew home decor, a few clothing items, gifts and quilts!  Sewing provides me relaxation from working two jobs!

  • Diane Goshorn
    July 5, 2011

    I had to laugh at the mention of the gathered skirt and fringed scarf.  My skirt was a horrid shade of olive green with some kind of small design.  I wore it to the judging and never again!  I learned how to sew from how-to book and Nancy, I have learned so much from watching your show.  Now, I’m teaching my young daughter how to sew her 4-H project and I’m her 4-H leader.  I hope that she will be bitten by the sewing bug as I was at her age.

  • Rebecca Henderson
    July 5, 2011

    I watched my mother sewing as I was growing up but did not really learn to sew until 8th grade when I took my only year of Home Economics at school. That was all it took – I was off and running and it wasn’t long before I passed up my mother’s skills. Or at least that is what she told me – “you are so much better at this than me!” LOL

  • Karin
    July 5, 2011

    Wow – nuthin’ like a trip down memory lane!  I’d forgotten all about her, but reading your post conjured up the image of Miss Denlinger, 7th grade home ec teacher, stern & strict as all get out.  I can remember her shushing my girlfriend & my silly giggles as we had fun stitching and cutting.  I remember my girlfriend cutting off the tip of my finger (yes, on a dare), and bleeding all over her IVORY wide wale courduroy.  Oh, gosh, we couldn’t stop laughing at that one, no matter how hard Miss D tried to make us quiet!  It’s a wonder I came outta that class even alive, but somehow, sewing has stuck with me through the years & it’s been the one thing I do consistently well….probably because at some point, the idea of being able to express myself creatively just couldn’t be stifled!

  • Frances
    July 5, 2011

    I remember watching my maternal grandmother sew, but she didn’t really have me do much. My paternal grandmother, although she sewed I don’t recall every seeing her do so, did lots of knitting, using a knitting machine. My mother only did mending and some altering of my dad’s shirts; she absolutely did NOT like sewing! In very early 1969, as I was finishing up 8th grade in a private school, my parents bought a Singer slant needle machine. They sent me to the owners classes, and to a 6-weeks learn-to-sew class. We had to select a blouse pattern and a skirt pattern with a zipper, *and* we had to line them. I made a lovely white blouse and a dirndl skirt, both cotton and lined in cotton. Living in central Texas, I rarely wore them as it didn’t get cold enough often enough. I spent that summer sewing so that I’d have clothes to wear went I started public high school. I only took one Home Ec. class, something about family living, and made my first formal for my project. I used a Vogue pattern and a gorgeous brocade. I was docked a few points for not using hem tape/lace, even though you couldn’t see my hand stitches! Sewing has been my main hobby ever since. I may leave it for a while, but I always come back.

  • Sue Callaghan
    July 5, 2011

    I grew up when Home Economics was being taught as sewing and cooking to girls… lucky for me as I had watched both my grandmothers sew many lovely things. So by 12 years old in grade 7 I was delighted to learn to sew for myself. Our first project was an apron. We used gingham fabric which of course made for easy measure, cutting and straight sewing. I will say I never looked back! Because of my enthusiasm my parents willingly bought me a very basic sewing machine. That was almost 4 years ago and now sewing is definitely my big passion!!

  • Rose Schroeder
    July 5, 2011

    Mom used to make most of our clothes on her Singer treadle; I would watch & think how neat. So I started making clothes for the Barbie doll, no pattern at first. Mom helped us get a pattern, two friends & I made skirts, it was really satisfying even if they were out of hideous fabric. I still have mine. I can’t say she taught me to sew, but gave me the tools to learn which included my first sewing machine. I started with Barbie clothes and went on to sewing baby clothing – full length lined jackets – men’s & women’s fully lined suits. It’s been a slow go but presently working towards being certified to teach my passion to others.  

  • Debbie
    July 5, 2011

    My mother was an excellent seamstress, making most of my clothes when I was young. My oldest sister became a Home Ec teacher, so between the two of them and my grandmother it was a natural thing to sew. I learned to quilt from my grandmother, I learned garment sewing from my sister and my mother. I have now taught my four daughters to sew using the same methods my mother and sister used for me! My granddaughters are now showing an interest and when my granddaughter Olivia turns six she is expecting a sewing machine for her birthday!

  • Donna C.
    July 5, 2011

    I first became interested in sewing while taking Home-Ec classes in the 6th & 7th grades (this was in the public school system).  We did all of those same beginner projects as everyone else in various types of beginner sewing class … the gathered skirt, the jumper, the apron, the pillow!  I managed to talk my Dad into buying me a second-hand sewing machine from a woman that he worked with, and then basically taught myself to sew more complicated things by using books (we didn’t yet have videos back then in the 70’s!).  I actually never again took a formal sewing class until I was well into my late 20’s.  I have many, many great memories of learning to sew.

  • Susan S
    July 5, 2011

    My grandma taught me the basics of the treadle sewing machine at age 8, my dad’s Aunt Mary gave me my first garment pattern AND the fabric from her very own stash when I was a teen, and helped me cut it out and sew it.  But the sewing “bite” came from a neighbor named Isabel Williams.  She only had sons but she sewed jackets and coats for them and outfits for herself.  She introduced me to fine fabrics and I learned about creativity and fashion by watching her choose her projects.  I fell in love with gray wool she had for a skirt and I was a goner!  Thanks to all three ladies for the germs… 

  • Sharon
    July 5, 2011

    Yes, I was another 4-H Clothing kid. My skirt was red and I also remember dress revue and the country fair style show. My sewing teacher had a treadle machine that we all learned on (and then went home to our electric models). Can you just imagine trying to coordinate your hands and your feet on your first lesson? Maybe it was just a introduction to machine quilting, which I now enjoy.

  • Mary H
    July 5, 2011

    Starting with Dad at age 6.  Dad was a sewing machine mechanic at a sewing factory in a small Illinois town.  He began selling Pfaff 230 sewing machines and I got to demonstatre it at the annual town homecoming.  So easy a child could use it!  And all those fancy stitches.  At the time it was a very fancy machine.  Then Brownies and 4-H and Home Ec in HS under the watchful eyes of my mother and grandmother.  Lots of seam ripping in those early days.  That machine dressed me and my sisters for proms and school plays as well as graduations.  My sisters and me all have great memories of those days and the magic of of creating a new outfit from a bit of cloth.

  • Christina Lawson
    July 5, 2011

    Well, my mother didn’t really physically teach me how to sew. I really learned to sew by watching her from birth. My earliest memories of my mother are of watching her at the sewing machine threading a needle, stitching a seam, cutting the thread and then moving over to the ironing board to press the seam open and “steam” out any wrinkles. Another memory is waking up really early to find her watching “Sewing With Nancy” on PBS. To me, she could (and still can) walk on water when it comes to sewing.   

    My first foray into sewing was sewing random buttons onto a scrap piece of fabric, which I had learned to do just by watching her. It wasn’t until three years ago when I was 18 that I decided to actually sit down to a machine and sew. I had learned all about patterns for knits and wovens, sizing, yardage, fabric drape and handling, and needle sizes from taking an interest in going to the fabric store with her on the weekends. I suppose I was a little ahead of the game as far as beginner seamstresses are concerned. My only problem, as silly as it was, was bringing the bobbin thread up to the surface of the machine! For some reason, it took me 18 years to figure that out. But other than that, all I did to learn how to sew was copy my mother step-by-step.

    Now, I consider myself a rather advanced sewist. I’ll tackle just about any project and I have a preference for vintage patterns and other projects that involve a large number of small pieces and very detailed instructions. I’m also now very adept at solving fitting problems and often teach my mother, who I consider the consummate sewing expert, a thing or two about making your clothes fit perfectly.  

  • LindaC
    July 5, 2011

    I learned to sew in 7th grade. We made aprons and jumpers with zippers. I hated that jumper. But on my own I decided to sew a pair of pants. No one told me it would be difficult, and those pants fit wonderfully. I still have the pattern, although it wouldn’t fit now. 🙂 No family members sewed, so I just carried on by myself until I was in my 20’s and decided to take a class at the local community college. That’s when I learned about fit and proper techniques. My daughter-in-law recently expressed an interest in sewing and I would love to gift her the prize videos.

  • Lynn
    July 5, 2011

    My Mom had a Sears Kenmore sewing machine with “cams” (?) and she would occasionally make clothes and doll clothes for me and my brothers. This is the sewing machine I learned on. My grandmother made some really fabulous, detailed clothes for my Barbie that I still have and cherish.
    I didn’t really get the bug until the home ec classes in high school. Sewing new clothes for myself because I couldn’t afford to buy them. And you know how a high school girl loves new clothes. I actually got a self esteem boost from the compliments I received.
    This led me to attend Stout State University to major in home economics. Later I realized sewing was a better avocation than career for me and I moved on to a health education major. But always continued to sew for myself and others and to learn new techniques from books classes and workshops.
    Now retired, I have so much more time to devote to sewing and quilting and cannot be happier. I hope to be able to find someplace to be able to introduce someone else to this practical, creative, lifelong skill.

  • Diane
    July 5, 2011

    Who taught me to sew?  I think my Mom inspired me.  I doubt I will be as talented as she was, but everytime I try something new, or use one of my computerized machines, I know she’s watching with an amazed expression!  And when I feel stuck, I ask her to help, and I’m sure she does just that!  Thanks for everything Mom!  My prom dresses, wedding gown and pretty clothes for school!

  • Missy
    July 5, 2011

    A friend at church taught me how to sew!  I am 37 yrs old and only knew how to hand sew hems a slits until two years ago when a friend (who is ten years younger) started teaching me how to sew.  I love sewing now!

  • Jen in Oz
    July 5, 2011

    My mother taught my older sister to sew, but by the time I was old enough to learn, she had returned to work and didn’t really have time to spend teaching me. I remember spending numerous school holidays practising sewing straight lines – tea towel hems and pillow cases mostly. Then when I was about 10 or 12 (I guess) I got sick of sewing straight lines and did the very first assertive thing I remember doing – I found a holiday sewing class and got the details and told Mum I wanted to do that during the school holidays. She signed me up for it, and I think we learned how to draft a pattern for a blouse and a skirt for ourselves. I remember the shop we bought the fabric in, and I remember Mum complaining that they didn’t emphasise cutting loose threads and FINISHING the work (I’m still lazy that way!) but I came home with a striped denim–blue and yellow blouse and made a matching yellow skirt to go with it. (I have a vague feeling the skirt may have been from a commercial pattern though.)
    30 years later, I sew more than my older sister. My younger sister never learned to use the machine, and my daughter (sadly) takes my sewing ability for granted. She’s 16 and not interested in learning to sew in the slightest, and expects me to be able to make things for her when she comes up with the designs… but she’d never wear home made, given the choice!
    I look forward to the days when I may be able to teach grandchildren to sew.

  • Vickie
    July 5, 2011

    Grandma always had a stack of Log Cabin pieces she was working on but I never paid any attention other than to think it took a lot more time than I wanted to spend putting all those scraps together for a quilt.  How I wish I had taken more interest because I am now working on my first quilt and could have used her knowledge for color selection, auditioning, etc., let alone batting, quilting and binding techniques!

    I took the usual Home Economics class with Mrs. Farris as the teacher in the early 70’s.  It didn’t go very well; mostly because the dress I made from the pattern didn’t fit.  But–my neighbor, Mrs. Whitby, was a professional seamstress and took pity on my poor, mishap of a dress and showed me how to “fix” it.  I actually wore it!  After that, I would stand for hours watching her construct clothing and be paid to do so.  We started spending a few hours a week sewing tank tops, shorts, and other simple projects.  About six months is all I had with her as she died of cancer shortly after we began.

    I quit sewing after that and didn’t start again until recently when I bought a fabric stash at an estate auction by mistake and decided to make a crazy quilt to honor the lady, Mrs. Zeller, who obviously had a passion for sewing.  I’m loving every minute of it.  My 10 year old granddaughter is beginning to help me select the next piece to place in the block and is now sitting in front of the sewing machine.  Those are memories I will cherish forever.  She now says she wants to be a designer and create couture clothing when she grows up!

  • Judy B
    July 6, 2011

    It is interesting to see this blog, my father was  a private pilot who learned to fly from Wold Chamberlain Field in the early 20’s. He purchased a plane with some of his life insurance money–the consternation of his aunt, but he did it anyway.  When he bought the farm, he had an “air field”, a hay field for a run way and needed a wind sock to determine the direction of the wind. My mother said if he wanted a wind sock, make it himself, so I was watching him struggling with the treadle machine which he did a fine job and then with the electirc New Home that mom thought she had to have.  That began the subtle, and I say subtle?  Anyway, it was not going well so I was given the job of sewing the wind socks after that.  Mom decided that since I could sew straight seams, I could probably do garments also. I have been sewing off and on since then, there are many memories that I wish I could have back, but that is not going to happen.  It is ironic that I could not pass that on to my children or grandchildren, maybe there is hope for the grandkids when they arrive??  Thanks for the opportunity to share my experience.

  • Margaret Schenck
    July 6, 2011

    I can tell you that I learned to sew in 7th grade Home Economics class but I think that’s beine a little too simplistic.  I learned a lot of technique there but I first learned to love the fabric and thread arts watching my mother. She had 10 children so she often made the baby clothes for her newest baby.  She didn’t have patterns, she just laid out the material and started cutting.  She crocheted and embroidered the simple clothes so that each of us had a new and different wardrobe to start life.  I was six when I got a toy sewing kit and nine when I learned to crochet and I soon started cutting and sewing simple items by hand.  By middle school all I needed was to fine tune my efforts and I’ve been sewing ever since.  I remember how proud my daughter was when I took my old maternity tops and recreated them into adorable dresses for her.  I have since taught a number of people to sew and still love it myself. My daughter’s first child will be born in January 2012 and I’m hoping to make my grandbaby’s first outfit with some newly learned heirloom sewing skills.  Hoping to take a class somewhere soon. 

  • Kay
    July 6, 2011

    When we spent the summers at my grandmother’s farm in Northern Michigan, we needed to find ways to entertain ourselves.  My grandmother was an invalid and sat in her chair all day.  I loved sitting with her.  When I was about 7, my mother would took a rectangle of fabric and taught me how to make a hand sewn hem on the long end.  Then she turned it into a doll’s skirt.  In Brownies (my mother was an assistant leader), we embroidered our own design on gingham fabric and then we applied it to an ice cream container to make our own sewing kit.  At 9, my mother determined I was old enough to use the sewing machine.  At that time, she cut a simple Barbie dress.  And I was off!! Sewing has been one of my greatest pleasures ever since.

  • Kay Butterbaugh
    July 6, 2011

    When I was 8 years old, My grandmother was quilting with scraps of fabric left over from projectes that neighbors would pay her to fix (Him drapes, make a shirt short sleaved, when it was long sleaved). when she had enough scraps she would piecce a quilt together. My mother would make all my dresses when I was young, but she didn’t do much at teaching me. I joined 4H when I was old enought, a friends mother was the leader, and again, I learned new techniques from there. In Middle school ( grads 7 – 9 I was in Home Ecconimics and again I learned and built up oy confidence. By the time I was in High school, I did mostely garmet sewing, but loved it. Would play hookie from school at times, both parrents worked, and I would get into my mothers stash, and by the end of the day – I had something started, and almost completed!   In my early 20’s I continued to sew,and learned how to and did alterations of wedding dresses and lined coats. It wasn’t until about 12 years ago, that I taought myself to quilt. I joined a quilting groop, and I love quilting. About 6 years ago I purchased an Embrtidery machine, and an still learning this advancement. I seam to have stabilizer Phobie When learning to quilt, I watched as many of your TV segments, That was great help. I feel everyone should strive to learn something every day, or at keast every week, and be wonderful to pass it along to other!! 

  • Laura Jean Rusin
    July 6, 2011

    My Grandmother (who owned a bridal salon at the time) tried teaching me when I was about 5 years old. I had no patience for my hand sewing, with big ugly crooked stitches, and wanted to work on the machine just like everyone else in the workroom. I was given scraps of the most beautiful fabrics to work with and little handmade patterns for doll clothes. Things went well for the first 6 days and then I ran my finger right into the path of the needle. (Truth be told, I forgot to let go. LOL) I was banned from the workroom after that incident. “After you are older.” Mom Mom said. True to her word, Mom Mom did try to continue teaching me, but I couldn’t even look at the sewing machine without feeling sick for a very long time. I would do simple alterations by hand. Then I happened to see a young woman on PBS who had such an easy confident manner, and bolstered my self-confidence so much I actually sat down at my sewing machine and started to sew. So who taught me to sew? Phyllis DeGironimo & Nancy Zieman, and I love you both for it.

  • Rachel D
    July 6, 2011

    I guess I’d have to say I learned to sew by watching Simply Quilts, Sewing with Nancy (seriously!), Martha’s Sewing Room, and a few other TV shows that came on PBS and HGTV when I was in college.

  • Linda
    July 6, 2011

    What a wonderful question!  When I was younger both my parents had to work.  I was going into 3rd grade that summer and so very bored with staying home with a babysitter.  I didn’t know it then but my grandma noticed my bad mood and decided to pay for sewing lessons for me at our local Singer store.  Every morning for 6 weeks my mom would drop me off at 8:00am and would pick me up at 4:00.  I was the youngest person there and loved it.  I made a turquiose pants suit with a lace up top.  I was so sad when I finally outgrew that outfit.  My sewing was also influenced by both of my grandmas.  I remember sewing with an old black singer with a knee pedle and my other grandma whirring away in the early morning hours while the house was quiet.  I had made a lot of blankets over the years but about 6 years ago discovered the colorful world of quilting.  I just wish I had more time for all the projects I have stored away. 

  • Eleanor DeRoy
    July 6, 2011

    During the Second World War, my aunts would make men’s shirts as the shirts were difficult to buy.  I would sit on their lap, starting when I was 18 months old.  They spoiled me but they taught me the love of sewing and I have helped pass this enthusiasm on to my daughter and my 25 and 21 year old granddaughters!!

  • Sylvia Johnson
    July 6, 2011

    My mother taught me to sew. I remember her taking me to to town to buy material. I was four and I couldn’t even see the fabric table. I had to stand up on my tippy toes. The store was in a dark, little house and the lady who ran the store used to give away small gifts to the children with your fabric purchase.
    Mom would make me feel the material and she would tell me what kind of material it was and how I could use it. We would scrutinize the patterns.
    My mother had one of those black portable Singer machines. It was loud and very, very black. I used to sit on the floor when she was sewing and play with my barbie dolls right under her feet next to the foot control. She would always sew barefoot. To this day I cannot sew with my shoes on. I always take them off before I sew. It gives me the chuckles just thinking about sewing in my bare feet just like mom. She made my school clothes and would use the leftover material to make me clothes for my dolls. I was such a tree climbing tomboy. She liked for me to wear dresses but she always made sure I had a matching pair of shorts under that dress, just in case. I will never forget her handing me that first doll outfit. I had a complete wardrobe for my doll including the wedding dress. Even Ken had his own wardrobe courtesy of mom.
    Mom would have quilting bees in our house. She would put on a huge pot of coffee. The women in the quilting bee would come over with home made cobbler and red velvet cake with white icing. I didn’t know what a quilting bee was at that time but I did learn how to cut templates out of discarded cereal boxes and helped hand sew two quilts. Those quilts got a lot of use.
    Nowadays I can look at a vintage hand sewn quilt and I can tell you how many women worked on it by the difference in the stitches. Every hand sewer has their own unique signature when it comes to hand stitching.
    When I got older I decided to take sewing in Jr. high. I liked it so much I took sewing classes again in high school.
    I made most of my own clothes until I turned 30. I admit I got tired of sewing and moved onto other things. I built dollhouses and started scrap booking. One day I realized that I was working with paper and I wanted to create something that I could wear or use.
    I started sewing again and I now have 2 sergers and 2 sewing machines. I am teaching myself how to sew heirloom items like christening gowns and dresses with lots of lace and batiste. I’m also sewing with natural organic fibers such as hemp and organic cotton muslin. My mother is gone now but whenever I sew I feel very close to her. It is almost like she is in the room with me. I can still hear her voice as she explains how to hand sew a quilt or add a zipper. I can still hear the sound of the motor in her sewing machine. I can still see her holding out just one more barbie outfit for me to try on my doll. I miss her so much but now I think of her when I sew and I feel grateful that I have those memories of her.
    Thank you for allowing me to share these moments with you.

  • Judi Pavlovszky
    July 6, 2011

    In all honesty, I have to say I taught myself.  I watched my Mom sew and knit all through my childhood and she also knew crochet, and embroidery.  As part of a European education these subjects were all taught.  Unfortunately, my Mom was not a teacher, she lacked the time and patience.  And yes I did take the required home ec course in jr. high, hated every minute of it and did not really learn to sew anything, yes, I failed home ec!  But as a teenager, I did hand sew patches on my jeans (the hippie look was in) and did some embroidery with regular sewing thread no less.

    A love of reading and a self sufficient life style got me interested in crafts, crochet, knitting, embroidery and sewing.   My first sewing machine was purchased for mending.  I read the manual  and after mending every thing I could get my hands on started making small, fun projects.  One of my first was a wash mitt made out of an old towel.  Eventually I made Halloween costumes for my daughter, duvet covers, curtains, bridesmaid dresses, my wedding veil, dolls, clothing and quilts.

    I now own a treadle sewing machine, two mechanical machines, two sewing embroidery machines and a serger.  My last sewing project brought me back full circle to my beginning, I had to sew a patch on my favorite pair of riding jeans!

  • Melody Norris
    July 6, 2011

    Who taught me to Sew?
    My Father actually got me into sewing. He had bought my Mother a new Phaff while we were stationed in Germany 1960-1963. Mom did sew a little, but Dad actually knew more about sewing. I watched him make a apron for Mom, and he even used some of the decorative stitches, it was so pretty. He needed some new handkerchiefs, and decided it was time for me to learn. I started out with lined paper & no thread. Then he gave me s square of fabric, and showed me what to do. I haven’t stopped sewing yet.

    I now have a beautiful sewing room, 2 embroidery machines. Renaissance, and Bernina 640. I still have the Phaff that was bought in 1960, and it is still in good working condition. 2 sergers and a Viking 1100.

    I don’t think I will ever quit sewing.

  • Janet
    July 6, 2011

    Although my mother had a machine and sewed for us kids, she did not teach me. I self-taught hand embroidery stitches and always had an embroidery or needlepoint project underway for the next 30 years. I grew up, inherited a tiny Singer and bought a pattern for curtains to replace the dusty tattered ones left my home’s previous owners. When I had my children, I was bitten by The Bug. I eventually opened my own seamstress business out of my house while I was a stay at home mom. I had to teach myself how to do most everything. It took years to refine my skills to where I could tackle almost any project. I invested in a sewing/embroidery machine that I love. I made sure to save swatches of everything I have sewn, and hope to make a quilt from them after I retire from teaching biology and chemistry, my original career. Sewing brings out my creativity and is very therapeutic. I look forward to retirement and jumping in again.

  • Gayle
    July 7, 2011

    We must have been in the same 4-H years. I, too, made the gathered skirt which I wore to the modeling show and until I grew out of it. I took the class with my friend, Donna, and we walked to the leaders house once a week after school. We were in 5th grade. My mother had long been a wonderful seamstress, but I don’t think she had the patience for me. But once I learned how, I sewed quite a bit on my Mom’s Necchi until my parents surprised me with my own Singer at graudation. I took it from there and have been sewing ever since.

    I may not have actually learned the beginning lesson from my Mom, but I sure learned the art of how to make something out of nothing and sew anything from her. She was FEARLESS! Clothing, home decor, costumes and all kinds of gifts. I actually put food on our table during my husband’s last year of college while sewing with my Mom.

    I now make most of our gifts and have decorated my home and that of my married children. My Mom would be proud!!

  • Patti
    July 7, 2011

    I went to a small Catholic school a few blocks from Viterbo College in LaCrosse; at that time it was a women’s Catholic College. I was in 8th grade when one day someone came into our 8th grade class and asked for volunteers. It was near the end of the school year and six of the college students were graduating in Home Ec Ed and they needed six girls to join an after-school sewing class, so the soon-to-be college grads could hone their teaching skills. I eagerly raised my hand and was chosen to go to the twice a week class which I believe last for about six weeks. Like many on this post, my first project was a jumper, in my case a pink striped woven fabric. With each of us students having our own private teacher, we learned thoroughly and well.
    When I got to high school I continued on by taking clothing class and have been sewing ever since. My mother also sewed and helped me when I got stuck. But I think that basic beginner class at Viterbo really got me addicted!  I will always be grateful for the student teachers that needed some 8th grade “guinea pigs” who got me hooked on my still favorite hobby!

  • Judy Danz
    July 7, 2011

    My mom got me started in handwork…  I was a Type-A personality, dedicated 110% to my engineering career. When she found out I was flying across the US several times a week, she sat me down and said I needed something to do with my hands so I could calm down and rel…ax (doesn’t that sound like a mom???). Handwork fit perfectly in a brief case and was a great way to relax on airplanes and kill time in hotels. Crossstitch at first, then hand applique. After being laid off from my engineering job many years ago, I made quilting my new profession, and have never looked back. Bernina got me started with a sewing machine. I fought my first low-end machine (Ricci). When I finally decided to purchase a quality one, I bought a Bernina and attended every sewing and quilting class the shop had. Some 25 years later, I still am attending classes at my local Bernina store, learning even more about sewing.

  • Zane Aldridge
    July 7, 2011

    I remember sewing in high school by the Home Ec teacher. Not only did she teach us to sew but also embroidery, upholstery and quilting. She taught me so many things. I remember the first thing I sewed. We had to take a “field trip” to the fabric store where we pick out our pattern, material and supplies. My first outfit was a navy blue jumper with a white collar and a red scarf. I still have the pattern. I still do not to this day why I picked out something so hard to do. I have worked in sewing factories sewing clothes over the years and still have the “bug”. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  • Mardella Brobst
    July 7, 2011

    My mother always said if she had a daughter she was going to make sure she learned how to sew because Mom had two sisters–one sewed, one cooked and Mom cleaned. She always wanted to sew but never learned. When I was about 8 she signed me up for Singer sewing classes which happened to be taught be two women (a mother-daughter team) from our little town. The Singer store was in a larger town about 5 miles away.

  • Jeanne
    July 7, 2011

    My 2 older sisters, age 16 and 10 when I was born, sewed. Mom said she had daughters so THEY could do the sewing. I watched, very carefully avoiding been caught watching, and by the time I was ten, both sisters were gone and I had the machine to myself. Of course, I also had the motivation of knowing exactly how tight Mom’s budget was – I knew that I would have to either make my own clothes or try to figure out more ways to economize when school started again. Needless to say, I got very good very fast because I was painfully shy and aware that, as the new kid at school, all eyes would be staring at me.

  • Janice Beitz
    July 7, 2011

    My Grandma taught me to hand embroider then Mom let me use her beautiful black Singer electric machine without plugging it in. At six, she was afraid I would sew over my fingers. At eight I wanted a style of dress that she did not like so we bought me a pattern and fabric and I made my own.  By the time I got to eighth grade home ec I was a real “Smarty Pants” and never got along with the teacher because I liked doing things my way not hers. Still do.
    By the way when did we become “sewists” not sewers?

  • Mary Hartman
    July 7, 2011

    Like Nancy, I started sewing in 4-H by making a gathered apron.  I can’t remember who my leader was, but my inspiration was my mother.  She was a talented seamstress who sewed for her children and herself.  When I look at childhood pictures I am almost always in a dress she made for me.  In high school, I was able to improve my skills in Home Economics and because of my teachers, I went on to get a degree in Home Ec.  I’ve been sewing for 42 years now and I love it as much today as when I began!

  • Gina Bickish
    July 8, 2011

    As child, I had the very best clothes…because my great-aunt taught sewing! It was only natural that I notice the extra touches homemade clothes could have.

    Great-aunt Neva had no children, and we three were her sister’s only grandchildren. She taught high school and college home ec, as well as adult education sewing. Some of her former students are still around and have fond memories of her.

    At about age 9, she started me on sewing through 4-H. I must have been a challenge because of my lack of coordination, but she never let on. She didn’t go easy on me, either! She insisted on the highest standards, for which I’m now very thankful.

    Another thing I’m thankful for is that she made sure that homemade clothing was stylish and pretty, even though she was in her mid-to-late seventies when teaching me. She chose lovely fabrics and details that made sewing fun.

    I must also give credit to my grandma, my mom, and my 4-H leader, who all spent time with me on projects. Each of them insisted on quality work, too. I hope sometime to have the opportunity to pass on what was given to me.

  • Sharon
    July 8, 2011

    My Jr Hi Home Ec teacher, Mrs Jacobs, taught me to sew. She got me started in 7th gr, and I went on to take home ec in Hi school too. I was making suits for my dad when I was in Hi school. So, they did a good job teaching me. Now, I make some money doing mending and alterations. It is SO much fun having your job be something you love.

  • Judith
    July 8, 2011

    My mom taught me to sew at around age 5. My first project? An apron. My mom told me to “gather the material with this needle” and I thought she meant to gather ALL of the fabric onto the needle! I have learned much since then but always remember my early sewing lessons. I learned to quilt from my mom also, at the tender age of 7. I continue to quilt today and have made a business of quilting. Thanks Mom!

  • Diane C
    July 8, 2011

    My mom started teaching me to sew and soon realized she did not know enough to be able to teach me to do things correctly. She then sent me to a sewing class at the local Singer store. After about 4-5 different level classes, I entered a contest at the store my dress with the matching stripes came in 2nd. (the first place winner made a winter coat). I continued by taking classes in junior high school. I continue to sew today.

  • Joanie
    July 10, 2011

    My mom taught me to sew when i was in High school and was flunking out of Home Ec I.
    My mom had always sewn our clothes and was very embarassed that I was failing, so she made me sit at her machine at home and showed me how to sew, I was very defiant about using pins.  I thought it was a waste of time until my mom let me have my way and my simple dress didn’t look like a dress, that’s when I learned there was a method to the madness. I eventually passed Home Ec but I never sewed again until I was 44 years old and I haven’t stopped yet.  I really enjoy sewing and wish my mom was still here to teacj me all that she knew.

  • Alice Hennessey
    March 23, 2012

    I started sewing when I was eleven. I can remember the day I was taking all my sewing supplies to school. I was so excited.
    Then in high school. Lake Shore High School in St. Clair Shores, MI in met my favorite Home Economics teacher, Miss Ruth Baumann. She taught me so much, for which I have been grateful all my life. Sewing is a hobby but at times can be therapy, that at times lifts my spirits!

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