The aim of this article is to address the question: “Is the art of sewing dying?”
The problem with this question is that it might be somewhat vague. It could, or perhaps should, be two questions. One being “is sewing, as an art form, dying?” and the other being “is it as necessary to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of sewing as it once was?”
The answer to both would essentially be no. Regarding the first question, sewing, as an art form, is still alive and well. The answer to the second is no; today’s average person would likely get by without knowing how to sew a stitch.
Professional seamstress Shannon Curran of Sew What?! Sewing Company in Fergus estimates that there are roughly 50 percent less people actually sewing than there were 20 to 30 years ago. “Today, it seems to be seen more as a hobby and less as a domestic skill.”
Besides offering a range of affordable alterations, Sew What?! Sewing Company also provides custom made special occasion garments catering to the client’s specific tastes.
In other words, there is still a demand for what is unique and eclectic in this increasingly assembly-line, throw-away world. Sewing, in an artistic sense, caters to this niche.
Referring to the second question, the author of this article can cite examples of why the importance of sewing, as a necessary domestic function, has waned.
For a long time, his ideal pant size has been a 36-inch waist and a 30-inch inseam. At one time, it was difficult for him to find this particular combination at the store. For some reason, 32 inches was the minimum inseam that corresponded with a 36-inch waist, and he needed to hem the legs two inches to fit.
As well, the cost of buying a new shirt compelled him to sew up a slight tear in his old one.
Nowadays, that 36 and 30-inch combo is common in store bins and, with so many clothes being manufactured off shore, the cost of replacing a damaged shirt is not nearly as daunting as it once was.
It must be noted, however, that the author’s fashion sense can be summarized in one word…Bland. This fellow is borderline awestruck by the variety of clothes at the big box stores and he actually has a drawer full of black socks. (Patterned Argyle socks are just too darned ornate).
Fortunately, there are many who don’t share his dreary wardrobe choices and they include most young people. When it comes to envisioning what clothes suit them, they don’t want to reproduce something from just any store. They want something that is unique to them.
That might be what makes the “art” of sewing a beneficial talent to have. It gives its practitioners the ability to extract their own personal uniqueness and apply it to the world around them.
This is something Shannon agrees with when she points out that folks “sometimes can’t find exactly what they’re looking for.”
As for repairs and alterations to existing garments, she adds that “a lot of people place sentimental value” in certain clothing items and are loath to discard them. They would prefer to have them fixed or rejuvenated.
Another sign that the art of sewing is holding its own is the fact that a lot of craft superstores include sewing machines in their product lines.
Alas, one cannot properly discuss the viability of sewing without factoring in the cost of it and the time required. Shannon says fabric costs have risen to a point where they might discourage some people. In addition, she figures that a skilled sewer would still need four to five hours to make a blouse.
It can be easily argued, though, that the cost of practically all hobbies and/or pastimes is going up. Which sewing machine is most suitable depends on your skill level and budget. Before buying a sewing machine, assess your needs and skills.
A few hundred dollars buys a good, basic sewing machine that can handle most clothing and craft projects or quilting. Spending even more gets you additional automated functions, while a top-of-the-line machine can cost thousands.
The best part of the high-cost one is that it will produce professional-quality designs and you don’t even need to know how to sew. Then again, where is the fun in that?
A less expensive mechanical model should be fine if you’re an occasional sewer or on a budget. They require you to manipulate most controls by hand and can handle the basic repairs, hems, simple clothing, and craft projects. If you sew frequently or can spend more, an electronic model can be a worthwhile investment. These shift many tedious sewing jobs from your hands to computer chips. A typical machine offers touchpad controls, LED screen, an array of presser feet for challenges such as piping and topstitching, and settings for dozens or even hundreds of stitch types.
Then there are embroidery/sewing machines that not only have the features and options found in an elaborate electronic machine, they also provide the ability to do monogramming and embroidery for projects such as garments, bedspreads, and pillowcases.
The sewing machine was once a necessary tool in most households, however, its role has changed over the years into a way to show your creativity. I think it’s safe to say that it won’t be joining the abacus or hourglass as a relic of history just yet.
“I belong to a facebook group on the subject,” says Shannon. “You would be surprised at how many people are warming up to the thought of learning to sew.
Written by: Dan Pelton