The Savvy Sage of Sewing Stimulation

Sewing for Claire

As soon as I get my calendar straightened out, I will do an update on what I’m doing for myself – my take on the Breton Shirt from Hot Patterns, an Ultrasuede jacket in Palm Beach Peach – it’ll be that great orange for spring and summer and a take-off of a Céline top that I saw in Bazaar, part of my work for my upcoming class this summer, “Fashion Sewing: From Runway 2012 to Your Closet”. More on my classes later.

So before the full onslaught of spring starts, I’m in a little retrospective mood these days.  Getting ready for brides and debs makes me a little thoughtful about my philosophy of sewing.

I have long given up the reason I sew is to save money. With the preponderance of imported labor at ridiculously low prices, that is no longer any reality with sewing.  So why sew? …and especially why teach sewing?  What’s the buzz or the plus?  Heaven knows there are nightmare clients and students out there, so what’s the big thrill here?

Entrance to my studio

First I’m lucky in that I haven’t had those nightmare clients or even students.  All of my clients have been direct, stylish and fun to deal with.  My students work hard and their work is beautiful and so creative – the last part I adore most of all – as each garment looks just like them.  They are not cookie-cutter forms, but each student is encouraged to express her own style and fashion.  For some of them this is the first time to do that.

So why sew and teach?  The last few years, I have become more possessed with the fact that my students come to me not to save money, but to learn how to better express themselves and to learn how to better dress themselves so that they can feel the best in their clothes.

Draping my niece's wedding gown

I have become more committed to changing the way people think about sewing.  Sewing used to be a happy-hands-at-home activity that assembled clothes in an adequate way to wear functionally or possibly even formally for the main reason of saving money and being thrifty.  It grew from that to being out of style as a symbol of the old-fashioned “June Cleaver” mom, and certainly not part of the modern “Mary Tyler Moore” model.

Not so today. The people who sew are stylish. They are individualistic.  They are demanding and exacting in their needs, and are sure of themselves to the point that they know exactly what they want and do not need others to tell them.  They know what they look good in and want to make it – usually because they can’t find it.

Plain and simple – sewing is changing from that old housewifery attitude to the modern gal who wants to express her individual style in a fashionable way – for her own style, size and shape.

Designer exhibitions in museums is common place and considered art.

Sewing has come full circle – it is an art form that is expressive of the individuality of each sewist.  I read article after  news article exclaiming how designing and fashion are art forms.

Sewing is that means by which you get there.

Picture this: The designer designs a dress, draws the dress on a piece of paper, but that’s as far as it goes without sewing.  The sewist has an idea, gets his/her fabric, picks out a pattern and from that creates a physical representation of his/her idea.

He/She creates a physical illustration of his/her idea. From abstract thought to concrete realization.

This is the view of sewing that I teach.  This is the view of sewing I want to champion.  Without sewing – you can’t get to the design:  Without sewing – you can’t complete the ending artistic rendering of the creative thought:  Without sewing – there is no physical representation of the creative thought/design/art work.  Sewing is how you get to the end of this artistic process.

Sewing is no longer happy hands from home.  Sewing is a way to individually express your creativity in a way that can be shown daily

I can hear you now – there’s no way I can do this.  This is way too lofty for me.  Well, lofty or not, if you’re sewing, you’re doing it!   Think about this:  Did you have an idea?…a vision?  Did you make decisions on how to modify, improve, delete, edit that design based on fabrics or patterns that you saw, or maybe even based on a picture in a magazine?  While assembling your garment, did you make further refinements and modifications in the design or style of the garment?  And as you finished your work, did you rethink hem lengths or even some finishing techniques that were added or modified or edited in some way?

Courtesy of Mrs. Picasso's Art Room!

That’s all part of the process, and that process is called art – the creative art process.

So think about this the next time you sew.  If you were to learn sewing today, what would you want to learn first?….even better: what would your students want to learn first?  Teaching the way it was taught (to many of us in high school Home Ed. Departments) is not the way I even want to approach teaching sewing today.

I want to transform the way people think about sewing.  I want to teach the passion and empowerment of creative sewing to create a wardrobe that will put any self-respecting fashionista to shame!  How can you do this?  Because you are the designer and you better than anyone know what looks good on you.  The only thing is that you have a leg up on the designer, but most of them do not know how to manifest their designs – just think them up, and that is not the full exercise of being an artist.  Yes, without the designs there aren’t some creations, but the designs aren’t by any means the full artistic exercise – the artistic creation is comprised of the idea and the execution of that idea.

How do I know you can rival any self-respecting fashionista?  I did it for 30 years.

  1. I love this post and totally agree with your thoughts. As a garment designer/sewist for over 50 years I like to think of myself as a fabric artist. Like Mondo of Project Runway I can’t sketch but I “envision” a garment or look then go fabric/pattern shopping in my stash and create. How lucky we sewists are to be able to indulge in our passion!

    • Karen – one of the great comments coming out of Karl Lagerfeld’s mouth is: “Designers can not draw, but I vill draw somting for you and keep eet as it will be valuable!!!!” Yes, Karl has an indomitable ego, but the other comment that designers can’t draw – I love it…because we envision!!!!

  2. What a great post! Thank you so much. I think I’ve been lacking confidence, thanks to something my sister said to me. Your words encourage me to keep going.

    • How I can relate! I ddceeid to take up sewing because I too have difficulties finding things that fit right, or even just that I like. Anyway, my pattern collection continues to grow, and it is only getting worse since I have discovered the world of buying vintage patterns online. I have made myself only two things. And now thanks to your pictures that accompany this post I may have to buy that Vogue 8581 pattern. Sigh. And have you started with accumulating a fabric “stash”?

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