Simplicity sewing book from the 1950s (courtesy of Simplicity).
Even though I’ve been getting frustrated with the magazine industry, one thing I still love about my job is that I get to meet and interview really interesting people. Today, I talked to a fellow sewing enthusiast (for a non-sewing related story); we chatted for a while about how her grandmother sewed and now she is teaching her granddaughter to sew. I love to hear stories like this, because it reinforces everything I talk about in Sew Retro: sewing isn’t just a skill, it’s a legacy that grandmothers and mothers and daughters have been sharing for decades. (I always feel bad that I’m leaving the men out—I’m self-conscious about it, but there’s no getting around the fact that sewing hasn’t meant to boys/men what it’s meant to girls/women.) For those of us who learned to sew from women we looked up to, sewing isn’t just about the latest collections of fabric; rather, it’s about collections of experiences—like shopping for Easter dress patterns with your grandmother or rummaging through your aunt’s scrap pile or staring at the wall of buttons when you tagged along with your mom to the fabric store on Saturday afternoon. The fabric, the notions, the accessories are just things (beautiful things, but things nonetheless); it’s those collections of experiences (my own, as well as stories of others’) that I really love. I think that’s why I’m so interested in learning about the history of sewing, and hearing people’s stories of how they learned, and how they’re teaching the next generation.
Actually, I’m so excited that in 2011 the next generation still wants to learn, especially with so much technology competing for their attention. I’m reminded of this silly anecdote my mom tells about when she had my oldest brother. Breastfeeding wasn’t encouraged then (1959) like it is now, but her mother encouraged her to do it anyway. My mom said that she said to her mother something along the lines of, “Oh, does that still work?” Sewing sort of falls into that category, too. “Does that still work?” people say. And, of course, it’s lovely to be able to say that yes, it does indeed still work.
The simple things come with deep roots. It’s a good reminder as we start this new year and create new batches of memories and experiences with our people.