Sewing machines have come a long
way since Isaac Singer introduced the
No. 1 Machine (left) in 1852 to take the
drudgery out of hand-sewing.
15-year-old daughters, Helmkamp says.
There is a lot more variety in both fabric
and patterns too, says Ohio-based fabric
designer Amy Butler, one of the first of a new
breed of modern designers who put sewing
on the map for a younger generation. Women
may get turned on to sewing because they see
a friend doing it, or they might watch a DIY
program and get inspired. “Once their creative fire has been sparked, they can’t help
developing a desire for sewing. I think it’s an
exciting time, with a huge influx of wonderful new designers and products hitting shops,” Butler says.
By Judi Ketteler
TO EVERYTHING, there is a season. The
Byrds sang it; the trend-watchers live it. To the
surprise of many, the season for sewing, a
domestic art whose glory days seemed long
gone, is apparently right now.
More than 2 million sewing machines
were imported into the U.S. last year (all sewing machines sold in the U.S. are imported).
Like its close cousin, knitting, sewing has
been reclaimed and reinvented by a new generation looking for a creative outlet. Spurred
by the new do-it-yourself culture and the
renewed interest in making things by hand,
young women are embracing needle and
thread in droves.
Brick-and-mortar and online fabric
shops are opening, and new sewing studios
are offering sewing classes to people of all
ages. A quick search on You Tube or through
the blogosphere will turn up thousands of
how-to videos, tutorials, free project down-loads and project inspiration.
Sewing gets social at
Singer-sponsored house parties.
Each member of this group created
easy roll-up accessory cases.
sewing’s new popularity among age groups
that used to regard needlecraft as something
only their grandmothers did. “Teens and
young adults now view sewing as a fun way
to create. Often, they are purchasing something and customizing it,” she says. The economic downturn has played a role too, she
adds. Women are reexamining their values
and focusing on nesting, and they’re more
interested in making and repurposing
things, to save money perhaps, as well as to
live more deliberately.
It’s also about coming full circle.
Generation X may have been the first generation to grow up not being taught to sew.
Because their mothers didn’t
force it on them, now that they
are moms themselves, they are
freely choosing it. In fact, according to market research by Singer,
many moms in that Gen X demographic view sewing as a way to
spend time with their 9- to
Singer Sewing Company CEO Katrina
Helmkamp thinks several factors are behind
The Costco Connection
To celebrate Singer’s 160th anniversary,
Costco will be carrying the Singer
Brilliance sewing machine.
With 100 stitch patterns, seven
buttonhole options, five bonus
feet, optimum stitch settings
and automatic needle
threader, it makes
sewing a snap.
The fabrics may be beautiful and
the drama of TV shows like Project
Runway may be inspiring, but it really
comes down to the ease of using
today’s technologically advanced
machines. In 1851, sewing was laborious and frustrating. Isaac Singer
changed all that by tweaking existing designs and creating something
that made sewing more accessible
for everyday people.
And while they may be less expensive,
the sewing machines of today are still helping
women to create long-lasting, quality pieces,
says Moebes, who teaches both online and in-person classes. She notes, “Most of our students are 25 to 45 years old, educated ladies
who are interested in exploring a creative
endeavor that also is practical and useful, and
will allow them to pass something along to
their children and grandchildren as heirlooms were passed down in years past.” C
Today’s machines continue
to push innovation, transforming sewing from a frustrating
and sometimes complicated process into
an easy-to-learn activity that can be done
with friends over a glass of wine (especially
when the machine threads itself!).
“Because so many of us saw our grand-
mothers working on machines that were
decades old and still working beautifully, we
assume to get a good sewing machine you
must make a substantial investment, when
really you can pick up a very nice starter
model for under $150 these days,” says
Deborah Moebes, owner of sewing studio
Whipstitch Fabrics in Atlanta.
Judi Ketteler is the author of Sew Retro: A
Stylish History of the Sewing Revolution +
25 Vintage-Inspired Projects for the Modern
Girl (Voyageur Press, 2010;