I have been sewing and crafting for as long as I can remember. I very distinctly remember being consumed by all sorts of sewing and crafting projects as a kid, from making potholders out of nylon loops to devouring latch hook kits to decorating t-shirts with neon-colored puff paint. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of sitting in my room by myself, working on craft projects. Clearly I was an introvert – and crafting fanatic – from birth. 🙂
I know I learned basic hand sewing very early on (maybe by 5 years old?), but I can’t remember if my mother or grandmother taught me. What I do remember is that sewing skipped a generation in my family: my grandmother was a professional seamstress, and my mother hated sewing and all things domestic. The consequence of this was that whenever a button would fall off my mom’s clothes (and she had many, many closets full of clothes), I had to sew it back on for her. I remember learning to thread a needle and tie a knot, and the rest was history. I must have sewed on many dozens of buttons over the years!
Just as button replacement became one of my chores around the house, so did the “sewing bee.” Before you get excited, let me assure you this was not a fun occurrence. The sewing bee consisted of me sitting on the living room floor and mending a huge braided rug, something like this:
The braids would inevitably come apart since the living room was such a high traffic area, and since my family didn’t have a lot of money, buying a new rug was not an option! So, I did my job, and I sat and mended. One day my mom suggested that I invite a friend over to the sewing bee to get more mending done. Can you imagine the look on my face? And yet, I had one friend in particular that would actually come over for the sewing bee. My mom must have been thrilled that she was putting us both to work – for free, no less!
Somewhere around my 13th birthday, I discovered sewing and quilting shows on public television. I was in awe. I would come home from school everyday and immediately turn on Sewing with Nancy or Quilt in a Day with Eleanor Burns. These women taught me how to sew. Not long afterward I requested a sewing machine and got one… although I think I may have actually paid for it myself with babysitting money. It was an inexpensive machine but got the job done, and thus my obsession with quilting began.
Unlike most teenagers who like to go out with friends and get into trouble, I liked to stay home by myself and quilt. I was extremely unpopular and didn’t care because I was enjoying myself! I continued watching quilting shows on TV and got to the point where I was furiously taking notes during each episode, copying down patterns, noting seam allowance widths, number of pieces to cut, fabric color suggestions, tips and techniques, the works. I was *not* to be interrupted during my sewing shows. This was before the internet had caught on, so if I didn’t get the information during the show, it was gone! Quilting became serious business for me.
I did a LOT of babysitting as a teenager, and since I never went out with friends and spent money on movies and junk food, I actually had a decent amount of disposable income to spend on fabric and sewing/quilting books. My dad would dutifully drive me to the local discount fabric store (“Fabric Bonanza”), and I would take home huge hauls of goodies and sew them up into pillows and wall hangings. I was in heaven.
Unfortunately going away to college put the kibosh on my sewing and crafting activities since I barely had time to eat and sleep, let alone spend time on my hobbies. I started to get back into the swing of things at the end of my senior year when my workload finally started to let up. I saw someone crocheting a scarf on a bus and was absolutely mesmerized, as I had never seen such a thing in my life. I immediately picked up some yarn and a crochet hook and taught myself to crochet in my dorm room. Hilariously, I distinctly remember turning down friends at my door who invited me to go out to parties in favor of staying in and crocheting. Ha!
Little did I know it, but this kicked off a love affair with knitting that lasted about 10 years. During my master’s degree, my two primary craft projects were working on my first full-sized quilt and teaching myself to knit. Since I’m left-handed, I downloaded instructional images online and flipped them on my computer so that the left needle was doing the knitting. It took me a long time to figure out how to make the basic stitches with no one to recognize and correct my (frequent) mistakes, but I got there in the end.
I worked for six years at my first job after graduating, and I think it’s safe to say that I was absolutely obsessed with knitting the entire time. This was in the mid 2000s when knitting really exploded and there were articles in the news about celebrities like Julia Roberts knitting on movie sets. Yarn stores were opening all over the place, and my hard-earned paychecks were being funneled into beautiful and heart-breakingly expensive yarns. (Why is yarn so expensive, anyway??)
It wasn’t until 2012 that I started thinking about sewing again. I had moved to Boston and started my PhD by then, and I had recently discovered Gather Here, my now-favorite local fabric and yarn shop. Getting a new sewing machine had been in the back of my mind for many years, and having a shop full of beautiful fabrics just a short walk from home was the push I needed to go for it. As a present to myself for passing my qualifying exam, I bought my Bernina.
At first I jumped back into quilting, working on my Tulip Quilt that had been sitting abandoned for 8 years. Then one day at work I was talking to a colleague who had also recently discovered Gather Here and asked if I would be interested in taking a sewing class with her. A garment sewing class.
In all the years that I had been sewing, it never once occurred to me that I could sew my own clothes. I was absolutely fascinated with this idea, signed up for the class, and became completely obsessed with my new hobby. And to top it all off, now I had so many more projects for my new sewing machine! I took a week off after my exam, holed myself up in my apartment, and sewed for a week straight. The first sewing-related posts on this blog were created during that time. Ah, memories. 🙂
As they say, the rest is history! Now garment sewing is my primary hobby/obsession, documented here on this little slice of the web. And to think it all started with obligatory button sewing and rug mending!
How did you learn to sew? Leave a comment for us all to read, or better yet, write a post on your blog and leave me a link. I’d love to read your stories. 🙂