Friday, October 01, 2010

The Standoff

Last week I attended some of the American Sewing Expo in Novi, MI. I had a wonderful couple days in workshops before a foot fracture prompted my early exit.

But what I'd like to ponder for a moment is, the standoff in the home sewing world these days. On the one hand, we have the grey ladies of sewing. We know them by their unstyled hair, sensible shoes, and machine-embroidered sweatshirt ("Meow," it says, right under the cat's head). As they trudge away from the sewing show, laden down with enough fabric, patterns, and sewing supplies to warrant a sherpa, I can't help wondering where all those nice things will disappear. Not into well-made, well-fitting garments for themselves, I'm pretty sure.

Contrast this against the smaller-in-number-but-loud-n-proud, D.I.Y. fashionistas. They may or may not have had a grey lady in their lives to inspire and teach them, but they gravitate toward tutorials and products that proclaim, "This ain't your grandma's sewing! [quilting][knitting][embroidery][whatever]." They may "have the patience" to learn to sew from a printed pattern, but often, not. The tattoo budget has been tapped out, leaving no funds for good fashion fabric, it seems. They sometimes lack basic skills, such as turning a hem. Learning these things would inhibit creativity, they protest.

I'm not always inclined to find a middle ground. I like to commit to a side. But in this case, I really think there's so much to be gained from each woman learning from each other. I'd like to see more grey ladies taking care of themselves and sewing things they feel great wearing. I'd like to see more fashionistas taking their craft more seriously by devoting more time to learning its basics, and forgoing the fabric from the $1.99 table. I think we can all help each other, if we can only get past our judgments. I would love to know what that feels like. As a first step, I'm not even going to post any pictures.


  1. It's as if you were sitting around having late night tea in the lobby with us, rather than convalescing at home, Roseana. We bemoaned the very same thing, in the company of a self-professed "renegade sewist".

    Having never been a renegade of any type I can't say for sure, but I want to believe that with sewing time and experience those who are will find the value in careful craftmanship and fine finishes.

    I hope Very Prairie speaks up, as we were interrupted when she was telling me about her transition from renegade DIYer to fine sewist (did you see her lime green linen dress for the fashion show? To die for!)

    As for the "gray ladies", I hold out hope that a sewing celebrity will emerge who will serve as a fashion role model and inspire them to overcome to the fitting challenges that I suspect are keeping them garment sewing.

    I think the best thing we can do in the meantime is wear our finely made garments proudly and hope that it inspires both ends of the spectrum to create their own greatness. That and teach younger girls good sewing habits and skills.

    And Roseana, in 15 years when my butt has fully sagged and I give up on fitting and shift to quilting, please remind me of this little rant.

  2. It sounds like you had a great time! Good stories :)

  3. I read your thoughtful post with a little sadness. As a "grey-haired" woman myself there was part of me that said "Unfair, unfair!" But alas, the observation is correct. But what you may not have noticed was the grey haired women who in fact were well-groomed and well-dressed. I like to count myself among them (I was at Novi). Every day I wore my designer jeans and a jacket or vest that I had fashioned myself. My hair is coloured and styled by professionals, my pedicure and manicure impecable, and make-up, applied fresh each morning--age appropriate. Other smart looking grey-haired women at the show were Patti Otto of Great Copy, Katherine Tilton, Maili of Soutache, Teresa of Bohemian Element, Janet Pray (of course), and Laura Murray, to name a few.

    I own my own sewing business and I often think when those "grey-haired" ladies in their sweat suits walk by my booth; "You can do better than that." And in many ways that's my mission, to get them away from their quilts and into something they can wear and be proud of. (I'm not talking those jackets that look like box quilts or sweatshirts redesigned into something garish and ill-fitting). There are lots of pattern companies that offer styles flattering to a mature woman. But the mature woman needs to make the effort; so many of them have given up because their bodies have changed so much due to the aging process and it's sometimes easier to ignore it than work on it.

  4. Very well put. I couldn't agree more.