Oliver + S

Generational attitudes towards sewing

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    Tamara @justsewit

    I’ve been spending a bit of time over the last year or so researching my family history (father’s side) and with the census that we in Australia have just had, I’ve been wondering about how our attitudes have changed towards things like sewing.

    The women in my family have always had needle and thread in hand and not so long ago I was shown this absolutely breathtaking (Ayrshire) embroidered christening gown by a friend which apparently was stitched on the voyage from Scotland over 100 years ago.

    Of course stitching and sewing in the 1800’s was seen as a duty – there wasn’t ready to wear back then. I’m also aware that with scores of children, the girls were required to start at an early age and stitch things for their future homes aswell as their clothing. Can you imagine how busy they would have been?

    With all the running around we ladies do these days it would be no wonder our attitudes towards sewing have changed. But have they really?

    My great grandmother was a professional and so was my great aunt …. but my grandmother, even though she can sew, doesn’t like it one bit! How then could the love of sewing skip not one but two generations and land with me?

    Do you have any generational stories about sewing to share? And if not, would would you share about your attitudes towards sewing with future generations in your family?

    sayiamyou @maraya

    I love hearing my grandmother tell me stories of her working with her mother and sisters on quilts. They would work for a while, hand stitching, then when it was time for another chore they’d roll the quilt up (said they would hang it in a door) and unfold it again later when they were ready to work again. I feel like a lazy sewer when I hear her talk. I remember specifically the renewed feeling of respect and admiration for sewers of the past when I spent so much time hand sewing my daughter’s School Days coat.

    My mother sewed clothes and other little things for me, but she slowly gave it up. I still have my baby quilt that she made for me. I treasure it now as much as I did when I was a kid. (and my daughter will drag it around sometimes; this makes me heart melt) She has over the years cross stitched and embroidered, but even that she doesn’t have much time for anymore.

    My daughter is 2 1/2 and is becoming fascinated with my sewing machine and the clothes I make for her. I love this and really hope it’s something that she and I can enjoy together for years and years.

    homefire @homefire

    I actually just recently talked to my mom about this subject! My grandfather’s family (on my mom’s side) owned and operated a large and prosperous farm in the Midwest so his mother had a “girl” (could have been anywhere from 15 to 50 yrs. old) that came twice a year to do the sewing. They lost most of the wealth, but not the land, when the stock market crashed in the 1930’s but from what anyone can remember she never picked it up. My grandfather married the daughter of a hired hand though who was an excellent seamstress but sadly my grandmother didn’t see the art in it. It was something she had to do because she was poor, not something to be enjoyed and certainly not something to be proud of. As an engagement gift in 1947 my grandpa gave her a Singer sewing machine that she sewed her wedding dress on. She gave it to my mom when she got engaged and she sewed her wedding dress on it and then my mom and I sewed my wedding dress on it. It’s still my mom’s only sewing machine and she’s not about to part with it but I definitely have dibs when she’s ready to give it up:) Grandma did however teach my mom and aunts (again out of necessity) and they are all wonderful seamstresses as well but I think I am the only one of the next generation to sew. With my generation I think comes down to time more than anything. Whenever we all get together and it comes up there’s a lot of “wow, that’s beautiful, I wish I knew how to sew” but when I offer to help them learn or suggest a book to get started with it’s seem like just one more thing to add to the list of things no one has time for.

    My grandparents were “old school” farmers and in the past few years I’ve been on a small mission to bring back the arts that my grandmother brought to her home. From sewing most of her families clothes (and teaching her daughters as well) to the meals she would prepare. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed feeding my family of 5 but she cooked 3 hearty meals for a family of 6 plus 2 hired hands and depending on the season there was the threshing crew or the sheep shearers. Last Thanksgiving I brought an apple pie using a piecrust recipe that goes back generations. I was talking to my aunt when she tried a piece (she didn’t know who had made it or anything) and she got a little emotional because it tasted just like her moms. I told her Mom had given me Grandma’s pie crust recipe. She told me she had learned how to make that piecrust before she could read the recipe but couldn’t remember the last time she had taken the time to make it. That Christmas she brought a pie with the best piecrust I had ever tasted. She later came and thanked me for reminding how satisfying the hard things are and encouraged me to take the time to teach them to my own children.

    Well, that last bit wasn’t about sewing but I think it fit the theme. Thanks for starting this discussion, but now I’m getting all teary thinking about my grandma, she and my grandpa both passed away sometime ago and I do miss them terribly.

    janimal @janimal

    My grandmother was a single mother in England in the 30s and sewed to support her family. Her SINGER machine was promininently displayed in the front window of her home in Manchester. She made my mother’s wedding dress and it was just so lovely.

    My mother did not own a sewing machine, but would occasionally handsew me pretty things to wear to supplement the boyish handmedowns from my brother. She made me a red dress, with tiny white flowers with a little matching bag that I remember dancing around in so happy to wearing a girly dress. And there was a cream skirt with little navy flowers, and a lacy trim that was perfect for twirling. As a little girl I treasured my handmade girly things from my mother.

    My mother had a dress she loved, so made a copy for herself — again by hand. I remember being SO impressed! She then drew a pattern for me to use the scraps and make a Barbie dress for my doll. I was hooked and she drew me another pattern for a skirt and I would make my dolls little outfits.

    I’ve sewn on and off over the years, stuff like curtains for my apartment or throw pillows. It was when I got pregnant with my daughter that I really got back into sewing. My grandmother and mother are gone now. When I sew a little dress for my own little girl, I love the connection I feel to them knowing they did the same for theirs. I remember how much I loved the clothing my mother sewed for me, and how happy my mother looks in photos in her wedding dress, and I treasure being able to sew pretty things for my daughter too.

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