Sewing is as old as the hills. Traditionally in the hands of women darning shirts for their husbands, we often imagine sewing as part of an old, sepia-stained memory. But now, sewing is back on the scene as the hippest new way to pass the time.
Yes, sewing heads not only the latest wave of retro fever to hit Britain — that is, all things dipped in the smart sweetness of fifties style - but has helped to push interest in DIY culture. With a steep hike in sewing machine sales, revived interest in learning how to sew and success of shows such as the Great British Sewing Bee, more Brits than ever are opting to make things for themselves rather than take a chance on a shopping trip. ‘But, why now?’ I hear you ask. ‘Why is sewing suddenly back on our radar?’
Waves of new-age sewers, or, ‘makers’, are increasingly taking to the craft to make their own clothes, come up with creative trinket ideas or fashion their own home wares. With more sewing workshops, courses, stores, meet-ups and community events than ever before, budding seamstresses have never been better poised to sharpen their skills and get making. These days, we’re sewing because we want to: not because we have to.
For one, sewing feeds neatly into our nation-wide obsession with all things vintage. Not only is the act of sewing ‘vintage’ in itself as a pastime, but being able to fashion your own frocks and accessories opens a world of possibility in what you can wear. Not to mention that any vintage store worth its salt should sell dress and garment patterns for as little as £5. Making your own clothes may seem intimidating for those who’ve never done it, but the sewing community has an answer for this, too: there’s spades of sewing blogs, websites and forums out there to help initiate you into the fold. Help, my friends, is but a click away.
Don’t have a sewing machine? Sewing cafes — where one can go for a cup of tea, a chat and a place to darn at will — are cropping up all over the country, offering punters the chance to hire a machine by the hour whilst they enjoy some caffeine and sweet treats. Plus you’ll get the chance to meet like-minded makers, who will be able to lend you a hand if you get stuck.
And whilst they’re busy threading, stitching and cutting, hundreds of makers meticulously document their projects online, so you can follow along at home. Once you’ve got a handle on the basics, you should be able to follow their tutorial posts to get ideas and get practicing. You can even design your very own fabric for print online, too, for extra credit.
After all, British interest in craft in general is at an all-time high. The world’s biggest online marketplace for crafters, Etsy has grown in leaps and bounds. Marking a 42.6% dollar increase in goods sold from 2012-2013, in August last year the site counted 30 million members across 200 countries.
It’s not too difficult to see the appeal of DIY. And the fashion world agrees: upcycling and sustainable fashion are hot buzzwords on the style scene, with companies like Redress Raleigh and Zass design creating eco-conscious wares from recycled objects and materials.
And, ever so coolly, renewed interest in sewing is also responsible for the hen do’s new look. Whilst plenty still opt for the traditional booze-up, more than ever are expressing interest in group sewing workshops instead. Good one, days of yore.
Comforting, homely, and above all, creative, learning to sew gives you the power to make clothes, accessories, trinkets, pillows, tote bags, jewellery, home wares and whatever else your heart desires, provided you have the skills and materials. And because you’re doing it yourself, whatever you make is automatically stamped with your individual tastes and style.
But above all, sewing allots us a unique control over how we appear. With the power in your thimble-clad hands, you can create virtually anything to drape, fit or squeeze over yourself in order to strike the precise expression you’re after. Oozing with confidence and individuality, once you start you’ll find yourself itching to create more in no time. And the best bit? The skills you’ll need to do so have never been more accessible.
Bursting with ideas you can’t wait to cut into calico? Whether you’re dying to learn fashion, want to stitch your own dress or dig your heels into the world of craft, there’s a sewing course out there to teach you what you need to do.
Monica Karpinski received her BA (Media and Communications) and Diploma in Modern Languages (French) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. An art and culture aficionado, in her spare time Monica enjoys film, reading and writing about art.