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This archived content is from Mary Wilkins’ sewing and quilting message board “Sew What’s New,” which was retired in August 2007. It is being provided by “Sew What’s Up,” which serves as the new home for many members of “Sew What’s New.”
From: lendube
Date: 11-04-2006, 11:36 AM (1 of 8)
Sewing gains younger followers as its popularity surges

Fashion-savvy drawn to creativity of hobby

By Anne Marie Chaker

November 4, 2006

It's hip to hem – sewing is making a comeback.

Jennifer Culpepper, a 33-year-old from Washington, D.C., who carries an iPod nano and uses a Mac laptop, has a new gadget on her holiday wish list: a sewing machine.


Culpepper, who recently learned to make a tote bag and a blouse at a six-week beginner's sewing class, is one of the young adults helping the craft of sewing make a comeback. She says she has realized “how creative it is, rather than it being one of those things that old ladies do.”
Amid new interest among fashion-obsessed teens, as well as Gen-Xers settling down in their first homes, fabric stores that teach sewing are seeing their classes fill up and adding wait lists.

The renewed interest is also starting to boost the sewing industry, which has struggled to stay afloat over the past few decades. Manufacturers are selling more sewing machines, and pattern companies, which have rolled out products geared to a hipper, more fashion-savvy set, report that those efforts are paying off in bigger sales.

The sewing trend piggybacks on broader interest in home arts, from knitting to cooking, that has been building in recent years. It hasn't hurt that women's fashions now favor personalization – encouraging people to sew appliques on their jeans – and vintage looks, which inspire hipsters to reconstruct thrift-store finds. TV has thrown another wild card into the mix in the past couple of years: “Project Runway,” a reality show that showcases pattern-making and sewing as fashion designers compete to display their work in New York.

Toby Haberman, owner of Haberman Fabrics of Royal Oak, Mich., says interest in sewing picked up in recent years. But in the past year, “Project Runway” “really blew it away,” she says. “Whereas years ago if you made something you didn't want anyone to know, now I hear people say, 'Yes, I made that!' ” She has capitalized on the trend by launching classes for kids and teens modeled on the show.

All this is making the demographics of sewing younger and more urban than at any time since the 1950s.

In high-tech San Francisco, the Stitch Lounge – an urban sewing lounge where people can rent machines by the hour – reports a big surge in interest since it opened its doors two years ago.

Hope Meng, one of three co-owners, thinks computer and BlackBerry-obsessed workers are yearning for something tactile and creative. At Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, Ill., a recent class in the niche area of corset making drew not only middle-age women and costume designers, but also young adults who favor the edgy “Goth” look.

Fabricland, a North Plainfield, N.J., fabric store that offers classes, will offer 27 courses this month, up from five last November, and its “Absolute Beginners for Adults” classes have waiting lists.

The number of sewing machines imported to the United States doubled to 2.8 million in 2005 from 1999, according to the Census Bureau. Singer Sewing Co. says sales of its electronic models priced at less than $200 – appealing to first-time buyers – were more than 10 times as big last year as they were in 2004. Jo-Ann Stores Inc., a Hudson, Ohio-based fabric chain, reports an increase in sales of items such as dress forms and cutting tables in recent months.

It's a welcome turn of events for an industry that never fully recovered from the cultural and economic changes of the 1960s and 1970s. These included the movement of clothes manufacturing overseas, which made it cheaper for women to buy their clothes than to make them, and cultural changes that led women to give up sewing. As the women's movement took hold, dressing became more casual, and the sewing machine became a “symbol of subjugation,” says Gary Jones, president of Singer. Accordingly, home-economics classes for girls were refashioned into “family consumer sciences” classes that emphasized nutrition and child psychology over sewing.

Now, the sewing industry is working to respond to the new interest. Makers of sewing patterns are trying to target young, fashion-savvy consumers.

New York-based Simplicity Pattern Co. has rolled out six new patterns designed by Wendy Mullin, the designer behind the preppy-urban Built By Wendy line. The company has also reintroduced a “retro” line of five original patterns from the 1940s and '50s, responding to the backward-looking fashion craze. The retro collection boosted Simplicity's sales of suit patterns by 25 percent in the quarter ended Sept. 30 from the year-ago quarter.

Meanwhile, at New York-based McCall Pattern Co., which offers Butterick, McCall's and Vogue Patterns, sales of vintage patterns have risen 13 percent over the past year. Its “Sew Hot, Sew Now” line of patterns, launched in September under the McCall's label, targets a fashion-savvy beginner or intermediate sewer with such looks as an empire top and a Bohemian dress. Gail T. Hamilton, a vice president, adds that pattern makers today are more quickly able to reproduce hot looks on the runway than in past decades.

The U.S. arm of Swiss-based Bernina International AG, which makes sewing machines, is talking to its dealers about how to reach out to a younger generation. Gayle Hillert, vice president of education and training for Bernina of America, says that at a recent conference of dealers, she suggested stores try alternatives to traditional classes, such as wine-and-cheese sewing parties or quilt-making bridal showers.

Industry experts say today's electronic machines make sewing simpler and less of a chore, with stitches that adjust their size automatically and “cruise control” features. Plenty of sewing machines now allow beginners to do intricate embroidery – and sometimes come with software that allows sewers to design their own stitches on home computers and transfer them to the machine.

Machines have also gotten cheaper, with many good electronic sewing machines costing less than $200.

Of course, it's hard to say whether the sewing fad will have staying power. Sewing continues to require a bigger initial investment than crafts such as knitting. A recent purchase to make a simple wool A-line skirt, which included thread, a yard of wool, a yard of lining material, a pattern, a zipper and a hook, ended up costing over $30. And that, of course, doesn't include the time it took to make the garment.

But some sewers see endless possibilities. Judy Ni, 28, from Parsippany, N.J., started out as a knitter. “I did a bunch of scarves,” she said, before wanting to go a little further.

Since last winter, she has taken four classes. After starting with a portable tissue holder and progressing to zippers, she recently took private lessons to learn how to design patterns that fit her own body. She says she was tired of fashions that seemed dull, repetitive – and expensive.

“Everyone's starting to look like clones of each other,” Ni said. “Why pay $1,000 for something that everyone else has?”
User: lendube
Member since: 08-06-2006
Total posts: 1548
From: DorothyL
Date: 11-04-2006, 05:34 PM (2 of 8)
Great story, thanks.
User: DorothyL
Member since: 12-09-2002
Total posts: 3883
From: jyanla
Date: 11-13-2006, 07:06 AM (3 of 8)
Neat article. Thanks for posting. :bluesmile
A beginner sewer
User: jyanla
Member since: 04-01-2004
Total posts: 2
From: lendube
Date: 11-13-2006, 12:42 PM (4 of 8)
Thanks for noticing, ladies. It's encouraging to say the least. I'm hoping for a resurgence (sp?) of fabric shops.

Lennie :bg:
User: lendube
Member since: 08-06-2006
Total posts: 1548
From: westbrook
Date: 11-14-2006, 10:39 AM (5 of 8)
this new show.. Project Runway, has created quite a stir among young people. My daughter is a Senior in High School tells me there is a fashion club this year. The club is so large, they have to use the Gym at lunch to hold all the kids interested! Both male and female students talking about fashion, fashion schools, and sewing!

In the district we are in, in order to graduate you must have a senior project. This senior project can be on anythng, many of the students have chosen to do a fashion line. they must to a research paper, have a portfoilo and a min. of 4 garments. My daughter has chosen to do 15 garments, one for each sketch/design required. (thank goodness we made her a duct tape dummy last year to design her prom dress on)

She struggled with designing for a famous person and it had to be something that they would wear.. she has chosen... LUCY! when I asked her why she said "I like the 50's styles and she best represents that era" I asked her is she was going to make it complete with apron? she smiled.

Sew it seams that sewing is alive and growing among our youth!

User: westbrook
Member since: 12-13-2004
Total posts: 35
From: Patty22
Date: 11-14-2006, 10:52 AM (6 of 8)
The pattern companies are following suit as I had gotten the following from Simplicity in my email the other day:

"By popular demand, has developed a series of step-by-step, online sewing classes to help you understand the fundamentals of sewing at your own pace from the comfort of your own space."

Evidently you can go to the website and they will take you step-by-step with an online tutorial. I tried getting onto the page, but they must have been getting a lot of traffic as it was very slow opening.
User: Patty22
Member since: 03-29-2006
Total posts: 1194
From: lendube
Date: 11-14-2006, 11:14 AM (7 of 8)
This is all so wonderful to hear. Now if only I could get my own daughter interested...........:bluesad:

How awesome that an entire gym was filled with kids interested in sewing. It'll certainly stick with several of them. Good luck to your daughter. I think Lucy's clothes were great. Should be fun to design retro.

I'll check out the Simplicity site. There's always something to learn.

It's like the knitting craze. You have to be hip and aim for youth. It's not your Mama's sewing table anymore! :cool:

User: lendube
Member since: 08-06-2006
Total posts: 1548
From: SandyGirl
Date: 11-17-2006, 05:29 PM (8 of 8)
And I love it when I see guys in line at the cutting table! Met one today at Hancocks!! He took HOme Ec in school years ago and loves to make gifts for friends! sandy
User: SandyGirl
Member since: 09-16-2005
Total posts: 97
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