Having a Friend who Sews

Having a Friend who Sews

Some things just work better in pairs.

Some things just work better in pairs.

Some things just work better in pairs—like shoes, socks, friendship bracelets, and the Everly Brothers. Often though, even our pastimes can be enhanced by the addition of another human being. Going to the movies, as an example, is more fun with a friend to offer ridiculous comments to or to discuss the movie with after the credits roll. Another example would be hiking. It could be great for you to wander through nature while getting a workout, but if you have someone to share the experience with, that company provides another level of goodness.

Sewing, too, can benefit from the presence of another person, even if people often think of it like a solo task. Things like classes based on sewing show evidence of this since you’ll be learning—should you take one—in the midst of other people who are interested in the same craft, but the reasons behind sewing non-solo are applicable beyond the notion of gathering in dozens in a classroom. Truthfully, there are common, day-to-day rationales for having a sewing friend or two in your life that you could find useful even if you don’t want to leave your house for your projects. You can pick up your phone, call them, and invite them over for sewing assistance.

And that sewing assistance can come in three specific forms that we’ll cover in this post. Ready to dive in? Then let’s go!

Taking Measurements

You might find that getting your measurements on your own can be complicated.

You might find that getting your measurements on your own can be complicated.

If you’re the type of person who sews your own clothes, you might find that getting your measurements on your own can be complicated. If you try to measure from shoulder to shoulder, for instance, you pretty much have to lift at least one shoulder, and that can throw off your measurement. It helps then to have a second person around who can step in and help you. Now, sure, you can recruit whoever is around to help you get that shoulder measurement, but it’s still best to have that someone be a person who’s familiar with sewing.

The reason for that detail is because people who are accustomed to taking measurements won’t need an explanation about how to take the measurement. They’ll understand, if you want help with your waist measurement, that the sewing tape should be at the smallest part of your waist. The process is familiar, and they’re accustomed enough to know how tight the tape should be held as well as where the cut off is in regard to any kind of tape-overlap. That familiarity can make for not only an easier sewing experience, but also a more accurate one. A non-sewing friend might allow too much slack and cause your clothes to be too big. To go Goldilocks, the sewing friend might measure just right.

Sharing sewing supplies

Sharing is caring.

Sharing is caring.

Sure, you shouldn’t be the person who constantly asks to borrow things—particularly if you don’t return them. But if you’re in a situation where you’re friends with someone you share an interest with and both of you trust the other enough to loan supplies, this can be a very real benefit for you and the person your friends with. If you don’t have the right shade of blue in thread, maybe your friend has it! If your friend doesn’t have a specific sewing needle for a task, perhaps you have one! It’s a great back-and-forth situation where you’re being afforded the opportunity to have a go-to for supplies you need who’s just a phone call away.

This dips into shopping as well since shopping with your friend could help each of you be aware of what the other has in their supply for these sharing moments. Of course, this wouldn’t be the only reason to go shopping for sewing supplies together, but it’s a definite plus! Either way though, in addition to sharing the supplies, you can share the experience of finding the right supplies with a good friend—and what shopping trip isn’t more fun with a friend?!

Socializing

Brainstorm ideas to come up with the best projects you can make.

Brainstorm ideas to come up with the best projects you can make.

Any time you have an interest, it can be nice to have someone to talk to about that aspect of your life. Otherwise, you might find that you have nowhere to turn to discuss interesting or pressing matters in regard to the field. It’s like being an avid reader who finishes a really great book, but then has no one to talk to about that book. You have all of these thoughts, opinions, and reactions, and where exactly are you supposed to send them?

Sewing can be so similar because you pour so much of yourself and your time into your projects. It helps to have someone there to talk to about your progress, your confusions, or your plans. The process can help you brainstorm ideas to come up with the best projects you can make, and it can give you a place to offer your complications in a way where you can ease your tension. You might even get some insight about what to do to fix those complications rather than bottling them up until they potentially run you down so much that you throw in your sewing thread. This social quality can then better your sewing experiences, and it can also increase your odds of continuing your sewing endeavors. That makes it a definite advantage of having a friend who sews!

Bottom line? Don’t think of sewing as an exclusively solo gig! Having that sewing friend can make for a brighter, easier sewing experience—from shopping for supplies to putting together your projects. You might have to sign up for a class to find that friend, but trust me! They could be worth their weight in sewing thread!

Common Ground - Women's Sewing Center in Pakistan

Common Ground – Women’s Sewing Center in Pakistan

The road on the way to Chirah.

The road on the way to Chirah.

The road from Gilgit, Pakistan to Chirah in the Bagrote Valley is not an easy one. It starts out easy enough: along the paved Karakorum Highway. But, a few kilometers outside of Gilgit, you take a left directly into the mountains. And then the road is dirt, gravel, large rock, and sand – and steep. Lung wrenchingly steep, if you’re on a bicycle as we were. It winds up and around the mountain, free of guardrails, devoid of almost all traffic except the occasional motorbike. There is nothing to filter the searing sun. The air is heavy and hot and the path always, always, leads upward.

Until finally, the road evens out, becomes almost flat. And green appears – grass, trees, gardens, rows and rows of vegetables spread out on both sides. The air becomes a bit cooler and the winds whistle down from the peaks, circling through the valley in a refreshing heavenly respite.

Chirah Sewing Centre

Chirah is a small village in the Bagrote Valley in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan. The region, self-governing, receives very limited support from the central Pakistani government.

The Chirah Sewing Centre, opened in April of 2012, provides six month courses to the women of the region to learn sewing skills so that they may, if they wish, earn their own income.

The Sewing Centre is housed in a small space provided by a village resident.

The Sewing Centre is housed in a small space provided by a village resident.

The Sewing Centre is housed in a small space provided by a village resident. The room is not very large at all, probably about 12-14 feet by 6-8 feet and there is no electricity. All the machines are treadle or hand operated. Only two of the machines were in cabinets – the rest were on the floor. They were all the old black Singer style machines in wooden cases. The women sit on the floor (or at the limited available tables) to sew, creating all kinds of garments and decorative textiles, a sampling of which hung on the walls of the room.

Little women

The women cooked breakfast for us the day we visited and we ate on the floor surrounded by their machines and sewing projects. The director of the Centre, a man, told us that they were hoping to acquire an overlock machine in the future. I wondered how that would work without electricity but didn’t get a chance to ask my question. Two of the women, the teachers we were told, sat in the corner of the room while we ate. They spoke quietly to each other from time to time but, as is often the case in Pakistan, they never directly addressed us.

I was the only woman in the cycling group of 7 plus 2 male Pakistani guides. We made eye contact, me and the two women in the corner, and they grinned at me when I waved.

After we ate, all the women who were enrolled in the sewing course, filed into the room to sit behind their machines. Everyone took pictures and the Director continued to talk about the women and the centre and what they were learning and what kinds of things they made.

Cultural differences

I tried to convey how I really enjoyed meeting the ladies at the Sewing Centre.

I tried to convey how I really enjoyed meeting the ladies at the Sewing Centre.

The men in my cycling group stood at the doorway and took photos of the women and their machines. I took some too but, after the men had gotten all the pictures they wanted, I went in to talk to the women directly. None of them knew much English and I, unfortunately, know very little Pakistani.

I did have pictures of my sewing machines and my studio on my phone though and I showed them those. One by one, as they scrolled through my photos and realized I sewed also, they smiled and grasped my hands, laughed, and talked excitedly with each other. I desperately wished we could communicate better. I wanted to talk to them about sewing, about the garments they made on machines without electricity. I also sort of wanted to apologize for all of my male companions taking photos of them as if they were in a zoo though I knew that none of them meant it that way. I also wanted to say that I wished they could tell me about the Centre in their own words, without the editing of a male spokesperson. But I couldn’t. So I had to settle for showing them as many pictures as I could and trying to convey how I really enjoyed meeting them and how much respect and admiration I had for them.

I wished that we could all sew together. I wished they were allowed to have their own voices in rooms full of men. I wished there was a way I could tell them how amazing I thought they all were. I wished they lived in a world where it was ok for women to talk to men freely, where they could look anyone they wanted in the eye, speak their minds. I wished they didn’t have to stay silent while someone described their lives. I wished I could spend more time with them but the group was getting ready to cycle on.

And so I got up to say goodbye. And every single one of them got up as well, hugged me as I left, and looked me directly in the eye, one tailor to another.

Sewing with Friends

Sewing with Friends

Sewing is frequently thought of as a solo venture. For many, it’s desired to be. Sometimes, though it’s nice to sew with your friends. You can visit while completing a project. For large projects, your sewing buddies may even be willing to pitch in and help you get it done. Sewing with friends can be an impromptu event or a weekly or monthly ongoing get together.

Finishing Large Projects

Are you redoing a room and making all the curtains and throw pillows? Perhaps you’re sewing outfits for several people for Halloween or a special occasion? When you sew with friends, you can enlist their help to complete these projects. Assign everyone a piece or set it up as an assembly line with everyone taking a task or two. Instead of taking weeks or months to complete, with your friends lending a hand, you may have these projects completed in a matter of hours or days!

Ongoing Get Together

Invite your friends over for a sewing party. Ask a few to bring their machines so there’s not a line for yours. Add in some refreshments and beverages and put on some music – you’ve got the makings of a great friend hang out. So that hosting isn’t a burden, you make it potluck and/or rotate whose house the get together is at.

During the first one, talk about frequency and if you want to rotate who hosts as well as any other logistics. If your sewing friends also have friends who sew, invite them too! If people want to bring their kids, consider it. If they’re age appropriate, sewing with friends can be a great way to pass sewing along to the next generation in a fun and easy going way.

Learn New Things

An added benefit to sewing with friends is that you get to see what everyone else is working on. If you’ve made something similar, they may use different techniques or have tips to make something you struggled with easier. Sharing and learning with your sewing friends creates bonds while everyone becomes more skillful.

Have you sewed with your friends recently? Try it and let us know how you liked it!

Sewing Circles for Charity

Sewing Circles for Charity

Many people have items related to charitable donations on their new year’s resolutions list. If you’re one of them, you can use your sewing skills to spend more time with other sewers and achieve your charitable donation goals for the year by having a charity-focused sewing circle. Here’s how to get started.

Get out in your community and find a cause to support.

Pick a charity

Sewing Circles for Charity

Are there local organizations that would appreciate handmade items? Perhaps a shelter would appreciate clothing items or hospital would appreciate baby hats? Animal rescues may appreciate blankets or pet shirts. Get out in your community and find a cause to support! Ask to speak to the director or someone in charge of community relations. Tell them you want to contribute handmade items on a regular basis and see what they can use. Once you find a charitable organization in your community and understand their needs, you can get started planning and promoting your group.

Find a pattern

Once you know what the charity needs, find an easy to make pattern. It should be simple enough for a beginner to make while interesting enough to engage more experienced sewers. Make sure you have numerous copies and bring them with you to each sewing circle so newcomers or anyone who forgot theirs can get a copy without hassle.

Pick a date, time, location

Will this group be in your home? Do you have space for several sewing machines to run simultaneously? If not, you’ll need to find somewhere more suitable. Local libraries, churches or community centers may be able to host your sewing circle. Make a few calls, send a few emails. Most people and organizations rally around good causes so it shouldn’t take long to find a suitable place.

Working with their availability and yours, pick a recurring date for the sewing circle. Once a month is a good frequency. It’s often enough to keep people interested and excited, but not so often as to feel like a burden. Decide what time of day you’d like to meet and get that room booked with your site.

Invite and promote your sewing circle

Facebook and other social media outlets can be a great way to promote your sewing circle. Create a public event and include all the details about the charity as well as meeting time, location, etc. Invite your friends who sew and encourage them to invite others. See if the location hosting your charity sewing circle is willing to promote the event too. Ask the charitable organization if they’re willing to promote it to their members and donors.

Post fliers (with permission) in community centers, craft stores, fabric stores, senior centers, etc. Include an appealing photo or graphic along with the text information to entice people to look at it.

No matter how you promote it, make sure people understand what they need to bring (fabric, sewing machine, etc.) Also, be sure to include contact information as well in case people have questions.

Collect finished projects

As the charity sewing circle meets over the course of several weeks or months, projects will be completed. Collect them and deliver them to the designated charitable organization. Be sure they understand about your sewing circle – they may promote it to their members and donors now that they’ve seen results. Keep doing this on a regular basis and provide any feedback from the charity to group members. This will keep them engaged and motivated to continue donating.

Sewing with Your Kids

Sewing with Your Kids

Sewing with Your KidsWhat’s your first sewing memory? For me, it’s when my mom came to nursery school and did a bean bag project with the whole class. We all got to take home a bean bag at the end of the day and I felt super special that my mom came in and shared her sewing machine and skills with my class.

Would you like to give a similar warm feeling to your kids, but you’re not sure how? My mom didn’t work, so she had the time, but many moms are juggling careers and kids and simply can’t take a day to visit nursery school. You can still create great sewing memories with your children.

Kid Sewing Circle

If you can’t go into your child’s school to show the class about sewing, bring the class to you. Pick a weekend and invite your kid’s classmates and their parents over for a kid sewing circle. Set up a bean bag game for them to play while each child has a turn working the sewing machine with you. Add some drinks and snacks to make it a sewing play date!

Doll Dress Up Day

If your child and her friends love playing with their dolls and giving them different outfits to wear, a doll dress up day can be a great way to create some sewing memories. The next time your daughter wants to have friends over to play, ask them all to bring their favorite doll. Let the kids dig through your scrap stash and choose their favorite fabrics. Then, while they play, help each kid create a special article of clothing or accessory for their doll.

Bedroom Spruce Up

Most kids at some point decide they want a “more grown up room.” This is a great time to create some sewing memories. Although making all the items necessary for a bedroom redo is a lot to take on, making a few simple accessories such as throw pillows allows your kid to add their own personal touches to their room while creating sewing memories.

What other ways do you create sewing memories with your kids?

Seeking Inspiration

Seeking Inspiration

You ever have one of those moments when you want to sew something, but you’re not sure what to make? You don’t have anything on your “to make” list and there’s no upcoming events that inspire you to make something special for the occasion? Despite the lack of need, though, your fingers are tingling with desire to sew something. Here’s some suggestions to find some inspiration and fill your need to sew.

Think About Gifts

Is there a holiday, birthday or other occasion coming up? Would any of the people involved in the celebration appreciate and handmade gift? Even if the idea of what you’d like to make them isn’t something you’ve made before, give it a shot. Not only will you fill your urge to sew, you’ll have a unique, special gift to give to someone you care about – and you might learn something in the process.

Ponder Your Wardrobe

Perhaps it’s time to donate some items…

Seeking Inspiration

Seeking Inspiration

When you get dressed in the morning, do you feel like you simply “have nothing to wear?” Perhaps it’s time to donate some items you’re not as in love with as you once were and make yourself some new items? Donating clothing to make room for something you make not only fills your sewing urge, it helps those less fortunate fill out their wardrobes.

Learn a New Skill

Is there a new skill you’ve been wanting to learn? Something you’ve been afraid to take on for a project you can’t afford to mess up? Use this urge to sew without a specific outlet as your opportunity. Whether it’s a specific stitch style, a larger skill like making buttonholes or making something you’ve never attempted before this gap could be a great time to take on that challenge.

Have a Sewing Circle

Oftentimes, being in the presence of other sewers can lead to inspiration. The conversations that occur in a sewing group frequently lead to that “lightbulb” moment for your next project. In other cases, they can inspire you to pick up a project you’d given up on when you wouldn’t otherwise revisit working on it. Also, hosting a sewing circle gives you a chance to connect with like-minded crafters and maybe make some new friends.

Next time you’re struggling to fill a sewing urge, try one or more of these ideas. Then let us know how it went and what you wound up making.