By Marla Walters
My daughter purchased her first sewing machine this year, with her hard-earned money, and began making her own clothes. I was so happy for her—and delighted that she has discovered what a wonderful skill sewing is to have in your arsenal. Whether you have started homesteading, or are getting ready to do so, sewing may be something you want to learn. It is one of the best do it yourself activities. It allows you to make your own clothes, upcycle towels and repair just about anything with a needle and thread.
What are the benefits of learning to sew? Where do I start!?
Patience, Passion, and Problem-Solving
Not what you expected, right? There are more concrete, and less emotional reasons, below. Honesty, however, demands that I rank this benefit above “saves money” or “better quality.”
When I sew, I find that it’s calming. Trying to figure out how to match large circles or where I need to gather the ruffle are problems that take me away from the day’s worries. Problem-solving is done on a practical level, and it becomes meditative. Sewing a simple peasant blouse for my daughter is a joyous task.
The acts of basting or hemming force me to sit, relax, and contemplate my life while having “busy hands.” Even my sewing machines reconnect me to loved ones—my Kenmore, a gift from my husband nearly thirty-five years ago, and my Singer Featherweight, which belonged to my mother and her mother before. My mother taught me to sew at age nine. At the time, I resented staying inside while my friends played outside, but now I recognize it for the true gift of love that it was.
I also learned patience, appreciation for an art, and the power of creativity.
Often, women who sew do come together companionably—whether through quilting circles, charitable projects, or group lessons. I treasured times with my good friend in high school when we would re-make our clothes in an attempt to be fashionable. We also entered sewing competitions together and spent many a Saturday afternoon with our machines at each other’s houses. In retrospect, how lucky (and smart) were our mothers, keeping teens occupied and busy!
This is one of the top benefits of learning to sew — and something I am grateful for each time I sit down to my machine.
After a trip through a store’s dress rack recently, I realized how tired I was of the same color schemes, shapes, and fabrics. Being able to sew means that you are able to make not only the styles you like (as opposed to ones dictated by fashion), but also in the fabrics and colors you like. As a mature woman, I appreciate my ability to make something fit appropriately.
If you enjoy home decorating, being able to sew presents creative alternatives. I have made curtains, blankets, throw pillows, and table runners; I am always shocked at what stores charge for basic decorative items.
Sewing Saves Money
Sewing only saves you money if you can do it in a thrifty way. Here are some tips:
- Watch for fabric to go on sale.
- If your fabric store has a discount club, it is worth joining.
- Look for patterns that have several views, so that you can re-use them. Patterns are very expensive.
- I find a lot of patterns at yard sales and thrift stores. Ebay.com also has vendors who sell used patterns.
- Although it’s tiring to sift through bolts, I find a lot of good sales in the clearance section of my fabric store. Be sure to check the fabric when the cutter unrolls them. If there are flaws, ask for an additional measure, or a further discount. I have found that most will work with me.
- Finding a network of people who sew is a treasure trove! My friends give me fabric they no longer want.
If you do a good job, the sewed items you make are going to last. I also love not having to worry about a seam ripping or a hem coming loose. If I put a button on a shirt, it will stay put.
Children who learn to sew also learn to measure accurately, use math and geometry, and employ creativity. Ask your average public-school educated child where “5/8” is on a measuring tape, and the response will be disturbingly sad. I applaud the mothers who find after-school sewing classes for their children and those who enroll them in 4-H. A child who sews will be one who can figure things out.
The benefits of sewing are indescribable — teach your kids to sew (or learn yourself) and see the skill spill into other areas of your life.
How You Can Learn to Sew
Interested in learning to sew? There are many resources. If you know someone who sews, they may be willing to teach you. The Internet has many free sites for instruction, too, which include helpful YouTube channels like Made to Sew. Check with your local fabric store (mine has classes for beginners to advanced sewers). Your agricultural extension may also be helpful.
Sewing is a wonderful skill, and if you are contemplating homesteading, it will be a handy thing to learn. Not only is it enjoyable, but practical, as well as educational.
Marla Walters and her husband live in Hilo, Hawaii, along with an active volcano. They have one grown daughter, several spoiled pets, and a yard full of exotic produce. Marla loves all things domestic and enjoys trying things out in order to write about them. She also writes for wisebread.com.