Downtrodden? Not At Didyoumakethat Towers!

Mark Bush

Reproduced by permission of Mark Bush

Whilst in Skiathos, my holiday reading included the novel Tigers In Red Weather. This book is good. Oh, it’s soooooo good. It’s the perfect beach read – intriguing characters, sexual tension, a murder and plenty of chilled martinis. What more could a person ask for? Oh, and there were bits of sewing.

Tigers In Red Weather

Now, I tend to get annoyed with how sewing and knitting are sometimes portrayed. I began grinding my teeth when the ditzy character in Tigers In Red Weather sewed her own clothes. Oh, here we go again, I thought. Sewing as shorthand for the downtrodden. But then I had to change my mind when her headstrong, sexy, wealthy cousin also got a dress made. Notice the emphasis on ‘got’ – I have no doubt she commissioned a dressmaker when she decided to use some beautiful fabric embroidered with golden tigers. Still, sewing was being used as a motif for something other than oppression. This had to be a good thing.

I started thinking about sewing and knitting used as cultural shorthand. The opening image is a portrait from the National Portrait Gallery’s annual BP Portrait Award. If you’ve never checked out this exhibition, you should! It’s free and stimulating and the NPG has a bar/restaurant with staggering views across London. I love Mark’s portrait, don’t you? That aggressive stare at the viewer. I don’t think this person is oppressed, do you?

Where else had I seen sewing or knitting featured? I’d cheered recently to see a character on Eastenders using her sewing machine  – good! But then I remembered the rows of frustrated factory machinists who have sewn knickers for decades on Coronation Street – bad! (Apologies to international readers who may be familiar with neither Eastenders nor Coronation Street. Think of them as the UK versions of Dallas and Dynasty. Um, er … without the shoulder pads. And more of the grey skies.)

The Craftivist Collective has successfully subverted the perceived gentleness of craft in order to get across political messages. As the founder, Sarah, says in this interview, ‘stitching a hankie is a powerful way of lobbying your MP’. Below is me embroidering at a Craftivist event. Hmmm. I don’t look downtrodden, either.

craftivist-collective

But sewing and knitting are my hobbies. My choice. I am aware that when some people meet me and hear what I do, they give me what can only be described as a pitying glance. Aw, the poor, deluded fool. Doesn’t she have anything better to do? I do so enjoy the moment during conversation when they realise I have a brain in my head. Nothing more satisfying than watching an individual forced to rapidly adjust their preconceptions. Yes, I am an intelligent, educated and independent woman who knits! Sorry to rock your entire notion of the world!

What do you think? Obviously, there are complex socio-historical reasons behind why mass culture stumbled upon sewing and knitting as shorthand for oppression. I ain’t gonna claim that I’m clever enough or educated enough to understand this topic completely! But I do still grind my teeth when someone shows a person sewing or knitting and we’re meant to think, ‘Ah. Downtrodden.’ Why can’t we think, ‘Ah. Inspired!’

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62 Responses to Downtrodden? Not At Didyoumakethat Towers!

  1. Rachel says:

    I don’t know how many times I’ve had people say to me that my interest in sewing and cooking is at odds with my academic/intellectual/career background as a feminist researcher of criminal justice responses to sexual violence. I get quite cranky about it – I understand quite well the political, social and environmental history behind women’s use of a sewing machine, but my current modern use of one is done so in the spirit of choice, and freeing myself from the shackles of fashion that doesn’t fit me properly, suit my aesthetic, and that has a political, social and environmental context that I personally find difficult to stomach. I hope my use of a sewing machine inspires someone else to use a part of their brain they don’t ordinarily use (mine had cobwebs before starting sewing!), or simply make something they feel amazing wearing.

  2. sew2pro says:

    Barbara Pym, who I love, had a very sad little dressmaker as a character in Some Tame Gazelle. Amidst much polite fun involving vicars, the dressmaker’s role in the plot is to clothe the spinster heroines and feel hard done by at their lack of providing her a decent lunch when she sews constantly at their home and leaves only when the garments are made.

    The book was written in 1950 and the portrayal is depressing . If true, it goes some way to explain why women of my mum’s generation turned their backs on gaining this skill and went for more academic pursuits.

  3. Stephanie says:

    That is so true! I often get that “poor you” stare, as if something has gone awfully awry in my life. As if I had lost all purpose in life and needed help getting out of this downtrodden misery I’ve gotten myself into. 🙂

  4. FabricKate says:

    An interesting post Karen. And you do look good in deep pinks and purples!

    I do wonder why sewing is still a woman thing however. Its like we can all do geometry; use, maintain and repair machines; creatively altering patterns to deal with our individual shapes; innovating; doing very precise work etc. I took my husband to the Valentino exhibition and he was really interested in the technical couture films. Why are most women keen, and most men disinterested?

  5. lovelucie1 says:

    I need my sewing/crochet/baking/general craftiness to nuture the creative side of me that is not fulfilled after spending the day as an engineer.
    I spend the days with my male colleagues looking at plans of proposed roads and developments and my evenings and weekends with my daughter, my partner, Pinterest, my latest crochet project, sewing machine, craft books and magazines and all you crafty bloggers.
    However, my male colleagues are always fasinated to know about all my creative hobbies.
    Some of us are just ‘well rounded’.

    • Melissa says:

      I agree sewing/knitting/crocheting/ painting and any other creative thing that I take on is just another creative outlet for me. I could not image going through life without a creative outlet. I am a kitchen designer by day and work in a man’s profession, contractor’s and sub-contractor’s very detailed work. I get so much enjoyment out of making my own clothes that not only fit my body but my personality. Knitting up a winter hat in no time is a get feeling. People around me have always commented on these talents. It is actually liberating.

  6. franceparijs says:

    I am not an expert in those matters either but I would perhaps start to think that, nowadays, the trend is on the other side (in this part of the world, at least): people who make their own garments are those who are not oppressed but those who have decided to have a say in the way they clothe themselves: by saying “no” to buying poor quality mass-market clothing produced mostly in inhumane conditions (see Dhaka, Bangladesh) and sold in the big textile chains. Sewists, knitters, etc, are those who make a choice to make and to wear what fits them and not what is “imposed” on them.

  7. Kerry says:

    It’s great that sewing and knitting have taken on a life of their own, beyond being necessities for clothing yourself. People may find it amusing that I learned how to make my own pants, but come the apocolypse, my knicker-making skills will be essential!

  8. maddie says:

    I get the same response (a lot too). When I tell people I sew, they look at me as if I create handmade-looking stuff like aprons, pencil skirts, etc. But when I show them some of my garments, I blow them away. It’s funny because many of the people who made fun of me for sewing are now getting into the hobby because “sewing is cool again”

  9. Bronia says:

    It is hard to imagine anything more powerful for women than the growth of blogs like this. You need only look at the me-made-may flicker pages to see thousands of pictures of wonderfully ordinary happy women, fully clothed in garments they have created themselves. What could be more feminist than having full control over how you cover yourself up? And, in taking that control, blogs like these make us question some of the standards of fashion. Inhumane conditions? Little girls in push up bras and bunny girl tshirts? There’s power in this little corner of the Internet….

  10. grtescp says:

    I don’t feel oppressed or downtrodden by sewing and knitting, and I don’t think any of my friends would think so of me either. By day I am a scientist, working with politicians and the fishing industry, and the free time I am not sewing is spent out on my mountain bike throwing myself off rocky drops and down rooty paths…
    I have only ever had one friend (from Sri Lanka) express surprise that I also sew, saying it was “a good skill for a woman” – he was slapped on the wrist for that 🙂
    And I have especially fond memories of sitting in working group meetings with a particularly brilliant and renowned Canadian scientist, who always knitted scarves for his daughters when he was chairing meetings!

  11. You go Karen! I don’t feel downtrodden either. 🙂

  12. People think I’m nuts that I’m learning to sew. I don’t think they mean it as any sort of oppressed feminist statement – more that it takes so much time and work for what you get. And it’s very difficult when you start from a place of no knowledge. It’s funny though – people don’t feel the same when I try a new recipe. The concept is similar though – you are working with your hands, learning a skill, and have something to show at the end (plus have frustration along the way). Sure it would be easier to go to a store and buy a new shirt. It would also be easier to go to a restaurant instead of cooking but people don’t see it the same way.

  13. Mrs. Smith says:

    Isn’t it FRUSTRATING?!?

    I am 34 (and am often told I look younger than my years), I’m a chemist, I’m a mom and wife and I sew, crochet and as of late, knit. I’ve had people literally toss their head back and laugh at me crocheting because it’s “an old people thing”. I had people give me the side glance “okaaaaay” when I said I was going to start sewing. And now they watch, amazed by what I sew up. Wanting me to make them hats, scarves, cowls, etc.

    And, downtrodden? Pfft. Clearly they haven’t fondled luxury fabrics and glanced at the price tags. And yarn!? Oy vey!!!! They’d be amazed by the $200 sweaters many a knitter wears on their back!

  14. ClaireE says:

    My experience has tended to be the other way although there is a lot of surprise when I say my hobby is sewing. However, once I get past that and describe or show what I have created the whole thing becomes “cool”. Maybe it just the types of people I am talking to or maybe there is a shift in attitudes. I don’t know but I’m glad I don’t experience the downtrodden look!

    • Helen says:

      I agree. I’ve never had the pitying look either. I pretty much get the “OMG you are so talented. You made THAT” response, But then, I only really say I sew in response to the “I like your dress/skirt/insert appropriate garment here” comment. Mostly I experience envy at being able to make exactly what I want. There is probably a bit of “you are nuts, why bother” in there too, but it’s generally well hidden by their politeness and curiosity! I haven’t come across much in the way of sewing in literature or TV though. Or perhaps I’m just not observant enough.

  15. senjiva says:

    Oh goodness. Why are people still in the dark? I used to get made fun of in college for knitting for relaxation. This was before celebrities started knitting and making it “ok” again. I sew for my living, catering mostly to professionals. I’m not sure exactly how they view me.

  16. Clare S says:

    Making a choice to spend your free time creating, rather than passively consuming can never be a symptom of oppression! I find it hard to understand people spending their entire leisure time doing unproductive activities, such as shopping (for the sake of shopping/as a hobby) or playing computer games. (Note, I say all their leisure time – nothing wrong with a bit of Xbox, I like to partake myself, but personally, when ALL my free time is spent without anything to show for it at the end, I feel pretty depressed!)

    I think there’s something to be said for the promotion of unproductive hobbies as a kind of zombification. If that’s not oppression, then I don’t know what is! We’re sold these ideas that getting blind drunk every weekend, buying more ‘stuff’ or staring at a TV will make us happy and ‘kill some time’ between the slavery of work, but actually they’re just deadening people to the real unhappiness in their lives and making someone else a quick buck. Not to get too socialist about this or anything, but a lot of people just seem to spend their lives working, eating, sleeping and then finding things to do to make themselves less depressed about spending so much of their waking life at work! Why else do people drink themselves to oblivion every weekend or stare at that box in the living room for hours each night?

    Actually producing something (whether that be through knitting, sewing, making music, gardening, cooking, writing, or whatever) with your free time keeps your brain active, gives you a sense of achievement and you have something to show for it at the end. Goes pretty well with an educated, independent mindset, if you ask me!

    I sew and do a bit of knitting, as well as writing; I’m also an English teacher with a Masters in Creative Writing and soon I should be getting a City & Guilds qualification in corsetry. I am, and always have been, a card-carrying feminist. I don’t feel any conflict between my making and my beliefs. Now, feminism and corsetry is an interesting one to think about, but that’s a whole other discussion!

  17. Lise says:

    Love this post! I’ve never bought in to the stereotype of sewing as weak or downtrodden. To the contrary – interpreting a pattern, adapting it, choosing the fabric, putting it all together – it’s sheer artistry! And blogs like these help us support one another in our artistry. You go girl!

  18. missparayim says:

    Sewing makes me feel empowered- quite the opposite of oppressed and downtrodden!
    I like having control of fabric and design and not being limited by my options on the rack!
    I think we are starting to be far enough removed from sewing being an essential chore that it’s on the verge of being a quirky/hipster hobby.
    There was a recent episode of New Girl (in the US), where Zooey Dechanel’s character mentions sewing her own prom dress, and her 3 male roommates groaned “Not another sewing story!”

  19. liza jane says:

    I think that analogy is changing. Two of my irl friends- one of whom would never do anything perceived as downtrodden- just recently took sewing lessons. People are catching on!

  20. I can identify with the perception that we who sew aren’t quite as weighty intellectually. At a party once, I heard a guy say of me (I was behind him so he didn’t see me), “How smart can he be–he sews for a living?” So it isn’t much of a leap to think we who sew are downtrodden. It’s a remnant of the time when people sewed for reasons of economics–they couldn’t afford to buy “store-bought” clothes.

    But I’m seeing this change. People more and more are fascinated by seeing people make something (the sewing reality shows confirm this), and even my friends regard things I’ve made as a bit of magic, somewhat like modern-day conjuring.

    In a time where most people perform their work on a computer or on paper, having a tangible object as the fruits of one’s labor is being seen more and more as extraordinary.

    • kristiellkay says:

      I think it’s pretty funny that sewing for oneself is seen as the “cheaper” alternative; I’m absolutely positive that I don’t have any RTW clothes as expensive as some of my me-mades. I would never go buy a silk dress, because I find it intimidating, but I have no problem dropping money on silk fabric and thread for something *I* made. It’s special, and it deserves to be treated as such.

      I agree a billion times about having a tangible object as the fruit of one’s labors! That act of creation is so much more than “levelling up” in a videogame, and we actually have tangible proof!

  21. Lily says:

    I’m 19, a politics student, a feminist, and a knitter. I see the knitting and baking I do as celebrating the traditionally female arts for the magnificence they are.

  22. Elizabeth says:

    Weird, I have never seen the downtrodden aspect of sewing. It’s not in my periphery. However, my sister has cautioned me to not bring up my sewing with potential suitors until the 3rd or 4th date so as not to scare them off. Haha.

  23. Joanne says:

    I have stopped telling people that I sew and knit as a hobby to relax! As they just look at me like I’m a little mad, sad or ‘special’!! (I am probably a little mad though!!) And ask me why I don’t just buy whatever I’ve made.
    Even my closest friends don’t know how much I sew and none of them know that I blog!

  24. Jen (NY) says:

    I suppose my perspective is a bit different. My grandmother worked in the NYC garment industry in the 1930s and later had a dressmaking/alterations business that feed her family during a dark time. She was a rather independent, strong woman. When I was in art school I worked on a series (still ongoing, in many ways) which dealt with body issues and used sewing as its media. Sewing dresses to fit (my) actual body, I saw, was a way of rejecting the self-victimization perspective that tends to be a reaction to social body ideals. (I hope that makes sense). It was also a means of acknowledging the reality of my own body, even though I hadn’t even heard of an FBA at that time! I have always seen sewing as empowering, but that is at odds with the Suzy-homemaker stereotype that was prevalent in the U.S. when I was growing up (’70s-’80s).
    ~Jen

  25. Clio says:

    My experience when telling people that I sew and knit has been the complete opposite – the typical response is that this is something incredibly cool. Maybe it’s b/c I’m a NY-er and so at the epicenter of Project Runway fandom and hipster/diy culture? But even outside of NY, when I am commuting or traveling for work and have my knitting out, it’s a magnet for strangers (both men and women) to come up to me and start conversation. I’m sorry that it’s not that way on your side of the pond because it always makes me feel even more positive about my creative hobbies.

  26. Catherine says:

    I know what you mean, but I find people say “ooooh you are sooo clever, I could never do that” …. In that slightly patronising way, when what they really mean is the exact opposite…..
    I got fed up with people asking if I could just “hem this as it will be really easy” … Ok …. If it is that easy you may use My spare machine and doit yourself. Being creative is a joy, hemming things for people not so much!
    I Am glad sewing is becoming “mainstream” again in th uk….such as useful and creative and fun skill.

  27. Catherine says:

    Also have you seen http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/49537. It is a petition to stop the government reclassifying craft as “not creative” ……

  28. Lynn says:

    I once had a woman I worked with who thought her lack of “womanly” skills (sewing, baking, cooking, knitting, crochet, etc.) Was proof she was more evolved than the rest of the women she worked with. I laughed and asked what she did to express herself or enjoyed doing with her time off. She had no real answer to that and finally admitted she mostly watched TV.

    I never felt the need to prove I was not the stereotypical poor little woman since my degree, a PhD in chemistry, and my job, a process engineer making computer chips, pretty much made that clear. So, I enjoyed the hobbies I like without caring if others found them to imply I was downtrodden.

    I find that much that passes for entertainment too passive and mentally unstimulating. I would rather cteate than vegetate!

  29. tracy young says:

    My close work collegues are always impressed when I go into work with a handsewn blouse or hand knitted cardigan, but there are a few who give me pitying looks! I don’t care what they think, I love that I can sew and knit and its my down time after working in a busy school all week!

  30. kristiellkay says:

    I don’t get too much of the pitying responses when someone finds out I sew/knit/crochet/whatever. What I really get, more than anything, is this weirdly superior sneer, coupled with a comment about how they wish they had time for that “sort of thing”. As if I somehow have more hours in a day than them.

    I want to grab them and shake them and say, “DUDE. You go home, sit down in front of the TV, and watch reality shows for 4 hours every night. I do almost the same thing, but with a pair of knitting needles in my hand, and Doctor Who on the TV. Stop acting like you have any less time than anyone else.”

  31. EmSewCrazy says:

    This is ridiculous! Knowledge is power. Having a useful skill that impacts your daily life for the better is empowering. I bet if we could go back and talk to the seamstresses through history they would say they were thankful for the jobs they could get because it put food in their mouths and kept them off the street.
    It is only because clothing has become so easy and accessible that the skill has become less prized.
    I believe there are seeds of creativity in every human being that can blossom in many diverse forms. Those who have never had those seeds grow are the sad and pitiful ones.

  32. Paola says:

    I have two degrees and I sew. I also garden, bake, cook from scratch, knit and paint. Why? I like to be master of my own domain. I like to have some control over what I eat, wear and look at. To me, people who rely on corporations to do this stuff for them (while working for said corporations, in order to give their hard earned back to them) are the oppressed ones.
    It is my impression that the sewing blogging community is made up of smart cookies. You have to be smart to think outside the square like these (mostly) ladies do.

  33. Irene says:

    To be honest I’m a bit surprised that you meet people who equate sewing with being downtrodden or a throwback. Most of the people I meet (not that I meet a great deal of new people) seem impressed when I tell them I enjoy sewing. It could be that I’m just oblivious to them pitying me, but I don’t really think a TV show like “Project Runway” could be so successful here if the prevailing sentiment viewed sewing as an occupation of the proletariat. Awareness of sweatshops is spreading here, but I doubt that home sewers are at risk of being mistaken for a sweatshop worker.

  34. chrisf says:

    Along with many other sewists, I have a PhD, and until recently was a University lecturer. I cook, bake, garden, paint and decorate, mend, knit, crochet sew and embroider. (If sewing elicits ‘pitying’ responses try telling people you embroider!) My husband also cooks, gardens, paints and decorates, and it is here our paths diverge slightly: he mends almost anything electrical or mechanical and makes stuff out of metal or wood. However, we both use our creativity and mathematical ability in design and our specialist knowledge of and skills with materials to manufacture. Neither of us feels downtrodden or oppressed because a) we derive enjoyment and satisfaction from these pursuits, b) it is our choice to do these things c) family and friends rate our practical skills very highly.
    PS Read the Subversive Stitch by Rozsika Parker (ISBN 9781848852839) for an account of embroidery as both a means of inculcating women into the feminine ideal and as a weapon of resistance to the constraints of femininity.

  35. Philipppa says:

    Oh yes! That’s why I recently started blogging. Because other sewing bloggers are the only ones who understand me! I prefer to think of myself as self-sufficient. I can clothe and feed myself, I don’t rely on someone who lives on the other side of the world to do it for me. Also, I as a result I have more money for other experiences (mostly involving coffee and cake, unfortunately). I agree that knitting guy doesn’t look oppressed but he does look a bit scary!!

  36. I only ever think inspired and pity those poor people who, in the evenings or on miserable weekends, can only sit on their hands. What do they do???? There’s nothing quite like creating something – something beautiful and/or useful that brings pleasure and reward. Hugely satisfying and NeVer downtrodden!

    • Pat says:

      I was thinking the same thoughts myself. I cannot sit still. If I’m outside trying to tan you can bet I have my knitting needles and/or a book to pass the time. I’m actually happy when there is going to be a few rainy days because I know I’ll be at the sewing machine. I cannot imagine what people do in their downtime if they don’t have a craft to work on. I get immense enjoyment from using my math skills and creative mind to make something that is all my own.

  37. AnotherKaren says:

    I remember Bernadette D on our first day at a girl’s school, as we fetched up in our too-big new school uniforms. She was the middle child in a family of eight. Unable to afford the uniform, her mother had made the complete outfit. The trouble was that her mother was a terrible knitter and sewer.

    None of us said anything because we adored her but we could see that Bernadette was conscious of how different she looked to the rest of us. Her little skirt was a different grey and the pleats did not stay in place; the blouse had a collar that stuck up; the hand-knitted jumper was a dull blue whereas the school jumper was a bright Royal Blue. (Her image is so vivid in my mind some 35 years later!)

    It didn’t bother us in the slightest, but it bothered her. When the photographer came to take the class photo, she hid behind a very tall girl at the back. The teacher told us all to take off our jumpers so that, from a distance, we all looked the same. I have no doubt that B felt very poor and downtrodden indeed and only perked up when, later in the term, the teachers found replacement items of uniform in ‘Lost Property’. (ie went out and bought the clothes from their own pockets,)

    I think that people of my generation remember the Bernadettes whose mothers lacked the skill, time and money to make clothes well and instead produced rotten, horrible, ill-fitting, unsuitable, and embarressingly bad garments for their offspring. In that context, I’m not surprised that DIY clothing is seen as something for the poor and downtrodden – or it is associated with workers in Third World (and UK) sweat shops.

    How lucky are we to be able to choose DIY clothing as a hobby!

    .

  38. Laura says:

    Wow, this has got to very one of the most interesting posts/comments I’ve seen on a blog!
    I don’t tend to get pitying reactions, but people do seem to ask why I bother. As in, if you can buy a dress for $30, why would you spend a fortnight making one.

    I think they’re just missing the point- none gets that its creative or relaxing or enjoyable or making something better than I would buy.

  39. When I was at school, I was told I was not able to take sewing as a subject, I had to take an intellectual subject. It is crazy how sewing is viewed as not intellectual with all the calculations we have to do to get the fit correct, with FBAs, shoulder adjustments etc, that and making something 3D out of 2D fabric.
    On another note, why is it called dressmaking and not bespoke tailoring?

    • KnitNell says:

      I think Busylizzieinbrizzy has a very good point – a lot of negativity has to to with semantics and the misconception that certain crafts were carried out by women at home as ‘something to do’ that wasn’t too taxing.
      Most people are very complimentary when I say I knit, crochet and sew but if they are not I explain that these activities help to keep my brain sharp and my fine motor skills challenged – they also give me an excuse to meet friends in the pub/cafe/art centre and consequently have widened my social network. And yes, of course its bespoke tailoring – I can’t remember the last time I wore a dress never mind made one – dressmaking is a fuddy-duddy word for the past and should be ditched!

  40. Jo-Ann says:

    I recently met up with an old friend and her first reaction to seeing I had a sewing pattern in my bag was ‘oh grow up’ I was so taken back by her blunt comment I had no response!

  41. Anne-Marie says:

    Great post Karen. I too like to sew, knit, crochet, bake and cook from scratch because it makes me feel capable and in charge of my own life. I can’t say that people pity me for being capable in these traditional skills, they are more often than not impressed or say ‘I wish I could knit…; And when I see someone wear a beautifully made garment, I always compliment the wearer on their skill.

  42. Stephanie says:

    Like a number of people who have commented, I only get positive reactions from people. Mostly they seem envious that I know how to do these things. Often they ask me to teach them (even males). I do math for a living, was a competitive athlete in my 20s, have a number of degrees, etc., and I never get the sense that people doubt the coexistence of craftiness with intelligence and general skill! I am genuinely surprised that some of the people you meet make different assumptions.

    The one thing I am thinking about more these days though is where I source the materials that I use for my crafts. It’s easy to feel a bit high and mighty for not buying garments made in sweatshops, but I do import an awful lot of yarn and it is also not always clear to me how and where my fabrics were produced. As a knitter and sewer, I still probably make and own far more clothes than I truly need (how many sweaters is too many?), which raises other questions about the virtue of my pursuits.

    Interesting discussion!

  43. zora read says:

    I started to sew when I was quite young, back in the 1980’s it was just going out of fashion. I got so fed up with the comments and weird looks that I stopped telling people that I made my own clothes. It was even difficult then to get craft magazines, so I stopped trying. I had to buy fabric in London markets because it was the only place I could. It is only in the last few years that it seems to me to have become socially acceptable again. I have only recently told people at work that I sew, but the reaction now is quite different. I still get the occasional semi patronizing comment usually from people who like to buy at the big discount clothes shops. But on the whole most people interested and almost admirational. I hope the craft does continue to grow and other people realize how beneficial it can be. .

  44. I agree. I am what some would call a ‘career woman’, I’m a mum too but I love nothing more than knitting, crochet or some stitching to help de-stress and unwind at the end of a long way. I’m fed up justifying why I enjoy craft. I’m not old,a granny, weird, mumsy, sad or otherwise. Craft for me, is a way of expressing my creativity and the ultimate stress reliever.

  45. Liz says:

    “The Dive From Claussen’s Pier” has quite a bit of sewing in it, including so much talk about a yellow silk nightgown that for the last, oh, EIGHT YEARS I have desperately wanted a yellow silk nightgown! The character is sort of slowly becoming a person through the book…and I wish I remembered more about the sewing. 😉

  46. Kelly says:

    I think that maybe attitudes are changing…I have never had anyone react that way when they find out I sew. I always get a “you are so talented, I wish I could do that” kind of response. To which I always say “You can do it, it just takes work and practice like anything else”. I do think people are surprised by it because I used to be an airline pilot, and quit flying after I had kids, but they don’t really see the two together. Before I started sewing I went with my mom to a quilters meeting and one of the women asked my mom if I sewed and my mom said “oh no, she’s a pilot!” as if the two couldn’t possibly mix! I thought it was so funny then and now. As if we can only be one or the other, professional or domestic. Anyway, I have just recently started reading your blog and can’t wait to see what you have to say on The Guardian!

  47. Margo says:

    I learned my skills, appreciation and passion for sewing (I’m working on my knitting) from my mom and many aunts. As great as this is or was, most of them no longer create and this makes me so sad. The wonderful women I looked up to and learned from feel that now they no longer “have to” sew. Did they sew only because they HAD to? I thought it was because they loved it and I wanted to be just like them, sewing my first button at the age of four. After starting my blog, I did hear that one of my aunts picked up a pattern to make a dress, she said I inspired her to try it again, this time because she wanted to. So glad that I could give back the gift she had given me so many years ago.

  48. rosepear says:

    I’m also pretty interested in how sewing is portrayed in fiction, but it’s rare that I actually find examples. I’ve started blogging about them when I do (http://strangenotions.pigeondesign.net/category/literary-sewing-quotes/), and neither of these two suggest ‘downtrodden’. In Miranda July’s short story the protagonist’s lack of ability to sew makes her feel kind of downtrodden in her sewing class, while in Wolf Hall knowing about sewing and fabric is a lowly profession, but one that wields its own special power that can be used against the rich.

    I’ll have to read Tiger in Red Weather and find something in it for my next quote.

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