Learning to Sew - The Ribbon in My Journal

Learning to Sew: A Grandmother’s Dream

Phyllis Inspiration, Lifestyle 31 Comments

When my sweet little granddaughter Amelia told me that she wanted to learn to sew, my heart skipped a beat as I replied, “that is wonderful.” She is almost 5 years old, so we will start on the things she can do now. It will be a couple of years before she can operate a sewing machine. The journey of sewing together will begin soon.

I learned to sew when I was a little girl. Mom made our clothes, and it always intrigued me how fabric was cut, pinned, and sewn into a wonderful garment. Mom started me and my sister on simple things so we could become familiar with needles, threads, and working the machine.

My first project was a hot-pink apron complete with lace medallions stitched on top. I still have that apron and take great pride in the gathers of the skirt. I don’t understand why I felt a cotton apron needed antique lace medallions, but who knows—embellishing is everything!

Step by step, you learn to sew. Many of you have shared your sewing stories with me. It is the love of fabrics and the process of assembling something that makes sewing fun. I always looked forward to the day when I would sew for my children. I collected antique laces, ribbons, and buttons just waiting for that special little girl to come along. My twins were boys, my first grandchild was a boy, and then finally there she was! Amelia would be the recipient of my labors. Thirty years I waited to use my treasures in creating beautiful dresses for her.

I sewed some for the boys, but they outgrow it quickly and opt for jeans and T-shirts. Amelia likes to play in my sewing room. When we are bored with the boy events at family gatherings she always asks if we could go “fabric.” That is her word for going to the sewing room, dragging out all of the fabric, and playing with patterns and color combinations. I just love it, and she is very good at coordinating colors!

As we begin our sewing journey, I look forward to the day when she will be able to make a garment on her own. It will be a day to remember.

Do you sew, or did your mother sew? I would love to hear your treasured sewing memories.

Southern Lady September 2015 cover

Comments 31

  1. I so enjoy your stories! I learned to sew from my neighbor, Mrs. Mary Redmond, who lived across the street. I was in Junior High School. She taught me how to lay out the patterns and sew on the sewing machine. The second dress I sewed was a pink and white lace dress for my Junior High School Graduation. I started sewing for many different occasions. I began to sew gowns for my Mother for weddings. My favorite sewing, however, was sewing Halloween costumes for myself and my niece and nephews. My first question to them in September was, “What do you want to be for Halloween?“ How wonderful for you to have the joy of sharing your sewing talents with Amelia. I will look forward to see her first sewing project!

  2. I am 76 years old and have been sewing since I was 12. I have been sewing for other folks since I was 16. I have learned from my mother and grandmother, I have made everything from doll clothes to wedding dresses, from little girls and boys clothing to from shirts from my sons and prom dresses for my daughters. I have made banners for the churches where I have been a member, repaired choir robes, minister’s robes, and anything else they needed made or repaired. I am still learning about sewing as I read everything I can get my hands on about sewing, including pattern directions. I have learned heirloom sewing, English smocking, embroidery by hand and machine.Oh, and let me show you my fabric stash!
    I have subscribed to your new magazine and I look forward to reading it and learning more.

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Just spent a wonderful time catching up on RBJ back to July 28th, we have had a busy summer for us and while I normally check for your posts daily, I was that far behind. I love to sew, can look at fabric and all related items for hours, remember some very good school lunches and all the prep for returning to school after Labor Day[which was usually spent at the lake]. Love blue and white china, flowers, cooking, fall and all it encompasses especially in the beautiful northwest. I could probably go on and on, but really just want you to know how much happiness and beauty this blog and your publications bring to many lives. I will just add that I too, would love to see an article featuring the Davenport Hotel in my hometown of Spokane!

  4. Although my mother and grandmothers didn’t sew, I was fortunate to be surrounded by accomplished women willing to share their amazing talents. My best friend’s mother sewed beautiful clothes for herself and her daughter and taught me the basics. Later, my amazing mother-in-law kept me in awe with her beautiful creations of clothing and home decor. She was basically self-taught and did wonderful projects for the family. I am a simple sewer but had the privilege of showing my oldest granddaughter what I know when at around age 10 she asked for a sewing machine. She has been help her friends in emergency repairs situations. What a priceless and wonderful gift to pass to another. Enjoy it all!

  5. My granddaughter Madeline played under my sewing machine as a baby also. This past Christmas she asked for a sewing machine. I found her an orange Singer. She loves it and has made some really cute things. She is 9 and loves quilt and fabric stores and still has my thimbles she took when she was little and called them “bimbles”.

  6. I work for Simplicity pattern company as an illustrator, and have on and off for 54 years….I learned to sew in jr. high school and at FIT….I’m so happy that a new generation is interested in learning. I’m in the Craft dept. so I get to draw “fun stuff” costumes, home dec. and projects that aren’t large in scale (living in New York limits the space available for projects, but there is nothing that matches an embroidered pillow that you have finally found the time to complete, and give as a gift!

  7. My grandmother, my mother, and my aunt sewed and it became easy to me. I sewed my school clothes when mother had to go to work full time and after I was married I even sewed my mother’s work dresses, no pants in those days. I raised a family, two boys and a girl, I sewed for my daughter and my husband’s sister sewed dresses for her as she wound up with 2 boys. I went back to college when my youngest one started school full time and didn’t realize I was heading for a career involving sewing. When my youngest one went off to college, I had finished my degree in of all things Home Economics, they call it family and consumer sciences now. I taught more boys than girls but the boys loved sewing. They were very good on the machines and not afraid of the sewing machine. I finished up my career just as we got in embroidery machines and the students really loved that. When I turned 65 my husband gave me an embroidery machine, which he promptly learned to use. As for myself I was a little worn out with sewing on the machines by then. I still like needlework and knitting and crocheting. My husband and I had an embroidery business for a few years until we moved here to Vero Beach, we still do projects for special people. He loves it and especially the digitizing. We have my second embroidery machine and a 10 needle embroidery machine. My younger sister and my daughter have no interest in sewing and I find it very perplexing but you can only lead the horse to drink. My daughter won an award for Home Economics in Middle school but still doesn’t sew or do hand work, she is a brain and a reader.
    I am so glad you have a granddaughter who likes to learn to sew. My one grandaughter is quite the baker, making special cakes and cupcakes for order. She started college this year and won’t be able to pursue that now. I also taught cooking and home decorating to my middle school students and of course family life courses.
    I love you your website and have been a Victoria reader since it first started. Thank you, it takes me away to another world. We lived all over the world and the United States and I love seeing those places in your blog and magazine.
    My latest venture is orchid growing. I do grow veggies and have banana and loquat trees.

  8. How refreshing for Amelia to want to learn to sew. She sounds like a precious creative young lady. Sewing is one of the goals I want to learn along with Latin. My maternal grandmother was a talented sewer,unfortunately she moved away when I was quite young.

  9. I learned the basics of sewing in Home Ec. class. I have made simple curtain valances, simple square pillows and would love to learn how to make clothes. You gals who have had moms who sew are so blessed! I wish I had had someone to come along side me and show me the finer techniques of sewing! Your granddaughter is a lucky young lady, Phyllis! You are teaching her not only to sew, but also sharing the gift of patience!

  10. My mother had had seamstress that made most of her party dresses, formal gowns and church suits. But when I came along, my mom started sewing sun dresses, party dresses and dresses for my Barbies too. She also knit sweaters to match. I wanted to learn how to sew but it was not in my DNA!

  11. Love that your little granddaughter is going to take after you! Such fun! I have never been able to sew but at almost (a couple of weeks) 60 years old, bought a sewing machine and hope to learn so I can at least make simple decor items for my home. It amazes me how much is charged for simple pillows so I will attempt to learn!

  12. My memories are similar to most here. My mother made most of the clothes for herself, my two sisters and me. She had learned from her mother by making her undergarments from flour sacks. My first sewing lesson was learning to sew buttons onto a scrap of fabric and I used the same technique for my own daughters and my oldest granddaughters.
    My favorite sewing memory, though, is the sound my mother’s scissors made as she cut out a new outfit for one of us on the dining room table. She was cutting out a dress for me the night my future husband called to ask me for our first date. Even now, some 57 years later, that memory comes to me whenever I am cutting fabric on a wooden surface….usually our dining room table.
    These days, though, I am more into embroidery and making Christmas ornaments. I hope to embroider a monogrammed handkerchief for each of my seven granddaughters, and a collection of ornaments for all 11 of the grandchildren.
    By the way, does anybody still use tailor tacks anymore? I mentioned them to a young woman recently and she didn’t have a clue. I still like the technique best of all the alternatives.
    Love your blog, Phyllis.

  13. Well, Phyllis, you have done it again! I sit here with my 90 year old mother in skilled nursing waiting to feed her. I was able to read your article to her and thank her once again for teaching me to sew. My granddaughter Maddie thinks I can fix anything because I sew which brings a smile to me. I have repaired some important stuffed animals and princess dresses. You must follow up on this project so the rest of us can know how to teach one so young. It is very important that these things be passed down. How blessed we are to have mother’s to teach us to garden, cook, bake, sew, and the list just never ends. The gown is so beautiful.

  14. I learned to sew on my grandmother’s treadle machine. She cut up her old slips for fabric. Later I walked to the Sears store for fabric. But my real inspiration to sew was when my aunt made some clothes for my doll for Christmas. I thought it was the nicest thing anyone could do for me. I begged for a sewing machine In high school. After sewing for many years, I discovered Sew Beautiful magazine and the heirloom sewing school in Huntsville, which I attended for many years. I even took my granddaughter for the kids school. It changed my life, and I met so many wonderful friends.

  15. Was forced to take sewing in Home Economics in high school ~ made an A-line skirt and actually put a zipper in. Then learned how to tear out the seams of my sons jeans to patch them as an adult. Nothing else and still don’t have the foggiest idea! lol

  16. My mother used a treadle machine
    She sewed everything clothing of course did towels curtains covered counches the list goes on I tried it once the needle went my index finger ouch. Years later I married
    My husband and I moved to another state….we couldn’t afford
    Much back than. I needed curtains
    Towels I bought some fabric didn’t a sewing machine by hand I made
    Curtains dis towels my baby daughter I decorated her clothing
    Her cute bedroom. Years later we moved again bought my first sewing machine I still have that machine but when my daughters were younger I made all their clothing, decorated sheets napkins
    Made their first bras dresses
    They needed anything I would make it.todaymany years later they are both grown have their own lives. We moved northwest and now learning quilting and embroidery …. My machine today
    Is far from mothers sewing machine quilting is a different language… The above dresses are the kind of dresses I made for my daughters still have their patterns
    Thank you for your articles they take me back with smiles and good memories

  17. Sewing with granddaughters is dear to my heart….I have 15 and have had the good fortune to teach all of the older girls…the two youngest will get their turns shortly, they are six and four. We have had many successes….some achieving Grand Champion status at the 4-H county fair. Have sewn with the grandsons as well….they like to make Pajama bottoms One twelve year old did a quilt from a kit and was awarded a grand champion ribbon at county fair and a Blue ribbon at the Iowas State Fair love to brag about my grandchildren.

  18. My mother-in-law got me sewing! my grand-daughter is only 3yrs old but she loves all the dresses and nightgowns I make for her, so I long for the days when we can go searching for that special fabric together.

  19. I have been sewing since 7th grade and am now a grandmother 4 times over….3 girls 1 boy! My oldest granddaughter is just about to turn 5. Last year with all of the “Frozen” frenzy, she asked me to make her a “Queen Elsa” gown, of course I had to. Then for Christmas I made 2 “princess Anna” dresses….I think I will be sewing for some time, the newest granddaughter just turned 5 months old and her big sister is teaching her well. Thanks for sharing this sewing memories post with everyone.

  20. So wonderful that you are going to get to pass on the joys of sewing! I learned from watching my Mother and from watching years of sewing shows now. Books, magazines and sewing articles have contributed to my skills as well. Nothing like the joy of learning from a parent or grandparent! Have fun and be patient! It is like teaching someone to drive without a car.

  21. I think sometimes interested are skipped I did learn to sew and cut out patterns, in high school (gasp) when we still had Home Ec. I don’t like to create but baking, canning, cooking I just love. My own daughter starting learning to sew, paint, knit, and use power tools, the last few years. So even if your own daughters, did not learn or care to learn may you all be blessed with Grandaughter to teach.

  22. I feel everything that you write. My mother taught me to sew and now I too have a beautiful grand daughter who is 4, so like you I am looking forward to our time together to sew. I taught both her mother and her aunt to sew, so now it’s her turn. So special!

  23. My grandmother & my Mother both sewed, so I learned some from them. I taught myself to follow patterns & enjoyed many of the things that I made as a teenager. I prefer to buy my clothes now, but if styles don’t get more classic, I may need to sew again.
    You are making wonderful memories with Amelia.

  24. Like you, I learned to sew from my mother, and it has enriched my life immensely since then. I also have a great appreciation for the countless hours and vast amounts of love that long-ago needleworkers spent making the beautiful linens we collect today. So bravo to you for passing this art along to your granddaughter!

  25. Oh we need a picture of the little skirt! I am terribly behind teaching my girls to sew. We’ve done some simple projects together but I really do need to get them working on something more substantial. 🙂

  26. Hi Phyllis… Sounds like Amelia is following in her grandma’s foot steps!!! How wonderful to share something so special with your loved one!! I love fabrics also, but a seamstress I’am not! I dabble with embellishments…. When my son got married I embellished baskets with chantily lace and which happened to look very nice and received many compliments!! My mom was a knitter and she also crocheted and did do little projects on her sewing machine…. What a feeling to create something out of nothing! Those dresses you featured are so beautiful and pristine, love them! Thanks for sharing!

  27. I learned to sew in 4-H 60 years ago. Started with my grandmother’s treadle machine and advanced to electric. Made all my own clothes for many years and there were some special items I was particularly proud of. Unfortunately, my daughter was only comfortable in jeans and tee shirts. When she joined 4-H, teaching her to sew was a challenge. Lucky you to have a granddaughter that shares your interest.

  28. I love this, Phyllis! Especially the “go fabric”. Oh, the delights of patterns, transforming the yard or so of prints into a wearable dress or blouse or skirt. What memories you are building with your darling Amelia. I learned how to sew by my mother’s side, sadly, neither one of my girls is all that interested in sewing. I’m hoping that one or both of my granddaughters will fall in love with sewing too.

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