W is for women who sew

Sewing. It’s cool, and it’s back. Women everywhere are attending sewing classes, crafting workshops and buying sewing machines again to make their own clothes and home furnishings, me included. For most, this is a re-purposed activity from years gone by and a fun hobby or source of income. For some, it’s a worrying turn against time, revolution and gender equality.

I love sewing. I always have done. From cross-stitching my first bookmark at Brownies to getting an A in my GCSE Textiles exam, to creating my own wardrobe in the present day, it is always something I’ve done. Sewing is fun, and nothing less than that for me, but until recently I hadn’t considered what it meant to other people.

Think of traditional sewing and you think of a housewife dating back to the wartime. Think of housewives and you think of gender inequality. Think of gender inequality and you think of the decades of fighting for equal opportunities women have done for the modern day girl. Think of all that and it’s easy to see why some people are worried that the new surge in sewers is putting us back in time.

But it’s not. The main obvious difference is that women back then were sewers because they had to be. Resources and money was in short supply and making your own clothes and curtains were sometimes the only option. Now, women are sewers because they want to be. We come home from work where we have earned our own salary, to pay for our own flats and bills, and sew because it’s enjoyable.

However, that isn’t the only reason. If we were deemed to be being anti-feminist and undoing the hard work of generations before us, we would be called anti-revolutionary, but sewing is revolutionary in a sense. Today’s struggle is less about gender differences but about economic difficulties, and by making our own garments and home furnishings we are taking a tiny part in a revolution against a plainly weird economy.

The cost of living is going up, we pay taxes, and yet we are still being told to spend our money on frivolous shopping to help the economy. Well no! What little money I have left after the bills have been paid is mine to spend how I like, and as much as I would love to devour Topshop’s summer collection sometimes it’s not financially realistic to do so. What is affordable is visiting haberdashery markets, picking up odds and ends of fabric, borrowing your aunty’s sewing machine and spending a rainy Saturday afternoon putting a nice new skirt together. What’s more, if you decide to head into town for a drink that night you can guarantee nobody else will be wearing your uniquely-made creation, or carrying your home-designed clutch. Can you say the same for that high street dress you like? A quick look around any popular bar would say not.

Sewing makes sense. It’s fun, it provides a second source of income for some through outlets such as Etsy, it’s social, financially friendly and expands our creative thinking. What more could you ask for from an activity? Well, apart from fewer pin pricks…

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