Sewing is fun and super-creative – and it’s even better when you can use it to solve problems, save money, and do a little something good for the environment, too.
That’s what my podcast is all about: Taking something fabric-y that already exists, and turning it into something new and useful. What’s not to love about that? You’re stretching your creativity, you’re avoiding mass consumerism, and you’re taking something out of the waste stream. Plus, you’re having fun. And that’s really important, too.
I started being inspired by refashionistas and other green crafters around 2006 or so – about the time blogs started popping up everywhere. I started taking old shirts and table linens and T-shirts and turning them into aprons, little girls’ sundresses, reusable shopping bags, and all manner of other things. When I got my first mp3 player a few years later, I discovered podcasts. In mid-2010, it occurred to me: Why not put the two together?
Several times a month, I just sit down in my sewing room with my MacBook Pro and a microphone, and yap a little about what I’ve been working on, ideas that have come my way, and interesting things I’ve seen related to eco-friendly sewing. Sometimes I’ll convince an author or teacher or other cool, creative person to come on the air with me. Sometimes I’ll get completely off on a tangent. And much to my amazement – and delight – several hundred listeners have joined in on the fun.
I firmly believe that what we do matters. It’s all about the conversation. If we can inspire one another to forgo buying something new in favor of making it ourselves – out of something old – we’ve done something that makes a difference. We’ve begun to get ourselves out of the mindset that we have to go buy something every time we have a problem to solve. And when we do a super job on it, and other people compliment us on it, and we say “Why thankyouverymuch, I sewed it myself out of an old thus-and-such,” then we’re inspiring other people to do their own version of what we’re doing.
And that’s when it really starts to make a difference.
Back in time (cue flashback arpeggio)
I started sewing when I was just a little kid, under the expert tutelage of my mother. I did traditional things like making of doll clothes out of scraps, embroidering on dishtowels, and doing other simple handwork. By the time I was about eight or nine, I was ready to join 4-H and began learning how to operate my mother’s old Singer sewing machine.
My first project – a purple gingham apron – was a big mess, with crooked, broken stitches and uneven hems all around. Still, I entered it in the county fair competition, because that’s just what we did in our small Nebraska community. I got a white ribbon, the lowest award possible. Some of the other girls earned blue or even the coveted purple ribbons, but I also knew a lot of their mothers had done much of the work for them. No, I didn’t become a pint-sized whistleblower. But I did believe my mother when she lovingly assured me my white ribbon – earned with every single stitch of my own making – was the most meaningful award of all. Wasn’t she great?
I wish I had a photo of my mom sewing! This one from the early 1980s is actually a more familiar scene for her - she was church organist at our parish for more than four decades.
In junior high and high school, I made most of my own clothes – even prom dresses – and my folks gave me a portable Singer for high school graduation. I sewed a little during college. When I got married and got pregnant, I made most of my maternity clothes. I later made the curtains for my daughter’s room and a lot of her clothes through toddlerhood. After that, though, came a lot of years when I only hauled out my sewing machine to mend stuff or to make my daughter’s Halloween costumes.
The winter my mother died – 2001 – I felt an inexplicable need to start sewing again. I took up knitting again, too, something I also learned as a kid but hadn’t done for years. The handling of yarn and fabric and the gentle repetition of stitching was incredibly soothing and healing as I worked my way through that time.
My mother always made great flannel receiving blankets for babies, and I started making similar ones to donate to the local hospital. Mother wasn’t a quilter, so it never occurred to me that it might be fun to give that a try, too. But one day – remembering how she seldom threw scraps away – I started stitching leftover flannel strips together and cross-cutting them into squares. I brought them to work and showed them to a co-worker who also liked to sew – and quilt. She gasped and said, “Anne, you’ve made a rail fence block!” And I didn’t even know it.
I got totally into quilting at that point, joined a guild, and built up a sizable stash of quilting cottons. I finally wore out my circa-1974 Singer and bought a Kenmore machine, then a Janome 4900. I churned out a ton of quilts – for kids in the family, for gifts, and lots for charity. I kept a couple, too.
Over time, I’ve broadened my sewing scope back into garment and accessory sewing. Project Runway helped move me in that direction, too. As did refashioning blogs. Instead of buying fabric off the bolt, I started buying my material in the form of thrift-store tablecloths and rummage sale dresses. I started making new stuff out of old stuff.
I started feeling really good about it.
And that’s about the point at which I started this description.
I'm a corporate communications manager and I also love all things fiber. I believe sewing can be a great way to build and sustain eco-friendly practices. That's what my podcast is all about. Thanks for stopping by, and please leave a comment!