I stood in line to pay for my purchase. The teenage cashier politely asked if I found everything I was looking for, and totaled the purchases. I handed her my credit card which displays the name of our business, Fabric Café. She took one look, asked what kind of business I was in and broke out in a big grin when I explained we were in the sewing industry.
“Oh, my gosh, she said,” animatedly, “I just finished my first quilt! And I did it all on a sewing machine. My grandmother makes the most wonderful quilts by hand, but I made one On A MACHINE!” Her bright face and total pride in her accomplishment was a joy to experience and not one that was all that unusual for me. As I travel and present my credit card, the unusual name of our company prompts many inquiries as to what I do, and the response from the young people is quite often enthusiasm.
So what is stirring a sewing interest in young people? I think partly the fact that we’ve had such a long run of quilting interest that started back in the 70s. Young people are being exposed more and more to the hobby of sewing. Another could be the decorating craze on TV. I don’t think I ever turn on the TV that there isn’t a decorating show being aired. Many times, the hosts sew simple items to give the room a new look.
When I was about 10, my mother, Gladys Jones, a struggling single mother of five, purchased a sewing machine out of necessity. In those days, sewing was a great way to save money. My two older sisters began sewing their wardrobes immediately, but I was deemed too young to tackle clothing. However, Mom did not restrict my use of the sewing machine and I spent hours making doll clothes. By the age of 12, I was busily making all my own clothes, only partly out of necessity, and mostly out a loving passion for the creative process.
When I became a mother, my love of sewing continued. My two children practically grew up under my sewing machine. Both are incredibly creative, love sewing, and are proficient in several other needlecrafts, as well.
As I contemplated how one person’s love of sewing can influence another, I talked with Fran Morgan, my business partner and daughter about my observations. I asked her to share some of her thoughts about these influences and her journey from a curious child to a successful professional designer in the sewing industry.
Question: Fran, what was the most influential reason in sparking your interest in sewing?
Fran: That’s easy; from my earliest memory we had fiber crafts in our home. You were always knitting or sewing. Naturally when I had a creative urge, I naturally gravitated to fabrics and fibers rather than paint and glue.
Question: What about young people who aren’t exposed to sewing in their home?
Fran: The world gets smaller every day. These influences are brought into our homes through TV, our friends and acquaintances and marketing. We don’t have to have a family member that sets the example. For instance, I have a friend who is expecting her first child. Sewing wasn’t an important part of her life as a child, but she is drawn to it now because of our friendship and my chosen career. She wants handmade quilts, curtains and nursery items.
Question: When it comes to sewing projects, what do you think attracts the attention of young people?
Fran: Bold colors and simple lines are so very important. Remember how we began exposing our babies to colorful simple shapes? These are the building blocks of more complex designs. Remember, their creativity may be stirred by a desire to make more difficult projects, but the first projects they tackle are not intended to be heirlooms. They should be simple exercises to help them fall in love with creating. Mechanics will come later. I remember my son’s first art work — bold bright colors scribbled on paper. Then one day he drew a definite shape, and now that he has learned the mechanics, he draws very well.
Question: Do you remember any of your first sewing projects?
Fran: Oh yes! Do you remember the handkerchief blouse I made? It was just big squares of fabric set on point. I loved that blouse and wore it with so much pride. I also remember you bragged on me a lot when I finished it.
Question: How does pride play into keeping young people sewing?
Fran: It’s the most important part. We humans don’t do things that don’t make us feel good about ourselves. Receiving approval and encouragement helps us with our self esteem and that ultimately helps us feel good about what we create. Remember when we first start an activity that is new to us, we are clueless. Is this the right way to hold the tool? Is it supposed to look this way? Can you show me an easier way if I express a curiosity? Encouragement and praise are the building blocks for a long-time relationship with this new activity.
Question: Do you remember things that were stumbling blocks to your sewing journey?
Fran: The awful machine that had horrible bobbin tension. Although I continued to dabble with sewing, as often as I had to stop and fix a glob of thread, it’s amazing that I didn’t give it up. The day I got my first new machine is the day I fell in love with sewing. I went bananas! I had more time to create and spent less time fixing errors.
Question: Besides a great sewing machine, was there anything else that advanced your love of sewing?
Fran: Classes. I’ll never forget my first quilting class. I had the most wonderful teacher, Susan Stallings from A Nimble Thimble. She was so kind and patient. I had a desire to sew, but in that class Susan helped me have an enjoyable experience learning the mechanics.
Question: Anything else you would like to share?
Fran: I’d just repeat, Expose young people to creative adventure, make it a fun experience and brag, brag, brag on what they do! They’ll search out the mechanics as they play with creativity.
Do What You Love
Many people desire to touch another’s life in a monumental way, but we are usually unaware when we do. Influencing others’ is mostly done by living our lives with enthusiasm. The grandmother of the teenage cashier probably had no idea that her granddaughter would express her love of sewing to a perfect stranger. And when I shared my enthusiasm with my children, I had no clue that my daughter would eventually have a successful career in the sewing industry.