The Great Depression taught an entire generation how to make do with what they had. Perhaps you, your parents or your grandparents experienced it, or maybe you’ve only heard about it in documentaries or read about it in school history books. It was a time when it was necessary to know how to create things for yourself: to cook from scratch, repair rather than buy new, grow your own food, and – yes – to sew! These are real life survival skills. Unfortunately, even with the rise in popularity of the reuse-and-recycle movement, we’ve lost touch with many of these skills. Now is the time to remember, to re-learn, to reach out and teach others. Our area of expertise is sewing, and as a S4H follower, it’s likely yours as well! We invite you to join us, along with our friends at Janome America, as we pull together information, tutorials, and projects to rekindle sewing as a real life survival skill.
One of our mottos here at Sew4Home has always been: the better your tools, the easier the process and the more professional the result. Nowhere is this more important than in the main tool required for sewing: your sewing machine. Pulling an ancient machine down from the attic or picking up a used machine from a yard sale is unlikely to be your best option.
Just because a sewing machine runs doesn’t mean you’re going to want to spend any time sewing on it. Even the most simple seam requires dozens of parts in the machine to be moving at hundreds of revolutions per minute – all in perfect sync. Anything that’s slightly off results in problems. A cheaply-made machine, or one with mechanical problems, will turn what should be a rewarding process into a series of frustrations. Take a look at our classic article on the Top Five Sewing Machine Buying Tips.
Yes! You can still buy a new sewing machine!
S4H is a Janome Exclusive studio, and so it’s the brand we use and recommend. We’ve been in touch with both Janome America and Janome Canada during the recent shut-downs, and we know that most dealers are doing their very best to make sure customers can still find and receive the machines they want and need.
While brick-and-motor shops have temporarily shut their doors, many dealers are offering virtual shopping demonstrations. Sales and gift-with-purchase offers are still happening – perhaps more so! And, dealers may be able to do curbside pickup or drop ship a machine right to your door. Reach out to your local Janome dealer to find out what they are doing in your area to keep their businesses open and running, and to help you keep sewing!
We’ll also be helping you find the best links to shop for and buy your fabric and notions online.
Now more than ever, a sewing machine is an appliance every home needs. Read on to see how it can help save money, reduce waste, tap your inner creative, and open up a fun hobby that uses both sides of your brain. Your dishwasher and toaster can’t do all that!
Start with the basics: repair
One of the best ways to begin to teach a person to sew and provide instant gratification is to show him/her how to repair something. Hemming, closing up a torn seam, replacing a button … if you’ve sewn forever, it can seem unfathomable that someone would not know how to do these things, but remember, schools eliminated many domestic arts courses years ago. There are generations of kids who, unless they had parents or grandparents who could step in, have never had the opportunity to learn sewing basics.
Learn different hemming techniques to extend the life of clothing.
As mentioned above, we’ll be bringing forward a number of classic projects and techniques onto the home page over the next days and weeks – so look for the Real Life Survival Skills emblem that will ID these articles. In the meantime, browse our main Techniques categories for ideas.
Fix simple tears, ripped out seams or torn belt loops.
Waste Not – Want Not
Recent shopping shortages and restrictions have made us all more aware of the need to extend the life of something we already have on hand. No, we do not have any DIY toilet paper tutorials… the country’s waste water treatment plants are already being pushed to the limit trying to deal with “TP alternatives”! But there are many other things you can re-purpose with very good results.
Don’t toss them, repurpose them.
Americans throw away over 32 billion pounds of textiles every year! It’s one of the biggest categories in the nation’s landfills. Commercial production of just one t-shirt and one pair of jeans can take up to 1,500 gallons of water during the manufacturing process. That’s how much water you’ll drink in about 13 years! Extending the life of your clothing by just three months or re-purposing the “good parts” into something else can reduce carbon and water footprints up to 10%.
Serge to finish raw edges.
Do you have a pile of old cotton t-shirts that were destined for donation or the garbage? Turn them into washable cleaning rags. Simply cut large squares from the front and back and voila, an instant, lint-free cleaning rag that can be washed and sterilized over and over. Knits don’t ravel much if at all along a cut edge so finishing isn’t really necessary, but if you have a serger, you can zip around all four sides in minutes.
Stitch up falling hems… or turn long pants into shorts, long sleeves into short for a whole new look.
Woven cotton blouses and button-down shirts are also good candidates for cleaning rags – although less adsorbent than knits. Their cut edges should be finished; we have a four-part series on the top machine sewn seam allowance finishes. Plus, don’t forget to snip off and save the buttons from your old shirts!
We’re working on other easy projects to do and share that offer ways to reuse rather than buying new. Be watching for ideas on how to remake-and-reuse pouches, napkins, storage bags, pillow covers, and more. Save money, keep textiles out of the landfill, and learn to survive on less.
Don’t forget to have fun
Our goal with our Real Life Survival Skills series is not to frighten you, but to remind you. We need to remember how to step away from the prepared-and-packaged world, to remind ourselves of our own inventiveness and ingenuity.
Now… don’t think for a minute that all of us at S4H aren’t just as anxious as all of you to be able to shop at and support our favorite stores again. We love something new as much as the next person. However, we also know we don’t have to rely on stores and wavering incomes to provide every single necessity.
Sew4Home seamstress member, Debbie, pulling scraps from her stash.
In all of this, never forget that on top of everything else … sewing is fun! It’s the perfect fusion of technology and creativity. Both sides of your brain are firing when you’re sewing. You’re designing with the right side, while processing data and operating a machine with the left. Activities that achieve this kind of fusion are great ways to expand overall thought processes and boost problem solving abilities.
We encourage you to consider sharing your own sewing skills with others. There are a lot of kids stuck at home right now without the structure of school. While they might be loathe to admit it, they are getting bored with being slumped on the couch with a phone and a bag of chips.
Teens are especially good candidates for learning to sew. They are all about seeking independence, creating personal style, and wanting to be noticed for what they wear, have and use. “I made this!” is a powerful statement for a teen. It’s accomplishment, pride, ingenuity, and fun. Check out our article on the Top 7 Tips for Teen Sewing.
That’s the big picture, and – as mentioned – look for our Real Life Survival Skills emblem to pop up on articles within our home page Highlights, Trending Topics, Featured Projects, and more. One of the things we love about the new Sew4Home website is how all the search options return not only an article title but also a small image so you can more easily select exactly what you want.
We are makers! Celebrate that you have one of the Real Life Survival Skills and join us as we put it to use. Stay In, Stay Safe & Sew.