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Weekend: The Way Sewing Used to Be Part 2

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The way sewing used to be is the not the way sewing is today. That’s what we discuss last week, and for the most part, that’s what we agreed. Is that a good or a bad thing? The feelings were mixed. Roni made a good point, writing that because packaging gets thrown away, why spend time and money on the design, which causes more waste and increases the price? Very true. There was another opinion, and it came from one of my favorite sewing gals, Marce (have you joined Oonapalooza yet?). “I find myself picking these beauties up for display rather than use, though, to me, if something is beautiful or useful, it is not wasteful.” Touche. Since I was given a box full of vintage sewing notions, I haven’t used them. Just like Marce, I find myself wanting to save them, like a Laura Ashley or Lily Pulitzer dress.

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But the vintage world has a message for us: be proud of your history. These mostly midcentury items fall into a category of hallowed design and should be highlighted. In the ready-to-wear fashion industry, archiving is important. Hello, vintage clothing? Even Cher Horowitz knew the value of a good Alaïa dress. “It’s like a totally important designer.”

I felt slightly guilty about not using the notions in my sewing, but photographing each one. But I’m not wasting them, actually, I’m using them, just in a different way. With each photograph, I’m savoring old-world sewing and showing others our history.

Do you have old sewing notions? Take a photo and upload it to Instagram with the hashtag #thewaysewingusedtobe


  1. Reply


    I love finding these. Often I’ll use the notions that are attached but save the packaging (or parts of it) for a journaling or scrapbooking project. Giving new life to it, I guess.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      You and I both! I use them for scrapbooking/journaling.

  2. Reply

    Roni Arbel

    I love these discussions!

    Next time I visit the textile district of Tel Aviv I’ll send you some pictures. In Israel sewing is mostly the way it was 50 years ago…

    I think the online community has a lot of influence over the way modern sewing develops.
    It’s not just about packaging (judging from the packages all over instagram – a lot of indie pattern designers as well as online fabric stores have beautiful packaging) but about how sewing is becoming a consumerism thing. We stash fabric and notions and we want to have the same fabric/pattern combos other seamstresses have. As more of our purchases are from online stores, more of what we make becomes part of a trend rather than a way to express our creativity.

    Blogs also change. There are rarely any posts about on-going projects, most posts are about finished projects. WIP (work in progress) is mostly uploaded to Instagram, as if the process itself (along with its challenges) isn’t worth writing a post about. I even think there are more Giveaway posts than work-in-progress posts…

    Of course all of this puts a lot of pressure on indie pattern designers. From what I read they work non-stop just to release patterns as fast as we “need”/”want” then to. I wander if we are that different from RTW fashion industry after all?

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Interesting comment. Here’s the truth about why I don’t post a lot of in progress work and the struggles I face with each one. I’m being brutally honest. Do I look like a better seamstress if I post the completed garment, or the struggles I face? A part of me doesn’t do WIP because it might hurt my credibility. Hypothetically, what if I said I was struggling on a pant rise and the correction was so simple. A lot of us miss little mistakes, but people might think of me differently. Just being honest. But I think you make a good callout, and I’ll make a note to feature more in-progress shots.

    • Reply


      I think Instagram and other similar services are the right platform for WIPs as it takes relatively a small amount of time to take a picture, write a description and upload it – the whole idea behind these platforms being to mediate into a sort of “participative experience” (very loose use of the term here) and satisfy our voyeuristic needs. They can allow viewers to “take a peek” into someones process, life or whatever a person might chose to share, in a more unabridged and unedited way. Sharing a process otherwise involves either stopping the process (which is annoying especially if you are passionate about what you are doing) photographing, and writing about it as you go; or documenting the process and after its completion write about what at that point is a past experience and therefore subject to editing (is a natural tendency to want to appear better than one actually is).

      I think you are right, blogs are changing. Lots of them either evolve into, or simply start as commercial projects… there is nothing wrong about it… After all, the seamstresses and the blog readers with their “wants”/“needs” (as you put it) are the driving force behind the whole thing and less so the content creators or the pattern designers. The fact is there are millions of blogs and they come in millions of flavours and it’s impossible not to find something interesting, something challenging, something that can stimulate your creativity…

      Sorry for the lengthy reply but I found your comment interesting and had to express my opinion 🙂

  3. Reply


    Great idea! I have tons.

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