Friday, August 26, 2011

Finding an off-line sewing community

I love the on-line sewing community. Sewing blogs and on-line fabric stores make my hobby possible. I wouldn't have found the whole world of sewing - especially the vintage and retro sewing community - if I didn't spend too much time in front of a computer with a really good Internet connection. It seems like the resurgence of sewing as a hobby for my generation has its roots in the Internet, with blogs, YouTube tutorials, downloadable patterns and the cool factor of all those hipsters sewing stuff to sell on Etsy. Lately I've been enjoying the off-line sewing community too. I've wondered: Are any other on-line sewing enthusiasts making the transition to a sewing community IRL?

Last night I attended the monthly meeting of my local sewing group. I've been a member for more than a year now. We're a neighborhood group of the St. Louis chapter of the American Sewing Guild. The ladies in the group are generous with their interest in each others' projects, assistance with learning new techniques, contributions to the "free stuff" destash table, charitable sewing, and snacks. They are not good at publicizing their good works and recruiting new members. I'm one of the very few members who is under the age of 40. Last night a couple of us talked about ways to raise our public profile and help potential new members find us. So lurkers, I'm curious. Do you have sewing friends in real life? Would you ever consider joining a group? Is the perception of sewing groups as grandmas showing off appliqued sweatshirts too strong to overcome? What activities would appeal to you?

If you're curious, and you're in my neck of the woods, you can check out the Belleville sewing group in action. At our September meeting we are doing a sit-and-sew to make caps for cancer patients. New faces are always welcome, with or without sewing skills. E-mail me for details: chronicallyuncool at gmail dot com.


ashley0107 said...

I have no sewing friends in real life. And I can't find a local sewing group either :( The best I've got is a knitting group once a month at my local yarn shop. Which is lovely, but I'd like some sewing friends as well as knitting friends. Also, I'm 20 so I'm the youngest to attend the knitting group. Though I was pleasantly surprised at how young some of them were. I also had more fun chatting to them than do with my fellow students! (I'm a uni student). The next one is on Monday, and I always look forward to it :)
Ashley x

cyberdaze said...

Apologies if this appears twice. I think Blogger ate it the first time. I recently found a real life sewing friend and I would love to join a group but there don't seem to be any near me. It's just so nice to be able to yak about sewing. But the online sewing community is great. I've learnt lots and if I'm ever short of inspiration there is a ton out there on the Internet.

Audrey said...

Well, I did it in the opposite order, finding a local sewing group and then transitioning to the Internet. About 15 years ago I saw a sign in the local fabric store announcing the formation of a local chapter of the American Sewing Guild and inviting any interested people to attend. I got so excited about it. I attended the first meeting and have been an active member ever since. I regularly get together with ladies I met through the group to attend classes, sewing expo's or fabric shop, often at out of town locations. We also meet at each other's homes to do fitting or work on special projects like Chanel jackets. About 11 years ago one of the ASG members mentioned a discusion about a sewing topic on www.sewingworld ( now defunct) I checked out that discussion board and the portal to Internet sewing info and resources was revealed to me. I love it. But nothing beats a person sitting next to you showing you how to do a technique and answering your questions right then and there.

Summer said...

I found one local group but the leader had a baby last year so no more meetings. One sewing group had too many people wanting their hand held at every step. I'd love to find a social group with a strong knowledge base.

Burda Style hosts groups on Meetup, you could put yours on there to promote it. Facebook, craigslist and local sewing shops could also help find more members.

Sascha said...

When I tell anyone I know that I sew actual clothes for my children they look at me like I'm an alien. I know absolutely no one that can even thread a needle. I would love to find a group of younger-ish ladies to sew with. I'm 39 so I'm not really a spring chicken, but not yet sewing applique sweatshirts either.

Carla(LoverofWords) said...

I would love it. I am a beginner but I don't have one friend who sews or crafts at all. And to insult to injury I just moved to New Jersey and really don't have friends here yet

Anonymous said...

I think I would love it too. I'm aware of the ASG, but have worried my sewing skills are not refined enough for such a group. And even though I'm 55, I would never applique a sweatshirt! BTW, I live near Alton, IL.

Anonymous said...

i am, and probably will remain forever, a beginner sewer. I simply cannot wrap my mind around sewing, anticipating how fabric will drape, look, sew, etc. I've sewed off and on for 15 years, and tho i've improved, it seems a major battle for every small victory. I enjoy being self-taught, but it just doesn't work well for sewing, for me.

However, i am an accomplished beader. About 7 or 8 years ago, a bead group started in my area, and i went, and have been the leader of the bead group since then. I, and most of the group, were complete beginners at that time, and what we've done is learn together, and teach each other.

I am in my early 30's, there is one other member in her early 40's, and everyone else is much older. There are about 15 of us who regularly attend meetings. I think that 99% of us realize what an amazing group we have- not so much in our talent, tho all of us are talented, but in the dynamics of the group.

The things we decided early on, and have stuck to- no official status as a group, because none of us wants to write rules, keep minutes, and that other crap. We raise a little bit of money for our group, and one of the girls keeps track of it (the most we have ever had is $180). We meet at the public library twice a month (1st meeting- business meeting, 2nd meeting- class only), and have 3 challenges a year. This is enough for real life to go on, and often enough to keep us all beading- i think that's important. We don't recruit new members, unless one of us runs into someone who is genuinely interested in beading. We do have a free ad in the weekly paper, which appears most of the time. My basic info sheet states that we are a group of friends who get together to bead- but we've grown into that. I guess the most important commonality we have is to continue to learn. By no means do we all get along all the time, but we have no drama queens in the group- they come, try to stir the pot (unsuccessfully), and move on. One of the most important things in our group is the fact that we all teach each other a class, at least once a year. Someone will want to learn a technique, or will bring in a new bracelet that we all ooohh and ahhh over, and all of a sudden, we all learn it. We do have members who don't seem to really want to learn- love the holding the hand analogy above- that is so true. But they don't disrupt the group, because there are enough of us to keep going, keep learning.

Some of our group info is posted online, but i have never received any calls or emails from someone interested in joining the group via the internet- i live in an area known for retirement, however.

I think you may have good luck if you can find a little newspaper and put an ad (hopefully free) about wanting to start a sewing group. That was what happened with us, it was a basic ad to see if there was interest in the area, and 30+ people showed up at that first meeting. We haven't had that many since then. It may be more difficult with a sewing group, as machines and fabric are even heavier than beads, but maybe try a meeting at a local place first (there are knitting and sewing groups that meet at our library, but during my work hours, so i've never gone to them) and see how it goes from there. Also, in my area there are many church groups who sew- i am not affiliated with any church, and i'm not looking to be, so it's unlikely i'll ever join those groups either, but you might check it out and see. Or a church bulletin might be a good place to put an ad too.
Angie, benevolent dictator of the unoffical Highland Lakes Bead Society (in Texas, or i'd love to be in a sewing group with you!)

Anonymous said...

DUH, i did really read your post. I just forgot by the time i got over to the leave a comment section. I'm sorry, you're already in a group! Oh, i wrote all that for anyone else who may be interested in starting a group. Yeah, that's it. See, no mistakes here, just design elements.

I would love to find a sewing group with a similar format to my bead group- focused on learning.

I do not have sewing friends in real life. My sister, mother, and one other bead person sews, but when i try to get together with them it is not satisfying the same way it is in the bead group.

I do not have the perception that sewing means grandma appliqueing sweatshirts, but as i have so ably demonstrated, i already have memory issues, and could probably be classed in the sweatshirt group! Most of the people in my age group do look at me like i have a hole in my head, when they ask where i got my skirt and i respond that i made it, tho!