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Sewing is For Everyone, by Martha (@marthamade.things)

‘Isn’t sewing for like, old people?’

Hey everyone, my name is Martha, however you may know me by my Instagram handle - @marthamade.things. I’m still fairly new to the online sewing community, however, me and sewing go way back, so let me take you back to the beginning…

I grew up in a fairly creative family : my dad is a graphic designer, however trained in illustration and my mum has always been working on some sort of creative project in the background, whether that was cross-stitch, a macrame hanger, my school performance costumes, or repairing the tail on my sister's prized cuddly lemur toy (I’ve lost count of how many times that wretched tail got pulled apart). I saw the things they created and remember thinking that I wanted to make things too. I decided I wanted to be a fashion designer when I grew up and spent hours drawing up catalogues with tiny little pictures of all my creations.

One summer, I went to stay with my grandparents, and my Gran got out her sewing machine and patiently showed me how to make a dress. We spent the afternoon together measuring, cutting, and finally sewing on her machine. I ended up with the most amazing little green floaty dress and once I tried it on, this strange feeling came over me. Still to this day, I get the same feeling when I first try on a finished piece of clothing that I’ve made, and I now realise it’s the sense of pride and accomplishment that you only get from making your own clothes, and the fact that no-one else has one just like it, I hope you all get the same feeling!

Secondary school came around that September, and I had my first textiles lesson. Being a rather timid eleven year old, I quietly sat in the classroom, looking around at all the machines and fabric, feeling so excited and ready to start sewing, I couldn’t wait to tell everyone that I already knew how to use a sewing machine! We got put into pairs, given our project and sat down together at the machines. I started threading it up, when my classmate turned to me. ‘Isn’t sewing for like, old people?’

My heart dropped. I desperately wanted to fit into this new ‘big school’ and make friends, so I did the unthinkable : I agreed. I submitted. I came out of that classroom with a new friend, but I left my passion behind and I’m sad to say it stayed there for a number of years. I learned that the majority of people thought sewing was old fashioned and associated it with their grandparents, darning socks and making blankets. How could sewing be cool if they did it? What’s there even to like about it anyway? I can buy clothes on the high street, so why bother making my own? Textiles lessons came and went, and I did the minimum work possible, suppressing the urge to ask questions, to answer questions, desperate not to seem like a ‘loser’. When the time came around to pick my GCSEs, I jumped, and ticked the Textiles box : I had seen a couple of girls in the years above me make amazing dresses for their coursework, and there was even a catwalk to showcase all the designs at the end of the year! My childhood dream of becoming a fashion designer was coming true! I imagined myself in New York, Milan, London, even swanning down the streets of Paris on the way to yet another important business meeting, coffee in one hand, my latest designs in the other. Suddenly, sewing didn’t seem so old fashioned any more!

I got a letter through the post a few weeks later. The GCSE textiles class had been cancelled, due to a lack of demand. Maybe my classmates were right after all : sewing was a dying craft. Every time I had mentioned it to anyone my age I’d got funny looks and the same question would arise, ‘Isn’t sewing for like, old people?’

I ended up moving schools for my A Levels, and Textiles was an option! I remember my first brief for the summer holiday - design and create a bra for a Breast Cancer charity event. I did pages and pages of drawings, all annotated, and eventually settled on a black bra, with ornate pink and red ribbon roses. I stepped into my first textiles class at my new school with hope that I wouldn’t be judged for my ‘old fashioned’ hobby. There were four other girls in my class, and I instantly felt at home. Suddenly this new world sprung out all around me, and I flourished. I ended up winning the end of year award, and paraded my rather crazy 80’s sweets inspired jacket down the catwalk. (If anyone is in need of a 4ft11 rather clumsy model, hit me up, I’m your girl!)

For various reasons, I changed my mind at the end of school, and decided not to progress with a degree in Fashion/accessory design. Looking back I guess I was probably scared of being judged like I was in that very first Textiles lesson. I jumped into the world of work and sewing took a back seat - again. When I mentioned to any of my colleagues that I had an A level in Textiles, or that I enjoyed sewing, I got a bit of a funny look, so the sewing machine went to the back of the cupboard, and started to gather dust.

Fast forward to last year and as I’m sure a lot of you can relate to, I found myself with more free time. I was fortunate enough to keep my job and as my current role is deemed essential, I was not furloughed. I did however, start working from home and that allowed me to be more flexible with my working hours. I decided I wanted to start sewing again. I moved in with my partner, who could not be more supportive of my hobby and we transformed one of the spare rooms into a sewing room/office for me. Around this time, the Sewing Bee had just started, and we watched as the Bees transformed metres of fabric into wonderful creations. There was a mix of ages in the sewing room, from a multitude of backgrounds, and it seemed that the stigma that ‘sewing is for old people’ had faded.

As the world changed around us and the restrictions were reviewed, face masks became the norm. I made a few for myself and my partner and then for my parents and their friends. I ended up making the decision to sell these after feedback from others and created an Instagram and Facebook page - marthamade.things was born. I spent a few months selling face masks and other small trinkets, however, I had discovered a new world online that piqued my interest further. I saw all these wonderful creations made by a whole host of people, many that were a similar age to me. They were all making clothes for themselves, using fabric from shops and patterns from brands that I had never heard of before. I was in a whole new world and I loved it. Suddenly, I found a whole new host of fun, fresh fabrics, that were suitable for my style. I realised that although I do enjoy making things for others, what I really wanted to do was to create things for myself. I found tutorials on creating your own wardrobe, along with blogs reviewing shops and patterns and so many beautiful, like minded people, whose videos/blogs/posts make you seem like you’ve known each other forever. There’s far too many to mention, so thank you to everyone who has shared a part of their journey online : you’ve all given me so many ideas that I now have to have a list of projects on my phone as they do pop into my head at the most random times (in the time it’s taken me to write this I now have my eye on the Rust Paint Splatter Double Gauze on the Sew Anonymous shop for a lovely summer top).

Joining this online sewing community, and seeing all your wonderful creations has helped me change my mindset on sewing. It’s really inspired me, and i’ve realised it’s far from an old fashioned hobby. Yes, I can darn socks and yes, I can patch holes in clothes, but, I can also make the most beautiful and modern outfits, that flatter my figure in ways that high street clothing just can’t. I no longer have sleeves dropping in my food, trouser legs wrinkled at the ankles and midi length dresses dragging along the floor. My wardrobe is slowly changing and I couldn’t be more proud of myself for it. Now, when I mention that I Sew and that I made the outfit I’m wearing, the response is no longer ‘isn’t sewing for old people?’, instead it’s ’wow, that’s really cool, I wish I could sew!’

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