Coming Full Circle

The Great British Sewing Bee
I've been watching with great interest the BBC series The Great British Sewing Bee (series one just ended and a second series has been approved - yeah!).

To summarize, the show has compiled a group of 'amature' sewer to compete against each other for the title of most talented amature sewer in Britain.  They are given challenges that get more difficult as the show progresses with eliminations after each episode.  I have to say that after watching this show I'm amazed they are categorized as amatures.  The only thing that makes them amature sewers in my mind is that they don't sew garments for a living.  Personally I would be more than pleased to have the skills of any of these talented people.

And this leads me to my post and my deep and meaningful thought for the day (Ha!  I'm laughing myself stupid after that comment....).  Haven't we come full circle with our needles and thread....

Way back when - it was a given to have been exposed to and be knowledgeable in (be it garments or home furnishings) the art of sewing.  This was a skill most housewives possessed as a matter of course.  We learned this from our grandmothers and mothers and were also taught it in school (who remembers Home Ec?).  Even if we didn't become proficient sewer, we still knew how to sew on a button or hem a skirt.  It absolutely amazes me that I have spoken to young women nowadays who have never even picked up a needle.  When did this most basic of skills fall to the wayside?  When did we, as women, get so busy outside the home to have lost the continuing thread of knowledge from our foremothers in home sewing?  And I'm wondering when did the thread become reconnected to bring us to today with the billion dollar industry in quilting and booming home garment making interest?  What changed inbetween?

As my field of study at college was Social Anthropology, I have a bit of insight into this topic as I planned to do my thesis on the changing roles of women in contemporary society.  One of the main aspects of my paper was the changing dynamics of the nuclear family with the advent of women going into the work force and how this shift changed almost everything we thought of as the basis of family and women's roles within the family up to that point in history.  Its only recently with the switch of attitudes by young women that we're seeing a bit of a reversal.  For example, a women who grew up in the 50's would most likely have conformed to the mores of society and what was expected of a woman of her status.  She married and raised a family and didn't work outside the home until much later in her life.  As times changed and society viewed women in a new light she taught her daughters that they could grow up to be anything they wanted to be and encouraged their independence.  Her daughters grew up to be doctors and lawyers and scientist with the belief that they could have it all - the successful career and the happy home life.  However her daughters found that this wasn't always the case.  Something had to give.  She couldn't spend 10 hours at work and come home to feed the children and the husband and do the housework without loosing her mind and without the need for 'mothers little helpers', a.k.a. amphetamines.... Flash forward to today.  Our young women have seen Super Mom - and have felt the effects of what had to give for Mom to be super woman and they've decided this isn't what they want for themselves and their families.  These young women are looking at their home life with different eyes then their grandmothers from the 1950s.  To these women a successful family life IS their job, their vocation and a worth wild one at that.  I'm not saying women still can't be the doctors and lawyers and scientist.  What I'm saying is that there will be sacrifices made for it.  Anyway, this is getting too deep....

I'm so pleased to see that within the last 10 years or so there's been a resurgence of interest in the 'home arts'.  Women, as well as men, are rediscovering the creativity and usefulness of having the ability to make something specifically their own from fabric, needle and thread.  I think we've really have come full circle.

I'll be hanging out to watch the next series of The Great British Sewing Bee to get some pointers on how to bump up my own sewing skills.


  1. i wonder if one advantage of the needle arts being taken out of the domain of the ordinary expectation of "women's work', is that we now have a n appreciation of it as an art form?

    1. Excellent point Martha. Its wonderful that quilting and home garment construction is now looked at as an artistic endeavor and not just 'women's work'. Though women have always put their artistic imprint on their creations it's only recently it's been viewed as 'art'.

  2. I did sociology and so this is really interesting for me too. As a full time mum I totally agree with what you've said - I don't want to be super mum, I want to raise my family and that is my job :) oh, and I'm a happy feminist too!

  3. I too loved the Sewing Bee show. I hope I picked up some good pointers from it. It sure made me want to take some garment sewing classes. (I have sewn clothes before, and for many years) I think sewing/cooking was not valved and that is why the schools dropped the classes. It was thought girls should be encouraged to learn math and science not homemaking in order to better prepare them for the work place. Most the girls in my home ec class did not know how to sew or use a sewing machine. I think only three of us did. That would be about 1973.


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