Rochelle vanderHelm – Staff Writer
The sewing crowd is a lonely one, especially for the few young people who choose to participate. It is a closet community (pun certainly intended). Young sewing enthusiasts do not generally display themselves publicly, so it is rare to meet a fellow seamster in real life.
I had known Christianna Marcy for quite some time before we “came out” to each other. We were in the library when I needed to covertly take a call from my mom about the fate of my grandmother’s sewing machine. I nearly fell out of my chair from excitement and as I geeked out (quietly, of course) about how I would love to inherit such a device. When I finally hung up, Marcy rolled her chair over to mine and asked if I was into sewing.
“Yes, I love it,” I replied.
“Oh, my goodness, me too! I love finding other sewers, it’s so rare!” said Marcy.
We gushed over sewing to each other in whispers for the next twenty minutes.
“When I do meet [seamsters], we connect right away. We are kindred souls!” said Marcy, a junior education major at Dordt.
Of all the practical skills that have fallen out of favor amongst the young-uns, sewing is high on the list. Fast fashion has all but eradicated the necessity or interest in tailoring and textile craftmanship. However, with the growth of DIY fashion and sewing channels on online platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and even TikTok, the sewing community is gaining some attention.
Perhaps most surprising amongst the developments in the COVID-19 world, is the Great-American-Sewing-Machine-Shortage-of-2020. Parija Kavilanz of CNN outlined in August how “Even Walmart…was left scrambling and went from having a 100-day supply of sewing machines to just five days-worth of inventory in only 24 hours.” She attributes the shortage partially to enterprising individuals attempting to meet the demand for face masks brought on by social distancing guidelines.
Instagram shops devoted to home-made scrunchies have been overrun by the hordes of the floral face mask community.
“I love that many people wanted to start sewing so they could make masks for essential workers…When my workplace asked for more [masks], people rose to the challenge, dusted off their machines, and delivered beautiful masks. Each time I put them on, I felt a boost of encouragement that my community was behind me,” Marcy said.
Marcy runs her own mask-making business but has a longer history with sewing, being an enthusiast for many years and constructing garments to be worn.
“My mom grew up in a Mennonite family. There was an expectation that women learned to sew. She hated sewing,” Marcy said.
Because of this, her mom taught her at a young age. However, after visiting a 4-H sewing session, she fell in love and her parents bought her first sewing machine in 2013.
“People call sewing a ‘lost art.’ I don’t think it is lost, yet.”
“My favorite way to sew is coming up with a design in my head and creating it.” Marcy has two garments on display in Dordt’s quarantine art show – an evening gown and a summer dress. They stand out among other contributor’s paintings, drawings, and even a crocheted shawl.
“As long as people love fashion, there will be seamstresses. It just depends if we will allow factories to mass produce our fashion or if we, the consumer, will play a part in creating fashion.” Marcy said. “A shortage of masks was a great way to get started sewing. I hope people won’t soon forget the joy of sewing.”