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Social media makes home sewing cool again

Debbe Geiger
The News and Observer

While Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook may be to blame for the countless hours that people spend on their mobile devices, the social media networks are also inspiring a new generation of sewers to put down their phones and pick up a craft many learned from their mothers and grandmothers.

Newsfeed images of bags and garments made with patterns by hip, independent pattern makers like Colette Patterns and Grainline Studio, and gorgeous fabrics from contemporary designers like Cotton and Steel are eye candy to home sewers. Caroline Williams, a 32-year-old account director from Raleigh, North Carolina, avidly follows sewing bloggers to get a glimpse of what’s coming next.

“I have a compulsion to want all the fabric and all the patterns, even though I’m never going to get to all of them,” she said.

Williams sews with a small group of women every Monday night at Mulberry Silks and Fine Fabrics in Carrboro, North Carolina. The women in her group, all in their early 30s and 40s, perfect their sewing techniques under the tutelage of Susan Kobesky, and find inspiration for their next projects from each other and through social media.

Linda Graham, a 33-year-old graphic designer from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who is part of the Mulberry sewing group, said, “If I’m thinking about a pattern, I’ll look online to see it made up.”

Kobesky’s weekly social sewing clubs have waiting lists, however, a similar sense of community and inspiration can be found online.

Social media hashtags let followers find and share their sewn-up versions of the latest patterns. Sewing bloggers offer tips on how to change a neckline or add a different sleeve, and feature the latest trends. Some bloggers are just enthusiastic home sewers who want to share what they’ve made.

“It’s fun to show off projects and be inspired by the creations of others,” said Alison Polish, president of the fabric company Spoonflower in Durham, North Carolina, whose start was inspired by a home sewer. Polish credits social media for helping the company build its business. Through sewing bloggers and social media networks, Spoonflower has shared its innovative design-your-own-fabric, printed patterns, and its expansion into other areas of the sewing business. The nature of social media engagement, Polish said, “has definitely had an impact on why sewing has become more popular. It’s easier than ever to take part in an international community of sewing and be passionate about it.”

This isn’t your grandmother’s sewing experience.

Today’s sewing machines are simpler to use. Automatic threaders, drop-in bobbins and machines that can sew a button hole with a touch of a button have eliminated many of the frustrations sewers once encountered.

How people buy fabric has changed as well. One of the country’s largest fabric stores, Hancock Fabrics, recently announced they were going out of business, in part because more people are buying fabric online from retailers like girlcharlee.com and moodfabrics.com.

While traditional tissue patterns are still popular, many companies now offer PDF versions that can be downloaded, printed at home and taped together. YouTube tutorials walk sewers through virtually every sewing technique. And, online platforms like Craftsy.com offer interactive video lessons.