It’s a sexist question to ask, “Why don’t women sew anymore?” Men sew too. I met a man who had a sewing machine and made sports clothes and I know men who are bikers and pull out needle and thread to stitch their leathers when they need repair. Men have been sewing probably as long as women have, tailors are evidence of that. However… many more women throughout history have enjoyed sewing their own clothes. Not so much anymore and why is that? One reason might be because third world countries did it so much cheaper and the industrial age sent women to work, right alongside men. Nevertheless, I think the main reason women don’t sew much anymore is because the sewing machines made it a pain in the &%$#. The first day of sewing class, I ran the sewing machine needle right through my finger. For years, I have persevered through bundled, knotted thread that stops the machine and God forbid… uneven tension. Then there are the broken needles and the year that stretch knits came out and we had to learn to sew on that fabric for the first time. The “new” sewing machines were fine when they were simple but the more advanced they got, fewer women wanted to torture themselves with it. Forget it already! “I am a lousy seamstress,” they told everyone. The sad part of that is that they weren’t lousy; the machines were just NOT user friendly.
I have been sewing for decades. How do I do it and still enjoy it? It happened quite by accident. I lived in the mountains and we had no electricity so I had to sew on a treadle machine. All it does is sew, forward and backwards. That’s it! And guess what? I have no problems with it. I never mess with the tension, I know better than to touch it. My treadle machine was manufactured in the 1980’s in China and is called a “Butterfly.” What happened was, communist China bought out an old Singer sewing machine factory and continued making the machines but made them to run as treadles without electricity. I have had my treadle for about twenty-eight years. I love it and I love to sew! Just thought some of you might like to know.
Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here: