Sewing machines and patterns are flying off the shelves due to a substantial rise in popularity of the age-old craft of sewing. The hype is attributed to television programs like Project Runway, which have shown a new generation that sewing and fashion design can be a ticket to the red carpet.
In some larger cities like New York and Los Angeles, rent-by-the-hour sewing machine cafes have opened to much acclaim. A cross between an Internet café and a knitting bee, business at such establishments has doubled in the past year. The amount of sewing machines imported to the U.S. has also doubled, prompting U.S. based companies like the McCall and Simplicity Pattern Companies to re-issue vintage reproduction sewing patterns.
This phenomenon isn’t surprising – the tactile art of sewing can be a welcome refuge after hours spent plunking around on a keyboard – but it is a drastic change from the perception of sewing from a few years past. After the flower children of the 1960’s revolted against their gingham-clad June Cleaver moms, the sewing machine was tarred as a domestic albatross around women’s necks. But now that strong, independent and increasingly wealthy women like Martha Stewart are seen wielding a needle and thread, the whole country has been turned back on to the art of homemade garments.
The big question now is how the industry will respond to the increased popularity and sales of sewing machines and supplies. In September, McCalls launched its “Sew Hot, Sew Now” campaign, issuing patterns suitable for beginner construction, aimed at women aged 12 to 25. With pattern companies supplying the directions to produce couture garments, sewing machine manufacturers may be next to support the trend. I can just see it now: pink sewing machines with Hello Kitty bobbins, complete with patterns from Juicy Couture. Fabrics and trims may also become a hot ticket, especially with companies that produce vintage reproduction items.
What do you think? Is this just a fad? Or has sewing come back to stay? And, does a return to the sewing machine mean a return to the popularity of domesticity?