More Young People Are Sewing Than Ever Before, And For Very Good Reason

published Feb 25, 2020
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By now, it’s hardly a secret that sustainability in fashion is an important issue, with plenty of people hoping to shop more ethically, while also finding ways to reuse and recycle the clothes they’ve already got. That’s why millennials are turning to one of the oldest DIY skills in the books. More and more young people are learning how to sew, and it could be the perfect antidote to the many problems with fast fashion and excessive garment waste.

Whether you’ve got clothes with minor holes and tears or want to create unique items that no one else has, learning how to sew is a useful tool, and lately, its popularity is on the rise. Apartment Therapy spoke with Kristen McCoy, the owner of RETHINK Tailoring & Sewing Lounge in Minneapolis, and she explained why it makes perfect sense that young people are going back to the basics when it comes to sewing.

McCoy has noticed such an upswing in people wanting to learn how to sew that she is expanding her own business to include sewing lessons. She believes it’s largely due to increased awareness about the environmental effects of fast fashion, and what really happens when our clothes end up in landfills.

“I think that people want to take more agency over their wardrobe. Between questionable labor practices, carbon footprint, contaminated waterways from dyes and fabric treatment, and landfills overflowing with textiles, sewing for yourself feels like a part of a solution,” she told Apartment Therapy. “And I think as we learn more about the fashion industry and its implications on the environment, mending has been a huge movement.”

This is definitely a shift for younger generations, who largely grew up without a need to make or even repair their own clothes. Add to that our increasingly busy lifestyles, and the ease of having shopping centers nearby and clothes delivered to our door—sometimes within hours—and sewing seemed to fall out of favor for many.

“People used to have to sew out of necessity, and I would imagine for some that felt like work,” said McCoy. “Once clothing was easier to find at cheaper prices, then the need was gone. Sewing knowledge used to be passed down generation to generation. But at a certain point, I imagine for some the thought was, ‘well, my children won’t need to do this, so I don’t need to make them learn.’ Nowadays, kids are lucky to have a home ec class to learn, but that’s barely scratching the surface of learning to sew. I wish schools would concentrate on mending or practical sewing skills that would get used often, even if it was without a machine.”

Thanks to social media, it’s now easier than ever to learn any kind of hobby, including—you guessed it—how to sew. But it’s also a great way to step away from our devices and make something by hand, which can be both relaxing and productive, especially as our lives get busier and busier.

“I think social media is a great place to find inspiration and community around sewing. If that translates to motivating people to sew more and hone their skills, then sure! Some people learn well from YouTube, while others may find in-person classes more effective,” said McCoy. “But I think a major value of sewing is that your head isn’t buried in a phone. You’re making something. You’re connecting to that project.”

That community aspect is something that McCoy herself finds so special. “I regularly post before-and-after pictures of my design and tailoring work to let people know what’s possible when it comes to shopping your closet and upcycling. I recently had two people message me that they were inspired by my work—one fixed her own jeans and the other used scraps from a curtain to make her kiddo’s doll a jumper. That has been the exact community I’ve been trying to create, so my heart exploded a little. Moral of the story: if you don’t have one, I got your back.”

McCoy hopes that people of all ages and skill levels find their way to sewing. “The old rules are out the window. Anybody of any age can sew. You can use patterns, you can make it up, you can sew only by hand, you can become a master at embroidery, you can sew to make works of art, you can cut something up and upcycle it into something else. The options are endless, and there are so many ways in.”

And for those who don’t even know how to thread a needle, let alone create a sweater from scratch? McCoy recommends starting small. “Learning some hand sewing basics is always an easy way to start. And if you use that in visible mending, you can have a lot of fun right away. But honestly, if you are able to take a class somewhere, that’s a great opportunity to meet other sewers and start forming communities, so that’s a great route as well.”

Breathing new life into your closet while learning new skills, helping the environment, and saving money? That’s way better than any trip to the mall or late-night online shopping spree.