How Sewing Connects Generations

What is your grandma like?

Is she sweet and indulging? Is she strict and proper? 

Does she remind you of Abuela from Encanto, Grandma Tala from Moana or more like the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella?

Well, my Grandma Char is a complete angel. 

We have dinner and visit with her every week. I look forward to all her stories of “the good old days” and the updates of what’s on sale at Longs or Times for that week.

A few weeks ago, I asked her what sewing was like in “the good old days”. She told me that it was super common to have your clothes sewn. Most women knew how to sew and actually went to sewing school and took classes. Sewing clothes wasn’t just a hobby, but a necessity!

When I told her that sewing is making a comeback today as a hobby and craft, she laughed and told me, “This younger generation is always focusing on what is not necessary.” Her response gave me a valuable perspective to think about. 

We’re living in a time of unprecedented abundance - so much so that we can just go to a store to get clothes for ourselves and our children at a really affordable price, but we’re actually choosing to sew our own clothes! We don’t have to sew, but we can. Isn’t that amazing? (And maybe something we kind of take for granted?)

I would consider the sewing I do as a form of creativity - of self-expression. I do it because I want to; because I enjoy it. My grandma didn’t have the luxury to consider it a craft because it was a necessity.

Though the reasons may be different it is still a skill that my grandma and I are able to talk about and share with one another. Through sharing we learned a little more about our individual generations and what sewing meant to each of us.

Do you have a Grandma or Aunty who sews? Have you ever talked to her about it? I’m willing to bet that if you ask her why she sews, or what she sewed most often, you will get insight into her life. You might hear stories you’ve never heard before, or get her perspective (and wisdom). You might find out you have more in common than you realize. 


Of course, these are hypothetical situations - but I’m really curious (and kind of excited) about how your conversations around sewing could go! 


Maybe you could even sit side by side and learn from her. But even if that doesn’t happen, talking is a great place to startI didn’t realize what a sweet topic of conversation sewing would be with my Grandmother, and I’m glad I asked her about it. 

What do you think?


Is there value in asking the women in your family about their sewing stories? Could this topic create more connection between generations? If you are a kupuna… would you like to be asked about your life as a seamstress? I know I’d love to hear your stories!


Please share your thoughts and stories in the comments so we can encourage and be inspired by each other!

4 comments

Lynn Jeffries

In the 60s we were taught in school along with cooking. Our first aprons, skirts or dresses. We took the home to practice and brought back. That wasn’t the hard part for me, my mom was a professional seamstress who also made wedding dress, that’s how she met my dad. He was picking up his sisters dress. So sewing was something I hated bc she would ask me unpick the whole project if there was a mistake. Didn’t know I’d appreciate it I the long run. Another influence was my aunt who not only sewed Chanel outfits for my doll and was a wiz at knitting outfits which always amazed me. Thru the years I would sew dresses, Sun suits, etc for my girls. Later in life I pick up Hawaiian quilting from my mom. It was therapy for her after breast surgery. In that period of time she appliquéd 2 queen quilt tops. Later when moving to the mainland I learned piecing, tied, and strip quilting and made them for my grandkids. Now it’s time for the great grands for quilts.
PS. Love all you teach this old wahine, you have such a gift. Keep teaching us bc we love it.

Lynn Jeffries

In the 60s we were taught in school along with cooking. Our first aprons, skirts or dresses. We took the home to practice and brought back. That wasn’t the hard part for me, my mom was a professional seamstress who also made wedding dress, that’s how she met my dad. He was picking up his sisters dress. So sewing was something I hated bc she would ask me unpick the whole project if there was a mistake. Didn’t know I’d appreciate it I the long run. Another influence was my aunt who not only sewed Chanel outfits for my doll and was a wiz at knitting outfits which always amazed me. Thru the years I would sew dresses, Sun suits, etc for my girls. Later in life I pick up Hawaiian quilting from my mom. It was therapy for her after breast surgery. In that period of time she appliquéd 2 queen quilt tops. Later when moving to the mainland I learned piecing, tied, and strip quilting and made them for my grandkids. Now it’s time for the great grands for quilts.
PS. Love all you teach this old wahine, you have such a gift. Keep teaching us bc we love it.

Lynn Jeffries

In the 60s we were taught in school along with cooking. Our first aprons, skirts or dresses. We took the home to practice and brought back. That wasn’t the hard part for me, my mom was a professional seamstress who also made wedding dress, that’s how she met my dad. He was picking up his sisters dress. So sewing was something I hated bc she would ask me unpick the whole project if there was a mistake. Didn’t know I’d appreciate it I the long run. Another influence was my aunt who not only sewed Chanel outfits for my doll and was a wiz at knitting outfits which always amazed me. Thru the years I would sew dresses, Sun suits, etc for my girls. Later in life I pick up Hawaiian quilting from my mom. It was therapy for her after breast surgery. In that period of time she appliquéd 2 queen quilt tops. Later when moving to the mainland I learned piecing, tied, and strip quilting and made them for my grandkids. Now it’s time for the great grands for quilts.
PS. Love all you teach this old wahine, you have such a gift. Keep teaching us bc we love it.

Piilani Schwartze

I’m not quite your grandma’s age….but may be close. My mom sewed most of my clothes when I was young. I am pretty sure this was because clothing choices were pretty limited in a small town in the 1960’s. She made me take sewing lessons at Singer in the basement of the Hilo Mall. I was grumpy: why should I learn learn when I have her….She was wise, of course. She passed away the next summer and I was left to my own devices.
In those days, we had summer jobs to buy our school clothes. I could sew my own clothes so my money went a lot further than other kids. I sewed my prom dress, summer clothes, swim suits, aloha shirts for friends, white dress for school….EVERYTHING but undies. Hours and hours were spent pouring over all the pattern books in fabric stores. I had my favorites like Hata’s in Hilo.
When I had my own children, I sewed most of my maternity clothes. I had two sons. Your grandma is correct: there is no reason to sew in this time of excess. I could buy t-shirts and jeans for them for much cheaper than I could sew them. Quality fabric is harder to find. Patterns are super expensive. Fabric stores are gone.
When I was at KS Intermediate, we all took sewing. We had to make aprons. In high school, sewing classes were available. Those kids always had cool clothes. There were old pedal machines in our dorms. I loved pumping those pedals.

I still have my machine and use it for household things. I sew aloha shirts on occasion. I sew dresses for friends when asked. I am so glad to have this skill. Keep it up. You inspire me and I hope others. I can mend, create, size, repair and create. I can’t wait to create something with some of your fabric. Thanks for the motivation.

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