Warning! This is a thought-provoking post.

I’m struggling to find a word to describe myself, and my sewing level.

I absolutely hate when I tell someone that I sew and they call me a seamstress.  I know that the word is not meant in a deragotory manner but to me it evokes images of hundreds of women sitting in a factory all making the same garment over and over again, or the feminine version of a tailor, someone who hems your pants.  I also know that many of you refer to yourselves as seamstresses and I do not mean to offend any of you for your choice to describe yourself as a seamstress.

I don’t feel like I have the right to call myself a  designer.  I have no formal training, I don’t produce collections, and I rarely sew for anyone but myself.  Even though I hope to be a designer one day, I’m not there yet.

I’ve also seen the terms sewist and home-sewer but I feel that these words, while better at describing what I do in my spare time, lack the passion that I feel for sewing, from the first touch of my pencil to my sketchbook to the final stitches, what I do takes passion and commitment to the finished garment. 

Sewing is also more involved, as many of you know, than just sewing two pieces of fabric together.  There are several components of making a garment that are beyond explaining to anyone that does not sew.

So readers what do you refer to yourself as, when talking about sewing?  Do we need a new term for ourselves, maybe one with a little more flair?

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7 responses

  1. I love thought-provoking posts! 🙂 I am at a loss for this, too, and I agree that seamstress doesn’t quite fit. I’d like “sewer” if it didn’t sound like the place where dirty water lives, though I tend to use that or sewist. I’m looking forward to what others think, great discussion!

    Any why not give yourself a label that speaks to your ability and passion? 🙂 You could start a movement.

  2. I don’t actually feel like I’ve sewn enough to think of myself with these terms (even though I like it very much). When truly thinking about it, that’s a very deep and complex question. I can relate to that discussion from a more general point of view. With any hobby or profession, how we define ourselves says a lot about us.

    As for sewing, since this is the discussion, if I had to, I would probably call myself a “home-sewer”.

    As for passion – it seems to me that painters, dancers, designers, writers and sorts have this mysterious halo of creativity around them. A halo that seamstresses, sewers, home sewers and sewists unfortunately lack…

    Sorry for the long comment. That was such an inspiring post! I just started a blog, and I really want to ponder this question there. Thank you so much!
    (A reference is of course yet to come 🙂 )

  3. Dressmaker? That’s hard. For what it’s worth and referring to nothing here, I once heard an interviewer ask James Galway if he referred to himself as a “flautist” or a “flutist”, and Galway said he called himself a “flute player. ” On the other hand, I have finally started saying “yes” when people ask me if I am an artist, instead of saying, “well, I try to be’ or “I am learning.” I am an artist. I don’t practice my art enough- but I am an artist. I would saying, from the look of your creations, you are an artist too. You are a fabric artist or you work with fibers. Actually we are all artists- because we each take either an existing idea (pattern or concept) and we translate it into our own dream or we have a vision and we do our best to realize the actualization. It may be good or just awful- this is the way it is with paintings – they may be very bad, but we were trying to make concrete our vision. Very often painters recycle their bad paintings – we too can either donate or try again with those things that did not meet the standards of our vision.

    Linda

  4. I personally have given up trying to label or explain myself. When asked what I do, I say, “I sew”. This satisfies most people who aren’t really interested anyway. For those that are intrigued, my room where I sew can either be a sancutary or a very scary place…

  5. I can’t be a “sewer” – it’s a ridiculous and annoying word in this context(- by profession I’m an editor so I hate that kind of ambiguity)!

    And “sewist” is weirdly ideological (see “Marxist”, “existentialist”, etc).
    It’s a tough choice because if I start making clothes for my adult son and husband, what will I be then?

    I think I am a “dressmaker”, even though I don’t only make dresses.

    Usually I just use the verb form – “I sew”, “I make clothes.”

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