Why more men don’t sew
A brief history of men who sew
Most men don’t sew and have never considered it as an occupation or a hobby. As a man who recently started sewing, I’m wondering why this is. I’m going to look at a few possibilities in this article and see if I can shed some light on the subject.
It’s also important to clarify the difference in sewing as an occupation versus a hobby.
Tailoring was dominated by men throughout history. Unfortunately that occupation appears to be slowly dying out as clothing is mostly made in factories these days. Economically, people are more likely to purchase a cheaper article of clothing from a manufacturer than to have something custom made by a tailor. There are very few tailors left today and they primarily do alterations rather than making new articles.
Hobbyist sewing, on the other hand, is sewing things at home for friends and family or for your own personal satisfaction. Projects can range from clothing, to bags, quilts or just about anything you want to make. Most hobbyist sewists have a small portable machine that can be setup easily and stored when not in use. (If you need help picking out a new sewing machine I wrote a sewing guide on how to buy a sewing machine for beginners.)
Now that we know we are talking mostly about the hobbyist male sewist, let’s move into some of the reasons why more men don’t sew.
5 Reasons Men Don’t Sew
1. Historically, women worked inside the home and raised children (and performed many various other tasks that I’m not going to list), while men worked outside the home to provide for the family. So it was obviously her responsibility to contribute to the family by sewing. These gender roles facilitated the gender focus of sewing machine companies sales and marketing. Because women were home during the day, they obviously had time to care for children, clean the house, and get the sewing done.
2. Since sewing has been historically viewed as woman’s duty, it would seem that a man who enjoys it would be somewhat feminine. Other men would often make fun of a man who sews. Under such circumstances many men would opt to keep their hobby a secret to avoid unnecessary ridicule. I was crafty growing up and was often teased for wanting to do “girly” activities like crocheting, knitting, and cross stitching.
3. Even today on the world wide web there are a ton of sewing blogs by women for women. There are a few blogs by men. Honestly when researching this article I found more than I thought I would.
But, the hobby sewing genre is still dominated by women.
4. Because of the historical gender roles mentioned earlier, sewing machine companies marketed their product to women. As a result when anyone saw an ad for a sewing machine it was in a feminine type magazine. You never saw an ad for a sewing machine in a manly magazine.
5. Today women work primarily out of the home and the home sewing industry has shifted as a result. It’s no surprise that cultural shifts have ushered in new hobbies for men and women alike. While men have been hindered from sewing in the past, modern trends have begun to expand the acceptance of, well, pretty much everything. Now-a-days it’s considered OK to be “you” and no one can tell you otherwise. While this isn’t always the best thing, (there has to be some objective truth) it’s been good for culture to take a fresh look at how we assign traditional gender roles.
Rabbit hole (not about men who sew;)
I’m going to chase a rabbit hole here for a minute. Why do boys have to be blue and girls have to be pink? Why are there colors assigned to children from birth? Look at any baby item and it’s pink or blue. Also, I was in a store not long ago and there was a lego section and a girls lego section an aisle over. The girls lego section was pink and princessy (new word) and the boys section was knights, fire trucks, and ninjas. Why can’t there just be a single lego section?
In the cooking aisle there are girly aprons and there are men’s aprons that target men who grill. I cook in my house and do not find it to be a women’s job. It is most definitely a survival job. If you want to eat today, you better go cook something. I enjoy cooking and it has been less gender stereotyped than many other things, but I think the grill master apron is offensive.
That’s enough of the rabbit hole.
How can we encourage more men to sew?
While there traditionally hasn’t been a focus on men in the sewing world whether historically or economically, the internet is changing this. Through blogging men can find other people who share their interests. Therefore, we can encourage men to sew and provide information to help them feel more comfortable in a hobby that is dominated by women.
If you are a man that sews, and are comfortable in your hobby, reach out to other men who sew. Let other people know you are a man who sews. Let’s support each other. Find a Facebook group to join and share patterns and tips and tricks. There are male bloggers who share about their hobby. Follow them. Reach out to them.
So, what kind of sewing machine should a MAN use?
You can read an article I wrote about my machine here. Any machine you have access to. Don’t go out and buy some expensive machine that has all the bells and whistles. If you watch any tutorials on YouTube, you’ll see all kinds of fancy machines that have automatic cutters and other gadgets. You don’t need that stuff to start sewing!
All you need is a basic machine that does 10-15 stitches and you’ll be able to sew anything you want. Some things to watch for when shopping for your next machine are stitch length and width adjustments. You should be able to adjust both the stitch length, and width. These adjustments will come in handy when sewing in the real world and most machines will have them. Only the really cheap machines won’t.
Sewing Machine Maintenance
Another thing to check is whether the machine is mechanical or digital. It’ll be easy to tell the difference as the digital machine will have a screen and buttons and a mechanical machine will likely have dials to change stitches. It’s up to you which you choose but a digital machine will most likely cost more. I personally use a mechanical machine from the 70’s and love it; it’s well built and fairly easy to maintain. It requires regular oil and cleaning but so do digital machines. A certified dealer should maintain your sewing machine. Modern machines are more complicated and it can be difficult to work on them yourself.
What kind of sewing will you be doing?
It’s important to have an idea of what type of sewing you’ll be doing. For instance, if you plan to quilt (I made one here) with your machine you’ll need to know if you can drop your feed dogs to free motion quilt. You’ll also want to know if your machine comes with a darning foot, or if you need to buy one separately. Also, knowing what types of sewing you’d like to try ahead of time can save you some time and headaches down the road. But it’s ok if you don’t know now.
When you decide to buy go to a dealer and ask questions and test out a machine or two. Get recommendations from people who sew. Read blogs and sewing machine reviews. Go on Amazon and select a few machines to compare. You’ll learn about machines and find features you’d like to have in your new (or old) machine.
If you are new to the sewing community, you should stick with basic projects to learn how to control the machine and material. Get some different kinds of material to practice with and see how your machine handles. At many dealers you can test out machines before you buy them to make sure you like them. If you buy from a box store like Walmart or Joannes, you won’t have this luxury.
Also, some great beginner projects to start with are small tote bags. Some of my first projects were simple bags. As I progressed I made bags with linings and my latest was a messenger bag with a homemade strap and it even had pockets inside. Other good starter projects are dresses and skirts if you have a lady to make them for. They are simple to make. I have a wife and daughter so there will be no shortage of dresses to come, belee dat.<– (I like to pretend I can still kick it(lol), it amuses me:D) (I wrote a couple articles about dresses I’ve made for my daughter. You can read the latest one here.)
More to Read
Additionally I recently wrote an article about the basic sewing essentials you need in your sewing room. Please check it out.
You can find good patterns for just about anything you want to make if you search google. Find some blogs you like and check for patterns. Many if them give free patterns away to their readers. If you can’t find the right pattern for free there are websites that sell patterns for a reasonable price. If you buy a pattern make sure you understand if you are buying a digital download or a physical pattern.
Just get started sewing. It’s time. Just do it. Bite the bullet. Take the plunge. Make something great. Share it with your friends or family. Share it on my blog in the comments. Find me on Facebook and share it with me there. Most importantly, have fun making something.
Lastly, this is an affiliate link so I’ll make a little commission if you purchase something using it, but I love Sulky Cotton Thread. It’s a neat gift idea. Check it out.