Will Home Sewing Help to Solve Your Problem
By “Awake!” correspondent in the Dominican Republic
THE scene: A dress shop on a side street just off El Conde, the main shopping area in Santo Domingo. On display are two dresses against a black velvet backdrop. One has a splash of psychedelic colors, A-line, full length sleeves, and the other is a soft blue with a shirtmaker collar, high waist and slightly flaired skirt. Matching accessories, purse, shoes and jewelry, accompany each. Two women, Alicia and Yanet, stop and gaze, exchange knowing glances and, walk away.
Is this a familiar scene? Would you have done the same? They were attractive dresses, but, oh, the prices!
Economic Pressures an Incentive
Style-conscious women observing such a display are often willing to make sacrifices to appear in the latest creation, cost what it may. However, many others, like Alicia and Yanet, daily struggle to feed and clothe large families, pay school fees, rent and medical bills. For them, there is just not enough money to buy ready-made dresses of this style and quality.
Do you have such a problem? Would you like to know how they manage to dress as well as they do? What have they done to stay within their limited budgets? They have become their own dressmakers. Would this help to solve your problem?
In the small room where she does her sewing, Alicia explained: “Yanet and I became dressmakers out of necessity. Each day the situation seemed to grow more difficult. There was less and less money for clothes. We never had enough, and what we had wore out so fast. I realized that our economic situation was not going to improve and that prices would not go down, so I had to take matters into my own hands. So here we are, sewing for ourselves and for the children. And we are using fabrics and styles more suitable to our needs than those available in the stores. We have more than if we had to buy them ready-made, or if we had to pay someone to make them. Many women who have taken up sewing recently have put out a Modista (dressmaker) sign and are able to sew for themselves and are earning a little extra to help feed and educate the family.”
In less developed countries there is little industry to bolster the national economy. Textile factories may be few, and their production too limited to allow for moderately priced garments. The industry may be handicapped because prime materials have to be imported, and factory machinery may be limited and outdated. Imported garments are then highly taxed, and the average housewife is left to her own ingenuity to clothe herself and her family.
Modern Advances Simplify Home Sewing
If you are timid about the idea of making your own clothing, listen to Alicia’s experience: “It was when the shift first came in that I started sewing. I figured that I could at least make something that I could wear to do my housework. It was not very beautiful, but from it I learned how to make a better one, and I have kept on learning. Styles are so much simpler than they used to be, both for children and adults. Now I make all the clothes for the children and for myself.”
“That’s quite an undertaking, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but it’s not as difficult as it might once have been. Just think how women used to spin and weave their own cloth and then do all their sewing by hand. How happy they must have been when sewing machines became available! Probably they were as happy as I was when I changed my foot-pedal machine for this electric one and did away with all the drudgery of pedaling. Of course, many of these old machines are still being used here because the newer ones are so expensive.
“Remember how long it used to take to make a few buttonholes? And what an eyestrain! Now, in a matter of seconds this machine not only makes the holes but sews on the buttons too. It does embroidery, hemstitching and cording. It overcasts so that the material will not fray, and the length of the stitch can be adjusted according to the fabric, be it chiffon, leather or one of the new knits. Sewing with it becomes more of an adventure than work. The wonderful part of it is that, with these attachments, our clothes have a professional look.”
Having such a machine available would obviously be an advantage to anyone contemplating home sewing, but that is not all. There are other aids. While many dressmakers in South America and the Caribbean area cut out garments using pictures in fashion magazines as their guide, there are available today patterns in up-to-date styles. Step-by-step instructions make them easy to follow. Suggestions on how to place the pattern on the material, where to cut, how and where to mark darts or pleats and how to assemble will aid the beginner. Adjustments for proper fitting are not difficult, and, once adjusted, the pattern can be used many times. Suggestions are given to help the home sewer select the fabric appropriate to the style and her needs.
Dacron, cotton, nylon, Orlon, linen, lace, jersey, bonded fabrics, and on and on goes the list of materials available for use in the home. The sewer soon learns that permanent-press or crease-resistant fabrics are easier to work with since they do not wrinkle nor get out of shape as she handles them. Of course, there is much less work in caring for the finished garment. Many of the newer materials are not yet available in quantity, variety and at suitable prices in the Dominican Republic, so as Alicia reminded me, “Vivimos planchando” (“We live ironing”).
Yanet joined us for coffee, bringing with her an article she had been reading about bonded fabrics. We learned that two fabrics are fastened or bonded together by an adhesive, thus eliminating the need for lining. Flimsy, lightweight fabrics are given body that makes them easier to handle. It is estimated that in the United States last year 20 percent of the fabrics bought for home sewing were bonded.
“Some of them may be of little use in the tropics,” commented Yanet. “For instance, some of them are fastened together with a layer of foam that provides insulation and warmth, a wonderful advantage in cold climates and for winter sportswear. Bonded fabrics are used in all types of clothing from sportswear to evening clothes. Acetate or nylon tricot backing on jersey knits, Orlon or lace gives them body and makes them easy to sew. People who are allergic to certain fibers are now protected by the second layer of material.”
“Not having to line dresses and blouses would certainly make sewing less complicated and would save time too,” acknowledged Alicia.
The busy housewife-dressmaker has little time to spend in shopping expeditions, but this presents no serious problem. Material, pattern, thread, zipper and buttons can all be bought in the same store. If she has a little time to look around, she will quite likely find what she is looking for in a shop that specializes in sewing needs and accessories.
A beginner may find it to her advantage to take sewing instructions from a dressmaker or a sewing center established for this purpose. In the long run, this may save valuable time and money that otherwise could be lost in experiments.
Many factors have contributed to the popularity and growth of home sewing, and undoubtedly the trend will continue as more women recognize that it is worth investigating.
Economic reasons are outstanding. Columnist Sylvia Porter claims that you save fifty cents on every clothing dollar by doing your own sewing. In many localities the saving is much greater, especially so if you watch for fabric sales and learn how, what and how much to buy.
For Christian women there is another factor, a very important one, to consider. Christian women are admonished not to seek expensive, showy dress but, rather, well-arranged, modest clothing. (1 Tim. 2:9) The Christian does not want her manner of dress to identify her with groups known to have rebellious tendencies. By being her own dressmaker, she can more readily avoid extremes and be well dressed without attracting attention to herself. She can live up to the proverbial description of the good wife who industriously makes garments for her family with her own hands. (Prov. 31:19, 21, 22) While doing this, she can also train her daughters to follow her example. In this way she will be helping them to become practical, useful women and will be keeping them occupied at tasks that will not only bring them satisfaction but be an outlet for their creative instincts.
Better fitting, better workmanship, personalized styling are bonus rewards that the skillful home sewer will enjoy. Home sewing is well worth investigating.