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Boys Can’t Sew

It happened again!

At the market last weekend someone approached my stall and showed an interest in my Sew Together Dolls. They appreciated the concept, the design of the animals and multicultural people. They loved the step-by-step visual instructions to encourage children to be involved. And then she said ‘But I only have boys’. Seriously?

How did this happen?

A little bit of history. The invention of the domestic sewing machine was a fabulous thing. Sewing became an activity that anyone could do at home. It was, of course, heavily marketed as a tool to assist women and so it became associated with domestic labour. Exclusively a female activity of course! There’s no logic to it of course. Before making clothes could be done at home it was the job of tailors who were usually male. There are countless examples of male fashion designers. Fortunately, times are moving on rapidly and the world is beginning to realise that attaching gender to activities makes no sense. It limits us and in this case, it limits boys and stops them from learning in a field that is steeped in rich knowledge about design, materials and valuable skills.

What are we afraid of?

Modern sewists have been working hard to break down the entrenched gender stereotypes around domestic sewing. The pandemic led to a massive rise in sewing machine sales and the popularity of independent sewing pattern makers. This article in the New York Times describes how some men are attempting to break gender stereotypes through sewing clothes. It also describes how sewing can be used to advocate body acceptance and sustainability. Fast fashion is a massive contributor to pollution and climate change. All these issues are incredibly valuable in teaching young people. So why do we limit it or diminish learning about it?

Sewing has it all.

Schools are often looking for activities that bridge different curricular areas and are project-based. We learn because the activity gives us a purpose and we can see possibilities in it for ourselves. It doesn’t have to be about making clothes. It’s about understanding materials, and how they’re manufactured and put together for artistic expression or for functional purposes.

Just for the fun of it.

Aside from the fact that it’s a good thing to teach all children how to sew, why not do it just for the fun of it? My sewing kits are designed to be simple, easy to complete but also engaging. We don’t always have to be consciously breaking down gender norms or teaching kids how to save the planet by making their own clothes. Why not just start with a project just for the fun of it?