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If I Ruled The World
Robbie Fanning, Creative Machine


If I Ruled The World...
Guest editorial by Gail Brown

Robbie asked, "Gail, if you were in charge of the world, how would you bring more people into sewing? ( Remember, I define 'sewing' in the broadest sense-- anything you can do with a sewing machine or serger.)"

Under my world reign:

I would change the common perception of sewing from un-cool and simple-minded to hip and intellectual. Yes, you already know that it is, but I am shocked by the number of people who try to convince me otherwise. I think it is pretty darn hip to know how to create or customize your own fashions and furnishings. Sewing has  also taught me more about creative problem solving as it applies to all challenges in life than any academic course I have ever taken. I'm no intellectual giant, but put me in a corner, metaphorically speaking, and I'll match my wits against anyone's.  Sewing has taught me that kind of problem solving; knowing that there are many solutions, rather than the solution.

In college, I fell for a tall, handsome medical student. I noticed, however, that he was embarrassed to admit to others that I was a Home-Ec major, working my way through school as a dressmaker. He made excuses for what was, in his estimation, my intellectual inferiority and relatively insignificant talent ( in light of his higher pursuit of saving lives). To him, sewing was un-hip. (Yikes! My parents and I are relieved that  I didn't marry him).

I would decree that celebrities show and talk about sewing on television and in popular periodicals. (That is, sewing that is hip, therapeutic, and productive). As much as I hate to admit it, ours is a celebrity-driven culture. Consider what is happening no with hand-knitting: Goldie Hawn and company have made it cool.

I would buy a sewing machine and serger for every person even remotely interested in sewing. I live in a poor community, with a fast-growing Hispanic population. I see so may Hispanic women here, young and old, home with children, unable to drive and speak English. I know they would love to sew and could learn with minimal instruction. (Sewing is a universal language). They would be able to share their talents with their family and possibly earn a living from their newfound skill and equipment.

I would slow peoples' lives down a bit. You can't sew while working, driving, (don't try it!), eating out, shopping, watching ball games, and attending meetings. Don't we all need more time at home? (I realize "home" can be an RV, summer cabin, even a hotel room or cruise ship cabin). I'm not a huge "simplify your life: fanatic, but there's not a person I know who doesn't crave more down time. I'm working on this and fail miserably but see slow progress. Because of a more relaxed work/travel schedule. I had time to teach my daughter to sew for the first time in way too many years. My premise has always been: The more down time  at home, the more time available for sewing. Maybe the gasoline prices will help?

I would schedule "unplug" hours. We all need to unplug from electronic screens, and when we do, we can pursue hands-on activities, such as sewing. I remind myself: I don't need to answer my e-mail every 15 minutes. I've given away the videogames my boys once glued themselves to.  The result? Lots of grumbling, and magically, more reading and making and playing things -- camps, model kits, remodeling of skateboards and bikes. They are even talking to each other and their parents more. (No sewing yet, but both of my adult brothers sew, so who knows?)

I would realistically portray homes in magazines and on television. I must confess that totally uncluttered living and working environments look  terrific, but are they real? I make a mess when I sew, don't you? I don't apologize for it any more... I'm tired of pretending what I do is a neat little package. This is what I do, and this is what happens when I do what I do. No more apologies. Let's lighten up. Don't wait for a sewing room addition so you can pursue your passion. Do it now. My latest quote: "It's a mess around here, and it's always this way. Welcome!"

I would schedule an alterations day before every prom at every high school. Talented seamsters would offer their services to take in, let out,  and hem prom dresses,  with this one "fee": the wearer of the dress ust watch hand help. That's what I do with my daughter's friends who seek me out just days (hopefully not hours) before the big prom. I think I've actually inspired one or two to start sewing. ( These are the same young women who tell me "My jeans don't fit". Translation: The jeans are too long).

I would multiply opportunities for "social sewing". Enthusiasts feed off one another, so gather for quilting, charity sewing needs, classes, in schools, community centers, and churches. And for some, especially those with young children, this may be their only time to sew for longer than 15 minute sessions. (The American Sewing Guild in the Seattle area will gather soon to sew and serge scrubs for Northwest medical teams traveling worldwide). 

I would substitute the verbs "quilt", "decorate", "alter", "costume", "recycle", "customize", "appliqué", or "embroider" whenever the word "sew" turns people off. Let's also prom0te adopting whatever aspect of sewing you love... specialize, rather than abandon sewing altogether.

Because of umpteen potential pursuits, our free time has been fragmented, Focus on your favorite aspect of sewing. (For instance, i don't pretend to be a machine-embroidery expert. There's just not enough time in my life yet). 

I would inform all potential sewing machine and serger buyers that there is a full range of price points. from inexpensive to spendy, used to new.

I would encourage the expansion of our definition of sewing to incorporate high-tech advancements. Yes, it is OK to fuse interfacing rather than pad-stitch. And those computer printed photo transfers? Riding the mammoth "memory" wave, people are diving back into sewing just to save photos as pillows, quilts, or wearable designs.

I would offer sewing machine and serger rentals at hotels and resorts. computers, printers, and fax machines are made available, so why not machines for sewing enthusiasts? I would gladly rent them. Wouldn't you.? 

I would never ever allow abandonment of teaching sewing, promoting it through 4-H, sewing organizations (ASG, Custom Clothiers, etc.), and other community programs, in schools (all levels), at stores, on television, and on the Internet. (Take that from someone who grew up with a Mom who encouraged sewing, but didn't touch a needle or thread herself. Thank you, 4-H, Home-Ec, retail sewing classes, and sewing books and magazines). 

The Cosmic Ruler declares: Unplug and sew! 

About the author: Gail's most recent book with Nancy Zieman is "Quick Gifts and Decor", which can be seen at fabric stores in the Nancy's Notions catalog, and at www.gailbrown.com

This editorial may be reproduced as long as it is not edited, altered, or shortened and as long as the following credit line appears:  Reprinted with permission of The Creative Machine Newsletter, PO Box 2634-G, Menlo Park, CA 94026-2634, (650-366-4440, fax 650-633-4455,  e-mail: info@thecreativemachine.com " As a courtesy, please send us a copy of the reprinted editorial. 

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