When Meredith Hogue of New Albany was pregnant with her oldest child 10 years ago, she decided to try her hand at making baby clothes.
“We were in residency and we couldn’t afford any of the pretty things I wanted,” said Hogue, whose husband, Michael, is a family physician in Ecru. “My parents bought me a cheap, basic sewing machine to see if I was interested.”
Hogue’s mother, who had minimal sewing skills, taught her the basics and then Hogue turned to some books for guidance.
“I started there and I made a lot of mistakes,” said the homemaker. “I don’t think I have anything that doesn’t have a mistake in it somewhere.”
Hogue has made clothing for all five of her children, including day gowns, rompers, John-Johns, play clothes and heirloom dresses. She is among a growing number of young women who have taken up the sewing machine in recent years.
“Young women are wanting unique garments for their children like they had growing up,” said Kathy Pizza, owner of Heirlooms Forever, a sewing shop in Tupelo. “We’re seeing a lot more young people in here. Women in their late 20s and early 30s – those are the women taking our ‘Mommy Learns To Sew Class.’ They want something unique for their kids.”
Susan Phillips, who teaches sewing classes at Heirlooms Forever, said sometimes she feels like sewing skills and interest skip a generation.
“We have a lot of children who come to visit their grandparents, and the grandparents are the ones who bring them to me,” she said. “A lot of times the moms don’t sew. It’s the grandmothers who want their grandchildren to learn to sew like they did.”
One day last week, Phillips taught a children’s sewing class made up of six girls.
On the first day of class, the students, who ranged in age from 8 to 11, made purses. The next day they made backpacks and the third and final day, they made shoebags.
“I make them go through the motions of using regular sewing skills that everybody should know,” Phillips said. “And every day, they walk out of this class with a finished product.”
Four of the girls in the class are cousins. Gina Thorderson of Tupelo, mother of two of the girls, said she is one of the “skipped” generations of seamstresses.
“My mother is a big sewer,” Thorderson said. “She makes heirloom stuff. She made my babies’ baptism dresses. And she makes quilts. She was a working mom, and she made clothes for us because that’s what we could afford.”
Thorderson’s mother even made swimsuits and her shorts for the basketball team.
So in 7th grade, Thorderson tried her hand at sewing.
“I didn’t have the patience for it,” she said. “I had different hobbies. But both my girls love sewing. Mya will sew by hand and Maren can set up the sewing machine and sew when she wants to. We usually make homemade gifts for Christmas.”
Sense of accomplishment
Pizza at Heirlooms Forever is even seeing young women come in who are designing clothing for themselves. She carries a wide line of brightly colored trendy prints reminiscent of the ’60s and ’70s.
“As the economy goes a little south, it’s more expensive to get good quality items,” she said. “They can come in and pick out material and trim for a garment that’s unique and of good quality. Plus, they have a sense of accomplishment.”
Sometimes, customers will come in with blue jeans from a consignment shop.
“They’ll buy some ribbon and fabric and make something totally different for that look that’s so popular today,” Pizza said.
She said young women are making items for their homes, such as pillows and curtains, as well as items for their children. But they’re not as likely to sew for themselves.
“There’s a mystery about sewing,” Pizza said. “People think it’s so hard. It may be more difficult for adult clothing, because body shapes change. But for kids, it’s just straight lines.”
Hogue of New Albany, who has an interior design degree from the University of Tennessee, said she’s made pillows and Roman shades for her home, but admitted she’s never made a piece of clothing for herself.
“I love looking at the fabrics and the trims, but with five children, I just never had the time to do for myself,” Hogue said. “When they were little, I’d sew during their nap times or do smocking or embroidery at night while my husband was working on medical charts. Now, I do it when I can grab a moment.”
Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal