Tilly’s Writing a Paper- Let’s Help

 (We’re a colorful bunch)

I was carefully re-reading Sherry’s post on collars, determined to “get it right” with my husband’s jacket.  I sewed the under collar wrong on my own version of the WW2 jacket, though it turned out alright.  My eye caught Tilly’s latest post –Are Sewing Bloggers Cultural Leaders?


I read her post, started to write a loooong reply, then decided to turn it into a blog post.  My collar sits unfinished.

See how things get around in Blogworld?

What does the online sewing community mean to you? Why do you participate?

The online sewing community is a group of people all over the world who open the doors to their sewing rooms and invite us in.  I love the variety of techniques, styles, and personal quirkiness this exposes me to.  I started to blog as a way to contribute, and to keep track of my own sewing experiments and projects.  I guess I blog mostly for selfish reasons- it’s really handy to have a journal of projects and ideas that I can easily search.  It’s much simpler than my old method of keeping sketches and scraps in journals (though I still do that, too, on a smaller scale).  It’s great to have the input of other artists, as well.  I know many of my projects over the past year or so would have ended up as UFOs or wadded up and tossed in a corner without the help and encouragement I find online.

On top of that, I am a transplant.  I find it hard to meet other people- I’m a new(ish) mom, an immigrant, and kind of shy around new people.  We always planned to move away after my husband finishes his studies; the knowledge we won’t live here forever contributes to my social reticence.

Besides- ask anyone- it’s hard to meet people in Brisbane.  If I build up a social network online, that’s a group I can take with me anywhere we move.  Blogging cuts the solitude.

Finally, I blog to make myself write regularly.  I didn’t write much after I moved here and had a kid, and I sorely missed words, I felt my mind locking up.  Blogging allows me to write in manageable chunks and through blogging I found my writer’s “voice,” and acquired the habit of writing.

What are your favourite examples of projects initiated by sewing bloggers that capture this spirit of collaboration, creativity and innovation?  

Tilly mentioned Me-Made-March, which I think of as a month-long sewists’ convention.  It’s great for meeting new people and finding style inspiration.  Sherry’s RTW Jacket sewalong is the first sewalong I participated in, and I found it a great way to sharpen my skills.

On another level, I enjoy the collaboration of other individual sewing bloggers.  I stole Mary Nanna’s VPL jean’s pocket idea, it’s so cool!

 (If it’s not cool to use these photos, just let me know and it’s gone)

Recently, Tanit-Isis and I feverishly drafted and re-drafted an Anthropologie top.  I think we have about six versions of the same top between the two of us.  I would have probably stopped after the first one except, well, she was doing it too and that spurred me to keep trying.  It was like an unofficial draft-off (she totally won).  I worked on mine knowing she was working on hers at the same time.  I also enjoy our gentle trash-talking.

Who are the “leaders” in the sewing blogosphere? Is everyone / can anyone be a leader?

Oh, I don’t know.  I read Peter, I like the way he approaches problems with humor and a great attitude, and he seems to be great at connecting people.  His sewalongs look great, too, I send other people there as a reference guide.   Debi is a great inspiration and she’s a crossroads, too.  When I’m casting around for new blogs to read, I go through her blog roll.  She knows everyone.   I really enjoy The Dreamstress, she helps keep my mind on a type of sewing I don’t do much these days, and her historical posts are truly top-notch.  Sherry schools the world, she’s worked so hard on her recent sewalong and I’m reaping the benefits in my own sewing.  As a teacher, I have mad respect for teachers.

I don’t think everyone or anyone can be a leader, in the blogosphere or otherwise.  I’m also not sure that someone can be called a leader purely through numbers of followers, either.  Alan Keith puts it well:

“Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.”

In our blogosphere, it seems that the leaders are those who are decent at their craft, great at production (blogging neatly, good production values), but also those who possess an insightful way of looking at the world.  Leaders aren’t afraid to take risks.  Leaders work their butts off.

Are you involved in any other network of makers, whether online or offline? What makes sewing blogs unique?

I teach sewing and I work in a sewing shop, so 90% of the people I come into contact with sew in some way.  I’m constantly sewing, teaching, or learning.  I wouldn’t be the sewist I am today without the input of my co-workers and the lessons I learn through teaching.  I appreciate  the instruction on technique, the new-to-me materials I pick up from embroiderers or quilters, and the sharp but constructive criticism I receive at work.

Let me say I feel that’s a small thing lacking in our particular blog culture.  I really appreciate constructive criticism, but I don’t know that it’s universally appreciated elsewhere.  Sometimes it’s hard to admit I don’t know everything, but it’s realistic.  No one knows everything;  if someone knows more than I, then listening to them will improve my work.

That said, I think sewing blogs are unique in the huge variety of perspective and experiences represented.  At work, we all share ideas and creativity so much that eventually we all kind of do the same things the same way.  I discover wellsprings of ideas and techniques in the blogs, and it affects my own sewing, which in turn affects the sewing critiquing I do at work.  I think it’s marvelous- a free flow of information and inspiration unhindered by geography.    

Bloggin ain’t easy, but it’s a whole lot of fun.

(By the way, thanks for the interesting responses to tanning yesterday.  I learned the meaning of the word zeitgeist and that Scandinavia also has depleted ozone levels.   Don’t worry, they’ll close over by mid-century.  Why isn’t that headline news??  Also, Tanit-Isis directed me to the gem Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out In the Midday Sun.  Thank you for all the hilarious and insightful responses!)


  1. Hi Steph. Great post. I pretty much agree with everything you expressed in your piece of writing. I'm actually writing to ask a quick question. I noticed you used bound buttonholes on your jacket. I was just wondering at what stage of production you need to create these both in the front and front facing. Is it best to have them all done and lined up before attaching the side-front panel to each? The pattern I have purchased doesn't use bound buttonholes but I'd like to use them as my fabric is thick. I hope you have time to answer my question. It would be very much appreciated. Happy mother's day to you for tomorrow!

  2. I make my bound buttonholes right off the bat on the front piece before I do anything else. If you're using haircloth interfacing, make the bound buttonholes first and then cut little windows in the haircloth. It's a good idea to put at least a little fusible interfacing behind the bound buttonhole area. I recently made some through the fusible armoweft interfacing, it worked just fine. Then you face the buttonholes after you attach the front facing. Here's a picture. Hope that helps!

  3. Hello StephI have read your blog only a couple of times but did not realise you are in Brisbane. I am sorry you have found it hard to meet people in Brisbane.. I have lived here all my life (other than travelling for long periods) and really love it but I do know others that say the same thing.If you ever want to meet up let me know .. I have a little blog too and you can put a comment on there if you do. I only have one girlfriend who sews and it would be nice to get together with others who like to sew too. http://www.sewdarntired.blogspot.com Sofie (I'm studying at the moment so not much sewing done lately but give it a month and I'm finished for a bit!)

  4. You're so kind! For a while, I contemplated hanging a sign around my neck that read "Would you like to be my friend?" and going out like that. I could get away with that back in Austin, but I'm not sure it would go over well here… hehe.

  5. Aw..thanks for the shout out Steph! I think my blogroll is somewhere around 250 or so…eep…all amazing people sewing up amazign things! It's been fun getting to know everyone in blogland!

  6. Great post! As I was reading about sewing blog leaders, I thought of the Selfish Seamstress. She was so witty. She seems to have disappeared. I wonder if she will pop up some day and tell us she had a baby. Having a first baby is a little like falling down a rabbit hole as I remember…BTW, I am not trying to start a rumour here, I have NO idea.

  7. What a thought-provoking post, I love it. And it is so true how you elucidate the differences between leaders, in blogging or elsewhere. Teachers (for whom I have a soft spot!), networkers, and then sometimes the great clown and pied piper. (My husband is the latter.) It's easy to recognize the blogging leaders because of the amount of energy and time they put into their blog (almost like a full-time profession) and it reflects in those production values and way of interacting with people. I'm very thankful for leaders.I also like the idea of thinking as some bloggers as crossroads. It's so true! I'm not a vintage-driven sewer but some of the best crossroads blogs have more of the vintage ethos–I've found the coolest little blogs hidden away in remote corners of the web through them. I do at times notice a bit of a generational gap in sewing blogs but this has to do with who grew up using blogs naturally and who didn't–but only mention this because sometimes I want some input from older sewers who come from a different reason or lifestyle of sewing.And I can empathize with the expat experience–I got married in Czech Republic and lived there a few years and definitely had days where I felt like hanging friendship signs over my introverted self. They usually culminated in long walks in the woods and then reading Emily Dickinson on a tree stump, which didn't help things–ha.

  8. Hi Steph, such an interesting topic. I am really new to all of this – before I met The Dreamstress in 2009 I knew nothing of blogs and sewing blogs at all. I belong to a quilting guild but that is also fairly recent, 2008. I've been sewing professionally since I was 17 (nearly 30 years!) on and off and am largely self taught which means of course asking lots of questions, reading lots of books and making lots of mistakes. I love this blogging business – I am not very good at it myself as I get half way through an interesting project and realise I haven't taken any photos to share! New habits are harder to establish in the face of a lifetime of old habits. But to be able to share my passion with other sewists, it's a new lease of sewing life. I love it when I can use 30 years experience to help provide a solution to another blogger's problem, and now I have a fine circle of sewists to hang out with in our various sewing rooms and living rooms, I put more effort in and get to bounce ideas around and find solutions to my problems too. I never have the patience to post a problem and see if I get an answer! :) As a result of all this comeraderie, I spent more time hong kong binding all the seams in a frock coat than I spent on the entire garment. And yesterday I got over myself enough to dress up in it and have silly photos taken. I am even contemplating making an 18th C costume for myself! For someone technically old enough to be the mother of most of my sewing friends (but not all!)it is so nice to swap inspiration for education and it is a corner of happiness in an already good life I truly treasure. :)

  9. I wish I could remember how I first stumbled upon all the blogs I read. I think I found you via Gertie. About the ozone article. Is it just me or is the referenced article about a South pole ozone hole when the Scandinavian one was from a North pole hole that closed already? I thought that was the way I remembered it growing up in the 80's. I was unaware of a South pole hole before reading your referenced article so thanks.

  10. I posted in the other link. http://www.tillyandthebuttons.com/2011/05/are-sewing-bloggers-cultural-leaders.htmlHere is what I wrote;"@AnonymousSteph was very generous towards you. You are what is called a "hater" these days or what I would call a malingering malcontent. You're sweeping over-generalizations and holier-than-thou judgments are ironically hypocritical. Why don't you take a break from reading the sewing blogs for a while since they upset you so."Such drama. Some people spread sunshine and some people spread gloom.

  11. :) You have a point, to be sure… Talk about re-enforcing negative stereotypes of domesticated women, oh the irony is right… But at the same time, the anonymous poster did raise some valid points… I guess my problem is I can usually see several sides of the same question. Hmmm… Well, if the Scandinavian one is closed, I'm glad. Maybe I should look around and find all the right articles and THEN post. There's an idea….

  12. Steph, thank you so much for responding to my questions! It's great to read your thoughts. I absolutely LOVE the idea of the unofficial draft-off – that kind of camaraderie-competition is something I hadn't thought of before as an example of collective creativity.

  13. Thanks so much for the shout-out Steph. I'm very honoured.I often think about the criticism (and lack of it) that you mention. Sometimes I want to make suggestions, but I refrain because it's hard to convey tone on the internet, and I don't want to come across as mean. I find it particularly hard in the historical costuming world, because there are so many gradients of "historically accurate" and it can be such a touchy subject. And it tends to be an area that attracts people with 'artistic temperaments'. If you are willing to wear big huge pink dresses in public your probably have a big huge personality to go with it ;-)I guess I'm really lucky that I met a few people who are 'big' in my blog world (Kendra of Demode, Lauren of American Duchess) before, or right when I started blogging, so knew that they were lovely in person. And hopefully one day I'll meet you, even though I already know you are lovely in person!

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