Monday, April 27, 2015

Sewing Sheros

I read this article online at Yahoo on Friday where The Mattel Company made Barbies of celebrities to honor them for National Shero Day, which just happens to be today.

The article made me ponder on who my Sewing Sheros are...because of course all roads lead back to sewing for me! *LOL* I broke it down to two categories...personal and professional because I'm not really because I have more than one sewing shero and I want to honor them all!

First and foremost the Sewing Shero who changed my sewing the most would be ~ Colleen Jones.

I'm sure she doesn't even realize what an important part she played in my sewing life. I've written about her influence in my life before but let me briefly highlight the reasons why here again:

1. She encouraged me to sew better
2. Gave me my first Adele Margolis book
3. Turned me onto Mary Brooks Pickens
4. Made me realize that collecting fabric was a good thing!
5. Was generous to me when I was struggling financially
6. Turned me onto Kenneth King
7. Taught me so much about sewing with a smile and a funny story

If there is any one person to whom I owe my sewing to today, it would be Colleen ~ one of the kindest, gentlest women I know...whom my daughters as grown women adore and speak so lovingly made such an impact on my life when things were falling apart in my personal life and you encouraged me to sew through it all! If I can encourage another to sew and stay true to the course of life when the storms gather, I still won't give out as much as you put into my life! You are truly my sewing shero!

Professional Sewing Teacher Sheros ~

There are two sewing celebrities (true sewing celebrities!) that also affected my sewing.  They don't know me from Adam but they deserve a nod ~ a very big nod ~ Nancy Zieman and Sandra Betzina. Both had sewing shows on TV (PBS and HGTV respectively) and for the 30 minutes each show lasted, I was engrossed, soaking up every piece of knowledge that I could. 

See I've been sewing since I was 11 years old. I started when there wasn't an internet or computers, computerized sewing machines, rotary cutters, fusible interfacing and most fabric widths were 45" wide. You learned to sew from your mother or grandmother or at school in Home Ec. Almost every home had a sewing machine in it and you sewed to save money because clothing wasn't made overseas for slave wages, couldn't be purchased in WalMarts for $10 or less and most importantly the manufacture of fabric and clothing was a thriving business in the United States.

So to see women who taught sewing on television was a very big deal to me because it made sewing and learning about sewing accessible again. Now both of these awesome women contributed considerably to help me sew better. To not just sew in a bubble which was so easy to do pre-internet days.

These days, sewists can learn to sew by googling anything sewing related, or following sewists on a blog, sewing board and/or speak to them via social media. It's a very different experience than when I and my fellow contemporaries learned to sew. However, it's awesome to see and experience how sewing is going forth into the future.

So tell you have any sewing sheros?  Professional Teachers, Certified Sewing Celebrities, Social Media Sewing Sheros? Which woman has spoken so profoundly into your life that she has changed the course of your sewing? Share in the comments here or on your own blog! Tweet it, Facebook it, Pin it but let's honor our Sewing Sheros today on National Shero Day! always more later!


  1. I loved Martha's Sewing Room on PBS she made me want to learn how to do smocking & all the elegant little details she always did, Project Runway makes draping your own designs look so easy lol! I love watching Nacy as well, as she always manages to take you to that "Oh I didn't know you could do that" level lol! yes TV is a good thing!


  2. Oh yeah, Nancy Zieman is to blame for the sewing restart when the kids were little. : ) Watched her for years and then they moved her to Saturday morning...and cartoons won out. < : /. Still, I'd kinda like to see her at one of the Expos someday.
    Wish I could say mom sewed, but her idea of a hem fix was masking tape, bless her heart. ; )

  3. Carolyn, such a beautiful testimony about Colleen, your personal shero. I can relate to the second part, about learning to sew pre-Internet, pre-computerized sewing machine days. My gram gave me my first pair of pinking shears after my mom taught me to sew as a young teen. Home ec reinforced 'the rules' and techniques. But really, my mom is the one who taught me that I could take on any challenge that I wanted to, or needed to, in sewing and in life, and not be intimidated - just get it done. So she is my shero, may she rest in peace.

  4. My Gram. She taught me much when I was still quite young. (not just sewing, I might add) But now, as I sew my wardrobe, things she showed me how to do come rushing back and I realize, she taught me well, it just took me time to put the skills to good use.

  5. Nancy Z for me. I'm also from the pre internet days of sewing. Mom sewed but didn't teach me much other than some basic. I really started learning from Vogue patterns - there was a sewing lesson in each pattern. I enjoyed Sandra B's show, but by the time I found it, it had been cancelled.

  6. You brought tears to my eyes.. How very nice to give such great honors to these ladies.. And so happy that they were there for you, and now you teach others so much about fitting and sewing.. I must say..I rarely ever post a comment, but I read all of your post, and glean SO much from your blog..You are an inspiration. thankyou. Judy

  7. This is the best article and such a gracious thing for you to choose your sheros and honor them. I learned to sew in the 5th grade by myself from reading books. My mother did not know a thing about sewing but I inherited my grandmother's peddle sewing machine when she moved into a nursing home. My best friend and her mom taught me the correct techniques when we were in junior high and I also took Home Economics to make an apron when I was already making much more difficult projects. I eventually went to college and majored in Home Economics. As a 4-H Leader, I taught a lot of children and adults to sew. I continue to do that now through my church - in part to give back to those who shared the knowledge with me. It was a defining moment in my life when I discovered sewing and I hope it will be for others, too.

  8. This one is easy Ann Ladbury. I too have been sewing since I was about 11, simple clothing, elasticated waists and wonderweb hems, But when I was about 18 there was a programme on the TV which also had a sewing book with patterns to accompany it. She explained everything beautifully and I am hooked. I have a copy of her book on my sewing shelf. This is the only link I can find on the web for her book

  9. My Sheros:
    My maternal grandmother, who made beautiful quilts
    Sandra Betzina, from who I have learned so much both in person and through her web series with Ron Collins
    The amazing women and men that I have met through Peninsula Wearable Arts Guild; they are an inspiration!

  10. My response will be short & sweet: Nancy Z.

  11. Nancy Zieman is my all-time favorite sewing shero with Sandra Betzina a close second. I had the utmost pleasure of meeting Nancy Zieman and having her sign my copy of her book and I still have copies of Sandra Betzina's weekly column from the Cincinnati Enquirer. The internet is great but they blazed the trail and I will be forever grateful.

  12. Of course, it was my mom who was a seamstress. Like her, I still watch and record Nancy Zieman every Saturday morning.

  13. My Gramma instilled the love of sewing first in me . She did lots of utilitarian sewing but I loved helping her.
    I had the privledge of attending Nancy Zeiman Sewing Expo a few years ago & met her. It is something g I'll never forget.

  14. In addition to Nancy and Sandra, there was Shirley Adams. She introduced so many innovative ideas, but always stayed high quality -- no trendiness, just solid, tasteful and fun.

    1. Yes Shirley would definitely be on my list if I did a top 5!

  15. Mom of course, who persevered through repairing many of Dad's work clothes even though she really didn't like doing it.
    As for the professionals, another Nancy Z. fan here. And Shirley Adams. Sadly, other than buying a few books, I haven't had much exposure to other professionals.
    From the internet - there are many wonderful blogs by people who have been sewing for years and know the best techniques. And they taught me that when things go wrong, it might not be my fault (bad patterns, bad fabrics, etc.),
    And you for how many times you changed your TNT dress pattern into something most of us would buy a whole new pattern for. And your well thought out fabric stash, rather than a bunch of "oooo pretty!" fabric purchases.

  16. My mom tought me to sew and I´m very grateful in the way she did it. She let me try my own way and when I went back with a puckered seam she would ask if I could live with it? Mostly the answer would be no, so the seam had to come out. But it was my own choice. My second shero is Edna Bryte Bishop of the Bishop method. Roughly I still use her method and I think my sewing shows it. I cherish my copies of her books.

  17. I'm not even sucking up when I say that you're one of my sewing sheroes! I think about fabric in a different way now and always pick up something special when I see it now (I'm thinking of an already-backed-and-quilted wool plaid and a glazed ponte).

  18. My first shero would have to be my aunt who taught me to sew when I was a girl. She was a very successful career woman who had worked her way up the corporate ladder at a time when very few women did, and she still found time to sew all of her own clothes (and teach me!). My second would have to be my high school sewing teacher who had the patience of a saint and allowed us to sew anything that we wanted. I feel privileged that I had such positive experiences when I was younger, and that I had these women to teach me(my mother does the most beautiful embroidery and knitting but no sewing)

  19. My dear Mamee, my grandmother, put the fire and passion into sewing for me. My mom enabled it all, fighting to get me into sewing classe that teachers claimed I was too young for. The dear nuns that taught me fine heirloom hand sewing. And yes, Nancy Z. She showed me how to get professional results with easy methods I could succeed at and how to start really fitting myself with Pivot and Slide. And last but not least, Claire Shaefer who knows more than anyone can imagine about the world of couture. I learned much from her and gained a great appreciation of couture in her classes. My Sheroes.


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