Love for sewing, does it come from nature or nurture?

Dear friends,
Today I want to share a little about my family genealogy connection with sewing. I know many of you have mothers and grandmothers and even great grandmas that sew and have a story to tell about how these amazing woman influenced you. Do write about it on comments, I would love to hear.

This beautiful lady on the photograph it’s my mom’s mother, Rosa. My mom was only few months old when her father died, the youngest of 7 children. She grew up around my grandma sewing. Transforming hand-me-downs to beautiful outfits and creatively making everything she could. A true make do and mend strong woman.  
This is me & mom (pregnant of my brother) in matching outfits made by my grandma Rosa.
Before you asked, no I haven’t learned how to sew with her. She died when I was around 10 years old. My mother has a good creative eye for design but she never learned how to sew. By her own words is because she doesn’t have the patience. She doesn’t enjoy the process of making, only wants the object to be ready. I have been trying to get her to sew and we even made a few things together last year. Although I have large extended family, none of grandma Rosa descendants sew.
On my dad side, my grandma Dea has no interest for crafts, sewing or knitting. She likes shopping. My great gran Alce was a fantastic sewist and knitter.  From this side of the family, I’m the only girl next in line. My dad had only brothers, and my cousins are also all men. Neither less to say, no one sews either.
I am the sole representative of both sides of my family caring the ‘sewing’ gene. From my whole genealogy tree for the last 2 generations, I’m the only one who has a passion for sewing and handmade.
My family environment was relaxed and I really enjoy playing, and I guess creativity it’s highly linked to play. I remember sewing my Barbie into fabric pieces around 7 years old. Around 12 years old I dreamed of becoming a fashion designer. Of course, life takes you in different directions specially if you are the only creative person in the house and you ‘need a proper’ job.
I moved to the UK in 2005 working for a big multinational company. I have learned to use my creativity into business solutions and turned to be a great differential in my field winning prizes and reporting at high level. Met my fellow soon after I arrived in the country but only back in 2009 I decided to explore that quiet desire to making my own stuff.
What have I tapped into? A sewing fanatic monster appeared in the last 3 years. From not even knowing how to sew a button to making one outfit a week. Having the opportunity to travel the UK to meet other people with the same passion and interests. In the Uk it’s not uncool to like handmade. People only sew in Brazil because they need to or to make money. Maybe it’s changing sightly. I haven’t managed to met any sewing blogger yet to debate this subject.
I often wonder if I didn’t moved to the UK, would I ever explore that latent desire to sew. Has the UK creative environment and quiet lifestyle or my sewing inheritance the biggest influencer? I would never know. Maybe both played a big part of my desire to be creative.
My family in Brazil often make comments how similar to grandma Rosa I have become and how proud she would be of me. I’m privileged to be compared to her. Mum has kept her sewing machine and iron (those with coals) and my great grandma Alce tracing wheel and sewing machine for me. Treasures and memories I hope to keep and transfer to my descendants.
I close this subject with another picture of a handmade dress made by my grandma Rosa. I hope you enjoy learning more about my sewing history. Do share yours!

*update:Your amazing stories on the comments made my heart warmer. It is beautiful how our lives got influenced by our family one way or another. I want to respond individually for all of you but writing this article was a bit emotional for me and I find the same when I read your lovely comments. I got a bit teary reading and trying to respond accordingly so I hope you understand if I just write this note. Thanks for sharing your personal story with me and others… incredibly inspiring to know that so many of you share similar experiences. 

Lots of love x

  • My grandma on my mom’s side used to sew a lot, but she doesn’t any longer. It was more of a necessity thing with her, rather than something she genuinely enjoyed. However, the grandma that I’m named after on my dad’s side, was huge into sewing and knitting and was wonderful at both. I never met her or even knew that she did all that (she died when my dad was 6) until last Christmas. My aunt showed me a lined jacket my grandma had knit, complete with a little woven label that said, “Handmade by Mary”. It was so cool feeling that little connection to the past!

  • I’d be inclined to say a bit of both. Neither my Mum, her Mum or my Great Grandma would sew. I know both my Mum and my Grandma despised it at school! They were shocked when I, out of the blue, just decided to give it a bash. That was February this year!!! My Dad’s Mum used to knit and sew costumes but I don’t think she really enjoyed it that much, her sewing machine broke this year, I tried to fix it but couldn’t, so offered to find her another, to which she said ‘oh no thanks, I have a reason not to make costumes now’.

  • This is exactly my story! I wrote about my grandmother on my first post ever, but I will absolutely share here.

    My mother’s mom had to support her family after their parents died young. She did this by sewing garments at night, being self-taught, and selling the items during the day. My mom did not learn how to sew, but she would ask my grandmother to make items for us. They always came back so impeccable after just taking a few quick measurements! I always wanted to learn how to sew, but before I had the chance, she was already too old to continue sewing, and therefore teach me.

    My dad’s side has NO crafting experience whatsoever! All the time, my mom and aunts tell me that I inherited my grandmother’s passion and talent, even though I’ve been sewing only over a year. So encouraging!

  • Rachel, I really enjoyed your sewing history.. How fun!! You were an adorable little girl. Both your mom and grandma were lovely too

    My grandmother sewed all of her children’s and her own clothes. My mom sewed
    for my sisters and myself.. But, I don’t think any of them , sewed for the love or hobby of sewing. It was out of necessity.. I am one of 4 girls, and I am the only girl in my family that sews. I took Home Ec, and back in my day, they actually taught you a semester of sewing. I loved it.!!!

    When I had my baby girl [I was very young myself] , I really learned to sew by sewing sun dresses for her. It was so fun.

    I live in a small state in USA.. And it is so sad to me, that there are few people in my area that sew anymore.. It is looked at, as an “old” thing. I hope one day the UK’s view on sewing will hit us.ha

  • My mother has sewn since I can remember, often matching dresses for her and I and then later she got into quilting and has been doing that for a long time. She tried to get me into sewing as a kid but I never had a whole lot of interest in it (although she showed me some little stuffed animals that I had sewed by hand when I was little the last time I visited her). I didn’t start sewing until after I had children, for some reason I had a very strong desire to do something creative after my daughter was born. Now it has become a bit of an obsession!! I think about it far too much, probably 🙂 My daughters are both very interested in it, and I hope they will still want to do it as they get older (they are 5 and almost 3 right now). I do think my mom’s influence was always there, it just took awhile to take hold!

  • I think I have always been around make-it type family. My mother is a wonderful seamstress. She made many, many things for my sister and me. We hardly ever wore bought dresses, but we were always proud of her skills. I am a much later bloomer than she was, but now I am enjoying sewing, and my daughter is getting bitten by the sewing bug as well. But my mom has a sister (and I have a sister) who neither one have an interest in sewing. However, my sister is very crafty in other ways — needlework, painting, etc. I do have several linens that were embroidered and tatted by my great-grandmother and her sisters, who were well-known for their fine needlework back in their day.

  • My Mum would do our hems of our uniforms with staples, she could not sew. But, like you her Mum, my Grandmother was an amazing sewer. She did it to help raise an income for her family. Of late the sewing bug has bitten, and like my Grandmother I dream of being able to earn extra money through sewing.

  • My grandfather was a tailor and came from a family of tailors. My mother (his daughter) sewed when I was very young and was very good at it but stopped sewing when she went back to university to study. I have inherited her sewing machine and my sister sews as well (but not as much as I do).

  • My grandfather was a tailor and came from a family of tailors. My mother (his daughter) sewed a lot when we were small but stopped when she went back to university to study. Both my sister and I sew so I guess it runs in the family.

  • What a sweet synopsis of your family tree. Such a nice honour to be compared to your grandmother. And cute pics of you in your adorable outfits!

  • My Nan was the one who sewed in my family. She would offer to make myself and my sisters clothes all the time and I would cringe at the thought of handmade clothes. I can’t even explain how awful that makes me feel now that I’m practically married to my sewing machine.
    But in a way she lives on in me as I learn to sew and I’m proud to be just like her even though she’s gone now.

    My fiancés mum is a trained dressmaker and while her daughter sews every now and then the sewing bug was not caught on her so in a way I think I’ll carry it for both sides of the family.
    I hope that either a daughter/son/granddaughter/grandson will continue it on in our family.

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ve often wondered what sparked other people’s interest in what is commonly a “Nanna” craft.

  • Thanks for sharing your story! I found it very interesting to read.

    My mom is the one who taught me the first sewing steps and gave me her old sewing machine when she got a new one. My mom actually learned how to sew before my grandma did from nuns that lived close by and she has been sewing ever since. I started when I was around 11-12 years old. Like you I always wanted to become a fashion designer and so finished a dressmaking apprenticeship after high school. But then noticed that the management side interested me even more and studied at the same university my godmother had studied at. My mom always says that she did a good job in chosing a godmother for me that turned out to have the same interests. At family reunions, me and my godmother usually wear self-made clothing and everyone will ask about it. They are kind of disappointed if one of us is not wearing something they made.

    But the online community also had a great influence on my sewing. I’ve always been sewing but not as much as I do now. It’s just so inspirational to see all the creations out there and makes you want to sew even more.

  • Hi Rachel what a lovely story. Sadly I never knew either of my grandmothers, and I don’t even know much about them. My mother was the one that taught me, however with 3 other sisters, two of us sew, and the other two don’t.

    You are a beautiful family.

  • I learned to sew from both my mom and her mom from a very early age, although I only really fell in love with it 2 years ago. It was very interesting to me though, when I had a brief passion for genealogy, to discover that there have been seamstresses in my family going back many generations. In a strange way my sewing makes me feel quite connected to those women, even though I know nothing else about them.

  • Anonymous

    It’s an interesting question. I think I have a crafty ‘nature’ but it wasn’t ‘nurtured’. Let me explain…

    I was taught by my paternal grandmother to knit, crochet, cross stitch and sew (hexi quilt) when I was a young girl. I loved it all and was quite prolific, knocking out granny square cushions and I made a cross stitch piece for my grandparents ruby wedding anniversary. I have really fond memories of these crafty adventures and the strong connection they forged in my relationship with my grandmother.

    However, I think when I hit my teens, I stopped crafting altogether.

    About 10 years ago now a friend was knitting and I wanted to see if I could remember how to do it. What do you know… its just like riding a bike! I haven’t stopped since and have maybe become slightly obsessed. But crafting is like soul-food to me. It’s soothing, meditative and so rewarding. I give 99% of my finished items as gifts and get such joy from that.

    Now my only problem is juggling multiple crafts and too many works in progress. But I’m so happy that I came back to crafting.

    Sarah (aka sairzey)

    ps: I couldn’t go back to edit this comment, but the reason I said that I wasn’t nurtured in crafting is because my mother never liked it. In fact, she actively dis-courage it. I think she thinks it’s demeaning and futile. So, now for me as a crafty adult, it’s just a bonus that she doesn’t like it! 😉

  • Anonymous

    My mum couldn’t sew a stitch, nor had any interest. I learned at my grandmother’s knee when I was 9 and haven’t looked back. My sister also learned to sew and subsequently her son graduated in fashion and now has a job as a pattern cutter with Burberry.

    My brother recently researched our family tree and we have discovered my Great, Great grandmother was Court Dressmaker to Queen Mary early in the 20th century. This makes me wonder whether sewing is in the genes and passed down through the generations.

  • Both my Grannys sewed, but I only knew my Dad’s Mum as my Mum’s Mum died before I was born. They both worked in the shirt factories, which were a huge employer for woman here in Northern Ireland. Sadly, they are all closed now. My Granny used to make my sister and I lovely dresses when we were young, and she definitely got me interested in sewing. I clearing remember being about 6 or 7, and my Granny teaching me to make buttonholes on her machine. I enjoyed reading your family story, thanks for posting it!

  • My gran taught me how to sew, I wrote a post about it here:

  • I don’t know where my urge to sew/craft came from. My mom (passed away now) used to tell me that she sewed when I was younger, but I don’t remember. I think she only sewed as a way to save money. I was never encouraged to sew as my mom didn’t like a mess and as we all know, sewing is messy 8-). Neither grandmother sewed, one aunt used to sew, but all her stuff had that “made by loving hands at home” look, so that certainly did nothing to get me started. No cousins on either side sew.

    I always liked making stuff, I always wonder where I would be now with my sewing/crafting/art if I had ever been encouraged to create.

  • this is a wonderful post got me v emosh. She sounds like a legendary woman your Nana 🙂 In much the same way mine was. She was a couturier at one point and was quite a woman with needle and thread. She used to make an outfit for every Saturday during the war when she’d go out with the girls to kick her heels up. She was apparently quite the mover and I like to think I inherited from her. You’ll never find me near a dancefloor for long but always on it 🙂 Like you I’m really the only one that carries the sewing on. My sister is a shopper and I don’t see that changing but she has learned to knit and she’s really good. Again like you I learned to sew many years after my legendary Nan had left this earth. I do feel though that she’s often with me as I make a mistake and want to give up but wills me to take a deep breath and put my foot back on the pedal 🙂 I agree with your family I think your Nan would be incredibly proud of your achievements 🙂 xxx

  • I loved reading about your sewing history! Both my grandmothers were avid crocheters. My father’s mother also did beautiful tatting. My mother was very crafty. She sewed, did crewel work, and needlepoint. She helped me with my required school sewing projects when I was young, but I didn’t stick with it. Sadly I lost her before I got into sewing. I stumbled on Gertie’s coat sewalong last fall and I haven’t looked back since!

  • Both my grandparents on my mom’s side sewed in Grenada. Grandfather was a tailor and grandmother was a photographer. My father tells me two of his sister were also seamstresses in Jamaica. No one of my generation sews, just me. But, they all seem to think it’s kind of amazing despite growing up with it all around them. I think if clothes hadn’t gotten so inexpensive, my family would still be sewing!

  • What a lovely post. My mum sews and runs a sewing business, her mum was a needlework teacher. It wasn’t until I researched the family tree a few years ago that I found out my great, great grandmother and her siblings were all seamstresses so maybe it does run in the family 🙂

  • Oh my gosh! My sewing story is almost exactly the same as yours! My grandmother sewed but I never learned from her while she was alive. Now I have her sewing machine and tracing wheel. I’m the only one of her 19 grandchildren who sews. My other grandmother was a wonderful knitter, but I never learned from her either. And my mom never had the patience. So, I am the only knitter, too.

  • My mum and maternal grandmother are definitely influential in my ‘crafty’ side, they both sew, knit and crochet among other crafts and I was taught these at a young age. I am the only grand child of 8 to do any of these activities though, the rest have no interest. I do think that because my mum and nan did these I have always had the desire to make and do.

  • Edila

    Dear Rachel,
    I liked very much to read your story and also see the picture of your grandmother Rosa. Felicitations! You really seams like her!!! Very criative and patiente! Kisses,
    Tia Édila

  • I love this post! I do wonder a little if some of the resurgence and interest in crafting has to do with our climate? I mean, it’s been so hot the last few weeks I’ve done no baking (unheard of around these parts) and very little else… but when I want to cosy up at home because the outdoors is so unwelcoming then making stuff suits me perfectly!

  • I love this story – it’s beautiful.
    I come from a family of women who sew or knit. My grandmother was a master knitter (in fact they both were). My mother knits and sews beautifully. She does it to be practical – she grew up on a family. I grew up learning that you should not sit around idle, you should fix things, make things. I am slightly different because I sew to create, I love it. Having pictures in my head and transforming them into garments is so rewarding – it’s a drug I can’t give up xox

  • Thanks for sharing this Rachel! Here’s my version: My mother knits beautifully, cross stitches, does tapestry and also used to sew. For herself, my dad, me etc. Her mum, my grandma also sewed, and her mother, (my great grandmother), was apparently a wonderful sewer and drafter and actually did it for a job! On dad’s side, I don’t know so much, but his mum (my other grandma) definitely used to knit my brother and I things 🙂

  • Hey, Rachel! Também sou Brasileira e moro aqui em West Yorkshire desde 2001. A-D-O-R-E-I descobrir seu blog. Comecei a costurar e brincar com pano faz alguns meses – depois de anos fazendo só tricô. Já vou adicionar seu endereço ao meu Feedly agora mesmo! xxx

  • Great story! Somewhat similar to mine, my mum also cannot sew (other than hems and things), my sewing gene comes from my grandma and great aunt who were both very creative. My great aunt took me to my first sewing course when I was about 11 🙂

  • This is a lovely post Rachel and a beautiful picture of you and your Mum in polka dots! I am really interested in this subject. Sewing does not run in my family at all, but making stuff does. My Uncle John makes puppets, my Uncle Colin makes miniature airplanes and my Grandad used to take apart televisions so he could re-make them. I’m not sure if I inherited my makey-ness from them or if this is just a sign that most humans like to make stuff! Rosie xx

  • It’s lovely to hear your sewing journey and your family. I would have loved to tell my Granny I sewed but I like to think maybe our grandparents live through us, their hands guiding the stitches we sew…

  • Such a touching post! Especially interesting about sewing in the UK vs. Brazil. My mom and grandma both sew and in fact we all share the same brand sewing machine (Kenmore) and much of my vintage pattern and fabric stash (even my serger!) has come from them 🙂 They don’t sew as much anymore but I like to think that I am now carrying on the tradition and hopefully will pass it on to my own little girl (if I get one 😉

  • Although my mother has a sewing machine, she actively dislikes sewing and I can’t recall ever seeing any of my grandmothers sew.
    My father and grandfathers were as you’d expect men to be, not into sewing either.
    I sew now, and I enjoy it. So I guess that’s just nature. But I’m sure that if I had been exposed to it when I was younger, I’d be much better at it.
    In the end, if you find something that you are passionate about, that is a wonderful thing. If on top of that you are able to share that passion with your family, I think you should consider yourself lucky 🙂

  • This is so beautiful! Your mom and grandmother look so gorgeous in these pics, and I love love LOVE the photo of you and your mom in matching outfits! So sweet!

    My mom sewed a lot when I was small– I’m the oldest of five kids, and my dad was either in the army or going to night school until I was 9, so she sewed out of necessity to keep us clothed on the cheap. We had lots of little matching outfits, and she even made bridesmaid dresses for my aunt’s wedding as well as a little tuxedo for my brother! But her interests have changed over the years– once she could afford to buy clothes in shops for us, she got more into quilt sewing, then into gardening, making stained glass, and now oil painting. My grandmothers didn’t sew, that I can remember, but I’ve inherited some notions and things from my husband’s great-great-aunt, who was a dressmaker in Chicago in the early 1900’s. I scanned and uploaded a booklet from her dressmaker’s training about how to draft a ladies’ shirtwaist:

    It’s so fun to read everyone’s stories about family sewing! Thanks for sharing this great post!

  • Your amazing stories made my heart warmer. it so beautiful how our lives got influenced by our family. I want to respond individually for all of you but writing this article was a bit emotional for me and I find the same when I read your lovely comments. I got a bit teary reading and trying to respond accordingly so I hope you understand if I just write one note. Massive “thanks” for sharing your personal story… incredibly inspiring to know that so many of you share similar experiences. Lots of love x

  • I remember playing in my Grandma’s sewing room as a child. She is an incredible seamstress and made a lot of clothing for us- even my aunt’s wedding gown. But, I didn’t take sewing seriously until I was an adult. I’m still learning, and fortunately, have the benefit of her experience, as she is still living and well. Through conversations with her, I learned that my great, great grandfather was a professional tailor (and his mother, was an amazing needlepoint artist). My great grandmother learned to sew from her father, and in turn taught my grandmother how to sew. I definitely feel there is a genetic element to the craft. But, it takes the right trigger and a lot of desire too.

  • ginderella

    I sewed bits and pieces as child/teen, but took it up again when I decided to personalise some clothes for my twin girls. My girls were poorly and we knew they wouldn’t live very long, personalising a few tiny items of baby clothing was all the preparation I could make for their birth. Those items are my most treasured pieces. Now I sew for myself apart from the the odd gift of nightwear for others. I like to think I’d have carried on sewing for them as they grew up and passed on some skills / my love of crafting.

    I’ve kept my first sewing machine bought for me by my parents in the hope of having someone to pass it on to in the future.

  • Hi Rachel, I just discovered your blog and I am thrilled! Our stories are quite similar. I am also from Brazil and have been in Canada for seven years.I also wonder if I would have tapped into my passion for making things had I stayed in Brazil, but I like to believe that maybe I would… haha My grandmother had 9 children, so she was a fantastic seamstress (she had to be!), my mom also has the talent, so i grew up watching her make us dresses, quilts, drapes… I have just made the decision to learn how to sew and already signed up for real classes, I will be following your blog for inspiration for sure!