If you follow sewing on Instagram, you won’t have missed the meteoric rise of the @sewover50 community and #sewover50!
We are so excited to welcome this new community to the #sewinclusive family including @sewqueer, @curvysewingcollective, and @chronicallysewn. In fact, our post asking which community might come next was part of how @sewover50 started! We thought it would be interesting to talk to @sewover50 mastermind @judithrosalind about what made her take up our challenge!
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Having answered @sewcialists call to start a new community hub I am dipping my toe in having had a steep learning curve over the past 24 hours. Initially my intention is to share posts of your makes …. once I have got to grips with reposting apps….. so use the hashtag or tag us if you would like to be featured. Let's see where it goes.
Sewcialists: Hi Judith! Could you tell us about yourself and your sewing?
Judith: My mum stayed up late at night creating our clothes (I’m one of seven) with no patterns. She had a beautiful sleek Necchi sewing machine – ultra modern looking – that was her pride and joy.( She had very few special things but my dad was keen on gadgets, he had a knitting machine and made our jumpers and cardigans.) It was all packed away by morning but the dress would be there to try on. She would then approach with her big sewing shears to trim the neck whilst I was wearing it – I can still feel that cold metal on my neck! I was more conventional in my sewing and used patterns. I didn’t learn from my mum unless by osmosis, she didn’t have the time.
I took Needlework as an extra O level in 6th form – it was the only subject I achieved top grade for. Just like a huge percentage of the @sewover50 makers, I sewed throughout my college years in late 70s, through the 80s and 90s for myself and then for my 3 children. When time became limited and clothes became cheaper I stopped sewing and only began again 5 years ago when Great British Sewing Bee aired on BBC. This time around it is a completely different experience with the connections I have made through social media. I met four other GBSB fans on Twitter (including @jeanettesewncycle and @robinsnest1926 – Ali ), who I am still in touch with, whilst watching the first series. Ali announced she was moving onto this new thing – Instagram – so we all followed!
Through Instagram I have gained so much knowledge about what’s going on in the sewing world – patterns, fabric, challenges – but best of all I have made real life as well as online friends. I love being part of SewScottish. We have our second Frocktails event on Saturday 8th September. Sewing my own clothes gives me so much joy. It’s hard to explain to others who haven’t caught the bug (although they all admire the end result) but it is the whole creative process I enjoy – choosing fabric and pattern, matching the two together, as well as physically creating the garment. I have taken up cross-stitch, embroidery and visible mending which I love to do when I am away from my machine.
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Hi. I'm Judith… founder of @sewover50. I've been sewing since I was 16… though I took a break for 15 years and began again 5 years ago inspired by the Great British Sewing Bee on tv. I've made so many sewing friends since then! I was born in Sherwood Forest (well.. not literally in the forest) but have lived in Edinburgh for over 35 years. Here I am wearing a #cambertop and 'visibly mended' jeans by the glorious Forth Rail Bridge. Hi… pleased to meet you all. #sewover50 (though I actually qualify for #sewover60)
Sewcialists: We posted on August 17th wondering what communities might start next, including a suggestion for a community of older sewists. What made you step up and think, “I could do this”? Was it something you were already thinking about?
Judith: The stars just collided that day! I had a few thoughts mulling around in my mind – about the invisibilty of older women generally. I had responded to Susan Young’s post about how we could feel a bit invisible at times in the online sewing community.
Most of my friends from Instagram are 20 -30 years younger than me and we discuss and share pattern ideas and age just does not come into it. I love this. At the same time there seemed to be a lack of my age group sharing in the sewing world on social media. Yet the print media was picking up on stylish older women who had become very successful on social media – showing off their outfit of the day and getting huge following. I knew I didn’t want to go that way with my Instagram account, I didn’t wish to focus on my age in a ‘I’m 62 you know’ way, but I did feel that older women should be celebrated in the sewing community! So when you put out that appeal everything just clicked into place – it appeared that maybe there was a desire out there for our own little corner of Instagram.
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#Frocktails #sewscottish #sewover50 #Repost @judithrosalind • • • • • Look at all these beautiful women from #sewover50 at Edinburgh #Frocktails last night. Please please comment below if you are in the photo because I have forgotten everyone's IG name even though I committed them to memory. Until next time. #sewscottish
Sewcialists: What has surprised you most about starting @sewover50 and #sewover50?
Judith: The most surprising thing has been the ease and the speed at starting up the account! The speed at which, once the challenge was accepted, the account was set up. The speed and ease with which I learned how to create a graphic (of sorts) and to start using a repost app. The speed with which the community jumped on board and embraced it and the ease with which this all came together. Of course it would not have happened without the support and encouragement from you on Sewcialists – you basically gave me the confidence merely by saying ‘you can do it’.. and by then answering my questions. I had never done anything like this before.
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The IG sewing community are such a supportive and inclusive lot that you may well ask do we really need a space just for sewists over 50? Most of my #sewscottish sewing friends irl, who I met on here originally, are 20 to 30 years younger than me and we share pattern and fabric ideas freely and age does not matter at all. But I have picked up already that some sewists have not felt confident enough to post photos of themselves on IG and are feeling this will be a safe space to branch out from. But more than that… it is just going to be FUN! What's your experience been so far on IG.. and what are you hoping for? #sewover50
Sewcialists: What kind of challenges and rewards have their been so far?
Judith: Although I knew there was a lot of support for the idea amongst your members I was a little concerned that there might be a bigger section of Instagram sewing community who would see it as divisive, which is why in one of my first posts I asked the question if we needed a community for older sewists.
There were one or two who expressed mixed feelings about the idea but everyone has been extremely supportive. The most challenging things have been the time and effort it took in the first week, being online so much, and trying to get the balance right of not leaving people out but equally not overloading the feed. I know what it feels like being ‘ignored’ on Instagram, and I didn’t want those joining this community to feel the same.
When I posted the Introductions challenge I knew it would be busy. I had a few clear days ahead so thought this would be the best time to do it. It did take me by surprise how many people responded and how quickly and with such enthusiasm. I started reposting – and just did not want to stop. I wanted everyone to feel included and welcomed. Equally I was aware that I was ‘clogging up’ people’s feeds and at least one person said that their feed was becoming almost taken over by over-50s and she did not want that. I changed tack slightly and put a time limit on it and everyone was very supportive and understanding about that. And that has been the biggest reward – the support from the community, the messages of thanks from so many people for starting the account.
Sewcialists: Where can people find Sew Over 50, and what kinds of things are happening in the community?
Judith: At present we are just on Instagram under the name @sewover50 and the hashtag #sewover50 – with the occasional hashtag for specific challenges.
Early on I asked for ideas of what people would like to see on the account, and have acted on those and will continue to take others ideas on board. This is not my account – it’s the community’s account and I foresee others getting involved so the load can be shared and other voices heard. I am trying to encourage more diversity within the community. There may be a place for blogging in the future too – but again that will mean more people getting involved – as I am not a blogger. But I don’t want to rush that.
For now there is an ongoing weekly photo challenge – Monday Motivation, and a couple of discussion topics at the weekend. In between those a few posts are reposted each day on the feed and the story. We have also had a few posts educating about how to use Instagram ( spam accounts, follow the hashtag) as some of us are quite new to it and only know the basics. I hope that people will still partake fully in the wider inclusive areas of Instagram – and that those who don’t so far will feel able to connect with the wider community. We have just launched our first sewing challenge and another exciting challenge is in the planning stage, which a member of the community has come up with and is taking charge of.
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Here's our first mini sewing challenge. Many of you were taken with the idea of creating your own version of this season's must-have-skirt from M&S (see previous post). Some of you have vintage patterns you could use. Some identified current patterns that could be adapted. Others felt they could self draft or copy from a rtw(ready to wear). Week 6 of our photo challenge is Skirt week… which gives a good deadline to aim for. Those of you who are up for it.. post your skirt or progress photos with the hashtag #so50skirts between now and then (week beginning 1 October). No prizes.. just the admiration of your friends on here. Happy sewing. #sewover50
Sewcialists: Why do you think it is important to have a separate community for over 50?
Judith: The response I have had from scores of members shows the need was there. There are issues around the menopause in particular. @erniekdesigns said in response to the post asking if we needed an over 50 hub, “I am the oldest person I know in my circles on IG at 59, and usually that’s fine. However sewing around health, menopause , joint, body shape issues – that’s something those kids don’t get. So yes, I need this”.
I was just reading Sara Maitland’s ‘A Book of Silence’ the other day and she writes about how middle-aged women become invisible – “It’s not just a modern phenomena. Middle-aged and menopausal women are conspicuously absent from most myths and traditional stories : first you are the princess and the mother, then you vanish and reappear as aged crone”. When our bodies are changing it is easy to lose confidence and not know what to wear, and there are the practicalities of the physiological changes that mean we want to wear different fabrics. Once we are through the menopause it can be a time of liberation and freedom. I think the #sewover50 hashtag can help women to support each other through this time, and I feel we are already becoming more visible on Instagram.
From day one, I heard from people who had only been observers on Instagram until this point but immediately felt that they would now feel happy and safe to put up posts. For example, @rtrittel said “This is just the inspiration I need to start to actually take photos of me in my makes and put them on IG!” and @tinyvintage said “Knowing that there’s a place for people my age feels great and I don’t think of it as exclusive but rather another great platform for the already brilliant sewing communities on Instagram”. Someone said they had been looking for something like this for the eighteen months they had been on Instagram. With a little encouragement and support they have started posting and sharing photographs of themselves in their makes for the first time!
It’s also really lovely seeing connections being made. I think that most of all this is about having fun and enjoying our sewing. My hope is that new users will feel comfortable to connect with the wider sewing community. I know that all the long-term IG members are still connecting with everyone they used to connect with. It is not mutually exclusive. We are all inspired by younger IGers whether they be pattern brands, bloggers or regular posters – we none of us would be here without their exciting innovative ideas and enthusiasm.
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It's the one I feel we need to talk about sooner rather than later. It happens, or has happened, to all of us… yet until recently it was hardly spoken about. Our body's change and we can lose confidence…. and we tend to become invisible. How can sewing our own clothes help … let's talk about fabrics, let's talk about styles, and let's talk about strengthening our confidence. If you are going through this now… how are you feeling.. have you had to change the style of clothes you make? If you are through the other side have you adapted and discovered a new- found confidence where you are no longer bothered what people think? I have linked, in the bio, to an interview Kate from @thefoldline conducted with Karen from @didyoumakethat. Let'S you agree or do you see things differently? STOP PRESS recommended by the community 'Clothes Making Mavens' episode 20 talks about sewing for menstruation and for the menopause… it's a long podcast but worth a listen. Let the discussion commence. You can comment below… or use the hashtag #so50menopause if you want to write a post of your own.
If @sewover50 appeals to you, we hope you’ll go follow (at any age) and join if you are over 50 yourself! Here at the Sewcialists we’ve always had a lot of posts from sewists of all ages – looking back over the last months, I figure about 20% of our posts are written by folks over 50. (Did you know some of our very first Who We Are posts were about being sewists over 50 and the generational gap in sewing?) There’s something unique about the #sewover50 community self-identifying their age though, which often doesn’t happen in the average blog post. The amazing part of the internet is that everyone can have their niche community, and also be welcome in our communal spaces!
Personally, I think the numbers are undeniable – the hashtag #sewover50 has been used almost 2000 times in the first month, and the @sewover50 account has about 2500 followers! Clearly there was a need for this community, and Judith has put an incredible amount of work into making it welcome, active, and engaging. It was a joy seeing her learn the ropes so quickly! I think Judith would agree that she is proof that if you have the desire to organise a community, YOU CAN DO IT! As we said in our original post, if you are thinking of starting a niche sewing community of your own, please contact @sewcialists or any other community leader, and I’m sure we’ll all be happy to help!
As a 64-year-old sewist, this resonated with me in the most positive way. I have been sewing most of my adult life, had a sewing machine retail store for many years, and have inspired more people into taking up sewing than I could count. When I sold my business in 2014, I felt a void in my life and along with blogging, started mentoring a sewing group at our local library. We sew weekly, on Tuesday afternoons, and are more than 30 women strong. THE EXCITING PART? We’re all over 50! And our group has shown itself to be supportive, encouraging, and empathetic toward that journey beyond our 50th birthday. One day I’ll do the Instagram thing, then I’d love to join in. Great post, thank you!
Would love to have you on instagram as soon as you are ready Yvette. And well done with your sewing group… real life sewing friends. From Judith at Sewover50
Information on fitting issues are greatly appreciated for 50+ sewists. I have started having to use “high round back” and “hollow chest” adjustments as I get a bit stooped over in my age.
Yes we need all the fit help we can get…I always need forward/ narrow/ uneven shoulder adjustment
Judith at @sewover50
We are in the same boat then!
Thank you for this! This was the one category that I did consider mentioning.
Grappling with a thickened mid-section and a bustiness (that I never wanted) have been challenging to accept. That being said, I am grateful for my age in many ways and I have found a simple style that suits me well and that I enjoy.
Oh! WOW! Judith I just love everything about this! It was ALL so well said!! THANK YOU for all your hard work!!!! ((((HUGS)))) But how EXCITING is this!!! It feels like Christmas!! LOL!!
Gillian I had brainstormed a few of these topics to write about. But this was wrapped up so well, so well thought out and spot on, I think I’ll pass. :o)
Sewing for body changes is great. Being seen is empowering. Seeing your peers sewing who share your life experiences is way too much fun!
I will check out the instagram help on sewover50. I need it!
I am isolated from my peers in the Community a lot because my life style is so different. I am still raising children and I have 7 with disabilities (ages 11-23) at home. Plus I care for adults with disabilities- integrating them into the Community! As they too are often invisible. Peers don’t purposely avoid me, they just have different lives now.
When I get home from summering in the woods I am seriously starting a Sewing Social club at the Library!!
Sewing unites everyone!! I LOVE the younger people’s makes. I LOVE that they don’t hide because of body flaws like my generation. It invigorates my well earned “I don’t give a damn attitude” about how I look now! The younger gals taught me to celebrate my body now! And they have helped me find things to sew for my 28 year old daughter and her hubby!
p.s. Maybe we could list the blogs of sewover50 sewists on Sewcialists or somewhere? Maybe that’s a project for all of the different identities of sewists. To easily find like minded/or new sewists of other categories when we want to?? :o) I’d love to “meet” sewists I don’t know yet!
BEHOLD! http://sewcialists.org/firehose/ Joost built this blog aggregator years ago, and eventually we’ll incorporate it into our site here, but we need time to figure out the coding. It’s a fun way to find people though!
Love your joy and enthusiasm and support here Eliz… look forward to seeing you on instagram. Good luck with your sewing group. And brilliant idea about sewing blogs.
Judith at @sewover50
What a great idea, I am 72 and have been sewing for over 50 years. I was thrown out of the sewing class at school being told I was useless and am now completely self taught although I am now studying fashion design at degree level. Please let me join your group and become part of your community, perhaps someone could teach me how to use instagram too. Thanks in advance for your acceptance. Bernadette
Please please join us Bernadette. Are you on instagram? Just look for @sewover50 and follow us. Use the hashtag #Sewover50 and we can all find your posts. Follow some other folk on there and start commenting on their posts and you will quickly make connections.
Wow this sounds like such a great idea! I’m not even thirty yet, so I definitely see some of these differences from the other side: different experiences with learning to sew and how communities have changed, changing body shapes with menopause, all that is very fascinating when I have no experience with it. I’m looking forward to seeing this group develop!
One note on the quote from Sara Maitland though, because as a historian I just have to point this out: three group of women after menopause but not yet “crones” is actually a very new demographical phenomenon. Historically, most women died fairly shortly after menopause, and those who didn’t were definitely “old ” in the way we associate with 80-90 year olds! (Same for men, people with 40 would often look very wizened by our standards) So in olds stories and myths, those “crones” and grandmas do represent the next step after middle-aged mothers (you know, in their mid twenties). This isn’t meant to go against her argument that there are few role models for active postmenopausal women, in fact it proves that our society needs to figure out those roles from scratch. I’m certainly looking up to my mother and women from her generation who go into their sixties and are still bad-ass!
Thanks for pointing that out! I had stepped into my new role of crone quite happily, with the understanding that it is the wise woman archetype and not confined to a certain age group. I’m 58 and post-menopausal, so definitely not maiden or mother. I have no problem with the term in its historical and mythological context. Perhaps we should reclaim “crone” for our own!
This is an interesting point Luise .. thank you… and yes we need to keep talking
Judith, hi my name is Pat Collingwood and i live in Melbourne, Australia in a retirement village. I am a bit over your age group, being 83 years old. I am looking forward to seeing how this group moves along, up to now I have been opening any site that concerned sewing.
I sew mainly for my husband and my awkward figure, as well as charity sewing. Our village craft group makes baby and small childrens clothing which go to fostered children often delivered without anything at all. We also provide necessaries for older children who do not even own a book to read.
[…] I’m most proud of the post that inspired the creation of the #sewover50 hashtag — a community that just needed a boost and is now […]