I can’t really remember how, or why, I wanted to get into sewing. A seamstress was something that I never really aspired to be when I was younger. Scientist.That’s the word that comes up often when I think about my childhood. Yet, at 27, here I am.
At this point I should probably mention that I’m a second-generation Chicano and a third-generation sewist (more on that in a bit). So far in my journey, I’ve found it empowering watching other people of color who sew. It makes me feel seen and reminds me that I can do anything I set my mind to even though society might have skewed perceptions of me or my culture. That’s probably what caught my attention about sewing in the first place.
My first stint into sewing began in late 2018. I, of fresh body, spirit, and mind, decided that my first pattern would be a raglan shirt: Simplicity 8613. Excitedly roaming the aisles of Joann, my eyes caught a glimpse of this extremely cute knit grey Harry Potter fabric. It was an obvious winner, and that’s about all that went really well! I quickly learned of the back pain from cutting fabric of the floor due to space constraints, the confusion from first learning how to dissect patterns all by myself, and the struggle of maneuvering fabric through a machine even though I had used every last one of my pins. The cherry on top was that I was using an older Singer machine that did NOT appreciate knits – at all. “Non-stretch cotton”. Those were the only words allowed to be spoken from these lips.
Frustrated, I completely stopped sewing. I just wasn’t about it anymore. It was so disheartening giving your all to something and getting nothing but an overstretched licensed print in return. It took me a couple of months to even consider bringing my machine out again (it now hides in the garage, taunting me). Devastated, I had to re-evaluate my relationship with sewing. It took a while, but I eventually decided that I couldn’t do this on my own and that I needed help.
I opted for the Sew-It Academy. I wasn’t a morning person and I worked late into the nights, so in-person classes weren’t really an option. Plus, I had already been following Mimi G for a while, so I knew I liked her style of instruction. Fabric in hand and confidence rejuvenated, I took sewing head on. It helped a lot that my boyfriend had bought me a new Singer Quantum Stylist 9960 to help me restart my journey. By course number four I was hooked. Not only did I make a pattern from a shirt I owned, the shirt I made actually fit! Granted, the red knit I chose (pictured above) may or may not have been too heavy (hint: it was). I took this lesson to heart and made another shirt. This time, the fit was amazing and I was able to get the collar right. SUCCESS! But then came my third shirt, made in a Star Wars knit. I think that one is better shown than explained…
So, about being a third-generation sewist. Let me begin by saying that my mom never really talked about her childhood when I was growing up. She was a single mom with four kids, making sure we were well fed and had a roof over our heads. I take responsibility for not taking more of an interest in her life before she became a mom. The downside to all this is that I didn’t know she knew how to sew until I was already a few months into my sewing journey. Apparently, she had learned to make alterations from my grandma, who had worked as a seamstress in a factory making couch cushions.
Now, a year and half later, I’m thankful that my journey is still continuing. I’m learning a lot through the sewing community, and I have a lot of expectations for myself. I want to make a wool coat, chino pants, and a romper with a Pokémon pattern on it (I already have the romper fabric so there’s no turning back). I look to people of color who sew for inspiration, people like @Mimigstyle, @_donnyq, and @julian creates. Sewing is something special to me, something that can’t really be described in words but is more like a feeling. I hope to one day be as good as the people I look up to, or even better. I know I can do this if I just put my mind to it. And who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be as great as I hope to become.
Hello! My name is Christopher De Alba and I work as a Production Scientist in San Diego, CA. You can find me @Imthatbrujastitch on Instagram. Currently I’m just enjoying sewing as hobby, but hopefully I can turn it into something more in the future.
Sewing is a way to express ourselves as the unique people we are. I’m so glad you found this outlet for your obviously unique personality. Sewing has been a way to express myself, and a means of refuge when depression hits. I’m always happy to see someone else find this joy. Adding you to my Instagram feed, looking forward to new creations.
Sewing has definitely had its ups and downs, but overall it’s been nothing but a pleasant experience. Sometimes I tend to dwell on negative things but with sewing it’s really easy to find a positive outlook (at least for me). Plus, it helps that everyone is super nice and willing to help in any step of the journey.
Great post, Christopher! I don’t know if you’re at all interested in cosplay (Pokemon romper – can’t wait to see that! – and Harry Potter and Star Wars shirts hint that you might be open to it), but Philip Odango might be someone fun to follow (another sewist who’s male and a person of color and writes about those experiences). And that jacket is AWESOME! Good luck with your exciting to-do list!
Thanks! I am most definitely open to cosplay. I’ve mostly been waiting for my skills to get better, but everyday wear is my main priority right now lol. Also thanks for the suggestion! I immediately hopped on Instagram and stated following him.
Thanks for sharing your story and love that you stuck with something that is giving you pleasure and gratification…it can be so frustrating and liberating and exciting and hair pulling, but that is just part of the creative journey…I love the jacket, it looks smashing. Hope to see your contributions in the blogisphere(I know, not a real word…LOL)
I do feel all the feels. Lol. Seeing people so motivated and happy about sewing like @brittanyjjones def. motivated me. But hearing about the struggles certainly did too.
I really enjoyed the article and picture of your makes! I’m also a sewing scientist (mad_sewing_scientist on IG) who just learned a couple of years ago as I was turning 50!
Thank you! I followed you back on IG. It’s always cool connecting with other scientists. 😎
Congratulations on starting your journey. I’m also doing the sew it academy menswear course although I stop started my sewing journey earlier than you. I’m very impressed with how you have just ploughed on through the course. I’ve drafted the pattern for the traced Tee but not sewn it yet. I’ve wanted to sew a tee since I was about 14 (36 now!) but still not yet completed one. I think tomorrow will be the day, I’ll keep you in mind as inspiration.
Good luck, I’ve followed you on Insta (@onesmallstitchforman) and I look forward to seeing more makes from you.
Nice to meet you ☺️ I hope everything goes well with your tee! I wish you the best of luck! For me, I’m usually over sewing by the time I get to hemming ( at the very end 😅). So if I’m not feeling it, I won’t do it unless the fabric will fray or if it adds a nice detail.
Found you on insta, hoping to see that tee sometime soon 👀 (or whatever else you decide to make)!
Hi. Your second paragraph broke my heart. I am English and had to Google the word ‘Chicano’. You should be proud of your achievements and your rich culture, and I am sure you are. I am glad that your sewing journey is bringing you so much happiness and satisfaction and your makes are brilliant. I am just moving towards finishing my first ever lined, woollen coat and I am 69! It took me long enough to get round to it. Good luck and much joy in your future endeavours. You are a very handsome boy and look a bit like one of my sons. I can say this because I am 69! Hee. x
Thank you! I am really proud of my achievements and the opportunities that were able to be given to me in one form or another. I’m looking forward to the day when I can inject my culture and my passion into something fun, creative, and personal for the garments I decide to wear.
Sending you positive vibes for that coat! I’m sure it’s going to come out awesome!
great post, loved reading of your journey- I think everyone should sew or at least get taught as I was in school, as once you can sew, its so empowering as its like you can make anything – although that could be just me (years ago my sister was viewing a do-er upper house with no bannister on stairs amongst other things and she said she could hear me saying, sure thats no bother, I’ll just run one up on the machine!)
I still look at the local community school here every now and again to see if they have classes available at a time I can take them. I wouldn’t mind relearning skills in a in person setting. Plus, maybe I might learn something new or remember something I forgot!
It is really empowering! Some of my makes may be wonky….but I made them! They’re just punk rock 😎
lol! If only it were that easy 😂
It’s always great to see more people taking up sewing – for me, even more great to see guys take up sewing 👏👏
You’ve learned so much already, you’ve obviously inherited the sewing gene 😁👍👏🙏
Same! It’s really inspiring. Plus, I get to see how things look on other people instead of having to guess what the final make is going to look like.
I hope so! My mom already has high expectations of things she wants me to make her (like a jumpsuit) lol
Thank you for the inspiration! I feel stuck right now, like you did before! Gonna try Sew-It Academy!
Thanks for reading : ) I really like Sew It Academy, especially the way Mimi and Norris teach. Hope it gets you out of feeling stuck, or at least motivated to try something new!