Who We Are: Learning To Sew As A Male Sewist

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.

The author is pictured sitting on a garden wall, subtly smiling with his face in his hands. He is wearing green shorts and a white t-shirt with a blue print, somewhat hidden behind a leafy green plant.
Here I am! Shirt made using Sew-It Academy.

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.

The author is crouched down on a stone wall, wearing light blue denim shorts, a plain red t-shirt, and has a yellow jacket tied around his waist. He looks serenely into the distance, his arm casually leaning on his knee.
My first shirt made from a heavy knit. While it unintentially drapes, at least it’s comfy.

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…

The author stands in a garden wearing grey trousers and a handmade t-shirt. The t-shirt is dark blue with a white print on, and the front of the t-shirt features a red color block with the same white print on. The author is laughing at the camera, holding his left hand up to his forehead.
Fabric was cut and choices were made (it looks more like a bib in person). I learned about my preferences to pattern blocking that day…

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.

The author stands on a hill with a forest view in the background. He wears grey trousers, a dark red shirt, and a navy blue waistcoat with a gold print on. His body is facing away from the camera but he has turned his face to smile at the person taking the photo.
Jacket is a me-made from a Sew-It Academy course.

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.