They’re men. They sew. Let’s get over ourselves.

It’s time to be completely honest with ourselves.

I know that most of us reading right now are women.

And when we see a man who sews or quilts, we have an immediate reaction.

Especially if he’s successful.

“What is he doing here?”

“He must be gay.”

“How did he get into sewing?”

“He got that book deal because he’s a guy.”

“What’s so special about him?”

It’s understandable – to a point. Because seeing men in sewing fields “is like seeing an albino cocker spaniel,” said Kenneth D. King, the acclaimed couture designer and contributor to Threads Magazine. “They kind of stand out.”

There are lots of successful men in the sewing field. So why do we women sometimes act like haters? Men who sew - with Thomas Knauer, Kenneth D. King and Molli Sparkles - on sewmccool.com.

But guess what?

When we women spout off crappy assumptions about men who sew, we’re being hypocrites.

When I was a reporter, I covered the police/fire beat. And I liked it. My other degree is in criminal justice, and I have enough books around my house about murder and autopsies and white collar crime and serial killers that nobody.had.better.die in my house. Ever. Because the police will suspect that I did it based on my library of horrors.

But, in my first reporting job, I had to fight for that beat after the previous cops reporter announced his departure – because a male reporter wanted the job as well.

I actually overheard the editor say she thought she would give it to the guy because he had also been in the military and would be better at the job of talking to the manly men.

I protested and landed the beat. And I put up with the cops showing me photos of bodies and gross stuff and driving fast around turns while I sat in the passenger’s seat of their squad cars because they were secretly trying to make me vomit. It was the mid-1990s and even then I was the first female police reporter that newspaper ever had.

To be clear, I would have puked in my mouth and swallowed rather than give them the satisfaction of seeing me get sick.

And I had to deal with getting paid less than the other guy (oddly, I found out because he showed me his pay stub and asked me to decipher the taxes that were being withheld.). Later, at another paper, I overheard a guy say that I won a certain prestigious award only “because of the subject matter.” And more than once a reporter at a smaller, but competing, newspaper described me, in a column he wrote, as “cocquettish” (i.e., flirtatious, seductive.).

I mean, seriously, people.

Couldn’t my success have been because – I don’t know – I was a dang good reporter?

But when I first saw successful guys who sewed, I had that little thought in my head, “that sewing guy is popular just because he’s a guy…”

…and then I was ashamed of myself.

I want to be judged by my work and not my gender.

And so do the men in the sewing and quilting field.

They’re men. They sew. Let’s get over ourselves.

“I know my gender has opened some doors, but it’s closed more than it’s opened,” said Thomas Knauer, a quilter, fabric designer and author of Modern Quilt Perspectives. (that’s my Amazon affiliate link for a darn good quilting book that I highly recommend).

“I say –  look at my background, my work. They’re not just going to give me a book deal because I’m a guy,” Thomas said.

Thomas was a pure, theoretical artist and professor of experimental new media – essentialy art done by using “new media” like computer graphics and the like. Then he became ill….had to leave a job he loved, and discovered fabric design. For awhile he considered himself a fabric designer first and a quilter second, but now he sees himself primarily as a quilter.

Men who sew - quilt by Thomas Knauer

I chatted with him on Skype from his temporary home in London (he’s an American, a North Easterner). Thomas is a cerebral guy, a dad with two kids – the photo near the top of this post is of him, sewing with his daughter – and he thinks a lot about gender stereotypes in the sewing industry.

Frankly, he’s felt a little beaten down by them.

The gender-specific language used in the field irritates him, to the point where he’ll drop out of a group if the leader sends out a letter or e-mail that starts with, “Hey, ladies.”

“They’re leading with the assumption that the audience is women. That sends a subconscious message that guys don’t belong,” Thomas said. “It hasn’t been horrible for me. It’s an annoyance…but it makes me not want to go to Quilt Market. It makes me increasingly reclusive.”

Thomas said he’s been left out of many small-group retreats specifically because he’s a man, and organizers don’t feel that 20-30 women would be comfortable sewing into the wee hours of the night with a guy there. He’s also been told that the women’s husbands “wouldn’t like it” anyway.

Kenneth, as well as quilter Molli Sparkles, however, have the double-whammy sewing field “differences” of being gay and being men, and gay-ness brings its own set of stereotypes and prejudices.

Kenneth has never had an issue with throwing his whole personality out there (the “D” in Kenneth D. King, he says, stands for “Diva,”) and figures if women don’t like it, then…..well, they’re missing out. He was told at the beginning of his career that he shouldn’t tell anyone that he’s gay – but he knew he was never going to “pass” as a straight guy.

We spoke by phone – his studio is located in one of the fashion capitals of the world, New York City. He shared that he began sewing for his Barbies when he was 4. His dolls drove nice cars and went to the opera and only wore evening gowns…(because why would they need anything but evening gowns anyway?).

He was a boy. And he sewed. Big freakin’ deal – it was in his blood.

Men who sew - Kenneth D. King

He remembers seeing a note on a blog once where a woman complained that all the guys were coming into the sewing field and “ruining it.”

Ahem. Most of the sewing companies are owned by men and run by men, anyway, Kenneth pointed out. As for the sewing side, it’s often considered “women’s work” even though design tends to be based on math and geometry, which are traditionally “men’s fields.”

“It appeals to that whole engineering side of me,” Kenneth said. Fashion design “is applied geometry covering a three-dimensional shape.”

Although Kenneth is a leader in the fashion industry, he’s not been well-received in the South, he believes, because he’s gay…and not necessarily because he’s a guy.

“I am who I am,” he said.  “Part of the reason I developed the reputation I’ve developed is because I am who I am. I teach a lot of what I want to know more of. The information is reliable and repeatable and I put it out in a clear and concise way.”

And that’s what learning from anyone should be all about, right?

Molli is a quilter from Oklahoma who now lives in Australia, and enjoys being – as he says – a subversive voice in the quilt industry. He started a “No Girls Allowed” quilt bee and blogs at MolliSparkles.com.

Men who sew - Molli Sparkles

“I grew up with Grandma Sparkles making quilts. She never taught me to sew, but I definitely paid attention, and would often help her out with picking fabrics and laying out quilt blocks,” he wrote to me in an email. “I’d be her runner back and forth from the living room (design) floor and her sewing machine. High heels are not easy when you’re six years old, but you’ve got to start somewhere!”

A couple of years ago he made a quilt for his grandma to thank her for all of the kind things she did for him throughout his life…and hasn’t looked back since.

He wrote that he’s not had too many negative experiences from being a guy in a field dominated by gals, aside from being on the receiving end of what he calls “stank eye” when he suggested fabrics to a woman in a quilt shop because her choices didn’t quite, shall we say, add beauty to the quilt.

“I am fully aware I am a minority in a female dominated environment, and I have often considered that part of the recognition I have received is because of this,” he wrote. “But then I think that is a dangerous road to go down, because I don’t like playing the minority card.

“I stopped caring what other people think a long time ago,” Molli wrote. “I’ve probably had more encouragement because of my gender, than the other way around. People are often pleasantly surprised to find that there is a man behind the woman (so to speak). It is somewhat of a rarity to find men who quilt, and quilt proudly, so I’m happy to be that vocal, card-carrying, flag-waving, diva-acting man who quilts!”

There’s one common thread (ha! thread!) that I noticed when talking with all three men.

They’re all confident, and likely, they’re better at speaking their minds honestly than many women in the sewing industry.

And it might be one reason that talented guys can rise to the top while some talented women languish and flounder.

Yep. We gals who, as Kenneth observed, “want to link arms and sing kum-bay-a”

…and, to be frank….don’t always want to stand up and admit…or are slow to admit….that we’re running a business.

Ouch. It kind of hurts. But I’ve seen it. I know it. I used to be afraid to charge too much. I still am.

Kenneth was never afraid to set his rates based on his high level of skill.

If people don’t appreciate his work…

…they can move on.

I heard it in the way the men talked about themselves and the language they used – Thomas isn’t afraid of using a well-placed f-bomb.

I’m afraid to offend people.

“I am more apt to speak my mind without fear of recourse,” wrote Molli.  “Ask me my opinion, and I will tell you the heart-to-the-tiara truth, baby!”

I know that when asked an opinion, I’ll try to find a way to sugar-coat it so I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

Some of these differences are ingrained in our society, like it or not.

But we can change them, at least a little, in our well-cocooned sewing universe.

“The one thing I would love to see changed is that shift in the language assumption…the leading assumption that the audience is women,” Thomas said. He understands that every group – in this case, women who sew, like to protect their own domain.

But it’s not right to assume that men can’t be great at sewing and quilting, or to demean their work when they are.

Women would help themselves if they stopped painting their own stereotypes, Thomas said. You know – joking how we hide fabric in the car from our husbands or going on about how husbands don’t know the difference between fabric and paper scissors. Those little Victorian e-card memes habitually harp on gender differences rather than start conversations that can bring us closer together.

And if a guy gets any pushback by joining a sewing class, “I would tell guys just ignore the snootiness,” Kenneth said. “If you get any pushback, say I’m here to learn something. More men would do it if more other men would jump in and get it going.”

So…of course men and women are different.

But I could hang out with the cops.

And men can sew.

We can learn from each other.

We should all have our work judged based on talent, and not on gender.

Give talented men who sew some respect, even if we’ve been a little lax with it before.

Because isn’t that what we’ve been wanting all these years for ourselves?

______________________________
Deanna McCool writes for sewmccool.com. Like reading about sewing? Check out this post on what an ill-mannered sewing blogger taught me. To make sure you don’t miss a post, please follow SewMcCool by e-mail (the link is at the top of the right-hand column) or join me on BlogLovin’ – the button is just below the e-mail feed box! :)

 

 

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Comments

  1. says

    What a great, witty post. I loved getting to know your personality a bit too!! I’ve said this before, but I’ve never quite understood the whole gender stereotyping either. Have you noticed I say “sewist” rather than the other words? “Sewer” is where rats live, and seamstress is a girl. I have way to many male sewing/designer friends to say that.the reason why I’ve never understood the mentality is…the fashion industry is DOMINATED by men in every country in the world. Except U.S. where it’s more of an even split. And while yes, women tend to be the majority of home sewists….I think fashion and sewing are related enough that we should just call it a draw. As for quilting. Kenneth surely is in the minority. Hurrah for him!
    Amy mayen recently posted…Big Girl Briefs from Serger Pepper | Tween Pattern ShowcaseMy Profile

    • Deanna McCool says

      I know – sewist, right? Why was there never a word for men? Seamster? Haha. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  2. Jamie says

    Bravo! Great article.

    I would gladly sew with any, or all, of those gentlemen into the wee hours. And most likely have one heck (edited on purpose) of a great time. Sign me up!

    • Deanna McCool says

      Thanks! Me too. They were all so great to chat with – I can’t imagine how fabulous they’d be to sew with. Did you know Kenneth has a great class on Craftsy? His personality is infectious.

      • Dennis Mullins Sr says

        Hi, yes I am a man that loves to sew and quilt. If I join a blog and when the newsletter starts out Hi ladies I close it and unsubscribe so I don’t read a lot of newsletters from bloggers. I want to thank you for being so understanding.

  3. says

    I do think that men (in general) find it easier to honestly say what they think, without the need to sugar coat. To compound the issue, women will also (again, in general), become more easily offended and this also works against us. I know I need to toughen up. I would have hoped that in this day and age, gender stereotyping would be a thing of the past, but I think that all minority groups are discriminated against in one way or another, whether it be subtle or blatantly open, by a percentage of the population. Add success to the mix and those who discriminate (whether they know they are doing it or not) will give reasons as to why the success is not warranted. An excellent post, Deanna!!!
    Pam @Threading My Way recently posted…Co-ordinating Fabrics…My Profile

  4. says

    Great article. Thank you for writing it.

    As a man who sews, when I first ventured into the sewing world I would visit the sewing machine dealers and look for garment construction classes. Unless I wanted to be a quilter they offered no other forms of sewing except to cut up a ready made sweatshirt and decorate it. No garments from scratch. Yet these ladies were selling sergers at the stores.

    I learned about proper ergonomics and professional sewing from purchasing professional videos offered in the back of the sewing magazines, long before the internet.

    When I found Sewing With Nancy on PBS, I was impressed that she always sewed and taught in a professional setup. You would not see Nancy having her fabric hang off the edge of her sewing machine. She showed professional sewing methods and ergonomics.

    Then I discovered a TV show called “Sewing Today” with Kenneth D. King.
    He taught professional designer sewing construction and techniques. How cool, another dude sewing and sewing the expensive designer ways!!!! YEAH!!

    Other shows on PBS were teaching non professional techniques and setups. And yes, sadly by mostly the women.

    Some of the women on the sewing TV shows would also keep telling the viewers how easy it is, and not to be afraid.. They talked to the viewers like they were children who were in fear.
    Something you didn’t hear from people like Kenneth or the pro’s in the pro videos.

    Kenneth and the pros, taught you with a mindset that you are a professional and you already are going to make a living from sewing. They did not teach nor portray to the viewer that one needed their hands held through the whole procedure.

    Let’s face it, garment construction was thrown out the door at the sewing stores many, many, years ago.
    There has been an argument that it is cheaper to buy garments than to make them.
    It is also cheaper to buy a quilt than to make it.

    The answer I always hear of when many woman want to quilt instead of sew is because of their weight. They say a quilt does not care if you gain weight.

    What they are really saying is they do not have the skills to make garments nor know how to fit themselves.
    The 10 year old under aged kid overseas who make their sweatshirts for them to cut up and decorate is just fine as it is with them…

    Why should they make a garment from scratch using those expensive sewing machines they own?

    I have noticed in my travels and watching the reality TV shows. The new generation of sewers are making the most beautiful garments on entry level sewing machines one can buy online.
    Since the sewing machine stores have ignored their genre of sewing, the internet has taken over with machine sales, educational classes online, etc.

    Local sewing stores may be a thing of the past if they do not diverse their genres of educational sewing classes.
    The new generations (both men and women) are not accepting excuses nor are they asking to have their hands held and told how easy it is. They are learning and producing amazing work!
    Just watch Project Runway and see..

    • Deanna McCool says

      I started by trying to sew garments but failing because at the time (15 years ago) all I had to use were the tissue patterns, and the instructions were confusing (and not because I worried I’d gain weight lol)! So I went into quilting, and then back into garment sewing after PDF patterns became popular and designers spelled the steps out for me. I remain a fan of both, really. That being said – in-store support for garment sewing is thin in my area – but we have no lack of quilt-making classes. You’re right that the Internet and videos have really broken through as a way to learn garment sewing. I think this is an interesting topic to dig into deeper – thanks for your insight.

      • says

        You are welcome.

        One of the first pro videos I bought that I found in an ad in the back of a sewing magazine was by Islander Sewing. This was the very beginning of the 90’s.

        Industrial techniques using the home sewing machine. This was the education I had been seeking in the beginning and could not find it at the local sewing stores.
        .
        I compare other teachers out there to Islander.
        Why?
        Because Islander taught the professional industrial methods and the ergonomics of holding and feeding fabric.

        If anyone is interested, you need to check those DVD’s out. They will make anyone a pro at the sewing machine.
        Islander sewing. You can Google it.
        Outstanding education!

      • Shavon Lowe says

        I just saw the other day a guy walk into the dealer I frequent and ask what sewing classes they offered for garments only to be told they really don’t offer much. Its sad to see so many men interested with no real outlet for what they want to do locally. Ive wanted to start sewing garments but also don’t find too many classes readily available and have turned to craftsy for that reason. I find atr quilt shows I am very drawn to the quilts designed by men. They are usually very geometrical and colorful, and also usually very different but in a good way. I would like to see more men at shows and in classes. I feel they should just ignore the people that don’t want them there. If african americans hadn’t done this we would still be segregated, but since some strong people said no I am going to be here and you are going to treat me equal now we have more freedoms we didn’t have 50 years ago. I know me being so young in a field dominanted by older ladies it can be a little awkward when your the only young one in a class with women that could be my mother or grandmother but I always tell myself, nothing and no one is going to keep me away from something I love to do. Men just need to fight back and demand access to retreats and classes, who cares if some are uncomfortable, they need to get over it. It is this mentatilty that keeps the field from growing any further. I was told by a young man, “you quilt, I thought that was for old ladies”. I told him it was for everyone. Men, women, children, and even a famous skateboarder sews and he could believe a young athletic man would have any interest in sewing. I told him he needed to get with the times. If we keep doing what we are doing this mentality will never change and children and men will be less likely to carry on this legacy that we have in quilting.

  5. says

    Thanks for the great article! Even as a woman, I find the sewing stores here cater to quilting and home dec sewists, and they look at you like you have two heads if you say you are sewing jeans!

  6. says

    Really interesting read, I remember as a kid our local newspaper writing an article on a chap who used to quilt whilst sat on the train to work – don’t suppose they ever wrote an article about a woman sat quilting on a commuter train…
    vicky myers recently posted…Create pants out of t-shirtsMy Profile

  7. says

    Yay and Hooray for guys who sew. I’ve been sewing for a year now and I can’t get enough. All my friends who are girls or have/ing children are reaping the benefits of it. I really have not felt any prejudiced or discrimination from women, quiet the contrary actually.
    Dave Jay recently posted…Car Seat Cover ReduxMy Profile

  8. Ken Casey says

    As the incoming president of the Arizona Quilter’s Guild, I must say that this article says what I have been thinking for a loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong time. I’ve been quilting for going on 30 years, and sewing since I was ten (we won’t go into how long ago that was…) I’ve sat through meeting after meeting, class after class, workshop after workshop where the group has been addressed as “ladies, gals, etc” when I’ve been sitting right there in front of everyone (and NOT in drag I might add) Much like Thomas, I’m starting to speak up. I’ve written to many an editor of quilting publications calling them on their sexism. I’ve walked out of presentations. I’ve added “and gentlemen!” quite loudly when addressed as a female. My favorite is when I’m greeted at the door with a newspaper and told to “go sit in the husband chair”.
    It would be a sad day if Ricky Timms, John Flynn, Kaffe Fassett, David Taylor… were not a part of this quilting industry. We need the women in these groups to speak up for us, just as I know (at least for myself) as I would for them.

    • Deanna McCool says

      Thanks, Ken. As I wrote this blog post I was thinking about the former president of my local quilt guild – who was a man (sadly he passed away a couple of years ago). He learned to sew in the Army. He would always say “and gentlemen” too! Because he and another guy would always be at the meetings….and at our quilt retreats. The women never cared if the two guys saw us in our pajamas.

  9. Ricky Wilks says

    As one of those quilting men, I just want to say that I appreciated this post very much. Thank you.

  10. says

    I could hug you for writing this. I have spoken up a few times about the ‘Hi Ladies’ emails and tweets. I am not and never will be a lady. But I quilt, I sew and I love making things. It is a part of who I am as much as being a man. Having rooted for women’s rights, it really hurts when those women who benefit from “equality” don’t want to treat the guys as equals.
    Gene Black recently posted…Bookmark Embroidery Sew-outMy Profile

  11. eLIE says

    MY DAD TAUGHT ME HOW TO SEE. I ACTUALLY WON AN AWARD IN HIGH SCHOOL BECAUSE OF IT. HE MADE ALL MY DRESSES AND MY TWIN SISTERS TOO! I TRY AND TEACH EVERYONE AND ANYONE INTERESTED TO PASS IT ALONG. :)

  12. Shanny says

    Great article! My 7 yr old asked, mum can a boy sew? I told him, why not? He was at awe one day when we passed by a lady truck driver. I decided to tell him that, if a girl can drive a truck, why not a boy that can sew, knit, crochet or cook? I mean all the best chefs are men aren’t they?

    Hubby is still not convinced that embroidery and sewing was originally a man’s job back in the day. Showed him the couple of knitted winter skull caps made by my guy friend, whom so generously gifted them to my boys, gave my friend this look that says “you must be gay”. It was really annoying to me. Told him off, never to judge people without knowing them.

  13. says

    If we look back over time, men did sewing that brought in the bread and butter. Shoe repair, shoe makers, awning makers, furniture and car upholstery, commercial embroidery, horse saddle makers, men who made cowboy hats, tailors, and so much more. And the biggest of all are the male designers who made the fashion garments not only celebrity women have worn, but the average women have worn over time and today. Men have been making a living sewing for centuries.

    • Deanna McCool says

      It makes me wonder, though – is it okay for men to sew as long as they’re bringing in the bread and butter? But if they don’t….do they feel uncomfortable going into their their local quilt shop or fabric store when they do it as a hobby?

      • says

        Deanna, for me not at all. In fact, going into stores like Joann Fabrics is where I met many of my sewing friends.

        The ladies would come up to me and ask me what I was making with all my fancy fabric. Before you knew it, they were always at my studio and this is where and how my teaching career began.. I encountered no prejudice of any kind by the customers of the fabric stores. I found these ladies were hungry to learn things outside the box. And they were happy to pay me to teach them. Because of them, I turned my sewing hobby into a career.

        Years ago my sister asked me to make the Christening gown for my soon to be born nephew. When we were at the cutting counter with our fabric the lady cutting said how nice the husband was with her to pick out fabric so she could sew the Christening gown.

        My sister told her I was her brother and I was making the gown. The lady had a hard time understanding/believing us.
        It did not bother me. I considered the woman’s age and the demographics of the town we were in.

        Demographics are a major key of people’s exposure to the arts and who is involved in the arts, not to mention tech education.

        When my book on CD came out and I traveled the country, demographics played a key of technology know how. Up near Washington DC and also in Silicon Valley, the ladies who worked in tech jobs had my book transferred onto their iPads. Many in the southern states had no clue how to do it.

        Education and exposure to the world outside one’s own home makes for a diverse environment. I thank the lord everyday for those wonderful ladies who came into my life at the fabric store and wanted to know more about my fancy fabrics in my shopping cart.

        Not everyone is closed minded in the world.

        I am happy to see a lady use power tools and cut wood. A sign of independence, no co dependence upon the opposite sex.

        • Deanna McCool says

          You’re awesome, Christopher! I’m with you regarding the demographics issue….it depends on where you live and who lives there. :)

          • says

            Yes, it is all per demographics. I found this out when I began traveling and teaching on the road.

            You see different work ethics, different educational abilities, and most of all, you see the people who saved their money to come and learn compared to those who come for a social gathering.

            As a teacher you try very hard to find ways that all the students will focus and work. My secret is an egg timer.
            it keeps the chatty people in line and focused because they only have so many minutes to complete a step.

            And it keeps the serious people who really want to learn happy that the chatters are not chatting. :)

  14. Debbie says

    Great article and right on the money! I became a Firefighter/Paramedic when that was a pretty controversial thing. It wasn’t always easy, because once you proved to the guys you could hold your own, you still felt the need to be better; do better; never let them see you sweat. But I had a wonderful career and retired as an officer 3 years ago. So, I know how it feels and would never want to make anyone feel uncomfortable about their hobby or career choices.

  15. says

    I added a range of mens patterns to our line just over three years ago and I hear from plenty of men who sew. I fact I sew myself. The issue for me was a lack of on trend , manly pattern styles. So I did something about it, There seems to be a renaissance in sewing generally and I’m definitely seeing guys included in that. Sew on dudes!

  16. says

    What a well-written and thought-provoking article, Deanna. Thank you! I have taught quite a few men to sew, and enjoyed every one of them very much. In my experience, which is admittedly limited, men are EXCELLENT sewists. Plenty of right-brain skills needed for sewing, and many men (and yes, women too!) possess them. All I care about is if someone really wants to learn to sew, and is willing to work at it. If those 2 things are true, then you could be a blue-eyed purple people eater for all I care. Let’s just get sewing! :-)
    Maris Olsen recently posted…Meet Marcy Tilton!My Profile

  17. cynthia Dossett says

    I thought this article was great. From my experience, I have found that women who actually express themselves and know their own self worth, are give the “stank eye” as well. We, as women, have been taught that if we actually ask a high price for our skill level, we think too much of ourselves, yet men can do it, and society looks at it differently. My dad introduced me to sewing, his mother taught him as well. I was raised by a man, so I lack the buffer of sugar coat when I speak. I know several men who sew as well as crafts and it amazes me how some people are downright mean to them.
    I look forward to the day, when society will drop the labels of women’s work and a manly job, and just call it for what is it….the opportunity to express yourself through a creative outlet and leave it be.

    • Deanna McCool says

      Awesome insights, Cynthia. I’m with you about the “stank eye.” I tend to run a little blunt myself so it’s happened to me, too. And, of course, some are more sensitive to constructive criticism than others….but it’s definitely more acceptable for a man to show his confidence, for sure.

      • says

        I was raised by a mother and grandmother who were farmers. They worked just like the men. They both never acted like they were helpless and needed the opposite sex to come to their rescue. I have always been in support of equal rights and pay for women.

        One of the problems I have seen out there is many women tend to give their work away. They lower their self worth on their own. Many females do not want to see other women succeed and this is very sad.

  18. says

    Thanks so much for the article. I love the idea of taking our community to task on gender equality. We do it all the time in male dominated fields, but when women are the dominant demographic, we tend to “forget” that men can plan an important role as well. Kudos on speaking up.
    Andrea @ MouseInMyPocket.com recently posted…Works in ProgressMy Profile

  19. says

    I have found in teaching sewing for the last 8 years that boys and/or men are great at sewing. They naturally have an understanding of machinery and they are often more patient. However, just like women, they have to take their time and develop the talent. I know my son is interested in my sewing machine and he will learn as he grows. A great skill to have!
    Chelsea recently posted…Summer Butterfly MobileMy Profile

  20. Karen fuhrman says

    I remember a long time ago in a far away place called “Nursing School” there were two male nurses in my class. And they both had been medics in the Army. But I can honestly say that now the nursing students in the hospital are nearly 50/50 male to female. And the other side of that is medical school was the opposite, one or two female to several hundred males, and again now it is nearly 50/50. And in some specialties there are more females than males. I think both careers have become better because there is plenty we can learn from each other’s perspective. So all I can say to the men who sew, welcome! We need you to give us your “take” on this craft. We need you to take us down your path, give us perspective and in the end we are all better sewists (although I personally like sewster).

  21. Gabriele says

    It’s quite sad, that it is necessary to write such an article! If people would learn that there is no difference between gender, age, color, sexual habits… they could spend so much time on more important issues.

    I don’t want to sound rude – I do not mean it negative, but there is a danger: in my opinion, one should not make any (!) difference. You can read for example here in the comments or in the article, how good men are in sewing (better at machines, at maths…). But women are also. We should not begin to have it the other way round. Just have to find the balance.

    I’m reading Molly’s blog regulary – he has such beautiful quilts, tips and – above all – texts. And sometimes you can read comments (mainly by women) who try to emphasize how great it is if a man sews – how special it is. No – it should not be special – but equal!
    I can even imagine that women try to get into this “no girls allowed…”- thing, just because they think, it is something soooo special that it’s kind of elitist.

    (I do not mean it in the sense that I think men should not sew! Not at all. In my opinion women and men should do whatever they want to (as long as they do not harm others), without being discriminated.

    And as long as sewing men are standing out, there is no equality. If they stand out due to their sewing quality or individual skills – that’s another thing.
    (I hope you understand my point inspite of my language lacks. But as I also experienced discrimination in a “mens’ world” ;) ,I wanted to write my opinjon on this)

    I have this discussion sometimes (and I know that this has nothing to do with sewing!) with gays. Example: The father of my son’s girl friend said when we met the first time: Hi, I’m XY and I’m gay. I answered: So what? That doesn’t interest me at all. If I get to know to people I’ll never say: Hi, I’m Gabriele and I’m not gay.
    (he isn’t another person because he’s gay, is he?)

    • says

      You’re right, it does seem like men are getting some special gold stars, which should not be the case. Honestly, articles like this make me kind of sad. As women, we have so few places that are mainly or entirely ours, and when we try to break into male-dominated fields, we’re often met with harassment and abuse. Men aren’t speaking up about letting us into those fields, but we’re here jumping through hoops to be nicer to them. This might sound kind of militant, and that’s not my intention – people of any gender are welcome to do whatever makes them happy, and this idea of “boy” hobbies/jobs and “girl” hobbies/jobs needs to be broken down. The problem, is, though, that men who break into female-dominated fields are often given special recognition that the women who’ve been toiling away at haven’t. There’s a saying that I’ve seen floating around lately, something like: “Women are cooks, men are chefs. Women sew, men design. Women are nurses, men are doctors.” (One of the comments here even said that all good chefs are men, which is completely ridiculous.) That’s the mindset that a lot of people hold, and I worry that things that are seen as silly or frivolous hobbies when done by women are taken much more seriously when done by men. We don’t need to pat them on the back, and we don’t need to apologize for being “sexist” (because you can’t be sexist against men – any “ism” like that is a combination of discrimination and institutional power, and women have never been in a position of institutional power). To be frank, the “no women allowed” quilting bee REALLY offended me, because there are already so many men-only spaces – why in the world do we need to add more?

      I think the overall point of your post – that anyone can and should do anything they want to do – is a good one, I just don’t agree that we should be giving men more recognition and power and influence than they already have in 99% of the world.

      • Deanna McCool says

        Thanks for your insight, Alicia. I’m glad you added your voice to the conversation. I do agree that things that are seen as frivolous hobbies when done by women are taken much more seriously when done by men. The other point of writing this post was to bring some of these issues out in the open, so I’m glad you’ve contributed here.

  22. sandi says

    oh my goodness…I have been approached by men in many fabric departments asking questions about fabrics….I answered, was not astonished to find men shopping there….were they gay….how in the world would I know or more importantly, why would I care… I know many females who are GREAT carpenters….as Karen Furhman above noted, I too remember males entering into the nursing profession, and that was a long time ago for this ol’ great grandma….and they were equal to any female nurse I knew in my 45 year nursing career…. in my family, we have two stay at home dads….wow, had my kids ever been privileged to the care these dads give, they would have traded me in….and yet the gossip I have heard people engage in regarding these dads…why oh why do we form these molds we think others should fit into….and yet I am so grateful Deanna brought to our awareness that such prejudices are still alive and hurting so they can be dealt with….

  23. Jerry Granata says

    If I was upset at something my Mother used to say “It’s only a problem if you make it one.”
    Wise words…
    And it applies in this situation. Men involved in sewing and quilting is only a problem if you make it one.
    I’ve been quilting for 38 years now and as a local, regional, national, and international award winning quilter, I can honestly say I’ve never had a situation that involved discrimination because I was a man. I’ve only been greeted with open arms by the quilting community.
    Does gender discrimination exist? Of course it does. But…
    “It’s only a problem if you make it one.”
    Have I gone to guild meetings and been upset because madam President says “ok Ladies”? No. Why? Because I don’t see it as a problem. Do I believe she did that because she’s singling me out and putting me down? No. Why? Because there’s a bigger picture here. I’ve done presentations and workshops at my guild and been honored many times by them. They’ve always been the picture of kindness to me and the same goes for all the other guilds where I’ve taught.
    I know several men who have been very discriminated against because of their gender. One of whom was told he was not allowed at their retreat because he was a man.
    It is then up to them to approach the “powers that be” and speak out if they’ve been treated in such a manner.
    I have heard comments about me from several different women over the years but it is bore out of jealousy, plain and simple. They are jealous that instead of working their butts off and doing the work needed, they’d rather sit back and complain. Again, the bigger picture here is not about my gender, it’s about jealousy. And that, I can just brush off and ignore because if I let it bother me, then I become part of the problem.
    The truth of the matter is men were the first textile workers. Women were not allowed to hold jobs so it was up to the men. Men were the first tailors. Men were the first quilters. Who were the people who fashioned those gorgeous historical tapestries seen hanging in castles and museums? Men.
    My point is all about respect. And it goes both ways.
    Let’s just focus on who we are as artists and get out there and create! See you at the next quilt show!

    • Deanna McCool says

      Thanks Jerry – I’m a fan of yours! I would say…of course, yes, there’s jealousy and reasons people say what they do, but the larger point here is that we should all take care with what we say and how we treat others who are different from us. If I made a disparaging remark about a guy in my quilt class because he’s a guy, he can brush it off and chalk it up to me being small-minded or jealous. But is it right that I said it in the first place? Of course not. Same if I made a negative remark about anyone different from me – black, albino, gay, transgender. Same if I was a taxi driver and drove past a black couple instead of picking them up in favor of picking up a white couple instead. Because…it’s just kinda wrong, right? Anyone can develop a thick skin and it’s healthy to rise above people’s negative comments. But it would be a nicer if we all didn’t have to deal with that stuff. And some people are more sensitive than others – maybe they never had to develop a thick skin, or maybe they just get tired of dealing with people’s crap. I’m sure the guy you referred to – who wasn’t allowed to go to a retreat because he was a man – was initially irritated, even if he later rose above. The guys I spoke with here were pretty brave to share their experiences, and though they might be somewhat irritated about some things they’ve experienced, they’ve all continued to truck on in spite of it. You’re totally correct that it’s healthy to brush things off, but it’s also never nice for anyone to judge before they get to know someone and his or her work. It always sucks to be on the other side of someone’s negative comments, whether you’re a strong person or not. Well – I think so, anyway.

  24. Neame says

    First, I agree with everything you said. Came to this posting from Molli Sparkles which I regularly read. I read blogs from several male bloggers. They’re interesting and often fun.

    Reminds me of the time in the 70’s when, thinking this might be a good career direction for me, I signed up for a basic construction class at the local community college. Made it thru only one class as the men were waaaaayy too threatened and made the class uncomfortable. Looking back, maybe I should have stuck it out.

    What the world needs now is love, sweet love
    It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of…..

    Thanks for a very interesting post.

  25. says

    I haven’t had much of a problem, but most of my quilt activities relate to my collection of quilts rather than quilts I have made. When I got a book publishing deal with Quiltmania in France, some of the folks in the quilt history circles seemed to get a little less friendly. I forgive them. It may seem very unfair, especially if they have been in the field longer and have had to work with vanity publishers or haven’t had any publishers interested at all. At the end of the day, I believe it really is all about quality of work and quality of character. Most of the people I have met in the quilting community have been gracious, generous, big-hearted, welcoming people — both men and women. So, I’m very thankful to be here and have such great support!

  26. says

    I’ve been quilting since 2002. My wife doesn’t sew or quilt, and neither did I before taking my first quilting class. I first tried to teach myself to quilt using Quilting For Dummies, but even with that book there was a lot of assumed knowledge about sewing that I found it challenging.

    Here’s a photo album of some of my quilts.

    https://www.facebook.com/jeff.rutherford/media_set?set=a.4144043127.3370.500558127&type=3

    I have also participated in 11 QuiltGuy quilting retreats – long weekends of 15 or so male quilters working on their various projects.

    Here are several photo albums of our QuiltGuy retreats:

    https://plus.google.com/photos/117757910488771719712/albums/5991470987963581185

    https://plus.google.com/photos/117757910488771719712/albums/5923666699001368209

    https://plus.google.com/photos/117757910488771719712/albums/5856352591677978033

    https://plus.google.com/photos/117757910488771719712/albums/5793714081206474193

    https://plus.google.com/photos/117757910488771719712/albums/5721352417187055025

    • Deanna McCool says

      Thanks for these photos, Jeff! Looks like so much fun, and the quilts are amazing!

      (I too tried the Quilting for Dummies book – I made my first quilt back in 2001 – and was equally as disappointed. If I remember correctly, it didn’t even address rotary cutting. Then I found Alex Anderson’s “Simply Quilts” and learned much more from her and her guests. Was so sad when HGTV canceled it.)

        • Deanna McCool says

          I didn’t have TiVo then and recorded them on my – *gasp* – VCR! – and watched the episodes when my newborn daughter took her sadly short 20-minute naps. It’s funny, but every time I work on a quilt I sing that little opening tune for Simply Quilts. Then I found a local quilt guild and the president – and most prolific quilter in the group – was a man. :) Anyway, I’ve always wanted to know why HGTV and the spinoff DIY network removed the sewing and crafting shows. As if the only DIY stuff (other than PBS) people care about is for remodeling our homes….guess that’s why we’re being saved by the Internet now. (Sounds like another blog post to research and write.)

  27. says

    Thank you for the well written and thought provoking article. I came to this article from Men Who Quilt FaceBook group.

    I recently heard a discussion with similar concept about how internet communication and social media are breaking down gender stereotypes. People are connecting much more based on common interest without regard to gender, race, nationality, marital status, etc. I wonder if we are on the verge of a new Renaissance of thought because we are more free to share thoughts and ideas without being bothered with other attributes of the person sharing those thoughts.

    We can also help break down stereotypes in our day to day lives. I’m an elementary art teacher and find myself saying things like “Pink is a color and colors are for people not boys or girls.” “Blocks are toys and toys are for kids not just boys or girls.”

    Thank you again, and I look forward to reading further comments.
    Jan-Michael recently posted…WERQ Bee DemoMy Profile

  28. says

    I sew, but I also work in jewelry design, for a supplier. It’s amazing how often people assume that both of these audiences are all women. I went to fashion school in NYC, and can tell you that a LARGE percentage of the sample makers in the fashion industry there are old European men. So I’m not sure why society finds it so shocking to learn that men sew. My brother knits, and as straight young man, was actually denied membership to his local knitting group (and it’s a big group, in a progressive city) until some of his coworkers that were in the group saw his knitting. Then they decided that they wanted him to join. It boggles my mind. Thank you for this article!

  29. OHSue says

    You get the ‘stank eye’ because you told another quilter she was wrong, that is called quilt policing and can be really annoying.
    Sewing is sewing, I don’t care who does it, as long as they do it well and don’t feel the need to criticize my work.

  30. nan hohenstein says

    You only have to look back in history a few short years to see that men were the “professional” sewers under the title of tailor. Women were home sewers or sewed behind the scenes. There are also many male garment designer names around today, I.e. Calvin Cline, Versace just to name a couple. What is the big deal about a man wanting to play with fabric?

    Most of us, boys and girls alike, were introduced to color and art through the same medium, crayons. Some of have just replaced our crayons with fabric.

  31. Emily c says

    I know this is frustrating for me. My husband has an excellant eye for color and his long arms are an awesome help when pin basting large quilts, but I have serious issues getting him to help because he fears being labeled as gay. He will not even go in the fabric store.
    Molli getting the stank eye was not all because he is a man, but because he broke the unwritten rule that you do not criticize another persons quilt, unless you are a judge in a quilt show. I can not begin to count the number of quilts i have seen that i don’t like, either from odd color choices or funky designs, that have oodles of good comments. You never see even a critique, much less a bad comment. Molli has done a blog post on this topic, which is a good read.

    • Deanna McCool says

      I’m sorry that your husband won’t go into a quilt shop, Emily! That’s such a shame, especially because it sounds like he’s super talented. Molli is great, isnt’ he? I’ll check out his post.

  32. Kate says

    Seriously, an amazing article, Deanna! With all of your wonderful words and the fantastic comments I feel like I can’t really contribute other than to say, “well done!”

  33. Taranach says

    Greetings,

    I am a 52 year old man who started sewing over thirty years ago. I got started by watching my mother and grandmother creating Halloween costumes for us and for friends. I started studying the flimsy tissue patterns and seeing what she did at different points in the pattern. I liked to create my own outfits and actually made some of my own clothes for school (with some help)… In my teen years I didn’t do as much but it came back with a vengeance when I started going to medieval re-enactment events and Renaissance Faires. This was not clothing you could just get at a local store! I started with the simpler patterns and then started using my engineering experience to form fit the clothing. I understood converting a 3D object into a 2D pattern and back again. I have been steadily sewing and creating for the last 20 some odd years and constantly challenging myself to more complex items. I have to say that I find the most amusement with the flummoxed looks I get when I start talking about fabric, construction techniques, slopers and other such at the fabric stores… I can sometimes draw a crowd, much to the employees chagrin. But I love it! There is nothing like showing up from an event with a full kilt, hand made leather shoes, velvet doublet and scottish great cloak and gathering entire bolts of fabric to toss on the table only to ask the price for what is left on the bolts… oh and these rolls here and do you have the industrial size interfacing? jaws drop so hard you can here the tiles crack! I will keep going until I can’t physically do it anymore…

    • Deanna McCool says

      Well..I’d say you should have another good 30 years yet to sew, right? Not only am I impressed with your sewing know-how….but you make SHOES too? It would really be fun to sew clothes for Renaissance Faires.

      • Taranach says

        I thank you for the kind comments, Sewing, Leathercraft, wood and metal working… crafting… a regular renaissance man… LOL I am currently working out some Elizabethan garb and possibly some Steampunk fashions as well…

  34. says

    As a woman in computer science I suspect I can relate to these men – at least a little bit. And I do think we should welcome men who sew rather than think of them as weird. Sometimes it’s really the little things such as choice of wording that makes the difference between someone feeling welcome or all alone.

    The sewing world does seem to be the complete opposite of the computing world concerning gender bias. And the bad thing about bias is that even when you’re aware of it, it’s possible to fall prey to it – simply because of the reactions we have been taught as a side-effect of growing up in a strongly-gendered culture.

    My observation regarding these feelings of “someone invading our territory” that you sketched at the very beginning of the article is that if we replace sewing by computer games or programming, it’s exactly how men from these groups feel about women.

    In any case, being open about our feelings and thinking about solutions is so much better than brewing up a #sewinggate riot. :) Thanks for this post.
    grumpi recently posted…I want a “Ravelry for sewing” – and the only way to get one seems to be to build it myself: Kaava – A New Sewing Stash Database SiteMy Profile

    • Deanna McCool says

      Thanks! And I loved the #sewinggate hashtag, haha. I’m intrigued to try out Kaava….such a great project you’re working on!

      • grumpi says

        It’s not nearly at the point I’m envisioning it yet, but it’s starting to become useful – there’s a lot of issues and things to build, though.

        I’m very interested in making something that connects all the sewing blogs out there. I just haven’t figured out how exactly that should work. So we’re starting with building a pretty detailed pattern database and the linking between patterns / projects / stash. :D

        Actually I need to check if I’m accidentally discriminating men in the texts I wrote for Kaava and fix that.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Deanna from Sew McCool usually writes blog posts with sewing inspiration and tutorials. But her post about men who sew has grabbed my attention more than any other post she has written.  In it, she examines the sexism that exists toward men in our sewing community, including how our sewing groups can be unwelcoming and how even our sewing humor tends to reinforce these stereotypes.  Her article includes interviews with several well known male sewists.  Go to Sew McCool to read her article. […]

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