Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last four and a bit years, if you’re a maker of your own clothes, and you are part of the Instagram sewing community in general then you are sure to have noticed @SewOver50. Being a follower of the account might even be the reason you’re here reading my blog at all.
I won’t go over everything again because you can read most of it in the Sew Over 50 section of this blog, if you don’t already know how the @SewOver50 account Instagram came to be set up it’s all there.
What I’ve been thinking about over the last few months though is how much has actually changed, and have things improved as a result, or have we developed into a different entity?
There has definitely been a noticeable improvement by some pattern brands to include a wider variety of models in their marketing and this is worth applauding. For example, brands such as Merchant and Mills now feature several older models which was not something they did before, and Sew Over It made a noticeable choice to add older models by recruiting from our own community, including Janene @ooobop and Lena @That LenaKing. Sew Over It also went so far as to join forces with Judith and Sandy last year in a week-long online collaboration, wouldn’t it be great if more companies took the opportunity to truly engage with the 45,000 followers of the account in this way? In the past couple of years we have seen a change for the better in the number of larger-size models featured by pattern companies because so many of them are now making a much broader range of sizes but it seems that it’s still younger models that they go for, with one or two exceptions.
This is all well and good but has there been as much change as we might have hoped for more than four years down the line and after all we’ve done in continually trying to raise our profile? Or have we partly stopped noticing that the changes have slowed down, have we stopped agitating for it because we have become such a close and supportive community in our own right that we just don’t need to care so much? I could argue that we now have each other to bounce our ideas off, to inspire, we encourage and educate one another. As adults of ‘a certain age’ we really shouldn’t care, because we certainly don’t have to care, that the majority of younger designers and pattern makers don’t want to engage with us. They seem to believe they still don’t need to do anything to make our custom feel appreciated, although the current world economic situation might eventually make it otherwise.
By each of us continuing to share our makes regularly on Instagram, and using the various #SewOver50 hashtags, we have created our own self-supporting community to the point that we neither notice nor care what most pattern companies think about us (do they think about us?) because they are still barely engaging with us anyway. Greying hair and wrinkles spoil their aesthetic but that’s just tough, we will sew and wear what we want and their artfully constructed Instagram posts are not going to sway us. What can influence me personally is a positive review of a pattern by fellow sewers and honest feedback about its quality, it isn’t the pretty packaging which will make me want to buy the pattern. Some pattern companies do enlist the help and experience of older sewers with their pattern testing which is good (although I’m slightly suspicious of the ones which use older testers but then their versions of the garment are curiously absent from the company feed when the pattern lauches) If you’re interested and willing I would certainly encourage volunteering to test patterns, bear in mind you are still unlikely to be paid for your time or materials although there are exceptions. These days I’m much more circumspect about who I give my skills, fabric and time to. I wrote a blog on this very subject back in 2019 which I reread recently, and I’d quite forgotten that there were a number of very interesting comments from readers at the end too.
Since the start of SewOver50 we now have other ways of communicating our thoughts and opinions with others, for example with the podcast Sew Organised Style that Maria @velosews has been producing for several years now. You can jump over there to listen by following this link. She covers a wide range of topics and is always happy to hear from us so if you have a project, a challenge or maybe an event which you think others will want to hear about then get in touch with her.
In a recent development, Byrd @yogabyrdsews and Molly @MikeandMollyshouse have now started a regular Instagram Live #So50Live where they chat together about their own sewing goings-on and they often welcome guests for a natter too. They are both based in the US so each Live event takes place at differing times to allow for global time zones, in other words sometimes favouring European time zones or sometimes better for Australasia. When the Live event is taking place you can join in by sending questions or comments for them although this isn’t possible if you are watching it later on and not live. You can always watch at a later time by following the posts saved on the SewOver50 grid.
Sewing magazines often feature items by or about older sewers, reader pattern reviews are a regular in many and Judith and Sandy have contributed to several UK-based publications but we’d still really like to see more older professional models on the covers and in other articles though. We should try to do all we can to dispel the ‘old lady sewing’ image that still persists.
For me and many others, the greatest part of SewOver50 has been the feeling of connections and community which it has fostered, we share inspiration and encouragement. Many of us have formed new friendships, often locally and sometimes all over the world, we find so much enjoyment in being able to meet up and talk about sewing and fabric regardless of anyone’s age. Don’t wait for someone else to set up a sewing sewcial or a meet-up, if there isn’t one happening where you live have a go at doing it yourself. If you have a fabric or craft shop locally would they be willing to host you, it could be mutually beneficial, or are there textile districts in the town you live in? Textile and craft fairs are another great way to meet and chat with others I’ve always found. Or why not go to a gallery or museum exhibition together, I find chat flows very easily when you’re sharing the experience with others in this way.
Participating in sewing ‘challenges’ can be another very inclusive and fun activity, SewOver50 always do a fantastic round-up of the current ones on the grid, watch out for them on Stories or saved in Highlights There’s never any pressure to participate but there’s bound to be something which will pique your interest, focus your wandering mind, or just help use up some of that stash!
There is much to celebrate in the difference that being part of SewOver50 has made to many of us, no matter what our actual age. We’ve become an account that is worth aspiring to be a part of because of the positive ageing message that we present. No one shies away from the tough stuff though, many of us will be ’sandwiched’ between caring for ageing parents or looking after grandchildren, we have health issues, financial worries, the global situation is extremely concerning but if you can spend a little valuable me-time sewing or crafting and know that, if you share a photo of the outcome (and even the failures!) with the hashtag #SewOver50 then somewhere in the world members of this community will appreciate what you might have had to overcome to get to that point!
Join in the conversations, keep raising our collective profile, we’re probably the ‘youngest’ older generation there has been so far. What I mean by that is that many of our mothers or grandmothers were ‘destined to be middle-aged’ by the time they reached their teens, in their clothing, their hairstyles, their aspirations and outlook on life simply because that was how it was then. On the whole we now have more options and opportunities than ever before and are able to embrace life in a way they couldn’t, if we can continue to combat age-prejudice from our little corner of the internet then wouldn’t it better for everyone in the long run?
Until next time, happy sewing
11 thoughts on “We love SewOver50 but how much has changed?”
I agree with all the sentiments you raised. I’ve had a break from sewing after moving house and going to art college, but I recently returned and joined a lovely local group that meets fortnightly for sewing socially. I’ve just completed a TATB Lyra dress in tartan brushed cotton. I absolutely love it but it took a lot of heart searching befire I bought the pattern, as it seems she still refuses to accept us as a valuable part of the sewing community. Diversity is celebrated in size and ethnicity but not, it seems, in age. Such a shame as her patterns really do appeal to us and are well drafted.
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It’s very dispiriting to still not see ourselves acknowledged by some of our favourite pattern brands isn’t it. I’ve tested a couple of times for TATB so my skills and experience are still of use, but not my grizzled countenance, or bent and twisted body….😔
Do you know what would be amazing….if SewOver50 could get an interview with her and ask her just why she continues to be so ageist. I’d love to know her justification for it!
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I know what you mean, she’s a very nice young woman (mid thirties!) I’ve met her several times, but she’s chosen the youthful image to portray her market even though many many older women use her patterns and advertise that fact! 🤷🏼♀️ we’ve never sought to ‘pick on’ individual companies though in spite of how we might wish to point the finger at a few! The best we can do is not name or tag the offending pattern companies in our posts, publicity we will not give!
Great post, I was nodding along as I read it. I can’t remember when I last bought a modern/current pattern, so the continuing lack of representation has rather passed me by.
What I can say however is that the vintage dressmaking community on IG does seem to tend towards the young (thank you, algorithm!), so SewOver50 and the So50Vintage hashtag have been wonderful for helping me connect with like-minded souls.
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That’s good to hear because we see you!
Thank you Sue and thank you SewOver50. The paradox you mention about raised visibility or our blindness to its change is very interesting. It’s been exciting to see the broader range of sizes developed in the last 5 years and this is certainly progress but we still have far to go. Larger models are used but only if they have a conventional hourglass figure, body types that Cashmerette and Muna and Broad cater for are not considered generally by those companies that have expanded their sizes. Onwards and upwards
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thanks Corrie, this is a story that will, regrettably, run and run xx
Great post. I am lucky to have a local sewing shop in my town and I meet up once a week with a group of likeminded ladies who are all of a certain age. I always come away feeling much more relaxed after talking about sewing plans and the stresses of looking after elderly parents along with other chat. Sewover50 is such a great community and a wonderful way of getting to know sewists from across the world.
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Thank you Jenny, that’s really good to hear 😊
Thank you for this post Sue, it really got me thinking again about ageism and exclusion. I wonder if one of the barriers to us being more vocal is we don’t know how to do it constructively. It’s uncomfortable when negativity takes over a thread on instagram because, as you say, it’s generally a safe, supportive place. I suspect people don’t want to be divisive and fear a backlash? How do we empower each other to safely and constructively speak up and keep this issue front of mind? I wonder if we can we come up with a constructive, encouraging hashtag that we could add when pattern / fabric companies post yet another post that doesn’t feature anyone over 30. Say something like #seeover50 or #morediversityplease – just a thought. Thanks again. @o2bbelladonna
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