It’s a family skill

Today we have a guest post by my son, Matthew. He’s always been up for a challenge whether it’s sewing or contributing to my blog.

I’ve always made things, from the earliest age. I remember working on the floor of my mom’s sewing room at age 6 (her bedroom then); I was making “monsters” hand stitched in cloth to fill with beans or pellets. They were simple construction, 2 dimensional and painted as best a 6 year old can, but I had no sewing skills and the thing I remember most was my constant stream of questions for mom’s help.

A few years later at ages 5 and 7, my sister and I demanded machine sewing lessons. Mom had already started her collection of vintage machines so it was convenient to set the two of us with our own equipment and some simple lessons. I made a few things, generally functional: a water bottle carrier made from old jeans denim and a full, pants & shirt jump-suit for Halloween comes to mind. My first career in sewing ended when I eventually ran over my finger with the machine while threading the needle – that set me off for several years.

I never lost the skills, though; which is quite fortunate. As an un-American-ly sized adult I’ve struggled with properly finding clothes. General issues are that my inseam is only 29″, shirts that fit my nearly 17″ neck billow around my 30″ waist, and long sleeves are always 2 to 3 inches too long.  For a long time, only the pants’ length bothered me enough to demand attention; mom taught me the tricks and loaned a machine from the collection when I left after college. A decade of not caring about the other issues passed before I finally got back in the saddle fully and started tailoring my own clothes.

When the levee finally broke, I knocked out shortening the sleeves on 9 shirts & 1 jacket, converted one shirt to short sleeves, and hemmed some pants. I taught myself this time, with a  small phone call to mom, by practicing on an old shirt first. I wear and wash a shirt 2 times to make sure it has shrunk; measure each sleeve and pin while wearing the shirt; use a seam ripper to remove the cuffs, measure again, then cut off the 2.5 to 3″ of extra length. I then re-attach the cuff and. At this point I can’t be bothered to salvage the plackets, so they generally end up pretty short.

20 something sleeves shortened

20 something sleeves shortened


close up.

close up.


I didn't make it too short, my arm is bent.

Right sleeve hemmed up 3 inches. Left sleeve original length still.


Left side shortened; inside hand stitched. right side still original.

Left side shortened; inside hand stitched. right side still original.

Since then I’ve taken in the sides of a pair of workshop shirts, shortened sleeves on a wool coat and a suit jacket, and shortened countless other sleeves; it turns out I have a thing for correct length sleeves and its a luxury I now enjoy.

So, there you have it… keep it in the family, teach your boys how to sew.


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8 Responses to It’s a family skill

  1. nita says:

    Well, I am really impressed! Great work Matthew! It is great to have a talented mom to teach you. She has taught me a few trick too. Keep up the good work!

  2. Burton says:

    I’m so proud of all your work. From early sewing to this high level of customizing to all of your mechanical skills,

  3. Congratulations to Matt – both for doing the work and for doing the blog post! I think this is particularly important now, since everyone is so busy. If you have to wait for someone else’s free time to get clothes altered, it takes much longer than if you can just sit down and do it yourself!

  4. ladyfleur says:

    Nice work! That’s a lot of shirts. I’m a little disappointed,though, that you didn’t have a photo of “Dan, Dan, the mixed up man.”

  5. alison cook says:

    does he hire out?! great workmanship!
    a friend of mine was raised by his father in a family of all boys and his father taught them all to cook and to sew on a sewing machine – good lessons to use throughout life.

  6. Pingback: Old News | playfulstitching

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