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Women in Tech

The Art of Sewing's Hi-Tech Revival

By Vivian Wagner
Jul 14, 2020 4:00 AM PT
sewing industry is providing PPE during pandemic

During the pandemic, increasing numbers of people have pulled out their sewing machines and knitting needles and gotten to work.

"Since the stay-at-home orders were issued and people were stuck at home, many who had sewn before pulled out their machines and started sewing again," Blaine Austin, CEO of SewingMachinesPlus.com, told the E-Commerce Times.

"At the same time, the CDC announced that everyone should be wearing masks. Since there was a shortage in N95 masks, they asked people to make their own, [and] this caused a massive rush on sewing machines nationwide," he added.

There has been a massive resurgence in sewing and crafts, as makers around the world -- including groups like DesignLabGive (pictured above) and NJ Masks -- have been sewing masks and creating other much-needed items for themselves and others.

Health and Wellness Benefits

"We've seen an influx of inquiries to our customer service and website about sewing questions for many people who are getting back into sewing to help with the PPE shortage," Junichi Horie, vice president of Brother International Corporation's home appliance division, told the E-Commerce Times.

"Our network of Brother Dealers also experienced a big uptick in new purchase inquiries and service and repair for existing machines. Some individuals who were negatively impacted with furloughs have also started to look for ways to support themselves," Jorie continued. "The maker community is getting larger, with many people using their sewing and crafting hobbies to start a small business." The practical need to make masks has been supplemented by the psychological benefits of making things during a stressful time.

"Studies have shown that yarn crafts in particular also have numerous health and wellness benefits," Jenny Bessonette, executive director of the Craft Yarn Council, explained to the E-Commerce Times.

"Through a survey that now has over 3,500 responses, we've found that 63 percent of respondents said current events are causing them stress. Eighty-five percent of the respondents said they're currently creating with yarn to relieve stress. Ninety-four percent also said that knitting, crochet and other fiber crafts help them slow down from their daily routine and the things that are stressing them out," she added.

Digital Resources and Communities

The Internet has done much to facilitate the recent growth of interest in home crafting -- with digital forums serving as a way for crafters to connect with each other, buy supplies, and sell their wares.

"The Internet offers anyone wanting to learn a new sewing or crafting technique instant access to videos, tutorials, and online classes," Angela Wolf, ambassador for Brother International Corporation, told the E-Commerce Times. "Even more importantly, people are gathering in online communities, connecting, sharing their projects, and making friends."

Information about sewing and crafts is readily available on the Internet, making it relatively easy to learn new skills and find supplies with which to work.

"The Internet makes information available like never before," said Austin. "With so many classes and DYI videos [available] online people can be more creative than ever and get help with just a click of the mouse. They are also able to see all the different type of equipment and related accessories that are available, [as opposed to being] limited to what the local retail store might have had in stock."

The Internet also offers a sense of community and connection via social media for crafters who might otherwise be stuck at home.

"Many people are engaging with each other on social media to talk about news related to the pandemic and to talk about what they're doing with their time," explained Bessonette. "We've found in our Stitch Away Stress survey this year that over half of knitters and crocheters are connecting to fellow crafters through social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. They're also overwhelmingly using online and social media platforms to stay plugged into the yarn community to find inspiration and ideas for projects."

Business Opportunities

The Internet also offers a variety of possibilities for crafters to make some money -- which can be particularly important during this time of widespread layoffs.

"What was once primarily a hobby for yourself or gifts has evolved into a maker movement that is helping individuals to become entrepreneurs and business owners," said Horie. "From women to men of all ages, sewing, crafting and even quilting are inclusive. Whether you are doing it just because you love it and share it with your family, or are turning embroidery into a small business, the communities are so supportive and strong, especially on social media."

For clothing designers and makers, in particular, digital forums allow customers to find and purchase their wares, creating an ever-growing market for independent fashion creators.

"I believe consumers love more than ever unique designs," Javier Bello, marketing expert for Ueni, told the E-Commerce Times. "Of course, consumers will continue buying big brands. However, exclusivity and innovation are two key aspects that are deeply attached to independent fashion designers."

Not Your Grandma's Sewing Machine

Because of new technologies and products, crafting and sewing in the 21st century offer unique opportunities for expanding one's creative reach.

"Currently, some of the new machines out in the marketplace are far more advanced than any time in history," said SewingMachinesPlus.com's Austin.

"We have sewing machines that not only sew; they also quilt and embroidery. They actually scan, digitize and resize designs right in the machine. There is WiFi and Bluetooth built right into some machines. This makes it easy to download and save designs right to the cloud and your home PC without the use of cables or USB sticks. There's also a growth in trends like repurposing old clothing," Austin explained.

Repurposing old clothing and other fabrics has also become a significant trend that's likely to continue gaining traction in the future.

"A lot of people, instead of throwing out old clothes or giving them away, are using them to create all kinds of things they can wear or use," explained Austin. "The future of sewing is unlimited. With so many advancements each year, it's opening up endless possibilities to the home sewist."

These sewing and crafting trends are likely to continue throughout the pandemic and beyond.

"Sewing masks for medical and fashion purposes will be forefront for the next few months," said Brother International's Wolf. "Zero waste, sustainable fashion, and repurposing have been trends for some time, and I see that only gaining momentum with this new creative boom.

"With a low-cost entry point, sewing and crafting can be used for a purpose or self-expression. Adding a slogan to a T-shirt, customizing home decor with embroidery, designing a face mask to coordinate with your next outfit, altering garments to fit, or simply creating a custom card for a friend. The creative possibilities are endless."


Vivian Wagner has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. Her main areas of focus are technology, business, CRM, e-commerce, privacy, security, arts, culture and diversity. She has extensive experience reporting on business and technology for a variety of outlets, including The Atlantic, The Establishment and O, The Oprah Magazine. She holds a PhD in English with a specialty in modern American literature and culture. She received a first-place feature reporting award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and is the author of Women in Tech: 20 Trailblazers Share Their Journeys, published by ECT News Network in May 2020. Email Vivian.


Women in Tech
How important is the availability of curbside service when you consider a physical store to do your shopping?
Critically Important - I will not shop at an establishment that does not provide curbside service.
Quite Important - During the pandemic I prefer not to go inside a physical location. Still, I will consider a business that does not offer curbside service.
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Not Important - I do not use curbside pickup. When I go out to shop I want to select everything myself.