Oct 28, 2010

Don't Call Me a Sewist...

I discovered the interesting term "sewist" when reading an article on sewing earlier this year. I heard it again, during a discussion on the Liberated Quilters' board, today. So, after a little research I found the newspaper article that I had previously read and saved in my files.

This delightful article was written by Ardeana Hamlin of the Bangor Daily News..published in January. Adreana writes:

"I’ve been called a lot of things in my time, but the one thing I don’t want to be called is a “sewist.” My awareness of that term arrived recently at my desk in an e-mail newsletter. There it was in a headline emblazoned across the screen: The Sewist’s Wish List.

My first thought was that the writer had had too many cups of eggnog at the office Christmas party, resulting in a hideous, though humorous, typographical error that somehow had eluded the writer’s editor. Then, to my amazement, I realized that the writer of the newsletter believes that “sewist” is actually a word. Why that should be, I had no idea.

Oh, goody, I thought, I’ll chase this down and learn what I can about it.

The first thing I did was reach for Webster’s New World College Dictionary. To my relief, “sewist” was not listed there.

My next stop was, of course, the Internet. When I searched for “sewist” I had 190,000 sites to choose from, all within a nanosecond, sites that might contain more information about “sewist,” its history and usage.

The first site I tried told me that a sewing machine manufacturer has dubbed one of its models the “sewist.” I’ll definitely not want to buy that one.

I also found several blogs in which the writers refer to themselves as “sewists” to describe what they do at a sewing machine or with needle and thread.

Apparently, and I am inferring this from what I read on the Internet, “sewist” was made up as a politically correct word to refer to someone who sews, who isn’t female. However, the last I knew there was a perfectly good word still in use to describe a man who sews — and that word is tailor. Women can be referred to as tailors, too, making the word nicely gender-neutral, although the connotation of the word generally refers to someone expert in making custom-fitted garments such as suits and jackets.

The Word Spy Web site, subtitled The Word Lover’s Guide to New Words, at http://www.wordspy.com/words/sewist.asp offered three citations as examples of how, when and where “sewist” was used. The first was March 12, 2000, in the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram when the word was quoted in a statement made by a woman who was talking about sewing. The second instance was April 26, 1998, in the Chattanooga Free Press, when the word was quoted in a statement made by a man who sews.

But the most interesting to me was the third citation stating that “sewist” appeared Jan. 1, 1964, in the Annals of Science, Volume 18, British Society for the History of Science. The writer of the article said that “sewist” was equivalent to calling someone who is an expert on seashells a “shellist.” Clearly, whoever wrote that comment for the Annals of Science wasn’t about to get on the “sewist” bandwagon.

And neither will I.

So call me seamstress, call me tailor, call me stitcher, call me needleworker, but please don’t call me “sewist.”

Don't call me a 'sewist' - Bangor Daily News by Ardeana Hamlin

And you can call me a seamstress or you can call me a quilter, or you can just call me a quilter who also loves to sew. And I am both sewing and quilting today. I need to really get busy because I joined Finn's New Year's Eve Challenge! . So, why don't you make a list with a goal to finish some projects of your own!

And Julie K. this 'Listen to the Hand' was what I was thinking of when I told you not to throw out DH's old gloves. Add a hanging ring to the back, A piece of elastic around it for to hold a memo pad, or just use sticky notes as I do. You 'don't forget' what needs to be done!


Finn said...

Neat post Michele, still a bit confused about what I just read, but that's ok. I'm confused most of the time, so apparently, all is well.
It's rather like 'katie-did' or didn't, who knows for sure?? Big hugs and just keep sewing, Finn

Paula, the quilter said...

I have never liked to be called a sewer when the word is written because frankly it looks like the unsavory plumbing word, doesn't it? Sewist? The first time I saw it, I was dumbfounded. So just call me a needleworker, a seamstress, a quilter because I can ply a needle with the best of them. I've committed to 2 UFOs for the NYE Challenge.

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

I won't if you won't. Wouldn't think of it!

Quilts and Cats said...

I don't think I like that either! Am I a food-ist because I cook? Or a mop-ist because I clean? I'll stick with quilter and seamstress!

Joyce said...

I think it was coined because of how sewer looks written down. They can call me what they like as long as they leave me time for sewing.

gardenpat said...

Actually, I have 3 of the Sewist variety of sewing machine put out by that awesome machine manufacturer Janome and I've got to tell you that they are absolutely the best hard-working, perfect tensioned machines that I have ever come across (and incredibly inexpensive at that!) They put up with the abuse that my grand-daughters as well as new sewing students of mine can dish out!! As far as the word Sewist- I thnk it may be used across the pond more than here in the States!

Cheri said...

I started the "sewer" topic in that group...what put my heart down the drain was they didn't even comment on my personal post just on the word sewer. Oh well!

Michele Bilyeu said...

Pat....You're kidding! That's amazing. I wondered who the mentioned manufacturer was and now I know. Thanks so very much for sharing that and so glad you love them. And you DO use the word 'sewist' across the pond? Well, now...that puts a whole different accent on it.

And Cheri...and I never commented on the yahoo messages until today, I rushed over to find my saved article on word usage!

I think we're all a bit ADHD when you get right down to it. I can't follow message boards hardly at all, anymore much less keep up with new lingo;)

Wonderful comments to add in, everyone..thank you SO very much!!!!!!

Shelina (formerly known as Shasta) said...

I haven't used the word, but I like it, because sewer can be misinterpreted! It describes anyone who sews - all the other words have connotations of what is sewn - quilts, clothes, etc. This one generically encompasses them. It is concise and efficient. I guess stitcher would work, but sewists seems to do more than just stitching. They actually prepare things to stitch and have maybe finished projects now and then!

Unless you think that the animosity against the word sewist stems from the animosity against the word racist. Maybe a sewist is someone who doesn't like sewing. Then we need another word entirely!

julieQ said...

I did used to be a "sewer", making most of my own clothing. Now, I am just a quilter, and make big messes of little pieces of fabric!! Now my mom...she was a true seamstress...a wonderful one too!! This is a fun post, Michele...and thank you for the glove idea!!!