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073: The Point of the Needle, Why Sewing Matters

with special guest Barbara Burman

In this post, we're embarking on a fascinating journey through the history of sewing. This craft is more than just a hobby; it's a vital part of our cultural heritage. And there's no one better to guide us through this exploration than Barbara Burman, author of "The Point of the Needle, Why Sewing Matters."

Stitch in Time: Understanding the Role of Sewing in Our Lives

Have you ever considered the broader significance of your sewing practice? Sewing connects us to a long line of artisans and crafters. It's a skill that has been passed down through generations, serving both practical and artistic purposes.

In my recent podcast episode, I had the privilege of speaking with Barbara Burman, a historian who has dedicated her work to uncovering the rich story of sewing. Her insights reveal the depth and importance of this craft in our lives and in society.

Sewing Stories: A Rich Historical Fabric

Author Barbara Burman
Author Barbara Burman

Barbara's journey into the history of sewing is both fascinating and enlightening. Growing up in an environment where making things was a part of everyday life, she developed a deep appreciation for the craft.

Her book, "The Point of the Needle," goes beyond just presenting historical facts; it celebrates the personal stories and experiences that have shaped the world of sewing.

From the simple needle to elaborate historical garments, every piece of sewn fabric has a story to tell. Barbara's research uncovers how sewing has been a constant presence throughout history, often overlooked but always essential. It's a narrative of resilience, creativity, and the enduring nature of this craft.

In our conversation, Barbara shared how sewing has been a cornerstone in the lives of many, particularly women. For centuries, sewing was not just a craft but a necessity, a skill that clothed families and expressed creativity under constraints.

Yet, despite its significance, sewing has often been undervalued, seen as mere women's work. Barbara's book challenges this perception, highlighting the skill, artistry, and importance of sewing throughout history.

The Fabric of Society: Sewing as a Social Chronicle

Women from the Army, Navy & Air Force in woollen uniforms
Army, Navy & Air Force Women in woollen uniforms

One of the most captivating aspects of Barbara's work is how she weaves the social and cultural significance of sewing into our understanding of history.

Sewing isn't just about the garments produced; it's about the stories they tell and the lives they represent.

During our chat, Barbara recounted tales from different eras, showing how sewing has been a mirror to society's changes, challenges, and triumphs.

For instance, during wartime, sewing took on a role of patriotic duty, with women stitching uniforms and mending for soldiers. In other times, it was a form of quiet rebellion, a way for individuals to express themselves in societies that often sought to silence them.

These stories aren't just historical anecdotes; they're reminders of the power and resilience inherent in the act of sewing.

Sewing Today: Reconnecting with Our Roots

In today's fast-paced, consumer-driven world, sewing offers a unique connection to a simpler, more grounded way of life. It's not just about creating something beautiful or functional; it's about reconnecting with a part of our heritage that is often lost in modern times.

Barbara's insights encourage us to look at our sewing projects not just as tasks or hobbies, but as links to a rich historical tapestry.

For many of us, sewing is a solitary activity, but it doesn't have to be. Through sharing our sewing stories and experiences, we create a vibrant community. This community is not bound by geography or time; it's a space where we can share, learn, and grow together.

It's where the wisdom of the past meets the creativity of the present, creating something truly timeless.

The Thread of Community: Sewing Together

Sewing community group working on crafts
Creating community

While sewing can often be a solitary endeavor, it's important to remember the community aspect it fosters. In our discussion, Barbara highlighted how sewing circles, quilting bees, and even modern online sewing forums are not just about the craft, but about the connections they create.

These gatherings – whether in person or virtual – are spaces where stories, skills, and support are shared. They remind us that every stitch we make is part of a larger, communal fabric.

In these communities, we find not just tips and techniques, but also encouragement and understanding. They are havens where our passion for sewing is not just understood but celebrated.

As you sit at your sewing machine or hand-stitch a hem, remember that you are part of a global community of sewists, each with their own unique story and contribution to the craft.

Preserving and Passing On: The Legacy of Sewing

One of the most beautiful aspects of sewing, as Barbara eloquently shared, is its ability to transcend time.

Sewing class
Sharing sewing knowledge

Sewing is a skill that we learn and pass on, a legacy of creativity and resourcefulness. In every garment we create, there's an opportunity to embed a piece of history, a lesson learned, or a personal memory.

This legacy is especially poignant when we consider how sewing has been a part of key moments in history. From the intricate stitches of a medieval tapestry to the practical seams of wartime garments, sewing has always been there, quietly shaping our world.

By continuing to sew, we not only keep this legacy alive but also add our own chapter to the story.

The Fabric of the Future: Sewing in Modern Times

As we look to the future, sewing holds a special place in our evolving world. In an age where fast fashion and disposable culture are prevalent, sewing emerges as a sustainable, mindful alternative.

It's a way to slow down, to appreciate the materials and the process, and to make choices that are kinder to our planet.

Barbara's insights remind us that sewing is not just a nod to the past but a step towards a more sustainable and thoughtful future. Each time we choose to sew, we make a statement about the kind of world we want to live in – one that values skill, care, and sustainability.

Your Invitation to a Sewing Journey

If you'd like to learn more about the stories shared by Barbara Burman in our podcast then click the button below to listen to our chat.

And if you're eager to delve deeper, her book, "The Point of the Needle, Why Sewing Matters," is a treasure waiting to be discovered.

Remember, your sewing is more than just a hobby; it's a connection to a rich history, a vibrant community, and a sustainable future.

Whether you're a seasoned sewist or just starting out, your stitches are an important part of this beautiful, ever-growing tapestry.

If you'd like to listen to my full chat on this topic with Barbara, click the button below or look for Sew Mindful on your favourite podcast app:

In this episode you'll hear:

  • [00:00:57] Introducing Barbara Burman

  • [00:03:10] Exploring the Themes of 'The Point of the Needle'

    • [00:04:08] The Significance of Sewing Tools and Materials

    • [00:05:47] The Impact of Sewing on Society and Industry

    • [00:06:35] Radical Sewing and Gender Expression

    • [00:07:22] The Art and Importance of Mending

  • [00:08:24] The Social and Historical Context of Sewing

  • [00:12:22] The Emotional Connection to Sewing

  • [00:15:55] The Value of Sewing Tools

  • [00:23:23] The Power of Sewing in Creating Memories

  • [00:26:48] Impactful Sewing Stories

  • [00:28:26] Importance of Learning by Doing

  • [00:34:32] The Role of Sewing in Modern Society and Education

If you do read the book then please do get in touch and let me know what you think. And if you would like more help with any of the aspects mentioned in this article or this podcast episode then I would love to hear from you so do please email me at Thanks for taking the time to read this article and I hope you find some useful tips that you can apply.

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Thank you so much for listening and for all your support. x

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