Sewing used to be considered a survival skill. Girls were taught to sew at an early age, along with their lessons in cooking and housecleaning. All but the wealthiest would be expected to make all their families' clothes once they were married. Those wealthy few who could hire tailors and seamstresses were still expected to do some fancy needlework in their leisure time.
Even after ready-made clothing became widely available late in the nineteenth century, a lot of women continued to sew some or all of their families' clothes in order to save money. This was especially true during the 1930s, when so many people were out of work. Clothing was often made out of feed sacks, and the unfrayed parts of worn-out clothes were remade to fit a smaller member of the family.
In the mid-1940s, as more women entered the work force, they began to think of their time as having value. The cost of a pattern and fabric might be less than the cost of a similar garment readymade, but what about the time it would take to construct it? When this cost was figured in, many women gave up sewing. The next generation, having not learned to sew from their mothers, rejected all but the most basic mending as not worth their time.
As fewer women were sewing, the cost of fabric and patterns went up. When clothing is mass-produced, often in offshore factories where labor is cheaper, the cost of the finished product is often less than the retail cost of the materials to make it. Occasionally, there are fabric or pattern sales, but it's generally questionable whether home sewing saves any money, even if you don't count your labor.
So why would anyone want to learn to sew at all? One answer is to get exactly the clothes you want, not what the manufacturers think we all should be wearing. Another is to get clothing that really fits, though that might take some practice. An important side benefit to learning to sew is an increased knowledge of fabric and garment construction, of grain lines and shrinkage, of finished seam allowances and well-made facing. All of these things will make you a better consumer when you shop for readymade clothes.
However, those aren't the primary reasons people sew. They sew because they enjoy it. Hobbies like sewing give you a creative outlet and a sense of accomplishment. Sewing is an enjoyable way to spend some leisure time, and the crafts or clothing you create for yourself or as gifts are the by-products of the hobby, not the reason.
People who love to sew love the look and feel of fabric, the clever way odd-shaped pieces stitch together to form sleeves or plackets or baby toys. They love being able to say, “I made this myself,” or they love keeping quiet and letting people think they bought it at an expensive boutique. How can you know if you'll love to sew unless you give it a try?
Something has brought you to this book. Perhaps you've tried sewing just enough to know you enjoy it, but you need a little more instruction. This book begins with the very basics of sewing. The instructions are designed to alert you to possible pitfalls, and they offer lots of choices, so the projects are truly your own. This book will take you through progressively more advanced projects until you have enough knowledge and, more importantly, confidence, to tackle anything you want to sew.