Sew Together the Life You Want
By Annabelle Wang | May 12, 2022
Look at a sewing machine and it’s hard to trace the revolution it gave rise to. How could cloth, a needle, and thread mean anything profound? Yet, Amy Reynolds knows the true empowerment that sewing can give. A life-long lover of creating with her own hands, she learned to sew the way she learned to read during her childhood in Maine. “I don’t remember learning how to sew like I don’t remember learning how to read,” she says. “It’s just always been there in my memory.”
For Reynolds, a Montgomery resident for 20 years, “clothes and things in our homes are the physical things in this world that are the closest to us, that we’re touching and in contact with. We should have the most agency over those.” That’s why, 10 years ago, she started teaching sewing classes at JOANN Fabrics in Mercer Mall.
When the pandemic hit, she says she began to notice how few recreational classes were available to adults in her own community. She reached out to the Montgomery Recreation Department to ask if she could teach sewing classes. Now, she leads weekly programs at the Otto Kaufman Center to teach all skill levels. Her classes are broken down into three categories: Introductory classes; Clothing; and Home decorations. The latter two run from 6 to 9 pm once a week for six weeks, with clothing classes on Monday nights and decorating on Thursdays.
For each of her programs, Reynolds acknowledges the wide array of sewing backgrounds she will encounter in her classes. Thus, instead of sticking to a single lesson plan for each day, she draws on her experience at JOANN Fabrics to offer flexibility.
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“I’ve selected a handful of sewing patterns that incorporate different foundational techniques like buttons and buttonholes, hems, adding elastic waistbands, sleeves, collars, and working with different types of fabrics,” she said. Her goal is to let her students explore what interests them the most. “I want people to feel like the project they’re doing is fun and appealing. If the class is rigid, then it’s at odds with my philosophy of helping people be in charge of what they’re doing.”
Reynolds smiled as she reflected on one success story from her classes. “I had one lady [who took] a few classes with me and tended to have negative self-talk, saying she couldn’t do certain skills and didn’t know why she was even trying.” At the end of the class, the student went to try on the dress she made, and when she came back, “she was a completely different person,” Reynolds recalled. Her dress looked wonderful, but even more importantly, the woman never used any negative self-talk again. She wore her handmade dress to an important administrative meeting and began actively looking for challenges, facing new projects with confidence rather than doubt.
Reynolds hopes more people can benefit from sewing. Certain conditions like medical devices and wheelchairs can “make it difficult to wear clothes you enjoy wearing, yet everyone should have the right to clothes they enjoy, not just young people who are size 8.” It is an empowering moment when individuals can make something for themselves, whether it be a mask, a potholder, or a dress. Honoring the characteristics that make each of us unique, sewing lets us celebrate our individuality in an increasingly conformed world.
Learn more about Reynolds’ classes by emailing her: amy@AmysSewingClassroom.com.