Sentimental Sewing: Do You Do It?

Do you practice sentimental sewing? Asked on the McCall Pattern Company blog

Do you practice sentimental sewing? This is when you sew something that is either impractical or not really you, just because making this thing evokes strong memories. Every year I make at least one cotton, old-school nightgown, sometimes two. I rarely wear them after I’ve finished sewing them, because I prefer my knit jersey tops and pajama pants. But my mother always had beautiful cotton nightgowns, so I guess I keep making them as a tribute to her and as a way to keep memories of her close. (That’s my latest nightgown make above, Butterick B5792, and I just picked up B6152, a nightgown and robe set that looks like something my mom would have loved.)

My mom also rocked a summer caftan like no one else. I used to make caftans for her when I was just learning to sew, and she’d gush and proudly wear them, no matter how ratty they looked on the inside. (Mom was always so delighted with everything I sewed—a dream client.) So when I’m feeling nostalgic I search for vintage caftan patterns on Etsy, buy them, and end up making at least one caftan a year. And I’m not even the caftan type!

See, sentimental sewing gets me every time, especially around the holidays. What about you? Are there things you sew just for the memories? Leave a comment here and let us know about what you make.

Hey, there’s still time to enter our giveaway for a brand-new Singer sewing machine! Click here to enter, and good luck!


We’ve been sewing since 1863.

  1. What a beautiful idea. Instead of just dreaming about those things I’ll never wear , sew them up. I collect dolls and have a large (one McCalls cabinet full) collection of new and vintage doll patterns. Many of my patterns were my mom’s or my grandma’s and sometimes when I open the envelope of one of their patterns, there will be a cut out doll dress still pinned to the pattern. I enjoy finishing those up. Thank you for this article.

  2. Love the robe and nightgown set(B6152)! but I too wear knit tops and pants to sleep in.

  3. I have been doing sentimental sewing of a different sort. My Mother died two years ago. While going through her closet, I selected a few of her favorite things: two jackets, a trench coat, and two blouses, which I have been refashioning into clothes for me. I made her boucle jacket into a Chanel style with V7975, another into a bolero style, and I’ll remake the trench coat with V8884. I think about her the entire time I am making something of hers into my own, and wearing it is a bit like a hug.

    1. Oh my. What a wonderful thing to do! Sewing really is a heritage activity, in so many ways.

  4. This is really lovely. I guess I’m a little sentimental when I quilt because my grandmother who taught me to sew was a quilter. She also made me clothes when I was a small child, so I expect that will be a sentimental project once I have a reason to make kids clothes.

  5. This is so nice but it made me cry a little. I love to sew for my Mom because she genuinely appreciates it and wears everything I make her with pride.
    My grandma used to wear nightgowns and house dresses like this all the time – so now you’ve made me want to sew some too! I get nostalgic for my Grandma every time I sit down at the sewing machine. I still have some of her sewing tools, books and thread that I use all the time and it makes me feel like she is sitting next to me when I use them. Thanks for this post!

  6. I’ll admit to quite a bit of sentimental pattern-buying. Sometimes I see patterns I sewed in the 70s and 80s, and just have to add them to my collection. Even though I know I’ll never make another version of the Betsey Johnson jumper I made as a teen (from a 70s Butterick Young Designer pattern), I am hoping to sew up some of the McCall’s patterns by Halston that I made for work clothes in the 80s. They’re timeless! Every now and then I see one of the “Learn to Sew” patterns I made as a preteen, and that really takes me back. I think a lot of people have sentimental feelings about patterns, don’t you?

  7. I do sentimental sewing for sure. But it is hand sewing. Every time I pick up an embroidery project I think of how my skill must honor my teacher from childhood. She was a Carmelite nun who expected nothing but the best effort on the best fabrics and all that from an eleven year old girl. And she was kind. Each day as she inspected my work and that of my school mates it was with a stern eye but a kind word of critique. We all so wanted to please her. She taught me that each tiny stitch had to be done, ripped out and re done if not up to her standards. I reveled in her tutelage. She treated me and all with utmost kindness and high expectations. So with each stitch I try to do her honor to this day.

  8. Would love to find a vintage caftan or muumuu pattern, and a vintage “hippie” blouse pattern. I keep looking…

    1. Try Butterick 4684 for a hiipie blouse. You will find one in Kwik Sew too, along w a maxi from that era. Have fun sewing and post us a picture when you have finished.

  9. After my Mum passed away and I inherited her small sewing stash (of my sibling I sew the most), I have tried to use either her thread (for basting mostly, because it’s old and wouldn’t stand up to much wear) or some of her large collection of buttons (which I still keep in the Kool Mints tin she kept them in) on most of what I sew.
    Of her clothes, most went to a women’s refuge, but I kept one dress (Dad said he didn’t need a wardrobe full of ladies’ underwear). It was a 1960s thai silk dress, shot orange and plum; I’ve never since come across that combination of colours in shot silk! I used it to embroider and make Challah cloths for each of my siblings and mum’s brother, and we use ours every week.

  10. I remember going to B&J Fabrics in NYC with my mother some years ago. I purchased some blue and white striped seersucker fabric from which I made a pair of capri summer pants. I will never discard those pants even if they get to the point where I cannot wear them anymore. That fabric buying trip was the last I made with my mother as she has since passed away. I am grateful to her for passing on the love of sewing to me. I miss her.

  11. It seems like fabric or garments from loved ones who’ve passed is a favorite way to indulge in sentimental sewing. My mother has taken torn old quilts she hand-sewed for us as kids and turned them into pillows. I got one as a gift last year. I love it!

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