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Dave made me a dress! And some thoughts on gender divisions in the crafty world

Dave made me a dress!

Dave made me a dress!

Dave made me a dress!

Dave made me a dress!

I’m abandoning chronology in my outfit posts for the moment because I just can’t wait to show you this dress that Dave made me! He made it out of an old duvet cover that we’ve kept for years for making some clothing out of. And now it has finally happened! The whole thing cost £4, for the zip and the thread.

The pattern is the Danielle off burdastyle, adapted to fit my surprisingly pear-shaped body. Apparently I am three sizes bigger in my hips/upper thighs than the rest of me*! Dave ended up cutting the top as a size 40, and the bottom as a 44, and then took it in loads around the waistband and at the back. And now it fits perfectly! Which really just goes to show what a difference it makes to have stuff fitted to your actual body as opposed to off the peg sizes.

dress – Dave-made
shoes – charity shop
necklace – gift from my mum for my high school graduation


I wore this to work on Friday and lots and lots or people complimented me on it. And were incredulous that it was made by Dave. People were saying thing like ‘He sews? But he’s a man!’. I’m so used to him being creative and crafty, and sewing for me is just another craft, that I don’t even think about it any more, I knit and Dave sews and that’s just what we do. But I suppose it is very unusual for guys to sew as a hobby.

This started me thinking about gender divisions in the crafty world. I suppose as a general rule, crafting is quite a female-dominated hobby. When you look at craft blogs and message boards and crafty meets, it’s pretty much just women who get involved. It would be interesting to have a gender breakdown of etsy sellers, my guess would be it’s about 90% women.

But it’s not as if all crafts are so female-dominated. The internet forums for model-making ships and planes, which Dave is also into, are populated almost exclusively by men, and working with wood or heavy metals I would imagine to be quite a man-heavy hobby too. And there are things like leather work or pottery which have a pretty balanced gender mix.

I just wonder why this is, why are some crafts ‘female’ and some ‘male’? Maybe it’s to do with a lot of female dominated things like knitting, crochet or sewing being things that would traditionally have been part of the domestic/home making work that women would do? Whereas working with wood or leather or metal would be an occupation/trade that men would do and would get paid money for doing. And modelling, that really is just a hobby, there’s no practical application at all, and it’s quite a recent development.

Or maybe it’s something to do with the things that the crafty activity produces. Knitting, crochet, silversmith/jewellery making and sewing tend to produce clothes and accessories, predominantly for women, or cute pretty toys and trinkets, things are meant to be stuff that women like and that men are supposed to think are silly. People do tend to find it easier to get their head round the fact that Dave sews his bags, than that he makes me dresses and skirts.

What do you think? What do the men in your life think about crafty stuff? Does anyone have a male friend, partner or relative who is into crafting?

The other question is of course, does it matter that some crafts are male dominated and some female? But that’s a question for another post!

* I do think there is something quite strange going on with burda style sizing, I know I have big hips, but not 46-48 size big! I think this is a general thing with burdastyle patterns, that they tend to be quite generous at the top and comparatively small at the bottom? Or am I making this up?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Biba 5 July 2010, 3:21 pm

    This is an amazing dress! I would be deliriously happy if my husband could sew; unfortunately, he can't. He's not a very crafty person anyway (but he's got lots of other qualities, of course). I think it's lovely if men are crafty, you get creativity from two points of view!

  • Anna 5 July 2010, 3:28 pm

    What a beautiful dress! And it fits you perfectly! I think it's great when men are interested in crafting. When I was young my dad crocheted me a purse and it is still one of my most prized possessions.

  • ilovemyhouse 5 July 2010, 3:48 pm

    ilove your dress. The fabric is just right. I think everybody should do what they like be it male or female. XX

  • April 5 July 2010, 4:01 pm

    great dress!

    one of my friends tells me that my love of sewing is one of the aspects that makes me very "girly" and most of my guy friends don't do anything craft related, but a lot of them actually want to learn and have asked me to teach them! 😀

    to be honest, crafty guys are hot 🙂 lol

  • Rachel 5 July 2010, 4:15 pm

    What I absolutely love about sewing is that you can take all the materials you need, follow the instruction and put the flat pieces together to create a three dimensional functional object. I think this is partly to do with why I’m not a huge fan of knitting, it’s very clever how balls of string can be turned into all manner of things but it doesn’t hit the right buttons for me in terms of visualising and constructing. I’m very technically and less artistically minded and sewing is a way to be creative and use my technical skills at the same time. In some ways, it’s very similar to model making or building flat-packed furniture! If more men could see this aspect and past the stereotypes of women making soft furnishings or whacky fashion designers then they’d probably find they like sewing too.

    When I first bought my sewing machine I spent an entire weekend making a laptop case. It was such hard work and my fingers were so sore afterwards but I was incredibly pleased with myself for managing to figure out the puzzle of how to make what I saw in my mind. Last week I saw almost exactly the same bag in Paperchase for less than £15 which was a little disheartening but I love the satisfaction of knowing that mine is a one off and I made it myself. I dream of making all my own clothes but find the fitting issues frustrating, it’s way more complicated than bag construction because you have to contend with the peculiarities of the human form. I will persevere though because wearing an item of clothing or using a bag created for me by me is really satisfying, just as eating your own cooked-from-scratch bolognese is more satisfying than opening and heating a jar of sauce. In the past couple of generations cooking has moved away from being completely woman focused and, although I doubt we’ll see it to quite the same extent, perhaps there’ll be a shift in this direction for sewing.

    Cute dress by the way. I like the way the pattern is lined up on the centre and used in the waistband. Did Dave make the sleeves as they are in the pattern? I made my version without sleeves because I thought the pattern piece looked really voluminous. It was fine for that one because I made it to wear over jumpers and other tops in Winter but I want a Summer version and don’t particularly like sleeveless things. Yours don't look too puffy at all.

  • Franca 5 July 2010, 4:23 pm

    Wow, Rachel, thanks for the huge comment! really good point about the logical construction! The sleeves are part of the pattern, yes. they are quite puffy, but I have very big arms/biceps so maybe that is why it doesn't look that way. I love puffy sleeves though anyway!

  • La Historiadora de Moda 5 July 2010, 4:35 pm

    First of all, that dress is amazing!

    A few years ago it seemed that everyone (male or female) of a certain age in the US was getting into knitting. I have a ton of guy friends my age or a couple of years younger who can knit. Some of them still do regularly. Yet, I only know a couple of guys who sew. This is really interesting to think about because the fashion industry is still very male-dominated.

  • Rachel 5 July 2010, 4:49 pm

    Oh dear, I'm all in a muddle. First I post a comment twice then the next one vanishes. Whoops, didn't realise how long that was and it appears twice, feel free to delete one.

    I gave up with the burda measurements as the clothes seem to come out way bigger than the measurements anyway so you end up spending ages taking them in. I am normally UK 10-12 on top in shop bought clothing and 12-ish on the bottom. For burda patterns I now make 38-40 for the top and 40-42 for the bottom but measurements are 40 top, 42 waist and just over 44 on the hips/bum.

  • Retro Chick 5 July 2010, 4:55 pm

    My husband is far craftier than me. He does "male" crafts like wood work type stuff, and some stencil painting, but he also does cross stitch.

    I wish I could get him into sewing, I quite fancy having my own seamstress, I'm just too cack handed to do it!

  • Sarah O. 5 July 2010, 6:12 pm

    I love your Danielle pattern dress! I just sewed up my own version last week (with the help of my boy's mom).
    I think that the boy used to think that my knitting, crocheting and sewing were crafts for grandma's, but not that he sees me do these crafts all the time, he thinks they're crafts for grandma's and Sarah.

  • Style Eyes 5 July 2010, 9:32 pm

    Wow that dress looks great and has almost inspired me to dig out my sewing machine. I am pear shaped too and love the perfect fit of homemade clothes.

  • Teenysparkles 5 July 2010, 10:11 pm

    Wah! you are so lucky your Dave sews, and so well. Wish my husband did.

  • Chelsea 6 July 2010, 12:38 am

    Oh, that dress is so fantastic!
    As for gender roles in crafting: Yes, knitting, sewing, embroidery and the like is super female dominated. Though I know a boy who does knit, and very very well I might add. I think there is the great divide because we still give in to those gender stereotypes. Like, my dad is a manly man. He is a welder, carpenter, and avid hunter. He also loves to bake. He makes amazing blackberry pies and jams. It is almost his way of rebelling, I feel.
    And as it is, my boy probably sews better than I do, though it wouldn't be considered his hobby. He learned to sew when he was young so he could make clothes for his GI Joes. At that same time I was making birdhouses. Maybe we are making small strides in gender roles through crafts.

  • B. Zedan 6 July 2010, 6:50 am

    The discussion of gender and craft is an ongoing one in the crafting community. As you noticed, it's tied very closely to the divide between "home" and "business" and it is so totally what is being made that has weight, too (things made for home use being done by ladies and not considered as important).

    Searching for "gender" on Craftzine.com will bring up a handful of interesting profiles and articles about how men were once the traditional professional embroiderers (note the "professional"), or that women are breaking "silicone ceilings" by bringing circuit-bending and electricity into their sewing.

    There are some places, like Dudecraft.com, that try to look at a wide range of crafts and art mediums and a wide range of genders. But there are also online embroidery groups that are fiercely anti-"girl".

    Like nearly every industry, craft is plagued by gender bias, but because it can be so introspective it continually pushes against any bounds.

  • northwest is best 6 July 2010, 9:00 am

    Dave's done some good work transforming your old duvet cover into such a lovely dress! There's definitely still a gender division in crafting, which is disappointing. One of my favourite blogs is Sociological Images (http://contexts.org/socimages) which delves into how and why society perpetuates gender stereotypes etc. It's written by two academics so it tackles some complicated ideas, but it's easier for a non-academic to read than, for example, a textbook.

  • Cat 6 July 2010, 1:05 pm

    Amazing dress!

    The gender divisions in the crafty world have fascinated me for a long time. You're right in that there does seem to be a division, but I was an adult before I really realised that.

    My mum and dad both used to make a lot of their clothes (and ours, if it comes to it!). Mum handknitted, dad had a knitting machine (he's the one that made my grey school jumper with strawberry motif). Mum made her dresses, blouses and skirts, Dad made his trousers and shirts. It was years before I really realised that while a few other people's mums knitted, *no-one* but me had a father that sewed.

    Now that I'm a part of the knitting/spinning/sewing/jewellery-making side of it and rarely stumble across a man, I realise just how gender-divided the crafting world is. Spinning is the one area (with which I'm involved) that seems to have a bit more of a crossover, with men and women both making spindles and spinning in slightly less uneven ratio, IMO, than I seem to see elsewhere.

  • Lorena 6 July 2010, 4:58 pm

    That is such a pretty dress. It fits you so well and I am glad Dave made it out of an old duvet. I love to see old things transformed ! Its like magic 🙂
    In regards to men being crafty I have to say that in my case my husband is much more detail and perfection oriented while crafting, meaning that he is SO MUCH Better ! I have to admit it.

  • Maggie 8 July 2010, 10:24 pm

    I think it's considered unusual for straight guys to sew as a hobby, or any crafting hobby for that matter.

    I really hope for the day when women are seen as equals and these types of hobbies aren't considered "girlie," but just as regular hobbies, and men won't be discouraged from them at all.

  • WendyB 8 July 2010, 10:29 pm

    Wow! What amazing work by your husband. And so thoughtful. I won't hold my breath for my husband to do the same!

  • Amy 10 July 2010, 10:27 am

    I think you look cute! I agree with Maggie: men sewing tends to be a gay man thing – well, apparently. It shouldn't be a girl thing or a boy thing: after all, we all need to wear clothes, right?


  • stylepint 10 July 2010, 2:55 pm

    Great dress and it's so cool that Dave made it for you! I've known a couple of guys who knit scarves and beanies, and a handful who sew and it's not a big deal. Then again, they really love making unique items for themselves and others…kind of like fashion fairies. =)

  • Leia 11 July 2010, 6:10 pm

    What a pretty dress! And about gender divisions… I don't know ANY males who are into crafty stuff 🙁

    Leia's Delights

  • Rochelle 11 July 2011, 9:27 pm

    That is such a pretty dress! Dave did a great job making it! That seems weird to me that people find it odd for him to sew. I guess I think of it as a skill that anyone can learn, even though most of the people I know who sew clothes are females. The funny thing about knitting is that I'm pretty sure it started out as a male only activity.