I’ve been called a lot of things in my time, but the one thing I don’t want to be called is a “sewist.” My awareness of that term arrived recently at my desk in an e-mail newsletter. There it was in a headline emblazoned across the screen: The Sewist’s Wish List.
My first thought was that the writer had had too many cups of eggnog at the office Christmas party, resulting in a hideous, though humorous, typographical error that somehow had eluded the writer’s editor. Then, to my amazement, I realized that the writer of the newsletter believes that “sewist” is actually a word. Why that should be, I had no idea.
Oh, goody, I thought, I’ll chase this down and learn what I can about it.
The first thing I did was reach for Webster’s New World College Dictionary. To my relief, “sewist” was not listed there.
My next stop was, of course, the Internet. When I searched for “sewist” I had 190,000 sites to choose from, all within a nanosecond, sites that might contain more information about “sewist,” its history and usage.
The first site I tried told me that a sewing machine manufacturer has dubbed one of its models the “sewist.” I’ll definitely not want to buy that one.
I also found several blogs in which the writers refer to themselves as “sewists” to describe what they do at a sewing machine or with needle and thread.
Apparently, and I am inferring this from what I read on the Internet, “sewist” was made up as a politically correct word to refer to someone who sews, who isn’t female. However, the last I knew there was a perfectly good word still in use to describe a man who sews — and that word is tailor. Women can be referred to as tailors, too, making the word nicely gender-neutral, although the connotation of the word generally refers to someone expert in making custom-fitted garments such as suits and jackets.
The Word Spy Web site, subtitled The Word Lover’s Guide to New Words, at http://www.wordspy.com/words/sewist.asp offered three citations as examples of how, when and where “sewist” was used. The first was March 12, 2000, in the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram when the word was quoted in a statement made by a woman who was talking about sewing. The second instance was April 26, 1998, in the Chattanooga Free Press, when the word was quoted in a statement made by a man who sews.
But the most interesting to me was the third citation stating that “sewist” appeared Jan. 1, 1964, in the Annals of Science, Volume 18, British Society for the History of Science. The writer of the article said that “sewist” was equivalent to calling someone who is an expert on seashells a “shellist.” Clearly, whoever wrote that comment for the Annals of Science wasn’t about to get on the “sewist” bandwagon.
And neither will I.
So call me seamstress, call me tailor, call me stitcher, call me needleworker, but please don’t call me “sewist.”
The Atrium Art Gallery of the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston-Auburn College will hold the Maine Craft Association’s fourth biennial juried members exhibition, “The Inspired Hand IV,” Jan. 19-March 26. The opening reception is set for 6-8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22, at the gallery at 51 Westminster St. in Lewiston.
Artists taking part in the exhibition are Marian Baker, Mark Johnson, Kathy Angel Lee, Christina Heiniger, Peggy Johnson, Susan Mills, Paul Heroux, Ron King, Brian Reid, Sara Hotchkiss, David Klenk, Meryl Ruth, Hillary Hutton, Yvonne Lamoureaux and Sarah Shepley.
Gallery hours are 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Friday; and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday; closed holidays.
Lynne Thompson’s Sea Glass as Wearable Art workshop will be held at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 20, at Spectrum Generations Coastal Community Center in Damariscotta. Learn how to make one-of-a-kind gifts. Using sea glass and wire, Thompson will show participants how to design and craft a pendant or sea glass earrings. Use the materials that Thompson will provide or use pieces of sea glass you have collected. Bring a pair of needle-nose pliers, if you have them. The class fee is $10 plus a materials fee of $10. Register in advance by calling 563-1363. The class is limited to 10 participants.
Living Water Spiritual Center in Winslow will offer Mindful Knitting: Inviting Contemplative Practice to Knitting 2-4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24, at the center, 93 Halifax St. in Winslow. Susan Sargent and Sherri Vigue will conduct the workshop. Participants will work at their own pace on a garter-stitch scarf. The class is open to all knitters and aspiring knitters. Register and pay a fee of $10 by Friday, Jan. 15. For more information, call 872-2370 or visit www.retreatmaine.com.
The Unity Community Center will hold Community Market 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16, at the center. A feature of the market will be a quilters workshop and demonstration 10 a.m.-noon. Attendees are invited to bring their projects for expert advice and to bring cloth to exchange. For more information, call 948-5912.