Sewist, Sewer, Seamstress: Which Do You Like Best?

As someone who sews, what do you want to be called? A seamstress? A sewer? Sewist? Crafter?

I’m partial to seamstress myself, although it does give the impression of sewing for other people or sewing as a profession. (Though, think of the Selfish Seamstress – you get a clear picture as soon as you hear the name, right away!) I feel like seamstress clearly explains our sewing skills to someone who doesn’t sew. Although I don’t ever say ‘Hi, I’m a seamstress.’

The term sewer makes me think of sewers. It’s one of those words that sounds all right out loud, but when I see it typed out, I think sewer like the drain.

I like the smart, retro sound of sewist – it makes me think of modern women like Casey and Gertie who sew with a confident, vintage flair.

I dislike crafter – it makes me think of glitter glue and homemade crafts. I think of novelty craft items that are decorative but less useful, like seasonal Kleenex box covers. It’s the artsy-craftsy side of sewing, the side that I am not on. I don’t want you to be able to tell I made my outfit! I don’t do ‘holiday’ outfits. (Special occasion, yes. Holiday-theme, no.) Crafter sounds like I conjured this blouse (picture me moving my hands in the air and poof – a blouse appears!)

I think I use all three – sewist, sewer, seamstress – in my writing. Sewist and seamstress appear more frequently than sewer just because it looks weird when I type it. ‘Hello, sewers!’ Does it look as weird when you’re reading it, or does your mind correct it to ‘sew-er’ automatically because you’re reading a sewing blog?

Which name do you prefer? And why?

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117 Responses to Sewist, Sewer, Seamstress: Which Do You Like Best?

  1. Sandy October 18, 2011 at 6:25 am #

    I first saw “sewist” on the blogs you mentioned, and I love it. I totally agree on “sewer” and have always hated that. “Seamstress” is not gender-neutral and, in my opinion, sounds old-fashioned. Sewist is modern and implies ownership: we (people who sew) have thrown off old notions (notions, get it?) of who we are, and we have named ourselves. I love that.

    • nananell October 3, 2013 at 3:01 pm #

      New to the read these responses about a proper name to call some one who sews in a non-professional way.
      Give me a headache!!!!! I like many of you had someone to introduce u to sewing. My introduction was my grandmother, who sewed anything and everything. And she insisted that all “her girls” needed to learn these things. That included making hat’s gloves, and most anything you put on your back. It also included crafts of all sorts, cooking and the other things one can do with a hammer! SMASH!! I do not believe there was anything she could not do,A nyway, I will go with sticher. Well sometimes I just tell people “I just make stuff!” PS I started ironing at 4 with a real iron, and I stiil do. And I iron all seams before I sew anything. I think she would roll over in her grave if I didn’t.

    • Atticus December 12, 2013 at 5:01 am #

      A man–I’ve only recently taken up sewing with a seriousness beyond the “crafter” or hobby stage. The word “sewer” does have an unwelcome association as Tasia pointed out. Too bad it can’t be used like the term “weaver” which is gender neutral and tells it all for those who weave. I suppose “sewist” is the self-designation I will end up using, although when my skills improve I will be sorely tempted to tell others that I am an “amateur couturier,” using two French words meaning “one who sews for the love of it.” BTW “couturière” is the feminine equivalent (with the stress at the end of the word, pronounced KOO-TOO-REE-AIR). That certainly lifts it out of the sewer!

  2. sheila October 18, 2011 at 6:30 am #

    Great topic, I have a hard time using the term sewer, sewist – when I pronounce it sounds like so its….lol, and since I varely rarely sew for others, I avoid seamstress. My favorite term is sewing enthusiast.

  3. Louise October 18, 2011 at 6:37 am #

    I don’t like sewist as its sounds like sexist/racist etc it sounds like I have a prejusticism against sewing which is quite the opposite!
    I don’t like sewer for the reasons you gave so I guess that leaves me with seamstress which implies 2 things to me, a professional (which I most definatly am not) or a lady of the night(if you read Terry Prachett you will understand)!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    So I guess I go with one-who-sews-just-for-the-family-and-still-learning-the-ropes…..
    doesn’t roll off the tongue though

    • Laura October 18, 2011 at 7:23 am #

      @Louise: I had exactly the same thought about ‘seamstress’! Definitely not what I want to be calling myself. I quite like ‘sewist’ when I’m talking, but tend to use ‘someone who sews’ when writing :)

  4. Michelle @ If Toys Could Talk October 18, 2011 at 6:52 am #

    I’m with you on “sewer” – whenever I see it in a sentence my mind automatically reads it mean a stinky drain. While I like “sewist”, it still feels a little awkward to me. (It does sound so smart, though. Maybe I need to try it more!) Seamstress is a great term, but I’m with you in that it feels so professional. I’ve been sewing since I was 8 years old, but I still wouldn’t consider myself to be a “professional”. And as for “crafter”, well, that just makes me think of scrap booking and glitter.

  5. Maureen October 18, 2011 at 6:52 am #

    For myself, I prefer the old-fashioned sound of seamstress. It conjures up the craft and the creativity of the activity. I’m not concerned about being sexist. Males-who-sew can call themselves anything they want.

    • Monique May 16, 2012 at 3:24 am #

      I saw so many comments, I didn’t want to bother other than say “I second this!”. Love the old-fashioned air, implying professionalism and expertise, of “seamstress”

  6. Jennifer October 18, 2011 at 6:58 am #

    I’ve actually come across a fair bit of debate on these terms recently. (Some quite heated!) I’ve used “seamstress”, “sewer,” and “sewist” in an attempt to find the one that works best. I favor “seamstress” but do not use it as often because, I agree, it implies a profession (though Wikipedia defines it as an unskilled profession). If I use “sewer,” I tend to say “home” in front of it with the hopes that it removes the horrible plumbing term from one’s mind. I do see “sewist” becoming more popular lately and I can understand its neutral appeal but I’ve not entirely warmed to it. Regardless, though, of what word is used, we know what each other means. :)

    • Sewer October 21, 2011 at 8:54 am #

      @Jennifer: The discussions should be heated. Language is important. It shapes culture.

      As noted below, I won’t use “seamstress.” I’m not crazy about “sewist,” because, as someone else said, it does sound contrived, but at least it’s gender-neutral and doesn’t have the baggage of “seamstress.”

      Anyone who thinks of drains when they read “sewer” has a dirty mind. :-) Seriously, there are lots of words that change their pronunciation and meaning based on the context. I have no problem with “sewer.”

      I also don’t call a sewing a “hobby,” which to me is something you use for something trivial, like collecting matchbooks.. I refer to it as an “interest.” Fortunately, I’m often around a lot of people to whom I need not explain myself.

      I can’t think of any people I know who sew professionally who refer to themselves as “seamstresses.” They call themselves things like “designers,” “design professionals,” “design entrepreneurs,” “providers of custom tailoring/couture/design services,” etc.

  7. woolcat October 18, 2011 at 6:58 am #

    Yes, sewer sounds fine said out loud, but your picture says it all for the written form. It’s a shame, because it’s the gender-neutral term that comes most naturally, but it’s really not usable in written form! I don’t really like sewist although it has the advantage of being gender neutral.

    I like seamstress, with seamster for the guys out there, but then you do have to say both if you want to be inclusive. If you want to make it sound less professional you can always say “home seamstress.” It’s not as professional-sounding as the traditional male version of seamstress which was tailor… but that reflects the way that skills were once given different relative values by their association with one or other gender.

  8. karen October 18, 2011 at 7:00 am #

    This is funny because just the other day my sister was remembering a third grade paper she wrote about how she wanted to by like our mom. She said it was so frustrating because she kept writing that our mom was a sewer. Then she would read it and think of the stinky sewer and not know how else to write it:). I myself prefer sewist.

  9. Laura October 18, 2011 at 7:00 am #

    I sort of like sewer because of how it looks written, but I usually say “I sew” rather than “I’m a sewist” (or seamstress). I like both those terms and feel that seamstress is antiquated enough that it doesn’t really imply profession as much as dressmaker or tailor might. I do also like dressmaker and clothier quite a bit because they are service oriented but also fancy, but not as fancy as couturier. I like to call Gertie the couturier of the sewing blogosphere…

  10. Lauren October 18, 2011 at 7:00 am #

    i prefer seamstress, just because it sounds so lovely.

    one i really REALLY hate is when people call me a ~fashion designer~ – i’m not really sure why it bothers me as much as it does, but it really bothers me a lot! i guess because it puts so much emphasis on the actual “design” of the garment, rather than the interior workings & construction – which is what i’m most interested in. it also implies that i make designs for other people, rather than myself. not to mention most designers i know these days can barely sew a stitch, much less an entire garment. that’s the seamstresses’ job ;)

  11. Janell October 18, 2011 at 7:09 am #

    I’m a sewing snob. I prefer to reserve the word “seamstress” for women of outstanding, incredible sewing skill. (I fall very short of this.) The word does have the unfortunate lack of a male counterpart.

    “Sewers” are the word I used to… well, describe most of my friend’s pintrest posts online. Elementary techniques that are highly unlikely to yield a polished result.

    I’m somewhere in between. I usually just shrug and say, “I like to sew apparel,” rather than try to create a title out of the skill. Though I do like “sewist” quite a bit; it’s nice and gender-neutral, looks nice in print, and sounds like what it’s intended to mean. Maybe I shall help you launch that word into the world :)

  12. Catherine Goetz October 18, 2011 at 7:09 am #

    What a great article. I have often struggled with these terms on my blog and in my newsletters. Seamstress is someone who sews for others. Sewers I don’t like but sewist sounds somehow fake, like a made-up word that doesn’t quite convey the right message. Clearly the English language has failed us on this one. I’m still waiting for a better word.

  13. Gorgeous Things October 18, 2011 at 7:13 am #

    I like to use “stitcher”. I like it because it’s gender-neutral and it’s on point. Plus that’s what all my industry friends call their sewing contractors.

  14. Tina October 18, 2011 at 7:19 am #

    I like the term “modiste_ “, it’s a some what antiquated word that means; a female maker or dealer in women’s fashionable attire.

  15. Kat October 18, 2011 at 7:27 am #

    I tend to use sewist… I first came across this term in the blogosphere and I love it :) I think ‘seamstress’ sounds a little old fashioned and also makes me sound much more skilled than I am! And yep, the less said about ‘sewer’ the better…

    However, thinking about it, I usually use those terms when talking about others, for example on my blog…I am not sure I ever use it in ‘real life’. If I am speaking to others and referring to my own endeavours I generally say ‘I sew’ or ‘I knit’. Hmmm, interesting question!

  16. Zilredloh October 18, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    I actually refer to myself as a ‘stitcher’ only because I do more work than just sewing, but sewing, crochet, knitting. Stitcher/stitching in my mind seems to round them all up into one group.

    I ‘second’ Lauren about the whole ‘designer’ thing. Sewing is much different than designing…but Ms. Tasia you could be not only a sewist but a designer. :) That’s a great title for one who does such things: Professional Designer & Seamstress.

    • Roisin October 18, 2011 at 7:42 am #

      @Zilredloh: I agree with this – I like stitcher because I crochet and knit as well. I’m not keen on sewer for all of the reasons elaborated above.

  17. Seraphinalina October 18, 2011 at 7:40 am #

    I think I like seamstress, although I a more likely to take the more passive route of saying that I like sewing rather than calling myself a seamstress in conversation. I should put some thought into that, I have a habit of being too passive rather than asserting myself and never thought of this terminology as such until you asked the question.

    It’s funny how the different terms really do fit different people, I completely agree with that.

  18. Jessica October 18, 2011 at 7:45 am #

    I like seamstress like you, but believe sewist is more gender neutral and more fitting in most circumstances.
    I would probably call a specific woman if I was talking about her a seamstress, but if I was addressing a crowd of unknown people sewist, just so I don’t leave anyone out!

    But Wow! That is a lot to think about constantly!

  19. Amanda October 18, 2011 at 7:49 am #

    I’ve always liked “seamstress” and I’ve seen people use “seamster” for guys or gender neutral. Reading the comments though I guess I shouldn’t be using seamstress since I don’t make stuff for others on a regular basis! I do read “sewer” as someone who sews just because I’m reading a sewing blog, but I agree it does look weird when written and I avoid it. I don’t mind “sewist” but it’s not a term most people outside of sewing are familiar with so I don’t use it often. Actually, I don’t think I use any terms to really describe myself in the written sense, I don’t seem to write it all that much on my blog! Although I’ve used seamstress on occasion.

    In the end, I like seamstress :)

  20. Mary October 18, 2011 at 7:58 am #

    Tailor sounds accomplished, and the terms using sew somehow imply that we aren’t good at what we do…. sigh. It feels as though this is a battle not worth fighting, since there will never be a clear winner.

    Have you ever heard an artist referred to as a ‘good’ drawer’. Painful, isn’t it! Either belongs in a cabinet, or needs an s to keep you warm. :-)

    On another note, has everyone noticed that actresses are now calling themselves actors now? I don’t understand how there would be any need for that, in my opinion there isn’t a negative connotation there.

  21. Tasha October 18, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    Well I haven’t sewn any holiday-specific apparel, but I have knit some! ;)

    To say out loud, I would prefer “sewer”, but I don’t type it for exactly the reason you mentioned. To type in referring to others, I use “sewist”. I think it’s cute although I am not exactly in love with it. I never use seamstress as I agree it sounds like someone sews professionally for a living. Though I really just think of myself as “someone who sews”. But I probably only use the term “sewist” in the online world because it’s easier to type “So, all you sewists…” rather than “So, all you people who sew…” which is a little cumbersome!

    The only term I really use that I feel comfortable with in terms of describing me is knitter, because I do that far more than anything else. I do like Liz’s “stitcher” to cover multiple stitchy-related crafts like sewing, embroidery, knitting, crochet, etc. But then I also occasionally weave, though not enough to consider myself a “weaver”, and there aren’t really stitches in weaving even though it uses yarn… argh. Quite a conundrum indeed. :)

  22. Emilie October 18, 2011 at 8:21 am #

    Haha! I had never actually thought about the sewer (as in your picture) vs. Sew-er. I will now though!!!
    I also like sewist and seamstress, although like you I feel like seamstress feels like it’s my job to sew for other people.
    It’s a bit the same problem in french for me. “Couturi√®re” feels like I sew for other people, although unlike English, I don’t know many other terms that mean more or less the same thing. I just say “I sew”, instead of “I’m a seamstress”. Maybe that makes it more clear!

  23. Carolyn October 18, 2011 at 8:23 am #

    I actually prefer sewist because I believe that sewing is an artform hence sewing + artist = sewist. I despise sewer just because of the picture you start your post with…and when I hear the word seamstress it reminds me of a sewing professional. So sewist is my word of choice.

  24. sarah October 18, 2011 at 8:24 am #

    I like sewist. Sewer: 1. looks like a drainage system, as you’ve pointed out and 2. seems kind of industrial. Seamstress makes it seam (ha ha) like I do custom work or will hem your pants for you WHICH I WILL NOT (Hee!) That leaves Sewist as the term of choice for me.

  25. Kim October 18, 2011 at 8:38 am #

    I’m in favor of “sewist” since it cannot be mistaken for the place that raw sewage goes, e.g., the sewer. Like several other commenters, I appreciate that “sewist” sounds both retro and modern at the same time. I also like that it echoes the ending in “specialist,” making it sound like a sewist is someone who specializes in sewing. Here’s to modern sewists!

  26. Sarah October 18, 2011 at 9:08 am #

    Being pretty new to sewing in general, I think I’d prefer sewist or seamstress. It does seem odd when typing out sewer, but I’m never quite sure if sewist is the proper term either. Haha!

  27. Wag Doll October 18, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    I’ve struggled with this dilemma too, my family all worked in tailoring and the women refer to themselves as seamstress so I’ve grown up with that term. But, I’m no where near that level of competence. I dislike sewist because it sounds like an awkward made-up word and I usually just end up saying “I like to sew” when describing myself. Sometimes my sewing is so dreadful I really should be referred to as a sewer……

  28. Rachel October 18, 2011 at 9:48 am #

    I prefer ‘sewist’ for myself because I feel that ‘seamstress’ implies a level of profenciency that I lack. In general conversation I just say that ‘I sew my own clothes’ as opposed to givning myself a label though.

  29. learningnewtricks October 18, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    I don’t very much care for the terms sewer or sewist, and especially now after reading the different interpretations. As to crafter, that one is definitely the term I avoid. I am trying to improve my sewing skills, and not be relegated to the world of glue, glitter, quick, fast, and easy sewing projects. I like the term seamstress, but really connected with Tina’s choice of modiste. Also, the last two terms imply for me the quest for learning more advanced sewing skills. Sewer and crafter sound as though they should refer to someone who is sewing as a hobby, for fun, and not for someone passionate about increasing their sewing knowledge and skill levels.

  30. patsijean October 18, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    I like the term “sewist” as it implies thought and artistry, is gender neutral, and applies to both personal and professional sewing.

  31. Anotheryarn October 18, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    I generally just say, “I make stuff” or “I sew”. I love the idea of sewist, but as said above, outside the circle know one knows what it means. But I might have to adopt stitcher (even though that evokes images of cross-stitch and embroidery) since it is more all-encompassing of all the various fiber-related hobbies I have (sewing, knitting, crochet, quilting, and an occasional toe-dipping into embroidery).

  32. Amanda October 18, 2011 at 10:19 am #

    I agree that sewer sounds weird. But sewist drives me nuts. It sounds made-up (because it is), and to me suggests that modern women need to differentiate the way they sew from the way women have sewn in the past. I also get the dilemma for people who don’t want to be seen as “just” seamstresses. But in many cases, that is exactly what we are–we are sewing from patterns, tailoring things to ourselves or others we sew for! I would prefer it if we could take pride in being seamstresses. And for those of us who design as well, then you can say that, too.

  33. arlene October 18, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    I like what ‘Sandy’ said – ‚ÄúSeamstress‚Äù is not gender-neutral and, in my opinion, sounds old-fashioned. Sewist is modern and implies ownership: we (people who sew) have thrown off old notions (notions, get it?) of who we are, –

    Never used ‘sewer/sewer’, but never made the connection either until today!
    Because I do a lot of different sewing I use the term — fabric artist – fibre artist…..

  34. wundermary October 18, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    I tend to agree with you all on terms.
    I think of some of the terms with an implication to level of skill. I think it is fair to refer to sewing as a craft, but, this is touchy. Some people hold a high degree of skill that is definitely the practice of a craft. But, the term craft is so laden with connotation that is not entirely flattering. I think it is a term best avoided.
    I also think seamstress implies a level of mastery.
    Sewist seems to be the most all encompassing term.

  35. Alissa October 18, 2011 at 10:30 am #

    My husband & I just had this conversation a week ago.
    I agree with your thinking about “sewer” vs “sew-er.” I had never really thought about it, but it makes sense!
    I really hate “sewist;” I’m proud to be a woman who sews and therefore am proud to say I’m a “seamstress.” Most, I might even venture to say 95+%, of the people who sew are women, so why strip us of our femininity? I say if the men are creative enough to sew, they’re creative enough to name themselves, we don’t have to do it for them.

  36. Denise October 18, 2011 at 10:31 am #

    I like sewer or sewist, in that both are gender netural and give the sense that you are sewing, not necessarily for others (I’ve been adopted Selfish Seamstress’ phrase that “my ability to sew should not save you money”). Really, I like to use the phrase “Sewing chick” when talking about myself. One could be a sewing chick, or sewing guy, or simply a sewing person!

  37. Sallie October 18, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    Hmmm… titles are very funny. I’m not really sold on all three. Perhaps there is a need for a new one?
    What about… Sewian? Self-Couturier? Autobespokerdashery?

    Also, I feel that “craft” gets a bad rap in the sewing community. I have a Master’s degree in Fine Arts and I still consider my “craft” important, and not too far off from the craft-work that goes into a beautiful handstitched lining. Perhaps the negative connotations of “craft” need a new word….
    How about… Gluestickery?

  38. maremelade October 18, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    In French, we have “couturi√®re” for professional sewists and “costumi√®re” specifically for people who sew for theater or movies.
    But there is no word for amateur sewists. We just use the verb “coudre” (sew).
    In English, I love the word seamstress which sounds less obvious than sewist and consequently more mysterious and meaningfull

  39. Vicki Kate October 18, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    Hmm, I think I’m a seamstress (or aspiring one!) or a sewist. I have the same problem with the written word sewer and the same heebie-jeebies about crafter. Other things I do are crafty, my garment sewing isn’t, and neither are my bags or purses come to that! Ah, labels are strange things aren’t they, and it’s weird how we’ll accept some but run a million miles from others!

  40. Ellen October 18, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    I struggle with this too and it looks like I’m in great company! I rarely use seamstress, and will probably most often go with sewist. I do love one of the earlier commenter’s term of “sewing enthusiast” and might just adopt that!

  41. Corinne October 18, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    This subject pops up now and then and I always find it so interesting. Struggling to find an identity within the sewing/knitting/crochet/needlecraft community seems to be more of an issue recently as more and more people (men and women) are seeking to attach a label to their passion or profession. I am not sure that any one adjective accurately describes what we do. The diversity of style and skill sort of blocks that. In general, however, if one says “seamstress” mostly everyone figures out that you sew. I have grown to like “sewist” because it is rather generic. “Fabric Artists” is another label I have heard recently, however, it conjures up landscape quilting to garment sewers. If anyone can come up with a comprehensive label, I think we all would be happy to use it!

  42. Alice October 18, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    So funny! I had the opposite thing happen… a friend wrote to me about sewage (as in raw…), and I thought she was making a faux french sewing reference – sew-ahh-ge. So sometimes I talk about my sewage :)

    i’m not crazy about sewist (i just find it sounds a bit awkward when i say it)… i’m trying to simply say “I sew!”

  43. Sewingdina October 18, 2011 at 11:25 am #

    Great post. I don’t think any of the 3 you mention adequately describes what we do – making clothes is so much more than sewing! I think when speaking to others “sewer” is better, more user friendly. I hadn’t heard of sewist before I started sewing again last year and reading the blogs. I would probably write down “sewist” on a blog post but I do worry that it might sound pretentious, like a new name for something when there was nothing wrong with the old one. A bit like some celebrity chefs saying they are a “cooks” because “chef” is pretentious etc. Seamstress is quite sweet but as I don’t work in this area I wouldn’t call myself that. I was brought up on Enid Blyton’s St Clare’s and Malory Towers books where there was a seamstress who mended clothes and stockings. The word seamstress conjures up this sort of image for me still!

  44. emily marie October 18, 2011 at 11:27 am #

    I try to use proper English and since ‘sewist’ is not a word, I don’t use it. ‘Seamstress’ and ‘seamster’ are great. ‘Garmentmaker’ is also proper; literally one who makes garments. Not as cutesy as ‘sewist’, but it’s a real word! :)

    • Alice October 18, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

      @emily marie: oh i like seamster – sounds like teamster!

  45. LunaLoo October 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

    Seamstress or Sewing Enthusiast work for me.. I’m with you on the Sewer, can’t really get behind that one! Brings manhole cover visions to me as well!

  46. Ruth October 18, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    Can I put a vote in for “dressmaker”? I know it’s completely wrong. We make all kinds of things, but that’s why it’s so right! In fact, it’s one of those things that doesn’t really matter, does it? When I first encountered “sewer” on blogs it made me grind my teeth, but I am used to it now. Isn’t a male seamstress simply a seamster?

    • Delilah October 2, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

      I’m with you on dressmaker. I love to make and wear dresses, I can own seamstress because I am a professional sewer (see I like that one, never ever think of the other sewer) and also like fibre artist or textile artist or garment maker.

      Generally I say that I like to sew and then tell anyone who asks me to make them stuff that I don’t like to sew that much.

  47. Katy October 18, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    If I haven’t been called a total nut job by my mainly male colleagues, I think that’s a successful day, the details of exactly the type of nut job I am doesn’t tend to bother me ;o)

  48. Jessica October 18, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    I love seamstress. everything else just strikes me as odd. I don’t really care that it’s not gender neutral because, surprise surprise, I’m not gender neutral either. I’m female. Why shouldn’t the words I use to describe myself reflect that?

    Although I do take umbrage with your characterization of the word “crafter”. I call myself a crafter sometimes (not when I’m talking about sewing apparel though) because it’s the only thing that really describes all of the things that I love to do so much, i.e. book-binding, quilting, crocheting, knitting, paper-crafting, jewelry-making, etc…Instead of listing all of those things, I just call myself a crafter, tell people I craft, or, occasionally, tell them that I have crafting ADHD. Which is really the best description.

    So I’m a seamstress/crafting maniac.Or something. :)

  49. Jen October 18, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    Wow, all the responses!

    I tend to prefer “seamstress”. It’s sort of old fashioned in a charming way, like gingham and cherries and rick-rack. “Sewist” doesn’t really roll off my tongue/brain all that well, and it seems rather awkward to me, and as far as “sewer”, I totally agree with you on all points! No, “seamstress” isn’t gender-neutral, but I am (sorry) not terribly concerned about that. Besides, it seems to me that men who DO sew, when I talk to them, don’t call themselves anything, but instead simply say, “I sew”. None of them seem bothered by the clear feminine aspect of “seamstress”, and everyone knows what “seamstress” means.

    It’s not how I make my living, but it’s something I do…and though some who sew are insulted when someone asks them to hem an item or something like that, I’m happy to help, though not for free (never being averse to making a little more money).

  50. RobinDenning October 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    I use seamstress and dressmaker most often. When I am talking to someone and we get into that realm, they start asking questions and I like to call myself a hobby dressmaker. If I get complimented, “Wow you could do that for a living!” I always like to hear that. My response is “Maybe someday I will” and then change the subject. However, I cannot imagine that it would ever pay well enough, so I am sticking to my day job, thankyouverymuch.


    • Beverly Ann McCall October 18, 2011 at 3:25 pm #

      I like to call myself a sewing enthusiastist (although spelling it is a challenge). I love to sew, I dream about sewing for $$$$ but most of my sewing is for charity, family and of course for myself.

      Seamstress makes me think of someone who sews to make a living. Just like the term dressmaker.

      I echo all the other sentiment regarding the word “sewer”. It is not becoming nor does it lift up the creativity that most sewing enthusiastists demonstrate. Maybe we need to coin a new word. But, I’m at a lost for a new word.

      Great dialogue everyone.

  51. Rachael October 18, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    I prefer seamstress or sewist. I don’t care to use seamstress as much though since it isn’t inclusive of men. I mean, we no longer use words like stewardess or anchorman because they aren’t inclusive so why use words that make sewing seem like a women-only hobby? We need as many people interested in sewing as possible! Crafter seems like you’re talking about everything but fabric (scrapbooking, etc). Lol about the sewer, never noticed that. I never say sewer anyways….it just sounds weird to me.

  52. CGCouture October 18, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    I don’t mind the term sew-er when spoken aloud, but I think nasty sewers every time I see it typed up. I typically prefer seamstress, but the term sewist is also a good one. I have similar feelings to yours about the term crafter–I don’t “craft”, I sew, build, or cook, but then I don’t like catchall terms as a general rule.

  53. CGCouture October 18, 2011 at 3:40 pm #

    I also really like the term tailor, though I’m not sure that it technically applies to me….??

  54. mala_14 October 18, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    I usually say sewer or that I sew things. People have come up with some pretty good terms. My favourite term is one that a costumer’s young son coined: sewintist. I think it really captures the amount of skill and craft and knowledge that goes into sewing. Plus, it’s cute! :)

  55. Elizabeth October 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    I never actually use a noun to describe it; it’s always something I do rather than something I am, so I say that I sew but not that I’m a sewer/sewist/seamstress/crafting nightmare. I’m sure this is in part to do with confidence and the fact that I make clothes as a hobby and not as a profession. I also feel like somehow labelling myself in this way perhaps gives the impression that I have a level of skill or credibility that I probably don’t! :)

  56. StephC October 18, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    I like to use “sewist.” To me, it sounds crisp and prim, but not too uptight. I like prim.

  57. Lauren October 18, 2011 at 4:45 pm #

    I use all interchangeably, but I really have to stop and think to use the word “sewist” because it sounds too hip to be coming out of my nerdy mouth ;)
    I use seamstress the most, but since I have a few guy friends who also sew I haven’t been using it as often as I used to. I actually like the word “seamstress”, but I wish there were a male version. I mean, it seems it was seamstress and tailor in ye olde days when the professions and skills were more separated, but now a lady could call herself a seamstress or tailor, it seems a gent would be a tailor or sewist? Stitcher? Sewer? Not sure.

  58. Solange October 18, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    I like the term “seamstress” because to me it denotes a traditional commitment to quality. I don’t think “old-fashioned” is bad. It makes me think of fine fabrics and attention to detail, as opposed to “modern” clothing, which I find slap-dash and made from synthetic materials.

    To me, a sewer is a tunnel full of poo, and I can’t stand it when that word is used in reference to what we do.

  59. WeLoveSewing October 18, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

    I usually just say “I sew”. The problem is actually worse in Dutch, as the word for sewing is also used as the word for f..k. I have no idea why, but it does make telling people you “sew” slightly difficult to say the least!

  60. Tara October 18, 2011 at 7:26 pm #

    I absolutely hate the term ‘sewer,’ but that is because I have worked in the water and wastewater industry.

    I don’t mind seamstress, but the term conjures up images of many women working in a factory putting out a product that was designed by someone else. The term tailor doesn’t bring up the same type of image for me. But I suppose that seamstress could be used without such a negative connotation.

  61. Shelly October 18, 2011 at 11:44 pm #

    I never use the term ‘sewer’ for the same reasons you give. I do however use sewist and seamstress and interchange them frequently. Although I do prefer ‘seamstress’ as it has a romatic, vintage sound to it – imagine all those ladies back in the early 1900’s stitching up their beautiful garments and wearing them with pride.

  62. Helene | 25reasons October 19, 2011 at 12:59 am #

    Great topic! I’ve struggled with this at times, too. I think I like “seamstress”, or “dressmaker”. I’m not a professional, but that doesn’t matter. The words actually describe what I do, just like the words “farmer” and “shoemaker” and “parliamentarian” describe what they do. As for the discussion about gender-neutral, I really agree with @Jessica when she says:

    “I don‚Äôt really care that it‚Äôs not gender neutral because, surprise surprise, I‚Äôm not gender neutral either. I‚Äôm female. Why shouldn‚Äôt the words I use to describe myself reflect that?”

    Gender, in and of itself, isn’t bad. We’re all in very deep you-know-what if it is, because hello, we all have gender. If people are discriminatory, I don’t think that changing a word is going to eradicate the discrimination. I only wish it could be that easy! It’s not wrong to have gender-specific words, and to use them when they apply. Like “bride” and “groom”, or “mum” and “dad”.

    So, seamstress, or dressmaker. Or I say that I sew. And I do like “tailor” for the guys.

  63. marcia October 19, 2011 at 3:39 am #

    I like ‘sewer’–because it is a wierd play on words. I also enjoy living, so I can say that I’m a ‘liver’ AND a ‘sewer’….hee hee!

  64. Stephanie October 19, 2011 at 3:44 am #

    I also came across “sewist” thanks to the sewing blogosphere, and I suppose it’s most closely attuned to how I would describe myself, since I don’t generally construct garments for others (well, over a certain age… it’s too much fun to sew for the little ones!). In Italy the verb “to sew” = cucire, but if you sew you’re automatically labelled a “sarto/a” (depending on the gender), which means seamstress or tailor. There isn’t really a middle ground!

  65. Shel Baker October 19, 2011 at 7:08 am #


    Thats amazing!!!! im totally using that as my title now!!! LOL! Love it! :)

  66. Mary October 19, 2011 at 7:12 am #

    Hi Tasia,

    I sew a lot for a charity, Days For Girls.. We refer to all our sewists as sewing divas…..

    I like writing sewists, often I say sewer, It sounds better than it looks.

  67. Angela October 19, 2011 at 7:38 am #

    This is such an interesting topic. I actually work in real estate development and deal with the “other” sewer on projects nearly daily. Yet, when reading/writing about sewing, my mind automatically “reads” it in the proper way based upon the content, and vice versa with my work. I don’t think I ever even noticed the words were the same! They have such DIFFERENT meanings I’ve segregated them in my own mind. :)

  68. Lucha Lovely October 19, 2011 at 8:40 am #

    Seamstress, it has a flair to it!

  69. Stacy October 19, 2011 at 9:21 am #

    Basically, I agree with everything you said. I don’t like “sewer” when I’m writing about sewing, so I use sewist. But if I’m talking out loud about sewing, I usually say “sewer” because I can pronounce it to not sound like a yucky underground hole. :)

  70. ELLA October 19, 2011 at 10:20 am #

    since you think about turning this into a poll, i have to get my 5 cents in, too.
    Sticher is what I call myself, it’s neutral to gender and ability and professionally used.

  71. Jack October 19, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

    I love the word ‘Seamstress’. It sounds so mystical and dynamic.
    So would I be a Seamster? I think I like ‘Tailor’ better, but it seems to
    imply the skill of an occupation rather than just my hobby.

    • Sofia October 20, 2011 at 11:30 am #

      @Jack: Seamster is probably the best word I have read on this site! Sofia Pona, Seamster. Love it.

  72. kristen October 19, 2011 at 6:52 pm #

    I actually have a different emotional reaction to seamstress or tailor. Not whether you sew professionally, but how much input you have in the design. A tailor hems pants, a seamstress takes in wedding dresses, I feel like it implies they did not have a hand in choosing fabric or deciding the cut of the bodice, etc.

    I prefer artist. We are all artists, creating art. Our art just also happens to be useful- in clothing the human form.

  73. Catholic Bibliophagist October 19, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    I like “seamstress” because it is old-fashioned. It’s a good word with some history to it. Although some people have objected that it sounds too professional, it doesn’t strike me that way at all. I’d call someone who sews for money either a dressmaker or a tailor.

    I really don’t like “sewist” because it sounds made-up — which, of course, it is.


  74. Gail October 20, 2011 at 1:03 am #

    Personally I hate sewist – so contrived – and from an Aussie perspective – so American (I’m ducking for cover from the hail of abuse coming my way! I am a sewer, a seamstress, a dressmaker or a woman who sews. I am not a crafter.

  75. Sewer October 21, 2011 at 8:32 am #

    “Seamstress” is sexist and dated. It’s a term for a woman who performs menial labor. It conjures up images of sweatshops and a lack of autonomy. I take evening classes at a prominent fashion design school. Excellent execution is important to me because I’m sewing for myself. When other students who can’t be bothered with details because they all want to be Assistant Designers upon graduating, want to get my goat, they ask me if I’m training to be a “seamstress.”

    From a New York Magazine article on makers of custom made clothes: “‘A seamstress works in a factory.’ End of story.”

    Page 38

    If I have to refer to myself as anything, I use “sewer” or “sewist.”

    If someone describes herself as a “seamstress” I form a very definite and negative opinion, just as when an adult female calls herself a “girl.” The title “The Selfish Seamstress” doesn’t bother me as a title because the author’s style is so acid and clearly ironic. She’s funny. She also sews very well.

    • Sewer October 21, 2011 at 8:36 am #


      I feel so strongly about this that i will not buy a contemporary sewing book with “Seamstress” in the title. My little way of being the change I want to be in the world.

      I find garment construction fascinating, but I’m sick of all these little twee, retrophiliac fantasies I encounter on blogs that are completely unpinned from American history.

      • Sewer October 21, 2011 at 8:37 am #

        @Sewer: Needless to say (I hope), I wasn’t talking about this blog.

        • Tasia October 21, 2011 at 8:50 am #

          @Sewer: Thanks for clarifying! I was wondering if my writing comes across as twee or fantasy-like. I do have ‘modern seamstress’ in my blog header, because when I first started the blog I was at a loss for the perfect word. (That was two years ago almost so I haven’t thought about it in a while and hope it doesn’t sound sexist. At the time, I felt that putting ‘modern’ in front of it took away some of the old-fashioned connotations of the word seamstress. Modern seamstress, instead of just seamstress, meant a new definition in my mind.)
          It seems like there still is no word that completely defines someone who sews, loves the construction process and takes pride in excellent execution – I like how you put it. I strive for excellent execution too in my sewing. I didn’t always, but over the years I’ve started to focus on enjoying sewing, not just rushing to the finish line.
          When I worked in the garment industry we called the people in factories sewers, and “home sewers” for people that did piecework at home.
          After all of this debate, I mostly say ‘I sew’ and these days ‘I design sewing patterns’ – rarely do I refer to myself as a seamstress, sewist or sewer as none of those labels feel right. You’re right, most names conjure up feelings of automated work – someone said it earlier in the comments that ‘seamstress’ sounds like someone who’s not in control of the work they do, like alterations or factory work.
          Really interesting opinions! Thanks for sharing. I was in the middle of something and felt like I had to stop and jump in here – with what turned into a rather long and rambling response!

  76. Megan October 21, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    Sewist or seamstress for me. I hate *sewer* for the reason you point out above. Once, I used the term crafter and my husband said – Can you not call yourself that? Because to him it also invokes pipe-cleaners and glitter-glue. He takes my sewing and crocheting seriously, and would hate to hear me referred to as a crafter. (Though, I recognize that crafting can be serious biz!)

  77. LinB October 31, 2011 at 10:04 am #

    “Seamstress” was a euphemism for “prostitute” in the Old West. “Sporting girls” would put a sewing machine in their window to advertise to ranchers and cowboys that they were open for business. So … please don’t call me a “seamstress.” And “sewer” can be misread as that viaduct that transports nasty waste away from your home. So … please don’t call me a “sewer.” “Dressmaker” is not inclusive enough — I sew more than dresses. “Sewist” is the most modern, concise, gender-neutral term. (If a female who sews is a “seamstress,” is a male who sews a “seamster”?)

  78. Bunny November 1, 2011 at 4:14 am #

    For a long time I’ve been using the term sewist. I like that it doesn’t sound like a giant pipe for human waste. I also like that it is non gender. But then I changed my mind. The first real job after college had me working for a major manufacturer of men’s clothing. We had five thousand employees, many of whom were stitchers. The union called them stitchers. The bosses called them stitchers. They called themselves stitchers. These hard working, always female, workers did amazing work, busted their humps doing so, and made a good living. They got a big hunk of my respect. So I’ve decided that at this stage of my sewing career I am a “stitcher” too. I proudly call myself a stitcher.

  79. estella February 4, 2012 at 1:47 am #

    I love this article, I have struggled with being called a ‘seamstress’ too, as I see it as a very menial definition of my art, my talent, my creativity. And I guess , the Computer Nerd in me and the tomboy part of me cringes at being called ‘seamSTRESS’…so, what if I was a man? SeamSTER?

    I prefer SEWIST! Thanks I like that!

  80. Jilly October 8, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

    I think a male who sews is a tailor, maybe? I don’t particularly care for sewist and am not concerned with gender issues as much, I like seamstress and I loathe home sewer for some reason.

  81. Nina November 4, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    I never thought of it as being an issue.. In my native Russian language, if I was not a seamstress that I am, i would say ” I like to sew” or “sewing is my hobby”. It seems there is no good sounding word in English either!

  82. Nina December 7, 2012 at 9:50 pm #

    I’ve never come across the neologism sewist until today. I hate it. It’s made up and sounds pretentious to me. ( I suppose it could be worse – you could spell it “sewiste”) Nothing wrong with sewer or stitcher or seamstress, for that matter. I think of myself as a sewer.

  83. Jennifer March 4, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

    I like the term “seamstress” or “clothier”….but then, I DO sew professionally. To me, “dressmaker” sounds like someone who makes only dresses; “tailor” is someone who makes men’s suits and coats (I haven’t found one yet who makes women’s suits and coats–besides myself); “sewer” sounds fine until it is typed or written; and “sewist” seems like a person who isn’t mentally connected to the long history of women’s clothing and fashion.

  84. Barbara April 19, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    Sewist is a pretentious, awkward term that has some idea of political correctness in its’ heritage. If a cello is played by a cellist, what is the instrument of a “sewist”? – a “sew”? To quote Andrea Hamlin of the Bangor Daily News, “Don’t call me a ‘sewist'”

  85. Petitebluebirdgirl May 22, 2013 at 12:57 pm #

    Hi there

    if you have a craft and you enjoy it; you should be proud of the title… You could be a woodworker, a Joiner, a carpenter, a bespoke tailor/ess and bespoke Dressmaker, a scrapbooker, a cardmaker, a metalworker, a photographer, a machinist, a Soft Furnisher, a seamstress: – a person originally who would just sew seams on a sewing machine or by hand (not anything specialist) – they were then upgraded to do alterations;… Be proud of the title, be proud of who you are.

    I have been sewing all of my life. I hate the word sewist; it is so so American! I have never liked ‘sewer’; yes it reminds me of of grime and things that arn’t too good. The correct term for a person who sews is as follows: –

    If you make curtains, blinds, cushions and home furnishings in the UK:- you are Soft furnisher (if in the USA; you are a Home Decor designer), but only when qualified.

    If you make clothes of any description but are not qualified: you do not have a title as such – you are to my mind a Craftier Sew and Sew!

    Once qualified and you are a tradesperson (paid professional); you become a
    A Tailor/dressmaker of bespoke clothing.

    ‘IST’ added to the end of a word means ‘SPECIALIST’; generally someone who is qualified in their trade. See below for other variations.

    IST — suffix
    a suffix of nouns, often corresponding to verbs ending in -ise/ize or nouns ending in -ism, that denote a person who practices or is concerned with something, or holds certain principles, doctrines, etc.: apologist; dramatist; machinist; novelist; realist; socialist; Thomist.

    1. ( forming nouns ) a person who performs a certain action or is concerned with something specified: motorist ; soloist

    2. ( forming nouns ) a person who practises in a specific field: physicist; typist

    3. ( forming nouns and adjectives ) a person who advocates a particular doctrine, system, etc, or relating to such a person or the doctrine advocated: socialist

    4. ( forming nouns and adjectives ) a person characterized by a specified trait, tendency, etc, or relating to such a person or trait: purist

    5. ( forming nouns and adjectives ) a person who is prejudiced on the basis specified: sexist ; ageist

  86. nathalie June 8, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    sewist sounds like another pseudo pretentious name. It’s unfortunate people forget the quirkiness of the English language allow for a word to have multiple meanings according to the context and the intonation. So I do not mind being called a sewer and the inside of my brain is probably one too. Okay. call me une couturiere just like my gran.

  87. Sarah Tennant July 7, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

    I heartily agree there’s a gap in the language here. “Sewer” is horrid for the reason you mentioned, although I might use it in speech occasionally, when it’s pronounced “sow-er”. “Sewist” sounds fake and contrived to me.

    I do like “seamstress”, though as others have said, it connotes a professional. I disagree with a previous commenter who described it as referring to menial labour; I think of hard-working diligence, yes, but not sweatshop-type conditions, and to me the term definitely doesn’t imply a lack of design capability.

    Nor do I have a problem with gendered terms as applied to my female self. I confess I find some of them delightful – nagivatrix, editress and so on. Not ‘lady novelist’ – that’s going too far! Obviously some terms are gendered with the intent to demean (historically, usually), and the suffix “-ette” does have juvenile connotations (although I was a young, female usherette and the term didn’t bother me unduly). But absent sexism, a gendered term is simply a handy way of conveying more information – not only are we talking about a person who acts, but a woman – hence, actress. Since I don’t feel “seamstress” has the negative connotation of some gendered terms, it doesn’t bother me at all in that regard.

    In general use, though, I just verb it. “I like to sew”, “I do a lot of sewing”, “Yeah, I’m into sewing and things”… Works pretty well. I don’t like “crafty”, because aside from aforementioned glitter-and-glue connotations (remember Mum’s craft projects in The Castle?), I’m not really crafty; I’m strictly sew-y. I do the occasional inept, reluctant bit of knitting, but no scrapbooking or furniture restoration or plushie-making or woodwork. I do love cooking as well as sewing, so sometimes I lump it all in as “domestic”, but then, that implies I keep a clean house, which… yeah.

  88. Christine Town-Treweek August 2, 2013 at 12:25 am #

    This is great. I make quilts and put a post on my Facebook page saying that I was a messy sewer. Posted it and then re read what I had written and thought good grief that looks weird. It sounds different to how it looks. I had to Google it and found your post, it’s been great reading.

  89. Cindy deRosier September 12, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    I’m not a sewer, sewist, or seamstress… I can barely put together a halfway acceptable Halloween costume. But, I’m editing an article where someone used the term sewer and I wondered if that term was the accepted/preferred one (at first glance, I read it as the sewer-system type of sewer). A Google search brought me here. I find the whole discussion absolutely fascinating!

  90. Vanessa November 19, 2013 at 2:52 am #

    I prefer Sewist.I have seen sewer, sewist and seamtress thrown around. It sounds more modern. I am new to this site, and to the profession. It’s nice to be associated with people who have been in the business for a while and who I can a thing or two from. I will keep reading.

  91. Anne December 29, 2013 at 6:22 am #

    How about “sewian,” as in “musician?”

  92. karen, uk January 26, 2014 at 4:41 am #

    I say crafter it covers everything

  93. Cathy Connors May 2, 2014 at 5:08 am #

    One term you forgot to mention is “taylor” which, in my mind is the masculine term for seamstress. Just a thought. Personally, I prefer seamstress. Sewist to me is much like crafter, i just don’t like it much.

  94. Rebecca Grace August 28, 2014 at 7:15 am #

    The term “sewist” annoys me; it has a pretentious ring to it and it is a non-word. I know that words are constantly being added to the language to describe NEW things, but humans have been sewing for 25,000 years — this is hardly a new activity. I don’t like “seamstress,” either, for its gender specificity and degrading connotations. And I agree with those who don’t like sewer because of its unfortunate heteronym (the poop pipe). So, which word do I use to describe what I do?

    In general, I prefer precision in language, and in this case, using more precise language to describe what we do makes the sewer/sewist/seamstress dilemma a non-issue. People who sew tailored garments can call themselves tailors. People who sew craft items can be crafters, or textile crafters. People who sew quilts are quilters. People who want to differentiate their sewing as artistic expression as opposed to utilitarian sewing can call themselves fiber artists or textile artists — both of which sound much more impressive than the word “sewist.”

    I’m not setting myself up as the Word Police, and obviously folks can call themselves whatever they want. But you did ask for opinions… :-)

  95. Annette September 8, 2014 at 11:28 am #

    Hi! Love this blog and the spirited comments! I love the word “sewist” because it sounds like “an artist who sews!” Plus, some of the big name sewing machine manufacturers are now using that term to describe seamstresses. I employee 3 sewists and they love the term…though they do have to explain it! :)

    Annette d. Giacomazzi

  96. SunGold October 21, 2014 at 10:29 am #

    Obviously late to the name game, but …

    I’m not a “sewer” not a “sewist” and really, why would I want to be a “seamstress”? … I’m a SEWISTA.

    Like barista or fashionista. Combines art with technique.

    I’m a sewista, how about you?


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