Christiania for sale – and what is somebody who sews?


Yes, I do realise that it’s hard to see what exactly the connection might be between the funky tricycle in the picture and vintage Singer sewing machines, but bear with me, dear reader, if you will …

For reasons that are far too boring to go into here, Elsie and I need to find a new home for our beloved Christiania cargo trike, and I’m rather hoping that having the phrase “Christiania for sale” in the title of this blog post may help us to do just that.

Lest your curiosity be aroused, let me tell you that this fine machine is a one-size fits all Christiania Classic with a galvanised steel frame, disc brakes on the front and roller brake on the rear, and it has 8-speed hub gears so it’s very low-maintenance.  You can, as many Danes do, get a couple of kids in the box (both seating and canopy for them are available) and keep fit while you make it one less car on the school run, or you can get three Singer portables or one Singer treadle in it, which is the best I can do by way of a connection.  You can also get a hundredweight of mangels or mangolds or mangelwurzels in it, but that’s another story.  (and one best forgotten if you ask me – Elsie)

We bought it new in June 2010, it’s in jolly good condition, and the current list price including the extras ours has is something over £1800.   We therefore start talking at £1100, and an email to sidandelsie (at) will start the process whereby you can become the new owner of this versatile and very environmentally-friendly vehicle.

OK, advert over, so lets move on to sewers.

What is the word for somebody who sews?  If you’re British, and the somebody who sews is employed in a factory to sew on a machine, you call her a machinist, which is fine, even though a machinist is also a bloke who works machinery such as lathes, milling machines and so on.

But what is the Brit word for somebody who sits at home and sews, if she uses a machine but isn’t a dressmaker?

I keep seeing people on the interweb use the word “sewist”, which is an abomination guaranteed to offend the sensibility of any right-thinking person.  Using “sewist” is even worse than using the word “harp” to describe the throat space of a sewing machine irather than the irritating musical instrument often played at downmarket English wedding receptions in an attempt to lend an air of class to the proceedings .

But what about “sewer”?  If you’re in the US of A, the word rhymes with “mower” and it means somebody who sews.  But if you’re a Brit, it rhymes with “brewer” and it means a pipe which conveys sewage.

So I have two questions.  Is “sewer” actually in real-world use in the US to mean somebody who sews?  And is there such a thing as a British term for somebody who uses a sewing machine at home but who isn’t a dressmaker?

Come to think of it, make that three questions.  If it’s not a sewer, what is the American name for the big pipe under the road which takes away your sewage?


17 responses

  1. Oh we like that very much, John. It has a very proper ring to it. Any chap who’s a Garment Maker will obviously be a thoroughly decent sort of a cove.

  2. I know this is a month old now, but my Dad came up with a new one. Overhearing part of a conversation between my mother and I on the subject of fusible interfacing (I know, the long winter nights just fly by when I’m at home), he said, “Fusible interfacing. Is that something to do with garment making?”

    So, I don’t know about anyone else, but as far as I’m concerned I’m a Garment Maker.

  3. Er, not seamstress! According to Wikipedia, a seamstress is someone who sews seams, or in other words, a machine operator in a factory who may not have the skills to make garments from scratch or to fit them on a real body. It’s also a euphamism for a lady of negotiable virtue.

    The word sewist is horrible, and I don’t really like sewer. Tailor and Dressmaker are professions, which still leaves us without an acceptable word. Perhaps we can make one up. I worked for years as an technical instructor in the aviation industry, and there are plenty of young technicians going around referring to objects and processes for which we instructors invented names to amuse ourselves.

    I’m now a hatter but not a milliner, but soon I will be. Does that help?

  4. Hi Sid and Elsie,

    Well, I don’t know about the rest of the U.S, or the up to date slang, but my Grandmother was a professional who originally was trained (in Denmark) to sew clothing for women, but here in the U.S. she worked at a drapery shop and was their head Seamstress. I don’t what other people call them, but we always called women who sew, seamstresses and men who sew, tailors. I continue to enjoy all your blogs….especially old ads for Singers and stories about your adventures….thank you for the enjoyment and interesting information…your blog is wonderful.


  5. In California, USA, a sewer is a sewer pipe carrying sewage and also a sewer is a person who sews. The reason many have gone to the word sewist is to reflect the artist who is also a sewer without any snide comments about sewage.

  6. Straight from the US of A, this woman is a “sewer” [pronounced “so-er”]. Oh, and the apparatus that removes garbage, etc. is the sewer (pronounced soo-er).

  7. Stitcher? Crafter? Maker? Absence of a good term doesn’t, I have to admit, keep me awake at night with existential angst.

    ‘Sewist’ isn’t so bad, and is a necessarily evil, given the unfortunate homonyms of ‘sewer’.

    I don’t much like the ‘-tress’ words (ask any actor what she thinks of them…) so am not terribly keen on seamstress etc, though with age my feelings of animosity towards them are waning a little. But still, perhaps as a nod to equality we should invent a fit-any-gender term.

    In a fit of whimsy, I tried to persuade the world to adopt ‘sewster’ (rhyming with ‘toaster’) a few years ago. It didn’t work. Maybe we could give ‘seamster’ (rhyming with ‘teamster’) a whirl? Or, why not wind back the clock, as some have done, and readopt ‘mantua maker’? It has a certain dignified poetry about it.

  8. I just sew…. sometimes a little sometimes a lot.

  9. ps – -its a sewer, and i pronounce it the way you do without the charming accent…and im from outside of boston, ma usa

  10. in my mind if we make clothing or do alterations we would be a seamstress or tailor (female vs male terms in the USA) and if we make quilts a quilter, or maybe a crafter? depends on my mood. i guess for me an artist would work too, if its about making things…whether clothes, accessories or quilts i guess i can guess why some would choose sewist (that young modern group – – just discovered sewing and all that goes with it) boy, that makes me feel old today.

    the cart/bike looks cool, but 11,00 x 1.6…would be as much as a cheap car for me here and i can’t imagine what the shipping to the US would be (ha ha)…

  11. Well, I don’t think there are many people who actually make garments anymore. The big rage nowadays is quilting, so if you quilt, you are a quilter. There are men AND women who quilt. If you make anything besides quilts, and you quilt, I suppose you are still a quilter. Back when I was growing up, if you sewed, you were a seamstress, if you were a female, and only the men who sewed were those who altered suits and shortened slacks, so he was called a tailor. Every once in awhile, I hear those who love to sew, a sewer (rhyming with mower), but mostly, we’re quilters. Now me, with my limited time due to work and my love of thrifting, with me not being home long enough to get anything done, I am a quilter, but more so, a thrifter and sewing machine collector, and when I fix them, a sewing machine whisperer. Oh, so many titles! 😉

  12. Hi! In my case I am called an old ‘Sew and Sew’!
    Love your ‘bike cart’! Don’t know why you want to part with it! You could pedal through the bouroughs with Elsie riding in the cart! Would be pretty with some fancy homemade pillows for comfort and a big ruffle around the top of the cart! Even print your names on the side for advertising! Now back to the rest of my American beer and some more helpful ideas for your cart! Joan in beautiful Michigan USA!

  13. I cringe whenever someone uses the term “sewer” to refer to one who sews. (Also drives me nuts when the college-aged set says “bartending” rather than “tending bar.”) For a person who sews I say seamster or seamstress, though I realize those terms have a professional connotation similar to your “machinist.”

    “Machinist,” however, sounds way cooler!

    – Rain

  14. Seamstress? In the 70’s we used to be home seamstresses iirc. Or home dressmakers. Though both these expressions imply that it’s only women who sew at home, of course. Maybe they’ve fallen into disuse because of the not terribly feminist sound of them.

    Actually, I don’t describe myself as anything when it comes to sewing, don’t think. I will say “I’m a knitter and a spinner” but I’ll then add “…and I sew as well”. But I’m definately NOT a sewer or a sewist, ick.