Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sewing 101

    I saw this post over at Whipstitch which is in response to a post over at Stitched in Color.  Deborah's post really struck a chord with me.  Her assertion is that anyone can sew, and that really is so true.  Sometimes I have people tell me that I am so talented, and that they could never do that.  Honestly, it embarrasses me a little sometimes because I truly think anyone who wants to could make the things I make. :0)  The trick is you have to practice, and you have to be willing to learn!  People assume that I have been sewing since I was just a wee child.  While it is true that my mom did try to teach me to sew and even enrolled me in a sewing class as a child, I didn't start sewing until February of 2008.  I wanted to take a drawing class, but I couldn't find one in the evening.  I needed someone to watch my baby, and all the drawing classes seemed to be during the day.  So I ended up taking a sewing class at Joann's.  I made pajama bottoms for my husband (which he still wears!).  I had fun, and I bought my first sewing machine.  I made my first Easter dress for Juliana.  I wish I had pictures!  It turned out cute, but I sewed the zipper in backwards!  Yep, and I even left it that way.  To zip it I had to stick my hand into the inside the dress and pull it up.  I didn't rip it out because it actually came out pretty straight, and I was so afraid if I did it again it would look horrible. I agonized over that dress for weeks.  I watched sewing videos I had rented from the library and read lots of sewing books.  However, that dress built confidence in me, and then I discovered the world of Amy Butler and well, my life was changed.

So all of that to say, if you want to learn to sew...you can do it!   Here are a few little tips that I hope you might find helpful if you are starting out!

  1. Take a beginner's sewing class.  It is so helpful to have someone show you in person about the grains of fabric, how to cut, use a pattern, learn the essential sewing tools, and how to thread that machine!   
  2. Buy a decent sewing machine.  I think some people get discouraged because they are using a crappy machine.  If you are constantly dealing with problems with thread jamming and the like you are NOT going to enjoy sewing!  Now I don't think you need to get a top of the line totally out of your price range machine, but before buying one ask your friends what they sew on and if they like it or go to patternreview.com and check out their sewing machine reviews.  They have a ton on there and lots of people are quite honest about what they like and don't like.  You can even buy a used one.  People always seem to be getting rid of sewing machines!  Just make sure to sew on it and test it out as much as you can.  My first sewing machine was this Kenmore, and I would highly recommend it to anyone just starting.  I wrote a review of it here.
  3. Buy quality fabric.  Now when you first start sewing it can be a little intimidating how expensive fabric is (especially with cotton prices rising!).  However, it really is true that you get what you pay for.  Cheapie Walmart fabric is well...cheap!  It isn't going to hold up very well, and your project isn't going to look so hot.  However, you don't always have to pay top dollar.  If you have patience, you can wait for sales!  Now this might limit your choices more, since some fabric lines sell out before you can say, "Go!".  However, I try to wait for sales for the most part, and I have gotten some awesome deals.  Also, try repurposing!  Instead of putting something in the Goodwill pile I often now put it in my repurpose pile.  Also, if you don't know how to mix and match colors then try buying fabrics from the same line.  They are meant to go together and it takes out so much of the guesswork when are first starting out!
  4. Go ahead and tackle that project that you are dying to do!  When I first started sewing I made all sorts of projects that were not deemed suitable for a beginner.  However, they inspired me, and inspiration is going to keep you sewing!  The catch here is that you just have to be aware that it is probably going to take you a little longer, and you are going to become very familiar with my "mortal enemy", the seam ripper.  There are so many sewing books, tutorials, and videos for all sorts of techniques.  This is how I tackle most of my projects.  If I don't understand a step, I start reading and googling!  
  5. Mistakes happen!  It just comes with the territory.  Even the most experienced sewer/quilter will admit this.  There are very few projects that I did start to finish without some oopsie happening.  The seam I am sewing comes out wonky, I cut out the wrong piece, or I sew the wrong pieces together.   There are so many opportunities for something to go wrong. ;0p Plus, very few of my projects come out just right.  I can show you all sort of mistakes on most of the things I have made, but as you go you will get better.
  6. Follow the directions.  I have been sewing long enough that there are sometimes steps in a pattern that I do differently because I prefer a different technique, but when you first start it is best to do it the way the patterns says for there usually is a reason they are having you do it that way!  It will also help to pinpoint where you went wrong if something isn't turning out quite right.
So, how did you learn how to sew?  Are you a newbie or have you been sewing forever?

Also, check back tomorrow!  Rae has been gracious enough to ask me to be a judge again this year for her Spring Top Sewalong.  I have put together a number of pattern suggestions for those who would like to make a top but don't know what pattern to pick( and lots of them would be great for a beginner)!  I have already made three tops, and I have a huge pile of fabrics picked out for some more.  A girl can dream, right?


  1. Great post. :) And I'm looking forward to your recommendations, I'm hoping to attempt some tops for myself!

  2. Wonderful post, and I completely agree with everything you said!

  3. Thanks I enjoyed reading this I am just getting back into sewing now that i have kids and need a little something to make me feel like I have something to show for my day if that makes sence. I saw this on made by rae thanks!

  4. Thanks for the advice, simple and makes sense. I'm just starting out again after not touching a sewing machine in almost 20 years and your advice is helpful and encouraging.

  5. I agree with everything! Great post! I actually just started sewing in January and am loving it so far. I purchased a Bernina 330 because I knew if I bought the cheapest machine out there I would get frustrated if something went wrong because of the machine. I also told myself that I was just going to dive in because I knew I would learn better that way. I do have to admit, there are things I want to make but am intimidated by them so I am waiting a little while longer. I also mainly buy Joann and Hobby Lobby fabric because I don't want to "waste" money on expensive fabric that I might mess up. If you want to see my progress you can check out my blog.

  6. I agree! I just starting sewing about a year ago. And I totally amaze myself sometimes!! If you take your time and follow the directions(sometimes they are hard to understand) but keep trying. I LOVE sewing.

  7. Great post! I am a new sewer, as of Feb. 2010. I also feel sort of embarrassed when people praise the things I make. They insist they could never do it, but the fact is they just haven't tried and haven't committed the time to learning. I love sewing, and although it is just the beginning, I feel like it's been a life-changing discovery for me. Thanks for this post! I hope it inspires someone else to give it a try.


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