Wednesday, February 17, 2010

sewing tips for a beginner

{drawstring bag}
When I posted my giveaway a couple weeks ago, some of you asked me questions. I appreciated them so much but am only just now getting around to responding. Sorry for the delay! I'll start with Fiona's question: "what are your top 5 sewing tips for a beginner?" I'm no authority or anything, but I do love to sew. Here are some ideas I jotted down on my last studio day.
{"love" pillow}
1. Take a class. I learned to sew in junior high "homemaking" classes and I can't overstate how valuable it has been for me to have that background of knowing how to do things "by the rules." We learned about grainlines and sewing from patterns and pressing and everything you need to know. If I were starting from scratch today I think it would be worth it to take a class or two and to have a real human show you the basics.
{apron from "Simple Sewing"}
2. Work with materials you love. I had a huge sewing renaissance when I found out that beautiful (first Amy Butler and then other) fabrics are available online. I never completely stopped sewing, from age 12 to the present day, but there were years in there where my projects were infrequent because the fabrics at the chain stores are so ugly (to me). Find fabrics that you love and the whole process comes alive.
{skirt from Sew What Skirts}
3. Buy a seam ripper. Learn how to use it. Picking out stitches is just a part of sewing, so don't be discouraged when you have to rip.
4. Buy extra bobbins. Wind an extra bobbin or two of the thread you are working with at the beginning of your project. I actually just figured these ones out. It makes a huge difference.
{fabric buckets}
5. Choose a small project. I pretty much always make small and simple "instant gratification" projects because I have very little time to sew and it's amazingly satisfying to see a project through to completion in one or two sessions. Small projects are fun!
6. Let go of perfectionism. I'm not a perfectionist at all, but I imagine sewing would be a lot less fun if I were. Really, you won't notice that small imperfection within a day or two. Just enjoy your finished product.
7. Keep a little notebook of what you did (measurements, how you accomplished some detail). That way if you want to duplicate your project you don't have to start from the beginning.
8. Sign up for the mailer from Jo-Ann. You will get a 40% off coupon every few weeks. It's a great deal and I often buy big swaths of linen this way, just to have on hand.

Two of my favorite books with simple projects are Bend the Rules Sewing and Simple Sewing. The projects are simple and modern and appropriate for beginners, with lots of step-by-step instructions. I was also very interested to see this post today. Lot's of good tips there! I'm definitely going to check out that Amy Butler pattern she mentions. I'd love to hear your tips too, if you'd like to share. I love to talk sewing!


Nancy said...

Terrific tips--I agree with all of them! Yes, yes to inspirational fabric--when I discovered what was out there it opened my eyes.

I also agree about perfectionism. I've learned--w/cooking, sewing, crochet (& now knitting) that you may have to do it at least once, with mistakes, to gain experience to do it well the next time.

Notebooks are great. When you go back to use a pattern a second time, you can read your notes and learn from the project. If you create a pattern, you have a special place to write it down.

I can only add, read your sewing machine manual, and if something's going wrong, go back and read it with new eyes--there may be some little thing you're doing wrong that's easily fixed.

Mary Beth said...

Oh yes, Nancy, good point about the machine manual. I was having trouble with buttonholes at one time, then finally realized (after going back to the manual) that I wasn't setting the stitch length right. Thanks for your insights!

Elfin Goddess said...

You're never gonna believe this (or maybe you will :P) but I've been meaning to write and ask you about sewing! Since it's been on my list forever of Things I want to do before I Die...
Was just thinking about it yesterday, so your post is just what I need to snap out of my excuse-filled reverie and get to it! This is a great post...I will use the tips!

Sarah said...

I second the idea of having extra bobbins around. Thanks for the link to AlewivesGirl!

Sarah said...

I second the idea of having extra bobbins around. Thanks for the link to AlewivesGirl!

Anonymous said...

great tips, thanks!!

Andrea said...

What great suggestions... especially about the bobbins. I always seem to run out in the middle of something and spend more time searcing for an already-wound bobbin in a "close-enough" color than it would take to wind a new one...for some reason threading my machine and winding bobbins are the sewing tasks I most dread...maybe I should think of them in a more zen-like manner. And whenever would-be perfectionist tendencies try to sneak in (which is not very often), I always quote a guy I used to work for, "It's not a piano." (Actually he said it's not a f*ing piano)

Andrea said...

Oh and my tip...always keep your machine's manual at your side. I have to look up zippers, button holes, fixing the tension, etc. every single time.

Fiona said...

What wonderful tips! Thank you for answering my question. I love your point about inspirational fabric, that's what makes the whole process fun for me.
I was just thinking about uploading some pictures of projects using your scraps, thanks for reminding me :)

Rain said...

This is great. Really good tips and thanks for the link to AlewivesGirl.
I love reading about about sewing. Now I just need to jump in and start.

Jessica said...

Thank you for the tips! I want to learn how to sew, but am intimidated. I love your projects!

melissa said...

i like your tips- they're sensible and friendly. :)
plus, the lovely things you've made... they're inspiring.

Cole said...

I loved reading your tips, I could have used them about six months ago! Ha but it was kind of fun learning it as I go. However my seam ripper did get a lot of use! Thanks your blog :)

Karen said...

as a new sewer, i thank you for this!!

malia said...

I was just enjoying your tips when I saw you calendar in the back ground... have the same one ( -:

CajunQuilter said...

Thanks I am posting the link on Twitter and Facebook for Great tips! Carol, CajunQuilter, From