Beginning Sewing 101

I learned how to use a sewing machine three times in my life. The first time was in the basement of a small fabric store in Pittsburgh. I was about seven and my mom enrolled me in an intro sewing class for the summer. We did the basic projects: drawstring bag, a simple t-shirt and the like. I remember being very proud of my projects each week and also very frustrated over a stupid machine tangling up my thread. Since we didn’t own a sewing machine, the skills I learned quickly disappeared. Come to think of it.  I can’t actually remember why we thought taking the class was a good idea in the first place.

I didn’t sit in front of a sewing machine again until my junior high home economics class. Again another drawstring bag. I don’t know if it was the teacher or the format of the class, but something about it left me with a taste of “this is hard and I don’t like it”. At that point, I couldn’t remember why my six year-old self put up with the classes and thought it was fun. I went to this class twice a week for half a semester and all I got out of it was a cotton bag to toss my gym clothes in. Granted, this bag was a bit of a rite of passage at my school. Everyone had to take this class before moving on to high school, so you knew who the upper classmen (freshmen) were by how they carried their gym clothes to school. But I digress. My family still didn’t have a sewing machine, so these skills were again wasted on me.

Fast forward to 2011. Thomas, a friend and I attended SakuraCon here in Seattle. Neither Thomas nor I dressed up for the convention but our friend went in full anime regalia. Halfway through the day, our friend had a costume malfunction that sent us to the costume repair station in search of safety pins. I mentioned to one of the volunteers at the repair station that I was jealous of people who could make such elaborate costumes, but my two failed attempts at learn machine sewing had taught me that I would never be one of those people. She said “Come back later and I’ll teach you how to sew in 15 minutes.” And so I did, and found it amazingly easier than what I remember. I left with my third handmade drawstring bag and for the next week I consulted with my friends who sew about the best way to get started.

Now, a year later, I’m sitting down to chronicle my sewing adventures in an attempt to convince others using a sewing machine isn’t hard. You can quickly move past a drawstring bag and on to more interesting projects.

Difficulty Moderate
Completed June 2011
Pattern Butterick 5177
Fabric Brown on blue cotton + brown lining
Notions Sewing Machine (Singer Stylist)Various bits: decent fabric scissors, magnetic pin cushion, pearl head pins, safety pins of various sizes, hand sewing needles, tape measure, and probably a few other things I’m forgetting.
Total cost ~$180
Lesson learned People who sew are always excited when they find someone who wants to start. Try to find friends who sew and pick their brains before you get started.Sewing can be as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be.A special thanks to Kate, Olya, and Nyla! Without you guys, I wouldn’t have a clost full of patterns, fabric, and more random sewing gadgets than anyone ever really needs. 🙂

My two friends, Kate and Olya, helped me get started with a machine, a project, and enough basics to fill half a shoebox. The machine is a Singer Stylist that I purchased at Sears for ~$130. We went to a couple of different sewing specialty stores, but the saleswomen spent a lot of time trying to convince me that any machine under $300 is crap and will die on me within 10 seconds of unboxing.

DO NOT BELIEVE THEIR LIES!

Yes, the more expensive machines will come with 5000 stitches, automatically cut thread, or, I don’t know, wash and fold your laundry. To this day, I’ve used maybe 4 different stitches, can cut my threads with a pair of scissors, and have husband who can do half the laundry (the washing half not the folding half). If you have friends who sew, then take them along with you when you go to buy your first machine. They will be a valuable resource to pick out your machine and a project that won’t discourage you.

– Amani

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4 thoughts on “Beginning Sewing 101

  1. I just learned to sew a few months ago! I had to basically figure it out from scratch by myself which made it very complicated (and expensive). I wish I had read this before trying!

    • Thanks! I’ll be doing more sewing posts to summarize the projects I’ve been working on for the last year. I’m planning to include some of the trick and cheats I learned along the way. Hopefully, some of the advice will be more timely. 🙂

      -Amani

  2. I chose this as my very first pattern and my very first ever sewing project and it has been a nightmare. I’m a smart girl but having never tried to read a pattern/sewing instructions ever before I am soooo lost. I have cut everything out but I am frozen in fear as I cannot figure out the order I should sew things nor can I make almost ANY sense out of the instructions. Am I missing something?

    • It’s ok to make mistakes as you are learning. A seam ripper will be invaluable to you as you tackle your first few projects. 🙂

      Is there a particular step that has you frustrated?

      – Amani

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