I promise my blog isn’t going to turn into a DIY blog… but for the past 11+ plus years, it’s followed me through every stage of my life. And right now, I’m all about the crafting. I’ve said it before, but I think right now it’s coming down to a deep, deep desire (maybe even a need) to create real, tangible things.
One of my goals for the year was to sew more (and make lunch at home more which is certainly the case). Sewing actually felt pretty lofty to me. I had no idea when or how I was going to fit it into my schedule and I was also intimidated to relearn. Anyway, here we are.
Since I’ve been posting about my sewing adventures on Instagram, I have gotten a ton of questions about where to start. To be honest, I think if you go into this with an open mind, anyone can do this. There’s a wide spectrum when it comes to sewing, like anything. Kind of like how there are different levels and types of artists? Same here. No one is expecting you to whip up a couture gown as your first project just like no one would expect you to paint a watercolor masterpiece on your first try. Maybe you’re more of a paint by numbers kind of gal, you know?
Let me preface everything by saying what I always say, I’m not an expert! I’m getting a lot of questions on how to start and I feel like I have no authority on the subject. But I’ll share my thoughts and what has helped me learn over the past few months. (One thing I will say though, I think people in the sewing community from what I’ve seen are SO helpful. People love to share resources and share tips and tricks and as a beginner, I am VERY grateful. There are other crafting communities where I feel like a lot of gatekeeping happens– hoarding tips, turning noses up at people trying to start, etc– but I haven’t experienced that in sewing at all.)
LOCAL SEWING STORES
This is maybe not ~as~ relevant right now if you are unable to visit your sewing store with closures, but I would be remiss not to include this first and foremost. Mine is Sew Jersey and the ladies that work there have been so, so helpful. From selecting fabrics to sorting out machine issues if you have any. They also host (during non-COVID times) in-person meet ups where people can help you with projects.
If you’re just starting out and feeling totally intimidated, maybe wait until you can visit your local store for personalized advice!
Sew Jersey is doing local curbside pick up too, which has been so helpful! I ran out of thread mid-mask sewing and they had an order ready to go for me for contactless pick up within an hour.
This is the machine I bought, it does sewing and embroidery. I don’t regret buying it, but the embroidery portion is just okay and I probably would have been better off buying two separate things if I was so committed to having embroidery. If I were doing it again, I would buy a Singer Simple or a Brother Lightweight. You don’t need anything complicated and, frankly, the more complicated things are on the machine the harder it might be to dive in. Sewing machines are hot right now so it may be hard to find one. I would also encourage you to reach out to local Facebook groups to see if anyone is selling one.
I pored over the manual for my machine when I first got it and I still keep it next to me when I sew to refer to it if a question pops up. Actually, I should say when a question pops up. It’s the best manual I’ve ever seen for any device and I am the Queen of Manuals.
I have quickly realized why people have entire rooms for sewing. Between the space I need to really get into a project and the number of things I have accumulated, it can be an undertaking. You could really buy a ton of stuff, but here’s what I think is the most helpful for me as a beginner, beyond the actual sewing machine:
(I think I got everything… that you may need for beginner projects. Again… the sewing tools and gadgets can really accumulate!)
I’ve been buying patterns exclusively through Etsy right now. The designers and small business owners there are creating the cutest and most modern patterns. The patterns in fabric stores often feel pretty dated to me. (Though I’d love suggestions of more places to look if you have any!) Etsy is a treasure trove and the best part is that you can download the patterns from your computer and print them out at home. At first it felt a little intimidating taping patterns together but once you get the hang of it, it’s a breeze. I typically put on an audiobook while I cut the patterns out, it’s actually kind of relaxing.
I haven’t done anything adult yet, so I can only share the children/baby patterns I purchased, but I’ve had fantastic luck with Oh Me Oh My Sewing and The Freckled Pear. The biggest tip I have (from making the mistake myself) is to GO OFF OF MEASUREMENTS. Don’t assume sizes based on the numbers…. I ended up with a toddler sized baby dress, whoops.
I have primarily been buying fabric also from Etsy… but would also love your recommendations for sources or brands. I’m so new that it’s hard to find the good non-cheesy stuff while shopping online. (I did pick up some beautiful fabrics from Sew Jersey this past winter… can’t wait to shop their selection in person again.)
My plan was to go to in-person sessions at Sew Jersey to learn… but that was put on the back burner, of course. I turned to my usual source for learning new skills: Youtube. I pretty much just search what I’m trying to do and watch videos until I find one that has good video quality and explains things clearly. The best way to learn is through doing (in my opinion) so I think it helps to find a project that is inspiring you and then try to tackle it. Don’t expect it to be perfect, but go step by step utilizing resources as needed. For example, when I was making the first toddler dress, I had NO IDEA what an “under stitching” was, I watched a video and bam, then I knew how. I could not for the live of me figure out how to attach the sleeve to the dress, pulled up a video and bam, then I knew how. Below are some videos that I have watched and referred back to as needed:
The key is to find someone who teaches in the way you like to learn best. I personally value better visuals over voiceovers because typically I just need to see how it’s done, but maybe you learn best by hearing or reading. You know yourself the best.
I’m obviously still such a beginner, but here are the things I’ve done:
I’m going to keep making little baby dresses for my friends’ kids (currently making this). Everything mini is just better, right? But I think my two next personal projects are this apron and this dress. For the dress, I’ve been obsessed with following Tabitha Sewer– I want to make and wear everything she’s done. I already bought the pattern she recommended for the bodice of the tiered dress and now that I feel kind of (sort of!) more confident with zippers I’m ready to dive in… maybe that’s my project this weekend. (The hardest part for me is choosing which fabric to use! So many options…)