How I started sewing | How About Orange

September 09, 2008

How I started sewing

I've received many emails asking how to learn to sew. Silly people, don't you know I'm not very good at it? But I can tell you how I got started and maybe point you in the right direction.

My husband got me a Singer 7462 for Christmas a couple years ago after I told him I didn't want a sewing machine. I figured it would sit in a corner unused and make me feel guilty every time I saw it. But he got me one anyway because he loves me and knows me better than I know myself. Sure enough, it was one of the best presents ever, even though it makes me want to shoot myself sometimes.

Which is why you won't believe me when I say this model is very simple to operate. I have no complaints about it except that the light on it is quite dim. You'll either need to wear a miner's headlamp or drag a lamp over next to you. Other than that, it's fabulous.

My machine came from a fabric store down the street, and free lessons were included. If you buy from a local store, see if they offer some beginning lessons. A nice lady met with me four times to teach me how to get started. Very helpful. I've since forgotten everything she said, but it gave me enough confidence to make my first project by myself: that bag in the picture above, made from this tutorial. I was bursting with pride because it actually looks like a bag!

The Complete Photo Guide to Sewing is a very useful but ugly sewing book that's helped me a lot. And good news. They're finally updating it, due out in January. It tells you all the types of seams and what they're for, how to put in a zipper, make a pillow, plus scads of other projects. It's better than a website because you'll need to refer to it constantly while you're doing a project.

If you want a really pretty, inspirational book, get Amy Butler's In Stitches. Not as useful for the basics, but much nicer to look at, with cool project ideas.

Now go read these articles from people who know more than I do:
Where to Begin Sewing at JCaroline Creative
What Kind of Sewing Machine to Buy at Purl Soho

Hopefully that's helpful to someone out there. Really, you should sew. You will like it most of the time.

38 comments:

Pumpkin Petunia said...

What a perfect description: "you will like it most of the time." That's exactly how I feel about sewing. Unfortunately, right now, while my current project mocks me from the other room, is not most of the time. : )

Marfa said...

Don't you have a great husband! My husband bought me one, at a flea market, without me...I wanted one, but not an OLD one, when he told me it was just $20, my heart sank, BUT it works beautifully! I was very surprised and happy!

Grandma G said...

How come you never showed me that bag before??? At least I don't remember seeing it.

Yes, everyone 'should' sew! It's great fun once you get the hang of it.

And yes, she does have a great husband (and that's an understatement)!

Mum/Mum-in-law

Jess said...

Because I was going to give it to you for Christmas. Just kidding; I wasn't really. Um, I don't know why. Never got around to it. But here it is! Ta da!

kimberly said...

This is actually really helpful info. I've been toying with the idea of getting a sewing machine, but had no clue where to go from there. These links should make life a little easier!

Prêt à Voyager said...

As a 4th grader I took sewing lessons at the local fabric store. I don't know if "local" fabric stores even exist anymore, let alone lessons for kids, but they were great! (I also took lessons out of a woman's home). So rewarding to say I made something myself, and at such a young age. True, I haven't touched a sewing machine in nearly 20 years, but perhaps I'll be reinspired :)

Anne

staceys said...

while helping my grandma move recently we found an old machine- I asked if i could have it. Grandma said no. :( instead she bought me a new one. Its super duper fancy ($$$) and totally intimidating. it taunts me.
i don't know how to sew (yet). i wish i had got the hand me down one and not the monster that lurks in the corner now....

Jodie said...

You're right on about liking sewing "most of the time". That's my relationship with it to a T. (Whatever that means?)

Maggie said...

I've never been much of a sewer (my sewing machine currently resides in a closet), but my mom is awesome at it. She actually works at Vogue Fabrics in Evanston teaching lessons and selling sewing machines. She also gives free demos on Mondays over various sewing techniques. Here's the website for Vogue if anyone in the Chicagoland area is interested:

http://www.myvoguefabrics.com

47cats said...

I love your bag! Lynn

zarina said...

Last night I had trouble sleeping - not that I have enough deadlines to meet. But which fabric I want to purchase at this great local craft store (they are having a *sale* at the end of the year). Mind - I have not done any sewing (normal sewing) for ages but after reading your blog and SouleMama it makes me want to start again. Well as I have said - if we are not crafting (which I'm not since I'm rushing for my master's project) we are stashing which I'm doing right now.

LollyChops said...

Totally accurate description... "you will like it most of the time." There are times I feel like ripping the spool of thread off the machine and hurling it across the room - but those times are not as they used to be. It's def getting easier.

teri said...

Cute bag! I seem to be addicted to fabric bags these days. This is my first time at your blog. I enjoyed my visit and will be back....

Jennifer said...

This couldn't have come at a better time, I'm moving soon and can't afford to buy curtains so want to make them. I've bought some remnants to make little things out of to practice, but I'm so worried! My friend is coming over to show me how to thread the machine and do basic things next week. Fingers crossed!

Lexy. said...

I keep thinking I'd like to try that sewing thing... I've even bought the fabric.

The first thing I ever had to sew was satin boxer shorts for home ec at school when I was 14. I think it was pretty cruel to start us off with satin, and it scarred me for life.

I also forgot that shorts tend to have holes for you to put your legs through. I kind of ended up with a two-pocket-bag-thing. So my mum unpicked it for me and fixed it and she got an A. And then she got an A for all my friends too.

Maybe I should try again... especially after seeing your bad-looking bag!

TranquilityKnots said...

Great tips like always, Jess.
My hubby bought me a brother sewing machine as my first bday gift after we got married. I LOVE it! I am not saying that I am good at it, but at least I can make curtains, pillows, bags, baby gifts, and anything(simple things) else I want. My advice is just go ahead play with it and watch lots of those sewing shows on HGTV. That's how I started.
Good luck everyone, and have fun. Oh, BTW, if anyone live in MA or nearby, Fabric Place (Framingham and Woburn) is closing down, so everything is 20-50% off. Great chance to build up your collection.

TranquilityKnots said...

Oh, forgot to say, all the sewing machines and all notions are also 20% off. But I think only the Framingham store carries sewing machines. You probably should call them first.

Alexis said...

such a nice post! if you want a very comprehensive learning experience, most community colleges have begining sewing classes. i took a semester of evening classes and loved it, and am now enrolled to learn pattern making! plus my grandma gave me her singer from the 60's, so i have to sew all the time...

maritessb said...

thank you for posting this. i'm taking a class at a local rec and i'm already worried about it. hopefully someday i'd be as good as you!

ellencrimitrent said...

I am not great either which is why I switched my major at Pratt from fashion design to illustration!! I can make
minor things but no clothes, I just do not have the patience!

paperseed.wordpress.com said...

That is a great looking bag. You may feel like you don't sew very well, but what really works in your favor is your design sense and the excellent colors and fabrics that you choose. The right print/material makes a huge difference between a ho-hum outcome and an awesome one.

julie (jane's apron) said...

Based on your attitude about sewing (being exactly like mine), I'm going to ask for your model sewing machine for my birthday. Thanks for making the shopping easier!

erin said...

I'm so happy to read this... I just posted about wanting to learn how to sew! Maybe I'll ask for a sewing machine for my birthday and learn. Thanks!

Beth said...

Jessica- I just recently found your blog and I'm addicted. I'm just learning to sew and I was very excited to see this post. Thanks for all the great ideas. Keep them coming.

Jess said...

Beth, happy sewing! That's great!

Erin said...

Thanks! This is just what I was needing to help me revive my long-dormant sewing mojo.
I have been doing "tailoring" of clothes picked up at the thrift store that needed a seam taken in to fit. (I'm sewing on a 30 year old Singer also picked up at the thrift)
My latest so-simple-a-kindergartener-could-do-it thing is sew a piece of vintage embroidery into a pouch, fill it with lavender, and give it to friends as moth repellent sachet for their woolens.

Jess said...

thank you for sharing! I am a beginnner at sewing....and i seem to be collecting bag tutorials...mabe when the dust settles from our construction projects I'll find a place to set up my sewing machine....I love the bag you made!!!!

reedsandstrings said...

It's as if you wrote this post just for me! I bought a sewing machine yesterday, even though I have no idea where to even start using it. It came with a little instructional DVD, which I'll watch this afternoon, but now I have more resources - thanks to you!

lu-n-am said...

this is a great description of your sewing history. i hope to get a sewing machine soon, and i can't wait. i just know that i'm going to have a love/hate relationship with it!
<3
~Am~

Ms Hyper Superficiality said...

Listen to grandma g everyone!

Everyone should sew. It may change your perspective on the whole world dressing. You can be so independent.

And a great post. For those who need some extra inspiration there is this post over at A Dress A Day

And for those who have less than perfect husbands in the sewing machine buying department there is this post: How to choose a sewing machine.

Thanks for a great blog! Your time wasters are my favorite guilty pleasure (no calories!) and the tutorials you find are always inspiring. I'm more of a mauve person myself, but you might convert me yet.

Snowiye said...

I love the fabric- can I ask where/ who makes it? I've been thinking about getting a sewing machine since I keep seeing used ones n Craigslist!

Jess said...

It's an Amy Butler fabric, but I can't remember the name of it. It's a little bit older, so you might not be able to find it since she's come out with some newer collections since. Good luck!

diana said...

hihi, and just read the post "I'm not very good at it as well".

I bet you are left handed - because of the wrong pin direction. I have that al the time as well. Just like the sewing things to itself-thing.
Keep going!

iloveupstate.com said...

After searching - forever...I finally found a one-on-one sewing coach in NYC. For $25 an hour she comes to my house and I get all her attention. It's better than therapy.

Jess said...

Well, Diana, I wish I could say I was left-handed so I'd have an excuse, but I'm right-handed. Shoot.

Iloveupstate, that's a good deal. And much, much, much cheaper than therapy!!

Amy said...

'Sew Everything Workshop' by Dianna Rupp is THE BEST beginner's sewing book (it's cheap on Amazon) ! I did'nt even know what the word bobbin meant when my in-laws bought me my Singer 3 months ago but I haven't stopped sewing since!

SEW, SEW, SEW! :)

Jess said...

Good tip! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I started maaaany years ago in seventh grade Home-Ec, it was a required class for 7th and 8th grade girls. A good start on all the basics. I am amazed and appalled at all the women who say, 'I don't sew'. It is something everyone should know, like doing laundry and cooking. But then I did not make sure my sons could sew before they left home, maybe I should have.

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