Consider this fair warning. Sewing is like the thing you swear you are never going to do. At least for me, I never really aspired to have stacks of fabric around, lose threads all over the floor and a sewing machine (OR THREE).
Never did I think vacations and little treasured moments of free time would revolve around sewing/fabric shops. Nor did I ever, in my most pitiful dreams, think that for a birthday gift, I would simply want an entire uninterrupted day to sew. WHAAT? The single version of me of long ago is cringing as I write this. But what did she know? The truth is… I LOVE IT. And so will you. However, your wallet will not. No worries. Obsession will help you cheat and steal to feed your addiction.
It is creative, productive and zen like all at the very same time. Sew I love nothing better than talking patterns, technique, fabric, thread and applique. Wait. Did I just say sew instead of so? Dear lord. I need an intervention… or a trip to the fabric store! If it seems like I’m in the deep end of the pool and you’ll need 10 years of practice to tread water next to me, think again! Seriously, once you have the right tools, this is not any more complicated than following a recipe in the kitchen or Google Map directions to get to grandpa’s house. Seriously.
And if you take a spin around the Internet, you’ll see, this is not your grandmother’s sewing. The fabrics are fresh, the quilts are modern and the clothes look fantastic.
So let’s get you started:
MACHINE: Here are the two greatest tips I received when buying my first big girl sewing machine.
- If you can, try to buy one that has the “automatic button hole” feature. Bottom line, it’s a miracle and worth every extra penny to get it.
- Brand. Every sewist I know swears by their own brand of sewing machine. I have a Bernina and two Janomes and I love them all. So how do you choose? Do exactly as I tell you (and as it was told to me) find your local sewing shop. You are looking for one that will be around and also offers classes, generally has a culture of teaching and sharing about it. You’ll know you’ve found it from the moment you walk in the door. Buy whichever brand they are selling. Usually, they will offer mastery classes for free (that means they will teach you in a class setting every thing your machine does and make sure you know how to use it.) Generally they will also offer repairs and servicing which is critical. You can not go wrong by following this advice, even if you find the machine $30 cheaper on the Internet, the online dealer will not be capable of supporting you like a brick and mortar store can.
LESSONS: If you already have a machine or you just bought one, turn to your local sewing shop for lessons. If you are in Charlotte, NC, turn to my trusted friend Jennifer Mathis of Ellison Lane Quilts. She is offering classes as well and has an incredible eye for quilt design. WHENEVER possible, I try to take a class even if it’s for a project that I know how to make. EVERY time I take a class from someone who really knows what they are doing, I always walk away with a tip or useful technique that makes my life easier.
- Pillow Case – This is a great place to start. And a pillow case can be completed in a morning. I just made one for Crowley, using this tutorial (complete step-by-step instructions with pictures) from Dana Made It, which is one of my favorite sewing blogs.
- Pajama bottoms – They are fun and easy and a great introduction into how garments are put together.
PATTERNS: Not all sewing patterns are created equal. Not even close! Before you run out and buy the patterns at the closest mega sewing store, STOP! They will make you second guess your decision to sew because they are complicated and difficult to understand. Plus every time I use one, I need to know origami just to fold it back up! Start with the following patterns (and just so it’s clear, this is my opinion from my experience. I am not being paid or rewarded in any way to recommend the following companies – though they can start sending me checks right now, if they like.)
Amy Butler – She is a fabric, pattern, sewing lifestyle designer. She has tons of free patterns on her website and great books with patterns included. I used Butler’s book Little Stitches for Little Ones to make PJs for Crowley and this project gave me so much confidence to try more children’s clothes. What sets her apart is the modern look of her designs and the very clear and easy to follow instructions. She absolutely spells it out.
- Oliver + S– This pattern and fabric company is the brain child of the wonderful Liesl Gibson. I CANNOT say ENOUGH about her patterns. And her whole concept. I have learned a ton about sewing from the tips she includes with each pattern. Her directions are incredible and you’ll feel enriched after having made a garment under her tuteledge. I have also noticed that when people have questions about a particular step and ask them in the forums on her website, she PERSONALLY answers in many cases. She just gets it. And she will have you quickly making items so incredible and professional and FABULOUS, you won’t believe it!
- Children’s Corner – The Johnny Pattern for boys is my favorite. I have made probably 30 of them and each one looks unique. It is so easy to customize and update so that not a single version looks like the rest! The directions are easy to follow. I’ll be making some for Baby Q. and will be sure to let you know and you can sew along with me!
- Scientific Seamstress has top notch incredible instructions for her patterns. I mean the layout of the directions are fantastic and easy for beginners or advanced to follow. I make the Easy Fit Pants by the dozens. They are suitable for boy and girl. Her approach to sewing is refreshing and simple while producing a great result! Tip: You can make this pattern more slim fit by taking an inch off the side seams. This pattern and others are downloadable as well.
Any questions, let me know. If I don’t have the answers, I can point you in the direction of people who do. Welcome to the club slash cult. There is no exit!