For centuries the art of “Making Over” old dresses by resourceful women in an effort to be in step with the current trends and styles was a common practice. In the past centery that kind of inventive attitude has been almost completely forgotten. We can still dress stylish on a shoe string budget using the same skills they used. Lucky for us it has become quite chic to “Be Green” and shop “Vintage.”
It would be quite impossible for me to teach you all there is to know about sewing by just one blog, but hopefully I can give you enough tips for you to teach yourself. I have known many women who get excited, go out, buy a machine, and then feel overwhelmed, put the machine in a closet and let it gather dust for ten years before they finally give it away.
Every great journey begins with one step or baby steps.
You and Your Machine. The relationship between a women and her sewing machine can be a beautiful thing spoken of only in soft reverent tones. But, like any relationship, you have to get to know each other before you can fall in love.
Now lets pull out that dusty machine and learn how it works. Step one: Read the manual. There is no shame in reading a manual. I have owned my machine for 6 years now and about once a year I pull out the manual for no other purpose than a refresher course on features and maintenance. Two months ago I learned how to do something I had never done and had forgotten my machine was capable of doing.
(if you have lost your manual, type the make and model of your machine into a search engine and search for the manual on line. They are usually available to view for free)
Step Two: Learn how to thread your machine, set your machine for a basic straight stitch, put some fabric down, and sew a straight line. Congratulations!!! You now know how to sew. It’s not as complicated as people make it look.
First Project. Make the first project something simple. Go to the fabric store and let your kids pick out some cotton, cut it into squares and make them some pillow cases. Or make some and donate to a local hospital. The key point of this is to be familiar with your machine and improve and gain confidence in a straight stitch.
Like anything, the more you do it the better you will get at it.
I Have a Notion.
Definition: noun (usually Plural) small personal articles or sewing items; “buttons, needles, thimbles, and scissors are notions.”
In Victorian time notions were small and delicate. They were a very personal item for a woman and their quality and embellishment was evidence of her social and financial status.
If you are just getting started, you may not have any Sewing Notions. For someone who has never sewn before, walking down the notions aisle at your local fabric store can be a little confusing. What are all these thing-a-ma-bobs and do-hickys? Do I need them all? How much is all this going to cost?
Many notions are needed on a project by project basis. There are some you will always need. Let me give you a basics list of what you will need and why.
Scissors. You will definitely need sewing scissors. Sewing scissors are different from other scissors and are made for cutting fabric. NEVER use your sewing scissor for cutting anything but fabric… that is unless you want them to dull and ruin.(that means you may have to hide them from your husband and kids)
Many hard core sewers will spend hundreds of dollars on deluxe scissors that they cherish for years. Others will opt to buy a new cheap pair every year or so. Many fabric stores will bring in someone to sharpen scissors once a year. Just ask around to find out when. It is often FREE.
Big vs Small. The big scissors are for cutting fabric. The small scissor are thread scissors and are used more when sewing by hand, but are still often used with a machine. For beginners I recommend just getting your most basic cheap pair and as you get experience you will have a better idea of what you want in a pair of scissors.
Seam Ripper. Meet your new best friend. Seam rippers are not just for ripping out and correcting mistakes. They can be invaluable when reconstructing an item. Everything from removing a button to taking off a sleeve requires a seam ripper. Start out with one, but I guarantee if you get into sewing, you will, like me, start collecting them. I think I own four.
Measuring Tape. As you start sewing you will find you measure a lot. Like the seam ripper you may start collecting these. You can get them as a free tape you have to wind up yourself or a self winding tape. I like the self winding for obvious reasons. WARNING: If you let your husband sit and play with the winder while he watches ‘Alias,’ he may break it.
Bobbins. Usually a couple of bobbins come with your sewing machine, but you will always need more. I like the metal kind, but I have both metal and plastic. I usually keep about ten bobbins full of my basic color threads.
Pins and Cushion. You will always need straight sewing pins for something. The small ones are usually dirt cheap, but I prefer to spend a little more for the bigger colored ones. They are easier to see and there is less of a chance of one getting left in my clothes and jabbing me later. More than anything, with the bigger ones I run less of a chance of losing one and having my kids find it or, worse, step on it.
Pin cushions are optional but helpful and highly recommended for keeping track of your pins. They are always well worth having around. WARNING: they are full of saw dust and if your dog chews one up, you will be dealing with saw dust in your sewing box for a year.
Thread. I usually buy thread as I need it to mach my project. That having been said, I have found there is no such thing as having too much black and white thread. I like to catch the big spools on sale and buy black, white, and the six basic colors.
Stripped for Parts.
Recently I have been focussing on using everything and not letting anything go to waste. If I think I could someday use something in a project it goes neatly into its place in my plastic containers and waits for its day to come.
I have pulled pockets out of jeans, ripped off labels, lace, and patches. I have a jar full of buttons. When I get a new shirt that comes with the spare button on the tag, that button goes right into my button jar. As long as you keep a little organization to it, taking old clothes and stripping them for parts can be very useful.