Firstly thank you to Karina for suggesting the adorable name, I love it! I’ll draw a pretty graphic for next week.
I think it’s going to be best to take this in bite size chunks so we don’t get too far ahead and everyone has a chance to ask questions before we move on. Also keep in mind that I am telling you about the way *I* sew. Every seamstress has different techniques and favorite ways to do things, these are just mine!
Ok so you want to learn how to sew? Awesome! Before you jump in and drop a couple of grand at your local sewing supply it’s important to know what you might need, what it’s going to cost and what you can actually do with it. There’s no point spending a heap of money on a fancy shmancy computerised embroidery machine when you just want to make basic skirts or repair damaged clothes.
Before you buy anything you need to understand what it is you want to do with it. Do you want to sew basic clothes? Do you want to make clothes to sell? Do you want to do machine embroidery?Other questions you should ask yourself include:
I think that the majority of you will be sewing every now and then and probably just to make basic clothes and repair/alter other things. In that case there is no point buying a super fancy machine. I learned to sew on my grandma’s machine from the 70’s, for a while I had a converted machine from the 50’s and other than machines I’ve used at other people’s studios I’ve only ever had the lowest cheapest machines I could possible find.
As long as your machine can straight stitch forward, backwards, and zigzag stitch that’s all you need. If it can do button holes even better. If it has a zipper foot you’re all set! Any other function is great but not something that you NEED.
Brands I’ve had include Singer, Brother, and I think the one I had as a kid was a Janome. Currently I’m using a Singer it was around $150 on sale from Big W. In Australia that’s pretty cheap for a machine, I checked Lincraft last week and they started at around $180-700 depending on functions. Overseas, at thrift stores or online you can probably find them cheaper and for a beginner I would get the cheapest one you can find or borrow one from a friend or relative.
If you don’t have the money or can’t find a machine it’s not a big deal. You have lots of other options including hand sewing (post on that coming up) and hand machines (if you want a post on this let me know, I kind of hate them though!) they just tend to be a lot more time consuming.
The method you choose is basically irrelevant to what you make so use what you can afford and don’t let it hold back your creativity 😀
An overlocker/serger makes perfectly sealed and cut edges for items. You can use them to prevent delicate fabric from unraveling, make fancy edging and they can be a great time saver.
As a beginner, do you really need one? Probably not. Sewing machines can be enough to learn to begin with so I would really suggest mastering that first. You can use a sewing machine to do variations of most things an overlocker does anyway.
Overlockers are much more expensive than sewing machines and while they are extremely awesome and I absolutely love mine to death, unless you’re planning to mass produce clothes for sale they are definitely a luxury. My grandma made perfectly durable clothes for her 11 children (and more grandchildren than I can count) without an overlocker.
Once you have moved on from beginner sewing it’s something which is worth looking into as a time saver and I will be writing a post dedicated to overlockers which will give a lot more information.
You will need some basic sewing needles if you’re going to be hand stitching anything. Even if you aren’t going to hand stitch things I would suggest getting a pack of needles because it’s easier to do things like sew on buttons by hand.
When picking out needles I would suggest getting an assorted pack so you can match what you’re using to the fabric. For example, I prefer thin flexible needles for things like chiffon and durable thick needles for denim. The same thing goes for sewing machine needles, there are different grades and they are meant for different fabrics.
I have a confession: I hate pinning things. I do it as little as possible. I will be doing it in this series because I don’t want to teach other people my bad habits so make sure to get yourself a box of pins so you can decide for yourself whether you want to use them.
Buy bright pins. Plain metal pins may be very practical and cheap but you will thank yourself for buying neon purple plastic headed pins the first time you accidentally drop a box of them and have to find them all under the couch again. I prefer my pins to be colour matching… that’s just because I like colour co-ordination though, there’s no other benefit.
You will need thread colours that match your fabric. If you’re just starting out then I suggest buying a kit with a variety of colours. There are different grades of thread and they come made with different materials so if quality is your #1 concern make sure you pick a high grade of thread. Cotton and silk are the most common materials threads are made from and you can usually tell quality by looking closely, if it is shiny and looks like really tiny twisted yarn it’s good quality, if it is a little fluffy and just looks like one strand it’s not so great. Great quality thread is much harder to snap and will last longer so consider investing in it especially if you are going to put a lot of strain on your stitches by doing something like ruffling. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to hand ruffle 20m of fabric and to have the thread snap right as you reach the end!
If you are on a budget then start with a cheap pack of black and white thread. You can generally get away with just a black or white 😉
Scissors aren’t something most people think about, I didn’t even consider them a really important tool until I was given a really nice pair. Obviously so long as they can cut fabric, you can use any pair of scissors you like. If they do fit into your budget I would suggest buying a good pair of sharp sewing scissors. It is SO much easier to cut complicated shapes out of fabric when you have a good sharp pair of scissors. If you can’t afford a new pair then make sure you sharpen your existing ones. You can do so very carefully using a sharpening stick or block that you would use for kitchen knives. Be very careful though and if you haven’t done it before make sure to ask someone for help.
You don’t really *need* one of these but it’s nice to have. I can never find mine so I usually just use scissors but when you are beginning and you make mistakes this can be very handy! I’ll show you how to use it step by step once we get started!
Again this is nice to have but it’s not necessary. I’ll be using Quinne to illustrate points throughout this series but I’ll also show you how to do things without a mannequin when we get to stuff like how to drape patterns. You can see how I made my mannequin in this tutorial.
This is probably the most important thing, you can’t sew if you don’t have any fabric! Picking fabric depends on the project so I’m not going to go into that here, I will do a post where I take you to a fabric store and compare different kinds of fabrics and the projects you’ll be using them for though. The kind of fabric you use and the things you make will depend on why you want to sew.
In my experience (and I’m completely generalising here), the two biggest reasons people choose to make their own clothes are money and quality. You should choose your materials accordingly. For example, if you are trying to save money, there’s no point buying $150p/m flocked taffeta because you could really buy a fully made dress so much cheaper than that. Especially when you consider the hours you will be putting into it. If you are looking to sew because you want the best quality clothing possible then likewise avoid super cheap fabrics like polypop because you just won’t get the finish you want.
These are just the basic materials. Of course you can go to your craft store and stock up on all kinds of fun things and accessories and there will definitely be other supplies that we will need for individual projects but once you get these basics you’re well on your way.
After you’re learned the basics of sewing, with a little creativity you can make just about anything! Next week we’ll learn about how to use a sewing machine, how to thread it and hopefully start sewing our first stitches!
As always, if you have questions about anything leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer. Hope this was Sew Fun for you guys, I’m really inspired to start writing more about this because as I lay it out I keep thinking of more and more things I want to teach 😀