Vote For Our First Big Sewing Project! Sew Fun

So far we’ve learned some basic sewing skills and seeing as you guys preferred to learn skills inside actual projects it’s time to vote on our first major project!

The first 3 that I’ve picked are roughly the same skill level and have mostly the same techniques used.

See the options below and then vote using the form beneath that. Let me know if you have any suggestions in the comments too!

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First Sewing Project- How To Sew A Pouch! Sew Fun!

I promised we would get started with our first project this week and here it is! We are going to learn the very basics of sewing by making a cute little pouch.

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These pouches were the first thing that I ever learned how to make, they are very useful and even more so they teach a lot of really useful sewing skills in a way which isn’t too complicated or overwhelming. So let’s get started!

You need:

  • Scissors
  • Fabric
  • Pins
  • Thread
  • Sewing machine

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Cut two rectangles of fabric. You will need to make them around 4cm longer and wider than you want the finished bag to be. This is called leaving a seam allowance.  Because we need room for the stitches to make seams we need to cut all of the pieces larger so it ends up the right size. It doesn’t matter too much with small things like this but seam allowances become very important when you are making clothing that needs to actually fit you 😉

Most fabrics have a “good side” and a “bad side”. The good side just means the side you want to be on the outside when the project is finished. It’s obviously easier to see which side needs to go out on printed fabrics but you can generally tell on most fabrics if you look closely. I am using polar fleece for this project because it’s a good beginners fabric, it doesn’t stretch much and it doesn’t warp easily.

In most sewing projects you will work with the “good sides” facing inside so at the end when we turn everything the right way out you won’t see all of the seams.

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Decide which edge of the fabric will be the top of your pouch and fold over around 1cm of the edge.

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Fold it down again. Now the raw edge is encased inside the fold completely and you won’t need to worry about it fraying later.

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Pin in place and repeat on the other piece of fabric.

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Now let’s sew it in place!

We will be using a straight stitch to begin with so set your machine accordingly.

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Thread your machine. Ideally you should use thread which is the same colour as your fabric. Here I’m using purple thread so you can see what’s going on. If you are a beginner you might find it easy to use bright contrasting thread so you can see what you are doing.

With the needle and the foot up place the edge of fold under the foot.

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Now lower the foot.

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You need to make sure the stitches aren’t going to come undone later so you should begin and end every line of stitch with an anchor.

To create the anchor we stitch overlapping forwards and backwards at the edge of the fabric.

Press the foot pedal gently (or use the hand reel on the side) and sew around 1cm forward.

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Then hold down the reverse button and gently stitch backwards to where you started.

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Now go forwards again and this time continue stitching to the end of the fabric. When you get to the end, secure the stitches by going backwards 1cm and then forwards again.

Sew right off the edge of the piece of fabric.

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When you are sewing for the most part you should have both hands guiding the fabric and one foot on the pedal.

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Lift the machine foot and pull your piece of fabric off to the side so you get a trail of thread. Cut that off.

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Repeat this on the other rectangle. You should now have two rectangles with the ends folded and stitched.

You can see below where I’ve drawn to represent the stitches and the anchors.

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Now we need to put the two pieces together and sew them in place.

Stack the rectangles with the good sides together. The sides with the fold should be on the outside.

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Pin them in place. You can see below where we are going to be stitching.

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Begin on the right side at the folds, lower the foot and anchor the stitches by going forwards/backwards.

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Stitch in a straight line down the side of the rectangles. You want to leave around 1cm between your line of stitches and the edge of the fabric. I find it’s much easier to get a straight line of stitches if I don’t look at the needle, instead try looking where the fabric enters the foot and make sure it’s straight as you go. There are also lines on the machine which can help you line things up well.

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Once you get around 1cm from the edge of the fabric we need to turn the corner. Lower the needle into the fabric, you will probably find this easier by using the hand wheel.

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Lift up the foot with the needle still down through the fabric.

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Rotate the fabric 90 degrees so the machine is now pointing in the next direction you want to sew.

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Put the foot down again and start sewing along the new line.

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Continue until you reach the next corner then repeat the process to turn again. Sew up the last side and anchor at the end.

You should have something along these lines:

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Now we just need to seal the edges so they don’t fray. To do this you could use an overlocker or just zigzag stitch with your machine.

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This time you will need to line up the piece of fabric so that the machine stitches the left side of the zigzag into the fabric and the right side over the edge of the fabric. What this will do is completely encase all of the raw edges and prevent them from fraying or coming unravelled later.

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Begin with anchoring as usual.

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Turn the corner in the same way that you did with the straight stitch.

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Continue around the 3 edges

Remember that this is your first project so don’t stress too much if everything isn’t perfect, you will slowly get a feel for things over time 🙂 I did this pouch while I was crouching balanced on one leg in front of a stool so we could get the photos XD

So you should have something along the lines of this:

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Snip off the extra dangly threads.

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Turn the whole thing inside out.

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Easy!

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That didn’t take too long and is a very handy little pouch to have.

So what sewing techniques did you learn making this?

  • Straight stitch
  • Zigzag stitch
  • Sealing edges
  • Turning corners while sewing
  • Hemming
  • Anchoring

Not bad for a first project!

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What do you guys want to learn in the next project?

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Did you enjoy learning techniques while actually making something or do you prefer to learn each technique individually.

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Let me know what you think and see you next week for more Sew Fun!

Getting To Know/Threading Your Sewing Machine! Sew Fun

I ended up having to split this post into two because I didn’t realise how much there was to learn here or how involved it actually was >_< Once you’ve been sewing for a little while all of this becomes second nature so you won’t even think about threading a machine, it will just kind of happen. So when you see how complicated it looks don’t be discouraged, I promise it gets a little easier every time and soon you won’t even need to look at the instructions!

So threading a sewing machine can be kind of scary for beginners but it really shouldn’t be! First let’s get to know about sewing machines a little bit.

Keep in mind that during this guide I will be using a Singer, your machine may be different to mine. Most sewing machines thread roughly the same way but it’s always best to see if you can find a manual specific to your make and model. I will be giving tips which are specific to my Singer and also fairly general so please take this as a guide rather than concrete instructions and use your imagination to apply it to your own situation. Also keep in mind that I’m only going to be explaining the basics for the moment. There will be other functions that the machine has that I will ignore for the moment because they aren’t needed for what we’re going to do as beginners. I will cover them in the advanced classes later.

A note on safety first:

BE CAREFUL. It REALLY hurts if you accidentally sew your finger. Seriously. Keep your fingers away from the needle when your foot is on the pedal. It seems obvious but I have seen a lot of injuries because people weren’t paying attention. If you have animals make sure they are in another room. I had a friend once who caught her finger in a machine because her cat jumped on the petal.

If you are threading your machine, turn it off at the switch or at the very least take your foot off the pedal. I cannot stress this enough. It also can’t hurt to have someone who already knows what they are doing around a sewing machine to help you if possible. You can’t be too careful!

So let’s look at our machine!

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The first thing you’ll notice is that there are two big dials on the right of the machine. Most machines have several dials which control different aspects of how the finished line of stitches looks. The location of these dials varies a lot, my previous machine had all of them on the top where as this one has two on the front and two on the top.

The two on the front are for stitch length and stitch type. They are basically exactly what they sound like.

The top dial controls stitch length, depending on the number you choose the stitches will become really long or really short. If you choose 0-1 you will get super tiny stitches which are used for things like button holes. I usually have mine set on 3, that gives a very standard length.

The bottom dial controls the kind of stitch the machine will be sewing. We will be using straight stitch and zigzag. We may use the button hole stitches at some point too. All of the other stitches are fancy and to be honest a little pointless. For the style of clothing we’re going to make the designs just don’t need that kind of stitching.

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Now let’s look at the top of the machine. You can see there are two more dials here which control the stitches.

The one on the left controls the tension. Tension means how tight the thread is pulled while you’re sewing. Different tensions are used for different fabrics. For the most part you’re probably going to be sewing medium weight fabrics (cotton etc) so pick a medium tension. You will need to change the tension to tighter if you’re doing heavy weight fabrics (eg. denim) and looser if you’re doing light fabrics (eg. chiffon). I will also make the suggestion that if you’re a beginner learning from this series, you should put that chiffon right back on the shelf and walk away from it because chiffon is an absolute bitch to sew!!

The other thing the tension dial is useful for is making ruffles. You can make very easy ruffles by turning the tension really tight, I will do an entire post dedicated to that technique in detail later though 🙂

The dial on the right controls the width of stitches. This is important when you are using zigzag stitch but not really when you are using straight stitch. The little diagram next to it explains it!

Above that you will find the pointy stick which holds the thread. This should also have a little stopper on the end which keeps the spool of thread from flying off when you sew. If you are using an old machine this piece may be missing… just use a piece of blutac!

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Lastly on the far right there is the bobbin winder. The bobbin is the second mini spool of thread that your machine uses. Rather than winding them by hand or using a separate winder, most modern machines have a little stick here that you put the bobbin on to wind more thread onto it from the thread spool.

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How it works depends on the machine but on mine:

  1. You pull the thread around the metal part (which controls the tension)
  2. Stick the end of it in the bobbin (plastic/metal thread holder)
  3. Put the bobbin on the metal stick
  4. Push the stick to the right so it locks in place and switches the machine to bobbin mode
  5. Then press the foot pedal and the machine spins you a full bobbin
  6. When it’s full you can stop or mine had a little stopper which pushes it back automatically when it’s too full

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Now let’s look at the side of the machine.

Here you have the power switch, the cord which attaches to the power plug and the foot pedal and the air vent. Pro tip: don’t cover the air vent and make sure you clean it out occasionally otherwise you run the risk of having your machine overheat or need servicing.

The most important part here is the hand wheel. By turning this you  can sew forwards or backwards manually. It is useful for doing small details, turning corners and other things that you need precision for. It is also useful to turn it a few times and look at how all the parts of the machine actually work slowly so you can understand it better.

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Now let’s look at the back!

There are only two important things here: the lever that raises and lowers the foot and the lever which releases the foot completely so you can change it to a different one eg. a button hole foot.

You won’t use the foot release much but you will use the raise/lower lever all the time. The foot needs to be down when you’re sewing so the fabric is sandwiched between the foot and the little teeth on the bottom. The teeth move when you sew and feed the fabric through automatically.

If your fabric isn’t going through or it looks weird, make sure you have the foot down, I’ve made that mistake several times before XD

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Ok finally let’s look at the front where all of the action takes place!

There will be a lever here somewhere which is the reverse switch. By holding this down the machine sews backwards. This is really important because it’s the easiest way to start and end lines of sewing securely.

The machine will have a track like the one here which is where the thread goes. Inside the track is a metal hook which pulls the thread along, it goes up and down every stitch and if you move the hand wheel you should be able to see it move inside.

Down towards the needle there will be another little metal hook which holds the thread in place so it’s close to the needle. Around that area is a screw which you untie if you need to change the needle on the machine.

Below that you have the needle itself and the foot.

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Here is a clearer image of where everything sits. You can see the gripping tread under the foot and the hole in the middle where the second piece of thread (from the bobbin) comes out from.

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So speaking of bobbins, they go inside the machine below the needle.

Every sewing machine I’ve used has a different way of loading the bobbin so I really suggest that you read your instruction manual or google the model number for specific instructions. Some machines don’t have bobbin casings and you just put the bobbin straight into the machine.

So to get inside my machine a piece of the front slides out and another bit flips down and inside you can see the mechanical workings.

The metal round bit you can see in the middle is the bobbin casing. There is a little metal stick which lines up with the top to lock it in place and a metal tab which when pulled releases the case so you can pull it out and replace the thread.

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When you remove the bobbin you can get a better look inside. The way it works is that there is a spinning bit which grabs the thread inside, twists and pushes it up towards the needle. that creates stitches 😀

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This is what the bobbin looks like inside the case.

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And apart!

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So now that you’re more familiar with the parts of the machine let’s actually thread it!

First step is putting the bobbin back in the case. The thread should come out of the hole in the side of the casing in this direction.

Next align the little metal spike  on the casing upwards and place it back in the machine until it clicks in place.

 

Again, all machines have different ways to do this so read your instructions for this part!

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Once it’s in the machine just leave the bobbin for now and let’s thread the top of the machine!

This is how the threading on my machine works. Looks complicated right? Let’s look at it step by step!

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The steps are:

  1. Use the hand wheel to make sure the needle is as high as it can go and put the thread on it’s stick.
  2. Pull the thread through the little metal loop on top and then follow the gap down the front of the machine, around the U shape bit and up to the top again.
  3. If the needle is in it’s high point you should be able to see the metal hook inside the machine. Wrap the thread over that (right to left) so it catches on the hook and the back down to the botom of the machine.
  4. Push the thread through the little metal hook here so the end hangs where the needle is.
  5. Thread it through the needle.
  6. Pull 20cm or so extra thread and put it out of the back of the machine.
  7. Insert the bobbin into the machine.

Now we need to get the end of the bobbin out of the machine.

To do that, hold the end of the top thread to the side and rotate the handwheel one full turn. When the needle goes in and out of the machine it will catch the bobbin thread and drag it back upwards. Now that it’s on the top side too, you can grab it with your fingers or tweezers and pull both loose ends of thread off to the side.

DONE AND READY TO SEW!

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That seems really complicated in one photo though so let’s look at each part.

From the top follow around the metal holder and down the gap to the front of the machine.

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Continue following the gap down the up to the metal hook. Put the thread through the hook then follow the same gap back down.

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Push the thread through the holder at the top of the needle then through the eye of the needle and out the side!

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Thread your bobbin through and make one stitch with the hand wheel to bring the bobbin thread up to the top and you’re good to go!

Conclusion.

That is a lot of information to digest in one sitting so I suggest all of you go and have a play around with your machine. Being familiar with your sewing machine  is really important because you will get to know it’s quirks and limitations. That will help you later in the course when we are doing more complicated things! You have to learn the rules before you can break them ;D

Hopefully this was helpful to you guys and as always please leave questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to help there or answer them in the next post.

This ended up being super long so I’m going to wait until next edition to do our first mini sewing project. Next week we will be learning about the different types of stitches, how to actually sew with the machine and making our first mini project: a mini bag!

What Are Your Tools Of The Trade? – Sew Fun!

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.

Sewing Machine!

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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:

  • Do I have the money/can I be bothered to get my machine serviced regularly?
  • If you want to sew late at night is noise going to be an issue where you live?
  • What is your budget?
  • How often are you going to actually sew?

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 😀

Overlocker/Serger!

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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.

Needles!

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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.

Pins!

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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.

Thread!

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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!

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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.

 Unpicker!

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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!

Dressform/Mannequin!

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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.

Fabric!

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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.

 

Conclusion!

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 😀

Sewing 101- What do you want to learn??

Ever since I did my first sewing tutorial on this blog I’ve had comments, emails and requests asking for a beginners guide to sewing. Well after some proper thought planning out it starts today!

Mondays will now be Sewing 101 days… though Sewing 101 is such a lame name for a series so if you have any other suggestions please leave them in the comments! I’m so bad at coming up with names for things!!

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Today being the first day I wanted to give the option for you guys to see what I have planned and tell me what you actually want to learn. Is there a particular thing you want to make as your first project? Do you have a burning question about bobbins? Do you want to learn how to ruffle so you can sew your own Lolita skirts? Let me know in the comments so I can tailor things as we go!

Currently the post schedule looks like this:

  • What do you want to learn?
  • Getting to know your sewing machine/tools of the trade you need.
  • Sewing a dress start to finish, showing you the process (then we go into detail of each step later)
  • How to thread your sewing machine.
  • Basic stitches and concepts you need to understand
  • Voting on a first project (I’ll put up 3 and the one with the most votes will be our first project)
  • First project start to finish.
  • Ruffles, darts and pin tucks oh my!
  • How to draft a basic dress pattern.
  • Basic shapes=basic clothes.
  • More sewing projects to try… in fact I guess this continues until we all get bored of sewing and want to try something else!

So what do you guys suggest? Do you prefer things in video format or photos? I personally think this will suit photos more as it can be harder to watch videos while you’re actually *doing* stuff. Let me know your suggestions and let’s get sewing together!

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