Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sewing for Dummies

Hey everyone...

I was thinking today of sewing.

No, not that kind of sewing.

I'm not really great at sewing. In fact, I'm pretty much a straight-line sewer. I know how to do a straight line real well. But, I'm learning a few tricks. And I thought I'd share them with you!

Trick #1
Have a good iron handy.
Seriously, ladies, why did I ever sew without ironing?? Having a nice, hot iron next to your sewing station makes things a bajillion times easier (yes, that much). Always be sure to wash your fabric before sewing, but also be sure to iron your fabric as well. Iron your seams before you sew. The ironed portion will give you a wonderful guideline to follow as well as leave a clean seam on your finished product. So....go get an iron. Or if you have one, be sure to turn it on while you sew. Promise. It will change your life.

Trick #2
Play with your sewing machine.
I'm not kidding. Have a sit-down with the old ball and chain and just mess with all the dials, knobs, buttons, doo-dads on the thing. Watch what they do. When my hubby bought me my sewing machine for our first Christmas together, my first thought was, "can we say 50's wife?" But, after a couple of years, I blew off the dust, got ready to use it, and realized the manual did not make it with our move across the country. I even looked up online for a new manual, but my machine was the last of its model and the company didn't have one! I know! So, I played. And I learned. And I used my scrap pieces of material and made a huge mess. But, now I know how to use my sewing machine. And I'm not afraid of it. It doesn't scare me anymore. Nope. Not a bit. Ok, maybe a little. But, not nearly as much as it used to!

This kind of looks like mine. The simple model, with the fewest knobs and buttons. Sewing for dummies, people! 
Trick #3
Sew to your favorite tunes.
Again, this is a necessity, in my book. Sewing can be stressful. It can be painful (lots of sharp pins, needles, and scissors abound). Might as well have some fun while you're doing it! I find sewing to be comforting, but I find it to be enjoyable to some good tunes. Sometimes, I don't even realize how much time has passed while I'm sewing and listening to some great 80s rock. (What? You don't like 80s rock? I'm a nerd for liking it? Heh...ok).

Trick #4
Always clean your seams.
Does that make sense? Always sew a straight seem through your edges. Hems are necessary, but they also leave a piece more "finished." Man, I wish I had a picture of this one. Hey, here's one!

See where the white meets the yellow?
Image from Made
Now see it? She sewed a seem down the connection. I'm sure there's a technical reason for this, but I think it just makes a piece look that much more "finished." Love it.
Image from Made

Trick #5
A pattern is great...but the real thing is better.
If I've learned one thing from the genius of Dana from Made, it's to use what you have. If you want to make a dress for your kid out of an old sweater, get a dress that fits her well now! Lay it over the sweater and cut to size. Look here for some inspiration. I love this! Patterns confuse me. Patterns frustrate me. Patterns make me want to do this to them:

I know lots of good projects come from patterns. But, this is "sewing for dummies." And dummies don't "get" patterns. Someday I will. But, not today. (One thing I love about Dana from Made is that she makes her own patterns. They are simple and they are easy to understand. That's what I'm talkin' about!)

Trick #6
Love the zig-zag stitch.
Do you hear great sewers talking about "serging?" Do you know what this means? Yeah, me either. But, if you're making clothes or something that you don't want to unravel during the wash, or that you want to be extra durable, you need to serge the edge of the material before you sew it all together. It leaves a look like this:
Image from Made

But, you need a fancy-schmancy machine called....a Serger. Brilliant, right? Anyway, Serger's aren't terribly expensive, but it's the difference between having one machine for us straight-line sewers and two machines that we don't really know what to do with....get my drift?

Anyway, the zig-zag stitch does pretty much the same thing as a Serger. Truly! It will close your edges well enough to make them super durable. Ah...a clever solution. Thank you, Dana! (See her zig-zag stitch below).
Image from Made
Trick #7
Invest in a rotary cutter, mat and ruler
This is a Sewing Must in my book. A rotary cutter and a cutting mat, with a large ruler makes cutting your fabric SO much easier! What did we do before all these tools? Use regular sewing scissors? Say what? Seriously, people. Best sewing investment. Ever.
Images from Amazon
In this world of technology and on-line and everything being....intangible...

...I think sewing is a wonderful way to get back to the basics. To create something for yourself. To inspire and to re-use, I almost feel like this is something to pass on to the next generation. How many people out there know how to sew? My mom taught me...I'll teach my will be fun. It will be special. So, go out there and grab that $80 basic sewing machine from Walmart and get crackin'. Don't be scared. You'll enjoy it. Promise.


  1. Lol!! Just two weeks ago I bought "that $80 basic sewing machine from Walmart" and after some "blunders" I did learn to sew a strait seam and made some curtains. Thanks for the informative and funny post!!

  2. It's so funny that you post this because my mom never taught my sister or I how to sew, even though I remember watching her sew our Halloween costumes for years. Now that I am nearing my 30's and have kids, I am suddenly feeling the NEED to learn how! In fact I made a post on Facebook this last week asking my friends for recommendations on sewing machines, and my good friend is giving me hers, yay!! (Now to just go buy Sewing for Dummies, he he he) :o)

  3. What a great post! I loved it. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog today. I appreciate your comments:) Have a great weekend!

  4. After my Grandmother passed away last year, I inherited her sewing machine. I've NEVER used a sewing machine, I don't even know how to thread it or turn the darn thing on! But will definitely be using this as a resource when I get the courage to try it out! {it's on my list of things to do this year}

  5. I'm pretty much a self-taught sewer. My grandma sewed, but I had no interest in learning when I was younger. My mom doesn't sew except on occasion and she doesn't really enjoy it. So it took a little bit, but after having crafter's envy of a few fun sewing projects and receiving a recycled sewing machine that my grandpa dumpster-dipped for (for real!), I decided to start! And I love it!

  6. Oh! So glad to hear you are getting into sewing! If I lived closer, I'd invite you and your machine over for a sewing party! I learned to sew from my grandma when I was a kid and then when I was in college, my work/study job was in the costume shop of the theater. The professor was a professional theatrical costume designer, so I learned a TON from her. Also, I have a friend who is an amazing professional seamstress so I get tips from her all the time, but mostly, I am self taught!
    I can't wait to see what you sew first!

    P.S. #4 is called "topstitching." :)

  7. I love all of your tips. I'm pretty much a straight sewer too, and a lazy one at that.

    I really need to get a cutting mat and rotary cutter.

  8. Mandy has the cutest idea for a ruffle-y skirt. It would be darling on your girls. Super easy. Communicate with her!

  9. Thanks so much for your advice. Some of these things I already have/do, but some of them I'm sure will make my life much easier! (What? an iron? lol)

  10. Haha this post made me laugh. Thanks for the tips, I am not a great sewer either and I could use all the help I can get. I also HATE patterns, nice to know I'm not the only one!

  11. Best post in the entire blog world. For real.

    I took sewing lessons in middle school (dork), but haven't sewn since and am just now getting back into it.

    I seriously asked someone if I "really needed a bobbin" in my machine. (In addition to being a dork, I'm also a recovering blonde).

  12. you forgot one of the most important things! a seam ripper! lol :)

  13. I LOVE to sew..It's one of my favorite things to do in the whole wide world. Since I'm feeling better I'm gonna try to get my Needle and Thread Thursday up and running again. Have I mentioned that I love to sew? :)


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