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Sewing Expert Shares Her Secrets

Sewing has much in common with other crafts that let you create something special out of basic materials. People who already love to knit, crochet, build, or design will find that sewing comes naturally to them, and anyone looking for a first crafty hobby will find that sewing offers something for everyone. You may choose to undertake basic hand sewing skills and learn to do your own repairs on clothes and other household fabrics that need occasional fixing. This takes very little commitment, as you only need a basic sewing kit and knowledge of a few easy stitches. For a little more commitment, you can invest in a sewing machine and materials that will let you sew any project you want, from clothing to blankets and more.

Everything You Need to Get Started

Ideally, you should have a sewing kit on hand composed of the items you’ll use frequently during the course of your sewing endeavors. Because you will be cutting and trimming fabric and materials for each project, make sure to have a quality self-healing cutting mat with clearly marked grid measurements. Some items that you will need regardless of the type of sewing that you do include seam rippers, needles in various sizes, and plenty of straight pins. Choose a selection of dress shears, detail scissors, rotary cutter blades, and utility knives to match the type of work you plan to do. (I find that the sales associates in most fabric stores are incredibly knowledgeable when in comes to helping you find the items you need. Even if they have never done the project you are working on, they can offer advice based on what they have seen others do.)

If you plan to use your sewing machine extensively, have enough materials on hand to perform maintenance as it becomes necessary. These items will include flathead screwdrivers for tightening and changing machine feet, extra feet for different purposes such as quilting, and plenty of extra bobbins. Depending on the construction of your sewing machine, you might need to keep oil on hand for lubricating the working parts to keep it running smoothly. Sewing machine needles tend to wear out a little more quickly than hand sewing needles do, so try to keep extras of your most frequently used sizes so that you never find yourself with a dull needle and no replacements.

Must-Have Materials to Keep On Hand

Aside from the general necessities that keep your sewing machine functional and your hand-sewing kit full, you should stock other materials depending on the types of projects that you undertake. If you plan to undertake many repairs, keep on hand items such as threads in the colors of your wardrobe, extra buttons, safety pins, and elastic thread. You may prefer to make crafts and practical items at home to avoid unnecessary purchases and bring a homemade touch to your living space. If this is the case, keep plenty of materials that you’ll use to finish these projects and make them functional. This might include snap setters, grommets, Velcro closures, twill tape, spray adhesive, hot glue, and similar miscellaneous items that will find their way into numerous craft projects. You might even find that you need to keep zippers on hand, particularly if you like sewing projects such as purses, book bags, reusable grocery totes, and even clothes.

This DVD covers basic sewing instruction along with quick tips that will make you a master seamstress.

If you plan to quilt, then you will need an entire bin of materials dedicated to quilting. Plenty of quilt batting in different thicknesses will make it possible for you to quilt anything from a square to a pillow or an entire bedspread whenever the inspiration strikes you. Polyester filling is also useful for stuffing pillows and adding form to other quilted projects that might be more multi-dimensional than the average blanket or quilt. Quilting and applique often go hand-in-hand, and iron-on adhesive is great for keeping the applique in place while you pin and sew. Finally, a number of facing and lining materials should be present in your quilting bin, such as muslin, cotton canvas, and fusible fleece. All of these items are likely to come up as a necessity in a quilting project of some type, and many of them are useful in regular sewing projects, too.

Don’t feel like you need to spend a fortune on all your supplies. Yes, there is something to be said for investing in quality tools, as they will be an investment; however, you’d be surprised what you can find in thrift stores or even around your house. There is often plenty of fabric to be had at thrift stores, and old sheets can provide a great supply of material as well. Also consider reusing what you can from old clothing. Maybe your son has outgrown a pair of jeans, but you don’t want to donate them because they’ve got a rip in the knee. Can you salvage the zipper, snaps, or even cut fabric squares to use for patching the next pair he rips? A little creative thinking can keep you from breaking the bank.

Choosing Your First Project and Getting Through It

Although you might be tempted to choose an elaborate project for your first sewing endeavor, you should save complicated patterns for when you have more experience and stick to simple projects while you’re still getting used to sewing. Clothing can be some of the most complicated projects to start with, even though most beginners are excited to start with something that is functional and easy to show off. If you really want to sew clothes for your first project, choose a pattern that has plenty of straight lines and few complications. Avoid dresses or shirts with sleeves in favor of sleeveless or tank-style tops, but feel free to sew a skirt, as they’re generally simple as long as there are no pleats involved. A pillowcase-style dress has the best of both worlds, with no sleeves, a simple silhouette, and only minimal pleating that you can achieve with a drawstring instead of actual, pinned pleats.

Alternatively, you can sew a decorative pillow for your bed out of some favorite fabric, such as a well-loved t-shirt that is no longer suitable for wearing. You can recycle your favorite parts of the fabric into a soft, comfy pillow that requires only sewing in straight lines, with the addition of a zipper if you want the case to be washable. At this point in your sewing career, straight lines are your best friend, and some of the easiest projects to finish are the most practical. If you buy hot drinks while you’re out or bring your own when you venture out of the house, craft a simple cup sleeve to keep your hand comfy and insulated from the heat of the cup. If you know someone who exercises or works in the heat and needs to keep hair and sweat out of her face, sew a simple ten-minute fabric headband in any material you want. Perhaps your friend who exercises could use a bag to store her yoga gear – this is a project that you can finish in less than an hour, with plenty of straight-line cutting and sewing to acquaint yourself with the sewing machine. If you have a lot of time, try a clutch in coordinating colors to hold your cards and money, which requires very easy sewing but a lot of it compared to some other projects.

Being ambitious isn’t a bad thing when it comes to learning a new craft, but it’s easy to get frustrated with any project when you start with the bar too high. If you choose sewing projects that are quick to complete and require few fancy techniques, you’ll gain confidence and experience that will serve you well when you do decide to tackle harder projects. Additionally, the learning curve for sewing is particularly low, especially if you have experience in other crafty disciplines that require dexterity and spatial skills, such as knitting, crochet, or even scrapbooking or home design. With some dedication and the right supplies, you should find that sewing is a rewarding, exciting addition to your roster of hobbies. Learning to sew can help you become more frugal by reusing textiles and fabrics that are already around the house, and you can learn to make clothes, blankets, and towels yourself to your own specifications instead of settling for what’s available in stores.

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