Seven Steps to Start Your Sewing Hobby
I hear it all the time from my non-sewing friends. Things like, “I have an old sewing machine in the back of my closet, I should really start sewing again.” Or, “I love browsing all the new indie patterns. It really makes me want to get back into sewing.” Or the dreaded, “I really want to learn to sew. I’m just not that crafty/creative/patient.”
I get it, I totally do. Starting a new hobby is hard work. The mental effort required to decide on a sewing project, purchase supplies and equipment, and sit down and sew can be totally daunting, especially if you don’t really know where to start.
Maybe you’ve sewn a little bit? You’ve probably made things like fabric napkins or maybe an apron. Maybe in middle school you made on totally rocking duffle bag. It can still be incredibly hard to pick up a hobby that you once enjoyed, but never totally mastered. It took me, ahem, ten years to get back into sewing after completing the seven-year quilt project my mother had me start when I was seven.
Luckily, for all types of hopeful sewists we’re laying out a few simple steps that can start to get you thinking about sewing. Take your new hobby slow. Read this and maybe let it sink in for a bit. You don’t want to burn out in one frustrating afternoon.
1. Take an introductory sewing class.
Before you buy anything sewing related, try a intro sewing class. Even if you once were the master of curtains, fabric napkins or pillow cases, I still recommend getting back in the sewing saddle in a classroom setting. Ask your local fabric store if they offer classes. No local fabric stores near you? Search the classifieds for a private instructor. Just two or three hours in a sewing class will give you a good idea of whether this hobby is right for you. If it’s not a great fit? You’re only out $40.
2. Start with simple sewing projects.
I know that fitted, taffeta ball gown looks really fun to make. And I know that you’re just eager to sew your own wedding dress. But I promise you, as a complete and total sewing newbie, it’s a terrible idea to start with complex projects. Most likely, starting with an ambitious project will result in burn-out, self-doubt and a general dislike of a hobby that you didn’t really give a fair chance.
Like all new endeavors, start small. Pillowcases are a quick, satisfying sewing project for a beginner. Rectangular skirts with elastic waists are a great next step. When you’re first starting out, look for sewing projects with mostly straight seams, and ones that require woven fabric (quilting cottons are the easiest place to start). After you feel comfortable behind your sewing machine, start experimenting with with more difficult sewing techniques like zippers and gathering.
3. Get a working sewing machine. Or get your sewing machine working.
If you don’t have a sewing machine, or access to a sewing machine, get one. Luckily, beginner sewing machines are very reasonably priced. Today, a basic (non-computerized) sewing machine with only run you about $200. If you’re not ready to shell out the big bucks, see if your local sewing studio offers hourly rates to rent a sewing machine.
If you have a sewing machine (even if it’s a very vintage sewing machine) get that puppy in working order. Find your local sewing machine repair shop and call to get a quote. If your machine is in really bad shape, it may be less expensive to buy a new one. When you get your machine repaired, be sure to ask the repairman to call you if parts need replacing. If they replace parts without asking first, you may end up with an unexpectedly big bill when you go to retrieve it.
Can we just take a quick minute to talk about vintage sewing machines? Especially the variety made of solid steel and weighing nearly fifty pounds. Besides looking totally cool, vintage sewing machines can often sew a much straighter stitch than new, mostly-plastic sewing machines. Also, if you need to hem a pair of heavy-duty denim jeans, a vintage machine can usually power through like a champ. So if you have the budget to repair that teal, 1955 American Beauty, do it.
4. Practice. A lot.
Just like any skill, sewing takes hours and hours of practice. I would estimate that I’ve spent no less than 2,000 hours sewing in my 28 years of living. And I’m only now teetering on the intermediate/advanced edge.
Don’t let the time required to advance your sewing skills stress you out. Try to enjoy the process. Revel in the epiphanies that inevitably surface at midnight when you’ve discovered how a garment is actually constructed. Soon enough, you won’t even have to think about right-sides-together and “How do I sew a dart again?” Eventually, that stuff will be second nature.
5. Get the right tools.
It can be daunting for a sewing newbie to walk into a sewing big-box store and see all of the sewing tools on the market. I assure, you do...not...need...them…all. Not even close.
Things you should acquire after you decide sewing is your thang?
- A good pair of fabric shears, that you continue to use only for fabric.
- A rotary mat and cutter.
- A good set of pins and a magnetic pin cushion.
- Some handy thread snips.
- An iron with a steam setting and ironing board.
- A seam ripper (I promise, you’ll use it a lot).
- A really good fabric marker or tailor’s chalk.
- A printer and lots of paper, for digital sewing patterns, of course!
Things you don’t need immediately?
- A serger (if you sew a lot of knits, eventually you might consider getting one).
- A 7’ long cutting table (though, wouldn’t it be amazing?).
- Pattern weights (use cans of food).
6. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
It...will...happen. Actually, you’ll never stop making sewing mistakes, I assure you. Don’t get down on yourself if you mess up. Even if you’re entire project is ruined, chalk it up to a learning experience. Those mistakes will only make you a stronger sewist. Be patient when you have to rip out a three foot long seam. If you have to, set the project down, and come back to it later. It’s almost always easier to problem solve when you’ve got a fresh perspective.
7. Find your community.
Whether it’s online, or in your local town, find other people who dig sewing. It will make the hobby considerably more fun if you can talk about it with other people. Text your creations to your mom and sisters. Brag to your husband about how you sewed those french seams to perfection. Regardless, get people involved in your hobby. The more they see your passion for it grow, the more they’ll get excited about it too!
So, sewing still excites you? Maybe even makes you giddy? Good! Then get started! Go find some cheap fabric and an easy sewing project. Need some inspiration? The Commuter Cowl is a great project for a brand new sewist.
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