Top 5 Things to Know Before You Sew (from a beginner)

1) You’re Going to Feel Overwhelmed.

The sewing world is vast and deep. The thing about it is, you don’t really know that until you dip your toe in. I thought I was going to be able to jump right into it making on point dresses and gowns. NOPE! I had no idea how many presser feet a sewing machine could have or that I would need two of them to just put in a zipper. I thought that if I took my three major measurements (bust, waist, hips) every garment would fit me perfectly. It’s a crazy eye-opening world when you being to sew. You learn to appreciate how much work goes into even the simplest of t-shirts. My best advice would be to take it one step at a time. Concentrate only on what you need to know for each project and try to block out the noise of everything else. When you do learn a technique or understand what a specific tool is for, you are going to feel so proud of yourself.

2) Don’t Give Up!

I began my sewing journey almost a year ago. I started with two sewing books. Diana Rupp’s Sew Everything Workshop and Tilly Walnes’ Love at First Stitch. Let me tell you, for me it was not love at first stitch. The initial project I tried was a simple pillow using Rupp’s book and her Craftsy class. I tried to, unsuccessfully, make that pillow two times. To this day I still don’t know what I was doing wrong. After that, I took a major break from sewing. I needed time to breathe and recuperate from my dreams of making beautiful dress on my first go.

Fast forward to last week. I just finished Tilly’s Delphine Skirt. It still isn’t perfect, but I am immensely proud of it. I made two skirts before I finally would actually wear it in public. Moral of this tale: don’t give up! Keep going. I now have a pretty blue skirt, and I have definitely learned some patience along the way.

3) Essential Toolkit Items

This ties in closely with the topic above, I think. Every sewing book you buy is going to tell you you need sooooooo many items to even begin sewing. Then, you walk into the store and there are walls dedicated to sewing items and tools. It’s hard to decide what is really needed and what isn’t. However, if you want to make a simple skirt right away I think these items are what you need to get started, other than fabric and thread.

  • Sewing Machine. I have a Janome New Home 128. It’s gotten me through all my projects so far. It also comes with a couple of presser feet to get you started. My machine came with bobbins and needles as well. Depending on your fabric choice you may need to purchase additional needles.
  • Presser Feet. For anything dress related you will most likely need to purchase some additional presser feet. The two big ones I have used with various projects are the Invisible Zipper Foot and the Zipper Foot. You could also potentially need a Buttonhole Foot if your machine doesn’t come with it.
  • Seam Ripper. Handy tool for when you make those mistakes. Before you use it, research how to actually use it. I was doing it wrong for a while.
  • Seam Guide. Used to measure out seam lengths.
  • Measuring Tape.
  • Pins. I really like to use quilters pins instead of dressmaker pins. They are easier to handle for me, but this is really a personal preference.
  • Fabric Scissors.
  • Tailor’s Chalk. Used to transfer pattern markings to fabric for use during garment construction.
  • Ruler.
  • Iron and Ironing board.

I think that is all of the major items. Most of them come in a beginner’s kit, except the additional presser feet. Just be aware the beginner’s kit tools are not the best quality, but if you are testing out sewing they are a good place to get started.

4) craftsy.com and Youtube are Lifesavers

If you are like me and teaching yourself to sew, these websites are extremely helpful. Craftsy is great if you want to follow along on projects and learn new skills. When it comes to sewing, I have to see something done in order to grasp how to do it. YouTube helps with being able to see something very specific without having to search an entire class. I used YouTube to learn how to do a slipstitch.

Classes on craftsy.com can sometimes be a bit pricey, but if you hold out they are always having sales. I’ve never paid more than 25 dollars for a class.

5) Remember Why you Started

At those moments when you are your most frustrated, it helps to remember why you started wanting to sew in the first place. Take a few minutes and walk away from the project. Think about what made you want to pick up some fabric and create in the first place. I guarantee you will walk back determined to finish the project you are working on.

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