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Things to Know Before You Learn to Sew

So you’ve decided it’s time to learn to sew – Welcome to a whole new world of creativity!

It could be those beautiful handmade toys you find at craft fayres, uniquely detailed accessories at a friend’s home or watching the Great British Sewing Bee that have got you feeling crafty.

Whatever it is that has sparked your interest in sewing, there are a few essential things to consider before you start! Here’s a few to help you out.

You’ll Need Time

Learning to sew doesn’t happen quickly. It’s a joy when you’ve mastered the techniques, but you need to give yourself time to get there. Set aside a couple of hours where you can concentrate on learning each step. As I’m writing this, I’m chuckling to myself, and thinking I should follow my own advice. Just like many others, my sewing time is juggled around full time work, and full-time motherhood. I might plan an hour and end up with 15 minutes before the house erupts into chaos! And then there’s the black hole of sewing where my concept of time disappears once I start working on a project. This post from The Seasoned Homemaker has some great tips on finding, and planning, time to sew.

Decide How to Learn

Personally, I’m a visual learner so pictorial or video tutorials are my absolute favourite methods of learning. For example, this explanation of creating a blind hem on a machine is so straightforward you could do it with your eyes shut! But there are lots of other ways to learn. Learning to sew is a great way to socialise, with groups in most communities.  Some of them even specialise the style of sewing, such as patchwork. Try asking at your local library or search online to find out what classes are available. Alternatively, if you don’t think a group is the right setting for you to learn, maybe you could try private tuition from a company like All Sewn Up, which is based in Wales. You’ll also find a great selection of books and magazines to try out, that you can pick up second hand.

Choosing Fabric

Prepare to enter a whole new world of materials! Although, most patterns come with advice on which fabrics to use you still need to get to know the difference between a woven and a knitted fabric before finding out about the different fabrics that are related to each of them. You’ll discover an array of cottons and the advantages and disadvantages of using man-made and natural fibre materials. Find yourself a good fabric glossary, like this one from the Sewing Directory, and refer to it often. Lastly, shop around for your fabric – it’s not just about price, you’re looking for quality too! Get it right and you’ll be sew happy!!

Which Machine?

sewing machine and fabric isolated on white

Choosing your machine is a serious business – don’t rush it! Visit retailers where you can speak to experts about the machines, and try a few out. Don’t be tempted to buy an expensive machine with all the attachments and functions you could ever imagine! While they look incredible, you’ll probably wear it out practicing basic stitching before you get around to trying out everything else it’ll do. Start off with a well-built, sturdy machine with the basic stitches to get you started. This article featured in the Independent will give you an idea of the type of machine to look for.

Stock up on essentials supplies

When I started sewing, I’d discover a new piece of equipment that I needed to buy for nearly every project I worked on. There are a few essentials that you’re definitely going need to buy for whatever you decide to create. Firstly, invest in a good fabric scissors. Don’t buy a cheap one or you’ll end up  sewing what you rip! You’re also going to need good quality cotton, pins, strong needles, a tape measure and a pin cushion. Your sewing machine should come with a stitch picker but if it doesn’t, you’ll definitely need to buy one.

Learn the vocabulary

Just like your fabric glossary, you’re going to need a reference for the new sewing vocabulary. The Sewing Directory has this very detailed list which will be really helpful as you progress in sewing. But for now, you’ll need to concentrate on the basics. Each piece of fabric has a selvedge, a grain and a bias. The selvedge is easy to find – it’s the edge of the fabric that is self-finished and the reason the fabric hasn’t unravelled. The length-wise grain runs in the same direction as the selvedge and stretches the least while the cross-wise grain runs between the two selvedges. If you’re looking for stretch in the fabric, you’ll need to follow the bias. This runs diagonally across the fabric. Other useful starter vocabulary includes straight stitch, stay stitch, overlock, rolled hem, blind hem and facings.

Following a Pattern

Decide what you’d like to make then find instructions to follow. Patterns and online tutorials are categorised so you can choose from a selection of beginner levelled instructions. It’s likely that even if you use an online tutorial, you’ll need to cut out a pattern to use. Paper patterns that you can buy sometimes come with alternative versions of the basic item and a range of clothes sizes. This is brilliant for making unique creations but make sure you follow the instructions properly and use the right pieces! Take a look at this advice from Tilly and the Buttons on how to cut the correct pattern size to make a made-to-measure garment.

Better than Buying?

When you begin sewing you’ll need to buy so many resources that you’ll wonder why you’ve done it – but it IS worth it! At first, your projects will seem to be costly and time consuming. Bear with it! Once you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll be able to add detail and customise designs to make beautiful unique projects.

Have you got what it takes?

All things considered, patience is key when you’re taking up sewing because mistakes WILL happen and you’ll learn from correcting them. There have been many times when I’ve been moments away from listing my sewing equipment for sale and never touching it again! But thankfully, I’ve never gone through with it. Also, you’ll also need a good eye for detail and a sense of humour.

With all of these, you’ll be off to a good start and before too long, you’ll be revelling in your creations!

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