Learning to sew has been on my bucket list for years, but it never made its way to the top of the list. Reading Overdressed is what finally prompted me to launch in (or at least dip a toe in the water, depending on how bold I’m feeling that day). What with all the free time I have, between working and taking care of a 10.5-month-old, now seems like the perfect time to start!
My hand-sewing skills are hazily remembered from third grade (thanks, Montessori school!) and are appropriate for dog toy repair and uneven baby toys (like this thing). However, my mom now lives nearby, and she is in possession of her mother’s sewing machine, complete with instruction manual. (The last thing I made on a machine: an attempt to turn a hoodie into a zip-up sweatshirt in college. The thing before that: my fifth-grade Halloween costume, a green M&M. That was the sum total of my sewing machine experience until a few weeks ago.)
My first project was the simplest possible: I sewed a rectangle. I had gotten a cotton print in the same pattern as the endpapers of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and wanted to hang it in front of our kitchen cart, to keep dust and dog hair off our larger pots and kitchen equipment (and also to make that area look less cluttered). I measured the space, added a little extra (a “seam allowance”? Is that what that is?), cut, pinned, ironed, and sewed. The first side is not at all straight, but I did not stray off the fabric entirely, and the subsequent sides are better, so I counted it a success.
Next, I made the dog a new winter collar; it’s reversible, brown on one side and gray on the other. For this, I measured, cut, then laid the two pieces of fabric right side to right side and sewed up one long side, across one short side, and up the other long side; then I flipped it inside out and sewed the final short side. I hand-sewed the short ends together to make a circle because I thought four layers of fleece might be too thick for the machine.
At the library, I found a book called Sewing in a Straight Line, which has a great section in the front about sewing basics, and has lots of simple projects; the first one I’m going to try is the “One-Hour Skirt” (yeah right. Maybe the sewing itself can be done in an hour, but there’s also the measuring, cutting, pinning, ironing…). The fabric the author uses for this skirt is a cotton/linen blend, but I chose a knit because I like knit skirts. (Yes, I know they’re harder to work with because of the stretch, but this pattern seems pretty forgiving. I hope. And the knit I chose isn’t super-stretchy.)
I’m also hoping to duplicate a shirt I already own and have nearly worn to pieces over the past few summers; it’s so airy in fabric and cut that I wear it on the hottest days. It was secondhand to begin with, though, so I’m afraid it won’t last another summer. Fortunately, it looks easy enough to make (famous last words, right?), just one piece in front and two in back. I got an indigo cotton print to make that.
Curtains are also on deck, thanks to some fabric from a co-worker; there’s enough of a blue-ish upholstery-type fabric to make a pair of curtains for our dining room, which will give me more practice and confidence sewing in a straight line, and will also look nicer than the plain shades on the windows now.
And of course, baby clothes! On one hand, she’ll grow out of them and I’ll probably be too attached to them to pass them on; on the other hand, she won’t notice or care if the seams are a little crooked, so it’s good practice. The same co-worker who was getting rid of the upholstery/curtain fabric gave me a whole pile of fabric odds and ends, including an adorable blue and white check with cherries that is just begging to be a smock or apron; and I found a yellow and white pin dot cotton and a bright orange with white moons and stars that would go together perfectly to make this crossover pinafore.
Do you sew? If so*, what’s your advice for beginners? Do you have any favorite sources for patterns – blogs, magazines, books? Let me know!
*See what I didn’t do there? It would have been so easy to say “if sew…” So I hope you’re happy, CAITLIN.