Let’s talk about the lessons I learned From sewing, so you don’t make the same mistakes.
I’m learning to sew for sustainability’s sake. I not only want to sew to mend clothes, but I want to learn to make my own clothes. My mom sewed, and a couple of my sisters are great seamstresses. I, however, always relied on their skills to get my pants shortened or dresses taken in.
Now that my kids are a little bit older, I have a bit more freedom to pursue some creative interest and I’m slowly learning the craft and art of sewing.
Here are the lessons I learned from my first few sewing projects.
Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my coffee drinking habit if you use these links to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, and you’ll keep me supplied with caffeine. It’s a win for everyone, really.
Lesson 1: Getting started is costly
Outfitting youself to sew is quite expensive, however, there are ways to drastically cut down your cost.
To get started, you will need the basics. Needles, thread and a pair of scissors will do if you are just learning to mend clothes. These items are rather affordable.
However, if you are looking at making your own clothes, bags or any other sustainable items, you’ll need a sewing machine and other notions (<-that’s a sewing term for small accessories you need for sewing). Here’s the very basic you need to get started:
- A sewing machine in good working conditions
- Spare sewing machine needles
- A good pair of sewing scissors
- A seam ripper
- Pins & pin cushion
- Sewing basket
A good new sewing machine can cost anywhere be around $300 to $700. Finding a second-hand machine might be the most cost-effective option. I got my sewing machine second hand. It’s an older model, but on the higher end. I brought it to a local sewing shop to have it serviced. It did cost around $100, but it’s running in great condition.
Where to look for secondhand machines?
If you are looking for a second hand machine, here are some options for you:
- Facebook Marketplace
- Kijiji (in Canada)
- Ask family and friends if they have one sitting around, not getting used. Mine was handed down to me by a sister.
- Yard Sales
- Second-hand stores/Pawnshops
Lesson 2: Start Small
Here’s a little insight into the type of person I am. I like to jump right into my projects, no matter if I know what I’m doing or not. My first project was a bag, it was quite successful. My second and third projects were pants and a shirt. I’ll admit that I probably needed more experience in order attempted such big items. As you can see, I did accomplish my goal, but I’m not terribly proud of the finishes on the inside.
Lesson 3: Pick your material wisely
Cotton is easy to work with. It’s not stretchy, and you can iron down the seams to make the edges nice and crips when you are sewing. Jersey knit is the exact opposite and of course, it’s what I chose for my pants and shirt. It was so hard to work with. It’s probably such a newbie mistake. It was stretchy and so difficult to cut because of this.
Here’s a nugget of wisdom for you, in case you are brave enough to work with jersey knit in the future: A straight stitch will be easy to break with stretchy material. You’ll need to use a zigzag stich to withstand some stretching.
Lesson 4: Measure Twice, Cut Once
Just like in carpentry, the old adage “Measure Twice, Cut Once” applies to sewing as well. In my case, I should have measured myself carefully and studied the sizing chart on the instructions more carefully. I took a guess based on my “off-the-rack” clothes but perhaps should have gone with my measurements instead.
Now thankfully, my pants and shirt were on the large size and I can at least correct this. It’s better to err on the side of too big than too small. Next time, I’ll definitely take more time to figure out just the right size.
Lesson 5: Have Backup Needles
There’s nothing like working on a sewing project during a COVID lockdown when your sewing machine needle breaks and you don’t have a spare. Lesson learned! Have a few sewing needles on hand as backup! Also, to add to this is, use the right needle for the right material!
Lesson 6: Read Your Manual
There is so much good information in your sewing machine manual that you’ll need to know. First of all, it will teach you how to thread your machine and how to make a bobbin. It will also help you troubleshoot your machine should it fail you. And re-read your manual several times. You’ll discover something new every time.
Lesson 7: Be Percise
If you cut corners, your piece might not end up working out exactly like the picture on the pattern. However, if you want your garment to look professional and finished, you must follow all directions as written. If they ask you to press the seams, you need to press the seams.
I’ll admit to not being the most patient person. I like to start and finish my projects in a day. When you have kids, you want to make the best of every minute you have to yourself. There are times while sewing the projects that I should have stopped, used my seam ripper to take out my seam, and start over. But, with time-constrained, I pushed on anyway, knowing it wasn’t perfect.
However, when you spend a small fortune on good material, this is not the best approach. Going forward, I will try to slow down and be precise. If it takes me days, or weeks to get a project done, then so be it!
Lesson 8: Make Several Bobbins Before You Start
I hate making bobbins. It’s exceptionally annoying when my bobbin runs out while I’m on a long stretch of sewing. Then I have to stop everything and make a new bobbin, then re-thread my machine. Urgh! So, the important lesson here is, make several bobbins of thread at the beginning of your project and it will make for an easy bobbin swap and less annoying transition.
I’m sharing the lessons I learned from sewing with you so that you don’t have to make all the same mistakes.
I’m enjoying learning to sew. It’s not as difficult as I imagined it to be, but it does require a large amount of patience, attention to detail and like all hobbies, lots of practice.
Are you into sewing? What nugget of wisdom to you have for a beginner? Leave a comment below!