Colette

What are your thoughts on learning to sew?

117

thread

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how and why people learn to sew.

I was discussing this with someone recently. She said that knitting really took off a few years ago, but it seems like sewing is still just on that verge of popularity. I think the reason for this is largely that knitting has a really low barrier to entry. You can literally learn just two stitches in an afternoon and make some pretty cool stuff without knowing much else.

Now, there is a lot you can learn about knitting: increasing/decreasing, lace knitting, color work, etc. But I feel like those skills are all really well defined with knitting. You can say to yourself, “I want to learn to do fair isle knitting,” pick out a pattern, look up some of the abundant resources online, and get started. By the end of the project, you know how to do fair isle.

But with sewing, it seems like it’s more difficult to even KNOW what skills you need. There are so many little tricks and ways of doing things that just come from experience. So it seems like a lot of people just learn to sew in a rather piecemeal way, by slowly figuring things out over time. It takes work and a real desire to figure things out.

So I was wondering, for you guys, how did you learn to sew? Did you have someone to help you? Did you just keep working on things on your own? Did you learn from a beginners book? A reference book?

What did you like about learning in the way you did? And what do you think is the best way to learn? Personally, I like to learn by doing projects.

I’m also curious about why you learned to sew. Was it to make cool stuff you couldn’t find in the stores? To address fitting issues with your body? To save money?

I’m very curious about your experience with this and hearing a little more about you guys and your sewing background! Do tell.

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

Comments 117

karen ball didyoumakethat.wordpress.com

We had sewing lessons at school, but when I look back at my childhood I feel privileged to have had a mum who a) had and used a sewing machine and b) wasn’t frightened of allowing her daughter to use it! I can’t imagine how many parents today would point a 10-year-old in the right direction and just let them loose with a foot pedal and a fast-moving needle. But that was the best lesson.

I think one of the barriers for learning to sew is the expense of a machine. I was very lucky to find a machine for free via Freecycle – a community recycling online project. This meant that I could test my urge to sew without laying out a lot of money.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

I think that’s a good point, Karen. Even with (comparatively) inexpensive machines available now, it’s a big upfront cost before you’ve even gotten into it.

Magdalena web.me.com

My first sewing attempts trace back to when I was 6 or 7 and was copying my mom, she sewn all our cloths. I did same for my dolls. Then at about 13 or 14 I made my first blouse, with my moms help. Between 15 and 30 I took very long hiatus … first I found store bought clothing more desirable then I moved too much from place to place to own a machine or have the time. I came back to sewing when I married. My first pieces then were my husbands now 4 summer shirts (Hawaiian style), now I am working on a second pair of long pants for him, and making my own skirts and blouses. I find that I learn the most when making something I have no experience with. A well made pattern helps tremendously, right choice of fabric for the intended garment is crucial, and good reliable machine (I have Bernina 800 from 1960s) is a must. I find that the old machines are much more reliable and precise in their stitches. Thoughtful approach to the process and patience (not taking any shortcuts), even hand sewing parts of the garment, are the two most important ingredients in producing a piece worth wearing. I sew because I believe it is important to use one’s skills, it gives me flexibility in creating my own style and having truly original garments that no one else has.

jen stitchchick.blogspot.com

I am trying to learn to sew. I am at the stage where my goals and ideas FAR outweigh my skills. I am trying to teach myself beyond basic a-line skirts, but it is really frustrating.

Leslie cherrybubbins.blogspot.com

I’ve always been creative and interested in one art or another so my mom and I thought it would be fun to sew some maternity tops when I was pregnant with my daughter – after browsing through the pattern catalogs and seeing all the beautiful baby girls clothes I could make I knew that sewing was for me! Mom taught me the basics, bought me an old Singer at a yard sale and I’ve never looked back. I learned most of what I know online, through trail and error and joinging groups like ASG. 9 years later sewing is still my passion, I have newer machines, embroidery machines and a serger – but I still use that vintage singer the most!

Drop Stitches Not Bombs dropstitchesnotbombs.blogspot.com

I too am attempting to learn to sew, having learned to knit a couple of years ago. I found that making my own knitwear made me generally dissatisfied with commercially-made garments, and blogs such as yours and Gertie’s have been inspirational in showing me what is possible! I do feel like a sewing dunce, though, as I have been making very slow progress; if you had any resources to suggest, or tips for beginner sewers I would be most interested!

Diane knitknitwhat.blogspot.com

Like some of the other commenters, my mother sewed. I was always interested in anything arts and crafts related so I often helped her makes various things, like halloween costumes and easter dresses. I also learned a lot while visiting a friend’s grandmother, she taught me the importance of ironing. Recently I’ve been checking out books from the library and sewing blogs to help improve my skills.

Right now I’m getting back into sewing because I like the idea of having unique handmade clothes. I also don’t really like a lot of the styles I see in stores so its nice to be able to customize and get exactly what I want. It also helps that my parents gave me a sewing machine for my bday last year so I no longer have to borrow my mom’s :)

sarah colorkitten.com

I think Karen has it – the biggest barrier is the machine. A pair of needles and a skein of yarn can be had for just a few dollars. But machines are expensive and intimidating — used/vintage machines can be tricky if you can’t get them serviced, and if you go looking for suggestions on machines, you get pushed towards the high-end stuff. I didn’t sew for years and years once I’d moved too far away from my mom and her Necchi!!

And there are so many other things that can go wrong — a badly-drafted pattern, a poor choice of fabric…I think there’s a good reason so many sewing books tilt heavily towards the simple home dec and craft projects. Making clothes well just isn’t that easy — and when you look at how cheap clothing is, well, you can see why most people think “why bother”?

I personally learned to sew very young, but I don’t remember how. I remember making simple doll clothes – mostly hand sewn. (My grandmother was a serious seamstress, my own mother definitely not.) I took home ec in middle school, which I really enjoyed. But then I fell away from sewing clothes for a very long time, and finding there’s a lot to relearn! Projects definitely work best for me. I try to pick projects that let me practice something new as often as I can.

A book to learn from would be great, but I haven’t found anything modern that I feel good about recommending to a beginner. Adele Margolis’ Dressmaking Book is fantastic, that’s what I tell my friends to get.

Why sew? All of the above! Although if I had to pick one it would be fitting. Quality a close second.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

I agree with you and Karen. Even though knitting supplies can get expensive over time, you don’t have that big one-time cost like you do with a sewing machine.

I’m curious about why you don’t find any of the modern beginning books satisfactory? I was looking at some at Powell’s over the weekend and it seems like most are either huge reference tomes or more focused on easy, crafty projects rather than skill-building. It’s a tough thing to tackle when there’s so much to learn!

Thank you for the recommendation of the Margolis book, I wasn’t even aware of it, though I have her dress pattern book on my shelf and think it’s wonderful! I will have to check it out.

sarah colorkitten.com

So far I haven’t found any modern book that really is a single, accessible, starter for anyone who wants to sew *clothes*. There’s just not much there in between the two extremes of reference for experienced sewsters; and crafty beginner books. It seems like if you want to make clothes you need an entire library to cover all the bases. Like you said – there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of skill building. (I haven’t seen everything – if there is a good modern book I’d like to hear about it!)

I haven’t seen anything like the Margolis book — which takes you by the hand through the process of making your first dress and teaches you literally everything you will need to know on the way. I would love to see something like that, modernized. Actually, I’d just like to see that actual book, updated. I wish I could tell her family so! That book is amazing, no matter how long you have been sewing it’s a great refresher course. It’s my favorite of all her books.

Jenn karmabutton.blogspot.com

I am a beginner and am really just learning through books, the internet, and trial-error. I would love to take a class but find they are so expensive. One of my close friends is much more advanced and occasionally gives me advice–but otherwise it is a lone and daunting challenge.

Ultimately, my goal is to become more self-sufficient. I despise the idea of having to always rely on stores to get the goods I need. Plus, sewing is a skill that I find necessary in life. There is such a joy to knowing one can make gifts, clothing, etc. by oneself. I always wished my mom had passed this skill down to me, but it is never too late to learn something new!!

sulovessew sulovessew.wordpress.com

I picked up sewing inspired by a friend who’s making her own costume for Burning Man. I thought it was a pretty cool hobby and am immediately interested. First thing to do was to get myself into a craft store, enrolled in the basic sewing class, bought a sewing machine and the Sew Everything Book by Diana Rupp. The class definitely helped get the ball rolling. After that I basically learn on my own. For me, the best way to learn is to watch videos or picture-heavy tutorials. I would do a project and look up new technique how-to on internet. I started with easy project like a tote bag, knitting roll and progressively move to garment. Now, I pretty much sew whatever i fancy at the moment (I am quite impulsive) and i don’t intend to replace store-bought with handmade, at least not at this point.

Beth

I started sewing in high school, long before I learned to knit. My mom led me through one project with spare fabric (a flamboyant pair of shorts that I still have, more as a memento than a wearable garment) and I went from there. I mostly taught myself – the independence of it appealed to me, as did the process of figuring things out. In college I didn’t have much time to sew for myself, but I made costumes for a theater group. If you want experience and work best with deadlines, making costumes that Have To Be Done By Showtime is immense fun (and occasionally nail-biting).

What appealed to me about sewing originally is how quickly your ideas can become reality. I still have some hangups with how looooong knitting takes in comparison – I can have a pair of pajama pants in 2 hours, but knitting a scarf takes me at least a week.

At this point, I’m trying to go back and learn the “proper” way to do some things that I’ve been improvising for years. It sounds silly when I’ve made dozens of complete garments to say that I just learned how to sew on a button (with a reinforcing backing button and a proper shank) but trying to improve my technique and quality is a whole new adventure.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

I think soooo many people are in the same boat as you, just sort of picking things up here and there and getting better slowly over time. I definitely had a LOT of trial and error (and still do, of course).

woodscolt woodscolt.wordpress.com

My grandma made a lot of my clothes and let me try her sewing machine so I knew how to cut out and sew a seam, mark darts, and fit before I started sewing seriously for myself.

I think there are two barriers to sewing seriously – one is, as Karen Ball says, the expense of a machine (and the intimidating idea of using one if you’re never tried); knitting only requires a ball of wool and some needles. The other is that when you start sewing it’s often a lot of effort for a very mediocre result – I know that the first few things I made were massive disappointments because I’d bought nice fabric and spent a lot of time on them, but then the fit wasn’t right, or they were messily finished, or whatever, and just not as nice as ready-to-wear.

I’ve now reached the point where the stuff I make is as nice as RTW except that it’s fitted to my body so it’s perfect for me, but it’s very depressing to struggle all weekend over an A-line skirt only to find it’s much too tight because you haven’t yet learned about wearing ease…

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Yep, me too. The first thing I made on my own was a simple black dress. When it was done, it totally squashed my chest flat and I gave it away.

Fitting is a big hurdle, I think because so many people learn via trial and error.

Cindy colourbynumber.blogspot.com

I am forty so when I was young it was necessity to learn the basics either through girl scouts, family member or home ec.Although I knew how to sew, I was never interested. It wasnt until a few years ago that I embarked on my sewing frenzy. I wanted to make a-line skirts and I just couldn’t find what I was looking for in the store so I began to sew again. I had a foundation so it was easy to take off.

Now I am teaching sewing to a few young women, it is interesting because there is absolutely no foundation that was taught to them. I have had to change the curriculum to start at the very, very basics which they never have learned which is fine, but surprised me. One of my students is a fashion design student, and she has hired me as a tutor for her garment construction course because she has never sewed! I am on a mission to give young girls a sewing foundation even if they aren’t interested in making it a hobby! You just never know and who doesn’t need to know how to sew a button orhem at skir,t at the very least. This summer I am having a sewing camp for 10 year olds!

Cindy colourbynumber.blogspot.com

side note– although presentlyI only have gal sewing pupils..gents should not be left out in learning sewing basics!

Carla ruebyretro.blogspot.com

My Mum is a seamstress by trade, and grew up in Switzerland in the 1950s. So once upon a time at least, she knew EVERY household ‘craft’ skill in its useful, rather than craft, form. I learned how to sew, embroider, knit, weave, etc. as a child…but not much of it carried forward into the teen years.
Sewing is and was a difficult thing to learn from her as we have zero patience for each other, and our word choices get in the way. I learned all the basics from her, but now (at 24) that I’m starting garments I’m learning more from the books I have, the pattern instructions, and making things up using what I do know and what makes the most sense. Curtains and purses I’m a wiz at, but clothes are a whole other world.

Cindy – guys and sewing; I have one ex that I taught to knit, and three who knew how to sew and had made things before!

Lisa countrykidsfarm.blogspot.com

I learned to sew when I was about 6. My mom had my grandmother’s vintage singer sewing machine (the kind with the treadle foot peddle to make it go). I made clothes for my dolls. When I was a tween I made clothes for myself and would make a dress, where it once and then refashion it into a skirt. For years then I just made quilts and baby blankets. I would sew myself a new skirt when I couldn’t find one like I wanted at the store.
I really started sewing again when I had my kids. Making little girls clothes is so much fun and I wanted to cloth diapers so I bought a couple to see what they were like and decided they would be WAY too easy to make compared to what cloth diapers cost retail. Now I sew for everyone.
My mom and grandma taught me to sew and since I always hated following directions, mom encouraged me to go outside of the patterns since I was changing them all the time anyways. Like most people, I figured out how to make my own patterns by studying ready-made clothes and also deconstructing them and putting them back together.

I think the easiest way to learn to sew is to start simple. A-lines skirts are an easy thing to sew and use anyone you have available for advice. There are also so many great books out there.

I sew because it’s fun and it’s my sanity check. I like the creativity behind it and not having clothes and household stuff that’s cookie cutter. I love giving people homemade gifts because they are so excited about it. I love watching my daughter squeal with delight when she starts going through the fabric stash (her way of telling me she needs a new dress or skirt) and then when it’s finished smiling to myself because she has to show and tell everyone that “My mama did it.” And yes, I’ll admit it, I love when people ask me, “OH MY GAWD, did you make that! I want one!”

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Yep, those kinds of compliments are a great feeling. I remember I had this dress I made in high school that my best friend said I should will to her if I died. It wasn’t a great dress, just made in a cute fabric, but still!

Clare luckymia.blogspot.com

Great post I loved reading all the comments so far! I made clothes for my dolls too, as well as little hand-sewing projects at primary school. At secondary school I learned to use a sewing machine and that was it! My mum bought me my own when I was 15. I sewed a lot of my own clothes from then on because I didn’t have much money, could never get clothes to fit both my waist and hips, and wanted to develop my own styles. Now I’m reluctant to buy things which are over-priced and poorly made. Even though I’ve been sewing for more than 20 years I still feel like a novice at times. I tend to tackle projects intuitively rather than learning techniques correctly, which often slows me down and leads to mistakes. I’m trying to fix that, after all this time! Knitting seems far more complex to me but I like to fantasise about being able to knit away with one eye on something else, which I can’t really manage while sewing!

Elizabeth

I am learning to sew, as Cindy above said, through books (Singer’s basic guide), the internet, and trial and error. Keyword: ERROR! It’s been fun, frustrating, fun, frustrating, in alternating order. While putting together an easy Butterick pattern (B5395), I’ve:
1. put the jacket sleeves on backwards
2. had to re-attach the collar probably 3 times
3. chosen a massive heavy-loose-weave boucle (bad idea for a beginner, I find)
4. sewn the pants lining absolutely backward and had to rip it all apart and sew it over again
5. now that the pants are finished, i find I inserted the zipper with the pull tab on the inside!!
6. refused to believe the size chart and cut the pattern to small (vanity!) and had to insert gussets to make it more roomy in the rear…
My goals overall are to have some flattering classic garments in lovely fabrics, that really fit my body the way RTW never does. I believe with patience, I’ll be able to learn this craft and become competent.

Would anyone else be willing to post their bozo-beginner errors too? Maybe they can serve as “red flags to watch for” to us beginners…

Stephanie Hillberry stephaniehillberry.blogspot.com

I’ve made all of those mistakes and more! My most used sewing tool is the seam ripper, I’m sad to say. My best advice is to follow the carpenter’s rules of measuring twice and cutting once! I’ve found that if I’m trying to rush (which I Always do because I’m excited to see the finished product), I make silly mistakes.

I loved your list, though:) I think those mistakes are like the “hazing” process of learning to sew! You aren’t a “real” sewer unless you’ve done them!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

I love this idea of posting beginner mistakes! I should do another post on it so we can collect them!

My favorite mistake when I was learning was that I decided to make this long column type dress. It was supposed to be cut on the bias, but I had no idea what that meant and it looked to me like the cutting layout took up too much fabric. So I just cut it on the straight grain like a normal pattern. Of course, it had no stretch and fit me like a tight yet shapeless sack. I had no idea what was wrong until I learned about grainlines. Yikes.

Elizabeth

I just wanted to leave an update on the beginner error list:
there were 6 on my list… let me add:
7. the very first time i sneezed wearing my new pants, the hook closure popped off and flew across the room.
8. I forgot to trim the corner seam allowances on the waistband so it’s NICE and bulky in the front.
Man o man. I think I’ve made up my mind to take a 10 week sewing class!

Alethia kassminscreations.blogspot.com

I love fashion and clothes from a very young age. A friend of mine made a beautiful outfit for herself. I was 14-years old at the time. My girlfriend and my mom taught how to sew.My mom had a singer sewing machine. My first sewing project was a dress. It was not perfect, but I wore it very proudly to church. My mother and grandmother encourage me to continue sewing by buying fabrics lots of fabrics.

I sewed by the seat of my pants, I did not know all the techniques I just sewed. I even made my weeding gown and my bridemaids gown.

Eventually I started watching sewing with Nancy Zieman on PBS and I bought many of her videos. I learned a lot regarding sewing techniques.

At work my supervisor was an avid sewer and she encouraged me to start buying Threads magazine. This was in 1998. I buy all kind of sewing magazines and I have built an extensive sewing library.

In my opinion, a beginner should leran the foundation of sewing. By that I mean the beginner should know : how to read the tape measure, basic sewing supplies, how to use a sewing machine, basic hand sewing (basting ) etc. Additionally, I believe they should make samples and keep it in a binder with notes so that in the future they can refer to their samples

I have seen beginners take a basic sewing class. They make an apron and a pillow; however they have no idea regarding the skills involve in the projects.

Sewing is a slow process, it takes time to learn how to sew and more importantly it takes patience.

I live in the Northeast. You can get a basic sewing fro under $80.00 and there are lots of warehouses where you can get fabric a very reasonable price.
I agree with some of the commentators, that sewing is an expensive hobby, however, the savings add up over time

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Alethia, your comment really rings true to me. I think a lot of people want to learn by doing (myself included, that is definitely how I learn best), but a lot of the resources for beginners are more focused on completing easy projects than on building skills over time. I like your list of what you think of as a good foundation, I totally agree.

Natalie B

It would be wonderful if you could share some of your readers comments in another blog post. I knit EVERY day, and LOVE it. I’ve also tried my hand at quilting, after taking some classes, and have made a few quilts. But, I’ve ALWAYS wanted to try sewing, but barely know where to start. I mean, when is sewing SEWING??? Is quilting sewing? Is fixing my husband’s pants sewing? Is heming sewing? I’d love to make a skirt or something else that I could wear, but I have no idea where to start, and don’t know where I fit in terms of my know-how.

Thanks!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

I will try to summarize everyone’s comments and thoughts in another post, I definitely want to think about and process them all!

Katie burjeune.blogspot.com

This is a very interesting topic! I am enjoying reading everyone’s comments! I both knit and sew but have had very different experiences learning both skills…

I asked for a sewing machine for Christmas one year when I was in high school. I was probably 16. I can’t recall why I wanted to learn, but I was always crafty and liked one of a kind things and think I just had motivation to learn how to make things for myself rather than by them from a shop.

My high school boyfriend’s mom actually taught me how to operate the machine and helped me put together my first project: an elastic waisted skirt. She did a great job and I think it really helped that I started out on the right foot with very detailed instruction. She was sure to tell me about the importance of pre-washing my fabrics, and how important ironing was through the whole process of putting a project together. She also showed me how to do french seams… on my first project!

I think there is a certain level of frustration you have to go through with both learning to knit and sew. The same woman taught me to knit a couple of years after I learned to sew. It took me 6 months to knit my first scarf and it turned out to be pretty awful looking, but I kept trying and eventually the skill got easier to master.

Working with a machine I think figuring out what you are doing right/wrong is a little more ambiguous than with knitting. The machine may have bad tension, or you might be using the wrong needle or presser foot, etc etc. Or you could just be working with the wrong fabric for a beginner! It really takes a level of comfort with the machine and materials that takes time to achieve before you have the opportunity to get to a good skill level with sewing.

Also, with knitting you are forced to go slow at first… I found that when I started sewing on a machine I wanted to drive it like a car at 100 miles per hour . Not pacing yourself can lead to a lot of mistakes and frustration.

Knitting also has the plus that it is more portable than sewing, so people who are short on free time or are always commuting on trains or watching their kids play sports or something can pick up a set of needles when they can’t lug a machine around.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

That is a really good point about going slowly. You can definitely go way faster with sewing than your skills and experience allow, which can lead to real frustration.

Gabrielle

Hi :)

I’m currently learning to sew. It’s mostly self taught with books and websites (such as yours) and my mother in law giving basic projects along the way to help me practice. It ain’t easy but I enjoy it!

Why? For one thing, from as long as I can remember I’ve been drawing clothes to go with my particular style. What a better way to feel 100% yourself is with your own hand-made clothes. I like to be original.

:)

Kate sincerelyyours-kate.blogspot.com

I am learning to sew because I love vintage styles, and I just cannot find much in my larger size, even in ready to wear knockoffs (like Anthropologie). I do like fashion and am convinced I can wear beautiful clothing that fits and flatters with some hard work behind the scenes!

I have little to no foundation in sewing. I started by taking a basic class once a week at a local machine store, where I worked on independent projects under the guidance of a master sewer. This helped so much, because sometimes one glitch in the process (struggling to miter a corner or attach a facing correctly) can stall the entire process of sewing. So it is good to have some hand-holding and teaching through these steps.

I spend a lot of time reading blogs and reviewing online tutorials and books. Ideally, I would love to be a part of a sewing club or sewing circle in my city with women of all experience levels, so we can teach and mentor each other. As a beginner, there are so many little tricks and skills, as simple as choosing the right fabric, that make or break a project. As a beginner it can be very disheartening to work on something and have it fail in the end because your drape was too stiff and you didn’t know any better.

I live in San Antonio. If any sewers out there are interested in starting a sewing circle – mostly garment oriented – let me know.

p.s. I find I never save money when I sew. My taste in fabric, acquiring the correct equipment, and the time makes it a rather expensive, but incredibly fulfilling, endeavor.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

I wish there were more sewing circles like what you’re describing. I get together with others and craft about once a week, but there isn’t much sewing going on because of all the space/equipment requirements. Wouldn’t it be cool if there were more dedicated spaces for that kind of thing?

julie

on the other hand, i think you can “intuitively” pick up sewing if you have a needle and thread and some scraps. maybe it´s just me, but knitting just seems so rule-based and therefore actually harder to get into. if i make a mistake halfway through a scarf or find a whole i have absolutely no way of knowing how to fix it. but if i sew a rectangle of fabric in half, suddenly there´s a bag or pillowcase or something both FAST and EVIDENT. the rewards happen a lot faster and to me at least, that´s very motivating.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

This is true too! Sewing lends itself very well to more freeform making.

Jessica stitchywitch.wordpress.com

I taught myself to sew using books (SEW U and the Sew Everything Workshop) and by watching videos online. I’m a pretty prolific knitter, so I wasn’t unfamiliar with garment construction, and I have a fair amount of patience. The first thing I sewed was a simple quilt, which I think it great to start with – it gets you through unfamiliarity with the machine by only having straight seams, and the 1/4″ seam allowances teach accuracy in a hurry. Also, it doesn’t have to fit anyone, and I do find fit challenging. I sew mostly clothes now.

I agree that garment sewing is on the verge… at least based on the emails I receive, there are tons of knitters looking to take it up so they can make more of their wardrobes. Quilting seems to have become wildly popular again, and I’m hoping clothes will follow. I do think there are a few challenges for beginners. First, buying decent garment fabric can be hard. I know that here we only have Joanns and Hancocks, and I couldn’t order online until I understood what the different types of fabric were (many of which I had to seek swatches of, as they aren’t available locally.) And the set-up costs are higher than knitting, although I don’t know that it requires quite as much hand/eye coordination (I know it was much harder to learn to knit than to sew for me.)

But I hope more people take it up. I think your beautiful patterns are helping – whenever my friends see my Beignet or Rooibos they are amazed that I made them, and immediately start chattering about taking up sewing. Knitting has a fine indie designer community, which is something I think is lacking in sewing… but companies like Burdastyle are helping to draw in younger consumers with downloadable patterns (though they are a pain to tape together!)

Bea horrormaedchen.blogspot.com

I started sewing dolls clothes for my Barbies and was always very interested in making stuff. My mum taught me how to sew and I had a book with sewing projects for kids. My grandma taught me knitting and crochet and always encouraged me to be creative. She used to crochet lace doilies and knit socks. I was never allowed to use my mum’s sewing machine as a child. She wasn’t afraid I could hurt myself but she was afraid I could break it. That made me want to sew even more. This was followed by periods of lots of making and creating and in my last years of school I wanted to study fashion design. This never happened. I studies music business instead. In the last two years I really got into sewing again. Especially vintage inspired things or from vintage patterns. I just love creating an item of clothing that will not be available on the high street. I think that was the main reason for my sewing interest. I wanted unique pieces.

Reilly cicispeaks.blogspot.com

The first time I had anything to do with sewing was in middle school, where everyone learned to sew by making a stuffed animal. I was about as scared of it as I was of woodshop class. Later I got into refashioning some of my clothes, by hand-sewing cut-out felt designs onto some shirts and skirts (a phase).

Anyway, last year was when the vintage bug struck and it occurred to me that if I learned to sew, I could save some money, not have to worry about sweating in or tearing up 50 year old dresses, and have my choice of fabrics and colors. I got a simple sewing machine for my birthday, took some classes at Jo Ann’s, and started to buy and sew vintage patterns! I started with some “sew easy” ones and now I tackle whatever. I learn with each project!

Emily onalarkdesign.com

I started sewing because I wanted to make clothes I bought of the rack fit better. My Mom, and pretty much all the women in my family, can sew. Some of them are really talented, so I guess I was inspired by that. I remember sitting at 4 or 5 on the other side of my Gram’s sewing table snipping threads as she fed quilting projects through her machine.
Once I really got going on my own, I tried a lot of clothing with not too much success. In hindsight I wish I had gotten a book for beginner sewers because the patterns often are geared towards people who already know how to sew.
So I guess it took a lot of trial and error, but the beautiful finished product is always worth all the struggle!

Stephanie Hillberry stephaniehillberry.blogspot.com

As a naturally crafty youth, I taught myself to knit, crochet and sew (the latter on an ancient machine my grandmother used). As you can imagine, I’ve made many, many mistakes and had A LOT of failed projects. But I’m the type of person who learns by winging it, and I’m happy that my failures didn’t stop me from trying.

I agree with many comments above that the machine is a big obstacle for beginners. I was fortunate to inherit from an aunt a Necchi from the nineties that is a great and sturdy machine. However, I also just purchased a basic Singer to rent out to curious friends for a small fee. That way they can try a few projects to see if they like sewing without having to commit to a machine right away. I’m just trying to spread the joy:)

As for why I sew–I do it because I love reinventing the things I own, and I’m addicted to the satisfaction of making something on my own. As some above mentioned–once you start making your own garments/accessories, the stuff from the big box stores loses a lot of its luster. I am thrilled that both knitting and sewing seem to be on the rise!

Great questions, and it’s been fun to read everyone’s answers!
–Stephanie from Deviantly Domesticated

Celeste

GREAT topic. I come from a long line of non-sewers. My mother was always impressed with people who could sew, but never expressed any desire to do it herself. We had a sewing machine, and I was allowed at a young age to use to to make doll clothes. My friend was taking a summer singer sewing course, so ,at the age of 8, my mother signed me up. The rest is history. I’ve always loved it, but was never very happy with my creations, but I dabbled in it over the years. Now I have a daughter, and she loves when I sew for her. Actually, we re-fashion a lot of thrift store finds for her, which is fun and challenging. You just have to be un-afraid, keep trying new things to expand your skill set. I’ve been at it for 38 years now and I still learn new things on a regular basis. The internet has helped. I give my daughter free range with the sewing machine (she’s 10) in hopes that she will have the same drive I did. I’m going to teach sewing to her 4-H group this summer. Early in our marriage, my husband questioned my desire to pursue sewing since he viewed it as a ‘dying art’. Seeing all the young people sewing today, how accomplished some of them are, and the trend toward re-use and self sufficiency, I hardly think ‘dying’ is a term I’d apply to this art form.

Toby Wollin kitchencountereconomics.com

I think a lot depends on what generation you got born into. If you are of an age when there were actual Home Economics classes in junior and senior high school (during the period when boys took shop and architectural drawing, and girls got art and home ec), then you learned there, or 4H, or from a female relative. My mom taught me because she got tired of my hanging around her neck when she was trying to sew, so she sat me down at her electrified old treadle Singer with two pieces of fabric and said, “Line up this edge HERE and sew. When you’re done, come see me. ” That’s how I learned to sew at the age of 11. I got Home Ec in 7th grade and took a sewing class in the 11th grade where I finally learned to sew (I made a wool suit). By the time my children were in school, Home Ec had disappeared and morphed into this class where all the kids got taught how to sew on buttons, balance a checkbook, and cook one dish. That’s it. I taught my kids to sew by having them sew tee-shirts; it only stuck for a while with my son, who was very keen on making his own Hallowe-en costumes, but my youngest daughter now that she is away from home, is much more interested in sewing and crocheting and other crafts. There is part of me that feels that I should go to all the yard sales I can find, buy up a bunch of old sewing machines and have them tuned up and run classes in my house because if those of us who are sewers don’t pass on the passion, I’m not sure how the craft will continue.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

You should do it, Toby! Comments like this make me so hopeful that these skills will continue to flourish within generations to come.

Kittykitty knitbuddies.com

For me I have a really sweet story as to why I was taught to sew as a child. It really wasn’t an option in my family:

During the late 1800’s, I had three 4XGreat Aunts that went to Paris to study each a separate skill, Hat Making, Shoe Making, & Dress Making. When they came back after there apprenticeships opened the first completely woman owned custom dress shops in DC.

As long as they were alive they insisted that the woman in each generation learn each of the three skill sets. Though they lived to be 103 they passed away before I was born, but my great aunt took on the task and when I was a young child taught me to sew and make hats. Though I never did learn to make shoes. She was not a skilled cobbler and with her arthritis it was just to painful.

I still have all three aunts steamer trunks that they traveled from Paris with, one leather and brass, one wood and brass, and one metal and leather. I also adopted all the shoe mast and I have continued to collect them over the years.

Sadly I seldom sew today, though I am an avid knitter. There are basically 3 reason’s that I don’t sew anymore.
1) Lack of good quality fabric available locally. I hate synthetics and fabrics that smell of cheap dye.
2) Even though I have a wonderful home, I just don’t have the space to set up my machine, cutting board, and an ironing board
3) And probably the most honest reason I don’t sew, lack of fashionable patterns for plus sized woman. (Yes I do know how to draft my own patterns, but it is just to depressing. I was also a much better draper and I have yet to find a good dress form in my size. I have plenty in tiny sizes.)

I have taught a few friends how to sew over the years when they have complained about lack of quality teachers. I guess I really didn’t realize how fortunate I was as a child learning from my aunt and taking sewing machine classes from a classically trained Danish tailor when I bought my machine. Until I took a class with a friend for moral support a few years back and I found it very sad all the finishing techniques that were skipped in what was suppose to be an intermediate sewing class.

Really great question…. Thanks for listening. :)

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Wow, thanks for sharing your story. What an amazing family history.

I can certainly understand the frustration with the lack of plus-size patterns, even though you can draft. Who wants to draft a pattern every single time they sew something? Well, I guess some people do, but not me. :)

The Cupcake Goddess thecupcakegoddess.com

I picked up sewing skills from my mom, grandma and aunt. They all sew and are all still very much involved in this art form. I was very young, barbie doll playing age, and obsessed with “looking pretty” and “twirly dresses.” Born out of fabric scraps, I handstitched together some barbie clothes for my first ever sewing project. Since then I’ve taken up more projects and those for myself. I’ve sewn for different reasons throughout my life. When I was in college, I sewed very little but when I did it was out of necessity and to save money. Now its a little different. Sewing isn’t about saving money anymore, because I spend alot of money on various supplies, fabrics, tools, machines and such. I sew because I want something that fits and because I want beautiful touches like handpicked zippers, handstitched buttonholes, reverse applique, etc. I also want clothing that will last me a lifetime. Something that I can pass onto a daughter or niece or granddaughter who will treasure that item and the handmade touch I gave it. I also look at getting dressed in the morning as an art form. I love to be dolled up in a handmade frock that exudes personal style and makes a fashionable statement.
It’s interesting you bring up how to learn sewing. I think if you are obsessed with it, you’ll find resources to help you. I’m mostly self taught as far as many of the couture finishes I’ve learned over the past 3 years, but the basics were shown to me while I was young. But I keep learning. I watched a segment where Isaac Mizrahi said that you absolutely have to know how to sew to be in fashion and if you don’t then learn. He also said that he loves and hates sewing because its something he’ll never know everything about. I love that! It changes so much and you can do things 100 different ways and there are so many techniques which allows for so much creativity. You can do anything and that is a fabulous feeling!

Stephanie

Not to start anything, but sewing isn’t likely to catch on past crafting for a simple reason, most of a good sewing project is the planning, fitting, cutting, and pressing. Being a seamstress is not unskilled labor, any more than being a plumber, a brickmason, or any other blue collar trade. I have an uncle in his 50s who is a master carpenter. Other carpenters come on their off days to watch him work, that is respect for his skills.

And I use seamstress, not sewist. Seamstress (or dressmaker) is fine for me, I am not a tailor, that is a skill I never mastered. But would like to someday. They are kind of apples and oranges, and each have their own worth.

You will not save money while you master a trade. It is an investment of money and years of your life. I have a sewing room, built up over years, I could rent a smaller apartment and save on rent if I unloaded all my equipment. (Please feel free to start with a rebuild you fix up from freecycle – it may be all you need. But I love my serger for knits and finishing.)

I found the comment about “despising” depending on stores for things a little disturbing. That insults the skilled blue collar labor and small business owners that provides the DIY crowd with a middle class life they don’t get their hands dirty for. And then there are the retail stores which also provide groceries, hardware for home improvement, bookstores, pharmacies, these people all provide for their families – hard enough to do during a recession. I have been laid off an am looking for a job an anticipate a serious pay reduction. My mom stands in a bakery (retail establishment) 12 hours a day at 60. My sister stocks shelves in housewares. They both pay their bills on time.

It is never necessary to insult people who do a job you don’t want to do yourself. Is is enough that you have the freedom to chart your own destiny, and sail your own ship. I get so tired of being put down. If you want your lifestyle respected, respect us, too. Colette Patterns is a small business, and a very well run one at that, with a terrific product line. She’s retail, trying to grow a business during a meltdown, and more power to her.

For those of you with a fascination for the craft, and a desire to master it. Here is what I wish I had been told 30 years ago. Take a class or find a master dressmaker. You need to learn how to alter the pattern to fit, all patterns will need alterations. You are as unique as snowflakes and fingerprints, and nothing will fit out of the package. Once you learn perfect fitting, you are going to have a miserable time buying clothing off the rack. I am a miserable fit snob now, and I did it to myself. It can happen to you. Fit first.

The second thing that will give you the results you want is to iron, iron, iron, iron, iron. You are shaping the garment while you sew, some seams and intersection points can be pressed ten times during the process. Over and over, I see sloppy, ill-fitting garments posted on blogs and Pattern Review. It isn’t the weight of the budding fashion designer or her creativity or skill, it is lack of proper pressing and shaping. That one step, pressing, can turn you into a contender for Project Runway.

When your coworkers (in my case ex-coworkers) ask you if you are sneaking out on your lunch hour for a job interview, then you are saving money. I can take a $100 worth of fabric and make a $1,000 suit that is a Chanel knock off, but it took me years to get there.

If you love the process, you will make it there. Then it saves you money. But Dan wasn’t a master carpenter overnight. He was an apprentice and a journeyman first. If you can find a community college class on basic fitting, grab it. Basic pattern drafting, then you can draft your own or alter any pattern that is close to what you want and you can knock off anything, which is a lot of fun.

I would have spared myself a lot of wadders had I tried to teach myself less decades ago, and asked for help more.

And when I get a job, I need that Ceylon pattern. I will redraft the sleeves (my upper arms are to old for that little cap sleeve) and reshape the hem (lowering the hem a three inches is more appropriate for my age and covers a knee that was messed up in a bus accident seven years ago).

Iron on, young artists. Ultimately, all people who chose to master a craft are artists. Iron on.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Stephanie, thank you for the thoughtful comment. I agree, there are many people who will not become experts, and don’t have a desire to, but do you think there can be a creative renaissance in spite of that? What I’m thinking is that sure, not everyone can be an expert pastry chef, but should that stop us from baking wonderful cakes at home?

I don’t think anyone meant to belittle the labor that goes into bringing them goods. If anything, I think making things yourself brings you a deeper appreciation for the labor that goes into products, don’t you?

Oh, and I have definitely heard (from my wonderful mother in law as well!) that I should offer some longer sleeve options for women who prefer arm coverage, so it’s on my radar. :)

Thanks again, this is a wonderful discussion!

Heather muffett.blogspot.com

I’ve been sewing for so long that I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t doing some kind of sewing. Even as young as 5 or 6 I was hand sewing. My mother sews and my grandmother so my learning has been sort of organic, for lack of a better word. I’ve been around it my whole life so I find when someone tells me they don’t know how to sew I’m kinda like, “huh?!”. Like, doesn’t EVERYONE know how to sew, LOL! I started in on a sewing machine when I was 11 or 12, pretty much teaching myself and asking Mom a question here and there. I made hundreds of Barbie doll outfits! I slowed down in highschool but picked back shortly after that and haven’t looked back since. I’ve tried so many other crafts including pottery, knitting, crochet, and even tattooing (not sure that’s really a “craft”) but it always comes back to sewing. Maybe it’s my calling…

Diana streetsandyos.com

I asked my mom to help me learn to sew by working on a couple simple projects together. One, a dress while I was in college, and then a bag a number of years later. For me, I was drawn to sewing as an activity my mom and I could share, and also as a creative endeavor. I was interested in acquiring this skill – I’ve always been drawn to hands-on creative things, and sewing was one of them.

My first sewing machine was quite basic, and I don’t even remember having a project in mind when requesting it for christmas one year. I used it more and more, learning from pattern directions and a “sewing for the home” book. I think it was after taking a couple classes for specific dresses that I learned about better sewing machines, and upgraded. Since then, sewing is one of the crafts I enjoy, in addition to knitting and hand spinning. For me, I prefer making things when I can, so sewing fits in.

Paulina

I was fortunate enough to have sewing classes in high school! I was drawn to the idea of learning so that I could make or modify clothes, and also to save money. I also found the idea of learning this skill to be an exciting challenge!
I moved away after high school and did not sew for many years, until I asked my mum for her sewing machine and serger (as they were collecting dust back home).
For the past year I have been modifying clothes and creating new items (bags, a dress, a skirt). I have strengthened old skills and added considerably to my cache of sewing knowledge!
I also just learned to knit and am trying not to let it consume me. The amazing thing about knitting is that you aren’t limited by machinery.

Jana biselmeshugeh.blogspot.com

I had always wanted to sew but was intimidated for a long time. I finally decided to dive in and give it a go. I have a difficult body to fit, so I’ve found that making my own clothes is so much more satisfying. I actually learned by watching and sewing with my husband’s grandmother. She’s such a wealth of knowledge. My first project was a Halloween costume for my eldest daughter.

I agree with you that one of the best ways to learn to sew is to just keep working on projects. Even little projects help so much. I also think it’s beneficial if you have someone to sew with at first, someone who’s experienced. Because then you can learn basics as well as tricks that you otherwise would have to learn gradually over your own experience. I’ve also found over time my own tricks that vary greatly from my husband’s grandmother’s. It’s fun to compare. It’s also nice to sew with others because sometimes it just makes it more enjoyable.

Crystal knitfreak.com

What a timely post! I have just gotten a desire to really learn to sew the past couple months. I have been building into it and have really enjoyed it so far.

For me, the desire to sew came from not being able to buy a lot of things that fit my proportions right. A lot of stores get fixated on a certain style for a long period of time, and as a chesty girl there are some things I just don’t want to wear! I am also trying to recycle more, and I’ve really loved seeing new pieces made from old ones. I would love to be able to get to the point of being able to imagine something and then sew it.

I’ve actually been a knitter for a very long time, so have always been interested in crafting clothing. In some ways you are right – it is easy to learn how to knit at a basic level. And there are loads of resources out there for learning how to do the advanced things, but I think it’s actually on par to sewing. I’ve found LOADS of inspiring blogs, online sites, turotials, and books to help with my newbie sewing curve. Then again, ten years ago the internet was NOTHING like it is now, for a new sewer now it must be very different than it was a decade ago.

And very advanced knitting, where you make fine garments of your own design that fit, drape, and flatter are as difficult to learn how to create as a nicely sewn piece. Sure, you can learn a technique but knowing how to put all the variables together (yarn, fibre content, tension, stitch pattern, design, math, ease) to make something wearable is about as difficult as the equivalent sewing variables.

I guess I think of knitting as actually making the fabric I am going to wear in the shape I want it in, but sewing is taking fabric and making it wearable by shaping it :)

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Hmm. I wonder if my opinions about the differences between learning to knit and learning to sew have more to do with when I learned than I realized. When I learned to sew, there were few online resources. By the time I learned to knit (when I was in grad school), the internet had exploded with helpful knitting sites.

Silje littlebirdcrafts.blogspot.com

My mom was always sewing when I was growing up, she made me cute little dresses, and just from watching her I always knew I wanted to learn.
She lives in Norway, and I love in Portland, OR, so there was no way she could teach me when I was finally ready to learn. I bought a sewing machine, and just started on my own, I went from tote bags to altering clothes. I am now finally ready to learn to sew my own clothes, and I am dying to also learn to make my own patterns.

xoxo.

Erin trailertreasureblog.com

My grandma taught me how to sew when I was ten years old. I actually asked her to give me lessons because she had made me a few things and I wanted to learn how to do it myself.

Speaking of sewing, I’m hosting a book-related, handmade giveaway on my blog this week :)

You and your readers are free to stop by!

FITZ fitzfabulous.wordpress.com

sewing is… big. knitting is compact and you can do it in company, on a train, whatever. sewing takes a bunch of stuff and needs a lot of room. and it’s not nearly as social or portable as knitting. it requires a big old machine.

that said, i love it and wouldn’t swap it for anything. i started sewing because i was on scholarship at a private school and needed dresses for all kinds of dances and teas and parties. i started altering thrifted stuff then took the pattern plunge. by senior year i was making prom dresses for myself and friends.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Yes, not many people have mentioned that! I LOVE the portability of knitting.

jen stitchchick.blogspot.com

what a great collection of comments. I feel so less alone in my “lost” feeling when it comes to fit and pattern/fabric matching.

Emily familytrunkproject.com

Interesting post and conversation, Sarai. I am a more advanced knitter than I am a sewist (I design knitwear but am only comfortable altering sewing patterns to suit me), but I’m reasonably good at both. My desire to learn to knit came out of having learned to sew (from my mom, who once owned a dressmaking business) years before. I learned to sew because I wanted clothes that were unusual; I learned to knit because I wanted a more portable/social/flexible version of sewing!

And when I got more involved with knitting I also realized that knit fabric and knitted designs are a lot more forgiving than wovens. If a sweater fits with 1/2 inch more or less of ease, or if a knitted dart is 1/2 off, it’s not even going to be visible, usually. Whereas in a sewn garment 1/2 inch is huge – can make the difference between success and unmitigated disaster. Also, cutting into fabric is irreversible, whereas a failed knitting project (unless it’s steeked) can just be ripped out. I think it’s intimidating to people to think of bridging the knitting/sewing divide because of the greater amount of attention/precision/commitment necessary. Since I was going in the other direction, however, the discovery was kind of delightful for me. ;-)

Dominique

I feel like I’ve wanted to learn how to sew since I was a pre-teen but haven’t gotten around to it until now. I have some beginner (Sew Everything Workshop has definitely but the most helpful) and reference books, and will often sit down and just browse through them. My first project is the Sencha blouse, and while mine doesn’t look very good, and has yet to be completed, I’ve learned so much by just jumping into it. I feel that just trying my hand at a project has pushed me from on the verge to being a beginner.

My biggest reason for learning how to sew is that I would like to make dresses based off of vintage patterns. I know I’m far from that stage, but when I look at all the pretty patterns I have it keeps me motivated. Another reason is I just want all my clothes to be perfect for me. There is something very special about knowing that you picked out the material and color, and no one will have one like it!

Jasmyne

I think “fit” is a major problem for many people that keep sewing from being pursued.

My first garment was a “jumper dress” I tried to make in high school out of some daisy print material in high school. I spent about 2 months of classtime making that garment. Afterwards when it was all finished I tried it on and the empire waist hit somewhere across my bust point.

Although it’s been 14 years since that jumper, I still have produced very few garments that actually fit well in the torso because the bust point needs to be dropped 4 inches and the waist to be dropped 5 and all the darts and so on rearranged and curves adjusted and so on.

So probably many give up after the first disasterous garment thinking that “sewing is only for body type XYZ” and their own body is ‘wrong’.

Stefanie artsymomma.blogspot.com

Well I started sewing because I wanted to make my daughter a quilt with a panda on it. I found a pattern and told my husband and for valentines day he got me my first sewing machine. I just went all in. Found out I couldnt quilt right off the bat but I got the sewing bug and just started making totes and handbags and after my daughter was born clothes for her. It has all been a learn and as you go thing. I love it and am still amazed three years ago I had never touched a sewing machine before! And this past valentine’s day my husband kept up with the tradition and got me a serger. I havent done anything but stare at it ( I am scared of it truth be told!) but this weekend I am going to look at my instruction manual and I will teach myself by playing and sewing just to do it and learn and grow! (Wish me luck!!)

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Sergers are fun and not that scary once you’ve learned to thread it and do just a bit of stitching! Much easier than learning a sewing machine for the first time, anyway. :)

Stefanie artsymomma.blogspot.com

Thanks Sarai! I am most nervous about the re-threading of the machine!

Amanda

I’ve been taking sewing classes at a small sewing space and it’s been great to learn with others and be taught by people with experience. I can’t imagine learning on my own from books, etc. (seems like so much to take in) so I admire people who have done it that way. Plus, I’m a perfectionist of sorts so it helps that my instructors might say it’s okay to move on, otherwise I might obsess, get frustrated, and give up :)

I’m an architectural historian by profession and had to take a couple of architecture design courses in college. I would spend late nights happily working at my studio desk drawing and using the random tools, pens, tracing paper, etc. Since I now work as a historian that design creativity isn’t as much a part of my daily life so taking up sewing and having a machine/cutting table at home makes me feel like I’m back in studio. It’s so much fun shopping for fabrics. I love the idea of creating something with some music on and having something to wear (or give away to a friend) at the end of it.

I’m taking a class that’s teaching your beignet skirt class right now. Very excited! They’re also offering the parfait dress class, but I need to build my skills up a little before venturing down that way. Your designs are lovely!

Kat

I started sewing around the age of 7 because my mom sewed, and I wanted to know how to do it. She taught me handsewing basics first and most of my projects were stuffed animals, doll clothes, and other things for myself. At some point, as I got older, she taught me to use the machine and we made dresses for me and my sister (who wasn’t interested in sewing) together. She gave me my own sewing machine within a few years, and I still use it.
As a young teen, I stopped sewing for a while until high school. I was very interested in fashion and somehow, sewing seemed like the best way to get what I wanted because I wasn’t going to have the money to buy my ideal but I might have the skill to make it, so I jumped right back in. I took two courses in high school aimed at intermediate sewers and then in college took draping and patternmaking courses as electives, while working for local costume shops. Each of these experiences has helped me improve my sewing skills. I learned to knit this summer and have gone beyond the basics into lacework, cabling, circular knitting on DPN’s, magic loop, etc. and I think the biggest difference to me was how very easy it was for me to learn it all on my own, not to mention how easy it was to carry around. Sewing doesn’t have the portability and it doesn’t seem to have the accessibility of knitting or even needlework. There are just so many different ways to go, so many different things to know, when constructing a garment – from pattern and fabric choice to cutting even, it can be a difficult first step. While I have plenty of reference books to remind myself of certain sewing techniques and even to look up new ones, I don’t know if I would have gotten so far as a “hobby sewist” if I hadn’t had the people around me who taught me at the very beginning. I’m hoping that maybe the internet may be able to prove my experience of having personal teachers isn’t the only way to go, in the same way it has for knitting through videos and many, many instructional websites (as well as wonderful books, besides!)

jenny jennyduarte.com

How did I begin sewing… When I was little, my mom sewed – mostly for me – and I liked to (hand) sew doll clothes. Somewhere, in late elementary school, my mom had me do some lessons with the mom of a friend, but she ended up very frustrated with me – her daughter, my friend, had been sewing for a while and her seams were straighter than mine, plus I was left handed! So it didn’t go too far.

When I was in grad school, a very good friend of mine had a pre-schooler, a little girl who I dearly love. I started making her doll clothes – first simple things, then fancier and fancier. I found it relaxing. And finally I decided I could probably sew real clothes, and tried it.

My mom had another good friend who’d been quite a seamstress in her day, and she gave me a lot of help early on (she has familial tremors, so she couldn’t really sew anymore herself). She taught me how to fit a pattern, at least to me (I don’t have any clue how to do a small bust adjustment, for example). That was [b]huge[/b]. To this day my husband helps me with fitting.

I have learned things from the internet, too. I’m making a dress from a vintage pattern now, with gussets under the arms. I really couldn’t wrap my head around it, so I googled it, and there was a great tutorial over at pins and needles that was perfect.

One of the other things that took me a long time to learn was how to choose the right fabric for a pattern; patterns give some guidelines, but it still took me a while, and I got thrown for a lot of loops. I’ve also learned a lot by really talking to the sales people at independently owned fabric stores like Britex (in SF) – their knowledge has been worth the price of the fabric many times. Early on, I got a gorgeous length of sueded kimono silk and made a skirt from a vintage pattern out of it. I got part way through before I realized the fabric had way too much drape for what I was doing. I took it back to the store and asked, and they suggested I underline it with organza, which worked beautifully.

Elle itsasewinglife.blogspot.com

My grandmother officially taught me to sew when I was 12. All through high school, I chose projects and made them, for myself and others, and basically taught myself going through the patterns step by step. If I had problems, my mom was around to help. I sewed a lot of garments for myself during college because a) I was cheap and knew I could make my own for less, and b) because I could. I found sewing relaxing, creative, and something other people wished they could do.

I’ve taken a variety of classes in my adult life, mainly when I want to learn a particular skill like smocking, or heirloom sewing. The last 20 years I’ve mostly sewn for my children, or quilted, and have only recently returned to sewing for myself because of a frustration with finding RTW that actually fits. Learning how to get a perfect fit is my current challenge.

I don’t think there is any one best way to learn. I’ve taught myself through books, classes, videos on the internet, and often just step by step as I make a pattern. Sewing is an art, and needs lots of practice and with each project I still learn something new and can apply it to future projects. I just love how you start with your 2D fabric and some tissue and end up with something you can wear or use. Sometimes it just something functional like a child’s playsuit, and other times it can be a couture evening dress. The possibilities are endless.

vero aufildujardin.blogspot.com

I had sewing lessons at school, some 40 years ago. The teacher was great and encouraged me to start big projects, like a blazer. Then I sew for me and later for my daughters. Back then, savings was the main reason I sewed. Then i stopped sewing for many years. Started again last year, because I lost weight and wanted clothes that fit my new figures. And learning to sew started again, with more accent on higher standards.
I learn a lot from the blogoshpere.
BTW, thanks for your posts!

Anna mormorhadestil.se

Here in Sweden, sewing is a compulsory subject in school. You learn to sew easy things, like a tote bag, a quilt and perhaps also a shirt, skirt or trousers if you’re interested. Both sewing and carpentry/woodwork are compulsory, for both girls and boys up until they’re around 15, or what is your equivalence to junior high, I guess.

That’s where I learned the basics. Moving on from that I learned more from friends who were moe experienced and also from my mum.

amy

i love that concept! having compulsory sewing and woodworking for both girls and boys in school.

Nicole biketopus.blogspot.com

That’s the way it was at my school in Canada as well, but the classes were so short we didn’t learn too much. I think we made bean bags and toast in home ec, and then piggy banks and clocks in shop class. My mom might still have the piggy bank I made for her!

Mostarda withmostarda.wordpress.com

Just like Anna, I am swedish and learned how to sew in school, but I am also lucky to have a mom that teaches those classes and we always had lots of fabric to use at home. I can say that I had quite “interesting” clothes in high school…

When I was pregnant with my first child I decided to get a serger since I was never happy with the results when sewing in stretch fabrics. I had a lot of help from Internet resources when learning how to use the serger.

Where I live now, many of my friends have bought a sewing machine but they have no idea on how to use it, but until now I have not had the time to teach them, so I would love to find some good beginner’s projects.

Kristen kristenmakes.wordpress.com

I started sewing in my teens. I guess I expressed an interest to my mom and we went out to buy a mailbag pattern. She even obliged when I said I wanted the strap extra extra long so that the bag hung to my knees! After the first bag, I was hooked. I took a sewing course in high school and already knowing how to sew, the teacher let me go at my own break-neck speed.

After I went on and completed fashion school, I found myself back teaching that very same high school sewing course. I started the students off on boxer shorts, then T-shirts, and then their own choice (some students made their prom dresses and an ambitious male student made a lined blazer!)… It was such fun, and I really hope my students are still sewing!

For me it is the thrill of taking a flat piece of fabric and at the end it becomes this amazing shape to fit the curves of a body or a bag to hold your books! Its so rewarding knowing that what you’ve made is unique and there is not one piece out there like it!

I think it is much easier though to continue knitting than sewing because knitting is sociable – you pick it up and sit on a couch or in a cafe and can still talk with friends. Sewing however, you find yourself holed away in your room for hours on end, and its very hard to set aside that time. I love knitting, but I do get a bigger thrill from my finished sewn garments than those I have knitted.

Nichola nikkishell.com

I learned the basics of sewing from my Mum and school when i was younger then i didn’t sew much through my teenage years or early twenties. I picked up sewing again when i was pregnant with my first child and made things like purses and other small things then progressed into sewing clothes. I started Wardrobrefashion.net as a way of saving money, being kinder to the environment and improving my sewing skills. If i could only wear clothes i had made or refashioned then my sewing HAD to improve right?! I was then asked by BurdaStyle.com to join their team and sew and alter their patterns. This was a big push for me to learn more.
I’ve learned most of my sewing skills through trial and error (you learn from your mistakes right?!), books, websites, other sewers and a class or two.
I’ve now gone almost 4 years without buying new manufactured clothing (there have been a few purchases that i could count on one hand), i’m not sure if i’ve saved any money by doing so (i tend to buy a LOT of fabric-one of the perks of working in a fabric store!) but i have improved my skills immensely and i have a wardrobe of clothes that (mostly) fit me well and is unique to my style.

Debbie minnado.blogspot.com

Like many others I learnt sewing from my mum. She was always making things when I was growing up and there was always lots of fabric around to practice on so sewing just seemed like a natural and straightforward thing to do. As a teenager I used to make bags and drawstring trousers and shorts on her machine. I stopped sewing for a while when doing my degree in my early twenties as I trained as a painter at a time and was totally immersed in that world. I now sew mainly clothes and also bags and toys as presents as I find it stimulating and enjoyable. I am also short of money and cannot afford to buy many new clothes and like others I am increasingly fed up with the short-term attitude of the mass produced clothing industry. It is fun for me to try and increase my skills and knowledge with each project – currently teaching myself from books as I no longer live near my mum!

Jenny sidac.blogspot.com

Well, I just really started sewing this past summer and I’m hooked. I’ve never taken a class. My grandmothers didn’t sew. My mom didn’t sew. I just discovered the blog world and was inspired by things that people were making, so I got out a sewing machine that my in-laws had given me and started following tutorials that I liked! From there, I started to try patterns and found that I’m not a bad sewer! People think it’s creativity, but really I just follow directions well. But I’m hoping that, the more that I sew, the more I will understand about garment construction and maybe then I will be able to design my own clothes.

renee

I was about 14 when I jumped into the world of sewing. I was always interested in fashion design, so learning seemed like the best thing to do. I bought an easy apron-like dress pattern to start and made my way through the instructions, asking my mom for help when something confused me. I did a few easy projects like that to get comfortable with the basics. A couple years later I got really into revamping thrift store clothes, so that upped my skill set through trial and error. It wasn’t until I went to design school, though, that my sewing skills became advanced. We were assigned projects that required us to use certain finishes, seams, and design elements, etc. So, I guess you can say I learn the best through projects. And I continually reference certain books like Crawford’s Guide to Fashion Sewing and the Time Life Book Sewing series from the 70’s (so good!).
I now sew mostly for my handbag business (and that is always a learning experience!) and for myself, as similar to Nichola, I stopped buying newly manufactured clothing two years ago.I also sew lots of gifts. I love giving home sewn gifts.

amy

i’m still trying so hard to learn! i took a make-a-skirt class five years ago that was mediocre, though i did learn the basics of pattern making. and i did a too-short day workshop on alterations once. i intended to sign up for a class this spring, or do private lessons with a local seamstress, but other commitments are putting that off till the summer or fall.
but i’m determined! i think why i don’t try more on my own is because i’m scared… i get nice fabric, good pattern, and i’m petrified i’m going to botch it up… plus making the pattern actually fit my body seems so daunting.
but i would like to create a more self-reliant lifestyle, and i love love fashion but i dislike the fashion industry for several reasons. including the social and environmental (and political!) impact of mass produced apparel. so these are my motivations. but i’m also tired of buying boring clothes for expensive prices that are shabbily made. which reminds me i ordered the sencha and beignet patterns last night!

two things:
1 any suggestions for beginner sewers with error-phobia?
2 do you suggest any particular dress form?

thanks so much!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

If you are afraid of making mistakes, I HIGHLY recommend making muslins. I think it’s a good idea to keep lots of cheap fabric around just for this purpose. Maybe I will post some of my resources for bolts of muslin.

I know it seems boring to do first drafts in muslin, but it can be exciting to get the fit exactly right so you know your final garment will look great on you. And you don’t necessarily even have to do the whole garment. Lots of times I find just doing the more fitted parts, such as the bodice of a dress, can be extremely helpful.

There are a lot of good dress forms out there. I have had good experiences with the PGM Pro, which I’m pretty sure you can find for a decent price on ebay.

amy

with buying a dress form… i’m assuming i want to get your my particular size. how can i be sure what size i am compared to the sizing of the dress forms? please forgive if my question is terribly novice! but between the varying sizes in the stores and with patterns etc it’s hard to know what “size 4” means exactly.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Yes, you want to get it in your size, so take careful measurements. Though there are also adjustable dress forms, and many sewing stores carry these. I’ve never used one, but perhaps someone else can chime in on that. I’d think they’d be especially useful if your proportions are not average (e.g. large bust, small hips, anything like that).

The place you purchase it from should provide a size chart, so you know exactly what the measurements of the form are.

amy

i got some muslin today to do as you suggest… $1.50 a yard. is that a decent discounted rate? thanks for the suggestion. the online creative community that you have been/are creating is so valuable. i know for me it really brings inspiration and confidence in moving forward with my sewing goals. thanks!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

$1.50 seems like a pretty reasonable price! Even buying it by the bolt, I haven’t seen it retail for much less than that.

Rebecca

I learned to sew when I was really young, but mostly by hand. When I was about 8 my mom finally started letting me use her sewing machine to make things from scraps. There were always people around me who did amazing things with clothes or quilting, or knitting. I thought I didn’t need to learn further in middle school, so I signed up for woodworking and metalwork (making things out of any material is what interests me). Sadly, the class was too full and they remedied this by sending us 4 girls back to our “rightful” place in Home Ec. I’m still a little peeved 25 years later, but I went on to learn many useful techniques through my high school career. I really liked the Vogue Sewing Book, though I still haven’t used a Hong Kong finish on anything that I can recall. My mom and sisters and I sometimes have “sewing nights” where we get together to work on projects, though I find I’m a much better sewer when I work alone.

Sara threecleversisters.com

I took some sewing classes when I was little and my mom always sewed our halloween costumes. I did a little embroidery as well, but otherwise not much. I picked up knitting about 6 years ago and I think my interest in sewing was renewed from knitting. On your point on the popularity of knitting, I think it’s also because it’s so eminently portable. Sewing seems like a lot more “work” as you have to lay out and cut the fabric, actually go sit at your machine, etc. That being said, it’s sort of a false perception that sewing takes more time because when you have some experience, you can sew something up much much faster than you could knit the equivalent.

Nicole biketopus.blogspot.com

So many wonderful stories! Ironically, I find knitting way more intimidating than sewing. The few things that I’ve tried to knit have usually turned out too big, and it’s not like I can just take in the side seams to make them smaller (I had to make three drafts of a coffee pot cozy for my boyfriend to get it the right size!).

I did take a few weeks of sewing around the 8th grade or so where we learned how to make a bean bag, but I think I really started sewing in my early years of college when a roommate of mine brought home a broken sewing machine from the trash. We opened it up and watched an animation of how a sewing machine is supposed to work online, and eventually got it working well enough to hack away at things. Eventually my mom took pity on me and bought me a ~$100 Kenmore that was way less sad that the trash machine.

Most of the stuff that I made during that era was things like hacked up band t-shirts and skirts made of curtains. They looked a bit crazy, but I didn’t mind since this was kind of the DIY/punk aesthetic that I was going for. I actually had never used a pattern until last year when I downloaded something for free from the BurdaStyle website. Sewing up that pattern immediately changed my perspective on sewing, because I saw how it was possible to make tailored stuff that I could wear to teach in, not just refashioned knit tops or burlap bags.

I still don’t really know how to sew “properly,” but I pick up techniques from reading people’s blogs, surfing the internet, trial and error, etc. Somebody talks about underlining something, and then I spend an hour surfing around to find out about underlining and think about all the places I should have used it in the past. I have an old Singer sewing book that I occasionally reference, but mostly I just dive in. Sometimes I also look at RTW clothes that I own to see how stuff is done (although this is not always helpful if you don’t have a serger). So I guess I learned to sew gradually, making things that were incrementally more polished. This worked out really well for me, since my tastes in clothes have also evolved from ripped up stuff to tailored shirts over time!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

That is so true, I’ve knit a few things that came out entirely the wrong size. All you can do is frog them! On the other hand, I’ve had dresses I made that fit poorly, and I just take apart a few seams and add a few darts and they’re good to go.

I like your example about the underlining, I think that’s such a common experience. There’s just so much to know.

Amanda

I am still learning slowly and just lke some other I have a fear of jumping in over my head and messing up a project. I took a community college class which gave me a good idea of the basics about a year ago and since then, work and school have filled up all my free time. I still have a desire to learn and have been slowing collecting projects and reference books for the future. I never had any sewing classes in my school, but I wish I did. It might have instilled a confidence in me that I seem to be lacking right now. I want to make things fit well and I also want to combat costs. I have a lot to learn about construction and techniques, but I am still working on it when I can.

Melissa whenmelissawasgood.blogspot.com

My mom is an excellent sewist, so my first forays into sewing were under her guidance and on her machine. I got my first machine when I was in my early-20’s. Mostly I sewed without patterns, improvising curtains for the first apartment I shared with my new husband. Even though I’d used a machine and had sewing experience, I’d say I didn’t really properly learn to sew until we moved to Portland a few years ago and I took classes at Palmer Pletsch. Now I have the confidence to sew garments. I am a passionate knitter, but love the possibilities of sewing. I do find sewing far more intimidating than knitting. Mistakes seem so much more difficult to repair…

Pascale

I come to sewing via the knitting/crochet world as probably do lots of others, and can make a couple of comments about my experience.

First, that knowing how garments are sewn together has really improved my knitting, I used to be mainly about the hats and scarves but now am much more aware of fit and how to achieve this for sweaters.

Second, that knitting and crochet are so much more portable, you can have a project to work on commuting to work so there is a bit more flexibility that way although the total amount of time for an equivalent garment is much greater than for sewing.

Third, one of the difficulties I am having with sewing is the complexities of all the equipment; not just the sewing machine itself, but the steam iron, the marking pens, the myriad types of thread and scissors etc make it intimidating to get started. I’m still trying to work out if I need special basting thread and if so where to obtain this.

Finally, one thing that we all have in common is the love of the stash and respect for the different fibers, whether in string or cloth form. The thrill of going from the one dimensional surface to the three dimensional garment is the same every time and this thrill is a great feeling.

maxie

Learning to sew was “compulsory” in my family. Everyone in our family sewed (male and female) and we were taught, little by little. When I was a pre-/teenager, I sewed mainly nightwear (needed something new for every sleepover!), but when I had my first baby, I started sewing in earnest for her and for me. Because my folks and my in-laws were in “the business,” I always had access to beautiful, and free, fabric remnants.

Heather Kordsmeier savvypassions.blogspot.com

I am just learning the basics of sewing. My Mother and Grandmother both were awesome seamstresses. I have discovered the blogs and love the items that people have made. I had a cheap embroidry/sewing machine. It was in the shop and cost more to fix than it was worth. My husband decided to buy me a fabulous Babylock Elegante. I want to be able to sew for myself and children. I am collecting as many “how to” tutorials in a sewing notebook. I want to sew everything I can.

Brieanne putonyourapron.blogspot.com

I actually re-learned how to sew (I first learned in my early teens) recently, and it’s all because of something very Andy Rooney of me: I got ticked off at how expensive the clothes I liked were, and how poorly made they were. I was tired of clothes falling apart after washing. Thus, to the sewing machine I went.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Haha, your Andy Rooney comment made me actually laugh out loud.

Amy chinashepherdess.com

My mom was an avid home sewer and taught me basic sewing skills when I was kid. Like some of the others have mentioned sewing and “industrial arts” were compulsory for both girls and boys in my suburban USA junior high. We did a basic totebag project. Somehow none of that stuck, so here I am reading your blog and hoping I eventually get the nerve and energy to try to re-learn. I am a knitter and I do think learning how to make quality knitwear made me want to do the same with sewn clothing. I also like the idea of just whipping up a simple skirt or something when I need something to wear. Baby steps first though. Right now I’m intimidated from just hemming curtains.

Rose thelaughingmonkey.com

Like most people here, I learned to “officially” sew from my mom when I was 8. We went to the fabric store and purchased fabric, thread, elastic, and a pattern for a pair of shorts. I still remember them. That was when I learned how to use a pattern and a sewing machine. Before then, I was always hand sewing clothes for my barbies or making little hand sewn pillows or whatnot.

When I was in high school I sewed some of my clothes, but I didn’t really have much time to sew. They were all improvised and never from a pattern. I hated patterns because I could never get a good fit.

Years later my husband and I bought a house and I sewed alot, mostly curtains and pillows.

Many years later, while in my mid-20’s I was thrift shopping with my mom and was so frustrated that everything seemed to be polyester. We went to the fabric store (again) and bought fabric and patterns. I worked really hard at learning how to get a good fit, and found a few patterns I really liked for dresses and pants, and I made a ton of them, mostly from quilting calicos because I like the prints and natural fibers.

Then I had babies and found I had alot less time to sew, and an ever-changing body shape. I sewed mainly for my babies.

But now my kids aren’t babies anymore and I am getting back into making my own clothes. But I’ll admit I am so depressed about the lack of decent fabric at the local superstore. It’s just an ocean of polyester. I really have to dig hard to find any fabrics I like. Mostly cottons and linens. I live in Florida so there’s not much wool to be had.

I know many many women who had mothers who sewed, but never learned. There are so many young women who want to make their own clothes but don’t even know where to begin. I’m (slowly) giving a young friend sewing lessons and I forgot how difficult it is in the beginning. It takes a long time to be able to buy a pattern and get a good fit on the first try.

Karen sewingbytheseatofmypants.blogspot.com

I’ve always sewn, but I don’t recall anyone ever showing me how. Some things I picked up by watching, others I figured out on my own, either by logic or by taking something apart. I also started by hand-sewing outfits for my barbies, and eventually graduated to threading my mom’s Singer for her (she didn’t mind the sewing but she hated messing with the machine).

After I flunked home ec in high school (both cooking AND sewing), I didn’t bother with it for a few years, basically on the theory that if I flunked it, even though I enjoyed it, I wouldn’t ever be good at it. Not so. I just would never be good at making drawstring bags or pillow covers.

I started sewing again because I had to. I wanted to make things, and clothing seemed like the most interesting thing to make. I didn’t always start simple – a lot of my projects were far above my skill level – and sometimes I crashed and burned, but learned a lot, and other times, surprisingly, I got a result good enough to make me come back for more.

Along the way I accumulated a few shelves of sewing reference books, which I refer to sometimes, but mostly I read them for entertainment and when I get into a bind when sewing, I go back to my sewing roots and try to figure my way out of it.

It’s the puzzle aspect of sewing that I love best, turning flat pieces of paper into pieces of fabric into a three dimensional garment, and being able to visualize the process.

Roxanne patternhound.com

I first learned to sew when I bought a cheap little Brother sewing machine from Wal-Mart out of sheer curiosity and desire to start making my own clothes that nobody else would have.

I started out by finding patterns online to make my own purses & handbags and loved the aspect of construction – taking pieces of a puzzle and turning it into something valuable.

The best thing about sewing is that if you can’t find something you want at a store, you know that with enough determination you can make it yourself.

What I love so much about sewing is how complicated and intricate it can be – you can sew for years and still be challenged by a new project.

ChristineB knitsewwhat.blogspot.com

I started messing around with my mother’s sewing machine when I was five years old (I scratched “I love you” into the wooden console that it sat on with a T-pin). I was putting basic things together with a little guidance from her by the time I was 8 or 9, and by 7th grade, I could sew pretty well. In Home Ec class that year, I made an (admittedly ugly) princess seamed jumpsuit (after the obligatory and mind-numbingly dumbed-down stuffed ladybug pillow).

The following year, I made a lined fake fur coat. I think the same year, my mom signed me up for a class at Stretch and Sew – my former kindergarten teacher was in the same class, it was so much fun.

I sewed all through high school and college. Lots of Cyndi Lauper/Madonna knock-offs, a copy of a one piece tuxedo swimsuit (Oscar de la Renta?) worn by Brooke Shields in (I think) Vogue…a suitcase full of clothes I took on my honeymoon to Mexico (the suitcase was STOLEN while we waited to check in…I was SO sad to lose those clothes!).

I need to get back to that level of LOVIN’ my sewing again. Sure, I LIKE it just fine, but now I’m soooo nitpicky about it that it’s lost a lot of the fun.

Thanks for reminding me what it used to be like. :-)

loretta fittingtips.wordpress.com

My grandmother taught me. I was only 6 but dying to learn. At first she gave me scraps and a hand needle but that did not satisfy, so finally she took me to the store to buy flannel and lace and we made a gathered neck nightie. I realy did the work, she just coached. I had been watching her a long time. She propped the foot pedal up on a stack of catalogs so I could reach and I just took off running. She coached as needed for years, but I eventually got away from my need for much and perhaps even surpassed her in some of my skills but she was always my cheerleader! To learn something now I read or ask a sewing friend.

Sandra Schwab sandyschatterblog.blogspot.com

I, too, learned how to sew in school (I’ve still got the needlebook I made when I was eleven or twelve). Even though I liked all kinds of needlework, the school projects weren’t all that inspiring, so I eventually gave up on needlework altogether.

Last year, when I spent nearly all my waking hours in front of the computer, scribbling away at my doctoral thesis, I suddenly felt the urge to create something with my hands. I surfed the net, stumbled across several crafters’ blogs, was much inspired, and sewed a little softie bunny for my friend’s baby girl. Then I bought Aimee Ray’s book “Doodle Stitching”, was even more inspired and started with embroidery. Then I stumbled across a quilting blog and started to buy quilting books. Then I thought, Well, if you want to quilt, you’ll need a sewing machine, right? For if you do it by hand, it’ll take ages and you’re not the most patient person on the planet. And so I bought a sewing machine. And more quilting books. And fabric. Ordered from the USA, because that’s way cheaper than buying fabric in Germany (it’s a weird world!).

Then my shiny new sewing machine arrived, and after I had figured out how to bring up the bobbin thread (took me an hour…) and had managed to sew a decent straight seam, I was utterly and completely hooked. :) I love figuring out how things go together, I love creating things without using the computer for once, and I love how much joy I can give to people simply by sewing something for them.

Last Saturday I finished my very first quilt — it’s very basic, and it’s got some serious flaws, but still, I consider it a great success. :)

Rondell Jenkins jenkinsdothatthing.blogspot.com

My thoughts are to go up to the K-Mart and buy it! LOL

purpleshoes

This is one of my favorite stories, now that it’s all turned out fine – my mother was very sick (we didn’t know if she was going to get better. She did! She’s fine now!) and could only do things around the house for an hour or two at a time before she had to go to bed. And I was in school in another city and never got to see her. Well, she decided when I was home that she was going to teach me to make a dress (I’d taken a sewing class and promptly forgotten everything some years before), and she used one of her rare afternoons on her feet to help me pick out fabric and a pattern, and then I sat down in the sunroom and stitched and stitched and stitched and took what I’d done to her on the couch so she could tell me where I’d gone wrong. Trust me, pretty much everything I learned during that weekend is fixed permanently in my memory – I’m not a particularly detail-oriented or small-motor-skilled person, but because of the situation I hung on her every word. I know this sounds like a sad story, but every time I bind a hem I remember that my mother loves me :-)

Alexis alexistaylorart.blogspot.com

My mom was quite the seamstress, all self taught, she could make anything with out even using a pattern. She was talented and creative. When I was younger she offerd to teach me, Of course I was a rebel, and didn’t want to learn. She has been gone nearly four years now, and I have two daughters of my own, I started learning how to sew, because I remember the hand crafted toys and dresses she made for me and my sisters. Watching tutorials online, and visiting blogs such as yours, is how I am learning to sew. I am so grateful to learn what I can from talented ladies such as yourself! Keep up the good work! IT COUNTS!!!! :)

Nancy

I first learned to sew from my mom (by example) and picked it up mostly by trying projects on my own and learning from my own experiences – the best teacher of all.

Anne none

i used to watch my mother sew from I was about four I always loved it self taught bought books used to do a lot of curtains ans household stuff but fashion is my favourite I just fingered out how to cut out patterns fabric made a lot of clothes if I don’t sew for a few days I miss it I have to go to my machine to sew it makes me feel good I am 63 and still learning to do different things I would like to try my hand at quilting the internet is a great way to learn if I get stuff I can type it in and i can get help but most times I do my own thing even do it might be wrong way to do it its my way the only thing that I don’t like is inserting zips so if anyone has ant tips I would appreciate it thank you
Regards Anne

JypseaRose

I learned to sew because as I age…RTW just simply does not fit. Not just the usual “fit” but the styles don’t fit either. So I decided I would learn to sew my own clothes. I thought it would be easy breezy lemon squeezy but it turned out to be difficult difficult lemon difficult.

I’m blessed…my husband makes a good living so I was able to invest in quality machines. That alone kept me at it as I had way too much money tied up in good machines (Babylock Evolution for one) for me to just quit. I searched hi and lo for teachers but could only find good classes in New York, Los Angeles and the like.

The first garments I made were horrible. Oh, I wore them anyway just because I was thrilled I was putting pieces of fabric together but they were absolutely horrible. I learned very quickly not to buy any fabric that didn’t have fire sale prices, I was that bad. I also learned that there were fitting issues with store bought patterns themselves. So I started searching for anything concerning fitting. I bought books. I Googled. I read internet blog after internet blog. I cried. I threatened to throw the expensive machines out the window. I came to understand that this was just out of my reach and something that I just didn’t have a talent for…

And then…I made a blouse that turned out amazing. And I realized that without even consciously thinking about…I had developed some little tricks, and paid attention to grain lines. I’m really into couture sewing and am really starting using a thread and needle more for accuracy. So that one little blouse that I made early this past summer was the start of a great wardrobe. I just finished a wonderful little dress (with piping! I’m crazy for piping!) and I’m putting the finishing stitches on a lined coat to match for the Fall.

That’s it. I just didn’t have enough sense to quit when I was down and out!!!

Ruthie Gee

When I grew up the girls all took “Home Ec” and during that course you were introduced to sewing. I later had a roommate that rented a sewing machine and every fall and summer, made herself a few new clothes. I started sewing with her and it blossomed from there. I am always amazed at the number of young women blogging about sewing…I too thought it was a lost art until the internet and now I know that there are a lot of girls out there learning to sew. I make Barbie clothes and sew for other dolls now and it scratces that itch.

christine

i want to start learn sewing . is it too late?
i couldn’t find any course or someone to teach me. i live in small town of
indonesia. is it possible learn by myself? or learn from
reference book?? i want to make something can make my children proud. please help me….

Cathy Griffin

When I was a very young child, my grandmother took me to the store. She allowed me to choose a fabric. We took it home and she laid it out on the table. I climbed on a chair and looked at that fabric and thought it was beautiful. My grandmother then proceeded to cut it all up into some mighty strange-looking shapes. I can clearly remember how devastated I felt that she had ruined the beautiful cloth. Over the next two days, she took each piece to the machine, with me right by her side, and sewed. I asked a million and one questions and she answered them all. At the end of the second day, she took the garment out from under the presser foot, shook it out, and showed it to me. It was a dress. For me. I was excited beyond words. I could not understand how she had done that. It was all in pieces and now it was a dress. She told me it was magic. My reply was, “I want to make magic, too.”

So now, when I sew, I firmly believe that taking a flat piece of fabric and crafting it into something wonderful is truly making magic.

Frances

I was taught to sew in Junior high in a home ec. class….my skirt did not fit (no fitting instructions were ever given) and I didn’t try again for years.
My barriers to sewing were:
1. PATIENCE!
2. Time
3 The HUGE knowledge curve that needs to be there before you ever take the first stitch. This includes: good pattern choice for body type, good fabric choice for pattern, and how to fit a pattern.
I found home dec sewing far easier and have done that and a bit of quilting. I am now dipping back into garment sewing because I have 4 granddaughters and fit is not such a big issue…at their current ages. Fabric choice is easier, too.
Saria, your opening thoughts in your book The Colette Sewing Handbook really resonated with me! Your book has made me want to trying sewing a garment for myself like no other book I own…and I own a lot of books!!!

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