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Topic: New Sewer - Overwhelmed :-/  (Read 6617 times)
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« on: January 07, 2011 03:44:11 AM »

Hi everyone I'm pretty new to sewing... I did sewing for home ec in high school, but that's about it. Always been really interested in it, but hand sewing frustrates me to no end, and I've never had access to a sewing machine growing up, so havn't ever really done it. The other day I bought a basic sewing machine, I can sew in a straight line and stuff, and I've made a little pincushion, a wheat pack and a softie, but I am pretty keen to start making clothes.

I know to start off small, with things like PJ pants and simple skirts, but I am just feeling like I'll never get anywhere with this, like I don't know how I am ever going to get to the point where I can sew with confidence. Basically I am just overwhelmed. I borrowed some books from the library that teach you how to do pretty much everything... Some of the things in there, I just think "How in the world do people do this" Lol... Does everyone feel this way at the start? I guess there is alot to learn, but how long do you think it takes most people to get a good idea of how to do most things? I feel like it's going to take me a couple of decades just to learn how to make a blouse from a pattern!
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2011 04:31:02 AM »

I still feel that way sometimes, and have been sewing for over 20 years! Grin

Chances are, if you can sew a straight line on your machine, you could make a simple blouse. Think something like a tunic top, a tank top, something like that. Just don't try collars or fitted cuffs just yet. It shouldn't take long at all from there.

« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2011 11:08:03 AM »

I am new to sewing as well. I just bought my first sewing machine and only started using it two days ago. Most importantly, read the instructions. Keep them on your lap as you sew. Sewing machines are incredibly complicated and there are a lot of things to learn and re-learn as you go on. It also helped a lot that my machine came with a DVD, since some of the pics in the instructions are unclear.

The first thing I made was a pillowcase for throw pillows. Since it's just sewing straight lines, you can experiment with pressures, stiches, etc and really focus on techniques rather than details. I just bought a 20X20in pillow from IKEA (for the low low price of $3.99) and used a duck cloth on sale at the fabric store. Here's the tutorial I used: http://cottagemagpie.com/projects/accessories/pillows/how-to-sew-pillow-cover/ If you're feeling saucy you can buy some felt and sew on some sort of artsy thing before you sew the front and back together (I did a mitochondria, since I'm super nerdy).

Hope that helps! I got super frustrated when my machine jammed, but it helps a lot to take a deep breath, put the fabric aside, make a cup of tea and rethread to try again. If something goes wrong, just step away for a while, read the instructions, and when all else fails just rethread and try again.

Happy sewing!

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« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2011 02:51:58 PM »

I would recommend taking a class at your local Joann's or sewing store. Mine has several different levels of classes so you can move up as you get more experienced. Or if you have a friend or family member than can mentor you, as great as books and videos are, it's nice to work with someone in person.

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« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2011 06:59:18 PM »

There's a book I really like -- it's Stitch by Stitch: Learning to Sew, One Project at a Time by Deborah Moebes. You could probably check your local library for it if you don't want to buy it.

She gives a lot of info. about fabrics, sewing tools, techniques, etc. The cool thing is that you can work through the projects and learn techniques as you go. They start simple, and by the end of the book, you're making a blouse and an a-line skirt. I own the book and, even though I haven't made any of the projects yet, I've used it as a reference several times when I needed to know what some sewing term meant or how to do a particular technique. She gives good directions and step-by-step photos. Smiley
« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2011 06:49:16 PM »

I was the same, only sewed at school, but I had a sewing machine and hardly ever used it!  But two years ago I decided I wanted to try it out and since then I have been making lots of things, and by trial and error have taught myself.  I have a number of friends IRL that I chat to and ask lots of questions which helps.  I have only just found this site and it would have been much easier if I had two years ago.

But I have learnt that pretty much everything can be fixed when sewing, just takes time and a lot of unpicking when I make a mistake!

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« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2011 08:38:50 AM »

I was pretty overwhelmed at first too... But don't be afraid to try some easy commercial patterns.  Most companies have their patterns rated by difficulty, and you'll learn a bunch of new techniques by following the instructions in the pattern.  There's also a great video section on the Threads magazine website that shows a bunch of different clothing construction techniques...

« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2011 12:31:16 PM »

*pat pat pat*

I bought my very own sewing machine 4 years ago and have been using the internet and library books to learn every little thing I can. I'm only just barely willing to call myself "approaching intermediate" skill level. I'm sure if I was looking at myself from 4 years ago, my eyes would be bugging out, but anyway Tongue

I actually started with mending, mostly. Hemming pants, resewing seams on cheap made in China shirts that came apart in the wash, and a "cloak" for my boyfriend that would be made COMPLETELY differently were I to do it now. And in way less time. Eventually I moved on to shirts using BurdaStyle's Lydia as a basis (back when it was still free *grumble*), using colour blocking, making puff sleeves, adding bibs and whatnot. Now I'm working on my "advanced" pattern drafting and using woven fabrics.

The Threads Magazine video library is where I learned how to put a neckband on a shirt, and I've recommended that particular video on here a few times, too. Super clear directions, and that minty green is so calming Tongue

As a new sewer, I'll recommend using fabrics you love for those "simple" skirts, and you'll get way more enjoyment out of them than if you use cheap fabrics that you have no emotional attachment to. You'll want to "save" your fabric, hopefully making you double-check before you cut and take your time to do each step slowly and carefully. Good motivation, in my mind Cheesy I also whole-heartedly agree in making a cup of something and stepping away from anything frustrating you. It won't change in a half hour, but your state of mind might.

« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2011 04:32:57 PM »

Great sewing advice here...definately try to stay patient, pick up a book or two, and check on classes...

But the biggest advice is PRACTICE...one of the things that helps me is buy cheap fabric that you won't mind screwing up.  I try to catch sales at JoAnn's and my local fabric store.  Some of the fabric is hideous but you would be amazed how comfortable you get on the 10th or 11th attempt on your sewing project.  Grin
« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2011 08:31:24 AM »

The manufacturer of the sewing machine you bought, do they have a website? If they do, maybe they have some basic exercises and how-tos on sewing with their product, in addition to an online manual...

« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2011 09:59:26 AM »

I have this book: http://www.amazon.com/Lotta-Jansdotters-Simple-Sewing-How/dp/0811852571

as well as the version she did for Babies/Toddlers. I like her patterns because they are extremely simple and they also allow for a little learning and room for error. I have even learned to make my own patterns by following her simple example.

Another thing you could do is take a sewing class at a local fabric store. I know our Joann's offers them quite frequently. I'd also recommend starting with some simple patterns and making them more than once. You'll see how quickly you pick things up if you do it a couple times. Good luck!
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2011 10:36:55 AM »

Just remember, you did not learn how to ride a bicycle in a day, you did not learn how to write your letters in a day.  Sewing is like that, it takes practice.

There is a lot to learn about sewing, but if you can sew a straight seam, you are well on your way. 

A book I have recommended over and over to beginners is Simplicity's Simply the Best Sewing Book.  Very clear directions, great illustrations (and lots of them), and they do a good job of discussing the use of patterns. 

One thing I had a hard time learning was how to choose fabrics for my projects.  I made some great garments early on, but got terribly discouraged due to the way the fabrics behaved once made up.  My advice is to pay attention to the type of fabrics used in ready-to-wear and try to duplicate the weight and drape (hand) of the fabric.

Another issue with patterns that took a long time for me to learn is that most garment patterns need some tweeking to look good.  This is where yucky, ugly, cheap fabric comes in...trying out a pattern and noting the changes that need to be made (this is known as making a muslin).  A great book for solving pattern fitting issues is Nancy Zeiman's Fitting Finness.  She a pivot and slide technique for getting a great fit from your pattern.  Lots of good illustrations and clear directions. 

Speaking of Nancy Zeiman, she is how I really learned to sew.  She has the longest running sewing show on PBS in which she demonstrates sewing projects and techniques (not quilting, there are other shows for that).  Your library may be able to help you get DVDs of her shows via InterLibrary Loan (ILL).

 Mainly, remember to have fun.  It is not rocket science.

« Reply #12 on: January 23, 2011 10:35:09 AM »

Like most people I am self taught. Mending clothes taught me sewing is doing one seam at a time. Studying the clothes I owned, showed me how the pieces look before sewn. Also studying the seams of the clothes I owned showed which seams were sewn first. When an clothing item was no longer usable, I would pick it apart to see how it was made, this often showed me what a pattern should look like. The library books on sewing helped me to learn and the books I bought helped also.

The first machine I used was mother's straight stitch machine, it was the only stitch on the machine. Then when I was older I bought a class 15 clone sewing machine, it was all metal, flat bed and did not have the sleeve arm. It had straight and zig-zag with a few decorative stitches. It was a vintage Japanese made machine manufactured in the mid to late 50's. I still have the machine and save it for the heavy duty sewing. I take it out now and then to clean and to get the feel of it again. Later I upgraded to a fancier machine with 150 stitches, a Kenmore sewing machine and I still have it. It was made in 1991, and still works excellent. I have also bought and used basic stitch Brother sewing machines to teach other people on.

Why my machines last is because I clean them and make sure to oil them even when I haven't sewn in a while. I also just guide my material letting the feed dogs do the work. I also reread the manuals and sew on scraps to test the machines before using on my projects. I buy extra sewing machine needles when on sale, so I will have the right needle for the right fabric. Changing a needle to a new needle if the machine skips stitches. Check the tension on the upper thread and change the needle if there are loose loops on the bottom. I hold the thread tails to the back of the machine when I start to sew new seam on the material. All of the little things show in the end product.

The joy you get when someone asks where did you buy that and you answer I made it. It is the seam line that change the style of clothing. Learn to shift darts, seam line, to change necklines, to add and take fullness away in different pieces and you will have a wonderful wardrobe.

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« Reply #13 on: January 23, 2011 06:02:12 PM »

The very very best piece of advice I can pass on to new sewers is WASH AND DRY your fabric BEFORE YOU CUT IT!  In exactly the way it will be washed and dried after the garment is complete!  And I mean ALL the fabric that will go into an item- I learned this the hard way.  Many times.  See, new fabric has sizing in it to make it crisp and flat and rolled right on the bolt.  And that may be very tempting to just cut right into.  But it"s not a good idea!  I made a flowy shirt out of this amazing emerald peachskin material (that i could never find again. Cry  ) when I was starting out but after it was washed it was about two sizes too small.  Also if you are putting lace and trim on a garment be sure to launder it with the fabric it will be attached to- nothing like making the perfect baby frock trimmed in delicate lace only to have all the different component parts shrink at a different rate the first time you wash it and look like total ass.

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« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2011 09:17:14 AM »

You could try making a cute skirt which is basically a tube of fabric and some elastic.
Basically measure yourself at your hips and add another two inches for ease of movement and seam allowance.

If you have a pretty piece of fabric that is wide enough and long enough (if you want it knee length measure from where the skirt will sit, probably your waist, down to your knees then add on maybe four inches for hemming and the waist band.

Fold the top of the fabric down leaving a good sized gap so maybe an inch gap and sew along making sure you don't leave any gaps in the hem. Except of course for the two ends.

Attaching a safety pin to your elastic feed the elastic through, trust me the safety pin makes this so much easier.

Using your waist measurement as a guide tie the two ends of the elastic together in a knot and if you want to sew across the bottom of the elastic for good measure.

Making sure the skirt is inside out  sew down the fabric (I generally use my seam as the back of the skirt but you could use it as the front or however you want it) and then try it on to make sure it fits, this is also a good time to pin the bottom to get a good length.

Sew the bottom hem up and voil you have a skirt.

I made one like this and it took me maybe half an hour to an hour to make and I love the skirt.

Oh, if your fabric frays easily add an extra inch on the bottom and fold the hem twice so the edge isn't showing.

Good luck with future projects, trust me once you complete something you'll be dying to do more!

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« Reply #15 on: February 03, 2011 04:30:55 PM »

Thanks for the pattern tutorial! Very cute and interesting looking pillow to make.

I'm also new to sewing, I've had my sewing machine in the box it came in for 6 years! I just took it out the other day and made an appointment for a sewing class next week. The closest class to me is 2 hours away. The upside is it's in Key West and you can't get a cooler place to learn than there. I'm determined this time to learn. I purchased "Sewing for Dummies" and I find it very interesting and informative. All the suggestions and support for beginners sound great.

Can't wait to get started Wink

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« Reply #16 on: February 06, 2011 10:23:01 PM »

My mom talked me through my first blouse pattern last summer, but since then I've just been scouring the web looking for tutorials.  Sew Mama Sew has tons of links to all sorts of tutorials for  sewers of all levels.  (I'm new to Craftster, so I don't know if there are links here as well, sorry.) 

I think the best thing to do is decide what you're most interested in sewing (clothes, pillows, bags, etc) and start looking for tutorials and patterns in that genre.  That's what I did.  I never thought I'd be interested in quilting, now I'm in 2 quilting bees and a member of my local quilt guild.  Smiley

Good luck and have fun!
« Reply #17 on: February 07, 2011 09:34:18 AM »

A square pillow is always a great start.  Four sides - a little hole for stuffing.  Teaches you some great basics without a lot of complicated steps.
« Reply #18 on: March 05, 2011 10:16:59 PM »

Check out the website craftgossip.com or Etsy for some ideas.
« Reply #19 on: March 12, 2011 09:43:14 PM »

My advice is prolly a little atypical but I would suggest just finding a pattern you absolutely love and jumping in feet first. It seems like you have done your research and now you need to learn by just doing and make your mistakes because that is how you will learn. And don't get discouraged when you make mistakes because there is going to be ALOT in the course of your learning but it will just make you better and soon you will find mistakes come less and less often.
My very first sewing project was a Katara costume that I altered from a pattern and while I look at it now and would totally remake before wearing it again, that dress challenged me and taught me a lot and now after only two years I can make dresses without patterns and have even been commissioned to make costumes.
You just have to keep challenging yourself and before you know it you will be able to make almost anything. If you take the easy route too long it just prolongs the learning process. Just don't get discouraged, it wont be perfect but you will be proud and most importantly you will learn.
Another fun tip... watch project runway when you are feeling discouraged, their amazing designs will just make you want to jump into sewing again.
« Reply #20 on: March 15, 2011 02:57:12 PM »

Don't feel discouraged! I sometimes get overwhelmed when I look at sewing books and it's talking about fancy pockets or facings or something... I'm sure someone has said this already, but don't worry and start small!

i've been sewing a lot more recently, and i'm pretty impressed with the progress i've made in about 5 years of sewing on and off. i started by reconstructing clothes, mostly. and i study clothes ALL the time. i work at a clothing store and i feel like i'm constantly learning because i examine clothes i'd like to learn how to make someday.

also, visit a book store or library and sit in front the sewing section. i do this all the time (geeky maybe? i just like sewing books). flip through the books that include patterns...most of these books will walk you step by step through making the projects. if you do decide to buy one, though, i'd recommend looking up the book on Amazon. you'll probably find it much cheaper there.

last thing...have fun! you don't need to feel pressured to be an amazing seamstress over night. learning to sew can be a difficult, albeit fun process. and think of it this way...in time you'll be able to look back and say: look how far i've come!

good luck!

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« Reply #21 on: March 22, 2011 09:04:56 AM »

haha overwhelmed is my middle name! i am fairly new to sewing with a machine as well (well actually new to sewing period). and there are times when i had  Huh Huh Huh Huh Huh in my head when reading instructions or patterns. but i never bought a book, i rely on the internet.  whenever i came across something i didnt understand, i searched online for an explanation or solution.  and sometimes youtube has lots of videos teaching you how to do certain things like zippers and such. 

dont be discouraged! i went from not knowing how to operate a sewing machine to now quilting and embroidery all within a year, so trust me, there were hard times, headaches, blood and tears! LOL but at least all of us newbies are right there with you!  Wink
« Reply #22 on: November 12, 2013 07:29:28 PM »

Well, almost 3 years to the day since I wrote this post, and it's funny looking back at how nervous I was to sew. Now I can sew pretty much anything I set my mind to Smiley practice really does make perfect. I've made quilts, bags, clothing, underwear, modern cloth nappies, bunting, freehand machine embroideries. I now even sell the baby clothes I make... What a long way I've come in 3 years Smiley
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