How to Get Started Sewing: It’s a Make it Work Moment!
Hey y’all, Amy here. In these crazy times, we just keep saying how grateful we all are at Closet Case to have a hobby. I’ve found there is only so much news and distracting tv you can engage in before you start to feel a little less than human. Enter: the haptic senses. These are the things you do with your hands and mind that connect you to the physical world (cooking, gardening, woodworking or in our case, sewing) that take you out of the matrix and allow you to focus in on the thing you are working on and your body’s connection to it. This might be all a little woo-woo for you (and that’s ok). As my grandmother used to say, “I can’t just sit there and watch Dallas, I need to keep my hands busy!” That was true for my nanny and it’s true for me. So in that spirit, I wanted to approach sewing less from a this is the best way to do it angle (as is our regular imperative at CCP) and more from a better this way than not at all angle. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so if you are suddenly in need of a hobby and sewing seems like something you might want to do to keep yourself occupied, we’re creating this resource to get you started.
Since there is inevitably a range of budgets and abilities out there, I am going to make it a bit of a choose your own adventure situation or as my Pilates instructor in college used to say, Column A, Column B and Column C. You can pick and choose from these levels of price, commitment and accessibility (a huge factor right now, I know) to put together your sewing space. There are so many ways to engage in this hobby of ours and sometimes the humblest of materials can produce the most beautiful garments. I just keep thinking of all the difficult situations in history that people managed to sew through and it is providing me with a real can-do spirit! Let’s jump in.
YOUR BASIC SET UP
A) In an ideal world, you could make this work table we wrote these DIY instructions for here. For cutting and assembling patterns, it’s the perfect height so your back doesn’t get sore and has lots of storage underneath for all your supplies. This is a pretty huge table but if you have space and really wanna go big or go home, it’s the best.
B) We also rounded up a whole bunch of smaller table ideas and alternatives for cutting and sewing tables here if you want to buy something ready-made or repurpose something you already have.
C) And the MAKE IT WORK alternative is, of course, your dining room table! Putting your sewing machine on a little-used desk! Laying out your pattern on the floor! Down the hallway! Find a flat surface and make it work!
A) We are sponsored by Pfaff at our studio. We have a whole bunch of top of the line machines and have gotten pretty spoiled with all the bells and whistles. We wrote a post here if you want some eye candy.
B) We also wrote a blog post here on buying your first machine, if you want to take a gander. Heather makes some great suggestions for sourcing a vintage machine and what features to look for. Obviously there aren’t a ton of buying options right now since most thrift stores are probably closed, but check eBay! You may be able to find one locally or arrange to have it shipped.
C) I took a look at what’s available on Amazon if you are looking to get started at this exact moment. These are a few machines that have very accessible price points and depending on where you are in the world might be able to arrive at your doorstep. This Singer machine, this Janome one and this Brother one all have the basic functions you need to get started. Alternatively, you could reach out on any of your regional social networks to see if someone has an unused machine kicking around in their garage or basement. You could maybe swing by and pick it up without having to do any direct contact and leave them some cookies or something. Just a thought…
A) We wrote a blog post on our studio set up for ironing here with our fancy gravity feed iron and big pressing table. A gravity feed is pricey but will last a lifetime.
B) We also wrote a blog post here on how to make a portable ironing board that is bigger than the standard size commercial one and that you can tuck away when not in use. We also love this powerful and precise Rowenta iron which, while it’s not exactly cheap, will last you a long time and gets the job done.
C) Right now my home set up for ironing is an antique wooden ironing board I found in the garbage with a towel on it. Is it Pinterest worthy? Nope. Does it work? Sure does. You can put a couple of blankets on the floor and a towel and iron on that, whatever! It doesn’t need to be fancy. Here is a very reasonably priced iron that for sure would get the job done. You just want to make sure it has some good steam generation, a nice tip for getting into the corners and an auto-off function, especially if you’re a forgetful person!
A) We are a huge fan of special sewing tools and there are a million specific little gadgets that one can collect for just about every step of sewing. Every holiday season we make a list of our favourites and you can go and check out all the pretty and special things we loved this past year here.
B) We also put together a list of the absolute beginner must-haves in this blog post here. If you can’t find some of these things on Amazon you should try Wawak (they still seem to be shipping) and they have anything a sewist could possibly need.
C) Ok. So what do you really, really, really need? Not much:
- You will need to cut out your fabric. The sharpest scissors in your house or a brand new pair from the pharmacy will probably be good enough.
- You will need to measure yourself to determine your size but if you can’t find a flexible tape measure you can use a piece of string and then mark that and hold it up to a rigid tape measure or ruler.
- You can find some kind of straight pin in most pharmacies, but you could also use bag clips, or clothes pins or even, dare I say it, a stapler (within your seam allowance) to hold things in place until you sew them.
- A pair of nail scissors can work as a seam ripper.
- I have used pebbles, canned goods and just about anything else as a pattern weight if you do have a rotary cutter and a mat.
- I have used socks stuffed in another sock as a Tailor’s ham in a pinch.
- You can use a white pencil crayon as a marker on dark fabrics or a dark one for light fabrics.
- Kids washable markers make for a good marking tool as well (test first!)
- Fill a well cleaned out spray cleaner bottle full of water to make pressing easier.
- Use the tip of your scissors as a point turner.
- A chopstick makes a great tube turner.
THIS IS MAKE IT WORK SEWING AT ITS FINEST! We are not going for perfection, we are learning new skills and testing our resourcefulness! Over the coming weeks, we will be sharing more of this “make it work” approach to sewing with you, and we have some fun ideas in the works to share our home sewing experience with you all. I hope you are finding ways of staying creative and optimistic in this trying time. I just keep finding comfort in the fact that we are all in this together, and when we share and connect over our collective passion, we come out better, stronger and more resilient. Sending love.
If any of you experienced sewists have a trick to add to this list, please tell us in the comments!
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