Has the idea of learning to sew has always intrigued you, but you’re not sure where to start?
Never sewed a stitch and are more than a little intimidated by all the gadgets and do-dads? This step-by-step guide will get you started on the right foot to stitching up a storm! Sewing is experiencing a renaissance for those ladies who survived the Total Woman phase of the 80s and now are looking for a relaxing and rewarding hobby, as well as younger women who are entering the workforce looking for a chic, professional and original look, stay-at-home moms trying to keep costs down, and for high school girls who just want to look unique. Follow these simple and comprehensive recommendations, and you’ll be set to sew!
Choosing a sewing machine Meandering through the Models
Where to start! There are so many different brands of sewing machines and so many different models. It’s hard to know what machine will work best for you. I strongly suggest you look to the major manufacturers such as Bernina, Husqvarna-Viking, Pfaff, Janome, Singer, Baby Lock, Brother, or Elna.
There are other, less popular brands, but you will have better results by sticking to the top manufacturers. I recommend for your first sewing machine, to purchase a more sophisticated, used model, than a lower grade, new model. Top quality sewing machines are like fine automobiles they can outlive their owner.
I also strongly advocate purchasing your sewing machine from your local sewing machine dealer. Many dealers will take older models in trade for new models, and often have a good selection of gently used, reconditioned sewing machines for sale at competitive prices.
They will also stand behind their sale, and provide assistance and help for the new sewer, as well as instruction and classes.
Don’t overbuy for your first machine you can always trade up, or use your first machine as a backup, when you are ready to move on to a more advanced machine. You may thank yourself later, when that fancy, computerized machine goes on the blink, and you pull out your old stand-by!
Sewing Machine Accessories
Having the basic supplies for all your sewing needs can save you hours of work and frustration. Just like anything else, having the right set of tools makes the job so much easier and fun. Beware, though: There are many gadgets that will catch your eyes but will end up going into the black hole sewing drawer, so just start with the basics, until you feel you need to expand your supply stash. Here’s a list of the basics:
- A good pair of bent-handle dressmaker shears, 7 or 8-inch size.
- A good pair of 4 or 5-inch tailor point scissors.
- A pair of embroidery scissors.
- A thimble that fits your finger.
- An assortment of hand sewing needles including sharps, betweens, and embroidery.
- A good tape measure, at least 60 inches long. You can also get them at a 120-inch length. The longer one is very useful if you are making bridal or after five, interior décor items such as slipcovers, comforters or drapes, or quilts.
- A metal yardstick for hemming.
- A box of high quality, stainless steel silk pins. I also recommend a magnetized pin holder such as Grab-It to keep pins in their place. Great for turning upside down and finding those pins that fall to the floor.
- Fabric markers. I highly recommend the Chaco Chalk marker. Wax-type markers can leave permanent stains on fabrics.
- A bodkin or Fast Turn.
- A good, sharp seam ripper.
- A good steam iron and ironing board. I prefer an iron without an auto-off feature, so I’m not continually getting up and turning the iron back on.
- A folding cutting board. I have had the same cardboard cutting board since eighth grade!
- A small selection of high quality, neutral spools of thread. This seems to be one area where many people try to cut corners to save a little money, but can really be a detriment to your hard work. You may find out the hard way, after finishing your first pair of slacks, bend over and find out just why you should have used the more expensive brand! I recommend Mettler or Gütterman, which is available in any better fabric store.
- A sewing basket or container to hold all your items. For those of you with small children, it is a good idea to find a container that closes or locks securely, as many of the items in your basket will not be kid-friendly!