Happy Sunday everyone, bit of a life update, this weekend I am writing to you from Essex! We have come to visit Adam’s family for a few days to get out of the house. For the first time in 5 months I’m somewhere other than our house, but we are still being very careful as I’m asthmatic and have been shielding. I was meant to be flying home on Thursday to see family however due to some moronic Aberdeonian footballers and my mum’s extremely vulnerability to covid, my trip has been cancelled. Adam’s parents invited us here instead and they even picked up us in the car to keep us safe! So Adam and I will be going for lots of walks in the Essex countryside, relaxing and getting some much fresh air.
Recently I’ve engaged with some fantastic makers on Instagram, both complete beginner sewists and very experienced dressmakers. I’ve given and received advice online and found so much inspiration for my sewing and it got me thinking. What would I have wanted to know when I started sewing? I was extremely lucky to have my very talented mum on hand teaching me the basics when I first started and I am still lucky that I can call her whenever I encounter a technique that I find vastly confusing. A lot of people don’t have that resource and there are so many different paths towards sewing, there is no right way as long as you are enjoying yourself thats all the matters. I was really interested to find out what advice others had for beginners and where better to ask than Instagram! I posted a question on my stories and I got loads of wonderful responses from a diverse range of sewists. I have collated their feedback along with thoughts of my own into the 6 tips below. Remember the best way to start sewing is just to go for it. Have fun and don’t feel bound
“Don’t be scared of your machine” – We have seam rippers for a reason
This is a major one because if you’re too scared of making a mistake you won’t enjoy yourself and you won’t progress. Just go for it! One of the wonderful things about sewing is that there are very few mistakes that can’t be fixed especially when you’re a beginner. If you’re worried start your sewing journey with stable fabrics like cotton and then when are happier with your skills you can move on to sloppier fabrics or fabrics that fray easily. Make friends with your seam ripper, you’re going to need it and remember that Even people who have sewed for decades still have t9 unpick things. It’s normal,it’s part of sewing so embrace the mistakes and learn from them. What I’ve learnt even in the last three months is that I need a roatarycutter for slippy fabrics, that you really really should prewash jersey/stretch fabrics and that I need a more ergonomic seam ripper!
If in doubt make a toile and use cheap fabric – “Don’t restrict yourself to pattern difficulty but use cheap fabric first“
This was a great reminder that came through on Instagram, don’t just do the things that beginner plastered all over them. Sure it’s definitely a good place to start but don’t limit yourself. If you want to try an advanced pattern but you’re worried take it slow and make a toile. I make all,y toilets from calico because the stability of the fabric allows me to really practice techniques and see what they look like. Embrace your toile, I always use contrasting thread on my toilet so I can see what I’m doing wrong or how a finish looks. It helps to check how neat your stitches are and . As my mum once reminded me, if you’re making a calicotoile you can just write on it if you need to. Whether that’s writing front and back or in my case, right side/ring side when I was struggl with inserting sleeves. Your toile is your canvas to make as many mistakes on as you want. You don’t have to make one every time but if you’re worried it definitely helps.
“Youtube is your friend!” “Don’t be afraid to ask for help”
I chose to include both of these o the same line because they are the same. There is a massive sewing community out there full of experts, talented amateurs and literal dressmaking teachers. I promise someone else will have had the problem you’re having or is asking the same question as you. On my Instagram I always make a point of asking for advice and then reposting any advice I receive to help anyone else who is struggling. There are some wonderful youtube channels and blogs about techniques out there as well as workshops you can book onto in sewing studios across the UK. Videos are great if you want to clarify a technique, workshops are better if you want to learn to make a specific garment, e.g. the bra making workshop I went on in January, or to do a masterclass in garment fitting for example. Studios like The NewCraftHouse do loads of great workshops throughout the year and are well worth a look.
Get an iron – you think you don’t need one much BUT YOU DO
A few people mentioned this one in passing but I really wanted to focus on it. Most people think you only need a sewing machine to start sewing but thats not true, you must have an iron as well. You will use it just as much as your machine if not more sometimes. At the moment I am sewing with a lot of viscose and I honestly couldn’t manage without a hot iron on constant standby. Buy an iron on amazon and if you don’t have space for an ironing board, like me, get a table top ironing board or a reversible cutting mat that you can iron on.
“Pick a project you love and make it something you will actually wear”
This is super important. Don’t just make things because you need something to make, that way demotivation lies. When you having an inspired moment take a second to right a list of garments you’d like to make one day, they don’t have to be specific patterns, they can be things like; maxi dress, wrap skirt, blouse etc… so that when you aren’t sure what to make next you have a point of reference. Also save patterns or garments that you see on instagram to act as inspiration. Make things you are genuinely excited to wear, things you’ve always wanted but could never afford or could never find a version that fit you perfectly. You don’t just have to sew the exact pattern either, you can stick patterns together, remove sleeves, change hems, alter necklines, whatever you feel you need to do to make your perfect garment!
“Just go for it and remember to have fun!”
This piece of advice came from so many people but its also my number one tip. Unless this is your business, relax and have fun. Its a hobby! Don’t beat yourself up about every single mistake, have a laugh, unpick your seams and learn from it. Pick patterns you really want to make and fabric that makes your heart sing the same. Take your time choosing buttons, zips and threads, enjoy haberdashery, want that fabric? buy it. Have a dream garment you want to make? Go for it! Whenever you are feeling down or your sew-jo is lacking try to remember why you sew and crucially why you enjoy sewing. When I’m lacking motivation I like to pick a project I can do in one day, put my hair in a messy bun, get a massive cup of tea and spend the whole day sewing. Whatever you’re sewing remember to have fun and enjoy yourself.
I will keep consolidating information on my instagram so do give me a follow @sowhatifisew and check out my highlights where I always post any technical information. Above all sewing should be fun and relaxing so don’t be too hard on yourself if you’ve only just started. Next week when I get back from holiday I’m going to do a thread on Instagram asking for the stupidest sewing mistakes everyone has ever made so we can all have a laugh and learn from each other. Have a great week everyone and remember to have fun!