Home sewing has become fashionable again. As well as creating original clothes for yourself and your family, you will find that learning to sew can also save you money in other ways. You can make exclusive soft furnishings for your home and gifts for friends and family if you learn to sew.
Starting with hand sewing
If you have not sewn before, it is a good idea to start with hand sewing. There are various essential items you will need so it is a good idea to put a basic sewing kit together before you start. You will need hand sewing needles and it is advisable to buy an assorted package so that you have fine needles suitable for lightweight fabrics and heavier ones for materials such as denim.
Along with the needles, you obviously need thread. It’s best to go for smooth, good quality thread which will be suitable for most sewing projects. Cheaper threads can be very dispiriting to use as they tend to break easily and give an uneven finish. Buy black, white and a colour to match your fabric to begin with. A needle threaded is a useful piece of equipment that you will probably need from time to time. Other essential items include dressmakers’ pins, a tape measure, dressmaking shears for cutting fabric and a pair of small scissors (if you are a leftie, you can get left handed scissors from Fiskars). Many sewers also like to have a seam ripper handy for when you need to unpick a seam. Some people like to use a thimble, but this is a matter of personal preference.
When you learn to sew, practicing various hand sewing stitches such as running stitch, back stitch and hem stitch is a good idea, even if you are intending to go on to machine sewing, as there is always some hand sewing involved in any project. Instructions on how to do the various stitches can be found in a sewing book or on the internet.
Progressing to machine sewing
Choosing your first sewing machine can be quite confusing, as there are so many makes and models available. A beginner will find that a basic machine that does straight and zigzag stitches is quite sufficient for most projects and you do not need to pay a fortune for complicated machines. You will also need to invest in a few extras such as a selection of sewing machine needles, extra bobbins so you can keep various colors of thread ready to use and a zipper foot.
Get used to using your machine. Experiment with different weights of fabric – your machine instructions will explain about changing the tension as necessary. Before you progress to making an actual garment from a pattern, practice different seam finishes and techniques that will be needed.
Patterns and materials
Patterns are available in different levels of difficulty, so start with an easy pattern and choose fabric such as medium weight cotton that will be easier to handle than anything too slippery or fine. You will find detailed instructions on how to cut out and construct your garment in the pattern. Practice makes perfect, so the more you sew, the easier it will become.
Freda Martin is a qualified teacher with many years’ experience. She now teaches adults who wish to learn to sew and runs various workshops.