I’ve been sewing nearly 40 hours a week for the last (almost) 3 years – and I must say, I’m in love. I find sewing extremely relaxing and that it activates both the creative and technical sides of my brain at once. While I love sewing and always have over these last few years – I know it can be tough to keep your sew-jo (sewing en-JO-yment) up when those projects get long and your patience is begins to run short. Here’s how I got started sewing and how I keep my sew-jo burning.
Be like Nike, and just do it.
Getting started is the easy part, it’s keeping the motivation up is what takes time and effort. Just do it – kick off your new hobby and know that you are probably going to upgrade most of your tools, fabrics and methods over time. Perfection isn’t the goal here, progress is.
Start slow and upgrade.
I learned to love to sew partially because I tricked myself into thinking I knew what I was doing in the beginning. No lie – I was terrible, but I stuck with it because I really thought I was doing something special. How? I’d give myself small tasks to do on practice fabric then try to use those skills on garments. I look back at some of those garments now and cringe but at the time, man I really thought I knew what I was doing! Ha-but that bit of motivation got me to stick with sewing and I am sure glad I did.
I also used only cotton quilting fabric (one of the easiest to sew) for nearly all of the first year. Since it tends to not slide all over the place when sewn, it gave me one less thing to worry about while I was trying to figure out what I was doing.
Start slow, take your time getting to know your materials and upgrade your skills over time to build your sewing confidence.
Don’t overspend in the beginning.
You need very few tools to get started sewing. In fact, I bet most of you have many of these tools lying around your house right now, even if you don’t own a sewing machine.
To get started sewing, here is the most basic beginner kit to start off with:
– a good condition sewing machine (used, new or borrowed but basic)
– decent quality thread like Madeira or Gutermann (always buy the best thread you can afford – the cheap stuff is fuzzy and will clog up your machine)
– a tape measure
– a straight ruler, meter stick or yard stick
– a few pencils
– scissors (two pairs ideally – one for fabric and one for paper)
– Swedish tracing paper (aka Norwegian matpapir), freezer paper or newspaper to make patterns
– clear tape
You’ll also need fabric too – obviously – but for a kit to get going this is a very basic but good beginner set up. Don’t waste time thinking about which machine is the best brand – just get going with a basic machine and basic set up then decide if you even like sewing enough to keep investing in it.
…And a Few More Words About Sewing Machines
I bought my first sewing machine from a local grocery store for about $60USD and I loved every minute I ever spent on it. No shame. Why? Because learning to sew was fun and using that machine helped me learn the basics without stressing about all the fancy stitches and knobs I wasn’t using. And, if I decided I didn’t like sewing enough to keep doing it, I’d have lost the cost of the machine and another $40USD in supplies at most.
I’ve wasted $100USD on worse in the past, so $100USD seemed like a pretty good deal. In the end, I got a new sewing machine as a gift about a year ago and sold my previous one for about what I paid for it – scoring nearly 2 years of sewing for free out of that first machine.
So be like me and do not waste your money on a new machine until you know you enjoy sewing enough to save up and invest in a decent machine.
Beginner patterns I recommend
Some people will tell you to begin sewing skirts or summer tops but I think the easiest thing to begin sewing are home textiles. Kitchen towels, cloth napkins, tablecloths, pillow covers, duvet covers, and the like help you learn basic skills such as how to sew straight, use pins, how to cut out a pattern, how to sew corners and etc. You can also up your skills to make dog beds, sew rugs and a whole host of other things which will make garment sewing a much easier concept to understand.
Here are my recommendations for home textiles and a few beginner garments to try:
DIY Flour Sack Kitchen Towels
Sorbetto top from Colette patterns (FREE)
Stock your sewing kit from the hardware, stationary or thrift store
Many of the items you need in your sewing kit are most easily found in the sewing store – but not all. I bought plumbing washers to use as my sewing weights from the hardware store for near pennies, most of my marking tools were bought from the stationary store and I buy cheap bedsheets to use as muslin fabric from the thrift store.
I save a lot on my sewing supplies by looking around a bit when it comes time to shop.
Podcasts Will Keep You Sane
For a lot of sewers, sewing is a time for solitude and relaxation which means sewing tutorials on YouTube or podcasts. I personally have a rule that no sewing videos or podcasts are allowed on in my space while I am sewing, so here is a list of a few podcasts I enjoy listening to instead.
How I Built This
This podcast introduced me to the founder stories of some of the well-known entrepreneurs but more interestingly some of the ones I’d never heard of like Janice Bryant Howroyd from ActOne Group, Adam Lowry & Eric Ryan from method and Gary Hirshberg from Stoneyfield Yogurt.
Full disclosure I have a couple crush on Alexis Ohanian and his wife Serena Williams. They seem like one down to earth, driven, loving and interesting couple and they are definitely #couplegoals for my husband and I.
Alexis spends his time on this podcast talking to founders and asking them real life questions about their entrepreneurial experiences and managing their lives outside of their business pursuits. One episode of this podcast focuses on quilting, one of the US’s oldest pastimes through the prism of Jenny Doan, founder of the Missouri Star Quilt Company.
I’ve listened to Dan Savage for years and used to sneak and read his sex advice column in high school. His sense of humor is spot on for dealing with the complexities of love and relationships in the age of dating apps.
Love to Sew
My one exception to the “no sewing podcast” while I sew rule is Love to Sew by Helen Wilkinson and Caroline Somos. This weekly podcast focuses on all things sewing and usually features a guest from the world of sewing.
Business Shet with Mimi G
Mimi G is arguably the most well-known sewing blogger around and one of the most popular sewing pattern designers at any of the Big 4 companies. Her latest is a podcast where she revels her secrets for budding entrepreneurs and those who want to turn their hobby into a business or simply gain more confidence while doing so. The first few episodes aren’t for those who like fluffy soft talk – Mimi gives it to you straight no chaser – but I love learning from her nearly 10 years’ experience as a sewing blogger.
Photos by Tomas Sobek on Unsplash, Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson on Unsplash, Jennifer Burk on Unsplash and Clark Tibbs on Unsplash