When you are first learning how to sew, you should prepare for an investment of time, education and practice.
In my business and education curriculums, I focus on helping beginners practice new creative disciplines. I like to help people just starting out because I have a grasp of the support they need from my many years of teaching sewing and working with other artists and designers. And our Fair Fit classes are focused on helping those new to sewing and creative practice learn the skills they need to get started sewing on their own.
This series of lessons is focused on the process of learning how to sew.
Have you been considering learning how to sew this year so that you can explore your creativity or a new way to make things? Or have you been wanting to sew forever, yet, have no idea where to start and what’s involved in the process?
Now, on to the lesson! The first questions you should be asking is - what will be required of me?
With any new endeavor, you can expect an investment. Let's look at sewing through the lens of how we prepare ourselves to improve our health and fitness. If you are trying to eat healthier, then you can expect to learn new menus and methods of cooking. This may require you to get new utensils and equipment, as well as ingredients. You are also going to have to revise your shopping list. If you are going to start a new exercise routine, then you can expect a learning curve and to have some sore muscles. And sometimes, you will be frustrated, and get tempted to quit.
Sewing isn’t any different, and while I want to keep your eyes on the prize with the promise that if you really commit, this will be a skill set that you will use and has tremendous value. Cloth and clothing is a daily part of our lives and sewing is the way to construct and manipulate it. This will be my third year of teaching the Fair Fit Beginner’s Sewing class, which was based off of a course I designed and taught at an art center in Chicago. I have seen a lot of beginners progress over the years. I’ve seen the practices that made them a success, and I also understand the blocks that lead some to quit. I don’t want you to quit- I want you to love sewing. So lets get you prepared so that your new practice and investment of time, energy, and effort pays dividends!
3 Critical Paths to Success
Here's 3 parts in the beginner process to develop that will help you get a great start while learning how to sew:
The first thing to consider when you begin sewing is define why do you want to learn this process and focus on the answer. How will you use it? In the last lesson, I had you create and describe your big vision. Like any craft, you can pursue many topics and methodologies under the umbrella of sewing. Do you want to build beautiful quilts? Are you interested in creating a custom wardrobe? Are you interested in utility- do you want to be able to alter your clothes and sew some objects for the house? Maybe you are seeking a way to relax and explore a new creative outlet?
Whatever your reasoning, please keep it in the forefront of your mind. That is going to motivate you when you have to practice on your own. I think for beginners, what is really important is to remember why you are investing in the craft. Before learning how to sew, start gathering images or make a Pinterest board of what you will do with this new skill. I know when we first start out, we are so excited and inspired. Start gathering inspiration. If you identify first what you want to accomplish, this will keep you motivated and inspired to start projects, as well as remind you of what got you excited in the first place.
Print out your favorite projects and arrange them from easy to hard. Or arrange it in terms of time involved. Its okay that you might not exactly know the skills required or the level of difficulty, just do your best. You will use this later.
Next- make sure every single thing on your list is something you absolutely love. Don’t just add something because it looks like something you can do. Make it meaningful- you have to love it, or you aren’t going to be motivated. Get rid of it if you aren’t just dying to make it.
Lastly, try to edit this list to 10 things. Save this page, and keep it with the worksheet from last week's lesson- Define the Big Picture.
The reason why I want you to print things out, is because I want you to have a visual, hands on reminder of these projects. It makes it more real than a Pinterest board that you just look at before you go to sleep. Since sewing uses physical materials, I want you to be able to have the images printed out and collected so that you can reference them, and add to them later.
Why am I making you do this before you even learn how to sew?
I have seen beginners fizzle when they don't choose a place to focus. I recommend as a beginner to choose the area of sewing you are most interested in, and stay there for a little bit. Don’t jump around, because each topic in the craft requires a very different approach and application to the technique.
For instance, if you are interested in clothing, start there, and make at least 3 finished projects before jumping to quilting. If you take on too many learning styles, then you end up with unfinished projects, and that will make you feel frustrated and unaccomplished, as well as overwhelmed. Its important to have the satisfaction getting some things you can use and show off to your loved ones so you can feel the benefits of a finished project.
Okay, here’s the investment piece and why I told you the first step is to focus. When you get out of class you have to be motivated to start a project on your own. Sometimes its easier to start off with some small crafts or quilting projects before diving into clothing. That way you can practice using a pattern, cutting it out, and working through the steps on your own. And you will mess up and not like some of the things you do because sewing is a skill that requires you to learn how to use your hands. You need to get a feel for the fabric, how to hold it, and direct it under your machine so that you can develop coordination and accuracy. The only way this happens is through practice.
I do believe that to sew clothing requires more training than just one beginner class. You are looking at learning at least 3 skill sets within this 1 area of sewing that need instruction and development. Its not just about learning how use your machine and sew a straight seam, you also need to learn how to read, follow, and use sewing patterns. And how to make them fit. That’s why I focus our clothing classes on those 3 things because that will help you develop the competency to sew on your own. That being said, it might be good to do make some pillows, bags, or simple 1 hour sewing projects before jumping into clothes. It will encourage you and build your confidence to get some projects under your belt.
Why am I talking about practice before you even know how to sew?
LOL! I know, stick with me. Because, this course is designed to set you up for success before you even touch that machine. And that means you are going to have to make time for this craft. So here's your next assignment. This week, keep track of your time. Keep a record of every hour. Keep it with you. Now, if you are at work, just write work. But when you are at home, keep track how you are spending your time. Write it down. Especially how are you spending your free time?
Now, reflecting on your week, I want you to think about where some of those activities could be reduced or quit all together to make room for your sewing. You are going to have to make time for this craft, making time for it before you start will help you determine when you are going to practice.
Make your tentative practice schedule. I know you might at this point think I’m crazy, but if you don’t do this, you won't easily commit to your practice. Its easy to say, I will get to it later, when you are not accountable to anyone else but yourself. Use this schedule, trust me- its going to help you so much and this part is essential to build a solid sewing practice.
I might seem like an OCD time management person right now, but I know and have seen what works for beginner sewists. If you do this step now, you will thank me later.
Where are you going to sew?
Where beginners fizzle is that they don’t set up a sewing space at home and a time to set up and practice their new skill. You really should try to sew at least once a week, if not more because its a skill that builds through many attempts at trial and error, as well as developing a muscle memory for how the cloth behaves while its sewn. If you don’t practice, this will become just another skill that you took a class on and don’t use. I know people get so busy and if they aren’t in class, then they don’t have the motivation to practice. What I recommend is if you are one of those people- after Beginners Sewing is done, continue to use that 2 hour time spot weekly in your schedule to sew.
3. Educational resources
Finally, learning how to sew is a process of learning how to do things in the right order. This is a great time to use the incredible riches of the internet to find some sewing blogs you love, or a pattern company that you really like, and follow their sew alongs. I do this all the time to step up my skills and stay relevant on what others are sewing. They have taken the time to create step by step projects for you, that will outline the project in order.
I’ve made your homework easy for you. I want you to go to my Pinterest. It is designed to categorize every kind of sewing project or tutorial you might want to try. I want you to make a board, and follow me. Go to my boards and search the pins and repin them to your own sewing resources board. Give me a heads up by commenting on one of my pins that you are working on this course. I will follow you back and give you a high five!
Pinterest is a search engine and you can find a sew-a-long on almost anything. The point is to find tutorials on the area of focus that you pinpointed in the beginning. That’s why its good to make a list and pull a project from that list while you are learning the process.
Okay, that is enough for this week. I want you to get started on the exercises I outlined in this post. This prep work is going to be so tremendously helpful, when you first start sewing you will be able to use the steps you outlined in this post and work efficiently. The steps outlined in this post are an investment of time, but I designed them so that you don't get blocked by these core areas described above. We want to keep the excitement and desire to sew going, if you do these steps, you will have more success as a beginner.
Thanks for reading, and happy sewing!