In 2012 I was newly married and after having spent the past 13 months obsessing and planning my wedding, I found myself without a side hobby. So I decided to learn how to sew. I thought about knitting, or getting into quilting, but long-term projects never appeal to me. But I loved the idea of the instant gratification that comes from sewing clothes. So suddenly those two hours between the time I got home and my husband got home from work were spent filling my sunroom with fabric and learning how to create a new wardrobe from scratch.
The best part of sewing your own wardrobe is you are free to do whatever you want. In the past five years my body has gone from girl-who-does-fad- diets, to girl-who-does-fertility diets, to pregnant, to a breastfeeding mom, to crazy lady who chases and bends down and picks up a toddler all day long, and then back to pregnant again. My body has changed so much, and as of today, I have no idea what my bra size is. But being able to sew my own clothes allows me to make a new outfit that fits my exact proportions for that period of my life. To create a dress that is not going to be too tight on the hips or too loose at the bust. And to pick fabrics and colors and prints that you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else.
For any of you who have ever thought about getting into sewing or creating a new fall wardrobe, here are a few tips on how you can get started:
1. Sign up for a sewing class. The best way to get started is to just jump right in and take a class. You don’t need to invest a lot of money on a sewing machine right away. Many sewing studios and fabric stores will let you test out and use their machines during the class. I really love the Sewing 101 class at Five Eighth Seams in West Ashley. Here you can borrow a store machine to use during your class, learn some basic stitches, patterns and different fabric substrates, and complete an entire project in only a few short weeks. Then when you feel like this is something you really want to get into, you can then decide to shop around for a sewing machine.
2. Don’t get boggled down over what “size” you are, and focus on what your current measurements are. Every sewing pattern sizing is different and it will not always be the same as your ready-to-wear clothing. For example, if I go to Anthropologie, I know I can just buy a size 6 and walk out without needing to try it on. But for sewing patterns, I have ranged anywhere from a size 4 to a size 10 depending on the pattern maker and the type of garment. I always re-meausre myself (bust, waist, hips) before staring any pattern and then look in the instruction book to see what size I should cut out. Do not be offended if you think the size is larger than it should be. Its just a number to get you started and you can always take fabric out but you can’t add more fabric if you end up going to small. Getting a good fit has been one of the harder parts of sewing for me. So see my next tip if you are having trouble with this as well.
3. Start with a simple woven dress or a knit tee. Woven fabrics (cotton, linen, chambray) are easiest to work with. They stay in place while you sew, the machine loves them, and they usually require only a basic straight stitch. However fit is going to be very important and most of the patterns will require a zipper or button closure. Do not let zippers or buttons intimidate you. But if you’d rather start with something where you can have a little wiggle room in terms of fit, try a knit fabric! I love using knits for dresses, cardigans and basic tees. They have such a great drape and they stretch nicely, allowing a good fit around your neck, arms and waist. Ponte de roma is a nice knit fabric that I like to work with as it has a stretch but also more structure to it than something like a jersey knit. Art Gallery Fabrics and Cotton + Steel are two of my favorite fabric makers for garment sewing.
4. Let YouTube be your friend. Have you ever heard of a blind hem or a princess seam? Yeah, me neither. Or at least I didn’t when I first stumbled upon the terminology. So many times I have read a sewing pattern, been given an instruction, and feel like I am reading a second language. Good news is you can find pretty much anything on YouTube. When you don’t understand what the instructions are saying in writing, there is nothing better than seeing someone do it in action. YouTube is not just for funny cat videos, my friends. It is also home to thousands of sewing tutorials. So if you are feeling lost, check it out!
5.Look for free sewing patterns online. Before you start thinking to yourself, wow sewing is such a great way to save money, I should warn you that sewing is not a cheap hobby. The nicer the fabric, the more money you will spend. A good sewing machine will do a good job, but a great machine will do a great job. And then there are zippers and buttons and hem tape, and well…you get the point. I try to shop the sale racks at my favorite fabric stores and use coupons at Jo’Anns whenever I can, but the best way I have saved money is to look for free sewing patterns. The Getting Ready Robe pattern from Erin of Sewbon, seen above, is still one of my favorite go-to patterns for making bridal gifts or Christmas gifts for family members. And the pattern is free online! Pinterest is another great way to search for free online sewing patterns.
So whether you are tired of ready-to-wear clothes not fitting, looking for a new hobby, or maybe you are like me and you see a dress online for $300 and just want to try to make your own version for a fraction of the price, sewing is a fun and exciting skill to learn! Check out my blog www.thehopefulwanderers.com and click on the “Sewing” tab to see more of my handmade sewing projects. And feel free to message me if you have any questions about how to get started! Happy fall everyone!