Sewing often seems full of rules–some of them made for breaking, and some of them really useful. I thought I’d share a few of my personal rules for successful sewing. If you’re just learning to sew, these suggestions may be helpful. If you’re an old hand, I hope they’ll be good reminders; let us know which sewing rules you abide by and which ones you gleefully ignore. Here are three of my unbreakable rules:
1. Buy the best sewing machine, tools, and fabric that you can afford.
Your sewing machine doesn’t have to be the fanciest, or the one with the most bells and whistles, but it should be well-made, and you need a reputable dealer for sales and service. Then, invest in a good steam iron and a good pair of fabric shears (some sewers like to use rotary cutters only, but I love the feel of a good sharp pair of dressmaker’s shears). You’ll spend more initially on better-quality tools, but they’ll last a very long time, and they’ll make your sewing more enjoyable (see rule #3).
If you’re not ready to buy your own tools, look into a sewing lounge or sewing studio where you can pay for time and use the studio’s machines and tools. Many cities now have these gathering places, with classes and plenty of advice and help available. In Montreal, for example, there’s Emmeline & Annabelle; in New York, there’s Make Workshop, and in Washington, DC, there’s the volunteer-run DC Threads. Search ‘sewing lounge’ or ‘sewing studio’ in your own city to find one near you.
When it comes to fabric, beginners should start with good natural-fiber woven fabrics–cottons, linens, and wools. While there are very beautiful synthetic fabrics, vintage fabrics, knits, and bargain fabrics out there, natural fibers are much easier to sew if you’re just getting your feet wet. With a little experience and a few successes under your belt, you can try sewing more challenging fabrics.
2. Press as you go.
Press as you go! Pressing should follow every seam you stitch, every fold you turn under. You can break a lot of sewing rules, but more than anything else, this makes the difference between great results and those homemade-not-in-a-good-way disappointments.
3. Enjoy yourself!
People often say that they “should” sew. I think most people should be able to thread a needle, fix a hem, and sew on a button – those are just practical living skills, and you don’t have to love those tasks. But if you choose to sew for fun and creative expression, enjoy the process! Enjoy the beauty of fabric, the fun of making something with your own hands, and the challenge of learning to do it well. Explore the possibilities. It’s easier than ever to make chic, lovely, cute, successful projects, enjoying it every step of the way. And Stitch is here to help!
The Slip-Over Apron (above right) featured in Stitch Spring 2010, excerpted from Amy Barickman’s Vintage Notions, is a great beginner’s project, as is Linda Permann’s Row of Houses Pillow, left, from Stitch Fall 2009.