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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sew Inspired

Sewing is making a come-back!  After last week's blog post about the skirted sink, we received lots of emails from folks asking us about how to get started learning how to sew, what kind of machine to buy, etc.  MoS Washington learned to sew several years before I did, and I took sewing lessons about three years ago.  We are both so glad we learned how to sew.  Not only is it fun and a good creative outlet, but it can save major money on things like pillows, curtains, etc.  I've never been big on sewing clothes and generally stick to home decor, but MoS Washington has done her fair share of altering and adjusting clothes, with good success!

Here is an overview of what you need to get started.  Some people can read the manual and teach themselves how to use a sewing machine.  I REALLY benefited from taking a sewing class.  I also think taking a class is a good way to see if sewing is a good fit for you, before investing in a machine and all the gear.  If you are in Charlotte and want to learn to sew, I highly recommend Marcia Young with Sew Inspired.  She teaches out of her house, using her bonus room as a sewing lesson room and has set up 3 or 4 sewing machines on tables for students to use for lessons.  She is so kind, patient, organized, and talented- I really would recommend her to anyone (she has no idea I am blogging about her and probably doesn't even remember me).  Her prices are really reasonable ($15 for a 1.5-hour session I believe), and it's a fun activity to do with friends.  I went with two of my friends every Thursday night for a couple of months, and in that time frame I learned enough to make just about anything for my home.

Once you have decided that sewing is a good fit for you, you need a machine.  I have a mid-range Singer, available at Hancock Fabrics.  It has more bells and whistles than I will ever use (you end up using 2-3 stitches 90% of the time), but it is easy to work with.  I definitely don't think you need to start with any machines made for quilting, embroidery, or monogramming (although that would be nice).
MoS Washington has a Baby Lock that she has really enjoyed.  Check out the Baby Lock website to see where they can be purchased. 

Once you have a sewing machine, you need a place to sew.  The kitchen table works if you don't mind taking your machine in and out of storage.  But if you have the space, a designated sewing area is nice.  I use a wooden desk for my sewing machine, but a shiny white parsons desk would work great, and the middle drawer is great for storing essentials like pins, shears, thread, and measuring tape.  You want a desk or table with an open base so you have a place for the sewing machine foot pedal.
Good lighting is very important when you are sewing.  Your machine will have a light, but an additional lamp on your sewing table is very helpful. 

Staying organized is always a challenge with you are dealing with multiple threads, fabrics, bobbins, needles, and trims.   And I am the first to admit the market lacks really cute sewing organizers and accessories (hint hint- someone needs to make cute sewing accessories!).  However, this little kit from Anna Griffin is adorable and is just the right size to store your essentials.
Anna Griffin Sewing Kit, available at

If you plan to move your machine in and out of storage, you need a good way to transport it.  This rolling kit is fantastic.  My MIL gave me one of these, and it makes it easy to take my machine on weekends in the beach or the mountains, when I know I'll have free time to work on some projects.  This particular case is nice because it has so many compartments to keep everything organized.

Every seamstress needs a pin cushion.  If you don't want the traditional tomato, Etsy has some cute options.  Some are a little more homespun than I would prefer (where are the Kelly Wearstler pin cushions when you need them?), but cushions made of fun fabrics and trim do exist!

A good pair of shears is essential.  I have Gingher shears, and they have been great.  Please note that you shouldn't cut ANYTHING other than fabric, thread, and trim with your sewing shears.  They stay nice and sharp that way.

While you definitely need a tape measure for cutting fabric, a hem gauge will be your go-to tool when you are actually pinning and sewing.  It helps you make those straight lines and get the hem exactly right.  You can mark with either chalk or a sewing marker, which has disappearing ink.

And of course, pins.  I prefer quilting pins to regular pins, because they are bigger and easier to maneuver.

For thread, I prefer Coats and Clark cotton thread.  The quality is good, and it is inexpensive.

Go ahead and buy some spare bobbins as well.  You can load them with your different thread colors, and it makes sewing so much quicker if they are ready to go!

I hope that is helpful for those of you interested in learning how to sew!  There are lots of other accessories you can buy, but I think those are the essentials I use most frequently.  You can check your local community college or even Craigslist for where to take sewing lessons.  I have made curtains, pillows, and bed skirts for my whole house, which is both fun and economical.  And it's always nice to be able to hem a pair of pants if you are in a pinch!  Happy sewing!

**A note for DC readers- a couple of people have asked for recommendations for sewing stores/classes in this area. I learned to sew before I moved here, so I'm not terribly familiar with options in the DC area. I'd start with G Street Fabrics, as I know they sell machines and also offer classes. They have a location in Rockville and one in Arlington (at 7 Corners). If you have any recommendations feel free to leave a comment**


Alena said...

Great post! Makes getting started a whole lot easier!

Julie said...

I've got to find a good class in Atlanta! I finally got a sewing machine - now I just need someone to teach me how to use it. Great post!

Anonymous said...

Great post! I live in the Washington area and am wondering where MOS Washington took her lessons? Any recommendations?

Mrs. Taylor said...

All great info! Thanks for sharing. This inspires me to dust off my sewing machine and try again. :)

Danielle said...

What a fabulous post to help people get started!!! I need to break out my sewing machine..embarrassed to say it is covered in dust.

traci zeller designs said...

I am tired just thinking about trying to learn how to sew!

Anonymous said...

I live in Washington DC and just took an intro to sewing class last weekend at Bits of Thread. I HIGHLY recommend them. It was a small class of 4-5 people in a cute sewing room studio in Adams Morgan. The instructor was very patient and I definitely felt like she gave all of us individual attention. They have classes available for all sewing levels, check out their website:

Jenn @ LL4L said...

This was so interesting MOS Girls! You have totally inspired me to take a sewing lesson. I would love to learn how to sew!

Splendid Sass said...

Great post! I own a Babylock and love it. I wish more was available for those of us with a Mac.

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