If You're Afraid of Sewing

Let's face it-- machine sewing is intimidating. There are a zillion knobs and levers, and threads and lots of little moving pieces... it's enough to make any reasonable person break out into a sweat. And you haven't even sewn a stitch yet! There are certainly many possibilities for making mistakes, and I think this is why many people are afraid to try their hand at sewing... so I thought I'd share my experiences with you.

I consider myself to be pretty knowledgeable at sewing, but let me tell you, I was not always very good. In fact, I was downright terrible.

I started operating a sewing machine in ninth grade. I spent that year making skirts and button-down shirts and dresses, and the following September, I proudly entered them in the Junior sewing division of the county fair. The way the system in my county works, each entry is awarded a ribbon based on its quality: blue (great), red (good), white (not that great), and then whatever's the best gets Grand Prize. I was one of maybe three total entrants in the Junior division, and most of the entries were mine, so I'd have a decent shot at winning Grand Prize, right?

I got white ribbons. I think one piece didn't even earn a ribbon at all, which is pretty much unheard of at that fair.

Let that just soak in for a moment: some judge hated my work so much that she gave white ribbons to nearly all the entries in the entire sewing division of a tiny county fair. To a kid, for crying out loud.

Thought I was going to share my cotton candy with you?
Well, Judge, THINK AGAIN!

Why am telling you this? To let you know that everyone starts somewhere. You can't play scales for a couple weeks and expect to be a concert pianist. In order to be good at sewing, you have to do a LOT of sewing first. Most of it is probably going to be really horrendous in the beginning-- oddly-shaped products, jammed machines, ripping and re-ripping seams, and ending up half a yard short of fabric (either that, or I was just particularly dumb. Please tell me I'm not the only one that did all this!).

But as you sew more, you will gain experience. You'll learn a shortcut here, a pitfall to avoid there. And one day, you will hold up a finished product and think, hey, I can actually take this one out in public!

But please use discretion.

So all I'm saying is, don't let the fear of making mistakes hold you back from learning to sew. Just accept that most of your beginning projects are going to be "learning experiences" instead of perfect products, and focus on developing your technique.

One fun way to practice sewing straight lines, curves, and sharp corners is to draw lines on a piece of paper (or print these out) and stitch right over the lines on the paper. Also, practicing on scrap fabric is a very valuable exercise. I still do that even today when I'm not sure how a certain stitch will turn out, or if I'm rusty in some areas, like making buttonholes.

When you're ready to make something, try starting with small projects that involve minimal money and simple techniques. The biggest pitfall in my sewing journey was starting out making dresses and voluminous skirts that required yards of specialty fabric, a purchased pattern, and a wide variety of complicated techniques. After a while, I threw up my hands and asked, "Why am I dropping forty bucks to make a really crappy-looking dress when I could buy one that actually fits for $20???" and gave up sewing for a few years.

Here are a few simple patterns that would make excellent beginner projects:

Ruffled scarf

Throw pillow cover

Shoulder bag purse

Tea Towel Apron

Speaking of sewing, I can't wait to show you my newest project tomorrow! Stay tuned!

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