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9 Things I learnt as a sewing machine newbie

Like many of you in the UK, I had to take textile classes at school. I think I made a cushion cover and also something that was supposed to resemble a pencil case (my mum thought it was a hat).

Also like many of you, I can’t remember a single thing from that class except knowing what a sewing machine looked like. I had convinced myself that I was naturally a pro given the teaching from my school days and therefore decided to add a sewing machine to my Christmas wish list. Luckily the boyfriend came through with the goods! A beautiful singer sewing machine. I thought, start off small and then I would quickly add to my collection with an overlocker and embroidery machine (or so I thought)

I was so grateful and I thought I would be making new outfits left, right and centre. I mean everyone on the great British sewing bee knocks up a whole outfit in a mere few hours.

As I opened the box, it quickly dawned on me that I had zero clue what to do.

Queue watching endless YouTube videos reminding me what a bobbin was and how to load and fill it.

Once I had got that down. I thought that was it, I was good to go! I had bought a pattern already and some fabric and thought I would be well on my way.

I did eventually manage to sew a top, but learnt some things on the way which will help me for my next project and hopefully help some of you brand new sewers too. I’ve written a list for the budding sewers like myself down below.

1. Start off with an easy pattern

One of my friends is a very keen sewer and Kindly lent me a magazine with a pattern I wanted to try. I looked at it and didn’t have a clue where to begin. I didn’t know there were levels of patterns. I revised my idea and settled on a tilly and the buttons Stevie sewing pattern. It was very easy to follow and you could make a top or a dress.

2. Choose the right fabric

Now, I was very taken by the John Lewis sale and bought 2 metres of fabric for about £5. I saw it said cotton and thought that will do! It wasn’t until I got home and started sewing that I knew it was the wrong kind. It must have been a blend as it was quite stretchy and I pulled the garment out of place a little bit. Next time I will choose a more appropriate fabric.

3. Make sure you have the tools.

It wasn’t until I watched a few videos that I realised the importance of a cutting tool and a cutting mat. I got my mat from Hobbycraft for a very reasonable price and a cutting blade from John Lewis (They’re not paying me, promise!). I’m also going to add to this to remember to get interfacing. There is some very jazzy stuff that you can Just iron on.

4. Keep an iron handy at all times.

Ironing all your fabric pieces beforehand and during will 100% help your garment look more professional. It will also ensure that all your pieces are laying in the right places and there will be no mismatched edges or pulling when you iron your finished product.

5. Keep referring to the instructions

As I previously said, I thought I would be a dab hand at sewing, but I was very wrong. I made so many mistakes like matching up the wrong pieces. This leads to the fun job of unpicking every single stitch. The amount of times I nearly threw the top in the bin…

6. Lay out all your pieces

I found it really helpful to lay out the pieces into the position they were supposed to be in. This is because so many of the pieces look the same. If you have some fabric chalk you could also number or label them too.

7. Give yourself extra time

I very much underestimated the time it would take to cut all the pieces out. I didn’t realise that there would be so many. You also have to cut out and iron on interfacing for the collar pieces usually, so bear in mind you have to factor that in too.

8. Enjoy it

I found myself getting rather frustrated at points, mainly when I sewed something the wrong way. I had to remind myself that this is supposed to be fun and I am not working to meet any deadlines. After I had a word with myself I started to relax and greatly enjoy it. I do still get a bit angry when the thread snaps or gets caught up in the bobbin though.

9. Bonus tip - look at your local free groups/ marketplace

I'm not sure about you, but I love a bargain! I was able to pick up lots of free sewing magazines from my local free group on facebook. I have got so many new ideas and a lot of them have quick projects to make with fat quarters. They were the first bits of fabric I bought and never new what to do with them so the magazine very very useful. You can definitely pick up sewing machines and probably unused fabric on there too!

So there you have it. My tips for complete newbies to remember when sewing my first project. I think my top turned out not too bad in the end. I would like to make another in maybe a linen fabric. I have attached a photo below. I hope you stick at it even though it can be sometimes difficult to understand. My next project is a midi skirt. I’m just trying to find the perfect fabric. I’m excited to see what you have all made! Does anyone know what to do with fabric scraps?

See you in the next one,


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