Friday, August 5, 2011

Sewing for beginners and not only- The Path of a "Sewurai"

I have been introduced to sewing in grade 5 at school and my first project was a pillow case- a simple, but a long-lasting one (is used until this day)! Since then the dream of my own sewing machine has followed me everywhere, and although I got one only in 2007, I have exploited any machine I could find- in my relatives' and family friends' houses. Today I have around 20 garments which I made myself, out of which 5 things were remade out of old "unused" clothes, and 3 were of my own design. Despite having some experience in sewing, I still lack some technique and knowledge. That is why I decided to start this blog- to track down my learning and in this way help others, like me, to learn. So here are essential things that I use and think you may need on your path to great sewing projects!

1. A book by Allison Smith. (Could be found in McGrudy's Book shop) It contains all the tools and techniques that a person requires to become great at sewing! Personally, I find it very good in terms of illustrations and techniques. Of course, there will be other books for beginners and I advise to choose the ones with real photos- it will be easier to understand what is required and how it is done. If you are planning to self-teach yourself sewing (as I did) such a book is an absolute must!  

2. BURDA magazine, which was founded in Germany decades ago by a talented woman- Aenne Burda. It contains a wide range of patters for every type of garment imaginable for every season and occasion - dresses, blouses, trousers and accessories. Every one can find something of their liking in this magazine. BURDA comes out on monthly bases and is a great way of learning thanks to detailed guidelines and advice. 
 It could  be purchased in any supermarket or shop in the journals section. 

3. A sewing machine OF COURSE! I have a BROTHER with 25 stitches. As I bought it 4 years ago, there may be better and modified models available now in the market, but I am pretty satisfied with how my faithful BROTHER works, so don't really need to replace it. There are other brands, such as Singer, Toyota, Juki and others (See other brand names here:, but I can't really advise you on which is better, so you will have to decide for yourself or try out  those on the shops's display (or your friends' machines) and see which is the most comfortable. One advice I will give is- don't get the most expensive and "super-sonic" machine, as on your initial learning stage you will not use half of the features it offers, so will end up paying more unnecessarily. Don't forget that there are other tools you will need to buy, so save your money for later (till you reach the fabrics section that is!)

Every sewing machine will have a Manual booklet in its box. Don't disregard it, but study carefully- it will help you to get started and give you some idea on your machines' functions and general sewing techniques. I haven't studied it carefully enough, and ended up learning about how to make proper button-holes 4 years later!! Shame, I know! But I am here to help you avoid such mistakes! :) 

4. Equipment. You will need to visit a specialist tailor-equipment shop. Things you will need include: 
  • Needles- of various lengths. These usually come in a box-set.
  • Pins- these could be with little colourful ball-heads, or similar to nails. You will need them when fixing garment details together or securing patterns to fabrics.
  • Scissors- they come in different shapes and sizes, but make sure you get the tailor ones, as they are sharp and make nice clean cuts on fabrics. 
  • Tape measure- required to measure yours or someone's body when preparing to stitch something. They come in different lengths.
  • Tailor's chalk or pencil- used to make markings on fabrics. These markings are easy to get rid off and will not leave marks.
  • Tracing paper- useful when you wish to copy patterns from the pattern sheets without damaging them. You can also use a carbon paper with a tracing wheel, but like I said, these may damage the pattern sheets if used a lot. 
  • Seam ripper- a hook with a sharp blade which will aid in opening seams which came out wrong.
  • Threads- take all the rainbow colours and some extra shades if necessary (white and black are essentials). Trust me- it is better to have a wide range of colours ready, as sewing ideas pop in one's head every now and then and are quite unpredictable. 
  • Buttons- different shapes, sizes and colours will do. You will also need the little transparent ones in some cases (work blouses, inside buttons) and iron ones (for jackets, trousers, accessories).
  • Zippers- as with threads and buttons, you will need a few of those. Get various lengths and colours, and I would advise to get the more of invisible ones, as they can be concealed nicely when stitching them onto skirts and dresses. 
  • Fabrics- don't get carried away just yet! Start with buying some low-priced cotton or any other non-stretching fabric, as it will be easier to learn on it and will not be a huge loss if you spoil it. Start with buying 3-4 yards- that will be enough for practicing some techniques and making a simple garment, such as mini-skirt or a tunic. 

So here you go- these are the things that will help you to get started on your sewing. In my next post, I will talk about some techniques in detail.

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