Sewing 101 A

A few people, locally, have suggest that "we all take a sewing class together" and I can't help but shake my head.  Sorry guys, I was winning sewing awards before I was out of elementary school.  Anyway, I thought I would put together a Sewing 101 guide.

Sewing Machine
You need a sewing machine.

Planning on getting your own?  Do not start out with a Serger.  That's a specialty machine.  Visit your local fabric store and sewing machine store.  In Fairbanks, we have a variety of quilting stores, JoAnn Fabric, and Blue Ribbon Sew n' Vac.  I would recommend a machine in the $100-200 range for a beginner.  Singer, Brother, Elna, Janome, Bernina, and Baby Lock are all terrific brands.  I think I'm forgetting one or two brands that I don't mind, but the names are escaping me.  I personally have a Brother and a Baby Lock.  My mom has an old Elna that still kicks major ass.

My sewing area


I highly recommend getting a metal stand to feed your thread through and a holder plus extra bobbin spools.  Make sure you have sewing scissors that you dedicate ONLY for fabric.  Paper will ruin them.   Seriously.  Other things you might want: marking pencils (white, a color, and black), a pack of pins, a pin cushion or a pin magnet, a ripper, measuring tape, and a container for spare things (buttons, etc).

When you get your machine, Keep that Users Manual around.  You will want to know how to thread your machine and how to fill your bobbin spools.  In the photo above, you can see my purple O-shaped bobbin holder.  Most machines will have some markings on the machine to help you properly thread your machine.  My Baby Lock (photo above) is an expensive machine and it still has markings on it.

Once you have a machine, essential accouterments, can thread your machine, and can spool thread onto your bobbin, you can move on to the next step!

Choose Your Pattern
If you are just starting out, do not choose a  Burda or Vogue pattern.  These are a little more complex.  Go with something like Simplicity, Butterick, Kwik Sew, McCall, and New Look.  You can check out my pinterest board Retro Patterns for rockabilly/reproduction patterns from these common brands.  I keep it updated.  For starting out, do not choose something that uses spandex, slippery fabric, lacey fabric, velvet, or highly delicate fabric.  These are more difficult to use.  Aim for a pattern that calls for cotton or flannel or something a little more user-friendly.

To make this easy, I'm going to use Simplicity 8250 as my demonstration pattern.  This is a pattern for a slightly stylized skirt and bolero, a reproduction pattern from the 50s.

The back side is very vital!
If you want a view that you can zoom in on, please CLICK HERE.  So what we see here is that there are 3 options to this pattern: Skirt with pockets, skirt without pockets, and bolero.  Let's say that we want to go with A, the pattern with pockets, because it's retro and we can totally put our phone in a pocket.

Know your size.  Take that tape measure and get your basic measurements.  You should have a general idea of your bust size, your natural waist size, and your hip size.  The pattern sizes are different than what is considered "standard American clothing size".  Forget that your jeans are a size 8.  Go with your measurements or your clothing will not fit you.  You need to know what size you want before you get your fabric.


Let's just say that we're going with a size 12 which has a waist size of 26-1/2" and hip size of 36".  If we look at the pattern for size 12 and for pattern A, we find that we need 3-1/4 yds fabric if 45" wide or 2-3/8 yds of fabric if 60" wide.  The pattern also states that we need 1-3/8 yd of lightweight, fusible interfacing.  If we look right above the measurements, we can find the notions (extras needed for the pattern).  For skirt A, we need thread, a 7" zipper, and a hook closure.  The pattern conveniently provides a list of recommended fabrics to use (as pointed out by the arrow above).

Your list for this skirt will look like this:

  • 3-1/4 yds fabric if 45" wide or 2-3/8 yds of fabric if 60" wide
  • 1-3/8 yd lightweight fusible interfacing
  • Thread
  • 7" zipper
  • Hook closure
Fabric
When you choose your fabric, be aware of how it flows, its weight, the pattern or texture, durability, and how it feels.  You will always catch me feeling fabrics and taking all this stuff in.  If I'm making a skirt like this for summer use, it's probably going to be lighter than winter use.  For example, I have a beautiful blue wool skirt that I made.  I will wear it on cool days in the summer, but mainly in the non-summer months.  I also have a dress that I bought that is made from crepe fabric.  I will only wear it in the summer because it is so lightweight.  Another thing you may want to think about is static.  You may find a beautiful fabric that is flowy, but will it continuously have static problems?  That's annoying.


Here is the label on a bolt of fabric.  This tells me the price, what it is made of (100% polyester), various stuff, and how wide it is (54 in).  I know it's not 60", but this is generally considered 60" fabric.  45" fabric is going to be labeled as 44".  It's a weird sewing thing.  I think it began as 60" wide for printing and they trimmed off the edges - where the machine has to grip it.   Take your fabric to the cutting counter and tell them the yardage that you need.  Do this before you pick out your zipper and thread and other notions.

Interfacing is usually next to the cutting counter.  Ask for help.

Can You Finally Sew?  NO!
You have the pattern, the fabric, the sewing machine, and all the extra stuff....you still have more preparations to do.

Just to make it easy, here are the steps that you need to finish before you can start.
  1. Wash and dry your fabric.  This will set the fabric.  If it's going to move, it will move during this process.  You do not need to do this for polar fleece.  DO NOT wash and dry your interfacing. That would send you right back to the fabric store for more interfacing.
  2. Cut out your pattern.
Just those two steps.

When you cut out your pattern, you might want to cut out all the pieces.  It's up to you.  I absolutely hate cutting out patterns.  Cut on the outer-most line.  This way you can use it if you gain or lose size, you can make something for a friend, etc.  You want to have all the sizes there.



When you open your pattern, you will find a paper pattern guide.  Its in every pattern.  It gives you a line drawing of the patterns.  It gives you a list of the pattern pieces and which pattern they go to.  It gives you fabric layout suggestions.  It also gives you a full set of directions for each pattern.

When you cut out your pattern, make sure you have all the pieces set aside for your project.  Since I have this top pattern pulled out, let me point out where to cut.


Once your fabric is washed and dried, you can get started.

  1. Layout your fabric as recommended according to the pattern guide.  Your pattern pieces will let you know if you need to cut out interfacing.  I always do interfacing after I'm finished with the fabric.
  2. The grain of the fabric is the direction of the fabric weave.  Look at the polyester fabric I have to demonstrate this.  I've marked out the grain of the fabric with arrows.
  3. Use your sewing pins and pin your pattern pieces down.  Make sure you pin everything down before you even consider cutting anything out.  You might find that the size you want is in between markings on the pattern.  If you look above to the pattern that I'm pointing at - lets say you wanted the size 8 - just fold the outer part of the pattern to the line marked as size 8.  Simple.   Pin it all down.  You can always move pattern pieces around before cutting them.  So play around with your pieces until it's exactly what you want.
  4. Take a deep breath and begin cutting everything out.  LEAVE IN THE PINS.
  5. Put your extra fabric scraps into a grocery bag, along with the pattern, and your notions specific for the pattern.  If you need a sewing break, put your pinned pattern pieces in here too.  It's the best way to keep things contained until you are done.  I never throw away fabric or anything until I'm finished with the garment.
On To Sewing!!!
After all of that, it's time to sew your shit together.

Get your bobbin spooled up with your chosen thread.  After you get that set up, bobbin put in place in the machine, get your machine threaded.   Perfect!  Your machine is ready to go.



Grab a scrap of fabric, especially if this is your first time sewing.  Your goal is to sew a zigzag line and a straight line.  These are the most commonly used stitches that you are going to be using.  Once you can do these two lines, you're going to be unstoppable.  Check out my quick gif to the right side.  --->

The next thing to point out are the guidelines which are found on the foot plate (under the sewing foot).  Your pattern might say 1/2" seam or 5/8" seam.  That is a reference to the guideline.


I need to go run errands, so I'll leave part A here.  I will finish up with part B later today.

If you have questions or comments, let me know.  If there is something I need to clarify, please leave a comment.  Sometimes I just do things and I don't realize it because I've been sewing for a long time.

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