I’m a knitter by nature. I am also the owner of a very nice sewing machine. It was my Mamaw’s and I have beautiful memories of hanging out with her and my mom while they measured, pinned, chatted and stitched together. Often I was the beneficiary of their creations and now that I’m a mom I think I’m ready to up my sewing game so that I can give my daughter that same gift. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve sewn simple stuff in the past – curtains, pant hems, a full-size basset hound themed quilt for a fundraiser (long story!) – and my projects come out OK most of the time. I attribute my success so far to tribal knowledge acquired by hanging around the women in my family. Before I started this project I had no prior training or knowledge of how to use a pattern. When in doubt, check the internet. When in doubt about sewing, check with Mom. I did and she suggested I start with an apron pattern because it is simple but it teaches the basic skills of following directions and matching up pieces. I remember Mom and Mamaw flipping through the McCall’s pattern books back in the day so my next stop was their website. I found the pattern I wanted, #M6536 and headed to Hobby Lobby to pick it up and choose my fabric. Hobby Lobby had a wide selection, the associates in their fabric department are friendly and knowledgeable and they always have coupons available on their mobile site.
In theory, if you’re sewing from a pattern you just follow what the pattern says and you will be OK. There’s a security in knowing that you are working a tried-and-true method and your fabric investment won’t go to waste on a homegrown experiment gone awry. On the other side of that coin, there are some limitations to following a pattern exactly and, well, rules are sometimes meant to be broken. In this case, I liked the size and shape of the apron but I didn’t like the patchwork section along the bottom. Instead I decided to make it my own by doing the waistband, pocket and bottom trim in a contrasting fabric. I followed the pattern (with a couple of tweaks) and the results were fantastic. I’m really looking forward to making a few more of these as gifts and then graduating to something fancier, maybe even something with sleeves!
Here are some valuable tips I learned from my first “official” sewing adventure:
1. Success begins at the fabric shop. If you’re not sure about what material works or what changes you can safely make ask the cutting counter attendant. She should be able to help guide your choices.
2. You must pre-wash. Yes, I know you are excited to start and maybe still on a little craft store high but this step is imperative. Prewash and succeed; skip it and suffer the consequences.
3. Prep your gear. Don’t start cutting or stitching a single thing until you have everything you need assembled. For starters I like to have pencil and paper, calculator, pins, pincushion, shears, ruler, ironing board and iron.
4. Iron out the wrinkles. This is almost as important as the pre-washing but it is the step I most want to skip. Ironing is the most tedious of all household chores and should be avoided whenever possible but in the case of sewing, ironing is the difference between having a sharp, expert quality finished product and having something that’s eternally rumpled.
5. Measure twice, cut once. You will cut around a pattern but you still need to double check all your fabric placements before you make the first cut. If there’s a pattern, are you cutting your pieces so the pattern looks good on the finished product?
When was the last time you sewed something new? Share your sewing successes stories and let us know about some of your favorite projects.