July 3, 2010

Just a Needle, Thread and a Pair of Hands

Posted in Sewing 101 tagged , , , , , , at 5:17 am by kdthreads

I grew up watching my mother sew.  Trips to the fabric store, digging through old patterns and a healthy stash of fabric were all parts of my childhood.  I wore homemade outfits to school thinking this was normal, and when no one believed me when I claimed “my mom made it,” no one believed me!  Time and energy (and my own behavior) kept my mom from intentionally teaching me how to sew until I was 16.  At last I could trade in my toy Singer machine (used to make hundred’s of pincushions) and my parents bought me a high-end Kenmore machine.  It was on this little machine that I made my first dress, countless bags, skirts, baby quilts and much more.  I took the Kenmore with me to college and even lent it out a few times to the two other girls on campus who knew how to sew. 

It was around this time when I realized that not every woman knew the basics of sewing and schools were no longer teaching it in home ec.  I cannot imagine my life without this skill!  My dad always said learning to sew was more important than most of what I would learn in college (he was right.)  Even on the projects I consider setting on fire, sitting down at the machine, smelling the hot iron and even the fibers that get stuck in my nose all calm my soul. 

I am still no where near the skilled seamstress my mother is, but I’ve come a long way from my Kenmore in the dorm room.  I now own four machines: Husqvarna Viking Iris, Husqvarna Viking Freesia, Pfaff Hobbylock Serger, and Huskystar Felting Machine.  I am also married and mother to three sons, each adopted with special needs from foster care.  I also own a 1910 Sears’ Bungalow.  I have 14 nieces and nephews and one more on the way.  I’ve made wedding gowns, covered sofas, made diapers, covers, wipes, toys, curtains and the list goes on.  When I am stressed, I make an accessory.  If I am behind on washing diapers, I whip up a new one.  If I see something around my house or in a store that could have a fabric, sewn-by-me equivalent, I will try it.  (For example, sandwich bags, shower caps, feminine products, teething blankets, I will try to sew anything!)

Now, I know what you are thinking.  I am a crazy granola crunchy tree-hugger who says sewing is easy because she has four machines and a mom as a sewing oracle.  I do not hug trees, I hate granola, and though I am not at my mother’s level, I can draft patterns and construct beautifully.  As for the four machines, my mother works as a dealer and teacher at a Viking Sewing studio.  All the machines I own where either gifts to me on various occasions, or a hand-me-down when my mother bought a newer and more advanced model.  So basically, I am just blessed.  But I am assuming that most of you have the basics necessary to get started and keep going: one sharp, metal sewing needle, thread (even if you harvest it from an old hem) and your hands.  I have watched women sew with no scissors and no eyesight!  After machine sewing and quilting for 15 years, I am slowly doing more and more by hand.  It is accurate, portable, and relaxing.  It requires no electricity, and if you do not have access to a reliable machine, it is not necessary.  If you pass by the sewing machines at Target and sigh, “I would love to be able to sew,”  STOP!  One, never buy a machine at Target (or rely on consumer reports,) and Two, don’t stress about a major purchase when you have no knowledge, practice or skill.  Pick up supplies for a sewing kit and head home.  Brew some tea, find a comfy chair near a window or bright lamp and start stitching. 

It is my desire to teach you to sew.  I don’t want you buying Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts!  

Beautiful and Tasteful, but.....

First of all, I loathe the word “craft.”  It makes me think of camp, popsicle sticks and visors made from foam.  Secondly, this book will not teach you to sew.  I have no doubt that anyone could complete any of these projects, but all of you are  perfectly capable of learning and mastering a few classic techniques that will build your confidence and lead you to creating beautiful garments for yourself (that will actually fit) gifts for your friends or curtains for your windows.  Your list of projects may grow and your unfinished or never started stash may threaten your sanity, but you will be a capable and talented seamstress who may take joy in the fruit of her hands.

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  1. Sandy said,

    OOOOH! Are you gonna teach me to sew online?!?!

    • kdthreads said,


      This is the grand plan. Stay tuned and thanks for the comment!


  2. Wendy said,

    I loved reading about your mom not teaching you to sew seriously until you were sixteen. Yasmeen (my ten year old) has been hounding me for nearly three years. This summer I finally attempted to teach her some basics. We got through one lesson and I have yet to get her back to the machine. This did give her great insight into what it is I am doing though. She is now so much more understanding when I need her to watch her 3 year old brother and her 11 month old sister for just a little bit longer in order to finish making the hip new “maxi” dress for one of her friends up coming birthday gifts. I wish I had taken the time ages ago as she might have had more compassion when I was sewing a gazzilion faux classical tutus for her dance class a couple of winters ago lol.

    On your opinion of the word “craft”, I do so understand you. With a back ground in fine art I have huge problems with friends of mine in play group referring to me as “so crafty” when I whip up invites to my daughter’s birthday parties, hand make all the decor for the party and turn out cute clothes for all three of my kids. I much prefer to think of myself as an artist who is now using her skills to the benefit of my family.

    I am thrilled to be following your blog as I fell in love with your work when you and your mom made the dresses for my sisters wedding. I know that I will learn so much here and I plan to visit often. Thank you a MILLION times over for taking the time to post so often.

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