I’m fascinated by how many different paths lead toward the life of a seamstress. Some girls catch the sewing bug from their mothers or grandmothers, while others may be the lone craft wolf of their family. For a lot of people it’s a passion for fashion design that necessitates sewing, while some simply find relaxation in the process of creation.
Personally, I had many crafters in my life during my formative years. I used to watch my great grandmother tat for hours, weaving the shuttle nimbly between her aged fingers. She tried to teach me when I was in middle school but as much as I admired her skill, I just couldn’t pick it up. In high school I had some hip girlfriends who knitted scarves and crocheted hats during our AP classes, but I didn’t have a knack for those projects either. In the end, it was my mother who guided me toward my first DIY success.
I used to dream of becoming a ballet dancer. Not of being a prima ballerina, no, I had a very realistic dream of simply joining a corps de ballet someday. I took dance classes 5 days a week after school and by 8th grade I was being fitted for pointe shoes. When you buy a quality pair of ballet shoes, be they leather technique shoes or satin pointe shoes, the elastic and ribbons are not pre-sewn into the shoes. For many years my mother sewed all of my elastics into my technique shoes, but when I began pointe I was given the honor of sewing the ribbons and elastic myself. This was my first real sewing experience and I might go so far as to say it had a longer lasting effect on my life than the ballet did!
My next step into the DIY world was embroidery, an art that can vary from extremely simple to unbelievably ornate. Using just a needle and thread you can transform basics from your closet into one-of-a-kind pieces. My mother had showed me how to make my basic rows of stitches, then knotts, then decorative flowers and finally I had designed my first original sewing piece: An ostrich wearing a tutu and pink ballet shoes!
Check out this series of Embroider 101 videos by Kin Community & Jenny Hart of Sublime Stitching on YouTube!
Since those first successes involved thread, needles and fabric it was easier for me to pursue crafts involving sewing clothes rather than knitting or crocheting. Still, it wasn’t until 10 years after that crazy ostrich that I became serious about sewing clothes with my own Brother machine. During those years I’d occasionally make curtains for my apartment or a tote bag for a friend’s birthday. But if I ever forced a project upon myself that I wasn’t truly thrilled with doing, the thread unfailing ended up knotted, the fabric gnarled. I think you have to let the craft come to you.
If your gut tells you that sewing is something you’d like to do, try making something simple on a friend’s machine to get started. There is a lot more to sewing than pushing a floor pedal and watching fabric zoom by (namely a LOT of ironing). You may find that you don’t particularly enjoy having to cut out a pattern, then trace it onto fabric, then cut the fabric, then press the fabric, then sew, then press, then fit, then re-sew, then re-fit…
But if you’re crazy like me, you may LOVE these things! If this is the case, I suggest getting interested in the tools necessary for sewing, maybe buy a nice pair of thread nippers and a fun pin cushion. Wander around a fabric store and feel the different textiles and think about which ones you’d like to work with. Buy a great sewing book, and read it front to back! (I highly recommend The Colette Sewing Handbook as it taught me nearly everything I know about sewing.)
If after all of these things you still find yourself ogling sewing blogs, fabric shops and sewing machines online, I’d say its safe to save up and treat yourself! There will be many joys to come after you get your own special machine cozied up on a desk in your home
Lovelies, what led you to the DIY lifestyle? What was your first project?