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If you can sew, you can make just about anything out of cloth -- new outfits, quilts, draperies, hats, bags and more.

You'll be able to produce fabulous clothes that reflect your own personality. Likewise, you'll be able to repair and hem your old favorites. And you'll never be stuck for a friend's birthday present, since you can always sew something!

Different people sew for different reasons -- stress relief, enjoyment, creativity, necessity. Whatever the reason, there's nothing like wearing something you've made and having people compliment you on your clothes.

Sewing enthusiasts say that doing a sewing project is a lot like following a recipe. First, you decide on a pattern. Next, you buy the necessary materials. Then, you follow the pattern step by step to get the result you want.

Sewing can be done any place where you have enough room. You'll need space for a table, a sewing machine and room to spread out your fabric for cutting and pinning. Many sewing buffs like to have a separate room for sewing.

"An organized and well-lit work area is really helpful-- hopefully an area that can be used when the desire hits," said Pat Leask, a sewing enthusiast. "The dining-room table or the guest room aren't the best places because you have to keep putting all your stuff away."

In addition to a comfortable workspace, there are a few other essentials you'll need to get into sewing:

  • a good sewing machine -- not necessarily one with all the fancy features, but just a good quality model
  • a good pair of scissors -- used only for cutting fabric, not paper or wire!
  • sewing notions -- good quality thread, pins, a tape measure, an iron for pressing pattern pieces, chalk for marking fabric
  • patterns and fabrics

The most expensive part of getting into sewing is the sewing machine. Still, it doesn't have to be all that expensive. A good quality used sewing machine can be had for about $350. From there, most of the cost involved is buying your fabric and materials.

It pays to buy good quality supplies. "Avoid those 'six spools for a dollar' sales -- they aren't worth it. If you spend big money on a great fabric and stitch it with a poor quality thread, it will fall apart," said Alicia Cosgrove, a sewing buff from Charlotte, North Carolina.

When you're sewing, it's a good idea to take frequent breaks. Sewing is detail-oriented work that can be hard on your eyes. It's also a good idea to take breaks to avoid stiffness in your back and hands.

Many people sew for enjoyment, not to save money on clothes. Experts say that the number of people who sew out of necessity is declining. This is because buying ready-to-wear garments often cost just as much as sewing your own.

Even so, there will still be a dedicated few who continue to sew because they want to customize their clothes and they don't like what they see in clothing stores.

"I feel it is just as expensive to sew as it is to buy ready-made," said Kathy Schutty, a sewer from Pittsburgh. "The difference is that you get a better fit and just the color and fabric you want."

There are four common mistakes beginners make when they're first starting to sew. The first is not understanding a pattern.

The second is not reading the pattern directions all the way through before beginning. The third is trying a pattern beyond their ability. The fourth is using the wrong fabric for a pattern.

"Understanding fabrics is really important to the final appearance, fit and comfort of a garment," said Leask.

"Not pinning and basting [temporary stitches, used to hold pieces of fabric together] fabric is a big mistake," said Schutty. "Many people take the time to cut out the fabric carefully and then wind up with disasters because they didn't take the time to pin and baste."

"Another mistake is not following the pattern cutting directions. I've even seen ready-made garments in discount bins because the fabric was cut incorrectly," said Schutty.

While many sewing experts take on lots of difficult projects, most started by making simple projects such as aprons, pillows, skirts and shorts. Most say their projects became more challenging with time and practice.

There are plenty of careers related to sewing. For instance, talented sewers may find opportunities creating one-of-a-kind garments for customers. They may operate a tailoring and alternations business.

"I do custom sewing jobs for several people that know me, but I don't have an official business," said Leask.

You might want to stay away from doing piecework sewing for clothing manufacturers and cottage industries. The pay is usually low and many people find doing this kind of work takes the fun out of sewing all together.

Getting Started

Think you might like to get into sewing? Be patient. It takes a bit of time to learn, but the rewards are well worth it.

If you're interested in learning how to sew, take an introductory sewing course to learn the basics. You can find out more about these courses by contacting a community college or by talking to people at fabric stores.

Start with easy projects. Pillows, skirts and shorts are good items to try. Remember, if you make a mistake, you can always take the seam out and start again.

There are also certain fabrics that beginners should try to avoid. These include velvet, silk, satin, stretchy fabrics, plaids and stripes. It takes skill and experience to work with these fabrics.

Give yourself a lot of time to complete projects. Rushing will only frustrate you and produce bad results.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. Fabric store clerks are supposed to be helpful and can give you advice if you get in trouble.

Finally, you might want to watch a sewing show on television, join a sewing circle, read, and surf the Net.


American Sewing Guild
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9140 Ward Pkwy.
Kansas City , MO   64114


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