Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Some Thoughts on Learning to Sew

Learning basic sewing skills is never a bad thing.  Knowing how to patch a hole in a pair of pants or stitch up a tear in a sleeve are valuable skills, especially if there comes a time when clothes are not so plentiful and we need to repair what we have when they start showing some wear.  I'm kind of a sewing nut.  It is very therapeutic.  I enjoy the creation process.  I do not enjoy picking seams that were sewn wrong, but that's another story.  I enjoy sewing. 

I pick up fabric at fabric store sales, online, and from thrift stores and yard sales.  Because we do reenacting and make clothes for that, I try to stick to stocking fabric made from natural fibers--cotton, linen, silk, wool.  I stay away from polyester, rayon, etc.  One reason to stick to natural fibers besides being able to use them for our reenactment sewing is that if you're cooking over a fire and your clothes catch a spark, they won't melt and stick to your skin.  If you're a welder, you know what I'm talking about.

Sewing would be an invaluable skill in a TEOTWAWKI situation.  But it also could come in handy now.  Because I can sew, I've been able to make my own curtains, cute pillowcases, and custom fit clothes for reenacting.  I repair sweet husband's work jeans so he can keep working in them and snug up hand-me-down pants to fit my skinny kids.  I've made my own maternity Wrangler jeans, Halloween costumes, and cute, modest skirts and dresses for my girls.  Our sewing machine has paid for itself many times over.

Right now, it's generally cheaper and easier to just buy clothes from the store rather than buy fabric and make your own clothes.  That is, unless you're looking for something in a particular color or style that isn't "in" this season.  If you want to learn to sew, I'd suggest starting with a small project with straight edges--curtains or a pillowcase.  Maybe a hotpad.  If you don't have access to a sewing machine or want some hand stitching practice, hand stitch a patch on some old jeans or some embellishment on a handbag or jacket.  Then move up to something a little more complicated.  There are some very basic patterns out there for dresses, skirts, lounge pants, etc.  Yes, it may be a tad more expensive to buy the fabric and sew it yourself, but you're learning a skill AND you get to pick your fabric and make it just how you want it.

Most of my clothes sewing is for our reenactment hobby.  Most of the patterns I own are for that also.  This is one area it is almost always less expensive to sew your own than to buy pre-made outfits.  And I guess if the world ends and clothes get hard to find, we can always dress colonial. ;)

So give it some thought.  Pick up some needles and thread, borrow a machine from a friend, maybe get some advice from a mentor and try your hand at sewing something. :)


Anonymous said...

There are plenty of old treadle sewing machines around - it'd be worth it learn on one for those boring times when the lights go out during power outages - common in our county.

Hand-sewing is also a good skill to have - teaching the young ones some basic quilting skills is a good place to start.

I started sewing by making kid clothes - simple shorts, shirts and sundresses. The kids loved new clothes and didn't notice little mistakes until I got more proficient.

Kelle said...

AH HA! I have a beautiful treadle sewing amchine with all the attachments and it is in good working order as the previous owner used it right up until I bought it. Now the only problem is learning how to use it and more than that learning the basic of sewing! I agree this will be a valued skill but in our rural community you'd be surprised at how few people sew or are even willing to give lessons( we offered even to pay a fee or barter for the hours), Have yet to find a taker, so may resort to taking sewing classes in the city*sigh* I can do basic mending on my singer sewing machine, but do not have the knowledge of how to make somethig from scratch. My Mom IS NOT/ nor ever was domestically inclined. She says all the time she doesn't know where I came from! LOL!

Angela said...

I would LOVE a treadle sewing machine! That is very cool. Kelle, it's too bad you don't live closer, I'd love to give lessons. There's maybe some online resources for sewing? Or some books. Although it's not quite the same as hands-on. Hope you find some way to learn on that machine.

Debbie said...

There are kits around to convert a regular sewing machine to use as a treadle one. Just do a google search. Make sure your needle will go up and down without power. I have three machines, and only the older singer will let me move the needle without power.

Anonymous said...

The Creativity is what thrills me - that sense of accomplishment! Feels so good to finish something up!

Teaching granddaughter now. Kids can learn thru 4-H programs or summer classes at the extension office also.
She has made a tote bag, pillowcases, and ran up her own curtains for her room - all straight stitching. Now working on a baby quilt, and patching skills :)

The treadle is really not much different than an electric - just push to get it going, get into the rhythm of it. Mine only does forward and backwards - so not much to learn there :) It does not have a bobbin winder tho - so I rarely use it anymore - the TV is sitting on top of it - but it's there for an emergency :)

marci357 - sorry - can't get the google acct to load me up...

Anonymous said...

Dollar a bag sales are GREAT ways to purchase fabric for reuse. One Christmas I got 10 fuzzy bathrobes all rolled up and stuffed in one bag for a Dollar.

Washed them up and they became Christmas Jammies and matching teddy bears for 8 grandkids :)
Pretty inexpensive way to go!


Ryan said...

Now that Wifey isn't working she is sewing more. She has found some super cheap fabric by getting stuff at the thrift shops. Just grabbing a bunch of shirts or pants or whatever is the fabric she wants at .25-50 cents a piece is working well for her.

TeeJay said... is an EXCELLENT resource for free fabric.

I have literally acquired several bags of fabric - many pieces large enough to make clothes or home decorative items out of - all for FREE.

One woman recently gave me a huge bag of all cotton fabric in various beautiful patterns, colors, etc. That was my favorite "score" from Freecycle. :)

irunamuk said...


Angela said...

irunamuk-sorry, that's preparedness vernacular for "The End Of The World As We Know It" :)