7 Sewing Tips for Beginners

7 Sewing Tips for Beginners

I’m often asked for sewing help from folks who are just overwhelmed by the whole idea. They know they want to make something, and they know it can’t be THAT hard, but they just don’t know where to start. This post is for those people. These are the tips I give to everyone, especially those just getting started with sewing. Here are my 7 sewing tips for beginners:

  1. Which tools to have on hand…and which can wait. This is something that can get overwhelming for anyone who has ever walked theaisles of  a Jo-Ann Fabrics. So many tools! So many options! But you don’t need all that stuff to start. I’m gonna put some lists inside a list here for you. These are the things you really need to start:
    • Sewing machine – I guess you don’t even really need this, but for most sewing projects, it’s just easier.
    • Thread – It doesn’t matter what kind or even what color. You’d be surprised at how well you can get along with just a spool of black and a spool of white.
    • Good, sharp fabric scissors – Don’t ever cut paper with your fabric scissors! I mean it! It really dulls the blades and makes cutting fabric so much harder and less precise. I like to tie a piece of ribbon around the handle of my fabric scissors so that everyone in my house knows that those are for fabric only.
    • Pins – Grab a little box of pins. They don’t have to be fancy, but you’ll need them for just about every project.
    • Seam ripper – An absolute must. See #6.
    • Marking tool – What kind of tool depends on the color and type of fabric and the application. I have disappearing ink pens, tailor’s chalk, and I’ve been known to use Sharpie. Shhhh…don’t tell my sewing teacher.
    • Thread clippers – Separate from your sharp scissors, you’ll want these close at hand at all times
    • Extra machine needles – I know this is a thing that seems like you won’t need, but you will. And it’s really inconvenient to be in the middle of a project during that one half hour in the day you can snatch to yourself and have a needle break and have no backup. And your needle WILL break. They’re cheap, so just buy a pack of extras.
    See, it's not much! You probably have most of this stuff already.

    See, it’s not much! You probably have most of this stuff already.

    Some things that are pretty handy to have around, but you don’t need right away:

    • Seam gauge
    • Point turner
    • Bodkin
    • Rotary cutter & self-healing mat

     

  2. Press everything. It might seem obvious, or maybe you think you can save time by not pressing, but it’s not worth it. It’s the easiest thing you can do to take your projects from looking homemade to looking professional. Do you want your projects to look mama-made or like Mama paid? Jay kay. But seriously, wash, dry, and press your fabric before you start, and press every seam as you stitch. Then press the whole thing again when you’re done. You’ll be shocked at the result!

    Press it!

    Press it!

  3. Read your manual. I’ve learned so much from my machines’ manuals! I keep them right at my sewing desk and refer to them often. Not only will they give you critical information on setting up and maintaining your machine, but manuals are often a wealth of information about a variety of different stitches and techniques. If you have an older model machine or have lost the manual, Google is your friend. Many manuals are available in PDF format online.
  4. Stitching is the easy part. It took me a while to learn this. Sewing is magic sometimes. It really is. But it’s magic that almost anyone can do. Running some fabric through a machine isn’t rocket science, but that part is really some of the quickest, easiest work I do. Where I like to really take time and care is in the planning, measuring, cutting, and pinning. That’s where the magic really happens. You can fix almost anything you’ve sewn incorrectly, but you can’t fix incorrect cuts. Take great care throughout the early parts of the process.
  5. Take your time. It’s not a race. Unless you’re on some kind of new reality show, and it IS a race, in which case, GO! GO! GO! But in the much more likely scenario that you’re sewing projects at home, really, it doesn’t matter how fast you sew. If it takes you twenty hours to make a pillowcase, then it does. As long as you are taking the time and care you need to in order to make the project your way, don’t worry about how much time something is “supposed to” take or the rate of speed you’re moving your needle up and down.
  6. Everyone makes mistakes. And I mean everyone. I do. You do. Tommy Hilfiger does. It just goes with the territory. Don’t stress too much about it. Most of the stitching you’ll do (especially on simple projects and a regular sewing machine) is able to be un-done. See the jacket that John Adams is wearing in this photo? I stitched that jacket. Let me tell you a little story about that jacket. The first time I stitched that jacket, I put the left arm on upside down. Without the actor in it, the left arm still stuck straight up in the air like that! Ooops! But as you can see, I was able to fix it. You’ll make mistakes, but you’ll be able to fix almost all of them.
  7. Do what works for you. I’m a big fan of “good enough” sewing for home sewers. Big fan. If you can figure out a way to make something look and work like you need it to, who really cares if it’s the “right” way?? I don’t! I’m not checking your work. And most people aren’t either. Just get into it! Maybe you’re inventing a new technique that we’ll all consider the “right” way once we know about it.

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Day Out with Thomas is Coming!

Day Out with Thomas is Coming!

Disclaimer: I will receive free tickets to this event in exchange for this announcement and my honest review of the event at a later date.

Y’all, I’m so excited! We loved this event so much last year!

Coming to the North Carolina Transportation Museum – Day Out With Thomas Sept. 26-28, Oct. 3-5. Day Out With Thomas is a family event that offers aspiring engineers and their families the unique opportunity to take a ride with the classic storybook engine, Thomas the Tank Engine at regional heritage railroads across the country. 

Get your tickets today! 

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Mango’s World: First Day of Pre-K

Mango’s World: First Day of Pre-K

So happy!

Mango has been in group care since he was about 18 months old. Longtime readers may remember my struggles with that adjustment. Now, as he starts real school (private, full day pre-k), I feel a lot more excitement. I do still have sad days and moments, and my current struggle is mostly just finding my routine and settling into my new schedule alone during the day. I’m excited to drink coffee that’s hot and to poop alone, sure, but also, I’m excited for what he’s doing. He loves his new school, has friends in class, and is generally just a ball of happiness about this adventure.

He is super ready. He is craving that social interaction and all the fun things they do at school. And I think he is also ready for a little independence. Still, it’s always going to hurt a mama’s heart a little to see this:

Walking away

 

Why does he have to be so eager to walk away. Being a parent is about having to let go a million times when all you want to do is hold on as tightly as you can. But the letting go is so necessary. So we do it. And we cry a little. And we look forward to hearing every detail about his day when we’re back together.

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The Road Trip

The Road Trip

Recently, Pop Tart was headed out of town for a conference. I’ve actually lost count of the conferences he’s attended this year. Let’s just say it’s a lot. Sometimes when this happens (okay, every time), Mango & I struggle a bit at home. So this time, I decided that he and I weren’t just going to sit around crying at each other all week – we were going on a road trip!

I loaded the minivan with a surprisingly little amount of gear, soothed my worried husband, and away Mango and I went. We were off to my hometown, a trip that normally takes eight-ish hours with one short break. Because there were going to be some truly terrifying weather conditions, PT chose a route for us that was over an hour out of the way so that we’d avoid most of it. One looooong lunch break, five potty breaks, and eleven hours later, we arrived. I never got tired, but I did feel bored a little bit. Mango was a real trooper. He slept a few hours, watched movies on the DVD player (he can do this, even rear-facing, courtesy of a headrest mirror), played with the iPad, and pointed out a bazillion trucks.

It was really wonderful to have this little trip, since almost no one knew we were in town, there wasn’t the usually running all over God’s green earth that there usually is when we visit. We stayed with my mom for the first time, and it was super, super relaxing. Mango got to play with his same-age cousin, A2, for 48 straight hours. They got along great and entertained each other. We met some internet friends, I got to see my sisser, and I even got a night out!

In true PJM fashion, here’s some bullet-pointed hilarity from the little one, and some pics from the road.

  • As we were driving over a bridge, he spotted a town in the valley. He pointed, and shouted, “Look at that far-away village!”
  • For lunch, I ordered a salad (he ate most of it), and some French onion soup (he ate ALL of it). As he was picking the cheese from the outside of the crock he noted, “French onion soup is one of my favorite soups in the whole entire world.”
  • There was a line for the women’s restroom, but not the men’s, and he had to go BAD. He lamented, “If Daddy & I were here, we could pee in the man’s room.”
  • While eating provolone cheese, he poked a hole with his finger. “I poked a hole in this cheese. Now it’s Swiss cheese.”
  • When my sister served us a really tasty spaghetti dinner, he said, “This is the best spaghetti I never had!” He also offered, without prompting, “Thanks for cooking this for me,” and “Excuse me” when he was finished.
  • The two cousins were watching Dora, and A2 got pouty. When my mom asked what was wrong, poor guy said, “Mango thinks Dora’s talking to him, but she’s NOT! She’s talking to ME!!”
Roadside attraction time

Roadside attraction time

Making funny faces at the restaurant

Making funny faces at the restaurant

Well, I HAD French Onion soup...

Well, I HAD French Onion soup…

Pulling our friend in a wagon at the zoo

Pulling our friend in a wagon at the zoo

Let's just say, we were VERY relaxed at G-ma's house

Let’s just say, we were VERY relaxed at G-ma’s house

Mama's going to the casino!

Mama’s going to the casino!

I thought they looked like they both fell asleep running here

I thought they looked like they both fell asleep running here

Cousins/buddies

Cousins/buddies

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Dye-Free Green Eggs and Ham – for Dinner!

Dye-Free Green Eggs and Ham – for Dinner!

I had something else entirely planned for dinner last night when my 3-year-old said, “I want to try green eggs and ham!” We recently read the book for the first time, and I think it made an impression. And when he shows enthusiasm about something – particularly something related to a book – I run with it.

We eat turkey ham with eggs three or four times a week, so we had those ingredients on hand. The tricky part, however, was figuring out how to make dye-free green eggs and ham. Mango ingests way more artificial dye than I’d like, but we try to avoid it whenever possible. He reacts very negatively to it, far more negatively than sugar, in my observation. So I checked out what else we had on hand. We didn’t have any spinach, which I knew would produce a nice green color, but we did have a zucchini, which I remember using in eggs when he was a babe.

The green it produced wasn’t super bright green, but the flavor was pretty undetectable. And hey, it was a Tuesday night after school. It was green enough. I decided to try to Seuss it up with a few more impromptu flairs of silly.

The whole table setup

The whole table setup

I grabbed Mango’s Cat in the Hat hat from his dress-up box and tossed it on the table. I used some colorful paper plates and striped paper straws I had left over from previous parties. I put Pop Tart’s plate in a box, used some painter’s tape to put Mango’s on one of his toy trains, and quickly made up a little felt mouse for mine.

Would you eat them in a box?

Would you eat them in a box?

Could you, would you, on a train?

Could you, would you, on a train?

Would you like them with a mouse?

Would you like them with a mouse?

Of course, we didn’t end up eating like that. It was hard for PT to maneuver in the box, and Mango didn’t like them on a train. Also, the paint on my mouse was still wet, so this little excitement was quickly discarded as we dug into our dinner, with a side of green grapes and toast with homemade jam.

It was not a lot of work. It was not very fancy, but it was a super fun way to have a silly dinner instead of a boring one.

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