Learn Sewing: Let’s get you started
So, you’ve decided you want to learn sewing. An essential skill for many of our parents and grandparents, it is now rare to learn sewing skills at a school at any level. This has left a vast number of adults who would love to learn to sew clothes but have no idea where to start. Options are plentiful with evening sewing classes, online courses, YouTube videos and numerous books all vying to show you the way. And truth be told, I will soon have an online course available too – I’m working on it already to make it epic – but for now I think it’s important to provide the basics in a way that is fun, friendly and more importantly, not overwhelming! So, lets learn sewing!
First up, the history of sewing
The art of sewing has been around since prehistoric times. Needles made from animal bones and antlers have been found throughout history, suggesting that back in the day, man was keen to learn sewing too. Maybe those icy winds of the ice age were a tad chilly and he stitched up some animal skins to keep his nether regions warm and cosy? 😉
Sewing by hand lasted thousands of years. The first sewing machine was only invented in 1790 by English inventor Thomas Saint, and was designed to be used on canvas and leather. He never marketed his invention, and as it was more of a leather goods machine, it was some years later before a more suitable machine was developed for sewing. This was in 1874, by manufacturer William Newton Wilson.
It wasn’t until 1829 that a sewing machine invented by French tailor Barthélemy Thimonnier offered practicality. This machine, made of wood, was then widely used for some years.
Fast forward almost twenty years to 1845. The very well known sewing machine brand Singer was actually started with an original invention by Elias Howe, who in 1845 created a machine with the eye of the needle at the point, rather than the base of the needle. His design patent was infringed upon by Isaac Merritt Singer and others while Howe spent some time in England. Once discovered, Singer was forced by a court in the US to pay a lump sum as compensation to Howe, as well as $1.15 for every machine sold under license.
What are the stitches that can be used by both machine and hand?
- Chainstitch: The earliest sewing machines used a chainstitch which meant that if the stitch broke at any point along the chain, the stitch line would unravel.
- Lockstitch: Most domestic and industrial machines use a lock stitch which uses two threads. An upper thread and a bobbin threat , which are ‘locked’ together.
- Zig zag stitch: Uses one needle on a domestic machine, and moves from side to side to forma zig zag. Good for sewing stretchy knit fabrics at home if you don’t have an overlocker.
- Overlock: This is also known as serging. Using two needles, and between three, four or five threads. Used for clothes made from stretchy knit fabrics, and very fine woven prone to fraying.
- Coverstitch: Twin needle sewing with straight lines on top, and zig zagged underneath. Mostly used on jogging pants, sweaters, tee’s.
I have moments of loving hand sewing. And then moments of hating it. I love it when I have the time to really focus and do a good job. When I’m rushing it, I swear and curse and promise to anyone listening that I’ll never, EVER sew another stitch by hand. Yet I still go back to it. 🙂
- Running Stitch: An even stitch, permanently holds two or more layers of fabric together,
- Basting Stitch: used to hold two or more layers together temporarily. The stitch is longer and wider apart than the running stitch.
- Back stitch: Another permanent stitch, after making a stitch to the far right of the fabric, the needle is then inserted to the left, pulled through and taken back down at the end of the first stitch, locking the stitch in place.
- Slip stitch: A stitch which is hidden and used to join two right sides together. Great for finishing!
- Cross stitch / catch stitch: I use this stitch for hemming my knit pieces. It is a flexible and strong stitch, showing ‘X’s on the wrong side, and if sewn carefully, pin pricks only on the right side.
There are many many more types of hand stitching – sewing has been around for thousands of years after all. My favourite book to pore over is one my Ma used a lot when I was growing up. I managed to track a copy down for myself when I was at uni, and when that one got lost later on in my life, I grabbed another copy very cheaply (1p plus P&P) from Amazon. It’s the Complete Encyclopaedia of Stitchcraft by Mildred Graves Ryan. As well as a multitude of sewing stitches it also encompasses knitting and crocheting. It really is an encyclopaedia!
The most obvious is: a needle and some thread! There are many more items required of course.
- A tape measure
- Fabric scissors
- Paper Scissors
- Sewing machine
- Ironing board
- Seam ripper
- A pattern
Check out this post of mine to download a checklist of 13 essential sewing tools for the sewing beginner!
Then there are the luxury items, that can make your working progress faster. I have a Sewing Essentials checklist to make sure my kit is ready at a moment’s notice, grab the checklist for yourself below.
And don’t forget to pop back next week where I’ll be showing you the first in a Create your own Fashion series!
Til next week..