Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Making Sewing Easier

Since I started teaching folk dance I do a fair amount of sewing with my students who need costumes. Most of them are beginner sewers. It's been fun(and also stressful) over the years to help these girls learn some basic sewing skills that they will hopefully use again. I had two ladies over to sew this past weekend, and it made me think of some basic tools or ideas I use that make my sewing easier. So here they are: Five steps and/or purchases that will make sewing easier for beginners. Amber, I keep telling you that you need good scissors, so this post is for you.

Easy Access. 

I have a small sewing room, so it's not hard for everything to be close together. I keep my metal bobbins on a magnetic strip meant for hanging kitchen knives. It keeps them organized and within arm's reach. I use baby food jars to keep seams rippers, measuring gauges, and pencils by my machine. My garbage is just to the right of my machine, so all my threads and clippings can be swept right off the table. Making a garment takes long enough as it is: organize your area so as to be time efficient.

The iron corner.

Really Hot Things. 

I have two older Sunbeam steam irons that I got at garage sales. They're a good weight for me(weight is important), a reliable brand, and they work well. I've never used any of the expensive irons, like Rowenta, but I've certainly used worse irons enough to know these are decent irons. I know I don't like the irons with dials; I prefer a sliding knob. Make sure to get an iron not easily tipped over. Get a good iron that suits you, because in sewing you use your iron as much as you do your sewing machine, if not more. Never put anything but filtered water in your steam iron! I must be stupid, because I did that once. It took weeks for my iron to stop spitting stains.

Standing table: Shelves for lace, patterns, books, dye and machine accessories. Under the table is all my hoodie fleece.

Really Sharp Things. 

I'm a frugal person, but you just can't sew without paying for good scissors. You can't, ok? You just can't. Don't even try. I buy Ginghers(on sale, of course) mostly because they look epic, and they are good scissors. Then once you get good scissors you have to sharpen them. I use my scissors every week, and I would say mine need professional sharpening about once a year, which costs about $4 a pair. Other sharp things you need are seam rippers, and snippers for threads. I keep a small pair of sharp scissors right by the machine for cutting threads. I also have different types of scissors stationed at different areas in my room according to need.

Storage, storage, and more storage. Ever the seamstress's problem. My latest(and last, I promise) furniture purchase was this hutch to keep all my notions, patterns and fabric.


I used to get back-aches from sewing, until I made a standing table for cutting out, and bought a rolling office chair for sewing. Best sewing purchase ever! I bought the cheapest Walmart office chair for $30. It made sewing so much easier! It's lower than a dining room chair, which is what I was using, and easier to navigate around a sewing table. My standing table is two old bookshelves and an old desktop. They're not even fastened together; the desktop is heavy enough to just sit on top of the shelves. Now I don't have to bend or hunch to cut out. I even drew yardage markings on the desktop to better measure out fabric. If you can't have a standing table, figure something out- I recommended to one lady that she wear her corset for added back support while she sews. Who wants to sew if it hurts?

A Sturdy Machine. 

I prefer the basic machines that are heavy-duty. I used to have an Elna, which got bought out by Brother. Now at home I have a Janome. The Brother machines at work are junk(albeit very old), so I can't imagine ever buying a Brother. Singer used to be the big name but is getting bad reviews on today's models, with the exception of the new Singer Heavy Duty model. On a scale of one to ten of machines I would buy: Bernina at ten is the unaffordable best. The Singer HD is a one, very affordable; I'm hoping to convince my boss to buy this one. Janome is smack in the middle as a good reliable, slightly pricier brand. I'd really like to buy their HD model for home use. You can't go wrong with a sturdy basic machine like that.

So there you go! A tour of my sewing room AND my sewing recommendations.

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