Discovering a New Craft – Sewing

Well, I have finally bitten the bullet and dipped my toes in the sewing pond… or should I say ocean. I feel like I have just discovered what could easily become a very close second in terms of my passions. Knitting being first of course.

I’m so fortunate to have my mom as a teacher. She taught me to sew a top, that I haven’t photographed because frankly, I’m not sure I like the style of it – but the actual sewing is pretty darn good if you ask me!

She’d probably disagree, but my mom is a master seamstress (she doesn’t seem to quite believe in the word “sewist” yet). She took sewing classes all through high school and I think college, too. I know she made most of her clothing during her younger years, and I think I’m already following in her footsteps, albeit a little later in life.

The Process of Learning a New Craft

As a somewhat seasoned knitter, starting from square one can be a bit intimidating at first. I think that’s because I reflect back on my early knitting projects and shudder. I really don’t want to have to go through the pain of creating a lot of ugly things before I actually start to get the hang of sewing!

However, having already mastered one craft, I realize I’ve learned a lot that will (hopefully) help me skip some of those dreadful stages.

Some sewing lessons that my knitting background has helped me learn:

First and foremost, I’ve learned that shortcuts don’t pay off, especially when you’re new to something. Yesterday, I sewed a project bag that will hopefully someday take me just an hour to whip up, but instead it took me all day. I’ve already learned, through knitting, about measuring twice and cutting once. I’ve learned how important it is that seams be aligned perfectly before stitching them together or else the fabric will pucker. I’ve learned it pays to go slow and be precise. And I’ve learned how fabric will change with heat and moisture, and to take that into account during the construction process.

I’ve learned the extra step of finishing is extremely important. Just like steam blocking can really enhance the quality of a knitted garment, pressing a sewn project can make all the difference (and as in knitting, can even hide some mistakes!)

I’ve learned to go slow with acquisitions and be more mindful of purchases. I still have bins full of eyelash yarn in every bright and crazy color under the sun back in my old bedroom at my mom’s house. Hopefully, because I had to go through the get-everything-in-every-color phase with knitting, I can bypass that with sewing. Although I’ve already started to collect a very small fabric stash, I’m sticking to high-quality fabrics in a color palette I know I actually wear (imagine that!).

That brings me to another valuable lesson – don’t learn on low quality tools! As I’ve come to realize in knitting, using better yarn creates a better result, so it only makes all the more sense that when you’re not as good, you actually need the higher quality stuff even more to offset any blunders of inexperience. When I was a new knitter I hadn’t yet discovered high quality yarn and needles, but I think even if I had, I wouldn’t have realized or appreciated what a difference real wool and more professional needles make. I know that many people who are teaching someone else to knit, will give them their old aluminum straight needles and some acrylic Red Heart yarn – what a frustrating, demotivating way to learn! Choosing fabric when you don’t know the difference between a rayon crepe and a challis is a little more challenge than going to Joanne’s and just getting what looks “least offensive,” but it’s just one more thing that’s worth taking the time to learn!

My First Solo Project: the Li’l Knot Bag

So after several very enlightening lessons with my mom, I finally felt ready to bring my grandmother’s sewing machine back with me to New York and try sewing on my own, without her looking over my shoulder. And I must say, it was a success! I realize that she really is such an incredible teacher because there were so many little things I learned from her that I never would have gotten from the pattern and I wouldn’t have even known where to begin with online tutorials.

My first solo journey into sewing was a knitting project bag – the “Li’l Knot Bag” by Indigo Bird Designs on Etsy. I did the medium size bag, which is currently storing a lace hat that I’ve had on my needles since April.

I even learned to attach a “zipper foot” and do edge stitching. YouTube helped me figure out what a zipper foot looks like and what to do with it, but the pattern actually had really helpful instructions for a beginner when it came to everything else, and I was really grateful for it.

Check my FO:

(do you say “FO” in sewing too?)

An interesting construction allows you to secure the bag closed with the small loop on the left.
Here it is with the bag closed!
Look at the edge stitching on the outer edge (left). This was not easy, but going slow helped me to get it right… the second time around 😉 Thank goodness for seam rippers!

Next, I think I’ll do the “Leah” drawstring project bag also by Indigo Bird Designs, since I bought a bundle that contained three different project bags.

I’m going home again in a couple weeks for another lesson. What should I learn next?

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