LEARNING TO SEW SUSTAINABLY
Being sustainable, but where to start?
Making your own clothes can be key to sustainable living. You can make clothes fit better to you, create an individual style, and thus making quality clothes you'll love and will definitely wear time and time again. No more throwing away clothes you've bought on a whim on a shopping spree.
If you're just starting out on your sewing journey, it can all seem quite daunting: so much equipment, new terminology, new skills. So let's break it down! Small steps is key!
Equipment: (Like any profession, tools and equipment lists can be endless! However, not all are essential. So here are the basics I think you'll need):
Sewing machine: this will probably be your biggest purchase if you don't already have one. If you don't want to fully commit, ask friends or family first to see if you can borrow one to see how you get on. A basic machine that sews a straight stitch, and a zig zag stitch are really all you need. Don't get caught up with all the other fancy stitches that many more expensive machines may offer! However, two points to note and check here: If you're thinking of sewing lots of shirts with buttonholes, check the machine has a function to do so. Most do these days, and will make buttonholing a whole lot easier. Secondly, if you're thinking of sewing mainly stretch fabrics, look for a machine that has the option of stretch stitches too. To be honest, you can just use zig-zag stitching but if you solely sew with stretch fabrics, then you would probably benefit from more variety of stretch stitches.
Threads: Don't feel you have to purchase every colour under the sun. Start with just black and white reels. Then as you start making items, buy the colour nearest to your fabric colour. Or go for a contrasting colour for a different style!
Scissors: There are 3 essentials you need here. 1 - Fabric scissors, 2 - small sharp scissors, 3 - seam ripper. You can pick up good fabric scissors from department stores and even household stores. Just make sure you keep them for fabric purposes only. Using them to cut other things such as paper can easily blunt them and you'll end up ruining your fabric.
You'll find a small sharp pair of scissors handy for cutting off threads. You could use your fabric scissors, but a smaller pair are much easier to access and handle.
And a seam ripper (also known as a "quick un-pick") is essential, as we always make mistakes. A seam ripper has a small point which you can quickly slip under a stitch to cut it.
Pins: Purchase a box of sharp pins. An essential to hold fabric pieces together whilst you sew.
Hand Sewing Needles: Purchase a small selection of sharp needles. Yes, you may be predominantly sewing on your machine, but there are always little jobs you may need to hand-sew, i.e. buttons, and finishing seams that you don't want to be visible on the right side.
Tape measure: A flexible tape measure is a must for obvious reasons!
Chalk: A piece of white tailor's chalk, or a chalk pencil is very handy to mark out information you need on your fabric. It won't stain your fabric and should wipe off, leaving no visible trace.
Iron: You'll probably have an iron in the house already, you'll need one to press seams open along the way, and also at the end of your sewing project when it's been man-handled and crumpled, and needs a good final press for a smart finish.
Some people purchase paper-weights to hold down sewing patterns onto their fabric as they cut around the patterns. You can use anything as weight such as a tin of beans or a book etc. I just use whatever I have to hand at the time!
Practice, practice, practice! It may take a while to get used to a new piece of machinery, and get into a rhythm. Just make sure you remain calm and patient. We all make mistakes, it is simply part of learning. If you get too frustrated, step away from the project, and take a deep breath, before going back to it.
Practice sewing with old fabrics you are not bothered about. Any old bedding, sheets and tablecloths are great for practicing sewing on. Bedding sheets are great to sew a toile (essentially what is a practice garment) before making things in specific fabrics, as the sheets should be big enough to cut out sewing patterns on.
Sewing patterns: Start by choosing something simple that you will most definitely wear. My go-to would be a T-shirt. Sewing patterns will state what level the pattern is recommended for. So take a look at Sewing Patterns for Beginner Sewists. The Assembly Line's Cuff Top would be a good example of a beginner's project. There are elements of clothing construction you'll find within the make that you'll use in all other makes. The pattern suits all types of fabrics, and the cuff detailing adds a little extra detail from a basic T-shirt. Independent (Indie) sewing pattern companies generally have great instruction booklets that come with the pattern, with detailed photos or pictures. (The Avid Seamstress have great clear photos in their instruction booklets, and are one of my faves!) Failing that, these companies will usually have a YouTube video you can follow along, or watch the make in progress. If you're still stuck, you can get in touch here with us, or delve into the wonderful sewing community online, where everyone is incredibly supportive and encouraging! Just reach out on any social media channel you use.
Get some friends and learn together, and go solo with all us online supporting you. You'll feel so proud when you make your first item. The inspiration is contagious!
Please note: A Kind Cloth is in no way affiliated with any companies mentioned. All information expressed are of personal opinion.