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I am REALLY new to sewing!

user-266355 | Posted in General Discussion on

I always hated home ec! Now (at nearly 50) I got myself a machine and have decided to give it a try one more time! I need to purchase sewing things- is a cutting board and pressing stuff really necessary? I want to get what I need, but not spend for stuff I really won’t use. Any suggestions? I am a real beginner here, but hope to make an outfit in time for an event in April. Help!


  1. ixs | | #1

    Hi Cher,

    I've noticed that the questions asked are often very subjective.  You know, what you buy depends on what you want to accomplish.  And what your "bottom line" is.  In other words, how good do you want your projects to turn out.   BUT SEWING IS AN INEXACT SCIENCE, so don't expect all your projects to "turn out."

    So, figure out what YOU will be satisfied with, and buy some (or one) of the sewing books that Singer used to publish; I think they are now labeled Cy DeCosse.  And practice and sew and practice and sew.  And then if you like it, do it some more!  Then reassess what you have and what you want. 

    I, myself, have lots of good sewing tools, because if I take my valuable time to sew, I don't want to waste my time by not using the right tools that will probably get the job done faster, but if you don't know if you will like sewing, just get the basics--for now.   Always good scissors, a yardstick and measuring tape, a decent ironing board, decent iron, seam ripper, good needles, good thread.  That is the VERY BASIC.  AND A GOOD SEWING LIGHT. 

    And good luck. 

    1. user-266355 | | #5

      Thanks for the help! as a new sewing student- I am not sure what I want to make. As I mentioned, I have an event in April and would love to make something to wear.Store clothes are made cheaply and I am not a shopper so don't go often.

      1. ixs | | #9

        I'm worried about your making a garment for an event.  I would suggest starting with something simpler and making lots of things before tackling a larger, more difficult project, with a deadline, unless what you choose is a really simple garment.  In other words, make it fun, not stressful. 

        1. raven99 | | #10

          I think one of the most important tools is a good pair of scissors, don't cheap out on these. My personal recommendation is to get the micro-serrated shears. I have 2 pair and I love them. After almost 30 years of heavy use, they still cut everything from heavy denim to the most slippery of silks, and they've never been sharpened, in fact, I'm not even sure they can be sharpened.Get the best you can!Marion

  2. Elisabeth | | #2

    Good scissors is probably number one. The fabric will need to be cut and cheap scissors makes the job frustrating. The Gingher brand is decent and readily available at chain stores like JoAnn Fabrics and some Michaels craft stores. Use Michaels coupons in the paper and if you do have a JoAnns get on their mailing list for 40% off coupons in the mail!

    Good pins. Glass head silk pins by Clover are a pleasure to use. Cheap pins are dull and thick, like using toothpicks, not worth your time. The glass heads wont melt like pastic if you happen to iron one.

    A measuring tape. These are inexpensive.

    A seam ripper is handy. The inexpensive ones are fine. I find the one by Clover to be a step better, but no big deal.

    An often overlooked ridiculously inexpensive great tool is a seam guage, a six inch metal ruler with a sliding plastic guage thing. I have several and use them all the time for a multitude of small measuring jobs as I sew. For 99 cents we can all have one of these.

    If you have a decent iron and ironing board you don't need any pressing tools at this time really. You can roll up something like a towel into various shapes to drape parts of your garment over to press, that kind of "making do" is perfectly adequate.

    How about a good basic sewing book? The instructions that come with patterns can be a good teacher but can also confuse the heck out of a beginner by using awkward techniques or being just plain wrong. Your library might have one or two basic books to start with.

    You can cut things out on nearly any flat reasonably smooth surface. I used the hardwood floor or a dining table for years.

    And check out http://www.patternreview.com for a wealth of information.

    Have fun sewing!

    1. user-266355 | | #6

      Thank you for the list! I appreciate your answers. Wish me luck!

    2. lize | | #15

      Cher I am 52 and I have been sewing since I was 9.  My grandmother was a Taylor. My mother didn't sew and I basically taught myself with help from my grandmother.  Best advise is start out with something easy so you don't get discouraged.   All the other girls gave you great advise.  Don't over spend.  My favorite is a very good iron.  If you find your pins are getting dull don't use a pin cushion use a bar of soap it makes them slide right into the fabric.  I always cut my patterns on the floor until about three years ago now i use the dining room table.  I have also found the bed can be helpful.  The next vital item is a sharp is the scissors.  you don't need to spend a lot of money just make sure nobody uses it for anything else.    Marking pens for your darts pins and the six inch ruler are the best starting tools.  Always use good thread you get what you pay for.  The only other thing i can think of is a helper.  Do you have anybody you can call when you are stupmed?  If so don't be afarid to call her, thats what friends are for.  Don't get discouraged, you may have to do it over more than once but we all have to I still do,  practice make perfect.  Let me know if you need help.  Liz Ellis.

  3. kjp | | #3

    I echo the above responses!  Good scissors - it's helpful to have both the 8" size and a small size for trimming more accurately.  Seam guage; measuring tape; seam ripper!; good pins & needles.   You don't need a cutting board.  Rotary cutters do speed things up, but I sewed for 20 years without one!  Wait until you see how you like it.  You need a good iron, which you probably already have.  The only pressing tools I use are a sleeve board and a ham, but I could definitely make do with rolled towels as Elizabeth suggests. 

    Also, use GOOD thread.  It really makes a difference.  I use metrosene or guterman.  Ask for advice when you buy your material.  Start your projects in inexpensive muslin (or $1 table fabric)  then when you have practiced and are happy with the fit & construction make it up in the real thing.  There's nothing worse than throwing away a garment disaster made of expensive fabric (as we all know!). 

    Finally - find a friend who sews!  And keep your sense of humor :)  Good luck!


    1. user-266355 | | #4

      Thanks Kip! Made a run to JoAnn's today and picked up some stuff- they didn't have a board,but did buy a table!Also ruler,sleeve roll,and some thread. Thanks.

      1. kjp | | #7

        Good luck, Cher!  I hope you grow to love sewing as much as I do.  You really can make such high quality and well fit clothing compared to ready-to-wear.  Another thought is if you have a place where you can take a beginner's class, it might be worthwhile.  I don't know where you live, but you can check with Joann's or even better, find a specialty fabric/sewing store & ask them for recommendations.  Many offer free beginner classes.  Also your local adult school is a good resource.  I live in central NJ & there are many options here. 

        Enjoy!  Karin

  4. User avater
    paddyscar | | #8

    Hi Cher:

    A loaded question to be sure, but look at what you already have and eliminate those expenses as start-up costs.  You can always fine tune, should you decide you really want to stick with it.

    What do you already have or can get at no cost?

    * a library card - you can borrow basic sewing books and also magazines (including Threads) at no cost, provided you return them on time

    * kitchen/dining/folding table or large desk for sewing and cutting your fabrics

    * iron, ironing board, and pressing cloth cut from an old sheet

    * good light from overhead fixture, may be supplemented by floor or table lamp depending on tasks

    * yardstick, ruler, chalk, pens, pencil and paper

    * washing machine & dryer to wash all your fabrics before start

    * paper and packaging scissors - an extra pair from the junk drawer will do, so that you are not tempted to use your new 'good scissors' for anything other than fabrics and threads

    * advice at your local fabric/sewing store is readily available, and if it's not, take your money elsewhere.   Call ahead to find out when it's likely not to be busy, and the clerks have more time to spend with you.

    * a sturdy box for your supplies and tools, so you don't have to hunt them down for every session

    What you need to start up ...

    * some fabric or sewing stores have 'start-up' notions packages

    * already mentioned good quality thread, needles, pins, scissors - if you buy these at a dept. store ( where they MAY cost less) get the same 'name' products you saw in the sewing or fabric store

    * tape measure, seam guage, seam ripper, washable marker for transferring pattern markings to fabric

    * white, black and neutral grey or beige thread, you can add on as you work on your projects, but those will get you through most small jobs

    * at least 4 bobbins

    * take your sewing machine manual with you, so that you can buy the proper sized needles and bobbins for your machine (you'll be suprised and overwhelmed with all the options in today's sewing world)

    * eyes to see your finished project as if someone else made it - we don't look at anyone else's projects as critically as our own

    * a sense of humour

    * a place to ask questions  :-))

    Good luck!


  5. lindamaries | | #11

    The one thing that I absolutely love, love, love that I wish someone would have told me about in the very beginning is my cut and press board. I made it myself. I covered a piece of plywood with a couple of wool blankets and on top put some muslin on it. I used a staple gun to hold the fabric folded over to the back.
    The reason I love it is because it makes pinning so-o-o wonderful. I lay the fabric down on top of the board; I can make sure the fabric is square by looking at the edge of the board; I can lay the pattern pieces down, AND just STAB the pins in to hold the pattern! Sometimes I just lay big metal washers on the pattern for holding. No more trying to weave those pins in the pattern and fabric, getting the pins stuck in the carpet, bed, or whatever, getting the pattern all bubbly. I use to hate the cutting out process, but now I love it.

    I also have a pair of Fiskars Softouch Scissors that has a flat bottom and a spring action. These are a must with the board.

    I can use my iron on it, too. I use it for my work area.
    Good Luck

    1. user-266355 | | #12

      Thanks for the info. I am trying to make my own stuff and not spend so much money.

      1. hevnnpopomom | | #13

        my sister and i have just started sewing and are taking a beginers quilting class, our mother is very skilled and is a big help, but the best tool i have found so far was a snickers bar! when we are very stressed when our patches dont match or we have problems with our machines the snickers bar has always been there for us, although it doesnt solve the problem, it does help! goog luck, buy the way hows the outfit coming?

    2. imarseille | | #14

      Glad you wrote about a pressing board. I sure will make one! I read about them in sewing books, but not in connection with pinning up patterns. I'm sure you've saved me much time and maybe fustration too. Thanks, Bob

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