How to Get Started in Sewing

I get asked all of the time during my streams what are good machines and projects for beginning sewers. I feel myself repeating a lot of the same things, so I thought I’d put it in a blog post so we can link back to it. Oftentimes this question depends on the kinds of things you’re interested in making. I’ll cover some of the general sewing topics. More specific discussions will happen in later blog posts.

Step 1: Get a Machine

First off, you do not need a $15,000 sewing machine like me, nor do you need a serger. Those are luxury items for people who are absolutely bat-s**t-crazy for sewing. You’re in the beginning stages. Don’t be me and go all-in until you know you love sewing so much you’re willing to forego eating anything but ramen for a year. You can pick up a very good sewing machine for less than $100. If you really want to stretch, you can go a step further and even get a machine that has embroidery options for around $350. 

Brother XM2701 is a GREAT beginner machine!

The Brother XM2701 is a great beginner machine and it’s $99.99. It has all the basic stitches you need, including buttonhole options! This is plenty to learn on. However, if you have any interest in embroidery, I always recommend the Brother SE400, which is the same machine that TockCustom uses. Embroidery is a whole different ball of wax though, so we’ll talk about that in a separate blog post later.

EverSewn is another lovely little brand of machines that I also recommend. They have all metal parts on the interior, are stupid simple to use, and have great stitch quality! Amazon does carry these, but if you have a local dealership (usually one that sells Bernina), you should buy there. Most dealerships will offer you free classes! If you have the extra cash to spend, this is your biggest bang for your buck purely because you get classes in addition to a machine. Their machine prices start at $129.00. Slightly higher than the Brother, but again, buy locally and you’ll probably get free classes!

EverSewn branded machines are sturdy and can be bought at a dealership!

Step 2: Acquire Fabric and Thread

You cannot sew without fabric, so you’ll want to pick up something that’s easy to work with and learn on without causing you to slam your fist through your table. Easy fabrics to start off with would be quilting cottons. They’re stable and are typically what beginner projects use. You don’t need anything with a designer label attached to it. Just hop down to your local fabric chain store and pick up a couple of yards of something from their quilting section. One thing to note is that quilting cottons are woven. This means they will fray on the raw edges where you’ve cut. Before washing, you can take your machine and use the zig-zag stitch to sew over the edge and it stops it from falling apart in the wash. Cottons in general are always good, though make sure to pre-wash anything before you work with it since cotton has this nasty habit of shrinking. For now, avoid knit (stretch) fabrics. That way lies madness, and it’s a whole different blog’s worth of issues to document.

Thread is the only thing I’ll yell at you about not going cheap on. For thread I also suggest people buy Gutermann branded threads. You need to get Sew-All (All Purpose). It’s not much more expensive than Coats & Clark, and it will ensure you don’t have an unsatisfactory experience dealing with clogged bobbins or broken upper threads.

Step 3: Necessary Notions

Aside from thread and fabric, you’ll want the following items from the notions aisle at your local fabric store:

Dritz makes disappearing ink fabric pens for marking lines. They gradually disappear over time, but are great for making temporary sewing marks on your fabrics.

Some not-so-necessary notions, but that are really nice to have would be:

Step 4: Choosing a Project

There are a LOT of different projects you can do when learning how to sew. I say first off, start with perusing YouTube about your machine. Oftentimes you’ll find that people have put tutorials up on the brand and model that you’ve purchased. They show you the basics. After you’ve learned how to operate your machine, start first by taking a scrap piece of fabric and drawing lines either with chalk or disappearing ink pens (they do exist, check the notions aisle!) and stitching down these lines. Make some curves and learn how to stitch those as well. Learn how to feed and guide the fabric through the machine. NEVER  yank on the fabric or you may pull the needle at just the wrong moment and wreck everything. Literally… everything. Again, don’t be like me.

Some projects I’d suggest for beginners:

When you get more adventurous and want to leave the sewing nest, you can take on a few new techniques such as zippers, fitting clothing, etc. Here are some suggestions:

Craftsy also has a ton of awesome sewing classes for when you want to learn specific techniques!

Final Thoughts

The biggest thing you can do for yourself is TAKE YOUR TIME! Don’t feel like you have to rush through a project. If it takes you 10 hours to make a napkin, so be it! At least you’re learning. Picking up a new hobby should be fun, not work. If you’re not having fun, put the project to the side and pick up something else. Whatever you do, don’t be me and put your fist through your sewing desk when a project frustrates you. 


Commissions Galore!

I’ve been hard at work on my Commissions List, thanks to all of my wonderful viewers making custom orders over the holidays! Here are two new ones:

Zombie Pin-up Girl Crochet Hook Case

This lovely little bag is about 8″ long, 3″ deep with a zippered closure. It easily fits small snips/scissors, crochet hooks, and stitch markers, making it a nice little bag to chuck into a purse or tote for easy transport. The customer chose an Alexander Henry zombie pin-up girl print:



Legend of Zelda ID Card Wallet

The ID Card Wallet is a pattern by Dog Under My Desk. It features 5 card slots, a deeper pocket for cash, a small zippered change pocket, and a clear vinyl window for identification. We used a Zelda-inspired fabric available from Joanns.


GIFBot v4 In Progress!

The fourth patch is currently underway for GIFBot. In this version we’re introducing a number of features:

  • Animation organization options – you may now create folders for your animations and categorize them!
  • Removal of the need for the second oauth token.
  • A back-end database to store your followers and laying the groundwork for GIFBot currency.
  • Follower goals for triggering animations (e.g. every 10 followers you trigger a big celebration).
  • Cheer support for partnered streamers!
  • Updated the video player so that it will no longer display black bars around the videos. Also added a delay field to avoid flicker on load.
  • Improved performance DRASTICALLY – basically cutting CPU requirements in half.

We’ve also been testing a Trivia game in my streams for the past two weeks. It likely won’t make it into this release, but definitely the next. There’s a lot of things I need to tweak and polish. The next version after this will likely be a mini-game setup, including a fighting/racing game and polling.

Project Prepping

One of the worst things is when I start streaming and we spend a crazy amount of time cutting and fusing interfacings. Depending on the size of the project, this can be anywhere from an hour to two hours of preparation before we can even start sewing! That’s quite annoying and not terribly interesting for my viewers. There’s something I like to do though, and that’s to prepare projects ahead of time, then set themĀ aside in storage. When I’m ready to do a project, I reach into storage, pull out the project, and we’re ready to go. Storage is as simple as a 1 gallon plastic ziplock bag!

First, cut out all of the pattern pieces:

Stack them all up and off to the side. You can use chalk to mark the pieces so you know what they go to for each pattern. I wouldn’t suggest packing it with the pattern pieces themselves if you’re going to cut out several projects at once.

Finally, I gently fold it up and stick it into a giant ziplock bag. Now, what I do NOT do is fuse the interfacings. You don’t want to do this, then put it in storage, because it could wrinkle and crease where you have to fold up the longer pieces. Instead, I will take the project out and fuse just before the stream. It doesn’t take long, depending on the project.

This is an excellent way to get a lot of little projects setup and ready for the Twitch stream!

Better Late Than Never?

Ok, so it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I get that’s not ideal, but hear me out! My Twitch channel kind of took off and got crazy in the past few months. I have an average of 30 viewers most nights, so I’ve been putting a lot of time and energy into that effort and less into blogging. That said, I need to do the blog thing more often as I feel it would be a great extension to the stream, including tutorials!

So with that, let’s show off some eyecandy for some of the things I’ve made over the past couple of months:

ID Card Wallet

ID Card Wallet

Darth Crossbody Bag

Darth Crossbody Bag

Squirtle Wristlet

Squirtle Wristlet

Galaxy Wallet

Galaxy Wallet

Galaxy Wallet

Galaxy Wallet

Tardis Purse

Tardis Purse

Sailor Moon Wristlet

Sailor Moon Wristlet