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Finding yourself with a new sewing machine but nowhere to go for lessons? I’ve had so many people reach out to me to ask how to get started, I thought I’d share a bunch of great digital resources to get you started!
But first, how did I get started?
I started sewing with a machine back in 7th grade. We had home-ec lessons year round in 7th and 8th grade, with one semester focused on sewing and the other two semesters on cooking. I desperately only wanted to do sewing lessons, but sewing and cooking was in the same classroom and of the 20-30 people in our class, I was the only one who voted for sewing classes when given the choice. Sewing was what your grandma did anyway. Definitely not for the teen growing up on Green Day and Smashing Pumpkins.
My mum was an excellent hobby seamstress who, when I was a kid, went to weekly Bernina Club meetups, subscribed to Burda magazine in German (and eventually English when the translation came out), made both my Leavers (Prom) dresses, and probably helped instill a love of sewing from childhood. While she declared she would teach me to sew, her passion was mostly in doing it herself, so I ultimately jumped in and tried it myself – sometimes to her chagrin when I would try to work and subsequently fix the serger (overlocker) by myself. (As a parent of young children who want to know how to sew, I understand LOL).
Back when I was first learning to sew, the Internet hadn’t come out. I would have benefited from reading some how-to sewing books, and I’m not sure why I didn’t because I’m sure my mum had a library of them going. But I’ve also always been a feet-first type of person, so I would skip over instructions such as “line up these arrows with the grain,” opting to Tetris the pieces onto the fabric in whatever direction fit best. (Don’t do that!)
My main sewing hobby when I was in high school was toy making – stuffed bears, hobby horses, dolls, and muppet sized puppets generally topped the list. In uni (college) I would make the occasional dress or costume too.
Once I moved to the US (2005) I didn’t really sew again until I got married and bought my own machine (2008). From there I did home dec projects, bag making, and took out a Burda subscription, though the outfits I made were pretty disastrous. I did end up submitting one of my bags to a competition and won a 3 month subscription to PowerSewing (back in 2010!). This was one of the first paid online-sewing video services that came out and was a total game changer. While I didn’t watch nearly as many of the shows as I should have during my subscription period, I learned so much from all the things expert sewing educator, Sandra Betzina (and Ron Collins) taught.
Some time after that, I took an in person pattern drafting course at G-Street Fabrics in Maryland, and then after Craftsy (now Bluprint) came out, I bought tons of amazing classes from there (they didn’t have a subscription option back then).
Online Classes to Get You Started
I am of course still a believer in just trying things – you can watch all the things you want online, but there’s still so much learning that happens when we just try things and make mistakes, and try try again. (I’ve been reading Angela Duckworth’s Grit, so some of her talk might be resonating right now!)
But it’s still super helpful to have a place to start, and then a place to go to for refining your skills and learning the right way to do things (note, with sewing there’s often more than one way to correctly do something… though there a plenty of ways to do things wrong too!).
Here’s a roundup of some excellent beginner classes/courses you must try out!
Sign up with promo code before May 20th to get 1 month free (you’ll need to cancel before your month is up if you don’t want your subscription to continue)
There are now SO many courses on the Bluprint (formerly Craftsy) platform, it can be hard to work out where to begin. Note, they currently have free streaming with no credit card required (I’m not sure until when as it seems to be popping up frequently!) I’m going to recommend the following ones to newbies:
- Sewing Machine Basics with Amy Alan
- Serger Basics with Amy Alan
- 40 Techniques Every Sewer Should Know with Gail Yellen
- 20 Things to Know Before You Sew with Janet Pray
- Sew Confident: Essential Techniques for Beginners with Angela Wolf
- Fabric Know-how: Choosing and Using Your Favorite Fabrics with Sandra Betzina
Similar to Bluprint though I find CreativeBug classes tend to be shorter and geared more towards beginners overall. It’s a pretty new platform compared to the others, so the video quality tends to be better and with more instagram-like prettiness.
- Sewing Machine Basics by Liesl Gibson
- How to Sew Zippers by Liesl Gibson
- Fabrics 101 by Liesl Gibson
- Seam Finishing 101 by Cal Patch
- Pressing and Finishing Seams by Liesl Gibson
Teach Yourself to Sew
Teach Yourself to Sew with Threads Magazine – This one was also a pretty early player in the online sewing space – in fact, I watched the first series before Threads realized they could charge people to watch it! Right now, you can get the first three episodes for free (not sure when this one expires).