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Friday, May 1, 2009

Five Simple Machine Sewing Projects for Beginners

By Julie, Towards Sustainability


Have you begged, borrowed or been gifted a sewing machine that's gathering dust in the corner because you don't really know what to do with it? My mother recently upgraded and gave her old machine to my sister who is looking for some simple projects to get her started, so I thought I'd share a few links for everyone here as well.

Firstly, many people don't have the instruction manual for their machine, so you could have a look at these instructions at eHow.com for generic instructions, or you could Google your machine to see if the manual is available online. Or, if you are a visual learner like me, you might benefit from a few video tutorials on the 'net to watch first: you could try this one at Expert Village, or this one on You Tube.




Next, you might want to practice getting a feel for the machine by doing some random sewing on scraps of fabric. I recommend trying different thicknesses and types of fabric too if you can find them, to help you get a feel for how your machine feeds fabric through the presser foot and how the foot pedal feels.

Now that you've done that, there are a number of simple straight-line-stitching-only projects you might want to try, many of which also make great gifts.

* Napkins and place mats. Bad Human recently posted a fabulous tutorial for making napkins, which I highly recommend having a look at. Use the same technique to make matching place mats using larger pieces of fabric.

* Basic aprons. Try this apron, made out of a pretty tea towel and some ribbon; or this one made from a pillowcase; or there is this one made from a pillowcase and a sheet (lots of how-to pictures in this tutorial). I made a child's full-length apron here, which you could make bigger to adapt to an adult size too.

* Pencil/ crayon/ notebook rolls or holders. These are really simple, and I've been making dozens of them for gifts this year. Try this tutorial for a pencil and notebook holder or this one for a simple pencil or crayon roll.




* A simple tote bag. Here is a dish towel tote bag tutorial; a child's tote bag made from one fat quarter; you could make a Morsbag from an old sheet (this has a great animated tutorial); or this one made from an old pillowcase.

* Wheat bags. These are great for those aches and pains, and are really quick to make. Try this tutorial from Creative Outlet, which includes a lovely little poem for you to type out and attach to the sacks if you are making them for a gift. Too cute.


Lastly, don't forget to re-read Eilleen's terrific post about learning to sew and reconstructed clothing here, she has a great list of links for learning more sewing techniques.

Happy sewing!

16 comments:

Kimberly said...

I had my Grandma's machine for a few years and finally decided last year with all our changes to simplify our lives that I needed to learn to sew. I did a bunch of little projects, but struggled with the machine. Finally, as I was trying to finish up all my Christmas presents with just a few days left, the machine began making a horrible racket. At the worst possible time I had to take it in to be serviced. They were able to fix it as it just needed routine maintenance that it hadn't received since my Grandmother had passed away 10 years before.
Now, while it was a pain to lose the machine at such a crucial time, I was amazed at how much easier everything was after the basic maintenance. My only regret is that I didn't do that when I first started. It was expensive, but would have saved a lot of time and stress and ripping out of seams!
All that to say---get your machine serviced and checked out. They may even have some easy tips to make your life easier--my shop did!

Julie said...

Excellent tip Kimberly, thanks!

linda said...

This is a really great post. I learned to sew as a child in school, back when they had home economics classes. I also had a great aunt who was a seamstress so there was no escaping.
When it came time to teach my own daughter, I bought a learn to sew kit from a homeschooling supply company. The best tip it had was to take lined writing paper and sew on the lines without thread to get a handle on sewing straight lines as well as controlling the pace of the sewing machine.
The first "real" project though was a pair of pajama pants with an elastic waist. I had noticed this was the project used in professional sewing classes so I bought a pattern and sure enough, easier than pie.
However, while I can sew without a guide of any kind for seams, I found that my daughter needed a visual of some sort so I had her transfer the seam lines to her cloth. Once she had that to follow, she did very well, even on curves. She is still a beginner but that is mostly because she has mom to make things for her and very little time. Important thing is that she can do it on her own if she had to.

Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife said...

Julie, it's eerie; as though you'd written this post just for me. Learning some sewing basics is on the list for this year. I've got an old sewing machine from my mom, no manual, and very, very little impetus to get started. But thank you for the resources. Maybe it'll actually happen this year. We shall see...

-Kate

Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife said...

Julie, it's eerie; as though you'd written this post just for me. Learning some sewing basics is on the list for this year. I've got an old sewing machine from my mom, no manual, and very, very little impetus to get started. But thank you for the resources. Maybe it'll actually happen this year. We shall see...

-Kate

Kate@LivingTheFrugalLife said...

Julie, it's eerie; as though you'd written this post just for me. Learning some sewing basics is on the list for this year. I've got an old sewing machine from my mom, no manual, and very, very little impetus to get started. But thank you for the resources. Maybe it'll actually happen this year. We shall see...

-Kate

Annette said...

Thank you for a great post! I have one question though. My machine has some decorative stitch options and when I try them, the stitches are really loose. My machine is very old and yes, I still have the owners manual! Even doing what it says, the stitches are still too loose. any suggestions? (may be too broad a question for this post) =)

Fiona said...

This is great. Already what I was thinking of doing for the bank holiday weekend. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this! I recieved a sewing maching several years ago for Valentine's Day (I asked for it!) but haven't used it because I've been too intimidated. I grew up making simple projects with my mom and grandma who are both experts, but haven't sewn in at least 15 years and now I live too far away to ask for their help. I have been wanting to make napkins and bags, and now I have directions! Thank you!

Elizabeth

Diane said...

Both of my machines were sewing very poorly until I read that old, dull needles could cause problems. What a difference new ones made! I guess I was being too frugal.

Julie said...

Hi ladies, thanks for the comments :-)

Annette - I think you need to take it in to a machine shop to have it looked at if you've already follwed what it says in the manual. It might just need a minro adjustment, or if it very old, something might need replacing? Sorry I couldn't be of more help.

Cheers, Julie

Dakrish said...

I saw that it would cost me some 600SEK (swedish krona) - or 75USD or £50 to service my sewing machiene. So I figured out what they'd do to it, and with a little sewing machiene oil, I can do it at home in fifteen minutes. See here: http://www.ehow.com/how_4544269_clean-oil-sewing-machine.html

Caraline said...

I was just given a sewing machine for my birthday and was stumped at what would be a good project to do for a beginner. This really helped me as I got a bit overloaded from looking at sites and shops which seem a bit more complicated.
Simple great gift ideas. Good for getting to grips with your machine.

sawn61 said...

I don't sew as much as I do other crafts, but when I do take my machine out for a reason, and make something really nice,it gets my juices a flowin'.Then I want to sew more and more. It takes time,I guess, to get into sewing,even if it doesn't REALLY interest you at first.But then certain crafts don't interest everyone.

Anonymous said...

This is a lovely, lovely article! I have a Singer machine handed down to me by my sis-in-law that had been collecting dust for a while on my shelf. But now that i'm on maternity leave, I find working on random beginner projects very soothing. I'm lousy at it still but i think i'll get a hang of it with a little luck and a lot of practice. Thanks so much for the beginners' projects ideas, this is just what i was looking for. I'm going to get started straight away!
xxx
Mimi

faith76 said...

So pleased to have found this blog. Just been given a new sewing machine for christmas and can not wait to start a first project - recycling old clothes of course as actual fabric far to expensive. Can do a straight line on the machine just about so will do some curves then crack on with a first sewing machine project. The crayon role looks great as little present for my niece Beau.