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.