Learning to sew (take 2)

Learning to sew (take 2)

Years ago I met a fabulously wealthy woman who could easily buy couture for just everyday wear. And the way in which she was always impeccably dressed with the most unique skirts (her trademark) and dresses, made me think she did. For the longest time I avoided asking her where she shopped because I knew that I would just have to run to the store only to be disappointed because I couldn’t afford what she could. However, after saving pennies faithfully I decided to splurge on a skirt like hers and asked where she got them.

It is true, her clothes were couture except that they were made for her by her. This chic Frenchwoman sewed all her own clothes!

The shock must have been written all over my face because she invited me over the next week to see her sewing room. She showed me her patterns, her fabrics from around the world as well as some dresses she was working on. For the next several weeks I’d have tea with her as she helped me to sew a skirt. Although my mother had sewn or knitted most of my clothes growing up and I took it in school, as an adult I just never thought twice about sewing things on my own. That is until I, too, had a skirt that was wonderful, quick and easily made. When my skirt was finished I was hooked and wanted nothing more than to have a sewing room filled with fabrics, patterns, mannequins and freshly brewed tea.

But then I moved away and left my friend and her pretty sewing room and my small flats never seemed to have the space for a machine or a box of patterns. Then when I moved to America it seemed cheaper and quicker to just buy most things than to make especially since when I first came (1999) most “home made” things seemed to centre around being crafty (glue guns, anyone?) and practical but perhaps not pretty.

However lately with a resurgence in sewing books and blogs that talk so wonderfully about sewing and making useful, pretty things, I’m thinking about getting into it once more. In fact, on my last few trips to Liberty of London, I’ve spent more in the notations and fabric areas than anywhere else. So it’s time to put that all to use.

Here are a few sewing discoveries I’ve made:

I signed of for A Beautiful Mess’s sewing e-class. Having bought a sewing machine in 2009 and never used it once, I figured this class would be a helpful way to change that.

I’ve collected an embarrassing amount of sewing books. They’re like cookery books – so beautiful that I can’t help it!

Madalyne’s Sewing Blog is gorgeous. What I love is that she offers individual classes to help you get through a project if you’re stuck. I might just have to take one.

Simple Sewing with a French Twist: An Illustrated Guide to Sewing Clothes and Home Accessories with Style (for more images visit the author Celine Dupuy’s site). In love with the wonderful pictures and the beautiful, practical yet easy to make patterns. It has my sense of style with things I’d actually use (or expect to buy at one of my favourite stores) and thought this might be a good intro.

Amy Butler’s In Stitches: More Than 25 Simple and Stylish Sewing Projects was actually the catalyst for me a few months ago. When I saw this book I was really interested in getting back into sewing. Then when I saw what Emira at Domicile had made from it, I was even more interested.

Anna Maria Horner’s blog was the one of the first sewing/pattern blogs I ever read years ago (I think almost 10?) in which she posted about her young daughers newly sewn jumper dress and bag and I swear those photos, that dress and that bag could have been in a magazine (to which I would have said, “where can I buy that!”)

I think of my friend Alicia of Posie Gets Cosy, who sews the wonderful things for her home, herself and her daughter. Her book, Stitch in Time is really beautiful.

The Stitch Lounge has a great post on starter machines and there’s a nice little section on other sewing machines there too (found via Not Martha).

If there are any sewers out there with advice, links or ideas, I’d love to hear them.

(This post originally written December 30th, 2006 but updated because I’m trying to do this all over again!)

alex at hygge house
alex at hygge house

Online since 1995, Alex was one of the first bloggers and has consistently been creating content, sites and communities to share stories that matter. In 2004 she created Hygge House to embrace her Danish heritage by sharing thoughts and inspiration on living well and simply. In 2001 Alex Immigrated to America and currently resides in a 1900’s converted barn on a ranch in the Santa Barbara California mountains.


  1. January 1, 2007 / 1:45 PM

    I would strongly recommend a PFAF machine. They have a beginners series that is really affordable and easy to use. The machines are easily purchased at the chain store Fabric Place. Normally purchasing from a chain would bother me. But they provide wonderful support, free lessons for new customers (and lots of classes), parts are readily available at the store (needles, feet). If you need it( I doubt you will)they can service your machine easily from the store. More importantly, I have moved three times and there is usually a store within 20 miles. I had a Brother for years and just really struggled with it. I have been much happier with PFAF because the design is smart and straight forward. The ladies at Fabric Place have always been willing to answer questions and offer advice. In addition, if you should outgrow your model the purchase value can be applied to another PFAF machine. I am a beginer so the support is worth more than I would save at any other store. Good luck, I love sewing and have made every pillow and curtain in our apartment.

  2. January 2, 2007 / 3:58 AM

    oof… I know exactly what you mean–or at least I think I do. I have all these ideas in my head but know that my pokey machine couldn’t even cope and then I wonder what I’m doing trying to sew!

    I hope you find the courage to chase down your inspiration.

    Blessings on your New Year!

  3. January 6, 2007 / 2:32 AM

    Ooohhhh…follow your dream! I’ve been sewing since I was a child, and as much as I love the home dec and craft type sewing, I still love making clothes. There’s something just so satisfying about it. I love it that it’s coming back in popularity again — sadly, it waned long enough for a lot of the great independent fabric shops to go out of business. As for a machine, Erin hit on the most important aspect of choosing a machine — the dealer support. It won’t matter if you have the best machine in the world, if you have a problem, you need a competent and responsive dealer. Shop around. I’m a die-hard husqvarna viking fan, but I’m sure you’ll find good little machines in all the major brands. Good Luck — looking forward to your future creations!

  4. January 15, 2007 / 7:37 PM

    I may be a little late, but I have the ES2000 (also my first sewing machine and the fulfilment of a lifelong dream!) and I can’t recommend it enough – so easy to use, solid enough to go like a workhorse and the computerisation is a doddle to use! Good luck!

  5. April 9, 2015 / 4:58 AM

    So sweet of you to give me a shout out! I’m so glad to hear that you’re thinking of getting back into sewing. If you have any questions along the way, don’t hesitate to reach out!

    • April 9, 2015 / 10:18 PM

      Thanks, Maddie! Just adore your blog!

  6. April 10, 2015 / 11:07 AM

    I’ve recently decided I wanted to make my own clothes, after years and years of attempting (and failing) because I wasn’t patient enough with it. There’s something wonderful about wearing my hand knit sweaters and socks, and I want to feel that great with the day-to-day things I wear like my skirts and dresses. And, besides all of that, you’re guaranteed to have something that fits you correctly because you can make modifications as you go to get it just right.

    • April 10, 2015 / 5:21 PM

      Here’s to us trying 🙂

  7. April 12, 2015 / 5:51 PM

    Very inspiring! I used to sew a lot as a teenager and in my early 20s, it all started with making clothes (for myself and my girlfriend) for Carnival and this extended into basic trousers, skirts and tops. I never used patterns, just didn’t have the patience for them. So it was all a bit haphazard and took a lot of trial and error. I bought a sewing machine again in 2006 but rarely use it, perhaps to hem some curtains or adjust a duvet cover. My skills are still very basic but once I’m more settled into our new home and my new business etc. I am thinking of getting the sewing machine out again and copy some of my clothes with different materials. Having put on so much weight means that it’s become really hard for me to find nice clothing and I do have ideas for what I would like to wear that fits and looks stylish. Please let us/me know how you are getting on the ABM’s course, I might take that, too. xo

  8. KellyNo Gravatar
    April 12, 2015 / 10:08 PM

    All of Natalie Chanin’s Alabama Chanin books are wonderful. The emphasis is on slow fashion (hand sewn), so if your fingers are ever itching to do some hand work, you will adore Natalie’s glorious patterns and amazing sewing tips.

  9. April 14, 2015 / 6:44 AM

    My grandmother made most of her clothing, along with my mother’s + siblings…although that was quite common for her generation. Sadly, I didn’t have the opportunity to learn with her, and have been wanting to for some time now….especially now with children! Madalyne is amazing – one of my friends designed her site, which is how I discovered her beautiful talents. I would love to learn from her!

  10. April 16, 2015 / 4:42 PM

    I’ve sewn quilts and home decor, but something about sewing clothing is just so intimidating to me! The best I’ve done so far is a pair of pajama pants (very forgiving), a dress for my toddler, and a very simple skirt for myself. I’m so in awe of people who can sew fabulous clothes for themselves!

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