Beginning Sewing without Breaking the Bank

Sewing Practice Does Not Require Much Money at All!

Let's talk about the bare minimum needed to get started in sewing!

The very first complete piece of clothing I ever sewed was a long-sleeved blouse with a peter pan collar. Hey, it was very stylish in 1962! It was what every well-dressed eleven year old girl was wearing. Everybody needed a well-fitted white blouse, and I was going to sew my own!

So, first of all, what kind of sewing equipment did I use? Well, I had a Simplicity(tm) brand sewing pattern that I had been given. My Mom let me have a needle, a spool of white thread and a white sheet that didn't fit any of our beds. She made me a pin cushion using a mayonnaise jar lid, some cotton puffs and a bit of cotton fabric. She gave me several of her straight pins, and she lent me her scissors.

And I had a LOT of determination.

How I Started Sewing Cheaply Step-by-Step

Each commercial sewing pattern has an instruction sheet included, and Simplicity(tm) brand patterns have nicely written instructions. So, first thing, I sat down and studied the instruction sheet thoroughly. Then, following those instructions, I pinned the pattern to the sheet, carefully cut out each necessary piece, and began sewing with my needle and thread. I made a blouse that turned out very well -- not perfect, but totally wearable.

Image of sewing scissors, pin, and two spools of thread

The project would have been easier if I had had a few other items. A good lamp would have made it easier to see my stitches and form them more carefully. If I had owned a thimble (and made myself use it!), there would have been fewer stops to rinse bloodstains out of the fabric (from pricking my fingertips).

I could have used commercial interfacing to make the buttonhole strip smoother and crisper, had I owned it, but I made do by using an extra layer of my fabric instead. New buttons would have lasted longer, because I remember one of the ones I had recycled from an old shirt breaking a few weeks later.

Just Do It! The Things I Learned by Jumping In

But I was thrilled with what I had accomplished. And I had learned a lot. I learned how to do these things, all by hand:

  • Thread a needle
  • Tie a dressmaking knot in the thread
  • Sew seams with a straight stitch
  • Overcast the fabric edge to prevent ravelling
  • Sew a hem
  • Make buttonholes

The handmade buttonholes were a bit wonky, but you couldn't tell when it was buttoned!

Picture of pink sewing scissors

I learned from my Mom that the handles of dressmaker shears are offset, so that the blades can slide along the table. This allows you to cut without lifting the fabric off the table, which distorts the fabric.

I also learned that it's faster to remove poor stitching and replace it with better formed stitches when you first see the problem, than to forge ahead, because then you have to return and try to straighten things out later, when seams crisscross each other and there are more pieces of fabric and other items to get in the way.

So you see, sewing can be done with very basic, inexpensive tools. Clothing can be produced with little more than needle, thread, fabric, and a passionate desire to sew. Other things do help, but don't let the lack of a fancy sewing/embroidery machine or overlock serger hold you back. Get started and add equipment and notions as they become necessary, and most of all, enjoy yourself!