Unsupervised Sewing

Trying the overlocker for the first time and seeing the results.

Basic sewing kit: Check!

Sewing machine: Check!

Fabric and accessories required for projects: Check!

Skills required to complete the projects: Lacking….

…Or perhaps that’s just what it feels like going it alone for the first time. So far, I’ve been working under the guidance of experienced tutors in a really supportive environment. It’s only normal that I would encounter problems when sewing unsupervised for the first time. This is the logical part of me reasoning with myself in hindsight. At the time, I was very frustrated, to say the least. I had started my first project, the cushion, and had gotten to the part where I needed to overlock two sides. I do not own an overlocker and had made sure to obtain advice on how to ensure the edges of the fabric did not fray. I was shown on the sewing machine I eventually purchased how to use an overlocking stitch on the fabric. I felt confident that I could achieve the same result at home. I was aware that it would not be as pristine a look but that it would do the job. Well…see for your self:

Attempt number 1:IMG_2843

Attempt number 2, which turned into a practice when I realised I’d messed it up again:

Attempt number 2

There were multiple attempts that followed, but none of them much better (some much worse) than the examples shown above. After spending an inordinate amount of time trying to perfect my skill with the overlocking stitch, I decided that enough was enough. I would buy an overlocker. The results when using one were so much better:

Results using an overlocker

This really made me disappointed in myself, because it felt like the classic case of the newbie who enthusiastically purchased everything. It still feels that way. SO much so that 3 days after this frustrating defeat, I’ve not picked up my sewing where I left off. My overlocker arrived today and I couldn’t even bear to open it. Having read through my earlier posts, it has given me the push I need to continue and reminded me that there will be moments in my sewing journey that I find challenging. However, I must persevere. In any case, the overlocker has now been purchased and if it helps to remove a barrier that has stopped me from sewing for 3 days, then so be it. Judge as you wish! I’ve grown accustomed to using an overlocker and it would have eventually been purchased at some point.

I have been researching beginner’s dressmaking and sewing courses in my local area and have come across one that starts in April that will enable me to learn and practice the basics. Overlocking stitch, you may have won the battle, but you will not win the war! I’m taking the easier way out for now to avoid discouraging myself any further, but I will continue to practice the overlocking stitch on the sewing machine. I know it will come in handy one day. In my opinion, if I can’t get the basics right then I’ll struggle to advance. Fancy machines can only get me so far. Tomorrow, I will continue my project and also find out what’s waiting for me inside this box:

The boxed overlocker

Basic Beginner’s Sewing Kit

My very first sewing kit. Only the basics that I required.

I’ve started searching for a sewing machine and to be honest, I wouldn’t be sorry if I never clapped eyes on one again. The sewing machine market is a minefield and quite frankly, I need a break from the search. I have decided that I definitely want to take up sewing as a hobby and in order to do this, I will need to get a basic kit. Purchasing the sewing machine is on the to-do-list, but I need a bit more than just the machine.

I had a meeting with the HR department at my work, so I decided to have a stroll into the small town near my work place beforehand. I went into the only sewing shop I could find and asked the lady at the counter for help…I literally looked like a lost child stood in this shop. I explained that I was completely new to sewing, having attended one class a few days earlier. I stated that I was extremely enthusiastic and wanted to buy the bare essentials that would enable me to start sewing (minus the sewing machine). The lady looked at me sympathetically and then proceeded to show me a few essential items that I would need.

Sewing chalk and all manner of equipment were mentioned, but it was agreed that I would not need to purchase such things until I became much more advanced and proficient in sewing (one can dream). I will need a few other items when I purchase a sewing machine (bobbins, sewing machine needles) but I personally don’t think any of those things are necessary until I have chosen a particular machine. I won’t need thread just yet because I’m not starting a project at home, so I do not even know the colours that I will need (the classes I attend provide the material and equipment needed). As you can see by the photo, I only got the bare essentials:


In the photograph you will find the following items that I believe will be sufficient for my particular sewing needs:

  • Pin cushion – absolutely essential for making sure I don’t put my pins all over the place, only for one to end up lodged into a body part. I can do without a trip to A&E. Health and safety first!
  • Pins – useful for keeping pieces of fabric together before sewing. I’m told that there is a technique called tacking (I believe this is when you sew a few temporary stitches to hold fabric in place before permanently stitching them together) which can also do the job, but it sounds like a lot of effort. I’m sure there is a place for tacking and that I’ll learn this at some point, however, pins it is for now. I chose glass headed pins, so that if I accidentally left one in and decided to iron over it, melting would not be an issue as with the plastic headed pins.
  • Tape measure – to help me measure out fabric. I’m not so bold as to believe I’ll be making any items of clothing for quite a while. However, when I do, this will come in handy.
  • Seam ripper – to unpick/undo any erroneous stitches, of which there may be many.
  • Scissors – to cut fabric and thread.

The brand of my items does not particularly interest me at present, firstly because I wouldn’t know which brand was better than another. Also, because the most important thing is that I start sewing. By spending a small fortune and creating barriers for myself regarding brands and their affordability, I’ll never sew. My lack of ability is barrier enough and so far, it’s not posing a problem for me.

Although, the lady at the sewing shop informed me that ‘Fiskars’ was a very good brand of scissor, even trying to flog their £35.99 pair to me. In my head I thought: ‘Those scissors need to be made with either gold or silver before I even consider spending so much on something I can buy significantly cheaper.’ In reality, I opted for a pair that was closer to the bottom of their range and more reasonably priced. I do understand that having a good pair of scissors will enable me to cut the fabric much better but as a newbie having to buy EVERYTHING, I want to keep my costs down as much as possible. I’m not saying this is all that I will need, but for now it will do and it’s exactly what I want – the bare essentials.

My First Ever Sewing Machine

The unboxing of my very first sewing machine.

Initially, the search was tedious, the machines varied and the information confusing. I spent four days researching online; watching YouTube reviews, reading reviews from various sewing bloggers, visiting brand websites and reading the machine descriptions. In the end, I was so confused and almost at the point of discontinuing the search when I remembered this simple fact: if you don’t know…ask! By ‘ask,’ I mean ask a person.

Over the last four days since I had attended my first sewing class, I had met some very knowledgeable people who would have given me a wealth of information regarding choosing a machine. For what I imagine was a combination of convenience’s sake and the natural response of our generation to immediately Google/YouTube information, I had overlooked people with years of industry experience in favour of the internet. Don’t get me wrong, the internet has its place when it comes to researching and I did find out lots of information, but I was suffering from information overload. I needed to find out the relevant information that applied to my specific sewing needs and goals.

It was when I attended my second sewing class that I took the opportunity to ask the tutor’s advice on sewing machines. I was the only person in the class, so I had lots of time to pick her brain. After discussing my budget and my sewing aspirations (probably not the right word to use, as I’ve not set very ambitious goals so far) I was pointed in the direction of a bottom-of-the-range Juki. I was told that despite it being at the lower end of that particular brand’s range, it was certainly not what you would expect from a cheaper machine.

I was informed that this manual sewing machine would allow me to develop my skills whilst providing me with exactly what I needed: an uncomplicated, hard wearing machine that would continue to make sewing appealing for me. I was informed that it had an automatic needle threader, so no struggling to thread the needle. An automatic bobbin winder, again less faffing around, and a built-in LED light to help me see better when sewing. Threading the machine would be simple, with arrows directing me at every step. I was told that it can sew buttonholes and has lots of fancy stitching, which only vaguely makes sense to me at the moment. Essentially it would do what I needed it to do: stitch in a straight line, reverse, start, stop and be as hassle free as possible.

The make-shift handle fashioned out of webbing

I asked to use the machine for the duration of the class, in order to complete the project and I’m really glad that I did. So if my first piece of advice is to do your research, and my second is to ask an actual person who knows about sewing/sewing machines, my third is to try the machine before you buy it. I used the machine for two and a half hours and fell in love with it, because it was just so simple and easy to use. I never struggled to figure out how it worked. I made mistakes with it and rectified the issues easily. I also knew it would be a machine that I wouldn’t be afraid to use for fear of breaking it – something that I think is important as a newbie because I’m bound to do something wrong at some point. I took the machine home, set it up and spent the entire evening practicing my newly learnt skills.

I can’t currently give much of a review, because I’ve had the machine for less than 24 hours. Plus, this is my first machine and I have nothing to compare it to. At my current skill level, I am happy for a machine just to turn on and work when I want it to. As my skills and knowledge of sewing and sewing machines improve, perhaps I can offer some insight into whether or not this was really a good investment. However, judging from the advice I received from the tutor, the online reviews I found and my own limited experience of this machine, so far it has been money well-spent. Time will tell and I will keep you updated. I must say that I was particularly impressed with how well packaged the machine was. Especially because I hadn’t planned on buying a sewing machine that afternoon so was ill-prepared to transport it home: imagine one newly made project, 2 bags of sewing supplies to start two projects at home (a cushion and two aprons as made in my classes), plus my handbag and a bus ride home.

I did pick up some more items to add to my basic essentials, which were now necessary to purchase, due to the arrival of the sewing machine. They were some bobbins (the machine came with 3 but I didn’t realise until I opened the box at home), sewing machine needles (I’ve been advised to change the needle after every project, to ensure the quality of work is maintained and not lessened by a blunt needle) and some thread to match the fabric for my projects. Combined with my earlier purchases, I am now all set to sew. I can’t wait to really start using this machine. I’m excited to look back at my initial posts in 6 months time and hopefully see how much I’ve progressed. I’m officially ready to start sewing at home. It’s the start of a new relationship for me and my Little Juki. Will it be a match made in sewing heaven? I do hope sew!


My Second Project

My second sewing workshop attended and my second project completed.

I was apprehensive about attending the second class. The first time, I made an ‘envelope’ back cushion. This time, I would be making an apron. I might as well have set myself the task of making a jacket from scratch, because that’s how daunted I was about this next project. I wanted a challenge, but I was starting to think that my second project should have been to make a cushion with a zip. Building on the foundations of what I had learned days earlier may have been the better option, but no. When I arrived at the class, I happened to be the only person attending which meant that I got 1:1 tuition. I used this time in order to ask advice about sewing machines and was given the opportunity to use a Juki HZL-353ZR-A for the duration of the class, in order to test the machine and see how I got on with using it.

Much like the first class I attended, it was amazing. All I could think about was completing my project (no stress or anxiety related to any external factors) and I became even more determined to progress with sewing. I made some mistakes along the way, but I easily rectified them, sometimes with guidance and sometimes by using my own common-sense and initiative. As you can see from the photos, I completed the project: an apron with adjustable tie and usable pocket:

My second project: Too precious for me to ‘use’ just yet.

I was so inspired by my achievement that I decided to purchase a sewing machine (the Juki HZL-353ZR-A I had been using throughout the class) and immediately went to Anglia Furnishing Fabrics and Anglia Fashion Fabrics. Both shops are across the road from one another and enabled me to purchase the resources I needed for the new sewing machine, along with fabric and accessories to start my own projects at home. I was clueless about the length of fabric I required and even the types of fabric I should use, in order to create another cushion and two more aprons. Despite this, the ladies in both shops were patient and helpful, even giving me some much needed tips. I left the sewing class feeling very proud of myself and I was inspired to continue sewing. I felt as though I really was capable of getting better and completing more projects. I also left having found the missing piece to my puzzle; a sewing machine, or ‘My Little Juki’ as it is now affectionately called.

My new purchase – someone remind me that I’m still paying for a wedding!

I have booked another class for a week’s time to create a third project. In the meantime, I will get to work solidifying and practicing the skills I have already learned, only this time I’ll be doing it without supervision. Wish me luck!

My First Project

My very first sewing time sewing and the project I completed.

The class was amazing! Not only did I have so much fun, it was exactly what I needed to stop the thoughts that are constantly playing in my head, like a broken record. It was two and a half hours of bliss. No feelings of anxiety and absolutely no stressing about work!! Just me, a sewing machine and two other ladies who were refreshing their sewing skills. Here’s the final result. Every stitch my own work. A Norwich City Football Club inspired cushion, before the derby tomorrow against Ipswich Town:

‘Envelope’ back

I am told that this is called an ‘envelope’ back cushion (because the back resembles the back of an envelope) and I am extremely proud of myself. I must admit, I did think I would be the first person in the history of Makeplace to leave without completing a project. As it turns out, I took to sewing much quicker than I imagined.

During the class, we used top-of-the line, computerised, Juki sewing machines. I’d never heard of the brand before, but I was told the majority of the clothes we purchase in shops are made on a Juki. Apparently, they are industrial sewing machines and even make an appearance in the factory on Coronation Street, ‘Underworld.’ I’m no sewing or television soap aficionado, so fact-check away with those pieces of information. What I do know is that the sewing machines had so many buttons and settings that they practically make the garment for you.

All I have to compare these machines with is my mum’s ancient Singer, which she adores and refuses to change. It’s the type that requires lubrication, and inserting the bobbin, threading the machine and getting the machine to work requires PhD level knowledge of sewing machines. In short, it’s never made me want to take sewing up, but instead had the opposite effect and made me never want to go near a sewing machine.

I saw and used an overlocker for the first time. It’s a complicated looking machine with lots of thread going into and coming out of it. It can cut the fabric whilst stitching the edges to avoid fraying. The overall look is neat and professional. It was like a miracle machine. It made my work look amazing. Note to self – learn more about overlockers. All in all, a successful class and I’ve left feeling inspired. More importantly, I’ve caught the sewing bug. So much so, I’ve booked myself in for another class next week to make an apron.

This will be project number 2 and I absolutely cannot wait. In the meantime, I think I’ll start looking into purchasing a sewing machine. There’s no point learning a new skill without having the ability to practice it. I’m aware that there are lots of different brands, price ranges and types to choose from, but surely finding the right sewing machine for me can’t be that complicated? Time to find out. Let the search begin.

…and Sew it Begins…

Where it all started. The beginning of my love for sewing.

I’ve suddenly found myself with more time on my hands than I imagined. Ordinarily, I work full time but that’s all changed indefinitely. Long story short, my job has caused me to burn out and as a result, I’ve been signed off work for 3 weeks. This, incidentally, is the exact amount of weeks I have left to work my notice. I am home at the start of the working week wondering ‘What next?!’ The thoughts going around in my head like a merry-go-round are: ‘Do I even want the same job? Should I change career? You get married in 4 months, you NEED a job NOW, forget a career change! SO…WHAT job? Do I even want the same job??!!’ I think you get the gist. Suffice to say, I need an activity to calm the frenzied, panicked voice in my head that’s stuck on repeat and simply will not shut up. Something that will relax me and enable me to recover from the symptoms of stress that I’ve unwittingly accumulated, like spare change in my purse: insomnia, panic attacks, anxiety, tearfulness…

It’s been on my mind for the past 2 months to take up sewing as a hobby, but with very little spare time, this has been impossible. I have the spare time now, and I certainly would benefit from a pastime that could help to improve my mental health and well-being. A quick Google search looking for beginner sewing classes has led me to a learning venue called Makeplace . They offer a variety of beginner and intermediate classes and at the end of the class, you leave having completed a project. This is exactly what I’m looking for; a two and a half hour session that will give me a taste of sewing. If I don’t like it, I never have to attend another class, I won’t have invested any money into equipment and I at least go home with a new piece of soft furnishing to add to my burgeoning collection. I’ve taken the decision to book into a class for the Saturday. Now to wait….I’m very excited!