Labour of Love

The process of making two aprons from scratch.

It’s been challenging. It’s been frustrating. I almost gave up…many, many MANY times. I’m happy to say that I persevered and even though I would have liked better results (I expect far too much of myself, I’m working on this flaw) the 2 aprons are finally complete:

I made mistake, after mistake, after mistake. Even right up to the very end of the project, when I thought that I had completed my final apron; I turned it around and noticed that I had stitched one of the apron ties to the main body of the fabric. Gggrrrrrr!!! I had to dig deep and find the strength and will to finish those two aprons. I had a moment (it lasted for 20 minutes) when I contemplated throwing away one of the partially completed aprons. I was desperate, disappointed and fed up beyond belief with myself, my supposed lack of sewing ability, the fabric not doing what I wanted, the sewing machine not doing what I wanted, life being unbearable, blah blah blah…..I was at a low point.

I then pulled myself together (somewhat) and felt absolutely horrified at the thought of WASTING FABRIC!! NO!!! Then I began to wonder if anyone kept a stash of projects that had gone wrong, simply to remind themselves of how hideously something had turned out at the first attempt. Out of curiosity, does anybody out there do this? I am genuinely considering creating a fabric room 101-esque stash of reject projects. I dispelled that idea, because it felt too much like giving up (which I cannot stand to do) and that’s when I formed a new relationship with my ‘unpicker’. It turns out that this bad girl was the best £1.25 I’ve ever spent:

My best friend: the fabric unpicker

Those 2 aprons had me unpicking like I’d never unpicked before, as though my life depended on it. I could easily call myself a master unpicker. If you need stitches unpicking, I’m your girl. I essentially more than doubled the time needed to complete both aprons, because I had to unpick the majority of my work. What I can say is that this experience has taught me never to be afraid of unpicking. This might sound strange, but I had this idea that every stitch I made HAD to be perfect FIRST TIME. That the calibre of sewist was directly proportionate to the number of times you made a perfect project. Now I know that thought was completely ridiculous, because there is no perfect project and there will always be mistakes.

I should never be afraid to unpick stitches that are not correct, because as I have experienced, it can be the difference between completing a project that I am proud of and binning a project altogether. These 2 aprons will always be remembered as my first sewing labour of love. They taught me patience, the importance of paying attention to detail, the art of taking my time and they also showed me the full extent of my love for sewing. They are going off to wonderful homes where I am know that the love and appreciation for these handmade treasures will far outweigh the love, care and hard work that went into making them.

I have now made 5 projects in the 13 days since my sewing adventure began. I have already compiled a list of projects that I wish to complete. I am really itching to start making clothes and I must admit that in the early hours of the night when my insomnia had firmly taken hold, I started to peruse blogs of other sewists whose sewing skills I greatly admire. One particular blogger had made ‘The Bettine’ dress from a pattern by Tilly and the Buttons. I love the style and the pattern is ‘easy,’ so a great first garment for me to make.

I am currently awaiting the pattern’s arrival and it will be one of the projects I will start in the next few weeks. I am very excited to see how it turns out. Shout out to Emily, writer of the blog, ‘Self Assembly Required’ for posting about her experience using this pattern. It definitely helped me to find my first garment pattern. While I wait for ‘The Bettine’ pattern to arrive, I will start on my next project: pillowcases. I am anticipating that they will be simpler to complete than the aprons and provide a much needed break from my ‘best friend’ the unpicker. It has been said that absence makes the heart grow fonder…

First Unsupervised Project

My experience sewing solo. No workshops, just me at home with my sewing machine.

A few days ago, I started and completed my first unsupervised project. It was another ‘envelope’ back cushion and the results were not too shabby. I could easily pick apart (pun intended) my project and be really hard on myself, but I will resist the temptation to do so. I have to be realistic: it’s my third EVER sewing project, it’s my first ever time following the instructions and creating it by myself, PLUS I finished it within 3 hours. I’m very proud. Here is the finished product:

‘Envelope’ back

My mum will be the lucky recipient of this cushion, along with my one of the items of my next project that I’ll start today, which is 2 aprons. For the aprons, I have had to create a pattern using the original, completed project, as I was not provided with the dimensions for the material. This has meant pushing myself further and taking the initiative to start learning more sewing skills. I’m very excited for where this will take me in terms of upcoming projects (pillowcases followed by a simple gathered skirt, perhaps).

Remember when I wrote about my unsuccessful use of the overlock stitch on the sewing machine, during my first unsupervised sew, which prompted the purchase of the overlocker? Well, I have to admit that I am now very happy with my decision to purchase the overlocker. An expense that I could perhaps have done without, however the results are brilliant. See for yourself:


Now that I have proved to myself that I can really sew, that it’s not just a fluke that occurs when I’m in a sewing class, I am ready to start the next project. I’ll let you know how it goes. My sewing adventure continues.

Overlocker Arrival

The unboxing of my new overlocker.

The overlocker has arrived. My thoughts: ‘What a complicated looking machine.’ It has come ready threaded, which I am extremely thankful for because threading that machine is the last thing I need. I just want to crack on with my sewing. I’m really eager to get going as I’ve really missed my time away from the sewing machine (is that a normal feeling??). I will give the instruction booklet a quick read and I may even watch parts of the instruction DVD. What are weekends for, if not to get to know your overlocker better?

My overlocker of choice is a Brother 1034D. The online reviews were quite good but I must admit that the deciding factor was the price. I get married in 4 months time and with a wedding to finish paying off for, I am barely justifying my sewing purchases. My motto is ‘A happy wife-to-be makes for a happy life with me.’ If I were to go on looks, which is all that this newbie can really go on, this overlocker appears to be able to do the job. When the time comes to eventually re-thread, the clearly marked, color-coded pathway of arrows should make it a relatively simple task. Here are some photos of the new arrival:


Just like the sewing machine, it was well packaged in order to avoid any damage in transit. I also received an instruction manual, warranty and instruction DVD. Plus, a bag filled with various accessories that I cannot name for lack of adequate knowledge, and I don’t imagine I’ll be using them any time soon:

Instruction manual, warranty and instruction DVD
Goodie bag
Foot pedal

Overall, I am impressed with the product so far. I definitely intend to get my money’s worth. There are sessions running at various venues in my local area that enable you to bring in your overlocker and get advice on how to use it. If I struggle to get to grips with the main functions of the overlocker then at least I have a backup plan, but that shouldn’t be necessary. I’m hoping to learn as I go along. Sigh…being a complete novice can be excruciatingly painful and frustrating – I just want to fast forward past this stage, but I know I’ll get the hang of this eventually. Enough procrastination, it’s time to sew. Fingers crossed, my next post will be another completed project.


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!