from the book 'How To Start Sewing'


The following is an example excerpt from the book How To Start Sewing.

If you have purchased this book, then you probably need no convincing about all the possibilities that open up to you once you know how to sew. With basic sewing skills, you can repair and alter your own clothing or create simple and stylish accessories and homewares. As your sewing skills improve and become more advanced, you can design and sew clothing for yourself and others to create garments that are unique. As you learn about other areas of sewing, such as fitting and pattern making, you can create your own patterns and tailor garments that fit better than anything you could ever buy straight from a shop.

In the time between learning basic skills and creating amazing garments, it is important to know that a lot of things will go wrong. Sewing is not always easy, in fact, sewing can quite often be hard and frustrating. Fabric won’t behave the way that you expect, needles will break, threads will get tangled, and garments will have all sorts of problems. This experience is completely normal and is not anything to do with you. Even the most professional fashion designers and sewing machinists simply cannot predict and prevent problems 100% of the time.

The good news is that major problems can be avoided, or at least minimised, by learning good sewing habits and by learning the basic principles of garment construction. The trick to being good at sewing is not at all about knowing all the techniques from memory or magically anticipating every possible problem. Being good at sewing requires you to be able to ask the right questions so that you can problem-solve your way through any issue. It is for this reason that by following this book, you will complete a lot of testing and will sometimes learn through trial and error. This process is just like how the professionals work: testing, making mistakes, making changes and improving.

As a sewer, you will never stop learning. There will always be more tips and tricks to learn and better, nicer, more efficient ways of sewing garments. The fact that there is always more to learn and master is part of what many people enjoy about sewing. The challenges are part of the reason why it is so rewarding to sew a garment and be able to say “I made that”. The best thing to do is just to get started. The sooner you start making mistakes, the sooner you can start to solve them and before you know it, you will be sewing garments that make you truly proud.

Different Ways to Learn

People learn to sew in a variety of ways, and this book has been organised to appeal to two very different types of learners. From one perspective, this book is designed for the pragmatists and perfectionists. It will build your skills and knowledge slowly, chapter by chapter, assuming that you have no prior sewing experience. As you work your way slowly and patiently through the book in order, you will be introduced to new equipment and materials that you will then put straight to use in sewing exercises. This process will build your skills and your confidence as you develop careful sewing habits, learn versatile methods and sew key clothing details. If this sounds like how you like to learn, then you can treat the book like a sewing course and just start at the beginning.

This book is also for those of you who prefer to try first, and ask questions later when everything goes horribly wrong. If you have already thrown yourself into learning to sew, then this is the perfect reference book to have at your side for when something breaks, fails or just doesn’t look right. If this sounds like how you learn, then you can just use the Table of Contents and the Index to dive straight into the information that you need. That way you can use the information in the book to sort out the problem you were having and then just keep going. If you learn best by creating projects, you may even want to start right at the end of the book in Part 6. From there you will be guided through the whole process of choosing and sewing your first project.

How To Use This Book

However you like to learn, the main feature of this book is that it is designed so that you learn by doing. This hands-on approach is the reason why the book is filled with equipment and materials lists and has a library of small patterns to create sewing samples. That way you can use the tools and materials used in our examples, and practise sewing techniques with the same pattern shapes that are shown in the exercises.

In practical terms there are a few points you may like to know before you start using this book:

Chapters Build in Order

As we said earlier, the book builds your knowledge and skills in order so some of you may wish to start at the beginning and work your way through, using the book as your own personal sewing course. Just remember, if you aren’t working through the book in order then if you are unsure of anything just refer to the Table of Contents or the Index to find more information. If you open to a chapter and come across new terminology or a method that doesn’t make sense, then it may have been explained in more detail earlier on in the book.

Equipment and Materials Lists

Many sewing books give you a long list of equipment and materials at the beginning of the book, but we think that if you are new to sewing, then this can be a lot of upfront expense. Instead, there are equipment and materials lists spread throughout this book. Each list will describe the type and quantity of items that you need at that particular stage so that you can work through the next group of exercises. This allows you to sew at your own pace, buying new equipment and materials as you work through the book.

Buying a Sewing Machine

A large section of the book is dedicated to explaining and using a sewing machine. You do not have to have a sewing machine before you start reading the book and working through the exercises. If you do not already have a sewing machine, Part 2 is designed to help you to choose a machine that will be appropriate for your needs now and in the future. If you already have a sewing machine, then this section will provide you with an overview of many key features and teach you how to adjust your machine for best results.

Sample Patterns and Sewing Exercises

Many sewing books will show you a technique, but may leave you feeling confused because you don’t know how the method relates to the pattern you are using. To solve this, we have provided small sample patterns for you to use with the sewing exercises. At the back of the book in Part 7, you will find a library of small sample patterns. You can trace off these patterns onto fresh paper, and cut them out in fabric to sew your own reference samples of all the techniques. All of the information that you need on how to trace off and cut out the patterns for the exercises has been included as part of the book, so you do not need to have any prior experience with tracing patterns or cutting out fabric before you begin to read the book.

These patterns are also available as a PDF download so that they can be easily printed.

Key Methods and Details for Professional Results

If you have bought or read other sewing books, then it can be quite easy to feel that you need to know hundreds of very specialised sewing techniques before you can even start to make garments. Even just one look at the Table of Contents of this book may seem intimidating. Fortunately, you don’t need to know everything about sewing to get started, and you also don’t need to know very advanced techniques to be good at sewing. It is important that you understand that when sewing it is better to sew simple details really, really well, rather than use an advanced technique badly. Some of the best garments and most high-end fashion designs in the world use simple techniques perfectly, to produce amazing results.

It is this idea of well-executed basics that has helped us to choose which skills to include in this book. Rather than creating a sewing encyclopaedia that skims briefly over hundreds of techniques, we wanted this book to guide you through all of the most essential sewing skills in great detail. Sewing can be used in a variety of different ways, but in this book we have focused on sewing to create garments. Specifically, we have concentrated on the methods and details that are the most versatile and which give you the most options to play with. Sewing is a series of choices. By learning different techniques and details, you can take a more modular approach to sewing by mixing and matching methods together to create many different types of garments.

As you look at various garments and compare methods in other sewing books, you will also see that there are multiple ways to sew each detail. There isn’t just one “right” way to sew many of these details so you may wonder how we chose the best method to teach you. Whether you are a fashion design student or someone who wishes to sew at home, we have chosen techniques based on what we think will give you the most consistently professional results. The majority of the techniques that you see here in this book are designed to produce the type of quality finish that you would expect to see in the catwalk collections of a high-end ready-to-wear label. This means that the way we talk to you about fabric, the way we explain patterns, the methods for cutting out fabric and the sewing details themselves, are all designed to help you produce a collection of clothing that looks truly professional. We have not included a technique or showed you a shortcut that would undermine your work and make it look amateurish. Of course, it will take a lot of practice to refine some of these skills, but ultimately if the methods are well executed, the results will be comparable to the quality of high-end garments.

The How and Why of Sewing

To truly master any new skill, and to really make it your own, it is not enough to just know how to do something – you also need to know why. As you work through the book you will see that aside from the time spent explaining methods step by step, we will also tell you why you need to do certain things and what the possible consequences are if you don’t do them. In Part 4, you will see that we have grouped many of these examples under different construction “principles”. The aim of this section is to help you to be able to make choices for yourself. Once you know the principles at work behind certain methods, it becomes much easier for you to adapt and change sewing methods to suit your own designs. Once you know the “rules”, it becomes much easier for you to break them.

This is an example excerpt from the book How To Start Sewing.


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