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How to sew: Katie Parrott's beginner sewing tips
If you want to learn how to sew, then you might be wondering where to start. We spoke with seasoned sewer and body positive fashion advocate Katie Parrott to give you her six tips and tricks to help you on your way.
Kit & storage
While there's a huge variety of tools and supplies to tempt keen creators, beginners only need a few items to get started. These staples are:
Katie's Tip 1: If you're going to splurge on one of these items, then make it your pins. Your sewing experience will be a lot more enjoyable with nice sharp pins.
While assembling your sewing tools, think about how you're going to store them. It's important to keep your sewing accessories organised so you can access them easily. Use a pin cushion for your pins, and a bobbin case for your bobbins so they don't scatter throughout your workspace. Good storage keeps sharp tools in good condition, and ensures they're kept away from little fingers and bare feet!
Choosing a sewing machine
No matter your budget or the projects you've planned, Spotlight has a sewing machine that will suit you - but how do you select the right one? My advice is:
- Pick a well-known brand - this way you'll have no trouble getting it serviced or finding the appropriate accessories like feet and needles.
- Think about usage - choose a machine with features that meet your needs, for example, if you're sewing garments you may want an automated buttonhole stitch.
Katie's Tip 2: Choosing a popular brand of sewing machine also means you'll find more tutorial videos online when you need help!
Using paper patterns
Paper patterns are not as tricky as they look!
You can find a pattern you like using the catalogues in store, or look them up online.
Some important things to look for are:
- Sizing - will the measurements fit you?
- Fabric requirements - what kind of fabric, and how much?
- Notions - these are the extra bits you'll use such as buttons and elastic.
Once you've got everything you need, simply cut the pattern out and follow the instructions.
Katie's Tip 3: For your first garment, look for patterns marked 'easy'. There's time to learn trickier techniques once you've mastered the basics.
The most important thing when selecting fabric is to know what it's for - if you're making a quilt, stick with quilting cottons. If you're making a t-shirt, check out the knits.
Spotlight has a LOT of different kinds of fabric, but the ones you're most likely to use are:
- Cotton - excellent for creating garments that will be worn in warm weather because they breathe so well.
- Wool - woollen fabrics come in different weights and blends. Wool is prized for its warmth and softness.
- Linen - softens as it is washed and worn. Look for linen blends if you want fewer wrinkles.
- Jersey - a knit fabric that's soft and stretchy and makes very comfortable garments.
- Rayon - a man-made fibre composed of wood pulp. Rayon is absorbent, breathable, and comfortable.
- Polyester - a synthetic fibre that can be made into anything from fleece to brocade. It's often blended with other fibres to make them more affordable, and easier to care for.
Katie's Tip 4: Don't be afraid to try unconventional fabrics - I've made some awesome garments out of cotton upholstery fabrics! Just check it's compatible with your pattern and go for it!
Having the right cutting tool for your sewing projects is essential.
Your kit should include:
- Fabric Scissors - use these only for fabric so they stay both sharp and clean.
- Craft scissors - for cutting patterns, and any other non-fabric materials.
- Snips - small scissors for trimming threads and neatening.
- Seam ripper - essential for unpicking mistakes!
- Rotary cutters - for cutting long lines and curves. You'll need a mat to go with yours!
Katie's Tip 5: It's worth splurging on your fabric scissors. You'll have lots more fun if your scissors work with you, not against you!
Interfacing is used to add body and structure to a project. In garment sewing, it's used to reinforce cuffs, collars, and waistbands.
There are three types of interfacing:
- Woven - maintains the movement and drape of the fabric it's used with
- Non woven - provides structure and rigidity where it's needed
- Knit - will stretch along with knit fabrics
Interfacing comes in varying weights, each providing a different level of movement and support to your fabric. As a rule of thumb, use light interfacing with light fabrics and vice versa.
Interfacing can be applied in two ways:
- Sew in - ideal when you don't want to alter the feel and texture of your fabric
- Heat bonding - can be ironed onto fabric prior to sewing, making it thicker and stiffer. Not all fabrics can handle fusible interfacing, so do a test swatch if you're not sure
Katie's Tip 6: If you're unsure what kind of interfacing to purchase, ask the friendly Spotlight staff. They'll help you find what you need.
With the right materials and tools, you're off to the best possible start, so what are you waiting for? Head down to your local Spotlight to find everything you need, and join me for the 12 days of Sew and Super Sewing weekend!
For more sewing inspiration, check out our free project sheets here.