Notions to Know

There are a lot of crafts and garments that can be made with just some properly cut fabric and stitches, but to expand your repertoire you’re going to need to learn about notions. Notions are basically any non-fabric part of a garment or tool used to create a certain effect.

In this post and this post about buying your beginning sewing supplies, as well as in this video, you’ll find a lot of basic tools and notions that will help you construct a basic craft or garment. Now that you’ve moved onto sewing patterns and are getting a little more advanced, you’ll encounter patterns that call for specific notions to create specific effects. Here are a few that I ran into a lot as a beginner that left me confused or intimidated.

  • Buttons
    Buttons are a basic but important sewing notion for beginners who are learning to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff
    We all know buttons. But actually attaching them to a garment takes a bit of effort – you might want to look for a sewing machine with a buttonhole stitch to make these easier. Some machines even have a stitch to sew on buttons, but personally I usually sew notions like this by hand to gain more precision. There will definitely be a post or two in the future about sewing buttons!
  • Zippers
    Zippers are important basic sewing notions for beginners learning to sew. - Sew Me Your StuffZippers are important basic sewing notions for beginners learning to sew. - Sew Me Your Stuff
    Zippers are a bit of a challenge to learn – even my mother never bothered to sew things with zippers because she never got the hang of it. Really encouraging for me to hear when she was helping me learn to sew. But with some practice and careful reading of the instructions, you can pick it up in no time. Invisible zippers are handy to learn, but sometimes you just need a basic zipper.  Once you learn the process of attaching a zipper, you’ll be opened up to a whole new world of crafts you can make!
  • Elastic
    Elastic is an important basic sewing notion for beginners learning to sew. - Sew Me Your Stuff
    Elastic is generally used to fit a garment or create an effect and can be attached in different ways. You can sew a casing, push the elastic through, and sew it shut. Also you can sew the elastic directly to the fabric, which I find more challenging because sewing on a stretch is never easy for beginners. However, casings are pretty easy and can give beginners a lot of opportunities to get creative with projects!
  • Interfacing
    Interfacing is an important sewing notion for beginners learning to sew to learn. - Sew Me Your Stuff
    Okay, this may not count as a “notion,” technically. If your pattern calls for interfacing, it’s usually listed under the fabric requirements. It’s bought by the yard just as fabric as well. Most patterns I’ve seen will call for fusible interfacing, which is attached to fabric using an iron. Non-fusible interfacing is sewn on. Interfacing is used to stiffen fabric and keep it from warping, such as collars or buttonholes. Once you use it a couple of times it’s no sweat at all!
  • Bias tape
    Bias tape is a sewing notion with a lot of great uses for a beginner learning to sew  - Sew Me Your Stuff
    Bias tape has many wonderful and handy uses, but full disclosure I haven’t really used it for any of them. You can finish raw edges with it, add accents, bind seams, and a lot more. It’s fabric that’s been cut on the bias of fabric so it won’t unravel and has much more flexibility than fabric that follows the grainline. Basically there are a million things you can use bias tape for, and I’m going to make a million tutorials to help you learn them!

Happy sewing!

Learni.st – Learn how to sew starting from step one
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A Bag’s Life Part 1: The Fabric Store

Earlier I shared a post helping you choose your first sewing pattern, which you can find here. Now it’s time to put it into action by demonstrating how to use a sewing pattern to create a bag!

I started by going to my local fabric store and heading to the patterns section, looking for the beginner section. The store provides books full of patterns that you choose from filing cabinets, but beginners get a special section with sewing patterns on display.

Learning how to use a sewing pattern to make a craft is important for beginners learning to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff
I chose a pattern for a bag that was marked “Level 1” for beginner sewists. You can also look for Simplicity beginner patterns or patterns with a label saying “Yes it’s easy!” or something similar. Next I turned it over to check out the notions and fabric requirements.

Learning how to use a sewing pattern to make a craft is important for beginners learning to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff
I’m choosing to do the Market Tote, so I ignored the requirement for the Produce Bag and the optional checkstand loop. Other than that, it seems the only notion I need is thread – perfect!

Learning how to use a sewing pattern to make a craft is important for beginners learning to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff
This pattern calls for less than a yard of fabric, so it’s possible I could peruse the remnant rack for an appropriate fabric. It also calls for webbing straps, which can be found in the ribbon section of the store.

Learning how to use a sewing pattern to make a craft is important for beginners learning to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff
I saw this woven cotton fabric and really wanted to use it, so I forewent the remnant rack and got a cut of this. I decided to do the Medium bag, so I cut 5/8 of a yard.

Learning how to use a sewing pattern to make a craft is important for beginners learning to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff
This is a roll of webbing strap (or something close enough to it!) that’s cut by the yard. I actually got a little extra of this because there were 15 inches left after my 2 7/8 yard cut. If you agree to buy that extra portion, the store usually gives it to you at a discount.

I already have dark blue thread, but at this point you should make sure you have a matching thread for your fabric. Nothing worse than getting home all excited about a new craft only to realize you forgot to buy thread!

And that’s all it takes to get started! I walked out of the store with everything I need to make a new bag, and I can’t wait to get started and share the process with you! Next I’ll be demonstrating how to use the sewing pattern to create a bag.

Learni.st – Learn how to sew starting from step one
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July 2012 Summary

If you’ve just recently started reading the Sew Me Your Stuff blog, you might have missed some earlier posts that have really useful information for any beginner who’s just learning to sew. Since it’s the end of the month, here’s a look back at this month’s posts so you can jump to any that you might have missed and want to read.

Stitches:

Fabrics:

Tools and Supplies:

Next month I’ll start tutorial videos and project guides once I finally get home from China. Thanks for reading, and I’m looking forward to a very crafty August with you!

Learni.st – Learn how to sew starting from step one
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What to Buy on Your Second Trip to the Fabric Store

So you’ve mastered the straight stitch, the whip stitch, the back stitch, and the blanket stitch. You could distinguish a knit from a woven fabric backwards in your sleep. Time to jump on the sewing machine and start cranking out couture clothes right?

Well, not yet!

Once you’ve mastered the basics of stitching scrap pieces of fabric, it’s time to throw some premeditation into your sewing regimen. That’s right, it’s time for a craft.

But what do you need before you even choose a craft? What tools could make this easier?

Like last time, the images will come from JoAnn.com. However feel free to shop at whatever store works best for you as long as their products are good quality. Full disclosure, I got my very first needle and thread set from WalMart. As long as you’re still learning there’s no reason to splurge yet!

1. Sewing Gauge
A sewing gauge is a great tool to assist you if you are a beginner learning to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff
This device is possibly the greatest device in the history of sewing and everything related to sewing ever. Besides the needle and thread. It is the sewing gauge.

Its first and most obvious functions are to measure and to trace a straight line. But its usefulness is much more than that. Notice the thick end in the southwest corner of the picture? That measures 5/8 of an inch across. You probably haven’t reached this level yet, but when you get to sewing patterns and seam allowances you will know that having a quick way to measure 5/8 of an inch is a lifesaver.

Also, when folding and pressing fabric I find it so helpful to slide the blue arrow piece to my desired length and use it to hold down fabric as I press or pin. The combination of the blue slider and the flat edge of the gauge help you keep your fold straight and even. I can’t wait to get home to my sewing supplies and show you how much I love using this tool.

2. Tailor’s Chalk/Chalk Holder
You may find a chalk holder handy as you mark fabric and learn to sew - Sew Me Your StuffChalk is one of your options in marking fabric as you learn to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff

The picture on the left is a tool to help you hold and control your chalk, while on the right you have two bare pieces of chalk. To be honest, when I first bought tailor’s chalk I bought the pack on the right and never thought “Man, I wish I had something to hold this while I hold it.” The sharpener may help, but I always just used scissors to sharpen if needed.

I feel that chalk is most useful for dark fabrics or for fabrics that may not be able to go in the washing machine. It goes on fine when drawing your cutting lines and marks, but I’ve had difficulty being precise with chalk and it pulls on stretchy fabrics which makes it even harder.

So basically it’s perfect for dark woven fabrics, but be careful and be precise!

3. Fabric Markers
Markers are a great way to mark fabric and plan stitches as you learn to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff

I’ll admit, there is a bit of a risk factor when taking a marker to your fabric. When you get to the point that you’re sewing garments you intend to wear or crafts you intend to display, definitely test it first to make sure it comes off.

However besides that I’ve absolutely loved using markers instead of chalk. The lines are more precise and it’s easier to mark clearly without pulling the fabric. This ink will fade and disappear within a day or two on its own from my experience.

The drawback with markers is that they don’t do as well on dark fabrics as chalk does. I’ve tried magic white markers and it was pretty bogus, so if you need to make white marks stick with chalk.

4. Pressing Ham
Pressing hems makes sewing much easier and is required for some projects. A pressing ham will make this much easier as you learn to sew. - Sew Me Your Stuff

I just bought my first pressing ham, and I should have bought it a long long time ago. Pressing helps your seams and edges stay in place, and it’s often difficult to press more intricate parts of a garment or craft with a flat ironing board. A pressing ham will help you with curved seams or seams that are hard to isolate.

Once you have these along with the stitching skills you have already acquired, you can start marking your fabric and planning your stitches to make fabric into magic.

Have a great day!

Learni.st – Learn how to sew starting from step one
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What to Buy on Your First Trip to the Fabric Store

So you’ve decided to take up sewing as your new hobby. You head over to the local fabric and craft store, but the selection and variety of products is just overwhelming. Where do you start?

This post is just a handy list of the items you should buy when you first decide to start sewing. The product images will be pulled from Joann.com, but Jo-Ann is just one of your shopping options that happens to be the one I frequent the most. There’s also Hancock FabricsHobby Lobby, and more.

1. Sewing needles

Needles for hand sewing are an absolute must when first learning to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff
Even when you move to the sewing machine, some stitches can only be done by hand with an old-fashioned needle and thread. For now, you’ll want these as you learn basic stitches and get acquainted with moving thread through fabric. If needed you can also purchase a needle threader, but you’ll get the hang of sticking thread through the eye of a needle faster than you think

2. Thread

Durable thread is a necessity for a beginner learning to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff
The brand pictured (Dual Duty) is what I’ve been using since I started sewing. While you’re learning, you don’t need to worry about matching thread to the fabric, so I would recommend using a bright color that will contrast with most fabrics so that it’s easy to keep track of your stitches. Later when you’re working on garments or accessories, you’ll probably want your thread to blend in, but for now the opposite will benefit you more.

3. New Scissors

A sharp pair of scissors just for cutting fabric will make learning to sew much easier - Sew Me Your Stuff

Scissors that have been used to cut paper will have a hard time cutting through fabric. You should buy a new pair of scissors specifically for cutting thread and fabric and keep that pair separate from your paper-cutting scissors. When you move on to cutting out sewing patterns, you’ll need those paper scissors. But for now use a separate pair for each and start with brand-new scissors for fabric.

4. Remnant Fabric

In most fabric stores, near the cutting station you will find a rack with fabric rolled up and wrapped with a label. This is the remnant rack or remnant table. The fabrics here are too short to be cut (generally less than one yard)  and you can get them for half price. Find a roll of fabric or two that feels easy to manage as you practice your stitches. Alternative: If you have old clothes that are too worn out to donate that you know you won’t be wearing again, those are a great source of scrap fabric as well!

5. Straight Pins

Basic pins will help hold your fabric in place as you practice stitching while learning to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff

These are for holding your fabric in place as you stitch and are necessary for both hand and machine stitching.  You will definitely need these as you progress in your sewing, so it’s best to buy them now.

6. Pin Cushion

A pin cushion will keep your needles within easy reach and minimize frustration as you learn to sew - Sew Me Your Stuff

This one is slightly optional but highly recommended. It is much easier to pull one pin at a time out of a cushion than out of the plastic container, especially in a jam. The attached strawberry is a pin sharpener, which you use by stabbing it repeatedly with the pin.

Completely optional: Pillow Stuffing

When you first learn to sew, pillows are an easy craft for beginners - Sew Me Your Stuff

This is a completely optional object to buy, but I recommend it as one of the earliest crafts I made to practice stitching was small accessory pillows. That way you get the practice and have something to show for it!

These are just the beginning of the tools and accessories you’ll use as you get into sewing, but it’s best to start with the basic necessities rather than overwhelm yourself with things you may or may not actually need right now. And most of these will last as long as you continue sewing, so you could consider them investments.

Once we progress to garment or craft stitching, I’ll share a list of the next batch of accessories you should buy.

Learni.st – Learn how to sew starting from step one
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