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I am really, really, really trying to overcome my inability to sew. I have books and fabric and a great machine, and yet nothing comes out the way I want it to. Today I tried making a "simple" handbag- looks like a lopsided stocking...I don't know what I am doing wrong. Does anyone have any suggestions on how-to videos perhaps? I have read soooo many books on how to read patterns, etc, but I just can't get it. ANY pointers will help... Help?!

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It sounds like maybe you are just overthinking it.  Too much information can lead to you putting too much pressure on yourself to make something perfect.  Learning to sew is a process.  None of us started sewing and had everything come out perfectly the first time.  My suggestion is to keep sewing and try sewing a variety of different projects.  Maybe start with a simple skirt and/or pajama pants.  Simplicity has a line, actually 2, of patterns that are designed to help beginning sewers.  The lines are called It's So Easy and Sew Simple.  They have lots of different types of patterns for you to try too.

Thanks for the advice, Sarah. I was thinking about doing a skirt next. 

Not so long ago I was also in your position, a total novice. I started by taking a few lessons in basics, of which my first make was a pump bag!!

The internet is a great source, forums, Youtube and blogs. Some magazines have step by step tutorials for beginners as well. But there is nothing like working alongside someone for support, encouragement and knowledge sharing. I still go to my class.

Good luck!

Try getting comfortable with your machine. Don't thread it and with a old needle practice straight seams on paper.
Helps if you make a line and try to follow. Once you are confident with straight lines, work with curves. Try to control the machine ... Then try labyrinths where you have to reverse every times get to the end.

From that you can try a loose shape dress..

Or this easy tissue holder tutorial
I'd try & sign up for a class if you have one locally. Having someone show you in person may just be the boost you need. If you can't afford or don't want to pay for a class, see if there's a time bank in your area. People save "time" in their banks- essentially you do something for one hour for free & you get to put one hour in your bank, to spend on any other hour-long service offered by someone else in the bank, like a sewing class.

Have you looked at the Collette Sewing Book?  It really takes you step by step through the basics, and at the same time you end up with 5 great garments.


Sarah Day

Thank you all for the advice. Sarah- I actually got the Colette book in the mail last week. I can't wait to try it!

I too go to classes. But I am not a total novice and can make things on my own. The main thing is to pick things you are capable of making to start off with. My first successful make was a skirt. I have made some things that have looked lopsided and that I have never worn but little by little you will improve as you make these things. At sewing class I make things that are a little more complicated because I can have help - I love my class!


Without a class I suggest the meringue skirt in the Colette sewing handbook, not many pattern pieces and thorough instructions. You can miss off the scallops if you like and just cut the pattern piece straight at the bottom. Then you only have to hem it, not add the facings (this will make sense when you read the instructions). Good luck!

Try the book  Sewing in a Straight Line by Brett Bara.  It only has projects that can be made by sewing a straight line.  They are not boring projects either, theres clothing, home decore and accessories.  I am currently working out of this book as I am also in a similar situation as you.

All I can say to this is patience and practice. I have been sewing for quite a while, and sometimes I still remake a muslin over and over, and even a finished piece before it comes out right. Also, the steps in your sewing process have a lot to do with how your finished piece turns out. Clipping seams, grading seams, pressing after each seam... these things are all very necessary to get a nice looking finished piece. Honestly, skirts are about as easy as you can go. Don't try any with fancy pleats and whatnot, as simple skirt with an elastic waistband is a great first project. I taught my 8 year old niece how to make one, and she did ok. I would try that, and make a few of them. After you are confident that you can whip them up with no problem, proceed to a skirt with a waistband attached.  Here is a tutorial I just found, this should be a good start.

Stitch By Stitch is a book by Deborah Moebes that presents cute projects as skill-builders.

You start by making a sampler of each stitch your machine makes, and then learning a mitered-corner napkin, I think.  It progresses from there up to a sweet skirt.  That said, I think that with sewing you get faster "a-ha" moments by learning in a class.  Some techniques, such as a blind hem, are easier to understand if shown.  Youtube is also helpful.  If you don't get the presentation, you just move on to a different channel until it clicks for you.  And it's a process.  I've been sewing for more years than I'll admit, and I still learn or re-learn every day.  Sewing is a wealth of information and life-long learning.  Cut yourself some slack.  I've had joys, and I've had projects so terrible they were completely, embarassingly un-wearable.  All that said, I just love sewing!  Stick with it!


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