The Timeless Art Of Sewing

by Nicki on January 7, 2009

in Series

almost-lost-domestic-arts1Welcome to the Almost Lost Domestic Arts Series. Today begins the first installment with a look at sewing.

There are some of you reading this that would like to stop reading right now because you don’t think sewing is for you, in fact, you know it isn’t for you. Don’t stop reading. Sewing is not an out-dated art reserved for quilting old ladies or talented tailors; it can be a fantastic (and frugal) expression of your own unique taste.

My history with sewing begins with necessity. I should tell those of you that have not met me in person that I’m pretty short, 5’1″ to be exact. There is not one pair of pants made that is meant to fit a person of my measurements. I love to wear blue jeans, but they are usually about 4-6 inches too long, really not passable unless you’re 15; so I learned to hem my pants. It’s really not that big of a deal, but it does need to be sewn (no double-stick tape … I actually did that in college) to look nice. So I would borrow my mom’s sewing machine here and there to hem pants when I needed to. Next thing I knew I was grabbing old sheets and wondering what I could make them into. Thus began my sewing addiction. Now, I’m not saying you need to be an addict, but sewing is SO useful that it would be a shame to ignore it altogether. Here are few reasons to consider sewing:

  • It’s frugal. That’s a big one for me. This past spring it started to get warm (not until almost June here) and I realized I didn’t have any summer dresses for my daughter. So, I bought an easy pattern and sewed about 5 dresses that all looked different and cute for about $1-2 each. I got familiar enough with the pattern that I could sew a dress in one naptime. 
  • It’s less wasteful. I am constantly repourposing things by sewing them. Things I have repurposed by sewing: old sheets, the cut-off part of blue jeans, old t-shirts and more.
  • It’s personal. I’m not an expert at sewing, but I do it a lot so I’m getting better quickly. The great thing about that is that I can actually make things to give to people. Not only can I make a personal, unduplicated gift, but it generally costs much less money than what I would have purchased.
  • It’s easy to start. If you know of someone with a sewing machine that will allow you to borrow it, all you have to do is press the pedal with your foot. There are plenty of tips that will make your effort more successful, but you’ll learn them once you get going. People that like to sew generally like to show others how to do it. So if you have a mom or grandma that can sew you would probably make their year if you asked them to give you some pointers.

Here are a few easy things I’ve created lately.

Time Out Mat

time-out-close-uptime-out1 With my daughter and nieces running around my small home all week, we really needed this. I needed an exact spot for them to sit on, and I needed the spot to be able to move to different rooms with me. So was born the Time Out Mat. I used 2 fat quarters (18×22″) of fabric and a scrap piece of quilt batting the same size. I layered them like this: time-out Then sewed them together, leaving about a 2-inch gap open. I snipped the extra fabric at the corners then I turned the whole thing right-side out, so the batting was inside, and poked the corners out nice and pointy with a knitting needle (you could also use a pencil). I ironed it then top-stitched the whole thing (being sure I closed the open gap) with a zig-zag stitch. Done.

Initial Skirt

initial-skirt If you want to make this skirt you’ll have to go here and check out Andrea’s tutorial. The only extra thing I did was add a pocket with a little fleece initial “C” for Chloe, of course. Speaking of Andrea …

Andrea over at The Train To Crazy has joined me for today’s installment with Sewing: The Useful Stuff. I first discovered her website through her skirt tutorials, which show how to easily (seriously, not difficult) sew little girl dresses. I sewed some for my daughter and nieces for Christmas (see above). She has some great pointers on sewing and also resources for beginners. You’d be missing out if you didn’t head over there to check out some of her great ideas.

Kate from Curiositys has also contributed to the first part of the series with a really classy dress pattern. If you have a good handle on the basics of sewing you really should head over to see the dress she created. She’s got the pattern and the instructions all listed on her site for FREE! You usually have to pay for patterns so this is a great find. Even if you’re a beginner at sewing it would be worth your while to take a peak at this dress. Kate, what do you think it would cost to buy this dress versus make it? I’d guess at least a $30 difference.

Are you an expert seamstress or maybe you’ve never come within a yard of a sewing machine, why not start now?  If you have a great link to share feel free to leave it in the comments.

If you’re interested in participating in next week’s installment on knitting head over here to see what to do.

Why I do what I do ~ There’s another winter storm headed our way, but I don’t mind. I’m cozied up in the house baking rye bread, roasting a chicken and cuddling with my little girl. It doesn’t get much better than this.Have you liked Domestic Cents on Facebook yet?

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1 Kate January 7, 2009 at 11:02 am

I would say you could definately save at least $30 with the dress. The fabric I got was on sale for $7 a yard, and I got 2.5 yards, $17.50. Then I had to buy the thread, which was about $2, and finally there was the ribbon, which was $1 a yard. So total, this cost about $20.50 to make (without tax). I have seen simialr dresses at Macy’s for $50-$60, and I even saw one similar at Anthropologie for over $100.

One thing that I like about sewing is when I get tired of an article of clothing that I have, or if it goes out of style, I can alter it (ie. take off the sleeves, shorten pant legs to make shorts, add a sash, etc.) and that can curb my desire to buy new clothes. It definately saves me a lot of money.

Thanks for the great post!!

Kate’s last blog post..Almost Lost Domestic Arts – Sewing


2 Courtney January 7, 2009 at 11:52 am

I have the exact opposite problem! I am 6’1”, and pants are rarely long enough for me. I have to look for pants that have enough fabric in the hem that they can be let out. I have always taken these sorts of things to a tailor to do, but it seems easy enough that once I get a little more practice under my belt, I might just try a pair myself!

Courtney’s last blog post..Go ahead and make your resolutions, just don’t annoy anyone with them


3 Livie January 8, 2009 at 10:23 am

I love the little skirts that you made, the are so cute, wicked fun and look very simple to make! :)


4 DRiPpy Chick January 9, 2009 at 7:32 pm

I would recommend that anyone new to garment sewing start with a nightgown or pair of pajamas. If the seams aren’t straight or the buttonholes (if any) aren’t perfect or if it fit isn’t perfect, who cares… you will still have a comfy garment to wear, and a sense of accomplishment.

Some general sewing advice from someone who has three rooms and half a basement in her house dedicated to her textile addiction:

1) always prewash your fabric and dry it in the clothes drier. You want to shrink it as much as possible before you cut it out. Basically, I don’t care if the fabric care label recommends drycleaning… I buy enough to compensate for shrinkage, preshrink and then wash the finished garment as I would any other laundry item. While others will freak at this suggestion, it has worked for me consistently without problems. prewashing also removes the sizing in the fabric

2) borrow as many books on sewing techniques from the library as you can get your hands on and read them voraciously. Even very experienced sewsters (sewists? seamstresses?) can learn new tricks.

3) don’t be shy to shop flea markets, secondhand shops, consignment shops and even IKEA for fabric and notions. Freecycle can also be a good source of materials

4) Buttons can be expensive. I have been known to spend more on the buttons for a garment than for the fabric, lining, interfacing and other notions combined. An otherwise great garment will look like crap if the buttons are crap.

4 a) I have been known to buy second hand clothes that don’t fit me for the great buttons.

5) Crazy quilting is a great way to get rid of bits and pieces of fancy fabrics that you will undoubtedly pick up along the way.

6) Community colleges, fabric shops, quilt shops and even boards of education will all offer beginning sewing classes. Don’t be shy… sign up!

7) Invest in a really good pair of fabric scissors and lock them away where no-one else can get access to them. Use them for fabrics only.

DRiPpy Chick’s last blog post..Credit crunch concept isn’t new… just ask the Romans!


5 Liz January 14, 2009 at 6:00 pm

I am new to sewing and knitting both. Last year I made 3 garments for myself and it was amazing to be able to wear them and share with others that I did it. Thanks for this series I will be anxiously waiting for the next installment.

Liz’s last blog post..3 grocery stores & a trip across town by 1pm


6 Tommy Lee January 16, 2009 at 6:01 am

Hi, Good information on your site for top sewing machine and your post regarding imeless Art Of Sewing — Domestic Cents looks very interesting. I am trying to build a good blog and would love any ideas you have to improve my site.


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