How I Learned to Sew

I have been sewing for a long time. I am not an expert, but I am experienced in both trial, error, success, and failure, so I do consider myself some kind of resource for those new to sewing. (In fact, if you’re looking to learn how to sew, read about my fledgling sewing school here).

In today’s blog post, I thought that I would share my story about how I got my start as a sewist.

I learned to sew by hand at an early age, around the age of seven or so. I had this awesome book called Things to Make and Do and it was filled with craft projects, including sewn projects, that l admired and imitated.

Sock Doll instructions from Things to Make and Do

Once I made a sock doll out of one of my dad’s old socks. The results were less than satisfactory and Iooking back now, I see that my sewing projects were wanting because I refused to sew on a machine (and because my hand sewing was shoddy at best).

The sad truth is that I didn't learn to use a sewing machine until I was seventeen.

And l often lament the fact that I picked up this skill so “late” in my life. I was always crafty, my mom always owned a sewing machine, and my grandmother was a skilled seamstress. The only excuse I had was that I was afraid of the sewing machine, and this is so funny to me now because I have taught kids as young as five how to use a sewing machine!

Anyway, I finally got over my irrational fear in high school by doing simple projects like resizing t-shirts and making totebags for my school books. Once I started, I was hooked. There were weeks where I would stay up till 2am working on a project that I could wear to school the next day.

When I was a junior in high school, my parents bought me the sewing machine that I learned to sew on. I still have it and use it as my teaching machine when I teach students who don't own a machine yet. This sewing machine is a Kenmore from Sears we got for about $300; this is more than I recommend a novice sewist to spend on a machine, but by this point, I had already been sewing for many months on my mom's old machine and felt ready for something of my own.

The Sewing Machine my parents bought for me when I started fashion school

I did a lot of experimenting and self teaching in my first year as a new sewist. I learned through trial and error and by following tutorials I found on a craft forum called I still have projects up there, here and here.

This is a skirt I "knocked off" from a skirt I already owned.

This is a plush stegosaurus I shared on in 2008.

I later learned proper sewing techniques from Mrs. Carter’s Clothing 1 class during my senior year in high school. That year, I had major senioritis and finally let myself take a fun, non-academic elective for a change.

In Clothing 1, I learned to read a sewing pattern, how to install a zipper, and other techniques to create sewn products with more professional finishing. Up until then, I was kind of winging it, but after that class, I had a better understanding of the craft. And I loved it.

This is the pillow we made as our 2nd project in Clothing 1. It has a zipper closure in the back

One day, a representative from FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) visited our class to tell us about their academic progams to study fashion design. I was so intrigued! Nevermind the cost of tuition, but it was the first time I thought of pursuing a career in a creative field.

But it didn't happen. I was eighteen and had already said yes to undergraduate study at a “proper” university. That fall, I started school at UCSD, eventually completing a bachelor’s in Psychology four years later.

During those four years in college, my sewing machine collected dust. Except for the year I made Halloween costumes for myself and some friends, and the year I spent in a Sorority making pillows for sisterhood, my sewing hobby took a backseat in my life.

And then I graduated. And I didn't know what to do next. It was a confusing time for me, but a very important one.

UCSD Commencement, 2010

The year after l graduated was the year I dreamt up the brand name Dear Daydream.

This was the year that I did a lot of soul searching. I had moved back home with my parents, worked retail part time, and took classes at community college to defer my loan payments and to figure out what to do next. I took accounting, philosophy, art… anything that caught my interest.

And I started sewing again, almost everyday for months. And that’s when I decided to do what I had idly dreamed about when I was eighteen. I decided to go to fashion school.

So I will leave you here, to pick up on this story later, possibly as an overview of my experience as a fashion student. I realize this was more a story of how I came to be what I am rather than wholly how I learned to sew, but all of that is related, so why not?

Some Sewing Techniques learned in my first semester in fashion school

If you are new to sewing, I recommend you visit my blog posts about learning to sew or feel free to leave a question in the comments!


For more reading....

To learn about my DIY Wedding Dress, please click here.

To read more about Janelle of Dear Daydream Sewing & Design, please click here.

If you are new to sewing, consider a sewing class with Janelle, or read blog posts related to learning to sew.

You can also learn to sew online with Craftsy! (The following image is an affiliate link that helps support this page at no additional cost to you).


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