Get started with sewing

everyday kawaii

My passion for sewing is, essentially, the result of my Grandma. She has, for many years, worked at a quilt store and taught classes on various types of quilting and needlecraft projects. Since I was around 7 years old, she has been teaching me a lot of the basics and helping me to interpret patterns I’ve found. She had given me the skills necessary to hand sew a pin cushion, machine sew a dress, knit a scarf, crochet a bear, and so much more in the past few years. It’s been an immensely helpful skill! It’s also been very rewarding and enjoyable as a hobby, and is something that I invite others to test out for themselves.

However, when I wanted to create new things on my own, without the assistance of my Grandma, things got a bit difficult. Patterns at the craft store can be expensive (well, for a broke kid), and often had no in between from “ultra-easy beginner” to “super ultra-advanced”. Sometimes the pattern just didn’t exist in any physical form, as what I had in mind was too specific. My friends ran into the same issue. When they wanted to make a doll of their favorite cartoon character, they had no clue how to start and ended up quitting. I was very persistent, and eventually wound up at Google’s homepage trying to determine for myself what to do.

I learned quickly that if you searched long enough, you could almost always find some sort of insight on how to create what you wanted. Even if you had to make some changes, the basic ideas could be used to create something like what you had in mind.

everyday kawaii

Often, there were full patterns and tutorials you could access for free to get exactly what you wanted, which was awesome! What was especially helpful was that they often had step-by-step images, which made it even simpler than the Simplicity patterns at Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores.

However, one thing I did find was that the patterns weren’t all in one place. Thus, I created Everyday Kawaii near the beginning of my years in high school. I named it ‘Everyday Kawaii’ because I wanted to make things I could use every day and I had recently become very interested in Japan and its own brand of cute: ‘kawaii’.

everyday kawaii

The main aim of the site has always been to help people find or make tutorials, share the results, and give additional ideas based on the style of cute I like. It can be a hard search, especially for those who don’t know where to begin. I try to compile all the projects on to one page and into tags, to make it easy to search for things visitors might be interested in making.

For instance, here’s my master list of projects I’ve done since 2012!

Most of the things I am posting about tend to be results of my desire to create something, not knowing how to do it, and looking up an obscene amount of tutorials. Then I share them, along with whatever ideas I have, and some drawings if I have time. For instance, I recently wrote a piece on altering old/sale clothing to make something new and cute. At the end, I took examples of clothing I liked from sale sections of stores online and offered some sketches of how I would choose to alter them.

everyday kawaii

The main focus of the site is almost always sewing and needlecraft, thanks to my Grandma, though I do sometimes post about other creative outlets (often involving 2D art, or printing services like Society6 and ArtsCow). I almost always seem to return to sewing projects, though. The range of things I can make with my sewing skills is always expanding, so I really enjoy testing out new ideas.

Getting started with sewing when you’re a bit behind already can be tough. However, there are numerous tutorials out there for both hand and machine sewing that can get you started. There are also many classes at craft stores (unfortunately, these aren’t usually free). I recommend that newcomers start off with simple patterns.

I understand that saying ‘simple’ is kind of vague … let me clarify. A pattern will be simpler if it requires less steps (for instance, turning things inside out to make bloomers), less pieces (like a dress with a bodice made of several parts), and less special skills (like adding elastic or zig-zag stitching). By starting off with basic steps (sewing straight lines on a machine) you can work towards more complex ones (like adding bias tape and elastic to the inside of some bloomers) fairly easily since you’ll have that basic knowledge already.

Finding these simple patterns might be a bit of a hunt. I tend to look for inspiration on sites like Pinterest, Tumblr, Deviant Art, Blogger and Craft Gawker (which is my favorite, as it has a lot of beginner-friendly tutorials and features a lot of different styles). It tends to be helpful to have an idea of what you’d like to make. For instance, if you want to make clothing, I would start off with a simple tutorial on how to remake a cheap, oversized shirt into a dress (instead of heading straight into 100% handmade territory – you could end up wasting money on a dress that comes out looking like Frankenstein’s monster!).

Taking things step by step is key. Even though I’ve been sewing for something like a decade now, I’m still learning new things all the time from websites, my friends who craft, and my Grandma. It’s ok to move slowly and to work together! With a lot of new clothing patterns I make, I try to consult with my Grandma first. It’s usually very helpful, and I’ve had some really nice finished projects because of it. I try to make my blog a place where I can share what I have learned with others, much like I do with my Grandma, especially after trying out patterns for myself.

everyday kawaii

The hardest part tends to be deciding what materials to use and gathering all your supplies as you get started. If you want to sew, it will definitely be hard to do so without a sewing kit, pins and a sewing machine (if you’re project is larger). Then you’ll need the fabric for your projects, which can be much more expensive than you’re expecting (even I tend to still browse the sale room instead of the main floor at Jo-Anns… I don’t have enough money to use the newest stuff).

There are ways to lower this cost of sewing, though. If you choose to buy fabric that’s on sale (preferably for around $5/yard or less), buy ‘scrap fabric’ (the fabric left over from the main cut, usually less than a yard), or reuse clothing items or purchases from secondhand stores like Goodwill, you can make sewing a much more sustainable hobby. It’s best to buy sale fabric for larger projects (i.e. clothes, quilts, pillows), buy scrap fabric for smaller ones (i.e. toys, accessories, embellishments) and reuse clothing for remodeled clothing or small toys. Jo-Ann Fabrics (and many other popular stores) also tend to have really great coupons, so printing/cutting them out ahead of your shopping trip can save you a large amount of the cost as well!

I’ve been successful at lowering the costs of projects to something like $10 for a pair of bloomers I made, which is less than most pairs you would purchase online, so it is possible to make sewing a hobby that can save you money. That’s not to mention that knowing basic sewing skills can help save clothing and household objects, so it can save you money from having to replace them in the future. It can even make you money if you open a store on sites like Etsy.

I encourage all of you reading to try out sewing for yourselves! It’s a very rewarding hobby, and suitable for all ages. It’s also a great outlet for expressing yourself, no matter how complex your project is.

If you have any questions about getting started, specific projects, or anything else, please feel free to ask me on Everyday Kawaii!  I love answering messages, and will gladly help answer your question or redirect you to any resources I’ve found (I may have already even looked up the exact same thing myself!).

Words and images: Anastasia Holland

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