Sore subject:

Sewing. As sore as my bum after accidentally plopping myself on a pin (ouch!).

I really do want to know how to sew. I notice the utility of it almost every day. I think, oh, if only I could take in this shirt a little bit, I’d wear it more often. Or, hmm, if only I could lower the waistband of these pants an inch or two, I could wear them with more tops from my wardrobe.

Alas, it hasn’t happened. Remember my pathetic effort to follow Sew? I knit!? I got the pattern, more or less figured out what I had to do (with your generous help), then got the fabric, zipper, interfacing, etc., washed the fabric to pre-shrink it… and? That was more than 2 months ago. The girls at the sew-along have finished their skirts, and then their bags, and are about to embark on the third project, and I’m still standing here in the corner, mumbling to myself about notches, popping anti-anxiety meds, and applying a second layer of anti-perspirant.

I have serious sewing anxiety. I know what I have to do, but at the same time, I don’t. Everything remains very abstract – I read about various ways to transfer the pattern, and then I look at the pictures, and sometimes I even watch the ladies who sell the sewing machines on QVC do it, and it’s still a mystery. By the way, there’s no better way to increase sewing anxiety than to watch professionals on QVC whip up a pillowcase in 14.6 seconds.

I think I need to see sewing in real life, and to be able to ask lots and lots of questions, with immediate answers and demonstrations. Also I need a more narrow stream of information – giving me 10 different ways to do some simple sewing maneuver is more harmful than helpful, I think. Because then I get fixated on which is the better way, and having zero sewing experience, I obviously can never come to an answer on my own.

So, I’ve taken action. I’ve signed up for a sewing class!

This class is for those who haven’t sewn and for those who want to begin again. Instruction will include the basics of sewing machines, patterns, fabric, cutting and assembling while making a simple garment. Access to a sewing machine is necessary. Bring a notebook to the first class. Purchase pattern and fabric after the first meeting. Limited to 10. 7 Tuesdays, 8:00-10:00 pm. Begins Jun. 13.

Holy Mother of the Jesus, help me. Amen.

In the meantime, I have not neglected my sewing machine. A little at a time, I continue to make simple things. I’ve hemmed a few pairs of jeans (including the ones in the I believe I can fly photo from the last entry), and I made another needle case!

If you remember, I started my sewing career by making two needle cases from a table runner and some dinner napkins. That was about a year ago, and so far I have been very pleased with the functionality and durability of my creations. However, my needle collection has grown, and I started to feel that I really wanted/needed another small case to hold some of my dpns. So, I made one! Took only an hour or two ;). Follow along:


(1) Obtain a placemat. The placemat should be sturdy, and roll up smoothly. If you’re like me, you’ll choose a placemat that conceals sewing imperfections ;). (2) Obtain 1″ wide braided elastic. Snap elastic menacingly at SO, kids and/or pets. Just kidding! Sew length of elastic in the middle of the placemat, running a line of stitches every 0.5-1.5 inches, depending on how you plan to store your needles.


(3) Fold extra fabric towards the center of the placemat, and simply stitch a straight line (hahaha! hahahaha!) a few millimeters from the fold to make flaps. You may need to adjust the thread tension. (4) Attach elastic loops at the side of the needle case.


(5) Fill with needles. (6) Admire the compactness, portability, and practicality of the whole thing.

(7) Laugh wildly at the pile of needle wrappers you can now throw out – bwahahahaha!

Baby steps, right? Baby steps…


56 thoughts on “Sore subject:

  1. twig

    Sewing is a WHOLE lot easier than knitting. If you can knit (which I know you can) you shouldn’t have a problem sewing. Hell, I even sewed my own wedding dress by mixing two different patterns together.

  2. MrsFife

    It’s your needle case (the earlier one) that has me yearning for a sewing machine of my own. I can’t machine sew at all and am vewy vewy lazy about hand-sewing. I drool while watching the TV commercials and plot to get my own…I’ve even gone to several websites/shops to window-shop. One of these days…

  3. VivaPia

    I agree! Sewing is the next thing for me too! I don’t have any money to buy a sewing machine now, but it’s on my list when I do get some money! And i think it should be quite easy, you know, you only have to be thorough and take one step at the time!

    Good luck!

  4. Mary

    Very nice. Have you changed your tune then of stowing your needles with their cases? Or was that only for your single points?

  5. Wanett

    This is a great idea. I think I’ll use this as a solution for my crochet hooks. They’ll appreciate being freed from their plastic baggie and given a proper home.

  6. Christie

    Glad to hear that you’re doing the sewing class. Although I know how to sew, I still get scared about tailoring. I will however used your tutorial for needle rolls because I’m needing somewhere to store my needles neatly!

  7. Ashley

    You’re so good to throw out your wrappers. I thought I would be so organized and streamlined once I made myself a DPN case, since I could then get rid of the big box that was holding them before. . .but it’s still there, full of empty cardboard and plastic. You know–just in case. Sigh.

  8. Elisabeth

    ooohhhhh >.ooohhhhh >.< sewing anxiety is just what I have! I see all these lovely skirts all over the net, and think "hey! I can do that too"... but I'm not so sure anymore - I started a skirt (from a beginner pattern!) last year, and now I'm stuck at the zipper, and so afraid of what comes after! What do I do if it's too small? *sigh* Maybe I should find a sewing class too... maybe I should make my mother teach me? Possibilities πŸ™‚

  9. taryn

    i SO hear you on the crap at sewing thing. I am dreadful. must be something in the blogging water cause i just posted a day about about how crap i am. but impressed you made jeans! that dpn holder looks easy enough for me to get thru without throwing my machine through a wall

  10. LornaJay

    Sewing, right: the scariest thing for me is that once you’ve cut out the fabric, you’re stuck with what you’ve got. As a result, I’m testing out a blouse pattern (and my ability to modify said pattern) on some “reject” fabric. It’s nice enough that if the blouse works I’ll be able to wear it (no-one running for their life will notice the imperfections) and cheap enough that I’m quite happy to turn it into dusters if it all goes horribly wrong.

    It may well – I’ve taken a size 16 pattern (to fit my shoulders) and upsized it around the chest to fit me, and changed the bust darts to fit a C-cup, and and and. I’ve never done anything like this before! So far, the shoulders are lovely, the bust appears to be in the right place (amazing) but I’ve got some very odd wings of fabric below the arms (no sleeves yet) which I’m going to need DH to help me deal with.

    Best of luck! I learned to sew a straight, or curved, line by using a very old machine needle, no thread, and following lines drawn on paper.

  11. Connie

    I have been sewing since I was 8. I own a regular machine and a serger – I haven’t used them in AGES! I would take the skirt and pants you mentioned in your post to a tailor. They can make those adjustments for you and you can concentrate on sewing more fun things!

  12. Norma

    I have the same sewing anxiety issues. Mine are probably for very different reasons than you — I am SO not a perfectionist… But then, sewing NEEDS to be perfect, so there you go. Defeatist attitude, that’s it.

    The sewing class could be awesome. I need a new machine before I even think of that, though.

  13. Mary K. in Rockport

    Yup, right there with you, especially the “then I get fixated on which is the better way” part. In addition, I could not wrap my mind around how the bobbin locks the stitch with the thread from the upper needle, and that puzzlement kept me from using a sewing machine. Someone on LJ sent me a little graphic which shows how it works (if you need it, I’ll send it.) And finally, sewing seems much less reversible than knitting. Make an error and you’re stuck with it…….

  14. marjorie

    I’m blogless (for now), but I’d be happy to answer your sewing questions. I used to make all my work clothes (mostly skirts, blouses, and dresses), and I studied patternmaking with a man who made custom clothes. The gored skirt you had in your previous post should not be difficult. As in knitting, take the time to do a lot of preparation (as when knitting a gauge swatch) by marking your seams and basting your garment together. You can try it on, fit it, and then machine sew the seams without any problems. Feel free to email.

  15. Carolyn

    You are making me want to sew again! I am no professional, self taught, as my knitting…but I can do a little sewing.

  16. mollysusie

    I’m on the sewing bandwagon too! With the (rumored) approach of summer, I have a whole drawer full of tank tops with too long of straps. I was a little late discovering the magic that is adjustable straps…

    The needle case looks pretty easy, maybe I’ll start there since (gasp!) I keep all my needles twist-tied in a shoebox.

  17. Martha Marin

    Here’s a secret:

    Don’t let the sewing machine win.

    Learn how to thread it, and adjust your tension, and that’ll be enough for most things. I have been sewing most of my own clothes for years, and don’t really know anything other than sewing in a “straight” line. Practice on remnants and things you don’t care about. Because you knit, you allready understand the shapes pieces of clothing come in. Play around with cutting those shapes out of inexpensive fabrics, and sew them together by hand if you need to until you feel comfortable. If you create something wretched, you can always set it on fire. And fire is ALWAYS satisfying.

  18. Yvette

    My sewing machine sits on my card table and taunts me. I have two items sitting right next to it waiting to be hemmed from last summer. I was hoping that sewing fairy would pop in to finish the job. Since she never showed, no time like the present to get to work. You are inspiring.

  19. Janice in GA

    I came to terms with my inabiliy to sew a straight seam by always choosing dark printed fabrics and dark threads. And my crappy buttonholes are almost completely hidden by the buttons.

    I only sew clothes when I *have* to.

  20. angelarae

    This is too cool. Now I will have to go check out the placemats @ Wal-Mart and Target. Surely they have something frilly:)



  21. Carine

    Boy do I hear ya. I’ve stated to learn to sew and it is SO frustrating. Everything comes out just a tiny bit wonky. But take heart. Taking a class is the smart way to go. The needle case looks great. Good luck!

  22. Stephanie

    Wow. A class. Brilliant. I can’t wait to hear about it and see what you come up with. Maybe you’ll learn to tollerate the whole sewing thing. Very nice needle case by the way.

  23. Laura

    When you’re actually trying to sew from a pattern, a little guidance when you get started helps a lot. The class is a perfect idea for you.

    When you’re flying by the seat of your pants and sewing with artistic inspiration, practice and imagination and common sense is all you need and you seem to be doing AWESOME at that!

    Soon you’ll be a model to follow in both of those areas of the sewing world. πŸ™‚

  24. rene

    I love the needle case! It looks great, and actually, it looks like something the sewing machine-less could hand sew, should the fancy take them. And it would be pretty cathartic to just chunk the old needle boxes. Good luck with the class, it should be fun. πŸ™‚

  25. Kathy

    That looks pretty darn impressive to me! Looks like you have a lot of the sewing basics down, so a class will just move you further. I forsee a lot of stitching of the non-knitting kind in your future.

  26. freecia

    Very cute needle case! Also, those jeans in jumping for joy totally rocked.

    I’m thinking about knocking out some sewn stuff, to extend my talents in the sewing arena. Just because I saw the Amy Butler Weekender Bag and really want one. That thing could fit an entire weekend’s stuff and a few knitting projects… And oh, all my gadgets.

  27. Gryphon

    I don’t suppose you live anywhere near the Eastern Shore of Maryland? I teach sewing at home and sometimes one-on-one works out better, especially for the anxiety-ridden student.

  28. Purly Whites

    So cute! There are many things I dislike about sewing, and I think the whole “sewing a straight line” is number one. Couldn’t do it to save my life.

  29. Joelene

    Yay Kathy, great needle case! I am very excited for your sewing class, I can’t wait to see what you can come up with! I may need some pointers soon, so yay for sewing class!

  30. carrie

    Kudos to you for signing up for the class! If you ever need help with your homework, I’d be happy to give you the benefit of my opinionated advice on all things sewing πŸ™‚ The lovely Bestitched is also working on some stuff, maybe we could do a sewing threesome someday!

  31. regina

    Way to go on taking positive action! Some people just sit around and bemoan their lack of skills (by ‘some people’, of course I mean ‘me’.) Good luck in your class, and I LOVE the needle case. Very nicely accomplished – and cute and stylish – very well done!!


  32. Lynn in Tucson

    I was really surprised the first time I stumbled into a S ‘n B (only recently) and realized what a huge difference it made to see other people’s knitting in person, to be able to touch it, feel it, ask questions. I’m sure that sewing will be that way for you. The internet can just be too much information!

    The only other thing that I’d add is, if you’re sewing on an ancient machine, as I did for years, trading up could change your whole experience. You probably don’t need all the bells and whistles but newer machines are so much smoother and easier.

  33. liz

    Love your needle case. How do you know which size the needles are? Have you written with a fabric marker? (my eyes are pathetic)

    Re. the sewing. I taught myself donkey’s years ago when it was a case of that or the kids going naked. I had a real problem with perfection too, but if you look at ANY store bought sewing job, you’ll notice they are way from perfect. I learned to let go a little, and that makes the process a lot more fun πŸ™‚ You’ll do fine.

    Love your pentagon sweater1


  34. Peg

    Good luck with the sewing classes. I have faith that any girl who taught herself to knit the beautiful things you make by learning from Knitting for Dummies will soon be turning out designer quality garments! Now I am not sure if “Mary” is the saint of sewing!!??

  35. SallyT

    You might want to check out Threads sewing magazine. It’s a high quality publication with tips for beginning and advanced sewing.

  36. Jacquie

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a university where you could major in subjects like sewing, knitting and costume design? Even though I’ve sewn for a long time, I still find it difficult. Compared to knitting the hardest thing is draping and fitting. What knitting does naturally, in sewing you have to structure.

    Last year I bought a program called Garment Designer so I could create my own patterns based on my exact measurements. I think you’d really like it.

  37. Angela

    Awesome! I don’t think I could have got through sewing without a sewing class either. You’ll be flying in no time. I’m “SEW” excited for you! (I know, har har har).

  38. Jana

    I love how you used a placemat to even avoid having to stitch the edges of the fabric! Genius! I laughed my way through a needlecase for my straight needles. Not only are the seams ridiculously not straight but I think I kept running out of thread and they are therefore 3 different colors of thread. But you know what? It holds the needles just fine, mission accomplished.

  39. Elisie Deluxe

    You might find that you are more successful and happier about sewing on a vintage machine. I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve been sewing on old machines for years, and I’m far from a sewing expert, but it’s really fun for me. My youngest machine was made in 1963.

    My mom didn’t believe me; she had always hated sewing. I got her a vintage Singer for Christmas one year, and she loved it! All of a sudden she could sew. She eventually decided that she needed more features, and ended up buying a very expensive modern machine, and now she quilts!

    For an extremely affordable machine that is precise and a pleasure to use, go vintage. Feel free to email if you want to know more.

  40. Rachel

    I had no idea I needed this, but I NEED this. Like, now. Using a placemat is genius. Thanks for this great tutorial!

  41. Stacey

    Brava on signing up for the class. Taking a sewing class has been on my to-do list for at least three months now. I have bought patterns and fabric and done nothing with them, and lurked on the Sew? I Knit site too. I was looking just this week at the sewing class offered at Joann’s – it starts June 13, just like yours. Maybe it’s a sign from the sewing gods that I really need to do it this time.

    Can’t wait to see what you whip up on the machine!

  42. Sarah

    The way you feel about sewing is how I feel about all the math and adjustments you do with your knitting projects. I think you’re just a heck of a lot braver to do something about it, whereas I just convince myself that I didn’t really love that sweater anyway. Can’t wait to see the wonderful things you start sewing up!

  43. knitnana

    YEAH!!! So glad to hear you bit the bullet and are going to take the class! You’ll be fine…deep breath – what difference does it make if you make a mistake? You’ll do what you do when you knit – tink it (or rip it) and start again! I KNOW you can!


  44. shelley

    Here are some tips for the beginning stitcher.

    First get yourself a copy of Reader’s Digest Guide to Sewing. They have good pictures and instruction that aren’t overwelming.

    Second. You need to learn how to make a Muslin. This is a rough copy made out of roughly the same weight and kind of fabric. The paper pattern is where you start the alterations. Then you lay the pattern out and pin it to the Muslin fabric. You want to leave about 4″ of extra fabric for the body and shoulders and about 2″ at the arm scye. Then you sew this together and check for fit. The extra fabric allows you to “let out” the seams or change the armholes, hem, ect. Make any corrections to the Muslin and that is your new pattern. The great thing about this step is that you get a great fit, and if you make a mistake, you can correct it here.

    You already have a great idea of fit and how to do some of the basic alterations to get the look that you want. Start simple and work from there.

    If you need help, just e-mail me.

  45. anne

    don’t laugh but . . . i wish i HAD those plastic DPN sleeves; i am a freak for keeping needles separated and some of my old sleeves are wearing out

    ok, now you can laugh

  46. Andrea

    I took that basic sewing class from the CCAE in the late 90s (from a different instructor) and loved it. It’s a great step to take.

  47. Laura Neal

    Okay for everyone who says sewing is easy, I don’t think so. I taught myself to sew and I still can’t sew in a straight line.

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