Sew What? A sewing machine, 1.5 yards of fabric and nothing but an intense fear of breaking a needle

IMG_20150906_153314We’ve all seen Home Ec classes in the movies, it’s where you learn to make cookies in class, throw eggs when the teacher isn’t looking, and apparently learn the valuable lifelong skill of sewing. Well I never took Home Ec, so for this DIY project I decided to go completely out of my comfort zone and, by following an aptly titled “Beginner” pattern, sew something from start to finish. Now this is a little embarrassing, but my mother and grandmothers (both of them) have been sewing for most of their lives – I grew up wearing clothes made for me by my family members – and yet I had never sewn more than replacing a button until Labor Day of 2015. But, overconfident and throwing caution to the wind I forged ahead and decided where better to start than the traditional first Home Ec project of sewing a simple apron.


Me utterly lost in the JoAnn’s looking for a specific type of fabric. Who knew there was so much cotton?

Starting out my main concerns were either hurting myself or breaking something (namely my only needle). When I was little I saw in a movie someone accidentally sew over their hand and from that point on vowed to never touch a sewing machine. So naturally this scene ran through my mind many times throughout the many hours spent testing fate at the machine (luckily I managed to go the whole project without injuring myself or others). I never really considered any other problems before starting the project. I think this was mainly because if I over thought what could go wrong I would have overwhelmed myself and would have been in a constant state of worry. However, I was dead wrong and encountered my first problem navigating the black hole that is JoAnn’s Fabrics. While the store had everything I needed in about 80 colors, it was a feat to find it and ultimately turned a 30-minute plan into a 1.5-hour reality. I deliberately decided to purchase my materials and pattern before I looked up extra resources because I knew I could use them in conjunction with the pattern and didn’t want to confuse myself further. Fortunately, I was able to borrow my mom’s sewing machine and other materials such as needles and threads and once I finally made it out of JoAnn’s I could honestly say I was ready to start.


I used a combination of my mom, the pattern instructions, and Astar’s video to help me figure out what to do with the pattern.

I decided that if I was going to sew I should probably see what experts suggested I have in my toolbox. This took me to a very generic Google search of “how to start sewing for beginners.” This blog post by author Jaime not only got my more excited to start my project but also gave me a very clear, visual look at what materials she thought were essential for beginning sewers. Jaime Curtis has written four different books and specializes in helping others create more beautiful homes – so I trusted her with my first sewing kit. After sending the list to my mom (and getting shot down on a few) I decided it was time to get to work. My next steps included working with a pattern and finding an online tutorial to help me make sense of the pages and instructions. After a Google search for “how to use a pattern for beginners” I was taken to the YouTube channel called Astar’s Place. Astar is a
spunky woman from New Zealand who runs her own company by making videos to help those looking to improve their crafting, gardening, sewing, and other homemaking skills. Astar’s How to Sew For Beginners Part 2: Placing and Pinning Pattern Pieces onto Fabric video was a godsend. She took me step by step through the pattern placing process and made me less nervous with her jokes and tips. For example, the pattern calls for it to be ironed and immediately Astar disregarded this information and decided to carry on without even considering an iron (my kind of lady). After the fabric was cut and ready I thought it was time to face the machine. Wrong. It was time to face the rickrack and “baste” it onto the pockets. I don’t know about most people, but when I hear the word baste I think of Thanksgiving turkey, not zigzag fabric trim. This unknown word took me back to Google where I searched “sewing term definitions” and was taken to the most useful and unexpected resource I found: The Sewing Dictionary. This is a comprehensive list of sewing terms and their definitions and I used it to decode about half of the words in my pattern.

IMG_20150907_122253Now the time had come to face the machine. While my mom was very helpful in guiding
me (i.e. reminding me not to break anything) I decided that I wanted to surprise her and know how to thread the machine before she taught me. This took me back to the Internet. I knew that I was looking for a visual representation because it helps me learn. After taking the Birmingham Grid for Learning quiz I realize I have a very high affinities for Interpersonal skills/learning and Visual/Spatial learning. Therefore to support my learning style I figured the best way to approach threading a sewing machine would be to follow along with another person’s video where I could very easily see and understand how to proceed. I searched YouTube for “how to use a sewing machine for beginners” and found one of the highest rated and viewed videos by YouTuber CRAFTYAMY called How to use a sewing machine + Sewing Tips! (Easy for Beginners). This video had even more than I expected an helped me to not only thread the machine but also create a bobbin and make sure the machine settings were correct. While this video was helpful in the moment I decided to find another source that had both a visual and written explanations of the important parts of a sewing machine so I could refer back to it while completing the project. Ultimately I found a graphic and article titled Anatomy of a Sewing Machine: The Parts and What They Do by authors Missy Shepler and Rebecca Kemp Brent. The Birmingham learning quiz not only helped me realize my aptitude for visual/spatial and interpersonal learning, it also showed me that my highest score was in Verbal/Linguistic skills and learning. I found the infographic a useful tool because I was able to combine the written descriptions and functions of each part of the sewing machine with a visual breakdown of where they are in relation to each other.

I spent the next six hours ironing, sewing, andIMG_20150907_123707 getting increasingly more excited about my final product. This project helped me to realize how I enjoy learning, through a mix of visual and linguistic elements and also made me overcome the strange dislike I held for a sewing machine. I’m very proud of what I was able to create and very happy that I pushed myself to learn more about this tool the women in my life have been using my entire life. And I am happy to say that no needles were broken in the making of this apron.

-Grace Frye



Apperson, Donna. (2014). The Sewing Dictionary. Retrieved from

Astar’s Place (Producer). (2014, July 8). How to Sew For Beginners Part 2: Placing and Pinning Pattern Pieces onto Fabric [Video file]. Retrieved from

CRAFTYAMY (Producer). (2013, July 17). How to use a sewing machine + Sewing Tips! (Easy for Beginners) [Video file]. Retrieved from

Curtis, J. (2011, June 20). Start Sewing: What You Need in Your Beginner Sewing Kit. In {retty Prudent. Retrieved from

Shepler, M., Brent, R. Anatomy of a Sewing Machine: The Parts and What They Do. In Idiot’s Guides. Retrieved from


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