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A Sad Little Beginner’s Sewing Adventure

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you might have noticed that I always have at least threeeight – a BILLION projects going at once. No room is safe. So even though we just talked about the plan for the living room, I’ve also been working on some plans for our master bedroom, plans which require buying fabric to make curtains.

And here’s what’s funny: I’ve been going about my business, looking at fabrics, deciding what I like… without considering the fact that once I purchase the fabric, I’ll then need to… *sew it.* With a sewing machine. Didn’t stop to think about that, though. Just proceeded happily into fabric stores acting like I’d know what to do with the fabric when I got it home. Adorable, right? So happily ignorant?

Finally I realized that the fabric is not going to sew itself into perfect drapes in my master bedroom, even if I find the perfect fabric, and even if it’s a great deal. There will still be action required on my part.

This is earth-shattering news.

And my current level of sewing skill is right on par with my skills in:

  • air guitar
  • yodeling
  • butter-churning
  • breakdancing.

Okay, I should clarify. Because I bet you’ve been imagining all this time that I have some sweet, hidden breakdancing skills which I can and will bust out at a moment’s notice, right? Okay, maybe. I get that a lot, being a klutzy white girl. I’d like to think that under pressure, I could breakdance my way out of a sticky situation, but that’s still unproven. Just like my ability to sew a straight line.

So I set out on a hunt for the right machine. Finally I decided to whine on Facebook about the difficulty of finding a good machine in my budget, prompting a text message from my mom which said: “Don’t buy a sewing machine. You can have mine.” Welp, “free” was exactly in my budget.

And so. I’d like to introduce you to my newest piece of furniture.

Brother sewing machine, circa older-than-I-am.

Looks harmless enough, right?


It’s mocking me, and my inexperience.

But don’t worry; this post has a happy ending. I want to show you some of my recent sewing projects, like this:

Which is, of course, a scrap of fabric into which I successfully sewed several seams. Nice, right? I think it’ll make a beautiful… fabric scrap. With stray threads everywhere. Maybe I’ll hot glue it to a wreath or something.

Also, another project I just finished:

That, you can see, is also… a fabric scrap. So far I’m really REALLY close to almost sewing my first straight line. I’ve turned the machine on, threaded it all by myself, and almost sewed a straight line. Call me Martha Stewart.

I was feeling pretty optimistic until I started exploring the drawers of my mom’s sewing cabinet and found this:

Iron-on fabric adhesive. I think also from the early ’80s. IS THIS THE SECRET?

Okay friends. Is there some trick to unlocking the vast sewing secrets that have evaded me my whole life? Do I need to take a sewing class? Or maybe a breakdancing class or some combination of the two? Any tips for a beginner?

Let's connect


  1. Too funny!!

    My sewing machine and I are slowly becoming friends…slowly. She’s kind of moody. It’s all her. Not me.

    My biggest problem was that I thought it should be easy and therefore I should be instantly good at it. I’m slowly (I’m using that word a lot) realizing that it does take some practice.

    And there is always heatnbond…

  2. hahahahahah amazing!! My grandma gave me her sewing machine because she didn’t use it anymore…I have yet to (a) try it out (b) get it tuned up. woops. it’s been about 8 months. so good on you for trying something!!

  3. This had me laughing so hard. This is just like my first sewing experiences.
    I’m teaching myself via tutorials online (YouTube has a bunch of videos) and figuring it all out SLOWLY. I’m doing it though! I have curtains, pillow cases and baby blankets done and they look so much better. Not professional by any means but decent enough to give as a gift or display at home.
    Keep a seam ripper handy, it will be useful…very useful.

  4. You can do it! Every line on a set of curtains is straight….just sew very slowly until you get the hang of it!

  5. First of all – that’s an awesome sewing machine slash desk. Beautiful.

    I got my sewing machine free from family too but mine has been stuck in its original box for the past five years or so. Time to break it out soon… is sewing really that hard? The last time I tried sewing was when I took home ed in middle school. If 12 year old me could sew, I’d like to believe the 29 year old me can, too. Or not?

    Heat n bond really works well. I did it for my curtains. Shrug!

  6. Sewing brings out the sailor in me – seriously, small children should not be present! But I’m SLOWLY learning to speak my sewing machine’s language. I think it just takes a lot of time and a VERY patient (and tolerant of swearing) teacher. Thanks, mom! lol

  7. The only sewing I’ve done was during my sophomore year in college when I decided to make quillows (those small quilts/blankets that fold into a pillow) for my 3 younger siblings as Christmas gifts. I barely survived and haven’t attempted anything since. Iron-on adhesive is now my bff. I wish I had more to offer you.

    • OMG – you are bringing up hilarious memories about those quillows! I didn’t know anyone else knew about them – my mom, grandma and aunts got on this quillow-making spree, where they were cranking them out for every single gift-giving occasion, selling them at flea markets, etc. Quillows took over our whole family for a good few years. They’ve since died down, but I hadn’t thought about them until your comment! Funny. 🙂 I’m impressed that you made some yourself. That iron-on adhesive is looking better and better.

  8. Oh girl, you did discover the secret! That’s all I’ve used for the last two sets of curtains that I made. 🙂 It’s pure love especially when you use curtain ring clip things. There name escapes me at the moment because I’ve been breathing paint fumes for half a day. Anyways, loved this post!

  9. Kelly, never fear. Sewing is much easier than breakdancing. FACT! I have tried both (as well as rapping) and surprisingly sewing came out tops! My mom taught me to sew when I was very young on a sewing machine that was so old it would electrocute you if you so much as looked at it funny. Despite this, I loved it and after some practice, it gets MUCH easier – I tried books to learn more complicated stitches but they just confuse me! You tube tutorials are quite good too!

  10. haha I am not a fan of sewing curtains. All that folding over to make a neat seam….bleh. If only you could buy curtains for cheaper than you can make them; alas, that is usually not the case.

    I don’t own a sewing machine but my mom is trying to make my grandma give me hers. (That’s how we do things in our family.) 🙂

    Have a great weekend!!

  11. Up until several months ago I had no idea what I was doing with a sewing machine, yet I went out and bought a brand new machine. What was I thinking? I could barely figure out how to turn the thing on so I signed up for a beginners sewing class and I learned all of the basics. With the help of online tutorials I’ve successfully made pillows with hidden zippers, burp cloths, and drapery panels. I highly suggest taking a beginners class…it worked wonders for me. Or, you really could learn on your own with the help of You Tube and online tutorials. Either way, you can do it! Good luck 🙂

    • Thanks! You’ve gotten me inspired, knowing that you are now cranking out successful projects! Sounds like I need to find a good beginners class. Thanks for your encouragement! 🙂

  12. woops, wrong address!

  13. I can sew ok, but I can’t thread my machine, which sort of limits the amount of sewing I can do. Hemming tape is my friend 🙂

  14. I was seriously considering buying a sewing machine. I’ll take this as a sign to do so. How much are those sewing lessons? Mom has one too, I should bug her and she if she’ll let me have hers before I go out and invest in one. I’m working on hair barrettes for little girls and I have a feeling it would be so much faster than the hand stitching that takes me forever.

  15. I started my sewing adventure with a camera strap cover and then went on to the Roman shade for AB’s room – neither are even close to perfect, but I love them both! Keep trying – at least that is what I tell myself ;o)

  16. Nice! And you got the table out of the deal? I would love to have a real sewing table for my machine…

    I’ll admit, I did take a beginner’s class after I inherited my late mother-in-law’s sewing machine, and it is well worth it if you can spare the time (and a little class entry fee in my case). Just to make sure I was putting the thread in correctly, learned how to do knots, etc.

    Pins are my secret. Lots and lots and lots of pins! Even for straight lines…

  17. Not going to lie, I have made curtains for both my master bedroom and guest bedroom using that Heat-and-Bond stuff. It’s super easy and, in my very non-professional opinion, looks really good!

  18. Are you coming to Texas anytime soon? Mammy taught me on her old one that she then gave to me…it took her about an hour. I then preceded to (don’t laugh) go home and make a quillow!

    Since then I’ve acquired an easy to use one (Chuck bought it for me for Christmas 8ish years ago, it was a kinda basic one, for $400. Huskystar was the brand. LOVE it!)… I still rarely use it, except for making curtains and pillows. But when I ran into problems with it, I actually read the manual (gasp!). Amazingly, it was well written and easy to understand. Go figure!! It even showed me how to do some complicated things! Not that I did them, but I KNOW how to, ha!!

    So…here are your options: bring the sewing machine into a class/store and get someone to show you, get your mom to show you, come to Texas and get your Mammy to show you, get me to convince you to buy a fancy-easy-one and I’ll show you! 😉

    Someday I may even learn to make a quilt…

  19. PS I noticed yours is by Brother. I think that was who made my Huskystar one…

  20. You crack me up! I use an older-than-me sewing machine too. Once you pick up the basics, there will be no stopping you. I know it! Pillows, table runners, curtains, slipcovers! Looking forward to seeing the results! 🙂

  21. I tried making some pillow covers out of napkins with Heat N’ Bond and it totally did not work. Maybe I suck at ironing?

    So I borrowed my mom’s sewing machine and was happily sewing pillows together in (not very) straight lines when something awful happened…

    My bobbin came un-threaded. It took three days, Google, and a lot of swearing (and a little crying) before I could figure out how to fix it. Turns out something with the tension was all crazy? I’m still now sure what I figured out….

    BUT sewing is not too bad, if you’re going to sew something as large as curtains I’d recommend using a LOT of straight pins to keep things orderly. Oh, and hot glue….’cause you’re probably going to find a reason to use it….

    • Oh no – you can mess up heat n bond?! If it’s possible, I will totally do it. 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement! I’ll keep the hot glue handy. 🙂

  22. Hah-hah! I, too, have a sewing machine that is older than me. As well as a pile of beautiful fabrics that unfortunately are not turning themselves into a pillow 🙂

    It’s been years since I sew but the secret that I remember for sewing straight lines is actually to go fast. And gently but evenly pull on the other end so the fabric doesn’t bunch up.

  23. Hi there, I enjoy reading through your article post.

    I like to write a little comment to support you.


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