Saturday 10 March 2012

Sewing machine class

My late grandmother was a professional seamstress so it's ironic - but really a shame - that I'm hopeless with a needle and thread, and have never been near a sewing machine. I decided to rectify this last year when I took a sewing class at the Make Lounge. I learnt how to shorten and hem trousers and sew on a button, but it was still a time-consuming, laborious process, and my stitches were not exactly neat. Since then I've still taken trousers and dresses to the dry cleaner to be shortened - which has sometimes cost more than the garment cost in the first place! So I wanted to learn how to use a sewing machine, thinking it might be quicker and easier than sewing by hand. I also got some John Lewis vouchers when I left my last job, and had thought about using them to buy a sewing machibne, but thought it was a bit of a risk when I'd never used one before!

I saw a LivingSocial deal for a half price beginners' sewing machine class, so purchased the voucher.... and found I had to wait almost three months before there was a space available in a class! So last Sunday I trekked to the heart of Bermondsey - which took about an hour and a half - to get to the Creative Sewing Studio.

We each sat down in front of a sewing machine, which seemed to have an awful lot of buttons and settings!
A little daunting considering the one that I was used to seeing my grandmother use looks like this!

 To begin we were shown how to thread the machine, which is fine once you get the hang of it but it not as straightforward as you might think! And there is all sorts of terminology to get used to - like feet - and knowing which setting to use and when.

Sewing in a straight line is harder than it looks - and sewing in a curved line is even harder! Maybe that's just me though - I never expected to be a natural. When the sewing machine is going at full speed it's actually very fast, and the material zips through and if you're not careful you've gone off at an angle.

We practised sewing on pieces of muslin first, to try out the different stitches. My needle managed to come unthreaded right away and I kept forgetting to put the feet down!

 These photos are a bit dark as I didn't want to disturb the other people by using the camera flash. Hopefully you can make out some of the detail of the different stitches though.

 After learning other techniques and things like how to change the bobbin, we moved on to making our own pincushion. All we had to do was sew together two pieces of heart-shaped material, attach a piece of ribbon to hang it, stuff it with some filling and sew up the gap. I found going round the curve at the top of the heart a bit tricky so took my foot off the pedal and used the wheel to do one individual stitch at a time - which takes a lot longer but at least I could see where I was going!
 The finished pin cushion looks more of a triangle than a heart, as I didn't sew far enough down on the curve at the top. But it was the first thing I've ever made with a sewing machine, so I was still quite proud of it!
The Creative Sewing Studio - and other places like the Make Lounge - offer a lot of classes focusing on making a specific item, like a cushion, an apron or a skirt, but you need to have got to grips with the basic operation of a sewing machine first. So I definitely recommend this class! I also decided that I would indeed use my John Lewis vouchers to buy a sewing machine, so watch this space!


  1. I think your pin cushion looks great. I know how it is for you, my mother was not a professional seamstress, but she did a lot of sewing (which were always beautifully sewn) and I can not sew any thing.

  2. well done!! as you know i'm useless at sewing too.!

  3. I haven't sewn anything since a class in high school. What a great post!

  4. I'd advise getting yourself some cheap fabric and a book from the library and having a good play - it also helps to have a specific project to focus on - I started with some curtains (couldn't bear to pay shop prices, and had very awkward sized windows), then followed up with a clothes making course at the local college (10 week course, 2 hours a week, which taught us how to read patterns and ended with us each making our own item of clothing - all from never having operated a sewing machine before - so it can be done!)

    1. That's a good idea, thanks! Think it might be a while before I'm up to making my own clothing though... I was amazed when a friend asked me and five other girls to be her bridesmaid and made our dresses herself!


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