Challenger Question Round ONE: How Did You Learn to Sew?

on June 29 | in Contests & Giveaways, Super Online Sewing Match | by | with 4 Comments

We have ten challengers in our Super Online Sewing Match II, busily sewing away on their Sutton Blouses. It’s fun to get to know the contestants as the challenges progress, so we ask them a question during each round. First we want to know: How did you learn to sew? (Let’s hear it for the moms, grandmas and aunts out there, plus 4-H and home economics classes!…)

Our Round One deadline is tomorrow, and we’ll announce the Round Two challenge on July 3. Remember, you can sew along in our Community Match. There are prizes!

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Barbara from Zibergirl Sews

    My fascination for style, fashion and sewing started at a very early age. When I was little, I was overjoyed and amused for the longest time with a simple folder of paper dolls to cut and play with. I moved on to creating clothes for my Barbies using little scraps with holes cut out for the neck, and ties around the waist. It wasn’t long before I was hand sewing the side seams and then learning to do it on the sewing machine. Both my mother and aunt were good at sewing, so I had help when I needed it. I moved on to Barbie Doll patterns and successfully created adorable little outfits, or at least I thought they were adorable! I was probably about 11 or 12 when I joined 4-H and took formal sewing lessons. A whole new aspect of sewing for myself opened up! I learned to follow pattern directions, lay out, pin, and cut fabric, and then sew it together. I always had my mother’s support and help as I took on one project after another. I continued to sew all through high school, moving on to Twiggy styles, peasant blouses, hippy clothes, prom dresses, etc. I learned a lot through trial and error, failures and successes.

    When I married and had children, I continued to sew for all of my girls. I made everything from bathing suits to costumes for a full production of Romeo and Juliet, when my daughter played Juliet. More recently, through the invention of the internet, my sewing has taken on another dimension as a rewarding and creative outlet. The worldwide sewing community is able to come together and share their love of sewing, fabric and pattern design. I continue to learn new things and be inspired by this talented community.

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Leah from Sew Spoiled

    When I was a kid, I was surrounded by beautifully handmade things. We couldn’t always afford expensive things and so my family would make them. My Great Grandmother made me a Cabbage Patch doll from a sewing kit. My father built my first bicycle, mostly out of Spider-Man bike parts. It was the best bike ever! My mother would reupholster our couch when it needed a facelift. She also made my first concert black dress when I began to play the clarinet in band. I was enriched by the people around me. I loved the handmade treasures they made for me. Each handmade piece had a colorful story of how it was created.

    It wasn’t until I got older and had my first child that I realized I wanted to give my little ones handmade treasures like I had been given. I wanted them to have gifts that were made from the heart and they could keep forever… Gifts that would have stories to share. That is why I started to sew. This is the age of information, if you need an answer you can look it up online. You can learn how to do almost anything by searching the web. I joined social groups to make a network of friends that could help me. I borrowed a beginner sewing machine and set to work. My mother would come over on the weekends to help. I started to take pictures of everything I made. My Sew Spoiled Flickr account is my sewing scrapbook. I am still learning new sewing techniques all of the time. That is another wonderful thing about this craft. I fell in love with making handmade gifts for everyone. Honestly, that is where the name “Sew Spoiled” comes from. I was spoiled as a child with wonderful handmade gifts, and now I relish spoiling others.

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Meredith from Olivia Jane Handcrafted

    I learned to sew back in 2009 when I was pregnant with my daughter. I got this crazy itch to make ALL the things, so I read through The Complete Guide to Quilting and started my trial and error type sewing. My primary inspiration came from my grandmother who died before she could pass on her knowledge to me, so I just made it my aim to learn and to learn the craft well.

    I wanted everything to be heirloom quality so that someday someone else could appreciate what I was doing. You could count on two hands the days I haven’t sewn since then. It’s certainly my passion and I’m so blessed to be able to enjoy it!

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Lori from Sewing Myself Stylish

    My mother taught me everything I know about sewing. She now claims I have gone beyond her, but I would say that is not true. She was a professor of Home Economics for 25 years and I had the good fortune of having her as my in-home mentor from sewing my first skirt at 8 years old until I graduated from high school. I left for college with some fairly advanced skills and an Elna Super sewing machine as a graduation present. I have never feared sewing on knits, as I learned knit techniques from my mom during the original knit craze of the 70’s.

    Here’s a photo from my wedding in 1989. I thought I would share because I made my dress and my mom made hers!

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Tanya from Mrs. Hughes

    Sewing is an age old tradition in my family and I can’t remember a time when my I wasn’t listening to the whir of a sewing machine or twirling around in handmade dresses. Both my mom and my grandmother taught me to sew starting when I was five or six. I began hand sewing doll clothes and pillows and moved on to using a sewing machine with my skills, fostered by my talented teachers in 4-H and home economics. Over the years I’ve made a lot of costumes and special occasion wear with some everyday garments thrown in.

    I decided to start sewing my wardrobe four years ago after sewing nearly every dress for my bridal party, including my wedding gown and trousseau. Since then I’ve devoured many sewing books, online classes and tutorials and gained new skills to broaden my sewing knowledge. It’s been an exciting journey turning fabric into fashion.

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Michelle from Sewnhenge

    I’ve always had the desire to learn to sew, even when I was a kid. It wasn’t until after I had my daughter that I really started to get serious about learning. I started making dresses for her and fell in love with the craft. Then a little over a year ago, I got over my fears of fitting womanly curves and started sewing for myself. Since then it has become a full blown obsession!

    I have never actually taken a class. I owe my talents to sewing blogs and the internet, plus my own trials and errors! Being self-taught has worked for me because I truly love the act of sewing. It is my stress relieving time. I just focus and I’m not afraid to make big mistakes as I go along. You learn the most from your mistakes, right?! I’m excited to be a part of this challenge!

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Shannon from Adventures of a Young Seamstress

First Garment, After Beginning to Sew Seriously

    When I first learned to sew, I was taught by my mom, and I was young enough that I don’t really remember it! I think my first sewing project was a sun hat that I made when I was six, and then I sewed sporadically throughout elementary school and early high school, always with my mom’s help. I made some odd choices in what I sewed (french terry elastic waist gauchos, anyone?), and I never sewed often enough to feel like I was getting any better. It was only about two years ago that I really became serious about sewing my own wardrobe. I really didn’t have that much experience, but I learned pretty quickly, mostly through trial and error, and reading sewing blogs!

Shannon’s Graduation Dress

    Looking back, I’ve learned so much over the past couple of years. When I started sewing again, I never imagined that I might make my own high school grad dress, have an almost entirely handmade wardrobe or compete in a competition like this one!

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Teresa Behr from Dandelion Drift

    I have always loved to do creative things. When I was little, I can remember watching Bob Ross on PBS and setting up my easel in front of the TV to paint “happy little trees.” During my free time, I always had to keep my hands and mind busy. Making was (and still is today) my way of relaxing. My mom taught me to sew when I was young. At 13 I cut out tiny little fabric squares to make a patchwork quilt (which I never finished). My mom so kindly took all of those squares a few years ago and pieced them together to make me a quilt that sits on the back of my couch! At 15, I asked my mom to help me sew my homecoming dress. And the morning of my wedding, my mom and I were finishing up sewing the ring bearer pillows!

    I looked through my pictures, and the most recent photo I have of my mom and I is when we crossed the finish line together at the Honolulu marathon this past year!

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Kristina from @kehdeebee

Kristina’s Grandmother, Caranetta Grimes Bobo, 1970’s

    I’m a self-taught sewer. For the first fifteen years of my life, I lived with my grandmother, who learned to sew as a young girl, working for a German woman who was an accomplished seamstress. She made many of her own dresses, both day dresses and church dresses, and she also was an avid quilter. I remember accompanying her on trips to buy fabric, watching her lay out patterns on the kitchen table, and being underfoot as she sewed things up at her machine. Eventually high school began, and I didn’t have as much time to hang out at home. My grandmother had also lost a leg to diabetes and it was hard for her to get to the sewing cabinet in her wheelchair, so she spent her sewing energy hand-piecing and quilting bed quilts. She passed away when I was 15, and my mother told me afterwards that my grandmother had intended to start teaching me sewing, as she thought I was the most likely to be interested. (My mother can sew but has never liked it very much, and rarely does it.) With that missed opportunity in the back of my mind, I went off to college, and then my first job and then to graduate school. From time to time the idea of learning to sew would pop up, but I had no idea how to go about it. I tucked it away until a few years ago when I went to visit a former classmate from my graduate program and her husband (also a classmate) for a weekend. This friend is an amazing artist and she also quilts, a fact I had not known for several years (it’s very difficult in graduate school to admit openly to doing anything except work!). I mentioned wanting to sew but not knowing where to begin. “You just need to get a machine– it doesn’t need to be a fancy one– and some books, and just DO it!” She pointed to her own very unfancy machine, and promptly dropped a pile of sewing books into my lap and encouraged me to look through them. I did, and what I saw inspired me; it seemed so doable! I could have clothes on demand! I got onto Craigslist that very day and arranged to purchase my first sewing machine, a supercool-avocado-green-all-metal-zig-zagging-workhouse-of-a-Kenmore from the early 1970s.

    Now that I had it, I had to use it, right? So I spent the rest of the summer teaching myself to use it and to make things, with the help of books, patterns and websites like Sew Mama Sew. I’ve had a few quilting classes, but about everything I’ve learned regarding garment sewing and fitting has been self-taught, and all on this very basic mechanical machine which does a straight stitch, zigzag, and I think a blind hem (but I don’t have a foot for it). I spend a lot of time online looking up techniques and comparing them. A LOT of time.

    With each project I’ve learned new things. I’ve found this to be a very absorbing and rewarding hobby, one that helped tremendously with getting settled as I moved alone to a new state and one that I’ve stuck with for nearly five years now!

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Cheryl from Red Knits

    “You don’t have to keep sewing,” my mom said, “but you aren’t going to pay someone else to sew a button on for you.” She is an incredible seamstress who, in addition to sewing many of her own clothes and keeping my sister and me in adorable smocked dresses, had worked in the alteration business. When I was nine, old enough to compete in the Minnesota 4-H clothing project, she taught me how to sew just like her mother had taught her.

First Outfit, 9 Years Old

    My very first outfit was a peasant blouse and gathered, tiered skirt with watermelon accents. It earned me a reserve champion ribbon for construction in the county fair, and I kept sewing competitively through 4-H and the Make It With Wool Contest until I went off to college. I didn’t exactly love sewing when I was young– in fact, there were more than a few arguments in our sewing room– but I’m so glad that my mom gave me such a fantastic foundation. Now that I’m in grad school on the other side of the country, sewing not only keeps me sane, but also keeps me connected to my mom.


HartsRound One of the Super Online Sewing Match is sponsored by Harts Fabric, an independent fabric store in sunny Santa Cruz, California. Since 1969 they’ve employed the most creative and fabric knowledgeable staff. All of the employees at Harts Fabric are avid crafters, quilters, sewists, knitters and true artists. They are always available to help you with any questions you may have about your sewing project, whether it be helping you calculate yardage or pick out the best fabric for your project; it’s what they love! Harts Fabric employees pride themselves on giving customers the best advice when it comes to sewing. They offer a unique assortment of cottons, eco, fashion, drapery and upholstery fabrics. Be sure to check out their latest fashion fabrics just in from New York! They have amazing rayons, knits, voile and lace.

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4 Responses to Challenger Question Round ONE: How Did You Learn to Sew?

  1. justine says:

    I really enjoyed reading these stories. In fact, it’s inspired me to decide to sit down and teach my youngest daughter to sew. The older ones can sew a bit and aren’t crazy about it, but I have a feeling this last one is going to like it.

  2. This was such a fun look into the competition. I’m still rooting for my favorite from the initial list of challengers. I also picked out my vintage shirt pattern so I can play along with them. Such fun this is!

  3. lisa mcgriff says:

    Thanks so much for giving us a glimpse into their lives. I really enjoyed this post!

  4. Charlene says:

    After a semester of sewing in home ec many years ago, I have self taught everything I know up to now. And I continue to learn every day.

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