If you’ve been around here for long, you KNOW I don’t know how to sew. I have, however, taken up kid-scissor alterations that surprisingly, have yielded some pretty good results!
Like, the time I cut the sleeves off my too tight denim jacket and turned it into a denim vest (HERE). Or the time I cut an old crewneck cashmere sweater right down the middle and turned it into a cardigan (HERE).
OR, the many times I’ve cut the neck out of a crew-neck t-shirt so it fit to flatter my triangle body shape.
After successfully mastering kid-scissor alternations, I’ve decided that it’s time I learn some legit sewing skills. Not the kind that require a sewing machine with pedals and bobbers (or are they bobbins?) and other moveable doo-dads. (Though that is my dream.) But the simple kind, that can be done by hand.
I want to know some super-basics, like how to sew on a button the CORRECT way. (I tried once, and I got it on there SO well, it was actually unbuttonable because the button was too tight to the fabric.)
But mostly, I want to know how to alter an almost-perfect $6 thrift store find so it fits MY body perfectly! Because you know there are about a million things out there that are close… so close! They just need a quick nip and tuck to be perfect.
I want to know how to hem a dress so it fits to flatter MY shape. Or, how to take in a tank that’s WAY too big under the pits. Or maybe even how to hem a pair of jeans so the cuffs aren’t dragging on the ground.
Whew. That’s a tall order. One that could seriously open up a whole new world of thrifting possibility!
To get me started, I contacted my good friend (and SSS alum!) Mary over at The Daily Sew to ask what in the world I would need to get started. Mary is super profesh, wicked smart, and has mad sewing skills, so I knew she would lead me in the right direction. She wrote up a shopping list for me, with links to products she recommends, and HOLY COW it’s too good not to share!
MARY’S TOP 5 SEWING KIT ESSENTIALS
FOR EASY-PEASY HAND ALTERATIONS
1. Needles – It’s a needle, not a harpoon, my professor used to always tell us. He meant you want a needle strong enough for the fabric you are sewing but slim enough to glide through the fabric. Buy a pack of sharps in an assortment of sizes and always try to use the smallest needle for the job.
2. Thread – You will be surprised how drastically the quality of your thread impacts your sewing job. Cheap thread tangles and knots on itself and breaks. It will not save you money. It will waste your time. You will curse it.
Buy a couple of spools of “all purpose” or “general purpose” thread in neutral colors (say black and white) or in colors you wear a lot of (one light, one dark). Most of the time your thread will not show on the outside of the garment.
I recommend these three brands of thread; Coats & Clark, Mettler and Gutermann. Cheap thread will knot, tangle and break if you just look at it. Any thread that comes in a sewing kit, on tiny spools or on styrofoam spools needs to be thrown away, now.
If you’re just getting started, I’d recommend something like THIS.
3. Straight Pins – Pins are like extra fingers. They hold fabric in place as you sew, they hold extra fabric together so you know how much to take in, and they can mark any place on a garment without leaving a mark.
Pins come in a variety of lengths and thicknesses for different types of fabric and tasks. A basic sewing kit needs just one type of pins, preferably fine pins. Fine pins are slim enough to not leave holes in delicate fabrics like silk, rayon or knits but strong enough to be used on heavy fabrics like denim.
Of course, every box of pin needs a pin cushion! (Did you know the strawberry on that quintessential tomato pin cushion is a needle sharpener!)
4. Scissors – To simply snip thread off the spool, or trim away excess fabric from a seam you’ve taken in, you’ll want REALLY sharp scissors. Sharp does not mean expensive. If you don’t already own a pair of sharp scissors get the classic orange handle Fiskars. The orange handle will remind you, and anyone else in your space, that these scissors are for sewing and not for hard plastic packaging, wires or toenails.
I’d also recommend a pair of super sharp and pointy scissors for getting into tight spaces, like THESE clever little crane scissors!
5. Seam Ripper – Everyone needs a full size seam ripper. They’re perfect for removing labels, mistakes and seams.
Never use a dull seam ripper. They can slip under the extra force you’ll need to use and rip your fabric or your hand. Also, steer clear of a miniature seam ripper unless you have miniature hands.
Good list, right?
With Mary’s recommendations in hand, I set out to collect everything on the list. Being the gal that I am, I was able to find a few things at my local swap shop (aka – the dump!), the thrift store, and I even had a few things (like a measuring tape and this vintage sewing basket) kicking around the house.
Now that my kit is together, I’m ready to learn some new skills!
And here’s the best part! I’m going to share WITH YOU all the quick alteration tips that Mary teaches me… with completed project!
Not only will you learn to sew, but you’ll also learn some STYLE skills too, because I’ll share with you exactly WHY and HOW I’m altering a piece to fit MY body’s shape and proportions.
So basically… we’re teaming up to teach you a whole bunch of stuff that will allow you to REFRESH your closet (and your shopping cart), so you can nip and tuck those not-perfect pieces so they fit to flatter your gorgeous shape!
If you already know how to sew, check out Mary’s blog at The Daily Sew, because it is filled to the gills with some pretty awesome tutorials!
PS. Leave a comment below and let me know what hand-sewing projects YOU might be interested in learning, and I’ll share it with Mary! Perhaps she can do a tutorial JUST FOR YOU!