Q&A Day: Learning to sew and neatness

I’d love to receive questions from readers about any of the posts on this blog or other subjects I might be able to cover. You can always pose questions in the comments section of each post, or send me an email at urbandomesticity[at]gmail[dot]com.

Here are a couple questions I’ve been asked by friends and acquaintances recently.

Where did you learn to sew and how can I get started?
Sewing is a great skill to have. It allows you to mend clothing and make custom items for your home like slipcovers and curtains that you would otherwise have to pay top dollar for. Sewing also allows you to re-purpose and recycle old fabric, such as linen towels, to make something new, such as pillows. I think the best way to start is to find someone with a sewing machine who can show you how to use it. Once you can operate one machine, you can probably figure out how to operate another.

If you don’t know anyone with a sewing machine, look into local classes. Oftentimes fabric stores offer workshops and this could be a great way to start. Then, invest in a machine of your own and start with small projects like simple pillows. I’ve learned so much through trial and error, and by simply referring to my machine’s manual.

I first learned to sew with a sewing machine in sewing class in 6th grade. They rotated us through various home-ec classes, and I think sewing was the best one. I learned how to thread the machine, properly iron the fabric, and make basic things like pillows, draft stoppers,  and drawstring bags. I remember that the teacher was very strict and cranky, but man did she know how to sew!

After that, I primarily taught myself using my mom’s clunky Kenmore sewing machine from the 1970s. For awhile, I made lots of stuffed animals and other toys for our dogs. (Yes, I was crazy for dogs back then too.) Eventually, I started to make little purses and wallets. I made pillows for gifts and even made Halloween costumes for friends a couple times.

My sewing pursuits then took a long hiatus in college and re-emerged when it was time to set up my own home after graduation. I began to take on more complicated sewing projects and eventually made two custom slip covers (zippers and all) for a sofa my husband and I used for years. Needless to say, sewing slipcovers is very time intensive and not easy and taught me a ton about how to sew. Interestingly, I haven’t ventured into the world of clothing-making, although I do have a book about making clothing and some patterns I hope to try sometime.

Are you a neat freak?
In short, yes. I probably am! I’m very sensitive to my physical surroundings and the overall balance and composition of spaces. This is partly why I was a visual arts major in college and still enjoy painting: it allows me to fuss and fidget with color and surface and light.

So, I am very particular about my home and I do tend to keep things neat and organized. This requires regular purging of un-wanted things in the home such as junk mail and other stuff that piles up. I also clean and dust once a week. I’ll post about this topic more sometime.

That said, I don’t mind the lived-in look. As long as the house is fairly clean and not too crowded with stuff, it doesn’t bother me too much (kinda depends on my mood) when day-to-day life shows itself in my surroundings. I actually took a few pictures to show you what I mean. This is how our place often looks during the week:

How about you? Where did you learn to sew/cook/other hobby? Are you neat and tidy?

Feel free to leave questions I could cover in a future post in the comment section below, or send me an email at urbandomesticity[at]gmail[dot]com.

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6 Responses to Q&A Day: Learning to sew and neatness

  1. Timmo says:

    You call that a mess? Puh-lease. You should see the mess my wife and I leave around the house! If it weren’t for weekend visitors or hosting parties we would never tidy up. Don’t judge.

  2. Lindsay says:

    Hey Timmo, no worries… this is a judgment free zone! Now, I didn’t take pics of the worst of it ’cause, after all, I still want the blog to look kinda pretty.

    The truth is, having guests over is a great thing to do regularly just to encourage us to tidy up. I know I kick it into high gear when people are coming for dinner.

  3. margelit says:

    I am not a neat freak, though I wish I were. I have a bunch of my great grandfather’s old handkerchiefs that I want to make into a wall hanging. With three little kids I don’t have a sewing machine or time. Where can I find someone to do this for me; is there a site you can recommend? I’ve asked local seamstresses and they don’t want to do it.

  4. Lindsay says:

    I’m surprised the seamstresses have declined the project. How many handkerchiefs do you have? Do you want a quilt type wall hanging? You could check with local fabric stores to see if any of their employees want a project like this. Or, perhaps a local college student studying art/textiles. I’ll let you know if I stumble on any sites with reccommendations. It’s a great idea, by the way 🙂

  5. carmen says:

    Aw, I love this post 🙂 Sewing is one of my favorite crafts/skills, though I wish I used it more often! I remember starting sewing when I was young–probably under 10 years old–and sewing little dolls out of scraps of fabric at my grandma’s house. (Fortunately the projects have grown beyond that now though!) I’m very impressed with the DIY couch covers; I can only imagine the amount of time and patience that required 🙂

  6. Lindsay says:

    Carmen, yes those couch slipcovers were a ton of work but I learned so much that I guess it was worth it even though I gave the couch (and the covers) away just a couple years later. Those little dolls sound so cute!

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