20150509_101829My sum total experience with sewing has been; making a rather wonky heart-shaped foam pin cushion as a child, the odd hem/repair with a hotel sewing kit and occasional button reattachment. I may even have been caught using a stapler. I’ve never had any formal training, and by george it shows.
So, I thought it was high time I took to a sewing machine to see what all the fuss was about. My friend and I shuffled into a warehouse in a rather deserted back street of Seven Sisters and got acquainted with a sewing machine at The Fashion Box (courtesy of a discount voucher, of course).


Who knew the challenge started in threading your machine? First pick your thread then do a ‘cast on’ type affair to transfer from the reel to the machine reel by holding down the foot pedal. New fancy machines should auto-stop when reached the ideal amount.

Once this is done the next challenge is to thread the needle. This is done by tracking the thread through a small obstacle course around the front of the machine, passing it under the needle section to another section so that the sewing is actually done using thread from two different sources. This allows for the more sturdy and complex stitches seen in professional fabrics, but also leads to twice as many complications.

Once the threads are in place, we began by 20150509_101939sewing on square and round spiral patterns to navigate the controls, speed and corners. The bit that holds the fabric in place around the needle is called a ‘foot’ and is exchangeable depending on the type of fabric and stitchwork. In order to do flawless corners you’ll need to lift the foot to free the fabric to rotate it evenly, but want it back in place during the straight lines.

Next up was sewing seams – beginning with a regular one and rapidly advancing to those fancy invisible ‘french seams’ for chiffon and the likes. Here the pace picked up considerably and, considering most steps in seam-stitching require more ironing than I’ve done in about 5 years, it got a bit tougher to keep up. A handy trick is to use tailor’s chalk to mark the ‘right’ (front) and wrong sides of the fabric to ensure you’re working on the right sides at all times.

Next up we learned to sew zippers – a bit more advanced than I expected for an intro to sewing class, but handy to know. Again we gave this a bash and were largely successful.

Nailed it.

Nailed it.

The final bit we didn’t have time for; a practical shot at button holing. She demo’d this using a different foot and setting on the machine but it was a pity not to get to give it a go ourselves given it may be the most likely scenario I’ll explore again (and ain’t no stapler gonna help that one).

Bottom line: our teacher was very able but tried to jam too much into a short session leading to more panic than was needed and a feeling of not-quite-nailing it – and I like to think of myself as a fast learner.

Glad to have given it a go, though unlikely to have enough patience to do this too regularly, but good lifeskills to add to the bank so give it a bash if you’ve not had a chance.

The Fashion Box Voucher was a steal at £20 as this session usually costs £60, plus extra for the zippers! Some other places to try:

  • Sew Over It (gotta love a pun) – Intro class of 4 sessions, Clapham/Islington, £199 but get 20% off using the discount code > SOIJUN20
  • Sew It With Love – Intro class of 4 sessions – £180 Waterloo SE1
  • Saturday Sewing Session – 5 Hour beginners’ class – £85, Chelsea SW10
  • The Thrifty Stitcher – 8 Hour beginners’ class – £94, Stoke Newington N16

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