If you’ve been sewing awhile (and most readers of The Cutting Table probably have), then it’s hard to remember the days when threading your machine or understanding the term “seam allowance” didn’t come naturally. But truth be told, even the most skilled amongst us was once a newbie stitcher, eager to learn the right way to wield a seam ripper or create a tidy double-fold hem.
Jill Abeloe Mead
Here to provide guidance for those basic tasks and much more is the web site HowToSew.com, produced by the talented folks who bring you American Patchwork and Quilting, Quilt Sampler, and Quilts and More. “We’re reaching out to beginning sewers and our mission is to help them learn to sew and to have a fun, successful experience,” says Jill Abeloe Mead, the site’s editor.
The learning, and the fun, is enhanced by patterns and tutorials for sewing projects for gifts, accessories, and home décor items. In the process of creating pillows, potholders, and pouches, newbies learn skills that will last a lifetime. “Sewing isn’t in many school curriculums anymore and we see lots of people teaching themselves,” says Jill. “When they get into a jam, they go to the Internet, and we want to be their go-to source for both learning basic skills and improving upon them.”
Focus groups held around the country helped Jill determine the site’s content. She learned, for example, that phrase “the right side of the fabric” wasn’t clear to beginners. “We saw they were looking at the right-hand edge of the cloth,” says Jill, so she created an illustrated post that clears up the confusion. Other posts offer tips for cutting, pressing, and sewing straight, and explain how to use templates. “We also learned that people are interested in mending things—how to fix a snag in a sweater, for example—so we’ll continue to include that kind of information,” she says.
In addition to the on-site content, a link leads to a series of Youtube videos with editor Lindsay Fullington, who demonstrates how to thread a sewing machine, how to replace a sewing machine needle, and even how to sew on a button. “Lindsay’s already developed a number of faithful followers and we’re getting email from fans,” says Jill.
New content is being added to the site regularly. On tap for this summer are a series of tee-shirt projects, including ways to personalize and modify them. Along the way site visitors will learn about fusibles, how to cut a tee-shirt for re-fashioning, and what kinds of needles to use when stitching knits. Another series of projects will focus on baby accessories: a simple coverlet, blocks, and an embellished onesie. “People like to make things to give and we plan to have lots of gift ideas in the months leading up to the holidays,” says Jill.
While HowToSew.com is aimed at beginners, there’s no doubt that some of us who have been sewing awhile will enjoy it, too. I plan to whip up some Fabric Corner Bookmarks to tuck into the holiday cards I give to my book group buddies. And the Fabric and Color section demonstrates how to use photos of everyday objects—flowers, gourds, even cookies—as inspiration for pulling together a variety of textures and hues when choosing fabrics. It’s a reminder that one of the great things about sewing is that no matter how long you’ve been stitching, there’s always something new to try.