The Day I Learned To Sew

firstprojectLook, it’s me! Exactly five years ago today I took my very first sewing lesson at Sew L.A. in – you guessed it – Los Angeles. I promptly came home and took this photo of me and my new tote bag (complete with ruler still in its packaging) to share with family back East. Yep, this is what I looked like the day I learned to sew.

Back then Sew L.A. was in a smaller shop in Silver Lake before moving into their spacious digs in Atwater Village (which I’ve yet to visit). Oh, how I thought it was the most magical place in the whole wide world! Shelves full of bolts of fabric, six tables with six sewing machines, lots of light, and lots of promise.

I honestly can’t remember what compelled me to sign up for a lesson (it was fate, I s’pose), but I do remember how popular their classes were. I had to sign up a month in advance for “Machine Intro”, the prerequisite for the other 100-level classes. Other than a handful of sewing sessions in middle school Home Ec., I didn’t have any experience (or interest in) sewing. I did get the Home Ec. award that year though, so maybe it was in the cards. Either that or my teacher was majorly impressed with my dish washing skills.

Sew L.A. back in the Silver Lake days.

Anyway, it’s been a while since I’ve needed a machine intro course, but on that sunny Saturday afternoon a whole new world opened up to me when I made that simple tote. I learned what a bobbin was, how to thread the machine, and just how tricky it seemed to sew in a straight line! How will I ever do it? Turns out all you need is practice, patience, and dreams of good things ahead.

Oh, and an understanding that lots of people will start asking you to make them stuff. I didn’t (like most of you) know that back then. The innocence. 😉


I still have that tote bag. It’s neat to look at it and see how far I’ve come in five years. Based on the zig-zag stitches overlapping the straight stitch on my hem there it looks like I hadn’t quite grasped the point of a finished edge! I think I finished the seam first, folded the fabric over, and then top-stitched it down. Wouldn’t be surprised if I was running out of class time. Even today, I am one slow stitcher.

The very next day I took “Hand Sewing Basics” and used my new handy skills to make a pincushion that, yes, I still use. If it’s up to me I’ll have it forever as my main pincushion (so far my kind-of-loose stitches have held out!).


Here’s the pincushion still actively holding my glass head pins. It’s sitting on my very first me-made garment: owl pajama pants! Sew L.A. has you sign up for 100-level (beginner) classes first before moving on to 200- (intermediate) and 300-level and up (advanced) classes. I thought that was so smart. Learn how to sew straight seams and take basic measurements on a simple elastic-waist PJ pattern – in this case Kwik Sew 3602 that I’ve made several times since (including these blogged pairs) – before moving on to more complex projects. Building your skills one project at a time!

I follow Sew L.A. on Instagram and find the need to “like” every single photo they share of a new batch of ladies and gents who made their first tote or pajamas or whatever. If my blog inspires even one person to take up sewing or work on improving his/her skills then it’s a job well done, I say.

Me back in the day wearing my owl PJs in my cute 1950s kitchen. LA has the cutest apartments ever.

Do you remember the day you learned to sew? I’ll never forget the “OMG, we made this with our own two hands!!!!” feeling all of us in the October 2009 Pajamarama class felt when, at the end of three sessions, we had our very first me-made clothing. The idea that we had just taken fabric, cut it out, sewed it together, and had something to wear at the end of it was completely mind blowing. Mind blowing, I tell ya! I think many of you know exactly what I mean.

Most of the things I made my first couple years of sewing aren’t worn anymore, but they were great stepping stones and there ain’t nothing wrong with that. To any beginners out there, don’t give up just because the fabric isn’t draping the way you thought it would or you’re not happy with your finished creation. It gets better!

Some of my earliest projects. L to R: Kwik Sew 3547 apron, Sew L.A. pincushion pattern with added ears, tail, and cat face for little Gizmo’s Christmas present, and Kwik Sew skirt (forgot the pattern #).

I take it for granted now that I can tackle almost any project I please (with not always great results), but when I put on those owl PJs my thoughts race back to that time half a decade ago when I said to myself with a great big smile, “Whoa, did I just make that?!” Why, yes, yes I did. 🙂

Here’s to sewing, to finding a creative outlet that always gives us something to look forward to, and to all you sewers and thinking-about-becoming sewers out there. We came across a good thing on that day we learned to sew, didn’t we?


6 thoughts on “The Day I Learned To Sew

  1. It’s good to hear that our garments will get better with practice. I’ve been considering taking a class at Sew L.A. – I guess I should just do it.

  2. All of that resonated! I also learned how to sew at Sew LA, and I took that same tote bag class back in the tiny Silverlake store. And I worked my way up through the classes. And now I sew as a hobby. I also have no idea what made me sign up for those classes, and now its a hobby that takes up half my house.

    • Wow, we are Sew LA twins! I only took about 10 months worth of classes before heading back East so I never got to the more advanced classes. That “hobby that takes up half my house” part totally made me laugh. It really does! And the thread that seems to end up everywhere, no matter where you go.

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