How I learned to Sew…


I have been so busy sewing the final mock ups for my sewing book (cue excited squeal), that I have not had a chance to make anything else…not even a little accessory to share with you!  I am hoping that will change later on in March…fingers crossed! 🙂

So when it came to decide what to share with you all today, I became stumped…which usually never happens.  I thought and I thought and, yep, I thought some more, and came up with this story.  The story of how and why I started sewing….

I was around the age of 10 and had just received the ultimate gift that every little girl in the ’90’s wanted (and I am sure even today,) an American Girl Doll.  Kirsten to be exact, whose story was set in the 1850’s.  I loved that doll and took her everywhere with me.  I dressed her, fed her, braider her hair, and had just about the best time ever!  But, one thing I did not have enough of was outfits.  To purchase them through the company was expensive, and I was convinced that I could reproduce them on my own.

Now up to that point, I could do a basic sewing stitch.  I’m talking basic.  And I don’t believe I ever used a sewing machine up to that point.  I might have…I’m just not sure.  Maybe my mom will remember when she reads this? 🙂  But as far as I am aware, I hadn’t.  So I begged my mom to haul out our 1970’s Singer sewing machine, that I am pretty sure weighed more than me, and sat down for my first lesson.  Mom gave me the basics, some scraps to practice with, and off I went.

It didn’t take me too long to figure out what I liked and didn’t like about sewing.  I enjoyed the sound it made, and even the odd “machinery” smell that it emitted after over an hour of use.  Perhaps many of you know what I’m talking about?  It’s the wonderful blend of your sewing machine,  the heat from the light inside, and a little dose of magic.  Every once in a while, I will get a whiff of it from mine and it instantly takes me back to a happy time.  Now that I am thinking about it, I hope that smell isn’t a sign the machine is about to explode?….Oh well! 🙂

What I didn’t like about the sewing machine was my constant battle with the bobbin tension.  I hated it!  That machine was so finicky and would seize up with the bobbin and I would just about loose it.  Oh and button holes….not my friend back in the day.  Thank goodness for sew-in velcro!

Eventually I got the hang of it, and my dad took me to the local Joann Fabrics store where I picked out my first sewing pattern.  It was a Simplicity pattern for 18″ dolls, and I am pretty sure was fairly new in response to the popularity of the American Girl Dolls.  With that in my little hand and two choices of cotton, I plunked down my allowance and headed home to get started!

My first doll dress.  Where to begin?….

 I guess I should take a “glass-half-full” view of it.

It was a dress.

And if you pulled really hard the velcro in the back could alllmmooooost touch.  What I didn’t understand, at the time, was the concept of a full skirt.  I just cut out enough to go around her body and thought that was enough.  So my 1850’s doll was wearing a 1960’s Twiggy shift dress.  But I didn’t care.  I just kept  practicing!

Every week, like clockwork, my mom and dad would take me to the fabric store.   I would pick out one or two calico patterns (1/2 yard each) and would go home to try again!  I got pretty good at it and before I knew it, Kirsten was wearing a dress that was properly fitting, properly designed, and didn’t need a shawl to cover up her exposed back.  It was a great accomplishment!

I don’t know if my parents, at that time, realized the impact this experience would have on me in my later life.  They always supported my brother and I in our hobbies, but I wonder if they knew they were laying the groundwork for my passion and career? Regardless, I would like to say thank you mom and dad!  You supported a dream that has become a reality! 🙂

Oh, and dad, thanks for the extra fabric money.  I’m not sure how my allowance always went so far…but it did! 🙂


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8 thoughts on “How I learned to Sew…

  1. Oh that reminds me of one of MY doll-sewing mishaps. I had wanted to make a yellow Belle ballgown. And I was like “huh. How do they get it to puff and stick out? I know — PADDING.” Cue me stuffing the bejeezus out of a couple of panels until they were packed as hard as a tailors ham… only to find that my perfectly fitting skirt no longer could make a circle around a doll’s waist. The half-completed horror still haunts my grandmother’s house, as far as I know. 😛

    But the only thing for my American Doll (I got one of the new styles with auburn hair and grey eyes and I named her Ellen) that actually worked was my attempt at a Civil War ballgown. It was hideously sewn, and the embroidery hoop-turned-hoop skirt was hilariously wonky, but I made it for a history project in middle school.

    I miss the days of getting the American Girl catalogue and excitedly poring over the outfits and books. The only one I had the full box set of (though I read them all!) was Samantha.

    — Tegan

  2. Having vintage sewing machines I know exactly the smell you fondly remember. I thought I was in a minority liking that smell lol. I grew up pre American Girl doll. I was geeky and played with fantasy action figures, I did have some sea wees but you can’t sew dresses for mermaids you jam in a lilly pad sponge… :/ I also sewed some tribbles when I was little lol. My favorite ‘tribble’ though was more evolved. My mom helped me add safety eyes and I put a squeeze squeaker inside because they made noise in the episode……. Yep, always been a strange one 🙂 Love your sewing story though!

    • I am so glad that you know that smell too! 🙂 Hahaha! I know exactly the episode you are talking about (which is one of my favorites) but didn’t know they sold actual tribbles! Love it!
      Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  3. Mary Sorensen

    What a wonderful story! And I DO understand the smell. I’m 57 years old now with the same sewing machine I had in high school (the heavy, 1970’s one) and, you’re right, it has a certain smell (but a good one). Thanks for sharing. : ) I hope more 10 year old girls will pick up the art of sewing as it is such a fun creative outlet.

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