On more than one occasion, I've had a new mom come up to me and say, "I would love to learn how to sew."  We then get into a discussion about sewing, smocking, embroidery, and how in the world to get started.  I thought it might be fun today to share with y'all some of my answers to these questions: 1. How much does it cost to start sewing?

Not to turn you off from the get-go, but I don't think most people realize just how much it costs to start sewing.  Now, I was very blessed to be given by sewing machine as a gift which cut out majority of the start-up cost.  But, I've still had to take classes, buy thread and other fun things for my machine, and purchase the actual fabric.  I don't think you save money by making your own smocked or lace outfits in the beginning, but I do believe that it is an investment that can be passed down from generation to generation making your purchase priceless.

2. Which machine should I purchase?

That is a good question and there are lots of different answers.  Different brands make different machines to serve different purposes.  My biggest question that I would ask you is what you want to do with your machine.  Do you think you would enjoy appliqueing t-shirts and onesies?  Or, would you rather enjoy the process of putting together cute play clothes?  A lot of people reason that it is best to buy a less expensive machine in the beginning and then buy the big boy once they get the hang of things.  I would suggest that you try out different machines in a class-like setting before you purchase.  Figure out how to actually use the thing and which features you really can't live without.  For instance, I hated my bobbin on my first sewing machine.  It was difficult to insert into the machine and it wouldn't catch properly.  I was so frustrated that I threw the dang thing across the floor and vowed to never sew again.  Now, my new machine has an easy-to-use bobbin that really makes my life so much easier.  And, it threads the needle...glory hallelujah!

So, if you think you want to learn embroidery and sew outfits together, I would suggest getting a machine that can do both.  My sewing machine is just that and is made by the brand Baby Lock.  My model is the Baby Lock Ellure and I love it.  Baby Lock and another brand, Brother, are made pretty much the same way but have slightly different price points.  These machines are my personal preference but I would suggest you looking at other sewing blogs to see what they use before you make your purchase.

3. What the heck is applique?

Applique is a type of embroidery and is basically a decorative patch that can be applied to clothing.  It can be ironed on without a sewing machine, hand-stitched, or machine embroidered.  A lot of stuff that I do for the girls has applique on it:

4.Where do I find appliques/fonts to download?

When I first got my machine, I was almost talked into buying a program for around $300 that had an assortment of fonts and appliques to choose from.  I am so glad that I did not do that in the beginning, frankly because of the cost.  I have found that if I purchase appliques on the internet, it is SO MUCH cheaper.  Typically, an applique can cost anywhere from $1.50 - $10 sometimes more if it is a larger size item (which I don't need because the highest my machine can take is a 5x7 hoop).  Some of my favorite applique websites are planet applique, applique cafe, applique momma, and etsy.  Also, find a friend that you can trade with...this saves you major bucks.  But, make sure that you can download the same type file that she has.  For example, my machine can only take a pes file.  This isn't too much of a big deal because a lot of these websites give you the applique in all of the different formats but I just wanted you to be aware of what your machine can download.

5. How do I get started appliqueing?

Well, first you need a machine that can do this.  You will also need a program on your computer to adjust your applique size and add text, etc.  The program that I use is Sew What Pro and you can download it for free before you decide to purchase.  My machine has a card that pops into the side of it but in order for me to get the info from my computer to the card, I use a device called PED-Basic (made by Brother).  This just plugs into my computer and allows me to grab my saved appliques from a folder on my computer.  I had to learn this process the hard way.  At one point, me and my sister-in-law Kari Beth, were trying to make our machine make its own appliques...it turned out horrible.  But, thankfully my wonderful sewing friend, Stephanie, pointed us in the right direction.  My life has been forever changed.

5. What kind of products do I need to begin appliquing?

I have a few essentials.  First, my stabilizer.  This is the material that goes in your hoop and is on the back of your shirt (or whatever you are appliquing).  Since I do a lot of baby clothes, I use a light-weight, no show mesh, nylon cutaway.  Joann's sells this...I think the brand is Sulky.  I also use Floriani but it is more expensive and I haven't been able to tell a difference.  If I am doing a towel or a bag, I adore a sticky stabilizer that peels off leaving just the thread on the backside of the towels.  There are thicker stabilizers but these are the ones I use most often.

Next, I use a spray adhesive instead of putting my item through the hoop.  I spray the spray (that sounds funny) onto my stabilizer that is already in the hoop.  Then, I place my item onto the sticky stabilizer (not to confuse you, but if I am using the sticky stabilizer I don't have to use this).

When sewing your applique, you have to buy a special kind of thread.  You can tell a difference because it is more shiny.  I use polyester thread but you can also use rayon.  For some reason that I still don't understand, you have to purchase a product called a topper to go on top of your fabric that you are using to applique.  I think it helps the needle.  Trust me, you have to use it or your machine will hate you.  I use a clear, wash away topper.

Finally, I apply a sticky back to my fabric to make it harder.  I've tried several different kinds, including Wonder-Under, but right now I am using Heat n' Bond light.  I would still like for my appliques to be even harder so if any of you have suggestions I am all ears!

6. What kind of products do I need just to sew?

The number one, most important product you need is a good seam ripper.  Trust me girl, you are gonna need it!  It took me a while to learn this, but mistakes happen....and they are fixable.  It doesn't mean that you are a bad seamstress, it simply means that you are making a product from scratch and there are bumps along the way.  I would also have a great pair of small, sharp scissors and big scissors for cutting (if you are left-handed, don't feel bad purchasing a left-handed scissor!).  You are going to need some needles and Joann's makes this really cool magnetic needle holder.  I heart it.  And, of course thread that matches what you are doing (I use white mostly but I also love the clear thread when I dress up ruffles with rick rack).

7. What are some patterns that you use to sew?

There are so many to choose from, but I absolutely love Bonnie Blue designs.  They are great for beginners.  I also love Jackie Clark designs. Children's Corner has a lot of classic patterns but can be more difficult to follow.  When looking at patterns, read the instructions.  If they are confusing to you in the store, you will be even more confused when you get home.  I suggest going to a class when you get started to learn how to cut your fabric properly.  Also, if you are making pants, try to find a pattern that you just have to sew the inside of the leg and not the inside and the outside.  It will make your life simpler.  I love reversible dresses because I feel like I'm getting my money's worth and they are cute.  Just make sure your fabric doesn't show through on the other side.

8. Is smocking hard?

I don't think so but I'm sure others will tell you differently.  I LOVE to smock because it is work that I am doing with my hands.  I can also take it anywhere and not feel confined to my sewing machine.  There are a couple of different basic smocking techniques to learn and after you have those down, be brave and make something!  I would suggest starting with a simple geometric before you picture smock.  Some of my favorite smocking plates are made by Ellen McCarn and Crosseyed Cricket.  I believe that once you learn how to smock and if you find fabric on sale, you will save money (especially with twins!).

9. What about heirloom sewing?  What do I need to know?

Patience, my child, patience.  These beautiful dresses are not going to be made in a day unless you are Sarah Howard Stone yourself.  There are a lot of different steps and it takes a while to see the big picture.  I would suggest doing a day gown first.  You can make it as fancy as you want to or as simple as you want to.  If you want a Christening gown, I would suggest getting grandmother to help you pay for it.  If your church is not super traditional, don't sweat having your child in a day gown instead of a full-length Christening gown.  They are both beautiful keepsakes made with love.

Back to the sewing....to get started on these dresses, you are going to need a Batiste fabric, which is more expensive than your regular fabric.  You will also need lace.  This will be more expensive in some parts of the dress than others simply for the amount you need to use and the width of your lace.  My suggestion is to be honest with the person you are purchasing your lace from on your budget.  She can usually guide you into a lace that is more cost-efficient or help you make a dress that uses less lace.  Along the way, you will need other things like buttons and entridou but those are not big money items usually.

When I made the girls' Christening gowns, I made them in about three months.  But, this was three months of weekly classes and homework and raising newborn twins.  Now, I am working on their Easter dresses and I got started around December.  I am a little behind but my teacher is giving me grace since I have two toddlers at home.  When making these dresses, you have to be committed to them and carve out the time to devout to them....they just are worth too much to not finish.  I find time when the girls go to bed at night and on the weekends....but you should find time that works for you!

Also, Martha Pullen is a great reference for everyday sewing ideas, as well as, the fancy dresses.

10. Do you enjoy it?

That depends on the day.  Some days, I am stressed out and feel this pressure to finish a sewing project.  But, all in all, I really do enjoy it.  It just takes time to learn and figure out how it works.  It really is rewarding to see your child in clothes that you make and tell your friends that you made it.  I think it is important to remember that it is a hobby and an ever-learning process.  It is supposed to be challenging at times because you are learning how to problem solve.  Walk away from a project if you need to or switch up your projects so you aren't doing the same thing over and over.  It is a creative process and breaks are encouraged.  Once I finish making something, I have this great feeling of "I did that."  So, yep, I sure do enjoy it :)

I hope this helps you with your sewing needs friends.  If you have any questions that I didn't answer, feel free to ask in the comments section below.  If you want me to make you something, just e-mail me at n2sshop{at}gmail.com.  Feel free to like this post on Facebook and forward to a friend that is learning to sew!

Till next time, let your light shine!

Blessings, christen