Friday, August 10, 2007

Sewing for your family: getting started

As early as 5th grade, I was sewing a fair amount of my own clothes. My mom helped me, and she and I made clothing for my siblings too. I continued sewing during high school and a very little bit during college. I started quilting the year I got married, and made quilts and diapers for my older son. And a few clothing items but I tell you, the big 3 patterns I used were pretty much awful, as a rule. I made this woven, collared shirt for him, using an old light blue check shirt of my husband's. A cute recycled project, you'd think. No. The collar on that pattern was gigantic, out of proportion, and the shirt never looked right. Other projects I made for him using big 3 patterns were much too big even though I made them in the same size he wore in store bought clothing. Trying to sew clothing for him was pretty disappointing.

When my second child was born I came across a sewing forum on a parenting website and discovered that there are some great online sewing resources available these days. I found better patterns, great fabric sources, and sewing communities chock full of information and support. And now, I sew a lot more, I enjoy it more, and I make cute, stylish clothes for my kids that actually fit. And, it's a bit more challenging, but I'm also having more and more success making clothing for myself.

So, here are some of my favorite sewing and fabric related websites:
Sewing Mamas is pretty much my online sewing home. Sewing Mamas has several active sewing forums, and loads of contests, swaps, and free patterns and tutorials. It's a great site with a good mix of beginner and experienced sewing moms. is an amazing site with probably thousands of user reviews of sewing machines, sergers, and just about any pattern you can find. I do still sew from big 3 patterns occasionally, but when I do, instead of going straight to the fabric store and flipping through the big book to find something, I look online at for the McCall's, Butterick, and Vogue catalogues or for Simplicity and New Look patterns. I write down the pattern numbers I like and then can go on over to to check for reviews. also has reviews of patterns from tons of independent pattern companies.

I've also used the machine reviews at to help pick out a couple of my machines and will probably go there again when I'm ready to upgrade to a better machine (soon, I hope!).

Ottobre Design is my favorite pattern source these days. They have the best patterns for sewing for boys, and of course, lots of great girl patterns too. There are 4 children's issues and 2 women's issues published each year. The patterns are printed on removable sheets in the middle of the magazine and you have to trace them in the desired size and add seam allowances. It's a little more work (and money) than a pattern you can get a JoAnn's for $1.50 on sale but it's worth it. You can subscribe directly through the Ottobre site or through the Wooly Thread. Individual back issues can also be purchased through the Wooly Thread or SewZanne's Fabrics.

Which brings me to fabric websites. SewZanne's has a great selection of fabrics (especially knits), patterns, and notions. They also have very fast shipping times and good customer service. is a great fabric source that has frequent sales and usually has reasonable prices. has a wide variety of fabrics including home dec, quilting fabric, and apparel fabric.

I have also purchased fabric occasionally from Trim Fabric and FabricLine, and Wazoodle and been happy with the results. There are also many, many other online fabric shops.

Finally, I wanted to add that you should still be on the mailing lists for your local JoAnn's and/or Hancocks, watch the sales, and use the coupons that come in your mailers. I try not to shop in either store without a coupon, and I buy most of my thread, sewing machine needles, and notions at these stores.

So, there you have it! Check out these sites and have fun sewing!


Kathy said...

I wish more new sewers knew how off most big company patterns are. Simplicity to my mind are the very worst, but Butterick and McCall's aren't far behind usually. Vogue I trust a little bit more and the instructions make more sense, but in any case I use the pattern and instructions more as suggestions than something to follow verbatim. I'm itching to try Ottobre, though I have a Built By Wendy pants pattern calling my name when I next have free time :-)

Thanks for the great sewing resources list!