Browsing Tag

learn to sew online

Sewing and Self-Compassion

sewing and the art of self compassion whipstitch blog

Years ago, I was teaching a sewing class to brand-new seamstresses.  It was an introductory class, and there were six women there.  I gave my usual second-day-of-class pep talk, and then outlined instructions for the next project we would tackle together before sending them off to the cutting tables with their fabric to work independently while I circulated and offered individual help.  It was a relaxed evening, and everyone was in good spirits and excited to try something new.

When all the other students got up and left the table, one woman remained.  She sat with her hands in her lap, under the table, her head bowed low to look at them.  She was very, very still.  Now, I’m not terribly gifted at reading other people’s body language, but even I couldn’t miss that this was a woman exhibiting signs of distress.

I sat next to her and in my best cheerful, please-let-this-be-nothing-because-I-lack-skills-here tone, said, “What’s up?”

And she says, her voice extremely quiet and filled with tears, “It’s just that I’ve been trying for three years to have a baby and I can’t get pregnant, and I just can’t have this be one more thing I’m a failure at.”



That is heavy stuff.  She was hurting, and her pain was very real and very deep.  It wasn’t about sewing, but it was also about sewing. You know?

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Introducing: Learn As You Sew Patterns

learn as you sew on green ellen baker background

Eeeeep!!  I’m am excited and nervous to share with you a project I have been working on for close to a year: my new pattern series.  I’d like to introduce you to Learn As You Sew Patterns!

plaid flannel landscape

I’ve been designing sewing patterns for close to ten years.  I started out making them for myself when I couldn’t find what I wanted in the pattern catalogs.  Then, I made them to manufacture for my children’s clothing boutique company.  It wasn’t until I started teaching sewing that I began to think about what sewing patterns looked like to new sewers, folks who had never used them previously.  And it changed the way I looked at the patterns on the market.


The last five years has seen a HUGE explosion in PDF patterns.  I released my very first PDF pattern, The Overmost, in 2009 and the difference between what a sewing pattern on the indie market could look like then and what they look like now is astronomical.  I began to think about re-designing the Overmost–not the garment, but the actual PDF.  What would it look like?  What features would I want to include?  What would benefit a new or beginning sewer the MOST in a pattern that they download and sew from the internet?

learn as you sew video iconOne of the biggest things I find that has benefitted my students is the use of video.  I love, love, love to make video for sewing, and over and over hear back from students online that it is such a great, adaptable, versatile means of learning nearly anything–and that used well, it can make the difference between someone loving sewing and someone walking away from their machine once and for all.  Not everyone has a local shop where they can learn in person, and for some of us, even if we do have a local shop our schedules don’t line up with the class schedule–we’d be much more likely to take a class at our convenience, when the kids are in bed.

That was the major motivation for launching my e-courses in 2010, and building a new e-course site last year.  I love teaching e-courses and have met some truly amazing people through them!  But not everyone will take an e-course–some are concerned that they won’t complete the content, others are concerned that they won’t like the format, and some just don’t really “get” the idea of an online class.

I wanted to develop a format that would reach THOSE people, the ones who didn’t feel comfortable taking an online class, but who still want to learn to love to sew.

Along the way, those two goals converged.  I have a feeling it was while I was driving along the interstate, since I seem to do even more brain-leaping there that I do in the shower.  What if….what if there was a PATTERN that included VIDEO?  Not an online class, really, but a pattern that allowed you to move BACK AND FORTH between the instructions and videos to guide you?

That’s how the Learn As You Sew Pattern Series was born.

skirt landscape anna maria

These patterns are TABLET-FRIENDLY, which means they’re meant to be a true digital pattern.  Rather than printing the entire file and following along the written instructions, you’re invited to print just the pattern pieces and then view the pattern instructions on your tablet (or computer).  There are embedded videos throughout the PDF that guide you through every step of the construction process.  Just click on any step where you need some extra help, and you’ll be whisked away to video of that specific step, where you can see up close and at the machine exactly what happens next.  I think it’s an amazing way to sew through a pattern, one that gives you a familiar interface with friendly video, and makes every pattern feel like personalized instruction.

black german heel kick b

The first pattern, the Get Up and Go Skirt, is part of Series One: Foundational Skills.  Each grouping of Learn As You Sew Patterns is a Series, and each Series includes three patterns that build on one another to drill down on a specific set of concepts.  The patterns in each series can be used alone, if you really only love the one design, but work best when all sewn in order, so that you’ll firm up your technique and try new sewing tricks you’ve never tried before!

These first three patterns walk sewers through basic sewing skills, allowing you to really drill down and cement those techniques before moving on to more challenging garments.  We’re sewing straight lines and working with elastic and making casings and finish off seams and sewing clean hemlines.  Other patterns in this series of three focus on French seams, bust and waist darts, making drawstrings, making and applying bias tape, and so much more.  I wanted to build a catalog of wearable, classic shapes that really TEACH as you sew them.

in seam pocket go skirt gr plaid

These patterns aren’t just for new sewers, though!  They’re intended for ANYONE who wants to make a great, chic garment that they’ll really wear, again and again.  Because how much fun is it to sew and then hang it in the closet? No fun at all.  So these patterns also include a Quick Start guide that allows more experienced sewers print a list of instructions to check off and get going.

The video below walks you through more of the features of these patterns.  It’s one of the introductory videos included in the Get Up and Go Skirt, which will launch TOMORROW here on the blog.  I hope you love what you see, can’t wait to hear what you think, and am excited to share this new sewing journey with you!

Tomorrow, I’m excited to release the Get Up and Go Skirt pattern and share more details with you about the first pattern in this series!

The green fabric featured behind the Learn As You Sew logo is from Ellen Luckett Baker’s Framework collection, and is available here!

Still Room in the Fall Wardrobe and Pants ecourses!

I have been absent lately, busily humming away on three different major projects that are getting ready to come to fruit, and I’m just about to poke my head out and share them all with you (I really think, sincerely, that you’ll be delighted when you see what I’ve been working on, and it’s all about to land at the same-ish time–woot!).

Right this minute, though, I’m focusing on and really loving my two garment e-courses, which I’m teaching concurrently this year: Fall Wardrobe and Sewing Pants.  So far, I am delighted–beyond delighted–with the students and their questions and how excited everyone is to conquer clothing and really make some beautiful garments for themselves!  I think I have spent so much time over the past three years sewing for others and sewing for outside projects that I had almost forgotten the sheer joy of sewing something for ME.  Lately, I’ve been reaching to grab that back, and I am so, so tickled to be finding it in these online classes.

I still have a small handful of spots left in each class, and I would love to have you join us!  Take the Fall Wardrobe class and make four garments: a top, a skirt, a dress and a jacket; or take the Sewing Pants class and master three styles of pants (drawstring, fitted side zip, and fly-front) while answering questions about fit.  There is still plenty of time to jump in with the group and get going! Click through to learn more and register, and I’ll be back to reveal some of the things I’ve been cooking in the wings!

Giveaway at True Up–One Spot in the Essential Sewing E-Course!

This weekend, you could win a spot in the Essential Sewing e-course that begins on Monday!  Jog on over to True Up, our favorite all-fabric-all-the-time blog, and leave a comment for a chance to win.  Giveaway closes Monday morning!

There are still spots remaining in the class if you’d like to join!  Registration will remain open through early next week to allow last-minute folks a chance to pick up your needle and get sewing this January.  Hoping you’ll be part of the group!

Essential Sewing e-course now registering!

Hooray!! The first online sewing class I’m offering this year, Essential Sewing, is now open for registration!  I really love teaching this class–it offers such a wide range of skills and is enormously beneficial both for total newbie beginners and folks who have more experience at their sewing machine but want a good grounding in foundational sewing technique.  I love that we do live chats–they’re possibly my favorite part–plus tons of video, interviews, PDFs to download and keep, and a boatload of opportunities to get your questions answered.

Because I pre-sold registrations in 2011, there are already folks on the roster for this session.  I limit enrollment in order to ensure that the class really is interactive and manageable, and that I have a chance to respond to students’ needs.  If you’ve been thinking of jumping in, say, maybe you got a sweet new sewing machine for Christmas or Hannukah and you’re thinking this year is THE YEAR you’ll master sewing, NOW is the time to snag a seat for yourself before they’re full!!  C’mon in, everyone, the water’s fiiine.  See all the details on the e-course page.

Happy sewing, y’all!

Essential Sewing

I was going to write a post about the fail that is my new dishcloth that I knitted (knit?) while on vacation, which makes it now look as though I wash dishes with a pair of underpants, but I’m so busy washing with it that I didn’t get a photo.  Another time.

Instead, why not skip over and read the description of the Essential Sewing e-course that starts on Monday? I’d love to have you join us!  Looks to be a really cool and exciting group–can’t wait to see it all come together.  Register here through Monday.  (Psst: I’ll tell you a secret, too.  I never did get around to taking down the early bird discount, so why no take advantage of my neglect and save yourself some dough on your registration?  It’ll be our secret!)


This is only one of SIX (or maybe more) giant piles of fabric I’ve begun amassing for my next book.  I have some really (REALLY) amazing apparel fabrics on order, and not a few more in my virtual cart(s).  I might be on a binge.  So far, just a lot of folding and re-folding, but plenty of pattern testing and sample-making is on the horizon!  I love this part: where I get to make all the different variations on a design that really should exist out there in the world.  YES, it should come in corduroy!  YES, it should have piping!  YES, you can use a zipper or buttons!  YES, it can be five feet tall!  YES, YES, YES!

Don’t forget: still time to register for the Essential Sewing e-course starting in a couple weeks!  Get your core skills mastered well before this new book hits stores.  All content from this e-course will remain live and available to participants through the end of 2011–nearly four months!  Find all the details on the e-course page, and take advantage of the early bird discount!

Registration OPEN for the Essential Sewing e-course!

Registration is now OPEN for the Essential Sewing online e-course!  I originally taught this class in January, and hadn’t expected to offer it again this calendar year, but have had so many emails and tweets and inquiries that I’m going ahead and teaching the class once more, now that school is back in session and many of us have our schedules a little bit better under control.  Class begins September 12 and runs for six weeks online–you join in as your schedule allows, and go from zero to stitch in a flash!

The class is oodles of serious amounts of fun–check out all the details and register early!  I’m capping enrollment this time to ensure that I am able to really give everyone the one-on-one attention that will help you be the most successful.  I would love, love, love to have you join us!

Essential Sewing E-Course Starts Monday!

The Essential Sewing E-Course begins MONDAY!  If you’re on the fence, and want to sign up but haven’t, now is the time, yo.  Registration will close Monday night at midnight!  Join the class and learn the foundational skills you need to do your best sewing this year–I know you have it in you!  See all the course details here, and I’ll hope to see you in class!

New Blog Series in the New Year, and An Epiphany

2010 has been the most amazing year.  I can’t think of any other year in my life where I’ve had so much excitement and surprise and frustration and expectation and anxiety and stress and giddy happiness.  This is the year when my little shop-within-a-shop went out on its own; when I saw my name on the cover of a book that I wrote; when I brought my fourth baby into the world; when I tried (unsuccessfully) to sell my house while dreaming of another one; when I dipped my toes in the waters of pattern design; and when I ventured into teaching sewing online. It’s been WILD and amazing, and it has been one other thing: a TON of work.

I’m tuckered, y’all.  Pooped.

These last two weeks have been a vacation for me: I’ve been writing here on the blog, but mostly sticking close to home outside of that.  No classes during the holiday party season, lots of down time with the kids.  And it has confirmed what I already suspected: my work is better and more fun when I pace myself.  I feel almost embarrassed to have realized this so late, when I’m pretty sure most of you could have told me that ages ago, but I never said I liked to do things the easy way, so here I am.

I have SO MANY cool plans, things I really want to do, things I’m excited to do and have been looking forward to for ages.  And I have some other ideas that I like, but that I’ve been motivated to do because I wanted to be the first one to do them, even if it meant that I didn’t do them to the best of my ability or that I rushed a bit.  I have lists and charts and diagrams and notebooks filled with jots and sketches and bullet points, all waiting for their turn.  Looking over those, my epiphany has rung true again and again: sometimes, less really is more.  Sometimes, a single job well done is worth a dozen jobs done just pretty well.  I’d like for 2011 to be my year of Well Done, with the expectation that the ideas I have now won’t be the only ideas I ever have, and that as the years move along I’ll have other opportunities.  Without getting too squicky-touchy-feely, I’ve realized that I said “yes” to a bunch of stuff in 2010 because I was afraid if I said “no” that I’d miss out and never have the chance again–and I’m pretty sure that’s not the case, or that if it is, I wouldn’t miss out on anything worth doing, anyway.  Because, really.  My life is already so much more than I could have hoped, and every bit that I add to it is so much gravy.  Let’s not be greedy with the gravy, know what I’m sayin?

So in 2011, I’m cutting back a bit.  I’ve organized my ideas into five families, and I’ve decided to stick to those and really give them my attention and see where they take me–I don’t want to run the risk of spreading myself thin and missing out on something really cool because I tried to do too much at once.  I’m kinda excited, actually, looking at these five big ideas, and seeing how they’re going to play out.  It’s always a gamble, you know, making a Plan and having Goals.  You never really know how it’s going to work out, or if you’ll look back later and feel like a dork for having thought it would work out the way you hoped.  I’ve had my share of disappointments and unexpected surprises in 2010, and wouldn’t really like to repeat them.  But I like going into things with the Plan at my side, as long as I know ahead of time that it’s totally OK to blow off the plan when the lemons start rolling in.  I like challenging myself to lay my hopes out on the table, and this year, I’m prioritizing my hopes and my dreams, and giving my best to the ones that really make me feel all tingly and happy inside.

In no particular order, then, my Five Blog Projects for 2011.

I’ve seen plenty of books out there about sewing for children, some of them so wonderfully inspiring that I can hardly stop myself from trying to reach through the screen to get them from Amazon so I can have them right. this. minute.  But I don’t often see many books about sewing WITH kids, about teaching our children how to sew because we love it and we think they’ll love it and because it’s a really cool thing to do together.  I’m really excited about this one, and am already experimenting on our own children working with our kids on some cool projects.  I think especially with so many of us who have small children at home and love to sew, it can be really tough to be good at both, and I love the idea of developing projects and tutorials and rounding up goodies from the internet that we can use with our kids to share with them something they can take with them forever.  This is planned as a Thursday feature starting in January.

I have actual sketches of the plans I have for my fantasy home–like, with paint chips and with furniture (that I don’t own) all arranged, with plans for the wall art, for goodness sake.  It takes a lot of time to sketch out a fantasy house, let me tell you.  And getting it to scale?  Seriously.  And yet, if I gave half that time to the house where I actually live, maybe I wouldn’t want to move quite so badly (or ironically, maybe this house would sell faster).  I know I’m not the only one who could stand to turn the energy invested in lottery dreams into energy doing for the home we have now–and learn to like our own surroundings a little more.  From finally slip covering those chairs to painting the laundry room where I spend far too much of my time to making a dust cover for my sewing machine at long last, I’ve got a list of tasks to do for my home this year.  This is an occasional series, popping up as I get projects done, on no particular schedule.  I’m calling it Neat as Ninepence, in hopes that my home will indeed be neat and tidy and just as I imagine it in my head this time next year.

This one is actually the first in a series of new online sewing classes I’m working on, and I’m super excited.  It’s based on Stitch by Stitch, and is five weeks of beginner sewing taught via video, audio, interview, and photos.  If you’ve been wanting to hone your sewing skills, I think this is a fabulous class to take from the comfort of your own home, and I’ve been wanting to teach it for a very, very long time.  The projects are really cool, the videos are pretty funny (if I do say so, and I do), and the pace is perfect for learning or re-learning foundational sewing skills.  I’ll offer it right at the beginning of the year, when your schedule has settled down a bit and you can dig in and roll around in some sewing goodness.  The e-courses page is the best place to look for details and the registration button, as well as titles of the other online classes I have planned for the first part of 2011!  Woot!

One of my favorite books to flip through is The Art of Manipulating Fabric by Colette Wolff.  According to my editor, it’s also a consistent best-seller, with no flash or fury, just great photos, careful instruction and a huge range of ways to create three-dimensionality from fabric.  I’ve wanted to do some projects based on her techniques for a while, but could never decide where to start.  So I think I’ll start at the beginning and work my way through.  I’m planning individual projects for each of the techniques, so that I won’t just be making samples but will really be putting her instructions to use on a finished piece.  I’m hoping it will encourage me to do a LOT more sewing for myself this year, and am already feeling the tingle of anticipation and challenge.  This will start next week, and show up weekly-ish as I work my way through the techniques.

The Sewing Buddy Project was SO MUCH FUN in 2010.  I’ve been getting emails and notes about it ever since we closed the registration last year, and I am so excited to see it go back into action in January.  I was bummed to hear that a few of the Buddies disappeared after joining, but just this morning heard some of the coolest success stories–bestest sewing friends across the pond!  learning new skills from someone in another state!  Flickr groups just for the two of you!–that I am really revved up to see some new ideas this year.  I’m thinking contests, check-ins, and fun activities galore!  Oh, and no reason to ditch your 2010 Sewing Buddy–just add a new one in 2011 and expand your personal sewing circle!  Sewing Buddy posts will be every three or four weeks in 2011, depending on how many Buddies there are to corral.

Will these five be the only things I blog about in 2011?  Golly, I hope not.  But I’ve opted to let myself off the hook from developing ninety-six thousand different posts, and am pouring my energy into these ideas to see what really cool stuff will come of it.  I’m kinda curious to see where it all goes.  Could be awesome, could bomb spectacularly.  Either way, it’s looking like a ton of fun already.  Whaaaaat?  You know that’s right.

Announcing NEW Whipstitch e-Courses!

Y’all.  I am so, so excited.  In the midst of all the other excitement going on, I am delighted to announce new Whipstitch e-Courses for this fall!

I’ve been wanting to offer online classes for ages now, and have finally worked out the details to make it happen.  I worked hard to choose topics that are in demand and that I feel passionately about, so that I can bring you content that will help you get where you want to go with your sewing!  First up, in just a few weeks, is Sewing with Knits, designed to get you started sewing confidently and artfully with knit fabrics–without a serger!   With all the amazing knit fabrics out right now–from Patty Young’s collection for Michael Miller to City Weekend from Liesl Gibson of Oliver + S–there is a whole mess of eye candy waiting for you to stitch it up.  Don’t let a new fabric scare you!  This e-course is designed to walk you through the steps of sewing knits of all types step-by-step so that you can create amazing projects with total confidence.  This is a five-week online class with insane amounts of very cool content, and I am about to bust from excitement–I can’t even tell you how hard it was for me to wait until today to break the news!  I am totally looking forward to having you join us all.  See all the details here!

Then, in November, a course near and dear to my heart: Crafty Business Basics, where we’ll look at how to start, run & grow your sewing business!  Five weeks of exploring all the angles of turning your sewing machine into your own crafty enterprise.  There is a whole world of handmade fabulousness out there, and I hear all the time from folks who love to create and who have the most amazing original ideas–but who have no business experience and don’t know where to even begin to find a way to sell their designs.  Worse, there are crafty folk who don’t take the steps to sell their creations because they’re concerned that if they start a business it will take over their whole lives and leave no room for anything else–like their day job or their families.  Nothing could be further than the truth!  A sewing and craft business can exist on a lot of scales, and we’ll cover details of all of them–from dining room table cottage industry for pocket money all the way up to global stitch domination.  Details here, below the Sewing Knits e-Course!

Seriously over-the-moon delighted to meet new faces, share all the things I love, and watch you take off running in the courses!

Happy Stitching!

Tutorial: Rolled Hem Presser Foot

One of my favorite finds recently has been this:

My rolled hem presser foot. This bad boy is designed to put a perfect teeny tiny hem in the edge of your fabric, right at the machine–no more pressing, then turning and pressing again, just feed it through and press & stitch all at once! Miraculous, especially for delicate fabrics like chiffons and the like, but also dead useful for making trims and ruffles. Now, when I want to make the ruffle for an apron like this one:

I simply cut my fabric, stitch together into a single long piece, then feed it under my fancy presser foot to give the lower edge a perfect hem.

Here in Atlanta, these feet are available at the Hancock Fabrics on Miami Circle/Sidney Marcus–I realize I’m sending you into the lion’s den, but that’s the only place I’ve seen this display. Right at the end of the cutting table, near the thread and facing the window, is a cardboard display endcap with a whole selection of universal specialty presser feet. They work with any model–hence the “universal”–and come in two shank styles (upright and angled, depending on your manufacturer).

Check out the Sewing Divas for the full tutorial–theirs is so excellent that I didn’t think it was useful to make a whole new one here. I will say that I solidly endorse their suggestion to stop when going over bulky spots–like seams–and fold by hand, then reinsert into the hem foot. Makes the process much smoother.

Happy sewing!