conquer the fabric store, sewing school, sewing lessons

5 Ways to Conquer the Fabric Store


sewing school, sewing 101

When you're a newbie in the world of sewing, shopping at the fabric store can be a REAL HASSLE! If you're reading this, it's safe to assume that you've had your share of bad experiences and would love to conquer the fabric store.

How was your last shopping trip? Were the aisles crowded? Were the fabric table line and check-out lines too long? Did you leave frustrated or frazzled? If so, you don’t have to feel that way! Shopping at the fabric store shouldn’t feel like the madness of shopping on Black Friday. You can use these 5 simple ways to conquer the fabric store:

1.  Avoid Prime Time Shopping

Because there are so few fabric stores and so many DIYers, and crafters, these stores are super busy, MOST of the time. And around here, are best options for fabrics are- Hobby Lobby and JoAnn Fabrics.

If at all possible, avoid the middle of the day and weekends. Saturdays are their busiest days and Sundays can be too. The best times to go (during the week and weekends) are: EARLY- right after they open or LATE- a few hours before they close.

Some Walmart stores sell fabric. However, from my experience, since there isn't usually a dedicated person in the department, you'll have to wait for someone to come cut for you.

2. Do Your Homework

The last thing you want to do is go to the store and not REALLY know/understand what you need to buy. This will lead to wandering around and wasting your precious time. If you are using a pattern and you already have it, make sure you take the time to read the back of the envelope. Also, highlight your size and fabric yardage.

If you aren’t familiar with the fabrics or notions suggested on the back of the pattern, do a little research and Google them or use this fabric dictionary from Mood Fabrics.

If you are shopping at JoAnn Fabrics, check out this post from one of my favorite bloggers, Melly Sews. Melly includes tips and pictures that will help you navigate the store more efficiently. And, she wrote this post specifically for beginners.

3. Check Your Stash

After you know what you’ll need for your project, check to see what you already have. Check Materials and Tools- fabric, notions (thread, elastic, buttons, zippers, needles, scissors). Some projects require special tools.  For example, if you are making a skirt with darts, you may need to get tracing paper or marking pins.

4. Don’t Leave Home Without This

Going to the fabric store can be like going to the grocery store. You forget the ONE thing you needed the most. It’s nice to know what you need, but don’t leave home without a list. Even if you only need a couple of things, write it down. I like to use the notes feature on my iPhone.  That way, I have my list, but I don’t have a piece of paper to keep up with.

5. Ask Questions

I know this may sound unnecessary, but I just wanted to remind you that it’s ok to ask questions.  When the line is long and you thinking it’s too busy to ask your questions, ASK ANYWAY!  I shop at both Hobby Lobby and JoAnn Fabrics, and I know that the ladies at the cutting table are happy to help when they can.  And, if they can't, you can contact me. I may not be available, right at that moment, but I will get back with you as soon as possible.

Just Like That, Ta-Da!     

Imagine your drive home from the fabric store. You’re thrilled because you didn’t go during peak time. You’re excited because you had your list and you got everything on your list. And, you used a few coupons!

You’re delighted because you checked your stash beforehand and didn’t waste money buying things you already had! And, most importantly, you’re not frustrated or frazzled. Now, this is what shopping at the fabric store should feel like!  Ta-Da, you just conquered the fabric store!

If you need assistance with a new sewing project, classes, or private lessons, just let us know. We are happy to help!

7 Sewing Habits

7 Easy Habits Every Beginning Sewist Should Learn

7 Sewing Habits

Is learning to sew more challenging than you imagined?

Are you threading your sewing machine multiple times to complete one project?

Are you finishing your projects then feeling overwhelmed because you have hundreds of threads to cut?

Are you having a hard time keeping everything you need for your projects together so that you don’t waste time looking for stuff?

In this post, I will share 7 easy habits that every beginning sewist should learn. These tips will make learning to sew less challenging and more enjoyable! And, these are the same 7 easy habits that I teach my sewing students, grades 2nd to adult. So yes, you can do this!

1. Put Your Scissors Down

Beginning sewists, usually use their scissors to cut threads away from the machine. When this happens, the thread is most likely too short and the needle will come unthreaded.

When using the thread cutter, you are forced to pull the threads longer. This simple step reduces the likelihood of the machine needle coming unthreaded.

To prevent using the scissors, put them on another table that you will use later when cutting any unwanted threads from your project.

2. Only Thread Once

Short strings can cause you to thread the needle multiple times! I only want to thread the machine once, unless I need to change the thread color.

You can take cutting threads with the thread cutter, one step further. Pull your strings until they touch the table behind the sewing machine.

Yes, you will use more thread, but in my book, it’s worth it if you don’t have to thread the needle AGAIN!

3. It’s Test Time

You thread your machine and start sewing only to find out, that the stitch is too loose, too tight, or just wacky!

You can prevent this if you test your sewing machine before sewing on your precious fabric. Cut some test fabric, then sew a straight and zigzag stitch.

Inspect the front and back of the stitch. If they look the same, you’re good to go. If not, rethread and test again. Repeat if necessary.

4. Cut Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

Now that the needle isn’t an issue, you’re sewing up a storm, right? Hold up. Your threads are probably getting a little crazy!

It is best practice to cut your threads before you intersect seams or join pieces that have seams. If you don’t, threads can get caught between the seams FOREVER.

When you cut threads, make sure to hold the thread in the air, AWAY from your fabric. Then, cut as close as you can to the fabric.

5. No Clutter Allowed

The more you sew, the more strings you’ll have. And, if you’re like most beginners, you’ve been cutting and letting the strings fall where they may.

A simple solution is to put a plastic bowl or container on the table. That way, you can keep your work area clean and clutter-free.

My students have come to love this and if a container isn’t on the table, they are happy to stop sewing and get one!

6. Order in the Sewing Room

There are SEW many things to keep up with when you’re sewing a project: fabric, thread, bobbins, pattern, and notions, just to name a few.

Ziplock bags are your NEW best friend! A gallon bag stores all the above, if it’s been cut-out. The actual fabric pieces are then hung on a hanger.

And, if you are working on more than one project, store the Ziplock bags in a nice basket on your table. The more organized your sewing room the better!

7. Press as You Sew

It’s easy to get caught up in “the sewing” so, that’s all you’re doing. This isn’t the best way to construct ANYTHING that you want to be proud of.

You’ve heard your sewing teacher say, “Press your seams as you go and you ignored them (I did too, at first) and thought “yeah right!” Well, THEY WERE RIGHT!

Pressing as you sew, preferably before intersecting seams, is HUGE! It is THE ONE THING that when done properly, can make any homemade project look more professional!

You've Got This!

Imagine sitting at your sewing machine and feeling excited about sewing! You’ve got 7 easy habits and they are working! Your project is safety tucked away in a Ziplock bag and you know that you have everything that you’ll need to begin sewing.

Imagine being excited about only threading once, unless you need multiple thread colors for the project. And then, you’ll test on scrap fabric to be sure you’re good to go.

Imagine feeling proud of your project because you’re cutting threads and pressing seams as you sew. When it’s finished, you’re going to love it!

Yes, this can happen to you!

You’ve got this!

And, if you need help along the way, just let us know.

10 Must-have Sewing Tools

10 Must-Have Sewing Tools

So you're thinking about making something to get acquainted with your sewing machine or just for fun? How about a cute pillow to spruce up the sofa, an apron or a tote bag? Any of these are great projects to start with, but before you head to the fabric store, let’s make sure you have THE must-have sewing tools to make the process easier.

I’m sure you already have pattern, fabric, and thread on your shopping list, but you’ll also need these must-have sewing tools. These must-have tools are just the basics that everyone has.  As you get into more complicated projects, you’ll need additional tools and trust me there’s a tool for just about everything!  As you read the list, you may find that you already have some of these tools and that’s great!

Must-have Tools To Start Sewing

  1. Scissors- In the sewing world, there are different kinds of scissors! Fabric scissors- sometimes called shears, have 7” - 9” blades are for cutting FABRIC ONLY. A great brand for beginners is Fiskars as they are moderately priced. Here’s a set you might like from Amazon. You will also need a pair of scissors to cut paper or other materials.  And, because these scissors are for cutting, paper, patterns, etc., you can buy them from Dollar Tree if you don’t have any. And while you’re at it, you could get a smaller pair 3” - 5” blades for cutting threads at the machine.
  2. Straight pins- You will need straight pins to pin your pattern to your fabric and to pin your fabric pieces together before you sew them.
  3. Pin cushion- Used to store your straight pins. Remember the red tomato pin cushion? Now, there are so many options to choose from. Personally, I prefer a magnetic pin cushion over the fabric pin cushion, but both will do the job. Here’s a magnetic one from Amazon, but you can also find it at some Walmart stores.
  4. Safety pins- You may have these at home too. For sewing projects, you can use safety pins to insert elastic in a casing or to turn a strap or belt inside out. They also sell special tools for this, but for me, a simple safety pin does the job perfectly!  A package of safety pins with assorted sizes is great for sewing.
  5. Measuring tape- We typically use it to measure around the body to determine the correct pattern size. You can also use it to measure fabric as well as other things.
  6. 12” Ruler- If you have kiddos in school, you might have this as well. For sewing, you can use a 12" ruler for measuring, drawing straight lines, and to make patterns or pattern alterations.  If you don’t have one, the Dollar Tree is also a great place to pick this up also.
  7. Marking Tools- Used to make marks on the fabric for placement of various things like where to: leave an opening, place a pocket, place your pattern piece on your fabric, etc.  There are so many marking tools on the market, but for most projects, a regular #2 pencil will work if you aren't heavy-handed.  You can also use chalk, chalk pencils, fabric markers, washable markers, and a tracing wheel with tracing paper.
  8. Sewing Gauge- A sewing gauge is the perfect measuring tool for sewing! It has a sliding marker that holds the desired measurement. It’s used for measuring casings for a waistband or drawstring bag, hems, and anything else you might need that is less than 5”.
  9. Seam Ripper- Now, this THE TOOL that you don’t want to be without! You will use it to remove stitches made in error and to cut buttonholes open. I suggest you buy at least two as you want to make sure that you always have a sharp blade. Also, if you misplace one, you’ll have a backup.
  10. Iron- This is the tool that when used properly, will make any homemade project look professional! It is used to press fabric before you cut out your pattern and to press seams open during the construction process. If you don’t already have one, any steam iron will do.

Is Sewing Really Cheaper?

There is a misconception that when you make your clothes YOU WILL SAVE MONEY. There are many factors to consider when calculating the cost to make a garment (cost of: fabric, notions, sewing machine, tools, your time, etc.). So, sometimes you will save money and sometimes you won't. Personally, when I sew for myself, it's usually a dress and it's usually cheaper. However, I might get lucky and find a dress on a clearance rack, that fits my upper and lower body, and that's long enough. And, if I do I'm buying it!  Now, when it comes to sewing for the home (pillows, window treatments, shower curtains, etc.) I've found that the possibility of saving money is much greater!

Because keeping cost at a minimal is something that most of us like to do, here’s a Tool Kit.

It includes: 1 traditional tomato pin cushion, marking pencil, tracing wheel and paper, hand needles, needle threader, 60" fiberglass tape measure, thimble, sewing gauge, seam ripper, straight pins and 7-1/2" scissors. The fabric scissors/shears aren’t the best quality, but they will get you started.  There are also a few tools included that you may or may not need at first, but they are good to have: tracing wheel and paper, thimble, and hand sewing needles.

And yes, there are SEW many other tools you may need as you sew more challenging projects, but these must-have / essentials will get you off to a great start!  Please let us know if you have any questions about sewing tools or sewing in general.

best sewing machine for beginners

Best Sewing Machines For Beginners

Buying the best sewing machine for a beginner (yourself or your child) is an important decision.  And, if you're like most people, you want to get the best sewing machine for your money.

First, as a sewing professional, I do not recommend any type of sewing machine that is not full-size.  If it’s not full-size, it is a toy.  From my experience, these types of sewing machines are just a waste of money.  They are going to break, sooner or later and could cause your child to become frustrated and hate sewing all together.  My sewing machine recommendation is tried and true. I only recommend the sewing machines we currently use in our studio. We have two sewing machines: Brother CS6000i and Brother SB700T.  These sewing machines are two of the best sewing machines for beginners!

Brother CS6000i and Brother SB700T are my faves because:
  1. Adjustable Speed Control

    Adjustable speed control is important because it ensures that students sew at a safe speed. When we set the machine on the slowest speed (walking) no matter how hard our students push the foot pedal, it will stay at the slowest speed. The second speed (jogging) is only for students that have demonstrated they can sew safely and straight at that speed or when students are sewing a zigzag stitch.  Running, is the third speed and none of our students can sew on the third speed.

  2. Drop-in bobbin

    A drop-in bobbin is important because: 1. It's easier to place in the machine and easier to teach a student to thread. 2. You can easily see if the bobbin is running out. On a sewing machine that doesn’t have a drop-in bobbin, the process of checking the bobbin could be daunting. In short, you remove part of the machine.  You open a door under the throat plate, then pull out a latch to release the bobbin cover.  Next, you take the bobbin out of the bobbin cover to take a look.  If it’s good, you put the bobbin back in the cover, slide the thread around the guides in the cover, then place the bobbin back in the machine.  If it’s not good, you make a bobbin.  Sewing without a bobbin thread, is “THE WORST” because you aren’t sewing at all.  You just think you are!

  3. Easy to set-up and use

    If you’ve ever set up a computer or a Fire Stick, you can set up a sewing machine by following the instructions in the Owner’s Manual.  Plus, if the sewing machine is purchased for someone that has attended our summer camps or sewing classes, they will be familiar with some of the most important features like: threading the top of the machine and bobbin, backstitching, and zigzagging.  However, if you’ve set the machine up and still feel like you can use some help, just let us know.  We offer private lessons.

Where To Buy:

Brother CS6000i can be purchased at Amazon and Walmart for about $140 - $150.  Brother SB700T is no longer available. It was replaced with Brother SB1000T and can be purchased from Creative Sewing & Vacuums in the Stonecrest Shopping Center for about $230.  If you decide to purchase your sewing machine online, I highly recommend you purchase a protection plan for the extra $22 - $30.  It's totally worth it!

Lastly, students that are beginning to sew, need help with consistently sewing a 1/2" or 5/8 " seam allowance. We started using magnetic seam guides last summer (also purchased from Amazon) and they work well for sewing straight and curved seams! Sparkly Washi tape is also very helpful for sewing straight seams.

Thanks for reading about my favorite sewing machines for beginners! In our next blog, I will share some of my essential sewing tools.



Sewing at Home is Good For Kids!

Recently, I received this email from the mom of one of my student’s.

Hey Mrs. Priscilla!  I hope you are enjoying your summer.  Tonight at dinner I was talking about saving up for some movie themed cushion covers for my movie themed classroom.  Camryn said, "I can make them!" and she disappeared up to her room.  She came back downstairs about an hour later with this!  Thank you so much for all you do!  It is making a difference.  I will proudly display this cushion in my reading center!!!  🙂

This summer, while many kids have been spending their time watching TV or using their various devices, Camryn, 9 years old, has been spending her time being creative!  She attended summer camps, including a sewing camp and during some of her down time, she did some sewing. In addition to the popcorn pillow, she designed and made a changing room for her 18” dolls.  Her doll's changing room includes a curtain that opens and closes.


Landry, also 9 years old, attended several summer camps, including two sewing camps. During her down time, she has been busy sewing at home too! Some of her projects include: pillows, a purse with applique, and leg warmers for her pony.

These are just a few examples of the types of projects that students can sew at home. Receiving their pictures and talking with them about their sewing projects, inspired me to share!  Why? Because these little sewists are doing exactly what I want all of my student to do- sew at home!  It’s not a requirement for my students to own a sewing machine, but if they have one, I encourage them to use it!

After only one year of sewing classes, these rising 4th graders are able to go to their rooms, imagine what they want to make, cut it out, sew it, and complete beautiful projects! There are many benefits of sewing at home.

Here are my 5 favorites:

  1. Reinforce skills learned in sewing class.  Every time a student sews, they are reinforcing their knowledge. As a result, they get better and better!
  2. Practice problem solving. When sewing alone, most students will have some problems. And, if they are up for the challenge (like Camryn was when making her popcorn pillow) they will figure out a way to solve the problem and finish the project.   If not, they can always ask me about it, while in class.
  3. Learn something new. While solving the problems that tend to come up, it’s always my hope that students will learn something new during the process. There's always more than one way to sew every project!
  4. Increase creativity. The more you use your imagination to create, the more creative you will become. This means, you don't have to have natural talent to be creative.  It's a skill that everyone can learn!
  5. Sense of pride! How could you not be proud of something that you created that started as a thought or a sketch! Both Camryn and Landry shared that they were happy to complete their projects and that they felt PROUD! Camryn, designer of the popcorn pillow, is already getting orders to make more pillows.

I’m SEW, SEW, proud of my students and I look forward to the next email and picture!  For more information about our sewing classes or workshops, please click here.

Thanks for reading about our amazing students that sew at home! In our next blog, I will share my favorite sewing machine for beginning sewists.

Why Sewing Makes Kids Happy

Throughout the week, I have the pleasure of literally watching our campers grow as sewists.  I’ve seen them get excited for things like remembering to backstitch to sewing a long seam (hem of shorts) with no wiggles or bumps! And, yes, those are reasons to be happy when you’re learning how to sew!  My top 5 reasons that sewing makes kids happy are listed below.

Sewing makes kids happy because:

  1. It’s challenging, but they find that they can do it! The biggest challenge for a new sewist is sewing straight. We have tools that help, like tape and a magnetic seam gauge, but campers still have to really focus on their project to sew a straight seam. Every seam is practice and campers get better each day!
  2. It gives them a feeling of accomplishment. On the 2nd day, we’ve usually made enough progress on the first project that they can see the garment/project coming together. This totally increases their confidence because they can see what they’ve done. Now, sewing the other projects seems completely possible!
  3. It allows them to express their creativity. The creative process starts with selecting fabrics that match their personality. As the project is being constructed, campers may also make other decisions like: select a coordination fabric, trim, decide on applique, etc.
  4. They can wear or use what they’ve made. Again, most campers are new sewists and have never made anything. During camp, they will be making a garment, softie or accessories that they will be able to use. Using anything you’ve made is rewarding. However, as a sewists myself, I know that there’s no better feeling than wearing a garment you’ve made!
  5. They can make different things. During our camps campers make everything from pillow and softies to pajamas and skirts. We even have a camp for teens and they make shorts or a skirt and design their own bag.  When camp is over, these new sewists can continue to sew at home. I know of a student that just sews pillows and she now has her own business!

In addition to making kids happy, sewing has some other benefits:

  1. Reinforces math skills. We use fractions EVERY time we sew. Seams are usually 4/8” or 5/8”. We use a sewing gauge to measure for their casing (where elastic goes/waistband in garments).  We take body measurements to determine pattern sizes and fabric is purchased by the yard.
  2. Learn how to solve problems. If you’re sewing a project and it doesn’t turn out the way you planned, you have to think about what you did, what possibly went wrong, and how to fix it. This happens more when sewing solo, but it’s an excellent way to improve your sewing skills! In learning how to solve sewing problems, you learn how to solve problems in general.
  3. Increases self-confidence. I also get to watch students as their confidence increases during the week. On Thursday, the excitement is high as most projects are completed and they are almost finished. On Fridays we have a fashion show to showcase our student’s work, so on Friday morning, the excitement is so high, you can hardly stand it! After break, campers practice for the fashion show and change into their garments. Once the new garment is on, it’s hard to explain, but it’s like a switch turns on. Everyone is standing taller, smiling wider, has more giggles, and more energy! It’s amazing to see and I have the pleasure of experiencing this every Friday during the summer!  To see all of the fun and exciting camps that will make your kids happy, click here.


Day 1 is Sewing Orientation...

It makes me “SEW” happy to know that campers are excited to come to our summer camps! A large percentage of our campers are true beginners.  They have either never sewn on a sewing machine or they attended a birthday party at sew fun!  With this in mind, Day 1 of camp is orientation and campers learn:

  1. Sewing Machine Basics
    1. Parts- presser foot, foot control, speed control, etc.
    2. Where to keep our hands for safe sewing.
  2. How To Sew
    1. on paper
    2. practice threading the sewing machine and needle
    3. sew on fabric
    4. practice staying beside the tape; backstitching, and finishing seams with zigzag.
  3. Our Camp Rules
    1. Be Safe
    2. Listen to Instructions
    3. Be respectful
    4. Have fun!
  4. About Sewing Tools that we will use and how to use them safely, like: sheers, pinking shears, seam ripper, straight pins, etc.
  5. About Fabrics-
    1. wovens, knits, non-wovens
    2. Best fabrics for beginners
    3. Your clothes. Are they woven or knit?

After participating in our various orientation activities, campers leave with a wealth of new knowledge! Now, they are even more excited and ready to start sewing their projects on Day 2.  To see all of the fun and exciting camps that we offer, click here.