Sew how? The divine Ms. B. started her sewing trek in Home Ec. January 2, 2011 11:34 10 Comments

It's a new year. It's a new day. And it's time for a brand-spankin' new series. (For Sewing Spaces fans: New post coming up this week. I promise.) I'm interviewing sewistas/dressmakers/sewists/seamstresses/your favorite noun here to find out how they learned to sew. And, yes, I do have a selfish motive: I need inspiration. I do.

Erica_trench_jacketSo. First up: dazzling Erica B. of the always interesting blog, Erica B.'s D.I.Y. Style!

How long have you been sewing?

Decades!  Seriously, almost 30 years! 

What inspired you to learn?

I don't really remember.  It's been a long time.  I would assume because everyone around me did.

Did your mother or grandmother sew?

My mother and my aunts, all of the time.  They both could look at something and draft a pattern on newspaper!  My grandmother sewed too, but not often.  She was a career woman!  I can only remember her seeing her do alterations (hemming drapes, or clothing).

How did you learn? A class? Your mom? Home ec?

I was always basically self-taught.  I received a Holly Hobby sewing machine as a Christmas gift when I was around 8 or 9.  I would make doll clothes from fabric scraps.  I later took Home Economics in 8th grade.

What was the first garment that you made?

I made a summer outfit as a project for Home Economics.  It was a top and shorts.  We had to complete our outfit and model it in a fashion show for our parents. 

Did you wear it?

I did!  I was so proud of myself.

How long did it take for you to get the basics down?

I would assume years.  I never sewed consistently until I was married with kids.

How long did it take you to feel confident of your dressmaking skills?

Confident?  That's funny.  Probably in the last couple of years.  My confidence is being about to turn something I've made inside out.  If the inside looks as good as the outside, it's a winner!

Erica_vogue_8156Do you still make things that you simply won't wear?

Of course.  Sometimes I'll make things simply to try out different techniques.  For example, I made Vogue 8156.  They are a pair of Claire Shaeffer couture pants.  The techniques were incredible, and I learned a lot that I've applied over the years to different projects.  But the pants were awful!

How many hours a week do you sew?

Not nearly enough! 

What are your five favorite sewing books?

The Complete Photo Guide to Sewing, Singer

Fit For Real People, Pati Palmer & Marta Alto

Couture Sewing Techniques, Claire B. Shaeffer

Tailoring: The Classic Guide to Sewing the Perfect Jacket, Creative Publishing

and every single copy of Threads.

Are there any sewing DVDs that you like? If so, which ones?

No, I haven't bought any sewing DVDs . . . yet.

If you're a fan of free online tutorials, name five for the beginning sewer, please.

I don't know how beginner-friendly these are, but here are my favorites:

Sewing an Invisible Zipper

RTW-Style Zipper Facings

Easy, Flat Fly-Front Zipper

Welt Pockets

Bound Buttonholes

What garment would you suggest that a newbie make first?

Something they would love and would actually want to wear.  I'm not one to suggest elastic waist pants.  I would NEVER wear those.   If I were learning to sew right now, I'd probably want to start with a princess seam sheath dress.  Look at how much that one project could teach you!


REAL pants with a fly-front!  That way they can learn how to fit in the process.  People love to put fitting on the back burner. 

Erica_houndstooth What is the favorite of all the garments you have made?


It is absolutely impossible for me to pick just one.  There are so many for just as many reasons.  I really love tailoring projects.

I love my jacket I made recently.  I ADORE my houndstooth coat.  And I can't live without my trench jacket!

Love dresses too, especially Vogue 1154 and Vogue 1174!  


What was the first item you sewed that made you beam with pride?

My Armani-knockoff jacket!  Even though if I made it today, there would be a lot more advanced techniques added to it, I still love it!

Erica_armaniName your five top tips for beginners, please.

1. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't sew something.  If you can sew a pillowcase, you can sew that Vogue dress you've been drooling over.  Trust me, it's not brain surgery.

2. It's ONLY fabric!  The world will not come to a screeching halt if you mess it up.

3. The more mistakes you make, the more you'll learn.

4. Work on projects that YOU love!

5.  It pays to be fearless and just jump right in!

What's the last garment that you made and are you pleased with it?

A pair of pants that I'll be posting soon . . .

Have you sewn with unprinted vintage patterns? If so, please share pointers for newbies who might want to try them.

No, I don't sew vintage.  It seems like I can never get my hands on the ones I really, really want (Vogue Couturier). (Editorial note: Ms. B., check out The Blue Gardenia's selection. Do. We have quite a few, and I think VCD 773, copyright 1953, is just panting to be on your cutting table! It has amazing and unusual seaming in the back. Fabulous. And it's our end-of-year sale, so you can be gorgeous and save money. So there.)

How long does it take to get to the Vogue "Plus Difficile" rated pattern?  (I can dream, can't I?)

It seems that Vogue Patterns put the fear of God in a lot of sewers.  I was always told not to sew those because they are difficult. That only made me go at VPs with a vengeance.  You'll never know until you try.

Be a peach and share your funniest sewing adventure, please. 

I don't know how funny it is, but there have been times when I've been sewing tired, and I've sewn things together wrong side to wrong side.  I mean, I serged and everything!  Not fun having to rip out those stitches.

Erica_chanelAnd your most exasperating or difficult.

This wasn't necessarily difficult, but my "Chanel" jacket was exasperatingly time-consuming.

Erica_vogue_1174What's your favorite pattern ever to sew, if you remember?

I've sewn so many patterns.  But to this date, I'll say Vogue 1174.  That dress has so many details.  Such a fun project!

How many hours of sewing do you think it takes for the average person to become proficient?

Goosh, that's IMPOSSIBLE to answer because everyone is different.  But I will say that you get out what you put in!

Do you want to see a picture of Erica modeling her very first project? I do. I do. I do. If any classmates have one around, send it in! Please. Is it possible she was ever gawky, pimply, pudgy, skinny, or any other unflattering adjective? Is it? Nah. It isn't.

So. Let me titillate you with an upcoming post or two: I tackle Colette's Crepe pattern. We view The Domestic Diva's sewing room. And it is gorgeous. The very definition, in fact.