Sewing on Thursday: Skill-builder Series Introduction

Most of us buy a sewing machine with a singular goal in mind. Learning to sew probably tops the list for those that don’t know how. We want to make things. Awesome things. All those things we see on Pinterest! So we buy a sewing machine. And it sits in the corner. Because we can’t figure out how to thread it. Or use it. And all those things we had dreams of creating sit in the corner with it. Or fill up our Pin boards.

Bone needles

Which brings up the question, how did people learn to do things before they had the internet? It was passed down from generation to generation. First, people learned to create by hand. They used bones, animal guts, and eventually iron needles.

They passed these techniques down and future generations improved on them. Then in the 1800’s the first functional sewing machines were built, but were failed enterprises because of fears the “machines” would put tailors and seamstresses out of business! Elias Howe received the first patent on a working sewing machine in 1846, upon which Isaac Singer stole used Howe’s patented mechanism to make a foot treadle machine that became wildly popular. Bellis, Mary. The History of the Sewing Machine.

My circa 1908-1913 Singer Treadle – needs work, but I love it

As everyone was trying to invent the machine, seamstresses across the world were still teaching their daughters the “old ways” of mending, stitching, sewing, and embroidery by hand, in preparation for running their own households. Mothers would sit their daughters down and show them a stitch, then give them instructions to create sample pieces. As the girls worked on their sample pieces, they would create works that blended all of their stitches and lessons together. These became known as samplers and some were quite valuable later on.

So with the background lesson, we come back around to using a sewing machine. Mothers don’t always set their daughters down and teach them to sew anymore. Grandmothers may live somewhere far away, have passed away, or never learned themselves. So arts start to disappear. Thankfully, we DO have the internet and books. Lots and lots of books.

I love finding vintage sewing books. They are chock full of information that you can’t even find on the internet today. One of these books that I found I have treasured for a long time. It’s called Creative Machine Stitchery and is published through Better Homes and Gardens in 1985. I’ve been wanting to work through it bit by bit and teach myself some new things, making a sampler and putting it to good use. Widgets One of the lessons in the book is on using your machine’s potential. Aha! This is sounding good enough to do a skill builder series on!

Sampler pockets for sewing basket

I’m finally going to go through this book step-by-step and share what I learn with you, hopefully teaching you some things along the way and helping you to use that machine sitting in the corner. There are a few lessons and projects that I will not be using, but I’m choosing the ones that I think will help improve and teach sewing. Here is the outline and what you have to look forward to:


1-6: Sewing samplers to create sewing basket pockets
You will learn to create various size zig zags, openwork, puffing, couching, smocking, and faux French hand sewing.

7: Assembling the Samplers

8:  Fabric Collage Pin Cushion
We will learn how to do a little pit of applique to make a pin cushion to hang off of our sewing basket sampler.

9. Making a Rug out of Yarn – on the sewing machine
This is one of those very interesting techniques that have been rediscovered and are very exciting for me!

10. Using the machine to stitch on canvas
We’ll use our machines to make needlepoint-style stitches on canvas


These are the materials needed for the first 8 lessons. The other two I’ll give you plenty of heads up for as we get nearer.

  • 1/4 yard each of 3 different fabric colors (they use ecru, off-white, and cranberry)
  • 1/2 yard muslin
  • 1/2 yard quilt batting
  • 3 colors of sewing thread to match your fabrics
  • polyester fiberfill
  • 1 package pre-made binding for pockets, 2 pkgs. pre-made binding for alternating pockets and to join pockets. (you can also buy a little extra of your 3 materials to make binding)
  • 17″ 1/4″ wide lace
  • 8.5″ of 1.25″ wide lace beading (I’ll be doing a crochet lesson on this before we get to it, so if you can crochet it, don’t buy it! Same goes for the doily. I’ll be making mine, but not sharing the lesson.)
  • 17″ entredeux (french lace that goes between panels. I will also be giving a lesson on how to make this homemade, but it may be worthwhile to purchase it.)
  • 1 yard Belgian lace
  • Lace doily (very small, for pincushion)
  • cording of various thickness
  • flower applique
  • typing or stabilizing paper
  • marking pen
  • elastic sewing thread
Ok, so here’s your chance! Let’s do this thing and learn how to use that machine!

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Tuesday Needlework: Using Crochet in Sewing | Freckle Dots

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