I started out on my sewing journey in the typical way: I made a pillowcase!
It actually happened at the perfect time – my husband and I wanted to get new bedding for the new year, but we couldn’t find pillowcases to match our king-size pillows anywhere in Singapore. When I realised I could make pillowcases easily with my new sewing machine, it was like it was fated to happen! My beginner’s project immediately turned into a mission – I had to make 2 sets of 4 king-size pillowcases to replace our old ones.
So I trotted down to Spotlight to find some fabric. I knew it would be a learning curve picking out fabric for the first time – but goodness me, it took ages. I was probably in there for an hour, poring over all the different types of cotton and trying to find a good balance between the feel, the colour, the pattern and the price. I ended up choosing bright green cotton poplin in polkadots and stripes. Bright colours lift my spirits, and I’m on a real green kick right now!
I made my very first pillowcase following the envelope closure pillowcase tutorial over at Make It & Love It. I finished the seams and pressed it neatly, and then went to put it on my pillow feeling super proud of myself… then I realised I’d made the darn thing far too big! Turns out American king-size pillows are bigger than UK ones. First important lesson learned – double check your measurements!
(Well, maybe the first important lesson I learned the hard way was to lower the presser foot before sewing. I had quite a panic after getting about a foot of thread tangled up in the feed dogs.)
So. I ripped out all the seams from my oversized pillowcase, did some measuring and some maths, and started over. This time it fit perfectly! I made four:
I also modified the approach so that each pillow is made with two pieces of fabric rather than one. I found it hard to manipulate such huge pieces of fabric.
The final numbers I ended up with to fit a UK king-size pillow are:
- Front piece – 20.5″ x 34.5″
- Back piece – 20.5″ x 42.5″
This gives finished dimensions of 19.5″ x 33″. I first hem one short edge on each piece by folding it up twice by 0.5″ and then use 0.5″ seam allowances.
A couple of weeks ago I made a second set. They’re in the wash right now so I’ll have to share the pictures later!
Now that I’ve been sewing for over a month (okay, maybe closer to six weeks) I thought I’d write down five of the big discoveries I’ve made along the way. Some of these I read beforehand, but I never truly understood them until I experienced them for myself! Off we go:
A good pair of scissors is really, really worth it. I started out buying two cheap pairs of scissors (less than S$7 or £3.50 each), but I ended up going back to the store a few days later to upgrade to a pair of Fiskars (around S$60 or £30). The cheap ones felt like they were tearing through the fabric rather than cutting it. With the Fiskars I can make nice, clean, accurate cuts, and they’re genuinely a joy to use.
A decent iron makes a world of difference. I upgraded our 10-year-old iron for a new one that actually takes out creases, produces steam, and doesn’t leak. It’s heaven! I genuinely enjoy pressing (and normal ironing) now that my tools are working with me rather than against me. It’s not even a particularly flashy iron – just having one that works is the key! And on the topic of irons…
Pressing is less of a chore if the ironing board is always out. It does seem to be true that you spend as much time at the ironing board as at the sewing machine. A large part of why I used to hate ironing my clothes is that it’s such a chore to drag the ironing board out of the cupboard and set it all up. Now the ironing board is up all the time and next to my sewing machine, it’s so easy to switch between the two whenever I need to.
The foot pedal gets easier to control over time. I don’t drive, so I don’t know if the same thing applies to driving – but I found it very hard to have decent control over the pedal at first. I could only make my machine run at two speeds: off, and way too fast! After a few weeks I think my foot muscles have gotten acclimatised to things, and I have much finer control now. I still mess it up now and then, but practise does seem to be making a difference.
You can use a lint roller to collect stitches after ripping out a seam. This may be a well known technique to experienced sewists but I was so proud of myself when I figured it out myself! After ripping out stitches, you end up with lots of short threads in your fabric. Running a lint roller up and down them in the direction of the stitches will collect them easily. Just need to be careful not to catch the raw edge of the fabric with the lint roller, or else you’ll unravel it!
There you have it. I will share more discoveries as I go along! See you next time.