How I Started Sewing and Never Looked Back, Fabric Love

Shontae Buffington Sewing

How I started sewing is an entire resolution in itself. Fumbling with a sewing machine, yup. And okay, yes, I’m sweating bullets writing this blog post. Why?

How I learned to sew is a personal journey that I’m sharing with you. So this is how I started sewing and became sew-addicted (little sewing humor for ya).

For the Love of Sewing and Art and …

Love. That’s why I’m doing this. Love is a powerful thing.  I love sewing.  And love makes you do all sorts of insane things. When I was a little girl, I would play with paper dolls (yes, I know, I just told you my age). Therefore, I’ll explain to those who have no idea what paper dolls are. Paper dolls are paper figurines made of firm cardstock or cardboard. They come in different shapes, sizes, smiles, and the like.

For me, they were the paper form of Barbie. The cardboard cut-out dolls came with paper clothes that I snipped with scissors. They were also paper and would fit over the doll. That is to say; I wanted to make custom clothes for these naked paper creatures. Now I’m no fashionista (technically, every one of my friends would disagree) But, at 6 or 7, I was pretty awkward and shy yet secretly dying to get dressed up for any occasion. Naturally, the idea of customizing something just for me intrigued me.

Sewing Hiatus

Therefore, enter the birth and dormancy of my sewing “itch.” It was the 1980s, and no one I knew was still sewing. The retail world seems to extinguish the desire of many home sewers to make clothes. Above all, my mother certainly did not sew. My grandmothers, who made clothing for all their children–15 total between them–scoffed at the idea that such an intelligent girl would sew. 

Hawaii fabrics, kona fabrics

With no one to teach me (this is pre-youtube guys), I merely hand-stitched wonky, wobbly pieces of cloth together, hoping it would fit Barbie’s disproportionate frame, which often it did not. You know what–I was kinda frustrated. Not only was Barbie’s figure anatomically incorrect, but sewing doll clothes was tough. Therefore, years would pass before I would come back to sewing.

Time to Learn

Life and not creativity would consume most of my time. College. Marriage. Medical school. Residency. Babies. Oh, and more LIFE! My husband decided that I was bored. So, I got a sewing machine somewhere between marriage and medical school. In addition, I needed a hobby to fill those idling creative hands that rearranged the furniture weekly between frog dissections, household chores, and grading papers. All you uber-feminists out there who rolled your eyes about a man thinking a woman needs a hobby, please get over yourself.  

My First Sewing Machine

So, he bought me my first sewing machine, the top-of-the-line Kenmore, complete with 300 stitches. I had no idea how to use it. How hard could this be? Plug it in. Turn it on. Go. Right? WRONG! My first time sewing, I promise you I broke over four needles. Who could thread this contraption? What in the world is a bobbin, and why do I need one?

Initial Creative frustration

After that and hours of frustration,

The husband says, “Did you watch the video?”.

The what?

“What video?” I exclaimed.

“The VHS that came with the sewing machine. I’m sure it tells you how to thread this thing.” What? Really? Incredible.

I had only half-unpacked the box in my haste to get right to it. Styrofoam lay everywhere, and in the mists of the cardboard and newness was a carefully wrapped VHS.

Little did I know that finding and watching that VHS would completely change the next 20 years of my life.  Subsequently, I think of wadding projects up in the trash after hours of sewing and planning, transporting tubs of fabric across the country, Kool-aid-style-2 am-smiles after completing a challenging design, fabric hunts on vacation, and much, much more; I can’t help but smile.

Oh, how I lament at my humble jump start. I wish in the first few years of frustration, collecting notions and fabrics, I had a blog to keep me sane, saying, “Hey Shontae, you can sew if you just keep trying.” The truth is sewing has been and likely will always be my ultimate stress reliever. When I sit down to plan a project, press a seam, or put together something unique, there is this almost indescribable feeling. To take something from scraps, literally raw materials, to a novel, the usable product is fantastic. Similarly, listening to people talk about running sounds like how I feel about sewing–a rush of endorphins without the sweat and build-up of lactic acid in your posterior calves.  I know that was a nerd moment.  Thanks for enduring it.  

What kinds of adventures did you have when you first started sewing??