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Sew Fast Sew Easy: All You Need to Know When You Start to Sew Paperback – August 20, 2002

4.4 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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About the Author

Elissa K. Meyrich is one of the garment industry’s true insiders. A designer and mixed-media artist, she teaches her techniques to sold-out classes in New York City’s fashion district at her store, Sew Fast Sew Easy.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1
Your Survival Sewing Kit:
Tools of the Trade
With these supplies--or notions as they are frequently called--on hand, you'll be able to complete most sewing projects. You should be able to find all the items in any sewing or craft store.
Scissors, an 8- to 10-inch pair.
The best kind is all metal. They will cut fabric easily and will last much longer. Remember that scissors are an extension of your own hand and are a very important tool. They must remain sharp--there is nothing more frustrating than dull scissors (don't use them to cut paper--just fabric!). The handles of the scissors are designed for you to hold them a certain way. This will help you to cut better. The longer oblong opening is for you to insert the first three fingers of your hand and the circular hole is for your thumb.
Clear ruler, 18 inches by 2 inches. A see-through ruler makes it easy to lay a pattern out correctly and to make corrections while fitting.
Tape measure. This is always a good tool to have. You'll use it to measure your body, the width of your fabric, the length of your cut ...you get the idea. It will also help even your hems. Make sure you buy a good-quality one that will not stretch and has measurements clearly marked on both sides, starting at opposite ends. It could have centimeters if you go shopping in Europe.
Tailor's chalk, dry kind. Tailor's chalk comes in many forms. You want the dry powdery kind; the marks from the greasy type cannot be removed from the fabric.
Dressmaker's tracing wheel. Used with dressmaker's tracing paper, it transfers markings from the pattern to your fabric.
Dressmaker's tracing paper. Used with the wheel to transfer markings from the pattern or to draw new lines for alterations.
Magnetic seam guide. So simple, you'll wonder why you didn't invent it. Place this nonslip power-grip magnet on your sewing machine to sew even seams. Definitely a garment industry secret!
Dressmaker's pins (size 17). Pins come in all sizes and many varieties. Size 17 will go through most fabrics without leaving large holes.
It is best to get the nickel-plated stainless kind, so they can be picked up by a magnet.
Seam ripper. Even a good sewer can make a mistake. A seam ripper can be used in two ways: to remove a few stitches or seams, use the point to lift the loops of each stitch and pull out the thread end; to remove larger areas, cut the thread every few stitches (i.e., five), then on the back of the fabric pull the bobbin thread on that side. It should be easy to pull away. If not, cut more threads on the first side.
Hand sewing needles. Great for hand-sewn hems and small repairs. One package of "household assortment" multisized needles can take care of all your hand repairs.
Tailor's ham or dressmaker's ham. It really does looks like a ham. A hard pillow, the tailor's ham is an ironing tool, which will help you iron any curved surface, such as darts.
Fuse tape. Sold under such brand names as Stitch Witchery® and Jiffy Fuse®, this is a form of glue. You will use it to finish the envelope edges of the pillow and for the slit of the skirt. It's also useful for quick hem repairs. You iron it on. It is washable and dry cleanable.
Thread to match your fabric. When selecting thread for garments and crafts, always choose all-purpose thread. There are many different types of threads meant for different purposes. Button and carpet thread is for sewing on buttons or repairing carpets; rayon thread is used for decorative machine stitching, topstitching, monogramming, and embroidery. Always be sure to pick a color slightly darker than the predominant color of your garment.
A good sewing machine. There is nothing more frustrating than a sewing machine that does not work well. Clean your sewing machine with small brushes, cotton swabs, or a can of compressed air. Also, you can call your local sewing machine dealer to schedule a tune-up.
Once you have all of your basic supplies, you're ready to deal with patterns. There's no need to buy patterns to make the three projects detailed in this book--they're conveniently glued to the back cover. But when you're ready to try something new, keep these things in mind:
1. In order to purchase the correct pattern (and make clothes that actually fit!), you must know how to correctly take your body measurements. To make skirts and pants, you'll need waist and hip sizes; for shirts and dresses, don't forget your bust.
Here's how to take your measurements:
Waist: Find your waist by tilting your body to the side as if you were exercising. Put your right hand on your hip and your left hand up over your shoulder, creating an arc. Start bending toward the right. You will feel your body form a crease on the right-hand side. Repeat on your left side. The creases are your waistline. Wrap the tape measure around yourself comfortably and take the measurement.
Hip: Finding your hips is much easier once you've found your waist. Take your tape measure and hold it at your waist, letting it drop to the floor. Your hip is usually about 7 to 9 inches down from your true waistline. Your hips are the fullest part between your waist and thigh. (You can find it when you look for where last night's cheesecake, pizza, or chocolate brownies landed.) Once you've found your hips, wrap the tape measure around them comfortably. Now read your hip measurement
Bust: Wrap the tape measure around your shoulder blades and across the highest point of your bust. Be especially careful to keep the tape at an even height. Don't let it slide down your back. Use a mirror to check that it's even.
2. Use the chart on the back of the pattern envelope to determine which size comes closest to your body measurements. Most patterns come with a range of sizes in the envelope. Make sure to buy a pattern that will be the same size or slightly bigger than your measurements. (Contrary to popular belief, patterns are not sized like clothes in the store. It will probably shock you to learn that in a sewing pattern your size will be at least two sizes bigger than your usual store-bought clothing size.)
3. Examine the pattern picture very carefully, especially the back views. You may think you have a skirt with an elastic waistband, but it may be another style.
4. Since you are a beginner, always start with a SIMPLE-TO-MAKE STYLE. Do not choose styles with collars, set-in sleeves, zippers, or close-to-the-body fit if you have never sewn before. To start, use the skirt pattern in this book.
5. Your fabric choice will be 75 percent of your sewing success. If you buy a commercial pattern, on the back of the envelope will be a list of the best fabrics for the style. There will also be a list of all the sewing notions you will need to make the garment.
6. Check to make sure that you are buying the amount of fabric needed for your project. The back of the pattern envelope has a yardage chart for each style. Note that fabric is measured in yards, not feet or meters.
7. All major American pattern companies include % of an inch seam allowance in their patterns. The skirt pattern in this book does too. Seam allowance is the distance between the edge of the fabric and the sewing line. European patterns sometimes do not have seam allowances, so you must add them or your garment will be smaller and may not fit properly.
8. Pull the instruction sheet out of the envelope. Look at the style you have chosen to sew and cut out only those pattern pieces.
SEW FAST EASY. Copyright © 2002 by Elissa K. Meyrich. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, adress St. Martin's Press. 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Book and Access edition (August 20, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312269099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312269098
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.5 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,507,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a good book for a beginner if you have no previous sewing skills and would like to get a jump start on sewing.The best part is that it comes with 3 patterns and directions for sewing them.This is mostly what the book is about.There is a section at the front about tools and fabric and also the basic parts of the sewing machine,but most of the book is directions for using the patterns included.I guess that's what all beginners need to get right in there and start sewing something/anything to get your feet wet.I really liked this book and the patterns are cute, they include an envelope pillow cover,a tote bag and a skirt.Good book
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Format: Paperback
This book is designed for anyone who has NO experience in sewing. It has very basic information and 3 starter projects--a skirt in 2 lengths, a tote bag, and a pillow in 2 sizes with trim options.

I purchased this book to help teach my 20 yo daughter how to follow patterns. She has taught herself and makes items, but doesn't know traditional sewing techniques or how to use patterns. There was useful information in this book, but once you have worked through the projects, it's usefulness is limited.

This book does include the patterns, on traditional pattern tissue paper, right with it. This is extremely helpful to a beginner, who won't have to try to find patterns with features they won't even know. The instruction is useful, with minimal places of confusion. Better explanation of the type of materials that would work for each project might have been useful too.

In other reviews there were comments about the accuracy of the instruction. One person commented about the stitch length. I own 5 sewing machines, and there seems to be two different numerical scales used on them for determining this. This book points out what seems to be used on more of the newer machines. There are a couple of other things like this in the book--it would have been nice to explain both ways. A beginner, I would assume, would might be confused by this.

Otherwise, a great book with projects that aren't out dated. Just remember, this probably won't be useful as a reference book a year from now.

All in all, I do think this is a great book for good beginner projects. If you have any useful sewing experience, you might think this book is too basic.
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By Bea on August 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
I bought this book for my daughter and she has taken to sewing extremely fast. She's so proud of what she makes. Her enthusiasm for sewing now is almost too much for me to keep up with. This book was was easy for her to understand and the illustrations were very clear. She's been playing around with reconstructing her clothes so I'm thinking of getting her the Rip It book as well. I'm happy to see her involved in a positive hobby that she truly enjoys and gets satisfaction from.
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Format: Paperback
I'm new to sewing and bought this book based on the reviews. The problem with this book is that there's no real photographs of the finished product. As a novice, a real picture of the end result would help to understand what I am making.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was the first book that I owned as a beginning sewer. I made the throw pillows twice and was surprised at how small they were. I would need two on each end of the couch to achieve a balanced look.

I thought that the instructions could have been more detailed - I had trouble applying the piping to the pillow based on the illustrations provided.

Of all the sewing books I've purchased since "Sew Fast, Sew Easy," I'd say that this one is one that I regret the most. I recommend S.E.W. Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp. It contains better instructions, more projects and more general information about sewing.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The only mistake that I made in purchasing this book was that I bought it after I had spent money on other, more complicated, books marketed towards the beginning sewer. If you have literally NO prior experience, cannot decipher a "selvage" from a "crosswise grain", buy this book. It is elementary in its explanation and directions, without being condescending. It is full of tips and suggestions that I found no where else, and as an added bonus-it includes 3 ready to use patterns! Trust me and buy this book FIRST! Sewing can be frustrating to the novice, and intimidating, with all of the jargon and precision that is involved. You will be very satisfied with your purchase!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am really surprised that this book has so many positive reviews because I am usually very satisfied with any product I get based to user reviews. The overall concept of the book is really great, but it doesn't give very good direction. The idea is to get your feet wet and learn all the basic sewing concepts by doing three projects, but the projects are not described very well at all. I found myself reading the instructions multiple times and as other reviewers have stated, the pictures were pretty useless. Also, the patterns that I received were not complete; they were not the same as in the pictures and that made it very difficult to determine if I was doing things correctly. Basically, for a beginner, the directions for completing the projects needed to be much more comprehensive and descriptive.
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