DIYdiy projectssewing 101

sewing in a straight line: project + video+ book giveaway!

by Brett

Sewing in a Straight Line by Brett Bara — How to Sew a Round Bowl with Straight Lines Only from Rarebit Productions on Vimeo.

We’re very excited to announce that our resident sewing expert and all-around awesome crafter, Brett Bara, has a new book out titled Sewing in a Straight Line. To celebrate, Brett is sharing a DIY video for her round nesting bowls above and giving away five copies of her book to D*S readers!

To be eligible to win, just leave a comment below telling Brett about your biggest sewing disaster. Broken bobbins? Tangles of thread? We want to hear it all! Share your stories below, and Brett will pick her five favorites. We’ll announce the winners on D*S next week! — Kate

*Brett is also giving away tons of sewing goodies on her blog, including a sewing machine and serger (!!!), sewing tools, fabric and more.

Read more about Brett’s book after the jump!

Sewing in a Straight Line features 26 projects for home decor, gifts, clothing and accessories that can all be made by simply sewing straight lines. I got the idea to write this book when I realized that more and more people were telling me that they’d like to learn how to sew but that they didn’t know where to start because it all seemed so overwhelming. One day it dawned on me that so much of what I sew really isn’t hard to make — in fact, much of it is made with straight lines only! And anybody can sew a straight line. So I set out to make a book that would show people that it can be really easy to sew cute things, even with basic skills.

My goal was to come up with a collection of projects that looked stylish but were deceptively simple to make. I wanted to give readers a good go-to reference for sewing the basics like curtains, duvets, pillows, simple clothes, accessories and quick gifts. I also wanted to help readers build their skills and confidence, so some are projects designed to help you learn new techniques, like installing zippers, working with specialty materials and even making quilts. Every pattern in the book is formatted so that the reader makes the project to his or her own measurements — so whether it’s curtains or a dress, it will be custom-made to the exact size you need. — Brett

DIY Duvet Cover

Quilty Zigs and Zags: A Quilted Belt

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  • I am 4’11” so finding clothes for my height is very difficult. So, I’ve been very eager to learn how to sew not only so that I could be crafty, but so that I could start hemming my own clothes. So when I received a sewing machine for Christmas I was excited to try my hand at being a beginner seamstress. I’ve always wanted to wear a maxi dress, but at my height there’s no chance at finding one that hits at the right length. I set out on a quest to find the right pattern and cut and bought a maxi dress that I could simply trim the hem. Who knew that viscose is not an easy material to start of your first sewing project with? I certainly didn’t.

    I meticulously measured, re-measured, ironed and re-ironed my trim seams. After 10 hours of constantly messing up the hem, in a fit of rage, I took a pair of scissors and began cutting the excess fabric. I was so disappointed that I ruined the hem and that the fabric kept bunching because I wasn’t using the right thread and stitch– I ended up shredding the bottom hem. To this day the dress still doesn’t have a sewn hem. :( Next time I’ll try using cotton.

  • I would say my biggest sewing disaster was the pair of shorts I had to sew for high school Home Ec. They were supposed to be pajama shorts, and in the end, my bedroom was the only place decent enough for me to wear them. Not only were they WAY too short, the legs were uneven lengths and bunched up in all sorts ways too unflattering to describe. Thank goodness we didn’t have to model them for the class–THAT would have been humiliating.

  • I have two disasters, the first was in college when I was just learning to use a rotary cutter to cut fabric. Not paying attention and “slice”, off with the very top of my ring finger tip. Luckily it healed but I didn’t have feeling in that finger for a few months!
    The other one happened last year, I use my machine frequently to sew through thick fabric and canvas. One day I was turning the balance to wheel to “walk” my needle through some thick canvas and “snap!” it just came off the machine! Turns out the plastic had just worn grooves over time. It was very depressing as I couldn’t sew until I had a replacement part shipped!

  • MY disaster was in 5th grade in sewing class. I was learning to sew when I accidentally drove the needle through my thumb! Needless to say, I was in a lot of pain. Hoping my teacher would notice and come to my rescue, I played around with the machine, trying to retract the needle. Finally, my teacher came to my rescue and pulled it out. Despite the initial bad luck, I managed to avoid any further disasters in the class for the rest of the semester :)

  • My daughter Sara’s high school graduation dress. I designed and made the dress, which ended up being white georgette with pleats all the way around on the bodice and skirt. I’d never taken on anything like this and it took forever. I made a dress form of my child w/ duct tape and a tshirt. I did a muslin mock-up. I went through 5 different sleeve options. Finally finished it the day before graduation. Popped the dress in the washer that night and got up at 4 am to hang it to dry. But the blue quilter’s chalk I had used to mark the pleats did not come out! Nothing worked except scrubbing the marks w/full strength bleach and an old toothbrush. So, I put the dress on an old white towel and went to work, fully expecting at some point I’d have to give up and go buy a dress that afternoon. But even though the towel ended up disintegrating, the dress and the lining held up and did not turn yellow. My daughter proudly wore the dress that night. Lesson learned: ALWAYS test the marking material to make sure it comes out.

  • I tried to sew a pretty basic quilt last year as my first big sewing project. It was super tricky to sew something that big, so i found myself bunching it up just so that it was easier to handle. I was super proud of the finished product…until I opened it up and realized i had sewn the two sides together in about 7 places.
    Maybe your wonderful book can persuade me to take the dust cover off my machine again.

    Love Holly

  • Ah, I can tell many little crisis stories of my machine – most of them seem minor now, but not so minor at the time. Most involve tension issues (does sewing on paper hurt my machine?) that I can’t seem to get a permanent fix one. I sent one card of quilted paper squares to my Mom for her birthday that had little loops of bobbin thread on the back. My husband saw it and said, wow it looks so fancy! But when my Mom got it, she called me and said, honey you have to fix the tension on that machine! Yeah. Shouldn’t have sent her that card!

  • My biggest disaster was moving house – we moved across the country last year. The removalists came in with my poor sewing machine, which had been dropped on the road and had totally busted open – arrgghh! I was so upset. She was my first sewing machine, and we’d learned so much together! I was too scared to try to use her after they tried to put her back together, so had a big hiatus in my sewing. Now I feel like I’m starting to learn from scratch again.

  • Oh, the sewing machine and I have a long and complicated history, where to begin. But perhaps the worst sewing disaster I’ve ever had was in the costume mayhem of 2006. I was working on my costume for my dance showcase. The costume that I got was just a bit too revealing and too sheer for my personal taste so I wanted to adapt it to match my personality and bring it down into my comfort level. So I attempted to fix. I just tried to add some extra fabric where the dress itself receded and tried to bring the v neck up a little bit. What ended up happening to my DIY project? I ended up snatching the sheer fabric, thereby causing me to cut off whatever parts of the fabric I had added (therefore making it even more short and more revealing than before). I’m not sure what happened to the neckline, but apparently, I didn’t sew it back correctly because it completely came apart during my dance performance the following night. Thankfully, I ended up wearing an extra leo underneath so it wasn’t a complete wardrobe malfunction. But here’s the lesson I learned: try on costume with PLENTY of time to spare before any dance performance and NEVER try to fix anything yourself the night before the show…


  • I once tried to make one of those beach tote/towel things–you know, the one where it’s a towel, but folds up into its own pocket? Not only was my workspace an absolute disaster, with bits of terry cloth flying around and clogging up my machine, but I managed to break no fewer than five needles in one hour. Furthermore, I tried to overstitch the edges of the strap and knotted up all my thread, and the pieces of the bag were all wonky and mismatched. I ended up cutting it into rags.

    Since then, I’ve never sewn with anything heavier than suiting material.

    I love sewing, but I can’t handle anything complicated–I would love this book!

  • My biggest sewing disaster, there are so many. Right now I have one machine so messed up I can’t use it and I need to take it in for repairs. Apparently it didn’t like making corsets. But the worse would be the year I made my whole family fleece jackets and TWICE put a needle through my thumb while installing zippers. That takes talent :-/

  • Here are two of my sewing disasters :) The first was 3 or 4 years back when I was using a dress I had bought as a “pattern” to make another one because I loved it so much. Instead of making a paper pattern from the original dress I used the actual dress by folding it and pinning to the other fabric. Not sure how it happened but I ended up cutting a huge hole into the original dress much to my dismay.

    My other disastor was when I was in grade 6 I made my own “grad” dress. I thought it was fantastic. It was an awesome dress with a drop waist and a big ruffle for the skirt, a cap sleeve on one side and a strap on the other (off shoulder kinda thing) in huge floral print (plus matching scrunchy!). It came out perfect and exactly how I imaged myself wanting to look in 1993 at the age of 12. The sewing disaster part of this story….is the fact that no one stopped me from making this dress! Oh the photographic horror! :)

    I would love a copy of the book since I’m always looking for new projects to make. Thanks! Brooke

  • My worst sewing experience happened when I was helping my friend thread her machine in our school sewing class many years ago. I think that I forgot to mention to my friend that the machine should be turned off during this process. The end result was a thumb that got in the way of the needle just as her foot pressed down on the pedal. It was a very memorable experience, and I always think when I see the scar on her thumb, from the surgery to remove the needle, and just hope that it wasn’t really my fault!

  • I just started sewing and I’m still learning but I haven’t had too many major disasters – yet. My biggest problem is sewing fabric together accidentally – I’ve become very friendly with my seam ripper!

  • My biggest sewing disaster was when I tried to sew a fabric tassle using my mom’s sewing machine. The fattest part was about an inch thick but I shooved it under the foot and stepped on the pedal. The needle snapped and went into my right pointer finger! I was afraid to tell my mom but had to in order to have her pull the broken needle out. I learned my lesson: Don’t sew if the fooot doesn’t go down!!

  • My mom taught me how to sew by hand when I was very young, around 4. Well, my biggest sewing disaster (or maybe it was hers!) was when she told me we would be sewing a dress for me, together. I was very excited. She had me baste two large pieces of fabric together, and I painstakingly made the *most* perfect little stitches my 4-year-old fingers knew how. When she fed the fabric through the machine and then ripped out my basted stitches, I thought my world would end! When she finally managed to calm and comfort me, she explained what basting was — basically sewing big stitches to hold fabric together instead of pinning — and I never made that mistake again. It didn’t put me off sewing, thankfully, and she went on to teach me cross-stitch and embroidery, memories I will cherish always. I have even continued on into the new generation by beginning to teach the rudiments of sewing to my 3 and 4 year old sons, who adore it :) I haven’t done any big projects in years, but have recently found myself inspired. Your book would be a great additional bit of inspiration!

  • my biggest sewing disaster is still sitting in a box – I bought a pattern, fabric & all notions to make myself a dress about 15 yrs. ago. I was soooooo slow, that I worked on the dress only occasionally until eventually it was no longer in style. I still have the cut pieces pinned to the pattern. I don’t know why I haven’t thrown it away by now. Guess I don’t want to admit that I couldn’t finish what I started!

  • thanks for the giveaway brett, your book looks fantastic!!

    i have always been one of those sew-ers that picks patterns based on the picture of the finished project, rather than what skill level they require, which often got me into trouble in my 4-H days. unfortunately, almost four years later, i haven’t learned my lesson and still go nuts for vintage Vogue patterns… only leading to weeks of slaving over a stupid dress and crying and freaking out and calling my grandma and nearly giving up but eventually turning out something dang classy.

    my worst disaster, though, had to have been the time i was hand-stitching something and stuck the needle in the arm of the chair while i took a break…. i totally forgot about it and came back the next day, gleefully leaped over the back of the chair and landed with my palm right on the needle. it really didn’t hurt that bad, but the funniest part was when i went to go make my mom pull it out, she took one look at it, freaked and was like, “DON’T DO ANYTHING, I’M CALLING GRANDMA!”

  • My mum is fantastic at sewing and I have always wanted to follow in her footsteps. She has been too busy to do much sewing over the last few years so I borrowed her machine and tried to make some things myself. I failed epicly – I broke a couple of needles, used the wrong thread, got things stuck inside where the bobbin goes…
    A few weeks after I gave the machine back to her she started complained about how it was not working properly and needed a service. Whoops! I didn’t tell her too much about my misdventures!

  • Mine occurred the day before my senior prom and of course I was making my prom dress. I couldn’t get the invisible zipper to look like what I wanted and I didn’t have time to hem the full circle skirt, so I had my mama do it last minute. She couldn’t get the zipper to work, either, so she ripped it out and put a regular zipper in as quickly as she could. It ended up looking way exposed– and not like in the trendy way. More like the this dress looks like the worst kind of homemade way. I was so stressed! My boo didn’t notice (do boys ever notice these things?), so I didn’t care as much about it. And we’re still together two years later! The dress is tucked in the back of my closet nonetheless.

  • One time I dropped a needle on the carpet and forgot about it/couldn’t find it. Guess what? I found it later… in my foot.

  • I think my brother will agree with me that my biggest disaster in sewing for him is stepping on my lost pins in the golden 1″ deep thick shag carpet in our childhood home. He still freaks out when he comes to my house and sees my sewing machine out. Wigs out completely!
    Brett your book looks fantastic from the sneak peek above :)

  • The worst was when I was trying to sew patches onto the inner thighs of a pair of cutoff shorts (formerly jeans) and managed to sew the legs together, but as a new sewer I feel like everything I make is somewhat disastrous!

  • I learned to sew on a borrowed sewing machine from the 60’s. It was great for the first year, then I made it forever angry at me by having it cleaned. Never could get it going again the way it used to. I guess it needed that fine layer of grime to run properly. Made for incredibly frustrating projects and balls of knotted thread the size of my head.

  • My biggest disaster is the pile of UFO – all because I may have done something wrong and just don’t have the patience to remove and redo

  • Luckily my mother sent me to a Singer Sewing class when I was 10 (40 years ago) and have LOVED sewing ever since (straight A’s in Home Ec all through school). But the disaster was just a month ago….I had to finish a project for my business, sewing velcro tabs on curtains. I broke 8 needles sewing 10 tabs – really – for some reason the thread was becoming stuck and I was frantically going through the manual oiling, unscrewing the bottom, sides anything I could do to fix the machine and ended up with spare parts (that was a first). I finished the project and ‘needless’ to say took my machine in for repairs. Come to find out I was using the wrong type of bobbin for my machine. YIKES!

  • My biggest sewing disaster was when, at 13, I sewed an entire dress from a pattern I chose and fabric I picked out only to try it on and realize I hated it! All that work…

  • I had been sewing trombone slide covers (bank dork alert!) for quite a long time and got tired. I decided it would be a good idea to lay my forehead down on the top of the machine as I finished. Unfortunately, I forgot about the thread take-up lever and got a deep gash in my eyebrow. I was fine, if a bit bloody and startled, so it has a happy ending, but I still have a scar that makes my eyebrow grow with “character.” I’ll never sew when exhausted again!

  • I’ve been sewing since I was 5 (with an old wheeled White sewing machine, the electricity turned off, and me turning the wheel with my right hand to make it go) and that means 52 years of disasters and successes. I’ve sewn dresses and suits and jackets and coats and skirts and pants and slipcovers and curtains and napkins and placemats – you get the idea. I’ve sewn EVERYTHING! But I have to say the most embarrassing sewing outcome was when my ex-husband asked if I’d sew a cushion cover for his wicker couch seat. He bought the fabric, upholstery zipper, etc. He brought the seat to my house — normal seat – curved in front, straight in back (it actually had a metal frame) and I did a beautiful job. Gorgeous seams, a zipper sewn in with a flap so perfect it could almost speak, I carefully trimmed all the seams and corners and there weren’t even any errant threads on the inside to get stuck in the zipper. In other words I did a MUCH better job for him than I usually do for myself. All was fine until one day, about 6 months later I had to stop by his house to pick up my son, and I saw the cushion on the wicker couch on his porch. Did I say curved in front, straight in back? Uh, well, no – there I stood, looking at the front of the couch where my beautifully flapped zipper hung out in all its glory. I had made the cushion backward!

  • In the late ’90s, when I was in junior high school, my best friend and I decided to sew our own clothes. With no help or training, we walked to the fabric store, bought supplies and patterns, and set out to make pants and a jacket. After a few “creative” cuts, we decided to make patchwork pants, but since the fabrics we bought were not meant to coordinate, we ended up with about ten brightly-colored fabrics all sewn together. The result was a pair of flared pants that looked like a cross between a kaleidoscope and a clown’s closet. Nonetheless, we persevered. We cut the pants and made a patchwork skirt – something that fell right out of the ’60s – that we then shared and wore for a long time to come. Though I guess the outcome wasn’t a total loss, the process definitely felt like a disaster. I remember our parents were very amused to watch us cut patterns and fabric scraps for hours – all the while giggling – but I bet they weren’t as happy with the mess in their living rooms!

  • I spent hours putting together a zig zag quilt and was so excited to finish. Of course, once I got done, I wished I would have picked different fabrics and wanted to make the whole thing over again. Such is life I guess! Your book looks awesome – I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy!

  • I was sewing a hem back up, while wearing the skirt (dumb, I know…but I was in a hurry). I sewed it right up and then realized that I had sewn my sleeve to the skirt. I still have no idea how this happened. I also had no idea how to get up and get out of my new sleeve/skirt.
    Needless to say, the skirt and shirt were ruined. That is only the beginning of how perfectly inept I am. Let’s not talk about the button holding together a (different) skirt that came off mid-day. Thank goodness for safety pins and staplers. Hopeless, but determined!

  • In 8th grade home economics, I had a terrible time completing one particular project – which was to make a sweatshirt. I could not get the thin white fleece under control and ended up ripping out 10 times more thread than the end product had. I barely managed to finish the neck and the waistband, and then told my teacher that I wanted to leave the sleeves unfinished for that “Flashdance” look. Oh man, it was bad. I never wore it.

  • My biggest sewing disaster has been the hours I’ve wasted trying to undo tangled threads inside my machine!

  • A few weeks ago I was working on a felt push for my soon to be born nephew. It started out okay but about 5 min. in the thread started to get caught on the bobbin hook. So I took the bobbin casing apart, cleaned it, and put it back together. This kept happening, over, and over again. I did everything I could think of, oiled it, cleaned it, changed the needle, the tension, stitch length, bobbin tension… nothing worked! Luckily I inherited my Grandmother’s Singer 401A so I haven’t had to battle the 2000 something Singer. I assume that if I turn it back on it will do the same thing. Although I have a very nice machine I would love to fix that one.

  • I started sewing when I was about six years old, I had the cutest little pink singer (wish I still had it) I’m sure there have been many disasters that have been forgotten. One disaster that has often happened for me, is I am not in the habit of pre-washing my fabric so I’m not sure I can even count how many garments no longer fit after they are washed. You think I would have learned the lesson, but instead I make quilts now and like the look after it is washed and shrinks.

  • My biggest sewing disaster is that I have JUST gotten into sewing (I got my first machine this year at Christmas) and I am a grown women. I wish I had just learned from my Grandmother or Mom when they offered to teach me. Think of all the fabulous things I could have created by now, if I had learned in my youth. :)

  • I made a halter top in college out of this horrible lime green cotton fabric. I didn’t sew very well and it ended up two sizes too small. I ended up giving it to my 6 year old sister!! I am so excited about this giveaway- I am trying to learn how to sew (better) since my baby son was born!! :)

  • I have had many – I swear I’ve spent years of my life picking out serged seams and threading the various sewing machines over the years. Of course there have been injuries (sewing over the fingers, iron burns etc). I would have to say the craziest one was when I was sewing on an industrial machine, and I was almost done a project, and was EXHAUSTED. I was sewing up the second to last seam and of course I ran out of bobbin thread. I was pulling out my bobbin case and accidentally pressed on the foot pedal very lightly and the hook that takes the thread around went right through my thumb, and hit the nail on the other side. For some reason it swung backwards and came out the same way it went in… Man that hurt! Though I was on such a roll that after a 1/2hr of swearing I finished the last seam with my thumb wrapped in scrap fabric, and then promptly went to bed.

  • My biggest sewing disaster was hands down the time that i sewed three my finger. Not once, but several times. Foolishly, I was sewing on a very low table, so after I had refilled the bobbin and was re-threading the machine, I accidentally knelt down onto the pedal WHILE my finger was underneath the needle. Luckily, I hadn’t yet changed the needle back to the sewing position, as it could have been much worse!

  • The time I made my prom dress and my best guy friend’s cummerbund the same weekend as prom. The dress was beautiful….vogue wedding dress pattern with some raw silk handed down to me by my grandmother. The cummerbund was left to last and was a rush job right before prom started. I finished just in the nick of time, but not before sewing through my finger and bleeding through my bandage all night at prom!

  • Oh, man! Can I narrow it down to just one? There was my first quilt attempt when I had no idea what I was doing, but enough confidence to make up the quilt top only to totally destroy the whole project I had saved so long for when I attempted to machine quilt it. More recently I started a super simple skirt for my daughter and got the fabric caught in the serger cutting a hole in the middle of the skirt.

  • My awesome sewing disaster happened at my very first quilt making class. I had never really sewn before but I wanted to learn and thought taking a class would be the best way. I asked if any prior experience with sewing was needed for this “beginner” class and was thrilled to find out that I could hop right in, “all I needed was a sewing machine!” So… I ran out, bought myself a machine, practiced loading the thread, and headed to my first class.
    SEWING IN A STRAIGHT LINE proved to be the hardest thing I had ever done! I looked around me at all of the other “beginners” sewing their straight lines with no problem at all. I was tempted to throw in the towel all together but I didn’t. I persisted and eventually produced a beautiful quilt top AND learned how to sew in a straight line! :)
    Needless to say, I’d love to have a copy of your book! PLEASE!

  • I was a prolific pillow maker in my early sewing days. I got into it a couple years after home ec class and had forgotten some sewing basics. For whatever reason, I decided that I needed to switch the sewing machine around to accommodate my left-handedness. This meant that I had to do all my sewing in reverse and burnt out the motor of my great grandmother’s antique sewing machine!

  • Currently, my sewing disaster is that my beloved 1969 Viking 6010 has a broken belt that will cost so much more than such a tiny piece of reinforced rubber could possibly cost to make.

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