Ideas for a sewing party?
February 12, 2013 4:54 PM   Subscribe

My friends were interested in my recently acquired sewing machine and brought up the idea of a craft/sewing party. I have no idea how that would work. Help?

I bought an entry-level sewing machine (Janome 2212) a few months ago mostly to make clothes alterations. I've learned the basics and enjoy working with it. Some friends saw the machine and thought it would be fun to have a get-together where they learned how to use it while doing some crafting. Sounds like fun to me, but now that I'm thinking through the specifics I need some guidance.

This get-together would probably be 4-6 people, and another inexperienced person would bring a second cheap sewing machine. What are some good beginner projects for a mixed gender group? They could involve other types of crafting or non-machine sewing as well. The budget is probably <$20/person and the projects should be finished in a few hours.

I'm at a total loss since I'm not much of a crafter or from-scratch sewer. Other ideas for making it a lively affair would be appreciated as well.
posted by Durin's Bane to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
ooooh, I have done this!

1. it helps immensely if one person is a sewing machine ninja and can teach everyone how to thread a bobbin and tread the machine.

2. anybody can make a throw pillow, it's the perfect beginner project. 18"x18" with some fiberfill stuffing and it's totally doable. easiest project goes first... everyone else can spend time cutting and pinning sections

3. project involves either a zipper or a 3 inch hand sewn section for stuffing.

4. one successful project gets your brain going for more complex things... I highly recommend practical projects that you can use. Aprons, reusable shopping bag, placemats, small fun plush toys etc...

look on for inspiration, most craft projects are doable for beginners
posted by bobdow at 5:15 PM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

This book has generally good advice about planning crafting parties, and they have a blog here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:33 PM on February 12, 2013

How much table space do you have to lay out fabric and cut it? Having as many sewing machines as possible and table space are crucial. Probably more the table space given that cutting and pinning takes about 2 hours per person. And cutting on the floor is doable, but sucks and gets the fabric dirty and all that. Depending on how much space you have, you may want to keep this party small if you don't have much space for dealing with fabric. You can rotate people in and out of using a machine fairly easily (though you might want to have everyone use the same thread color so people don't forget to switch out), but cutting takes forever and can't be shared as easily.

I'd recommend everyone making pajama pants (disclaimer: I taught a beginning sewing class and have tried this out). If you can, have everyone go together to the fabric store at the same time before the day and whoever knows the most about sewing helps them pick out the right kind of fabric and the easiest pattern to make. If they HAVE enough of the same pattern, everyone get the same one. It's really super hard to figure buying fabric and a pattern alone in a store for the first time, and I really wish I could have done a group field trip for my students to help them with this.

Also tell everyone to wash their fabric before the party--god knows it's easy to forget that step.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:51 PM on February 12, 2013

You also need ironing space.

Since none of you is a sewing ninja, you might go to a sewing store and ask if someone is willing to come to your house (maybe with a third machine) and be the overseer. Not sure how much something like that would cost.
posted by CathyG at 6:59 PM on February 12, 2013

I've done something similar by having everyone make simple fleece hats. This worked well because you don't even need a pattern-- a hat is a tube. You can find ideas for measurements online-- a typical adult head, kid head, baby head, etc. Here is one helpful link.

Making hats works well with only one machine because each person only needs to sew a few straight seams. Of course, you can combine different fabrics, etc, for a more complicated set of seams. Beyond that, you can gussy up your design with buttons, ribbons, fringe, contrast stitching, much of which can be done by hand.

Fleece is also great for beginners because it cuts easily and does not fray. You don't have to be super careful with raw exposed edges if you cut neatly.
posted by TrarNoir at 7:04 PM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine hosted one of these for a couple of us beginners and it was a lot of fun. We did simple bags. Here are a few easy sewing tutorials that I've seen on Pinterest--they are straightforward (i.e. I think even I could make them) and would make good gifts or useful things for people to keep:
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:03 PM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think the party will be difficult to pull off unless you have more sewing machines. To be honest, I wouldn't probably be interested in going to a machine sewing party unless everybody had their own machine because there would be a lot of downtime sitting around and waiting for a turn.

However, sounds like machines for everyone isn't a possibility so I think the fleece hats suggested above are a good idea--not a lot of prep time in terms of cutting or picking fabric and all straight stitching will be easy for everyone to learn AND keep people moving so that everyone gets to use the machines. If you have things to decorate with, people can be doing that while they're not on a machine.

Anything with a real pattern, like clothing or some types of bags, will take a long time to teach a beginner how to do because it doesn't just involve the basics of operating the machine, it also involves teaching them how to interpret a pattern and put the pieces together. For clothing especially you have to talk about things like seam allowances and fabric types that are not necessarily so hard to understand, it's just a lot to teach someone in one sitting.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 8:26 PM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think this sounds fun. And I wouldn't worry too much about machine down time. Have some nice relaxing music and maybe some snacks and refreshments and the downtime will be fine. People can talk and hang out. I mean from what you're saying these are all people who are friends so it's not like they'll just be awkwardly staring at each other while waiting for their turn at the machine.

Like everyone else, I suggest simple things like throw pillows, tote bags, etc. I'd avoid any wearable garments like the plague, to be honest. It's just too easy to mess up and then end up with "useless thing", whereas if you make a slight mistake on a throw pillow or a tote bag, it'll probably still be functional, thereby still having some sense of achievement for the maker.
posted by katyggls at 1:11 AM on February 13, 2013

From experience, you can have a perfectly lovely sewing party with 4 people, 1 iron and 1 machine.

Seconding cushions (perhaps out of old T-shirts?) as a good starting project.
posted by Pallas Athena at 1:41 AM on February 13, 2013

Those reusable hand warmers are sooo easy and fun to make. No complicated seams or anything; just pinked edges. Everyone's turn at the machine would be for just a few minutes even with instruction and/or recovery from machine issues, and the boys and girls could go home with something useful.
posted by xyzzy at 6:31 AM on February 13, 2013

I have done this, and since it was with a group of my knitting friends, we made "project bags" to hold our knitting, but the bags could also be used for toiletries and such.

Whatever project you choose, I think the key is to make one or two for yourself as practice before having people over so you have it down pretty cold.

If you want more info on those box bags, I changed it a bit and would be happy to give my notes over memail.
posted by freezer cake at 5:16 PM on February 13, 2013

I think it falls to you to be the Ninja; pick something super simple in the vein of the pillows and make a few ahead of time in a few batches. Whoo! Ninja status granted. =)

I like the idea of going to the fabric store as a team but maybe save that for later; buy a big thing of stuffing and have them bring an old t-shirt to "pillow-fy." Someone will forget their shirt so ask people to bring extra to share.

Snacks and drinks will make this; put out something like a cheese with a loaf of bread and glasses of wine/sparkling water and people will love you.

If the first is fun, have everyone bring pants to hem the second time. A visit to the fabric store and making it would be a good 3rd and 4th in my estimation. The first pass it might be okay for everyone to work together on one pattern/project to see how it works.
posted by deanj at 6:42 PM on February 13, 2013

Thank you everyone! These ideas are just what I was looking for. I'll try a tote bag myself to see how hard that is or maybe we'll keep it simple with throw pillows. I like the fleece hat idea a lot but I'm in Texas and it feels like Spring has practically started so I'll hold off on that until next year.
posted by Durin's Bane at 7:20 AM on February 16, 2013

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