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    A sewing machine is a useful tool that enables anyone to create a variety of household linens, garments, and fashion accessories.

    Many projects won’t even require a pattern.


    The Humble Rectangle: Three Ideas

    Tablecloths, placemats, and scarves can all be made from simple rectangles of fabric. Decide on the measurements you want for the finished item, add an allowance for hems or fringe, and cut a rectangle from your chosen fabric. Here are ideas for finishing the edges:

    • Press under a hem of one-half to one inch. Topstitch with matching or decorative thread.
    • Using a short stitch length (around 16 stitches per inch) sew an even distance from the edges all around, pivoting at corners. Pull threads from edges one at a time until your fringe reaches the line of stitching.
    • Turn under one eighth of an inch all around. Topstitch near the folded edge. Attach decorative braid or other trim to the edges, mitering the corners.

    Two More Rectangle Projects:

    Another great rectangle project is a set of cloth napkins with mitered corners. For a more involved (yet still simple) project, try making pillowcase dresses. These little dresses are so cute and so fun to make! If you have no little girls in your own home or neighborhood, make dresses to donate to a mission or a homeless shelter. Charity sewing has a long tradition and you could carry it on.

    Easy Commercial Sewing Patterns:

    Projects with more complex shapes or multiple pieces are best done with a sewing pattern. Choose patterns that are labeled “jiffy” or “learn to sew” or another phrase indicating the pattern has few pieces and simple construction. Aprons were traditional first sewing projects for past generations and are still practical for the modern home and kitchen. Pull-on pants or skirts are also simple projects with mostly straight stitching and no zippers, collars, cuffs, or other details to slow your sewing. Find easy patterns for any of the following projects:

    • Scrubs or pajamas make good beginner sewing projects. A pattern for scrub pants can be used for pajama pants—simply omit the pockets.
    • Caftans, tunics, and other pullover tops and dresses are simple. Because of their loose fit, no darts or other complicated shaping are required.
    • Sleeveless dresses and tank tops are easy to sew.
    • Look for accessory patterns such as tote bags and shawls. Again, we find the basic rectangle used in different ways.
    • Throw pillows and baby quilts are practical, easy, and make great gifts.

    Selecting for Simplicity

    Expand your sewing skills by sewing many simple projects and adding a new skill with each new project. Develop confidence with these easy projects, then proceed to more detailed patterns with curved seams, zippers, or sleeves. The fun never ends as there is always more to learn!

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