Learning to Sew: How I Became a Sewing Husband

Learning to sew and figuring out how to use a sewing machine.

This year, for my wife’s birthday, I sewed her a custom-made Studio Tunic in a bark-green Nomad Linen with contrasting burnt orange top stitching.

I sort of can’t believe I’m able to write that sentence.

A few months ago I couldn’t reattach a button to a shirt, and now I’m legit learning to sew.  

The Studio Tunic is the only garment I’ve ever sewn, and despite setbacks here and there, it turned out better than I ever would have imagined.

This is how I went from “Wait, what’s a bobbin?” to “I CAN’T WAIT for my Brussels Washer yarn dyed fabric to arrive!

During the pandemic, my life as a sometimes-professional actor and sometimes-bartender was disrupted when the theaters closed and the bars shut down. 

My adventure working at Sew Liberated begins

Luckily, my talented sister-in-law Meg was looking for some help with customer support and gave me a job at Sew Liberated. I would answer customer emails so she could spend more time dreaming up new designs and creative sewing courses for her company.  It was such a relief to have a job!   But it was also very daunting; I didn’t know the first thing about sewing. 

One customer email at a  time, I learned what I needed to know, with the help of Meg and Sew Liberated’s resident sewing expert, Judith. 

From caring for the Sew Liberated inbox, I learned a few things: to always measure before starting a new project, that fast fashion sizes are basically random numbers, and to always follow the sizing charts provided with a new pattern. I learned that making a muslin is always a good idea, and that pets love to find and eat your smallest and most crucial pattern pieces. 

I also learned how the sewing community is a very supportive and tightly knit (haha) group.  I grew to love being a small part of it.  So, when Meg and my brother Patrick called me to ask if I was ready to take a bigger role in the company, to help them create a series of online courses that would teach everyone from novices to advanced sewists new skills, I jumped at the chance!

As an aspiring actor, I started making short movies with friends in grade school, so I know my way around editing software; snipping and stitching together different takes to create a coherent final product.  Meg and Pat were asking me to edit hundreds and hundreds of hours of sewing videos.  What a task!  I really had to focus and get organized.  

I started to absorb basic sewing skills by osmosis

After the first online sewing class, “Intro to Sewing”, was complete, I started joking with my wife, Becky, that I theoretically knew how to sew. And as always, she held me accountable. That year as my birthday gift, Becky got her mom to send up the old sewing machine she used in high school. 

Learning to sew and figuring out how to use a sewing machine.

Challenge Accepted

Months passed and the fear of getting started got the better of me.  The sewing machine sat unused and my imposter syndrome crept in.  Who did I think I was?  I’m no sewist.  I continued to edit course videos for Sew Liberated, and my own learning-to-sew project kept getting pushed aside. 

But as I edited, it turns out I was absorbing lots of sewing wisdom. I was starting to understand what the Learn to Sew instructor, Shaerie, meant when she said, “wrong sides together”, “backstitch”, or “blind-hem foot”. 

It was time to take the next step: pick a pattern, pick a fabric, and get started.  The pattern was easy for me, but, oh no…so many fabrics.  Thankfully, EWE Fibers created pattern-specific fabric bundles.  I picked my favorite and was on track to make good on my gloats.

The fabric arrived and it was beautiful. I washed it in the bathtub of my Brooklyn apartment.  I turned my dresser into a pressing station. I pulled up the rug to pin on the hardwood floor, and organized my desk to fit my pins, fabric scissors, Becky’s (and now my) Notary White sewing machine, snips, pins, seam gauge, etc.  Her birthday was only a month away but I didn’t want to mess this up, and Judith’s advice to so many customers played through my head: “It’s always a good idea to make a muslin”.  So while my linen dried, I cut up an old duvet cover and got to work: pinning, cutting, and eventually…sewing.

Is it hard to learn how to sew?

The process was going smoothly!

I was following along with the Beyond Sewing Basics: Sew the Studio Tunic video I had edited and the lessons were being infused with even more meaning as I worked with actual fabric!  I only called Meg in a panic one time. 

However, as the muslin took shape the back was 4 inches longer than the front.  (Learning to sew is not without its trials!) Meg troubleshot with me until I realized I’d sewn the neck openings to the arm openings.  Doh!  I’m likely the only sewist in history to make this epic mistake.  But, of course, this mistake lead to two important lessons: your seam ripper is your friend, and, enjoy the things you haven’t messed up.    

Learning to sew has become a meditative space for me

I love the way fabric feels like a new state of matter, between solid and liquid, and that the more comfortable I get with it, the more I can control how this magic works.  Learning to sew is what I do at night instead of watching TV.  The bar I work at is back open, auditions have started again, and I still spend my days answering emails and helping to create more content for Sew Liberated, so, more than ever, I need time for myself. Even better that I can spend that “me time” creating an art piece for the woman I love.  Becky wears her duvet cover muslin around the house and to run errands.   And she wears her birthday present, a bark green/burnt orange threaded Studio Tunic, on our dates to the now open theaters or on whatever new adventures come our way.  As Christmas approaches, Becky’s sister, Julie, sent out assignments for Secret Santas.  I somehow got Julie…with the instructions that she’d look good in a purple tunic, and that those pockets will be perfect when she is collecting eggs from her chickens!  My new fabric just arrived, and I’m very happy to share my beyond-basic sewing skills with more humans I love.

Sophia, our Learn to Sew Your Clothes student, sewed her first practice seam ever!

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  1. You are not alone! I made the exact same mistake on my first studio tunic! I was using some yardage that I got for free from my quilt guild. I had the same fear of messing up the good fabric😂. I honestly just threw that in the scrap bin without finishing but the next one came together. I love your finished product. As I student in that course I also really appreciate your editing and video skills. I am going to go with great minds think alike as the reason we both made that mistake the victory wouldn’t be as sweet without a few challenges along the way!

  2. Love this post a lot! Way to go David 🙂 I have pinned neck and arm openings together before but figure it out before I sewed which was just lucky. I won’t tell you what happened with the crotch the first time I tried to make pants. But let’s just say it involved a large, very flat U-shape!

  3. Love this story! And the finished studio tunic is so beautiful–you were brave to go for contrast-color stitching on your first outing. Also love your description of fabric as a kind of new state of matter. So very apt.

    I wonder if this could inspire me own spouse to try sewing?????

  4. That is one of the best articles I’ve read in awhile. So glad for all that David found his “sewing legs” (fingers?). Also, as an avid theatre goer, I hope to see you on Broadway some day soon! All the best…. PS thanks for the video tutorials…they are great!

  5. I too made that same mistake sewing the Studio Tunic — I just stood there looking at my gigantic neckline while my brain slowly processed the obvious. And I’ve sewed a few things before! Duh!

  6. I just love this story David, what a wonderful gift, Becky looks great in her tunic. I think a lot of us have made mistakes like that so don’t feel you are alone! I wonder what you will make next…

  7. What a lovely story! I really enjoyed reading it. You responded to one of my e-mailed questions last spring. How fun to get to know a bit more about the person behind the name.

  8. Love this story! And the finished studio tunic is so beautiful–you were brave to go for contrast-color stitching on your first outing. Also love your description of fabric as a kind of new state of matter. So very apt.

  9. Great post! I’m dating myself, but “meditating” was, to a certain extent, frowned upon or, at minimum, considered being on the fringe. Now, with these notifications “dinging” us all day long, it becomes that go to place for many of us. It’s great that sewing is one of those places for you, David! Again, great story. Thank you for sharing and have a great day!