My first sewing project – A Belly Band!

I finally had time this weekend to complete my first sewing project!  I decided to make something simple (although simple is relative) and functional – and I ended up with a pretty cool belly band that is comfy, made of really nice material, and way cheaper than any store bought version that you can buy! First, I brought out my basic sewing stuff, my bent 9 1/2 inch dressmaking shears and new pinking shears:

And my self-healing mat, ruler, and rotary cutter:

To make the belly band, I picked this great tutorial to follow and started out by cutting out my spandex (purchased at Expressions Glorietta).  I decided to make my belly band that is 35 inches wide and 8 inches across (adjust this according to your preference)  since I don’t really like full panel maternity wear. You can adjust according to your size and fabric but I think 35 inches is safe especially if the fabric you have stretches a lot.  Given these measurements, I cut out a 36 x 17 inch piece of fabric, allowing for a 1/2 inch seam allowance on each side.  Tip for extreme beginners like me: make the seam allowance a little wider since you might be making some mistakes along the way both when you cut and sew the fabric!

It was more difficult than I expected to cut this out since I’m not used to working with fabric, much less a stretchy one that curls around a lot and is impossible to mark with the white dressmaker chalk pencil that I tried to use.  The rotary cutter was a godsend for this one.

Once I had the fabric cut out, I folded it in half lengthwise and pressed it to make it a bit easier to work with.  Then, I basted the fabric together by hand using white thread as a guide for me when I got to sewing the seams.  I did this since I couldn’t mark the surface with dressmaker’s chalk and I knew it would be pretty difficult to sew a 35-inch long straight line.

Then, I finally started getting ready to actually sew!  I set up my Brother CE8080 (I think it’s exactly the same as the CE8080 Project Runway version only without the PRW label since I got it in Canada instead of the US) on a desk and plugged it in.  The manual was pretty straightforward, so I just followed all the threading instructions and pretty soon I was ready to begin sewing.  I started by sewing test stitches on some scrap fabric first, then I went back to sewing the first seam on my belly band.  🙂  The tutorial specifies using a zigzag stitch so I started with that, but it was difficult since the  fabric started to bunch up a bit.  So I took out the first stitches with my seam ripper and went with a stretch stitch which worked out better for me.  🙂  I went pretty slow, since sewing in a straight line is harder than it sounds!!!  But pretty soon, I had a long tube like this:

I turned it right side out, matched up the inner seams, and started stitching it closed.  I did this slowly since the fabric was twisted around because of the tube shape.

When I was getting close to the other end, I hand stitched it closed.

And voila!  My finished first sewing project, my very own belly band!  🙂

Given this experience, here are 5 things to consider when working on your first sewing project:

  1. It’s probably best to work with cotton or some non-stretchy fabric for a first project (the spandex worked out for me but not without some struggling)
  2. Test whatever stitches you intend to use on scrap fabric similar to your project so you can see how the fabric reacts.  This could have saved me the time I spent ripping out my zigzag stitches
  3. Slightly increase your seam allowance unless you’re confident that you can follow the guide exactly
  4. Related to number 3, basting is a quick, easy way to get a guide for straight seams for beginners – and you can be sure your fabric won’t move around
  5. Just do it!  No matter how much you read, and I read a lot, it’s totally different – and fun and fulfilling – once you start actually doing it!