Recently, it seems you can’t scroll through Instagram or Facebook, or even your emails, without being enticed by a new sew or quilt-along. They are hard to resist because they all sound like so much fun! And that’s exactly how the designers, shops, or fabric companies behind these online events want you to feel. There’s nothing more enjoyable than taking part in an activity with others.
So, what is a sew-along? Basically, it means that we’re all going to virtually work on the same project for a period of time. Designers will host one to introduce a new pattern or to share their techniques, fabric companies to show off a line of fabric, and shop owners to give them a chance to teach participants without having to come into the store for a class. With the restrictions of the pandemic, the number of sew-alongs picked up but they have been part of the quilting and crafting community for many years. Sew-alongs can be over a long weekend, last several weeks, or even many months. They are different from block-of the-month programs in that they are faster paced and rely on audience participation.
There are lots of reasons to join a sew-along. With online interaction, it’s an opportunity to meet new friends, be part of a community, and receive encouragement and tips from others. With everyone sharing their fabric selections and completed work online, it’s a way to see variations and to get inspired. For some, knowing they’ll be able to have a completed project at the end is reason enough. For others, it’s the chance to learn new skills or have a scheduled time to sew – or even to get out of a sewing rut. Often, it’s because you like the designer’s style. Oh. And sometimes there are prizes!
It's time to get started on this new venture. First, find a sew-along that speaks to you. Check on social media to see who is hosting one. Start by scrolling through designer or fabric company social media, or asking friends. If you’re still not sure how to find one, use these hashtags on Instagram: #sewalong, #quiltalong, #stitchalong, #knitalong, #scrapalong, #xstitchalong.
Image is from our Curvetastic Sew-Along happing now! Click here for details.
Once you choose, commit to the sew-along. Purchase the pattern (either a pdf or paper copy), join the host’s online community, and gather what you need from the supply list. Set aside time on your calendar to work on the project. The host will provide a schedule, so you’ll know what to expect.
Be sure you understand how to load photos to the sew-along site and are familiar with other computer functions you may need. The hosts are happy to help you understand how to download a pdf pattern, however, all devices are different, and they might not know exactly how to help you if you run into issues. Ask for help in your household or from friends. Once you download, it’s important to remember where the pattern lives on your computer’s file.
Before the sew-along begins, do any homework required, such as cutting your fabric and other instructions the host gives you. Choose your fabric or order a kit if one is offered. Straighten your sewing space, clean your machine, fill extra bobbins and have extra thread on hand.
This is a good time to get your cutting tools in order. Choose the OLFA trifecta: a cutting mat that fits your space, rulers, and your favorite rotary cutter. Change your blade, too! In case you need to rip, an OLFA Art Knife is a handy tool to have as well.
To get the most out of the sew-along, be active online throughout the project. Not only will you benefit from the chit chat and seeing photos, you’ll help others have the best time, too. The hosts appreciate it when you take part. Take photos or your progress to see how far you’ve come. Don’t forget to share them with the group!
Designer Pat Sloan has been doing sew-alongs for many years. Here’s her advice for enjoying one. “If it's a mystery, have fun. If mysteries are not your thing, there are many quilt alongs that are not a mystery. If it is a new-to-you designer, read the pattern before starting so you get a feel for their pattern writing style. Be kind to yourself and others about your blocks. If you don't care for your block, make a new one, its' worth the time and effort. If you have a question, ask in the designer’s community as someone will have the answer.”
Likewise, designer Missie Carpenter shared some thoughts on sew-alongs, especially if it’s a multi-designer event. If you need to share your email in order to download the pattern, it’s so that the designers have a way to contact you if there is some news to share, such as prize winners! If you have specific questions, too, it’s best if you contact the designer via their website or email as messages on social media get missed sometimes. Designers put a lot of effort into the sew-alongs so a quick note of thanks buoys them up.
Some other etiquette tips include keeping unkind thoughts to yourself. Not everyone may have the same level of skills you do and the host wants everyone to feel successful. Cheer on other’s efforts because you never know whose day you’ll make!
Sew what do you think? Is a sew-along, a quilt-along, a knit-along, or some other ‘along’ on your radar in the near future? We hope so! They are so much fun and when it’s done, you’ll have great memories from taking part in this special event.