Other than the children's cardboard sewing cards that many of us had when very young, my first sewing, that I remember, began while sitting with my Grammy Page on her front lawn one summer about the time I was 8 years old. She taught me to hand sew a skirt and blouse for my Barbie doll. It was quite well done by the time she helped me finish it. We had well fitted darts, snaps to fasten it, a skirt band and nice hems. I had also learned to knit a few years before that and would knit Barbie clothes as well. (Barbie was big in my area for anyone in sixth grade and under - but few could afford the "store bought" clothes - so we made do and learned to make them ourselves.)
My other grandmother, Meme, would sometimes make my sister and I dresses for school, but she lived far from us and I never saw her actually sewing - I only knew it was possible to make really great clothes at home that were unique and cute. So in high school I looked forward to home ec. class. While the fussiness of the home ec. teachers tended to be a bit exacting for me, I did learn a lot, and loved sewing on a real sewing machine. My first project that I can remember was a yellow, collarless, sleeveless dress. I learned to make facings, put in a centered zipper and make darts. I wanted to make more clothes, so a close friend's mom agreed to help me make another project. It was a maroon vest and matching skirt. The vest was lined, and the A-line skirt had a lapped zipper and a waistband. I now had the basics down and was off on my own.
The next problem was that I had no sewing machine, and no money in our family to spare for one. Meme came to the rescue. The Singer in the picture above was loaned (and many years later given) to me by my Meme. I continued to make outfits for myself all through high school and college. They tended to be simple, but I did expand my portfolio of techniques enough to manage to do box pleats, shorts and culottes, and even was tapped to do some costumes for two college productions. Usually I just followed the steps in the pattern directions or stumbled onto how to make it work.
When I got married the Singer didn't automatically come with me since it still belonged to Meme at that time. So my wonderful Dh bought me a Kenmore machine for our first Christmas as a married couple. That was 28 years ago. I sewed outfits, costumes, and baby clothes at times, but I was a bit frustrated as I was very poor at fitting (I thought the patterns were supposed to fit right out of the package) and still had only basic sewing skills. I had no one to teach me and, especially, no time to take a class --- then came the internet.
Over the past year I have discovered sewing blogs, which led me to Pattern Review, which led me to the Stitcher's Guild and on and on. I have been taking sewing lessons on-line from Pattern Review, and still teach myself a lot just from reading other's sewing blogs. In the past year I have learned more about sewing than I had in the last 30. I truly believe the Lord opened the door so that I can develop my skills in order to minister to more families - and my children too!
Addendum: These two machines (and a 1955 Singer Featherweight 221 - an e-bay recent addition) are the only machines I own and use. The Singer machine is a 1946 Model 201-2. Though it is a straight stitch only machine, it works great and I love sewing on it. The Kenmore is a 1980 Ultra Stitch 12. It has zigzag and a few decorative stitches. It tends to groan a bit, and occasionally wheezes, but it too is still working for me.