Jennifer, my own experience went this way. First, I decided that it wouldn't be too hard to sew up a few things such as silnylon tarps, so I purchased an inexpensive sewing machine (maybe $75) that has about a dozen different stitch types. It took me a few hours just to figure out the basics like thread tension, so I used lots of scrap cloth to train on. Make some stuff sacks! The next step was to purchase a commercial pattern for something I needed. So, I got a hooded jacket pattern from Rain Shed. The first try with that was a mess. I used some fabric that was difficult, and I kept getting confused between right side and wrong side. So, using the pattern on some cheap fabric is a better training ground. Next, I used the same pattern on some other fabric that was more appropriate, and that worked nicely. At the same time, I purchased a cottage-made hooded jacket that was equivalent, and I studied the details on it in case I need to make another. Since then, I've made a couple of shaped tarps. I purchased the Thru-Hiker Liberty Ridge pants kit. With the standard fabric, it worked nicely. I also have some cheap fabric and used the same pattern to make some ultralightweight pajamas. Since then, I've sewn cuben fiber ground sheets, rain mitts, and all sorts of stuff.