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Sewing Tips for Beginners

 
I don’t consider myself the best in the world at sewing, however, I have been doing it for quite a few years now and have learned a few things over the years that I feel are worth sharing (Side note: I started sewing at around age 8 when my Grandma gave me an old sewing box of hers. Back then my sewing projects mainly consisted of cutting the legs off my jeans and then sewing up the bottom to make a ridiculously ugly denim purse. I thought I was awesome and those denim bags would be my claim to fame one day).  
 
If you are like me and are self-taught at sewing then you know that it is a gradual process that includes stumbling upon random bits of information that, over time, improve your technique and skill level. 
 
Here is a list of things I wish I would have known sooner and some Blog articles that have helped me along the way:
 
1) The importance of ironing and steaming your projects
This is quite embarrassing to admit and I’m not really sure why, but up until about a year ago I didn’t even own an iron. When working on a sewing project from a tutorial I would just skip the ironing part, like it was just a recommendation. I don’t know if I thought my Fiancé would start asking me to iron all of his clothes if I owned an iron? What a mistake that was looking back…Irons are so cheap and it takes no time at all to iron a project. The benefit of how crisp, professional and polished my projects look after ironing and steaming throughout the process immensely outweighs any “fiancé clothes ironing” I may have to do as a result of now owning an iron. All of my seam lines are straighter because the fabric does not bunch up and items that have a fold in them (like a wallet that folds in half or a clutch with a flap that folds over) stay closed with ease. Since discovering the wonders of ironing I iron through out the entire project, sometimes more times than I can count. And then I use the steam function at the end to steam my whole project. Trust me, your projects will look so much more polished. You will never go back.
 
2) Interfacing…My new best friend
Another embarrassing fact is that up until just a few months ago I had never used interfacing. I really didn’t understand exactly what it was or which kind a tutorial was asking for (which is why if I ever put a tutorial up on here I will always mention the exact interfacing that I used). I found this article on Erin Erickson’s blog Dog Under My Desk (http://erinerickson.com/category/interfacing/). It is probably the best thing I have ever come across! It explains interfacing better than I ever could and talks about the many different types and the results that they give.
 
Interfacing is a fabric material that gives weight and stability to your projects. It comes in two different types: Fusible (which has little dots of glue on one side that, when ironed, fuse to the wrong side of your fabric) or Sew-In (that one is pretty self explanatory). Before I discovered fusible interfacing when a tutorial would ask for “Interfacing” in the material list I would just use fleece. Fleece will work…ok…I guess. But once you use a fusible interfacing you will never want to go back. I LOVE INTERFACING! It takes more time to fuse it to your fabric, is another thing to measure and cut, and is an added cost…but it is so amazing that even with the cons it is completely worth it. I have a huge rubber made box filled with different types of interfacing now. Erin Erickson mentions that her favorite type of interfacing is Pellon SF101 so that was the first type I purchased to get accustomed to interfacing, and I have to say it is also my favorite. It fuses quickly and I have not noticed that it wrinkles at all. If you have not used interfacing before I would recommend trying some Pellon SF101. My tip is I wait until Joann’s Fabric send me a 40% off fabric coupon in my e-mail and I buy a larger quantity of Pellon SF101 so I have some for backup. It runs about $4.99 a yard at my Joann’s Fabric and when I have the 40% fabric coupon I usually buy about 5 yards, so I end up spending about $15. 
Here is an example of a non-interfaced zipper pouch and an interfaced zipper pouch:
 
This zipper pouch is not interfaced. See how it looks a little flat and flimsy? It makes it look a little “cheap” and unprofessional in my opinion. (This was made prior to my discovering the wonders of interfacing)
 
This zipper pouch is interfaced with a heavy weight fusible interfacing (I believe I used DecorBond). See how it looks firm, stable and the fabric appears tight and unwrinkled? I think the interfacing gives the project a much more professional and “complete” look compared to the non-interfaced pouch above.
 
3) Using straight pins
 
You will notice that most tutorials will say to “pin your project” at some point in the tutorial. I’ve learned over the years that if it says to pin, then you should pin. Back in the day I would skip the pinning and think that I would be able to hold my fabric steady enough while sewing that pinning wasn’t necessary. But with all the things going on while you are sewing (trying to maintain a steady speed on the pedal, making sure you are sewing in a straight line, ensuring the fabric is staying lined up, feeling like you are going to go cross-eyed watching the needle go up and down and up and down…) it will be too much going on and knowing that the pins are holding your fabric lined up will be one less thing to worry about.
[Side note: I purchased the straight pins below at Joann’s and while they are very cute with the little leaf on top the needle part is pretty thick and is very difficult going through the fabric. My tip: skip on the “cute” straight pins and get some that have nice thin, sharp needles]
 
 
 
4) Invest in a Rotary cutter, Self-Healing Mat and Clear Ruler
 
A rotary cutter, self-healing mat and clear ruler will make your life a million times easier when cutting up your fabric. Your lines will be straighter and you can cut through multiple layers of fabric at a time. A time saving tip that I do is if I need to cut multiple pieces of different fabric in the same size I will measure the first piece out perfectly. And then instead of measuring each piece I will iron my first piece well and then place it on top of the other fabric, lay my clear ruler on the edge and cut around the first piece of fabric. This saves time with measuring out each piece and if you ensure that the first piece of fabric is lined up perfectly and use the ruler to make sure you are cutting right on the edge it will yield the exact same results as if you measured each piece separately.
 
5) Making your own pattern pieces
If I find a particular tutorial that I fall in love with and know I am going to want to make again I will cut out the specified pattern pieces in cardboard to save time when I make the project again in the future. For example: In my Zipper Pouch Tutorial I said to cut out 4 pieces of fabric and 2 pieces of interfacing all 7”x4 ½”. To save time (because I know I am going to make this same Zipper Pouch many times) I first cut out a piece of cardboard 7”x4 ½” so every time I make this project all I have to do is lay the cardboard on top of the fabric or interfacing and then cut around it instead of re-measuring every time. I have a plastic box filled with cardboard pieces that I write the size and name of the project. Any time I buy a new pair of shoes I will save the box and use the cardboard from it to make pattern pieces.
 
6) Slow and Steady Wins the Race
When you are sewing on your machine, make sure that you keep the pressure on the pedal even and at a moderate pace. I can’t tell you how many times when I first started sewing and wasn’t used to the amount of pressure to put on the pedal I would step too hard or fast and the machine would go zooming through my fabric. This would scare me every time, which would in turn make me jump, move the fabric and create crooked, uneven lines. Make sure the needle is in the down position when you start sewing and ease down on the pedal. Once you have a moderate pace, take note of the pressure you are putting on the pedal and try to replicate it every time you sew. After a while it will just be muscle memory and you won’t even have to think about how hard you step on the pedal. It’s just like driving a car, once you get it you will never forget.
 
7) Don’t skimp on thread
Buying the cheapest thread you can find will only create more problems for you in the end. Cheap thread causes problems for your machine’s tension system, which can result in skipped stitches or the thread knotting together on the underside of your project (which happened to me for a while).
This is the thread I have been using and I love it:
 
 
What I normally do is buy the largest size of this type of thread in a neutral color (like off-white or light gray) and then use it on every project. This allows me to fill multiple bobbins ahead of time (because I hate filling bobbins) so they are ready incase I run out.
 
8) Clipping Corners and Excess
If you are sewing something that needs to be turned inside out at the end, make sure you clip the corners before you turn it right side out. This will make it easier to push the corners out because there won’t be so much excess fabric in the corners. Also, if you have a lot of excess fabric on the sides you may want to trim some of it off before you flip the fabric right side out as well.
 
See how the corners are clipped?
 
9) Boxing the bottom corners of a bag
I was so happy when I found out how to do this. It is a little hard to explain in words so for this I might need to show pictures.
Before you turn your bag right side out, squeeze the corners together so the seam on the bottom and the seam on the side are aligned.

 

Sew a line across the seam as in the picture above. Note:  The farther in from the corner that you sew will result in a larger “box” effect on the bottom of the bag.

 

Clip off the excess corner.
 
Do you see how the bottom of the bag is flatter now?
 
10) The benefits of Topstitching
Have you ever attempted to sew something that needed to be flipped right side out at the end and are left with a couple inch wide hole in one side of your project that you need to close now (i.e. A purse, pillow, etc)? There are tutorials online showing you how to close that hole and do what is called an Invisible seam (Here is a good one from Fern and Freckle: http://fernandfreckle.com/tutorial-invisible-seams-the-hidden-stitch/).  Personally, although I have tried many times, I cannot master a hidden stitch or invisible seam. My method to avoid that process is to topstitch my project whenever possible. Yes, it is more time consuming and maybe there are projects you wouldn’t want to topstitch but I have yet to complete a project that I didn’t think looked adorable with a topstitch around the perimeter (for the people who are still very new at sewing, a topstitch is when you sew a line on the outside (or right side) of your project).

 

For example, this iPhone pouch was topstitched around the sides and top.
 
However, for some things you are not going to be able to or do not want to topstitch. In a case like that I would check out the tutorial on Invisible Seams from Fern and Freckle listed above. This is a great example of why teaching yourself to sew is a gradual process, one that I am still working on myself. Invisible seams are an example of a sewing technique that I am still in the process of mastering and learning.
 
I hope this list of tips was helpful! If even one beginning sewer learns from a mistake that I have made myself then I am happy!
 
Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments!
I’d be happy to help you in your sewing journey.
 
 

 

 
 
 

126 thoughts on “Sewing Tips for Beginners

  1. it is helpful, this list of sewing tips. thank you. some of these things i have noticed myself, but i am still new to sewing and i still have to learn.

  2. Ditto! Thank you do much. These tips are exactly why I loves blogs like yours…not afraid to share the ‘secrets’. :)

  3. You are right on the money with your advise. I taught clothing construction for 26 years. One thing I would add to your list is to prewash and dry your fabric as you intend to do when it is completed. If you are using two different materials, it may prevent puckers and wrinkles if the two materials do not shrink the same amount. Especially true with ribbon and rick rack embellishments.

  4. Here is my number one hint for new sewers. Many people have told me this was helpful to them….”Be prepared to rip things out at times. This does not mean you are bad at sewing- all good seamstresses rip!”

  5. That’s a GREAT tip! I used to feel so disheartened if I made a mistake and wouldn’t even think to use a seam-ripper to back track and fix my mistake.

    Now, I use my seam-ripper all the time! If a line isn’t perfectly straight? Rip and try again. Forgot to leave a hole for turning? Rip a hole.
    Seam-rippers are fantastic! It’s like an eraser for sewing. Artists make mistakes all the time and use erasers, why shouldn’t it be the same when you are sewing? :)

  6. thank you so much! i got my first sewing machine not long ago and i’m actually working on my first quilt! i read to iron the back seams of the quilt down but i thought about skipping that, now i think i’ll do it! LOL.

  7. thank you so very much for this!! I am teaching myself to sew a few small projects ( mostly craft related). My main problem is sewing a straight line!! I guess practice will make perfect–at some point

  8. I know what you mean Vicki! Straight lines were definitely something that I had trouble with for a while!

    How I improved was, I took a scrap piece of fabric and a ruler and I used a Tracing Wheel (Here is a link to one on Joann’s website so you know what I’m talking about: http://www.joann.com/joann/catalog/productdetail.jsp?CATID=cat2862&PRODID=prd10308 ) to make multiple faint lines on top of my fabric and then sewed over them over and over until I felt more comfortable. Since it is just a piece of scrap material you could even just grab a pen and draw the straight lines right on the fabric.

    Even now if I notice that my lines are getting a little crooked or I am getting frustrated I will grab some scraps and do a few straight lines.

    Good luck!

  9. Great advice! I also used to think that the ironing and interface parts are unnecessary. I’ve changed my mind on that last year, and like the end result better.

    I like the one about boxing the corners….. I will remember that next time I make a bag!

    Vicki, there are marks on your sewing machine for sewing straight lines. If you keep your fabric always to the left of the line with the right seam allowance, so you can JUST see the mark, you’ll have a straight line. Of course, you would have to concentrate hard on that (and tune out everything else), but I am good at that.

  10. Thank you so much for posting! I’m teaching myself how to do minor alterations and small projects, this is so helpful. I will have to save this and refer back!

  11. All great tips! Another I might add after my 30+ years of sewing is that curves are easier to stitch if you shorten your stitch length just a little. I usually bump mine down just one or two ticks from my regular stitch length. The shorter stitches take up a little less fabric and allow you a better turning radius.

  12. Thank you, thank you sooo much. I am also a self taught beginner sewer. I’ve skimmed through your article but it has been pinned for future references and further ready. Interfacing scares me, and other post I’ve read about it just left me scratching my head and closing my browser. I’m glad to have something to guide me through it. n_n

  13. Linda, thank you for your comment! That’s a perfect example of how I’m still learning myself :) I recently made a wallet that had a curve on one of the interior pockets and it was a little difficult sewing around the curve. I’ll have to try shortening the stitch length next time! Thanks so much!

  14. Thank you so much. Like everyone said, this really is very helpful. I want to learn to sew (I know a little bit but its not enough yet). I was wondering if you can make a list of everything a beginner needs, and any recommendations for things like you did the thread and pins.
    That’d be great

  15. This is super helpful! I am just learning how to sew and I’m pretty sure I will keep this blog close by. You mentioned using cardboard for your patterns, another idea my friend uses is Freezer Paper. She buys a huge roll of it and it works great! She pins it to her fabric and cuts. Just an idea to pass along. Thanks again!!

  16. Thank you so much for these tips. Just got a sewing machine for Christmas, and don’t have a clue what I’m doing. Making my first pillow cover tomorrow. I think I’ll iron the fabric before I begin! :)

  17. Thanks for the helpful tips! Regarding your pins – a “tip” I learned when using pins to cloth diaper a baby- stick your pins into a bar of soap and it sharpens them and makes them glide right in to any fabric!

  18. A few to add: don’t sew over pins, no matter how tempting. Try to put in a new needle at least every few projects and learn which needle is best for the type of fabric you are sewing. And I second what someone above said about pre-washing your fabrics.

  19. I’m so new at sewing and I understood every one of your tips! I really appreciate the tips! Thanks for being so clear :)

  20. I have never sewn anything in my life but really want to learn. Your tips seem self explanatory. Thanks for the help!

  21. Hi Everyone! I’m so glad the tips are helpful! Let me know if you guys have any questions as you start sewing, I’d love to be able to help you in any way I can. I know first hand how frustrating it can be to search the web trying to find answers to your questions as you are learning.

    Nichole, I did add a list of items for beginners :) You can find it here: http://coldhandswarmheartcrafts.blogspot.com/2012/01/beginning-sewing-supply-list.html

    Hope it helps! Thanks for reading!

    Check back soon for an awesome Messenger Bag Tutorial!

  22. I pinned this in anticipation of learning to sew. I bought my sewing machine a couple months ago and frankly, I’m intimidated by it. I have a two year old and do not have much free time but I sincerely want to learn and I appreciate your helpful tips :-)

  23. Don’t be intimidated, Heather! :) You can do it! Start out trying simple little things to gain your confidence. Try making a something easy, like a pillow case or a simple reusable grocery tote bag. Here is a link to a site that has a list of 18 Easy Sewing Projects for Beginners: http://jamiebrock.hubpages.com/hub/Easy-Sewing-Projects-for-Beginners

    Another great thing to try (that uses pretty cheap materials for when you are just starting out) are fleece hand warmers. Just cut two rectangular pieces of fleece any size you like. Pin them together so the right sides of the fabric are touching. Sew along the outside, leaving just a couple inch opening on one side to turn it right side out. Turn it right side out and using a funnel (if you have one) fill with regular white rice. Using a hand needle and thread, sew the opening closed. And that’s it! You have a super cute hand warmer that can be reused many times by just heating it in the microwave for about 5-10 seconds!

    I’ll try to make some hand warmers soon and post some pictures of the process. It is super easy and they are great for winter!

    Let me know if you have any questions along the way and need some help, I’d be happy to answer any questions I can! :)

  24. I came across this by a friend pinning it on Pinterest. Good tips for beginners. Some commenters added some good ones also.

    I want to add something about thread. I have been sewing for 15+ years and for the longest time I used cheap thread. I have never had a problem with it in my machine or anything coming apart but when I did switch to quality thread I noticed a difference. My machine seemed to run smoother. :)

    Oh and don’t use your good thread to practice. For learning purposes, buy your stuff at Walmart. Sewing notions can get very costly.

  25. Thank you so much for your blog. I just started to get into sewing about a month ago and it’s been a very arduous process. I have been reading tutorials non-stop to just get a feel for sewing and to learn techniques and jargon. It is so overwhelming as a beginner. You are the first to explain interfacing amongst the many blogs I have read and actually be specific in your supplies lists on what type of interfacing to use. I am very analytical and detailed so I really appreciate the detail and photos you include in your tutorial. Your tutorials are also the first that explains cutting “on the fold.”. I don’t know how many times I would be reading a tutorial and I ask myself “WTH does that mean?” or “WTH is that?”. Needless to say, your awesome, thank you!!!

  26. this is great! I am a self taught sewer and crocheter i am going to use these techniques as much as posable thanks oh and i am 12 years old so you just saved me years of trying to figer this out my self so thanks. (i am using my moms account right now) thanks bye! :D

  27. I’m just getting into sewing and discovered this through Pinterest. Just wanted to let you know I thought I had already learned a lot, but woohoo now I know what interfacing is and what it does, and some other neat tips and tricks I didn’t know about! Great list, thanks!!

  28. This was very thorough! I was thinking about doing a similar post, but now I might just link to this post for my readers! Don’t think I could have said it better! And I have to admit that I did the fleece thing for awhile, too… I may just have to branch out and get some more interfacing! haha!

  29. I LOVE LOVE this thank you im a new mom to a beautiful bay girl and i have lots of sewing progects i want to try and this will help a lot!

  30. Ditto for me too……Thanks some of these things I learned from my own mistakes……LOL

  31. Thanks for your tips! I couldn’t figure out what “top stitching” was until you finally explained it. Thanks for putting this together.

  32. Thanks everyone!

    Mariah, good luck on your sewing projects and congrats on the baby girl! I can’t wait to start having little ones so I can sew a million projects for them! :)

    Jen, I was the same way! I didn’t know what top-stitching was for a long while either! I’m glad I could help!

  33. OKAY! I appreciate you and this post! I am a beginner and I JUST got a sewing machine and I am at a loss right now…

  34. Like most others, I am brand new to sewing (a friend just gave me a machine she hasn’t touched in years), and I’m now kicking myself for not having my grandmother teach me. I’m going stir-crazy on modified bedrest, and have been too scared to even break the machine out of the box :] Maybe this next week, I’ll sit down and get to it.

  35. I have been looking all over for some beginner sewing stuff. (Only ever used a sewing machine once!!!) You make this look so easy! Thank You! :D

  36. What a great read! I have sewn by hand for many years now, but mostly patching or taking in/up a skirt or pants. My husband bought me my first sewing machine last August for my birthday. It is the Project Runway edition Brother. Practically idiot proof. I used to not iron, but quickly remedied that. I just recently started using straight pins. My go to pin is really to use bobby pins, lol! I have yet to try fusible webbing, but after seeing your before/after of the zipper pouch, I will get some from JoAnn’s for my next project. Thank you for posting these tips!

  37. What a great read! I have sewn by hand for many years now, but mostly patching or taking in/up a skirt or pants. My husband bought me my first sewing machine last August for my birthday. It is the Project Runway edition Brother. Practically idiot proof. I used to not iron, but quickly remedied that. I just recently started using straight pins. My go to pin is really to use bobby pins, lol! I have yet to try fusible webbing, but after seeing your before/after of the zipper pouch, I will get some from JoAnn’s for my next project. Thank you for posting these tips!

  38. What a great read! I have sewn by hand for many years now, but mostly patching or taking in/up a skirt or pants. My husband bought me my first sewing machine last August for my birthday. It is the Project Runway edition Brother. Practically idiot proof. I used to not iron, but quickly remedied that. I just recently started using straight pins. My go to pin is really to use bobby pins, lol! I have yet to try fusible webbing, but after seeing your before/after of the zipper pouch, I will get some from JoAnn’s for my next project. Thank you for posting these tips!

  39. What a great read! I have sewn by hand for many years now, but mostly patching or taking in/up a skirt or pants. My husband bought me my first sewing machine last August for my birthday. It is the Project Runway edition Brother. Practically idiot proof. I used to not iron, but quickly remedied that. I just recently started using straight pins. My go to pin is really to use bobby pins, lol! I have yet to try fusible webbing, but after seeing your before/after of the zipper pouch, I will get some from JoAnn’s for my next project. Thank you for posting these tips!

  40. What a great read! I have sewn by hand for many years now, but mostly patching or taking in/up a skirt or pants. My husband bought me my first sewing machine last August for my birthday. It is the Project Runway edition Brother. Practically idiot proof. I used to not iron, but quickly remedied that. I just recently started using straight pins. My go to pin is really to use bobby pins, lol! I have yet to try fusible webbing, but after seeing your before/after of the zipper pouch, I will get some from JoAnn’s for my next project. Thank you for posting these tips!

  41. Very helpful tips, thank you so much, not everyone would take the time to share, love when women come together to help one another. Thanks you again, look forward to the next set of tips. Deb L.

  42. I really love seeing younger women embracing the new sewing methods, for a while I thought that sewing was a dying art, but you all have proved me wrong, :) Thanks!

  43. I have a question. No matter what I do, my sewing machine is bunching/knotting up my thread underneath my project. Any suggestions? I’m so frustrated I’ve just put it away.

  44. Oh my goodness I know first hand how frustrating that can be! That was happening all the time with my last machine and there were more than a few times that I just put the machine away because I was too frustrated. Most of the time when the thread is bunching under the fabric it is an issue with your machine’s tension system. The tension of your machine is a very delicate system that, when not set at the correct tension, can create lots of problems with bunching thread. Here is a link with some things you can try:

    http://reviews.ebay.com/WHY-IS-THREAD-BUNCHING-UNDERNEATH-MY-FABRIC?ugid=10000000002158648

    Also, make sure you are using a quality thread that doesn’t create a lot of lint which can clog up your machine and cause issues also.
    Here is another link that shows some microscopic views of different brands of thread so you can get an idea of which brands have the least amount of lint:

    http://sewing.about.com/library/weekly/aa102100a.htm

    Best of luck! My suggestion is once you get the tension set correctly and the thread stops bunching underneath – don’t change it again! haha
    I’ve been wanting to try different sewing techniques that require adjusting the tension and I’ve just avoided them because I’m worried I won’t be able to get the tension back where it needs to be afterwards.

  45. I am new to sewing and so glad I came across this but I do have a question. How do I get a straighter stitch? I am getting better as I go I think. I am making bumper pads for my new little one coming and its hard to get a straight stitch with the same amount of left over edges. I dont know if that last sentence makes sense but the edge to the stitch is what im talking about. Thanks again for the great info!

  46. Sewing a straight seam (where your line of stitching is the same width from the edge the whole time) does take some practice. Some things to remember when you’re sewing and still working with getting your stitching straight is to go slow, the faster you go and harder you press on the pedal the more likely you are to accidentally pull the fabric causing the seam to be crooked.

    One thing I usually do is line the edge of my fabric up with some part of the sewing foot, whether it be the outside edge or inner edge of the foot (the metal part that presses down and holds your fabric) and focus on keeping the edge of the fabric lined up with it the whole time – so essentially you are watching and focusing more on the edge staying straight and not watching the actual needle.

    You can also use some scrap material and with a ruler draw straight lines on it and practice sewing down the lines first and then sewing right beside the line keeping the lines perfectly parallel.

    I definitely used lots of scrap material in the beginning and practiced sewing on lines I had drawn and I noticed that it really helped!

    Another thing that you can do (that will DEFINITELY help) is look into investing in a 1/4″ sewing foot with a guide. It is a sewing foot that has a little metal ridge on the bottom where you line your fabric up to insure you keep a straight even seam from the edge the whole time.

    Here is a quick video explaining what the foot is and how to use it:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmGR8MeCQak

    Best of luck and congrats on the little one!! :)

  47. This is fantastic! I am so thankful I found this blog before I really started sewing! It’s so helpful! Have a quick question, do you have anymore photos for boxing the bottom of a bag? I’m pretty sure I understand the concept but a different perspective of the first photo would be reassuring for me! Thanks again for this!

  48. Great tips…..one that I learned was to buy a good pair of scissors and keep them for cutting fabric only.

  49. Wonderful tips! I also am self taught; my interest began when my Grandma showed me how to hand make skirts for my Barbie. I enjoyed the few opportunities I had to watch her sew on her old Singer that was originally a treadle. My Grandpap fitted it with a motor and light, converting it to an electric machine sometime in the 50′s. I wish I had been old enough to learn directly from her. The fascination has been with me my whole life from seeing her work. Though I have inherited that machine he transformed for her in an act I view as a labor of love, I do not use it, but rather display it and use my other machines. Your information posted here is helpful and accurate. Thanks so much for helping others to learn this relaxing and productive art. ~Maggie

  50. Haven’t touched my sewing machine in soooo long, I’m almost afraid to get started again. I love sewing but really need to practice. I am going to pin this so I can refer to it. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.
    -Angie

  51. Great tips! I had to laugh reading your story as it is very similar to mine and it brought back wonderful memories. I too learned to sew from my grandmother at a very young age. I have been sewing for many years and taught myself everything I know. One tip I could offer in sewing straight lines (especially helpful with zippers)- place a piece of painter’s tape on your material right beside where you want the stitch to be. Sew right up against the tape. Peel the tape off when finished. For zippers this is very helpful because you can ensure the distance between the opening of the zipper and the seams on either side are the same.

  52. FAN-FREAKIN-TASTIC!!!! Thank you! I just got my first sewing machine at 29!!! I am depending solely on tutorials and tips like yours! I appreciate this great list of tips. They are VERY VERY VERY helpful! Although I don’t know what topstitching is. Guess I’ll have to look that up!

  53. These tips are great! Some of them may be “common sense” to people who are advanced – and therefore they leave them out of tutorials, etc! Only those who have lived and learned can really appreciate! Thank you! I have been desperately wondering why my thread bunches up on the underside of my projects – SO frustrating. Going out to get Gutermann thread tomorrow! I’ve also never used interfacing (though haven’t done any projects that called for it), but I’m definitely going to try! Gives such a stiff, professional look to projects. OH! And I’m totally going to try to make one of those cute zippered pouches. Perfect for make-up or in your purse! Thanks again!

  54. These tips are great! Some of them may be “common sense” to people who are advanced – and therefore they leave them out of tutorials, etc! Only those who have lived and learned can really appreciate! Thank you! I have been desperately wondering why my thread bunches up on the underside of my projects – SO frustrating. Going out to get Gutermann thread tomorrow! I’ve also never used interfacing (though haven’t done any projects that called for it), but I’m definitely going to try! Gives such a stiff, professional look to projects. OH! And I’m totally going to try to make one of those cute zippered pouches. Perfect for make-up or in your purse! Thanks again!

  55. Thank you everyone for being so kind!! I am so so so happy that people are finding these tips helpful. I know first hand that the journey of teaching yourself to sew is a long one, but one day you will wake up and see that you are so much better and have yourself to thank for all of your hard work! :)

    I sew almost every day and looking back at projects I did only a couple of months ago I can tell that I have come SO far just in that small amount of time. If you practice enough you WILL get better. I really think that 98% of sewing is just muscle memory that you gain from practice practice practice.

    Best of luck to all of you with your sewing! It means the world to me that people are responding to these tips and I hope I have inspired some of you to start sewing for the first time or start sewing again.

    @ Jamy : Good luck sewing! Topstitching is when you sew on the outside or right side of your finished product for a decorative effect. Lets take the zipper pouch for example. The fabric is first sewn to the zipper inside out. When you turn it right side and sew along the right side by the zipper that is called topstitching. It isn’t for stability because the zipper was already attached, but it makes the project look more professional (in my opinion) and helps hold the fabric down so you don’t zip it into the zipper (don’t you HATE when that happens?! Ugh…my fiancé just ruined his rain jacket from zipping the fabric into the zipper and it broke the zipper). I hope that helps! :)

    @ Stacie : Great job starting sewing! It’s an amazing hobby! Let me know how it goes!

    @ Kelly Jean : Thank you so much! Let me know how the Gutermann thread works for you! I was so frustrated also when my thread was bunching on my last machine. I was just looking at my Gutermann thread the other day thinking how much I love it haha And you will never turn back when you try interfacing. I’ve just discovered the love of my life in Fusible Fleece…It’s my new best friend haha Good luck sewing!

  56. I have found that watching the needle is not the best way to sew straight it is better to line the edge of your fabric with a mark on the under plate of the maching or put a piece of maskinging tape at your desired seam width and watch that mark and keep your fabric lined up there. The needle will take care of itself.

  57. Two things I always tell my beginning seamstresses. 1) When sewing a straight seam, don’t look at the needle, look at the where the fabric is supposed to be in relation to the foot. 2) Is the mistake bad enough to pick out? Too many people are taught by perfectionists who make them pick every imperfection. They then get discouraged and give up. I let them decide if is bad enough to pull apart, or learn a lesson and try harder next time. Sometimes it is, sometimes it is not.

  58. I am 28 and have just begun teaching myself to sew. I have no one to help me one on one and have been trying hard to find a self taught tutorial and/or tips. Yours has been the best by far. Thank you for sharing your gathered wisdom. And yes, wisdom is the perfect word. I’m learning to not only save money in the long run but eventually I will be making blankets, coats and more to be donated to shelters, elderly living homes and more. Can’t wait to apply these tips. Thank you again!

  59. This is fabulous! I just started teaching myself to sew, and these pointers are absolutely fantastic! My first project was a disaster (trying to take in a tshirt that was too big using methods from a youtube video…) and my second was curtains (and they turned out pretty well lol) Thank you so much for sharing, I will be following your blog from now on :)

  60. Thank you for compiling this great list! It seems we’ve all spent time skipping or ignoring certain instructions in patterns (ironing, interfacing, etc), but then we eventually figure out that stuff really does make a difference! As a pattern maker myself now (dolls, softies, wool felt items, etc), I know that I take great care to give good instructions, and what is in the instructions is there for a reason. Thanks again!

  61. As for the thread nest at the beginning of sewing. I was taught to pull both the top and bobbin thread to the back and hold tight till the first sticthes are made. This process stops the nesting effect. Hope this helps.

  62. Everyone has already expressed my thoughts! You really have a talent for explaining. I had no clue what a lot of the terms (all) meant and I feel like I have a complete understanding after reading. As soon as I figure out how to get the bobbins going on my machine….who am I kidding……as soon as I figure out what in the the world a bobbin is and where it goes on my machine I’ll be on your blog everyday!

  63. Love your tips. I have recently been motivated to sew and alter my own clothing by reading the Refashionista blog so your tips have really come in handy. I have now run out of things to alter in my own wardrobe and have started scrounging through my husbands closet for projects :) Would love to read more…

  64. Thank you for sharing these useful tips! I’m just about to start a big sewing project, and my sewing experience is also limited to making purses out of jeans legs when I was 10, only that mine wasn’t a real purse but a pouch to keep my Nintendo NES game manuals.. :))
    I’m off to ebay as I type to buy the spools you recomanded!

  65. Great tips!! I wondered about interfacing. Just made my first dress for my daughter..it’s flannel so luckily has some body, but good to know what interfacing can add!

  66. I work at an Arts and Crafts store here in Germany while my husband is stationed here. I teach the adult and children’s basic sewing class. All of your tips will be a great addition! I had forgotten some of the simple tips! Thanks! Would you mind if I featured you on my blog?

  67. Wal-Mart sells twin sheet sets for about $6. I purchased a set to practice before starting on my first project. Very inexpensive for practicing. I’m not sure if there are any project ideas aside from practicing for this cheap material… any suggestions?

  68. Wal-Mart sells twin sheet sets for about $6. I purchased a set to practice before starting on my first project. Very inexpensive for practicing. I’m not sure if there are any project ideas aside from practicing for this cheap material… any suggestions?

  69. Great tips! Unfortunately, I learned most of these the hard way, after years of stubborness and irritation at my mom’s telling me to do all these “unneeded” steps. Turns out they really are the difference between a pro product and a shoddy one.

  70. Thanks for the great tips! When cutting my own patterns I use clear plastic subject dividers (like the kind used in spiral notebooks). You can get them cheap and they are so much easier to trace with.

  71. I’m getting my first proper sewing machine for my birthday this year, and I’m so excited to get started. I’ve pinned this blog as I can see it will be a point of reference. Thank you!

  72. After the nightmare Homecoming dress shopping nightmare (because the dresses are so immodest) I decided that I need to learn to do simple alterations for my 3 daughters. I purchased a sewing machine (ahhhhh!) and now the learning begins. Thank you for taking the time to write your blog and help us “newbies” out! Thank you, thank you!!!

  73. Hi, I will be showing a “newbie” how to use a sewing machine this afternoon. While sitting here waiting for her arrival, I searched for “sewing technique”. This is one of the sites in answer to that search. I can say that this is the MOST IMPORTANT site that I will be sharing with her. Your information is 5-Star!! I am so very happy that “sewing” is coming back, and congratulate EVERY ONE of the people that have written to you on this page. I am 61, but I can say that my “sew life” has been VERY rewarding. One thing that I feel I can add to your list? Learning to sew is a NEVER ENDING experience. There is always SOMETHING that you have never done before. As you gain experience, you just gain more confidence. :)
    Happy Sewing to ALL!!

  74. I had that problem starting out with mine turns out I was threading the .bobbin in the casing backwards. I found a YouTube video that showed how to do it right

  75. Oh! This is such an encouragement and with all the comments, now I know I’m not alone! I swear I dream and wish so many times I could sew and have attempted too many times and gone even to a couple of classes, but every time I’m off or not understanding the instruction and my sewing is not straight or the outcome does not fit me and I find myself ripping stitches off I thought for sure – you know what, you just don’t have it. Just keep dreaming coz it’ll never happen. Thank you so much for this post and to all the people that commented!! I believe I will be sewing again. Lol :-) Thank you! :-)

  76. So many great tips! I have just picked up sewing again (being about 10 or 11 the last time I sewed!) and cannot wait to start on my massive wish list :) So many great tips here that I will be using. Thank you!

    littlemisslorrainee.blogspot.com.au

  77. I just picked up sewing (like the other day, no joke) and I cannot even begin to tell you how helpful this post is. This stuff would have taken me forever to learn on my own, as I am teaching myself like you did. Thank you so much for sharing your years of experience.

  78. I bought me a sewing machine during the black Friday sales, and your blog is God sent! Thanks a Million!

  79. Thank you so very much!! I just got sewing machine and am in the process of teaching myself how to sew. You explain things wonderfully well and thank you for the pictures.

  80. THANK YOU for posting!! I just started sewing last night and have been looking for beginners tutorials that I can understand since I don’t know all of the sewer’s jargon, this is perfect!

    Thank you, thank you!!

  81. A few other tips:
    -Keep sewing scissors for ONLY fabric. Cutting paper will dull them.
    -If thread bunches up, start by re-threading the machine. Typically, if it bunches up on the top of the fabric (visible without turning over), the problem is with the top thread. If it’s on the bottom nearest the bottom, the problem is with the top. HOWEVER, it can also bunch underneath if the bobbin is near the end of it’s fill of thread; the tension on it gets all wacky. If rethreading doesn’t work, check the bobbin. Rethread both sides.
    -If that doesn’t work, check your tension…read and keep your instruction manual! It will tell you how to change the tension!

  82. Thank you, thank you, thank you…. especially for not making me feel highly unintelligent when it comes to the most basic terminology even! Aged 37 I’ve got a machine and am about to embark on projects so it’s brilliant that you’ve explained everything so clearly!

  83. IF you really hate wasting tread, just buy a couple more bobbens and give each bobben a color. When you need another color just remove the bobben and replace it with another. I have like in 15 – 20 bobbens i work with. and i enjoy working without a strugle or a mess.

  84. Thank you so much for all the wonderful tips and advice!! I have only had my machine for 2 months, but am hooked!! Again thank you!!

  85. I lay down masking tape on my machine to mark my seam allowance. The tape is at the outer edge of the fabric and is 3 or 4 inches long. I’ve been sewing since I was about 7 years old, and I still do this trick to keep things very even. Even experienced seamstresses make mistakes.

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