Learning to Sew Basics
I’ve been slowly building on my sewing skills, and it’s been so rewarding and fun! What I thought seemed to be so complicated and impossible at times is actually not as hard as it appears once you learn the basics and some handy tips along the way.
I’ve compiled this post for anyone wanting to teach themselves the basics of how to sew.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you if you purchase something. I only recommend things I love/use!
Basic Sewing Supplies
Of course, the first thing you’ll want is a sewing machine. I have had one for years that didn’t cost much at all, but has more than enough capabilities. It’s a Brother Project Runway edition. Overall, I’d suggest getting a machine that has basic functions. You definitely don’t need anything fancy! The machine I have was a little over 100 dollars but it still has a bunch of decorative stitches and came with a zipper foot and some extra tools like a seam ripper when I purchased it.
A good pair of scissors is a must.
Thread – all purpose is fine. I’ve used Coats and Clark and it does the job! You may want to consider getting a few different colors to match the fabrics you’ll be using, but you can most definitely collect more over time
Some pins to hold pieces of fabric together – I can’t tell you how many times I have tried to “wing it” and not use them only to find that the fabric slipped
Fabric Cutting Mat and Ruler
A ruler/cutting mat/rotary cutter really helps to make sure you’re cutting everything straight. I use this all of the time, because it’s really hard to eyeball straight lines. Tip: If you don’t have a cutting mat but want to try and get your cuts as straight as possible, you can also cut a little slit in the fabric, and with some force rip the fabric ( Make sure it’s nothing super fragile that will stretch or warp before you do this.). The fabric will separate on it’s natural grain line!
This all depends on what you’re making, but cotton fabric made for quilting can make cute things like zipper pouches and quilt squares. When you’re first starting out, cotton quilt fabric is the best because it’s easy to work with. Fabric like silks and knits are very stretchy and harder to sew without warping them. Tip: I like to pick up sheets that have cool patterns on them and practice making clothes out of them because fabric can be way expensive!
Again, you don’t have to invest in anything crazy and you probably already have one you could use. Just a good iron that you can smooth out your fabric if it’s wrinkled before you cut it, and then press it after you sewed something. This is essential for certain projects because the fabric won’t always lay right without it.
This makes it way easier to rip out your mistakes! I definitely make mistakes frequently, and this is a must.
My all time favorite right now is Love At First Stitch, which is a book by Tilly Walnes about Dressmaking. This book has helped me make sense of things that I never thought I would understand, like putting a collar on a shirt or making a french seam. She starts with the VERY basics of learning to sew, like threading your sewing machine, and there are detailed pictures with every tutorial. There are a bunch of projects to make different blouses and dresses that build on techniques and gradually get harder towards the end of the book. There’s even paper patterns in the back of the book for all the projects!
I’ve mentioned this book before, but it’s got a little bit of every needlecraft in it. The Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Needlecraft has an extensive amount of quilting techniques in it if you’re looking to start on that adventure. I was out with a friend the other day and she found and bought a copy at a local antique store! You can find them used on Amazon too.
The Collette: Sewing Handbook is also a “sewing bible” packed full of techniques and tricks for making dresses!
Skillshare is a gold mine full of tutorials on the basics of learning to sew, like how to set up your sewing machine and the functions it has, or learn how sew a cute 50s style skirt.
Youtube is another resource I use. I love to watch With Wendy, who does a lot of upcycled clothing videos!
You can buy a ton of patterns on Etsy. I bought this pattern (pictured below) and I just need to go buy some fabric for these cute pants/shorts!
Free Online Sewing Projects
I used this pattern to make this embroidered pouch with one of my pet portraits on it!
I’ve made several posts with free projects made by me and others that you can use and download:
- 4 Free Sewing Patterns for Skirts
- 5 Free Sewing Patterns for Blouses
- 5 Free Summer Sewing Projects
- Tie Scrunchies Tutorial
- How to Make a Cold Brew Coffee Bag.
- Lastly, I have a whole Pinterest Board of sewing patterns/ tutorials.
Other Important Things I’ve Learned
- Be METICULOUS about your cutting. The project will not turn out right if you don’t have nice straight lines, or don’t follow a pattern exactly. This has been tough for me, because I like how free embroidery can be to just wing it. You really can’t do that when you’re sewing most of the time!
- Read the instructions first before you complete a project or pattern. Patterns will tell you exactly how to lay out pattern pieces and in what order to do them in. You will sabotage yourself if you don’t do this! I found a really cool Skillshare class by Ariana Bauer on how to read Sewing Patterns 101, because believe me some can be complicated.
- You’re going to mess up. I repeat, YOU’RE GOING TO MESS UP. And that’s ok! Sewing can be kind of complicated, but once you mess up and try again and really get it, you’re going to feel so proud!
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