Ever since I was a little girl I have always wanted to learn how to sew. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the thought of making my own clothes (fashion designer EJ) or maybe it was just the thought of doing something creative.
I’m not sure. Either way, I never got the chance to learn how to sew in my childhood. It was something that I always regretted.
Not to mention the fact that my husband knows how to use a sewing machine and how to sew by hand. Talk about feeling like a slacker!
Then one day, last summer, fortune smiled on me. My sister in law gave me the sewing machine that she didn’t use. Talk about being super excited!
It was an older sewing machine that she had gotten from my mother in law. (A Singer Millenium Series.)
It was a bit big and bulky, but that was alright with me. I cleared off some space in the kids’ playroom, plugged up my machine and dived right into my sewing journey.
Needless to say, I made a lot of mistakes those first few weeks. But you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did.
1.Read the Manual
Bobbin, presser foot, seam guide, handle wheel, oh my?! When I got my sewing machine I had no idea what any of those knobs and dials on my machine were for or what they were called.
And since it was a hand me down a manual did not come with it. Luckily, we live in the digital age and I was able to find a copy of the original manual online.
If you’ve read my crochet posts you know that I don’t like following directions, but I highly recommend reading your manual.
The manual that comes with your sewing machine is a very important resource don’t throw it away.
Not only does it tell you how to properly use your machine. You will find diagrams showing you all the different parts of the machine and their functions.
It will also give you information on how to use the different stitches, what tension should be used for certain stitches, what kind of needle you should use for different kinds of fabric (Yes, there are different kinds of sewing needles!)
It also has a section that details common issues that you may have with your machine and how to fix them.
2. Start with the Basic Sewing Supplies
When I started sewing I didn’t have everything I needed. Which meant I had to make several trips to the store to pick up various supplies.
So before you get all sew happy like I did, you’re going to need some basic sewing supplies. Besides your sewing machine you are going to need the following:
I started with an all-purpose thread from Walmart. It’s tempting to buy multiple colors, but I would recommend only buying two colors of thread to start with.
Preferably two contrasting colors. Using two contrasting colors makes it easier to learn how to thread your bobbin. It can also help you identify any issues you might have with your stitches.
Trust me your stash of thread will grow as you begin to sew more items.
Invest in a good pair of scissors. I was using my kid’s scissors from school for a little while. Then my husband brought me a pair of flat bottom Fiskars scissors (angels singing)…let’s just say I will never use those kiddie scissors to cut fabric ever again!
It’s important that people in the house know that these scissors are off limits and are only to be used for cutting fabric. Using them on other types of material can dull the blades.
If you’re like me you will make a lot of mistakes when you first start sewing. (You won’t believe how difficult it is for me to sew a straight line, but more on that later.)
The seam ripper helps to remove the stitches you’ve created without destroying your fabric. Some machines will come with a small seam ripper, but I had to buy a bigger one.
Pins are important for holding your patterns pieces in place or when you need to cut fabric. Like thread, there are several different types of pins to choose from and they all serve their own purposes.
Sewing requires you to take a lot of measurements. You will need a decent straight edge ruler to make sure your cuts are perfect and/or you can use a soft flexible tailors ruler like the one pictured.
If your not making clothing then you probably won’t need the soft ruler. However, when it comes to sewing you will always want to measure twice and cut once.
Tailors Chalk/Fabric Pencils
Tailor’s chalk is often used to trace out patterns onto your fabric. The chalk will wash off easily and not leave stains on your fabric.
Fabric pencils serve the same function and can be sharpened when the tip becomes dull.
As a newbie, it can be tempting to buy all those cute fabrics that we see in the store. Your best bet is to hold off on the cute stuff.
Instead, buy some cheap cotton fabric for you to practice on. Goodwill is a great place to buy cheap bed sheets that you can cut up and practice sewing on.
Once you’re confident in using your machine, then you can buy the cute stuff.
I really dislike ironing. So imagine my surprise when I learned that there was a great deal of pressing involved in sewing. I’m sure it’s my least favorite part of sewing.
Most of us already have an iron in the house. So buying one isn’t necessary, but I find it tedious to have to go from one part of the house to press my fabric in the laundry room and then take it back to my craft room to continue sewing.
Having a dedicated iron would save me some travel time.
I can be a bit gung- ho at times. Especially, when it comes to things that help me express my creative side. Or starting a new hobby.
I have a tendency to rush through the basics so that I can hurry up and create that masterpiece I see in my head.
I recommend that don’t do that. Take the time to learn the basics of sewing before you move on to more challenging endeavors.
Amber from Crazy Little Projects has a created an awesome free sewing class for newbies like you and me.
The class also has a dictionary that defines common sewing terms and projects that you can complete after each lesson to hone your skills.
I haven’t mentioned much about patterns, but if you’re going to buy a clothing pattern I would suggest starting out with the easiest pattern available and then work your way up to the harder things, like dresses.
4.Youtube Is Your Friend
I’m a hands-on learner and usually, I’m pretty good at following written tutorials, but sometimes I just need to watch a video to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing.
If you’re a visual learner youtube will be your best friend when it comes to learning how to sew or troubleshooting issues with your machine.
I couldn’t figure out how to thread the bobbin in my sewing machine for the longest time. After almost giving up I remembered the wonderful world of youtube.
It was there that I found a video on how to thread the bobbin for my machine and was finally able to get on my way to sewing like a real seamstress. ( I’m not that good yet, but I’m working on it.)
I also had an issue with learning how to read patterns and how to buy fabric. I found a youtube video for that too.
There are also videos on how to sew different types of garments and accessories. I found a video on how to sew women’s underwear (gasp)! I don’t think I’ll be trying that one, but you never know.
Right now I’ve got my eye on a youtube tutorial that shows you how to turn a men’s dress shirt into a toddler dress. But first I need to try to make something a little simpler…like kids pajama pants or something.
5. Have Fun
My final piece of advice is to have fun and enjoy the creative process! Don’t get caught up in the fact that you still can’t sew a straight line to save your life! (They tell me there is a hack to help you with that.)
Like any new task you take on, it will be full of mistakes and frustrations. Seriously, do you know how many tries it took me to make that Superman bow tie?!
But I finally figured it out and it came out better than I could have imagined.
I hope this little bit of advice will help you get started on your own sewing adventure. If I forgot something please let me know in the comments section.
Until Next Time,
The Crafty Afro