Beginners Guide to Sewing

I am a completely self taught home sewist. When I was younger, my grandma showed me how to thread a needle and use a sewing machine. Apart from her guidance, everything else I have learnt myself. I thought I would put together a guide on how to start sewing, what equipment you need and my top tips I wish I knew when I started!


What Do I Need?

There are some really cool and endless sewing gadgets but as a beginner you don't need all of these. Even as a seasoned sewist, you don't need all the tools out there (even if you do want them all!). Here is a list of the essentials to get you started:

  1. Sewing Machine - This may seem obvious but if you are serious about sewing your own clothes you will need a sewing machine. Sewing machines vary massively in price. All you need to start sewing garments is a straight stitch and zig zag stitch. A good beginner machine is the Brother LS14S, it has all the stitches a beginner needs and is budget friendly. If you still don't feel 100% certain you want to start sewing see if you can borrow a machine from a friend or relative first. My first sewing machine was my grandmas old machine and it worked wonders!

  2. Fabric scissors - These are a lot sharper than your normal kitchen scissors and are made to cut fabric. Whatever you do, do NOT cut paper with these scissors. This will cause them to blunt making fabric cutting very tricky.

  3. Iron and Board - It is absolutely critical to have an iron. Even if you don't iron any of your clothes, it is worth getting one so that you can get a professional finish on your me mades.

  4. Glass headed pins - Glass headed pins are preferred over plastic as they don't melt when heat is applied by the iron.

  5. Thread - Good quality thread is essential as it won't snap in the machine and will make your garments last longer. Typically polyester thread is used as it withstands strain better than cotton. My favourite thread to use is the 100% recycled polyester Gütermann thread.

  6. Seam Rippers - These are your friend! Everyone makes mistakes so it is good to have a few different sized seam rippers so you can unpick and have another go.

  7. Tape measure - A dressmakers tape measure is more flexible than normal tape measures and is critical if you want to sew your own clothes. It allows you to take accurate measurements ensuring the garment fits.

As you sew more, you will start to accumulate equipment and notions. The above is all you need to get started and to see whether sewing is for you.


Where to Start?

Knowing where to start can be overwhelming. There are soo many online resources and books that you can get carried away reading rather than start sewing. I would start by getting some fabric which you've stored away/never use (e.g. duvet/pillow case), and get familiar with your sewing machine.

Start by sewing straight stitch lines up and down. Then try turning a corner by leaving the needle in the fabric, lifting the presser foot up and rotating the fabric.

Once you get used to the machine, you are ready to start your first project!


What Projects Can You Recommend?

Simple projects are great for beginners. These often include making an apron, pillow case or tote bag. The Fifi eye mask from Tilly and The Buttons would also be a good starting project. The pdf pattern is a free download and wouldn't use very much fabric so you could use an old pillow case.

However, for me I would gain greater satisfaction from making a garment. If you want to get straight to making clothes I recommend a simple knit t-shirt such as the Elliot Tee by Helens Closet.

Many people think sewing knits is tricky however all you need is a zig zag stitch and you're good to go! The great thing about knits is they don't fray so you don't have to worry about fraying seams ruining your first garment when it goes in the wash.

If you are going to go straight into sewing a garment make sure to pre wash the fabric before cutting to avoid shrinkage. This simply means wash your fabric before cutting out your pattern pieces.


Top Tips

  • Be patient with yourself. Learning a new skill takes time.

  • Watch YouTube videos if you get stuck on a step. I still watch videos when I'm doing a skill I don't use often.

  • Ask questions in fabric shops and don't be afraid to touch the fabric. They have a wealth of knowledge and are usually very helpful.

  • Learn to love the iron.

  • Make sure to pre wash the fabric.

  • Enjoy the process of sewing and take your time.

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