As requested from my Instagram post the other day asking about what content you would like to see more of on the blog I have put together my top 10 basic sewing tips for beginners. These tips are purely my own with the help of team member @unithorne to make sure we give you what we think is best! I will be making a new garment while going through these tips and will show it at the end.
- Get To Know Your Machine(s)
To start with you need to get to know your machine or go out and get one to become best friends with. My first machine of my own was Stuart the Singer Promise, bought for me by my grandmother and costing around £100. It did all the basics that I needed when first starting and still a lot of what I still do now.
As you can see he is not covered in 700 different stitch types and has the reverse stitch switch at the front, I know some machines have it on the back which can be scary for beginners so as a starting machine he’s great. Have a look around when buying a machine for what they can do and don’t push yourself too far to begin with. I use the button hole, straight stitch and zig zag stitch functions so not all but most and so this machine made sense for me when I got it. You can always upgrade later when you get into more projects.
2. Different Stitches
One lovely Stuart these are the two different types of stitches I use, straight or zig zag, and even the different sizes have different results. A straight stitch is standard, simple as that and I used Zig Zag for anything stretchy before I got my Overlocker (Serger) If you were to straight stitch a Lycra garment it can restrict, not stretch or the stitches can snap and the garment can fall apart. A zig zag stitch gives the garment the ability to have a bit more movement. A straight stitch keeps the fabric seams very tight together and are very strong.
So the fabric I am using in this tutorial is a cotton which is going to become a dress, I recommend starting with cotton or a poly-cotton because you can pick up poly-cottons for cheap prices and use them to practise with. These fabrics are very easy to cut and sew, getting used to them is easy and then you can move onto different fabrics. Also with this post being published in summer, cotton is so comfortable for summer clothing, cotton dresses and shirts and so you will be able to wear what you make immediately once it’s done. The bumble bee cotton I am using in my photos in this post came from Cotton Reel Studio and I will be doing a review as soon as the dress is finished!
4. Start with a Simple Pattern
So I found when I started sewing that I needed a pattern to not motivate me but one that I was excited to push myself to get the results of. I have said about this pattern 100 times already but I love it, it is such a shame it is discontinued but I do have it in every size in my catalogue available for total customisation as a commission.
Most patterns have a guide on them to say how easy they are, some are a code and others may be in a collection, keep an eye out for that but be a bit adventurous!
5. Cutting the Pattern
At this point, I recommend reading my Pattern post if you haven’t already about how to cut the pattern out and once it’s cut out read the instructions from the pattern pack for the correct ways to lay the pieces out on your fabric to fit all them and make sure they all are placed and facing the right way for the grain line so as to go with the stretch of the fabric.
6. Puttin in the Pins
Unless stated in your pattern instructions, the right sides of the fabric pieces always face each other to sewn and so need to be pinned that way before being stitched. The right side of your fabric will be the brightest side if you are using patterned fabric it will be stronger or clearer on one side.
When putting in pins I put them in so that you can sew over them and keep everything in the right place to be sewn. if you put the pins in other ways as you remove them to be sewn it can move the fabrics and this can ruin pleats. I specifically use Pearl head pins as I like the grip with these ones and the colour head makes it easier to keep an eye on where they are and when using pins be careful of getting pricked and dropping them. The colourful ends help you see where they are in fabric, floor and desks.
In the photo above I was sewing in pleats to the skirt of my dress. and because I know I could get the stitches in place and close the edge and so I was stitching on the right side which I don’t recommend until you are really comfortable and know what you are doing and the results of it before you’ve even put the stitches in.
7. Starting to Sew
Start with the needle at the highest point (turn your machines hand wheel) and lower the foot lifter to grip the material between the foot and the plate. Put your hand in the right angle position to keep your fingers away from the needles as well as being in a comfortable position to be able to push the fabric forward and keep the stitches in straight lines. Your needle plate will also have guides which are there to help you keep your stitches neat.
Now everything is in place you can CAREFULLY press down on your foot pedal. Take it very slowly until you are really used to sewing. Slow and gentle, it’s not a race, the slower you go the more control you have meaning stitches will be straighter, tighter and stronger.
Once you have stitched the seams open up the garment and press the seams with by ironing them. It makes them sit better in the garment especially when finished and being worn, it is really worth the extra effort to do this because the difference is noticeable.
To finish a garment with a hem you have a few options, you can create a hem by turning the fabric once or twice or by using a bias tape to cover the edge. With bias tape, unless you make your own from the same fabric and your garment which takes time and equipment you will have to find a tape that you are happy with. For my garments, I use the turning over methods as I don’t personally like the effect of a bias band and it is also down to personal taste about how many times you roll the fabric over.
In my examples, I have turned the sleeve hem over once and then sewn it with a straight stitch on my machine. I don’t normally do this as I do not like seeing the fabric raw edge in my garments, I did this for demonstration and may well turn it over again as I usually do.
This is the skirt hem and on the left, I have double rolled the hem and a single roll on the right to show the difference that it has. Of course, the double rolled hem is also flatter once sewn into place as so it is neater and that’s why is my preference, it can be fiddly to do but its worth it if you want “clean” edges to what you make.
*For the seam of this skirt, I have used my Overlocker, however, I have done the same as I would with a seam created on a sewing machine and pressed the seam down.
They may seem scary but once you’ve got used to normal stitches and hems, corners are easy to do. As easy as a flick of a switch!
Fold your hem over and pin it into place and when you get to the corner decide which side you want on top for that corner, fold bottom side under first and lay top layer down and pin into place. I don’t like to put a pin on the very corner but as close to it as possible. Once pinned into place sew the top line and get to the centre of the overlapping pieces, the needle needs to be in the fabric so if you got there and the needle is raised, use the hand wheel to lower it. Then lift your foot lever and swivel the fabric around the needle to the next side that you’ve pinned the hem of and carry on!
And that’s it, my tips for beginners and I hope this was useful! I have catered these tips mainly to dress/ casual clothes making but can happily do one more catered towards cosplay, however, I learnt clothing basics before jumping into cosplay. If you want me to go into more detail or talk about specific techniques I haven’t mentioned, don’t hesitate to comment or message me on here or on any of our social media too. Are any of the readers working on projects? Would love to see what you are working on!