We all have to start somewhere. Especially in the world of sewing, it is challenging to get on the same level as other sewists who have been sewing for decades, and know the sewing lingo and terminology. I’m self-taught everything. When I was in band, I had to teach myself and work three times harder than everybody who took lessons because I didn’t take lessons—my family couldn’t afford it. Was I the best? No, but for not having lessons, I was pretty good considering the circumstances, and switching instruments (clarinet as my main, bass clarinet, and then trombone on the side). My point is that we have to start somewhere. I didn’t learn the notes of the staff and all the symbols of music in one night. It took years of constant practice.
Everything You Need to Know About Sewing 101
There are a million different options when it comes to sewing. Whether it’s as big as sewing machines or as tiny as the needles, there are so many different types of sewing equipment. This is an easy sewing 101 to help you get started with different types of sewing needles, thread, and fabric. I know you want to get started on beginner sewing projects, and soon you will be, but just hold off for five minutes and keep reading, so this information is in your head. You won’t regret having some sewing basics and tutorials.
Before we get into the differences of hand-sewing needles versus machine needles, let’s start with the different types of tips. There is a ball point and a regular or universal needle. The ball point is used for knit fabrics and doesn’t separate the fibers, keeping your fabric strong. The regular or universal needle goes through the fibers, and can be used for fabrics from lightweight to heavy fabrics. With hand needles, the differences can sometimes only be seen under a microscope. This handy dandy chart will help you know the difference for each needle and what kind of task they go with. I know it is a little overwhelming, but you’ll be happy to have this.
Now, the differences between the needles above and machine needles, are that there are fewer machine needle types, and they have a flat head. Manufacturers usually name them by brand, so you buy them according to your sewing machine. Chromium needles are suggested when doing embroidery because they will last longer and are a stronger material. They are well worth the cost.
After all that, you’ll be glad to know that thread is a lot easier to understand. Matching colors is the easy part—now you have to choose the material of the thread that will hold your project together. There are different ways of measuring how much a thread weighs. A rule of thumb for the weight (wt) is that the higher the number, the lighter the thread. Denier is the weight of the thread in grams out of 9000m, so the higher the number, the heavier the thread. You will see numbers such as 120/2, meaning two strands of 120 denier thread for a total of 240 denier. (These normally apply to only synthetic threads.) A 40 wt thread is equal to 240 denier. Tex is the weight in grams out of 1000m of thread. So 40 wt=240 denier=25. (Information found at Sewing Mantra.)
Choosing your thread for your project should be much simpler than dealing with the weight of it. As a rule of thumb, you want to make sure that the thread is not lighter than the fabric you are sewing with. Here are the different types of thread and a small description of each. (Information found at Craftsy.)
- Cotton thread—this tends to break easily, but it is a smart choice when you are dealing with fragile fabrics.
- Polyester thread—this is really a universal thread. It is a great choice for both hand-sewing and machine sewing because it won’t break since it has a little give to it. You can also find this in “invisible thread” so you can hide it.
- Heavy-duty thread—this is also a polyester thread, but this thread’s weight is not ideal for most apparel projects. It is mainly used when you are sewing upholstery or canvas.
- Silk thread—this is a very delicate thread, but it is also flexible and won’t leave holes.
- Wool thread—wool tends to be used for embroidery projects, but it is very strong and works well when you’re working with heavy fabrics. Note: make sure to use a larger needle and adjust your sewing machine’s tension.
- Metallic thread—this is usually used on handbags and in machine embroidery.
I promise I won’t exhaust you with an entire list of every single fabric out there. I will just stick to the best fabrics for sewing for apparel. It gives you a basic sense of what kind of material you are dealing with, and the options presented to you.
By no means is this a complete list of beginner sewing materials. I hope that this will help you when you start gathering materials. I know you’re going to have so much fun becoming a sewist and start making beginner sewing projects. You’ll be a pro in no time!