You’ve just acquired your first sewing machine; congratulations! However, after the initial enthusiasm-induced heart attack you realize that there’s a lot to sewing you might not understand. Don’t worry. We’re here to help.
This basic rundown will show you how to start sewing the right way. Don’t begin with anything too difficult (like a rayon sheath dress…); keep it simple and have fun!
Recommended Fabrics to Start With
- SCRAPS. We guarantee you’ll make mistakes – a lot of them in fact – at first. While we 100% encourage you to splurge on some cute fabric that you absolutely adore, we don’t recommend working on it at the very beginning. Before you embark on making that cute top, take an old tee shirt and practice making something super basic at first. This also gives you a chance to experiment with different textiles you might otherwise not purchase.
- Light/Medium Weight Cottons – This fabric is durable and is less likely to get caught in your machine. Be warned: it can get snagged, but that will most likely be because of your tension or stitch length. Just remain calm and keep the seam ripper close by.
- Stretch Knits – If you’re working with clothing, this is what you want. Especially if you aren’t taking any formal class, you’ll find adjusting a pattern to include darts can be tricky. While stretch knit fabric can curl and sometimes be difficult to sew on, it allows you to sew very basic shapes that stretch over you. Trust us, if you’re going for apparel, synthetic silk will not stretch with your curves.
Before You Begin ACTUALLY Sewing
- Launder. This is vital to successful sewing. Pre-washing your fabric will ensure that it doesn’t shrink after you sew it to either fit your body or your couch pillow. Do not cut out your pattern pieces before you wash! This can also affect how the final fit works on you after sewing.
- Follow a pattern! You need one. We know you think you can eyeball it; you can’t. If you want to try, go for it, but you’ll understand the consequences. The great thing about patterns nowadays is that they are accessible online. There are great patterns by designers for sale and also ones for free! Where can you get the free ones…? Right here, of course!
Have you suddenly moved from your room to a submarine? What’s with all those dials? Depending on what kind of machine you have, the stitch selector could vary. We’ve pulled the most basic stitches that you’ll use at first to keep you from knotting up your thread.
- Backstitch – The backstitch is actually a step than a defined stitch, because you can perform a backstitch regardless of the stitch type you’ve chosen. Use the backstich when you first start sewing and when you finish sewing
- Straight Stitch – This stitch is your friend. While the other stitches look super fun, you’ll want to understand how your machine works by trying one of these. The straight stitch is what you’ll use for general projects.
- Zigzag Stitch – This will be the fanciest stitch you start out with. This is because you use the zigzag stitch to perform such functions as finishing edges (if you don’t have a serger) and attaching elastic, lace ribbons, or appliques (whoa now!).
We’re not talking about the atmosphere in the room after you’ve ruined several projects, though the reason for your anxiety may because of this: tension. Tension is incredibly important in determining how your stitches will appear on your fabric. If the tension if off, the top thread (from your spool of thread) and the bottom thread (from your bottom) aren’t working together, resulting in loose threads on either side of your fabric. Here is an awesome image we dug up from Sew Sweetness! Use this as a quick troubleshooting guide if you find that your stitch isn’t looking quite right:
Tips You Must Follow
If you’re new to sewing, these are tips you MUST follow. They’ll make your life easier; we guarantee it.
- Keep the seam ripper nearby. You’re going to make a lot of mistakes. It’s OK.
- LOOK AT YOUR SEWING MACHINE MANUAL. It has the answers. If it doesn’t? GO TO THE SEWING MANUFACTURER’S WEBSITE. These are the specialists. Instead of scrounging around forums for answers, first consult the creators of your sewing machine to understand how it works. Trust us; they know what they’re talking about.
- Talk to your fabric store associates! They work in textiles and understand how it’s done. If you have questions about fabrics or projects, these are the people to start a discussion with.
- You might also find any of the amazing designers we work with helpful! Check out their blogs; both self and professionally taught, these designers know how to sew!
What was your first sewing project?
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