Learning to Sew – Best Advice for Beginners

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Here are 21 essential tips for learning to sew for beginners that will help you to start your sewing journey today. Beginning any new project or skill can always seem a bit daunting, but if you think of the process as a journey, it may help you with getting started.  This blog currently has over 350 articles on sewing so you are sure to find all the advice and tips you need.

learning to sewPinLearning to Sew


Learning to Sew – Before you StartSewing MachineScissors and Cutting Tools Pins, Needles and ThreadFabricA Pattern to SewLearning To Sew – 21 TIPSTIP #1: Measuring for sewingTIP #2: How to cut fabric TIP #3: Understanding pattern symbols TIP #4: Fabric marking TIP #5: How to pin fabric TIP #6: How to baste a seam for sewing: TIP #7: How to thread a sewing machine TIP #8: How to sew a seamTIP #9: Clip corners and curvesTIP #10: Sewing dartsTIP #11: Seam finishes without a serger TIP #12: How to sew a French seamTIP #13: How to press fabric TIP #14: Sewing bias tape TIP #15: Gathering fabricTIP #16: Alternatives to buttonholes TIP #17: How to sew a zipper TIP #18: Five easy ways to sew a hemTIP #19: Learning to sew topstitching TIP #20: Easy hand stitches TIP #21: TroubleshootingLearning to Sew – In Conclusion

Learning to Sew – Before you Start

Lao Tzu who was an ancient Chinese philosopher said: …‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step’… Well, a sewing journey will surely start with…one stitch! So take the first step and stitch!

Before you start learning to sew, check that you have your basic sewing tools.

Sewing Machine

People often ask what kind of sewing machine do I need to start sewing? Well, the answer is any machine. When you are starting all you need is a simple machine that can do a straight stitch and preferably a zig-zag as well. Even experienced sewers rarely use the fancy stitches that many upmarket machines have. Choose a machine in your budget or borrow one to give it a go. A serger which is used for finishing seams and sewing stretch is a luxury and not strictly necessary. You can sew stretch and finish seams on an ordinary machine instead.

PinLearning to Sew – Best Machines

Further Reading:

Best Machine for your Budget – This article will give you some suggestions for buying a new machine in your budget. Sewing Machine vs Serger vs Coverstitch – This will explain the differences between the machines and help you make the right choice. Time Saving Sewing TipsSimple Sewing

Scissors and Cutting Tools

A sharp pair of sewing scissors and a cheaper pair for cutting paper patterns is all you need. Read my article on cutting tools to find out more about these.

Pins, Needles and Thread

There are many types of pins and types of thread, but all you need to start learning to sew is a basic set of plastic headed pins and some all-purpose polyester thread.

Sewing machine needles should suit your fabric. I recommend below that you start sewing with cotton fabric so try some universal needles in an assorted size packet.

You will also need an assorted packet of hand sewing needles.

Further Reading:

Sewing Machine Needles Types and SizesTypes of PinsTypes of ThreadHand Sewing NeedlesBeginners Sewing Kit


There are endless types of fabrics to choose from but if you are learning to sew, then make it easy for you and start with some quilting cotton. This is a light to medium weight 100% cotton fabric that is smooth and really easy to sew. Stay away from polyester, silk, velvet, lace and anything fancy until you have done some test sewing on cotton. For those of you on a budget, go to your local second-hand shop and purchase some cheap old sheets. These are great for testing patterns and practicing learning to sew.

Further Reading: Glossary of Fabrics

A Pattern to Sew

Finally, when learning to sew, you are going to need something to sew. My blog has lots of quality free patterns for small sewing projects that you can start with. Click on the free sewing projects section of the blog menu and start browsing for something you like.

I`d recommend the envelope pillow as one of the easiest starter projects. Doll bedding and clothing is also great as it doesn`t use much fabric.

how to make a scrunchiehow to make a scrunchiePinScrunchieshow to make cushion covershow to make cushion coversPinEnvelope PillowPinDoll PillowsPinDress Pattern

Alternatively, if you are feeling confident shop for sewing patterns and choose something simple like a peasant dress pattern with an elastic neck. Look for patterns with elastic and no zippers or buttons. Shorts are another easy beginner option and really satisfying to sew.

Learning To Sew – 21 TIPS

Read some of the best learning to sew tips below and cross-reference to the detailed articles. Soon you will be well on your way to making that journey towards sewing success. Don’t worry, you are going to learn as you go along!

TIP #1: Measuring for sewing

Map out your body measurements before you start your sewing journey.  Take a look at the chart of what to measure and then draw up a body map for yourself.  This will help you get the most accurate measurements and ensure well-fitted garments every time you sew.

Further Reading:Sewing Measurements

measuring for sewingmeasuring for sewingPinMeasuring for Sewing

TIP #2: How to cut fabric

Once you have chosen your pattern and the perfect piece of fabric, the first step to making a successful garment or item must be learning to cut accurately.  Learn about prepping the fabric, sizing your article, the grain of the fabric and the best cutting tools to use in this article.

Further Reading:

How to Cut Fabric for SewingNapped Fabric, What is Nap in SewingWhat is Selvage, Grain and BiasCutting ToolsPrewashingColorfastness

TIP #3: Understanding pattern symbols

When learning to sew, the symbols on the pattern pieces can look a bit like a foreign language to the novice seamstress.  Take the mystery out of sewing pattern symbols by reading my article on sewing pattern symbols. You may also want to have a read of sewing terms.

pattern symbolspattern symbolsPinLearning to Sew Symbols

TIP #4: Fabric marking

This is a great way to mark out all the little details on the pattern. Highlight any darts, symbols or tucks before you start to sew. Find out how to mark fabric with chalk in 3 easy steps.

TIP #5: How to pin fabric

Everyone needs directions. Do you pin horizontally or vertically? The way you pin and cut can make all the difference to your garment.  What is the ideal way to go?  If you have asked yourself this question then here is the answer….read how to pin fabric.

TIP #6: How to baste a seam for sewing:

Basting is a basic technique that makes the world of difference to the item you are going to sew.  Find out about different types of basting to secure your fabric before you start.  Pinning, taping, clips and machine basting methods are explained in detail for the beginner seamstress.

Further Reading:How to baste a seam

TIP #7: How to thread a sewing machine

The essential part of learning to sew and using a sewing machine is obviously the threading part! The machine’s manual is the reference book to use but some added tips will always help. Practice on a scrap or two before you are ready to launch into the real deal…sewing with your machine. Don`t have a manual to consult? Find out how to download free online sewing machine manuals.

Further Reading:

How to Thread a Sewing MachineWinding a BobbinHow to use a SergerHow to use a Sewing Machine

Learning to Sew with a MachineLearning to Sew with a MachinePinLearning to Sew with a Machine

TIP #8: How to sew a seam

Practice makes perfect they say and so it is with learning to sew a seam.  Read all the ways to do this essential skill and practice on some scraps to build up your confidence.  Always try a seam on the same fabric you are going to use for your finished product.  Don’t forget the back stitch to secure the beginning and the end of the seam.

Further Reading:

How to Sew a Seam Seam AllowanceHow to Start and Stop a SeamSewing CurvesSewing Corners

TIP #9: Clip corners and curves

No more puckering or wrinkling when you learn how to clip curves and cut corners.  You will have a truly professional look every time you sew.

Further Reading:How to Clip Corners and Curves

TIP #10: Sewing darts

There is an art to sewing darts that will give a flattering finish to your garment.  Different types of darts need different techniques and different ways to be pressed to achieve the best-finished dart.

Further Reading:

How to Sew DartsHow to Mark DartsSewing Double Darts

Learning to Sew DartsLearning to Sew DartsPinLearning to Sew Darts

TIP #11: Seam finishes without a serger

Not every seamstress is lucky enough to have a serger.  However, there are many other ways to neaten a seam and make sure your work looks professional and neat with edges that will not fray.

Further Reading:

Seam finishesSewing Machine vs Serger vs Coverstitch

TIP #12: How to sew a French seam

This is the perfect seam for delicate fabrics as the seam itself hardly shows through the sheer material.  It is professional and soft for a really neat finish.  If you are starting learning to sew by making a pillowcase, this is the seam you will want to use. Learn to do this seam and you will always be delighted with the end result.

Further Reading:How to sew a French seam

Learning to Sew French SeamsLearning to Sew French SeamsPinLearning to Sew French Seams

TIP #13: How to press fabric

Pressing every step of the way is definitely the secret of success for any well-made garment.  Learn this essential basic skill and you will always have a professional end result.

Further Reading:How to Press Fabric

TIP #14: Sewing bias tape

Bias tape is an amazingly versatile accessory to enhance every sewing project.  Learn how to use this creative trim and how to neaten, bind or just decorate your sewing projects.

Further Reading:

How to Make Bias Tape with a Bias MakerHow to Make Bias Tape with no Special ToolsHow to Sew Single Fold Bias TapeHow to Sew Double Fold Bias TapeHow to Make Continuous Bias TapeHow to sew Mitred Square Corners with Bias TapeTypes of Bias TapeBias Bound SeamHong Kong Finish

Learning to Sew BiasLearning to Sew BiasPinLearning to Sew Bias

TIP #15: Gathering fabric

Learning to sew gathering is a good decorative skill to use to add something extra to the item you are making.  Learn the easiest way to create the quality look you want for the finished item.  Gathers can add ruffles, shape and extra decorative accents to your garment.

Further Reading:

How to Gather by MachineHow to Gather by HandShirring (sewing with elastic thread)Gathering with a SergerHow to Sew RuchingGathering with CordGathering with ElasticHow to Gather TulleGathering FootRufflerGathering Fabric

how to gather fabrichow to gather fabricPinLearning to Sew Gathers

TIP #16: Alternatives to buttonholes

If you are just starting out with dressmaking and learning to sew, don’t despair as there are alternatives to the challenging buttonhole.  You don’t need to ruin a garment with a messy buttonhole. Try some other ideas while you gain confidence with the machine-stitched buttonhole.

Further Reading:

Alternatives to ButtonholesHow to Sew a Buttonhole

TIP #17: How to sew a zipper

This method of fastening a garment can be decorative, functional or even invisible.  Find out the best way to tackle a zipper with step by step instructions and diagrams to illustrate.

Further Reading:

How to Shorten a ZipperSewing a ZipperHow to Sew a Zippered CushionTypes of ZipperHow to Sew an Exposed ZipperHow to Cover Zipper Ends

TIP #18: Five easy ways to sew a hem

Now we are getting to the end of learning to sew a garment.  The hem must be finished off neatly otherwise your garment will not hang gracefully.  Find out about the best hem to suit your garment and the fabric you are using.

Further Reading:How to Sew a Hem

Learning to Sew HemsLearning to Sew HemsPinLearning to Sew Hems

TIP #19: Learning to sew topstitching

Topstitching can really add the finishing touches to your garment.  It is decorative and adds durability too. There are 9 tips for learning to sew great topstitching. Try them out on a scrap before you apply them to the garment you have made.

Further Reading:How to Topstitch

TIP #20: Easy hand stitches

It is time to stand back and add some finishing touches. Using a bit of imagination and following the basic lines of the garment can lead to another dimension of decorative stitching. 

Simple but effective ideas can make a world of difference when learning to sew. Try some easy hand stitches and admire your creation – something original with a loving touch.

Further Reading:Hand Embroidery Stitches and How to Embroider

hand embroidery stitcheshand embroidery stitchesPinEmbroideryLearning to Sew Embroidery

TIP #21: Troubleshooting

No sewing for beginners list would be complete without a link to troubleshooting. If you have sewing machine problems don`t feel bad, just look up some of these easy troubleshooting tips and get back to sewing smoothly.

Further Reading:

Sewing Machine TroubleshootingSewing Needle Keeps Breaking Sewing Machine Thread Keeps BreakingSewing Machine Skipping StitchesSeam Puckering when SewingHow to Thread a Sewing MachineTime Saving Sewing Tips

Learning to Sew – In Conclusion

Beginners and seasoned sewers alike will definitely enjoy these 21 helpful tips for learning to sew. It is very possible that the journey that goes down the sewing route may never stop! Never stop learning to sew.

Don`t forget to use the search engine on my blog as I now have over 350 articles. Look up your chosen subject and start reading.

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