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.
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!
Learning to Sew – Before you Start
Before you start learning to sew, check that you have your basic sewing tools.
You will need –
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 is a luxury and not strictly necessary.
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
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.
- Sewing Machine Needles Types and Sizes
- Types of Pins
- Types of Thread
- Hand Sewing Needles
- Beginners 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.
Further Reading: Glossary of Fabrics
A Pattern to Sew
Finally, 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.
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
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.
- How to Cut Fabric for Sewing
- Napped Fabric, What is Nap in Sewing
- What is Selvage, Grain and Bias
- Cutting Tools
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.
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 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.
TIP #8: How to sew a seam
Practice makes perfect they say and so it is with sewing 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
- How to Make Bias Tape with a Bias Maker
- How to Make Bias Tape with no Special Tools
- How to Sew Single Fold Bias Tape
- How to Sew Double Fold Bias Tape
- How to Make Continuous Bias Tape
- How to sew Mitred Square Corners with Bias Tape
- Types of Bias Tape
- Bias Bound Seam
- Hong Kong Finish
TIP #15: Gathering fabric
This 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.
- How to Gather by Machine
- How to Gather by Hand
- Shirring (sewing with elastic thread)
- Gathering with a Serger
- How to Sew Ruching
- Gathering with Cord
- Gathering with Elastic
- How to Gather Tulle
- Gathering Foot
- Gathering Fabric
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.
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.
- How to Shorten a Zipper
- How to Shorten Metal Zippers
- Sewing a Zipper
- How to Sew a Zippered Cushion
- Types of Zipper
- How to Sew an Exposed Zipper
- How to Cover Zipper Ends
TIP #18: Five easy ways to sew a hem
Now we are getting to the end of the 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
TIP #19: Topstitching
Topstitching can really add the finishing touches to your garment. It is decorative and adds durability too. There are 9 tips for 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
The work is done and the journey almost complete. 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. Try some easy hand stitches and admire your creation – something original with a loving touch.
Further Reading: Hand Embroidery Stitches
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. (
- Sewing Machine Troubleshooting
- Sewing Needle Keeps Breaking
- Sewing Machine Thread Keeps Breaking
- Sewing Machine Skipping Stitches
- Seam Puckering when Sewing
- How to Thread a Sewing Machine
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 300 articles. Look up your chosen subject and start reading.