So you want to know what are the sewing basics? Well, like anything new, it can sometimes be hard to know where to start. Here I will break the sewing basics into beginners' tools, simple hand stitching, and starting to sew on a machine.
Sewing Basics Tutorial
1. Learn the Sewing Terminology
If you need to look up some terminology before you start, read my article on sewing terms. This will explain all the common sewing terms and give you links and explanations.
2. What are the Basic Sewing Supplies?
You don't need a lot of tools or sewing supplies to get you started, especially if you are on a budget, but a few sewing basics will make your sewing a little easier. You can buy quality items individually or look for inexpensive starter kits that include pins, needles, tape measures, and scissors.
General Sewing Basics Tools
- Sewing Threads - The best thread for most projects is a polyester thread, sometimes called an all-purpose thread. Look for a quality thread that is less likely to break or cause tangles.
- Cutting Tools - Fabric scissors, snippers, and cheap scissors for cutting paper. One of the most used sewing tool will be your sewing scissors. A rotary cutter and mat is useful for quilting.
- Measuring Tools - Ruler, tape measures.
- Seam Ripper (unpicker) - These handy little tools are useful for undoing stitches that have gone wrong. Don't feel bad if you have to use one, as we all have to unpick sometimes.
- Hand Sewing Needles - Buy an assorted packet of sharps.
- Marking Tools -The best is a chalk pen or a tailor's chalk.
Sewing Basics for the Machine
- Sewing Machine Needles - Different needles are used to sew different fabrics. In addition, you will need to match the thickness of your needle to the fabric weight. Start with a packet of assorted-sized universal needles.
- Sewing Machine for Beginners - You don't need a fancy machine when learning sewing basics. As long as it can sew a straight stitch and a zig-zag stitch, you will be able to do 95% of sewing projects.
- Sewing Machine Feet - Most projects will be sewn with an all-purpose presser foot, but several specialty feet can make your sewing easier. See what your machine comes with and slowly build up your collection. Look out for sewing machine kits on Amazon and eBay.
3. Best Fabrics for Sewing
When you first go into a fabric shop, you may be overwhelmed by the choice of fabrics available. If you are a beginner, I recommend you go straight to the cotton fabric section.
Most fabric shops have a quilting fabric selection that is great for first-timers to use. Quilting cotton is light to medium weight and is usually one of the easiest fabrics to sew. It can be purchased by the yard or meter or in pre-cut squares called fat quarters. Quilting cotton can be used for any of the sewing projects I have suggested below.
There are countless other fabrics to use, but you should save these for when you have a little experience. You don't want your first time sewing to be with a stretch velvet or swimsuit fabric as you might be put off what could be the start of a wonderful new hobby.
4. Find Your First Sewing Projects
When doing sewing basics, I suggest you start with something really simple with straight stitching and no curves or anything tricky.
If you have never sewn anything before, then a cushion cover is a very easy thing to start with. This cushion cover pattern has all straight sewing and is really satisfying since you can admire it sitting on your couch or bed.
Smaller sewing projects are also good for learning sewing basics since they only use small scraps of fabric. That way, you will keep your costs low while starting.
Free Sewing Projects
Here are some sewing basics projects to start with. Also, check out the free section in the menu of this blog.
- How to Make a Scrunchie
- How to Make a Pincushion
- Large Bow Pattern
- Baby Skirts
- DIY Napkins
- Doll Bedding Pattern
- Tissue Cover Pattern
- Gift Bag Pattern
Premium Sewing Projects
Treasurie also has hundreds of premium sewing patterns. You can shop for patterns for girls' dresses, leotards, women's patterns, purses, and more. These come with multi-sized patterns and detailed instructions that are aimed at beginners.
5. Basic Sewing Skills with a Sewing Machine
Now that you have all the tools that you need, it is time to set up your machine. Your manual should have a threading diagram, but if you have an old or second-hand machine without a manual, you can get them for most brands direct from the manufacturers. Read my article on sewing machine manuals for some links that will help you track one down.
How to Wind a Bobbin
Before you thread your machine, make sure you have a couple of full bobbins ready to go. You will need to replace these fairly often, and it can be a nuisance to wind a new one once you start sewing.
Bobbins are wound on the top of the machine on a small spool, usually located on the right. Read my article on how to wind a bobbin if you are doing this for the first time. There can be slight differences between machines but most use this simple method.
The color of the bobbin thread should match the fabric where possible. Especially when you are learning sewing basics, you will find that matching threads are a little more forgiving if you make a mistake and go a bit off course.
How to Thread a Sewing Machine
Threading a sewing machine has not changed much over the years or between brands. The main thread spool is placed on top and then goes down and around the tension disks, up again, and then down to the needle. Read my article on how to thread a sewing machine for more details and sewing basics, and don't forget to consult your manual as well.
Here is a diagram showing you the path that the top spool takes.
Once the needle is threaded, you will need to interlock the top thread and the bobbin. Insert the bobbin in its case, and turn the handwheel (on the right side) slowly until the thread rises to the top. Pull it through.
One important thing to remember for your sewing basics is to check the bobbin is threaded through the case's tension groove. Most bobbin cases are at the top of the machine, like the photo below, but some can also be in the front of the machine in a case that is removable.
How to Use a Sewing Machine
Now, this is a fairly big section, but you have to start somewhere, right? Well, the best place is with a straight stitch. Most sewing projects are done with a straight stitch, so it is important you can do this correctly.
Practice in straight rows and then gently curved lines. Draw all over some scrap and then follow the lines. You will find it easier to sew through 2 layers of fabric, so fold the scrap in half.
I have a detailed article on how to use a sewing machine and how to sew a seam but let's go through some of the sewing basics. I have put links for you to read the articles in more detail so you can pick and choose which sewing basics you need for your level of experience.
Articles on Basic Sewing Techniques
- How to Measure a Body for Sewing - If you are planning on sewing a garment, then it is important you know how to measure and what parts of the body a sewing pattern is referring to.
- Pattern Symbols - All those pattern symbols can seem a little confusing at first, but there are really only a few you need to know when beginning.
- Fabric Marking - Now you know what the pattern symbols mean, you may find that you need to transfer some of them to the fabric. Here is the simplest method to transfer the markings using chalk.
- Basting for Sewing - To baste means to hold the fabric together temporarily before you sew. There are a few different methods you can use, including pins, clips, or a long running stitch.
- Clip Corners and Curves - Clipping sewing is done to prevent puckering where you don't want it. You will use a slightly different method depending on the type of curve or corner.
- Seam Finishes - Finishing a seam prevents fraying and makes your items last longer through multiple washes. While a serger is one of the best methods, there are many ways you can do this with a regular sewing machine.
- Pressing for Sewing - Ironing as you sew is a little different from ironing your work shirts. Regular ironing uses a gliding movement, while sewing uses an up-and-down pressing movement.
- Gathering Fabric - One of the most commonly used techniques of sewing basics is learning how to gather. Gathering adds fullness and embellishments to otherwise plain clothing and sewing projects.
- Seam Allowance - This is the distance from the raw edge that you will sew.
Troubleshooting Sewing Basics
I think no sewing basics lesson would be complete without steering you to some troubleshooting articles. For the most part, modern machines are trouble-free, but every now and again, you will get stuck. Often it is just something simple like a wrong needle, foot, or thread, so don't panic!
- 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
6. Sewing Basics by Hand
There are times when you will want to sew something by hand either because you can't get access to a sewing machine or if it is part of the sewing pattern. Many sewing machine projects have small amounts of hand sewing for buttons, closing gaps, sewing hems, and even for decorating with embroidery and smocking.
Tools for Hand Sewing
- Hand sewing needle
- Optional: Thimble to protect your fingers.
Hand Sewing Basics
- How to Thread a Needle
- How to Sew a Button
- Hand Sewing Hems
- Hand Sewing Basics - Running Stitch, Backstitch
- How to Hand Sew a Seam
- Invisible Seams
The Most Basic Stitch
The easiest hand-sewing stitch is the running stitch. This is essentially just an up-and-down motion. It can be used for simple seams, hems and for decorative purposes.
- How to Embroider - This will give you all the basic tools, techniques and stitches.
- Embroidery Basics - Chain Stitch, Lazy Daisy
- Embroidery Stitches
- Embroidery Letters
- Embroidery Flowers
Sewing Basics - In Conclusion
I hope this article pointed you in the right direction to learn some sewing basics. Don't forget there is a search bar at the top of the menu if you need to look something up. Sewing is a great hobby, and a useful life skill, so get started today.