Beginner Sewing Tips

Whether you want to sew to fix dropped hems or whip up a couture outfit that you won't find anywhere else, you can take charge of your wardrobe by investing in a sewing machine. Beginner sewing is easy as long as you know a few basic rules, each of which serves a specific purpose.

Learning to sew can feel a lot like transferring schools in the middle of your junior year. Everyone else seems to know so much more, and they use jargon you don't always understand. Suddenly, even finding the information to get started using that nifty little machine you picked up looks like a challenge, but, with patience and practice, you'll soon be working on your own garments.

Sewing Safely
No one really thinks of sewing as a dangerous pursuit, but it can have some hidden dangers if you don't use common sense. Here are the three biggies that you should always keep in mind:

  • Always put your presser foot down before you begin to sew.
  • Always turn your sewing machine off when you are done.
  • When you're done sewing for the day, put your needle down into the machine by using the hand wheel, put your presser foot down and cover your machine up.

Threading the Machine
To thread a machine, you need to fill a bobbin, or a small spindle of thread, using the main spool of thread that will be inserted on the top of the machine. First, thread the bobbin by putting the spool of thread and the bobbin on top of the machine. You will use the sewing machine to feed thread from the main spool of thread into the bobbin.

Once the bobbin is full, cut the thread that connects it to the spool. Now you can insert the bobbin in the space beneath the needle, pulling thread out through the top. Then you will thread the needle with the thread from the spool at the top of the machine. Threading the needle will depend on the structure of your sewing machine, and you'll need to read the instructions. You will need to wind the thread from the top spool of thread down through the sewing machine and into the needle. Pull the thread slightly to make sure that it runs smoothly through the machine. Otherwise, the sewing machine will become jammed, quickly ending your design efforts. You'll know you're ready to sew when you have one thread running smoothly from the top of the machine through the needle and another thread running smoothly from beneath the needle and out of the bobbin.

Begin With a Seam
Whether you want to sew a pretty skirt or a geek goddess laptop bag, seams are involved in nearly every sewing project you'll ever tackle. A good seam can also help you do money-saving things like tailor your just-a-little-too-baggy jeans that keep hiding in the back of the closet. Besides, a straight seam is the easiest way to learn control of your sewing machine.

Practice making straight seams by using a few pieces of scrap fabric. Place two pieces of fabric under the presser foot of your sewing machine, making sure that some of the fabric comes off to the side. This is where those little marked lines on the base plate come in. The fabric that reaches past the presser foot, toward the inside of your machine, are the "seam allowance." Match the amount of fabric up with one of the marked lines (in most patterns, you'll use the quarter-inch line) and lower the presser foot.

Keep the fabric lined up with that little marking, which is technically called a seam guide, as you begin to sew. Concentrate on watching the fabric at the seam guide. Otherwise, your eyes will gravitate to the rapidly moving needle and it will be difficult to keep the seam straight.

When you reach the end of your scrap fabric, it's time to end the seam. You will want to backstitch a few stitches. If you're not sure how, just check your machine's manual as backstitching varies a bit among sewing machines. Raise the presser foot, and pull the fabric a few inches from the machine. This will tug the thread with it. Cut the threads near the fabric.

Practice sewing seams a few times with different types of fabric. It can seem a bit tedious, but will pay off in huge ways as you continue.

Sewing Simple Projects
There is nothing more rewarding than someone complimenting you on a garment when you've sewn it yourself. Sewing your own clothing has many advantages, not the least of which is the ability to make it a perfect fit for you.

When it comes to being feminine, is there anything better than a skirt? And they are easy to sew, even without a pattern. All that you need is your sewing machine and the knowledge you've gained in sewing seams. The great thing about sewing skirts, especially straight skirts, is that they don't include a lot of difficult curves or the need to pin arms into armholes and make seams line up. A simple skirt pattern can be made just by referencing a skirt you have at home, adding about one inch to all sides for seam allowance and sewing it up.

Going just a step beyond skirts, you might want to consider sewing shorts. Straight-line shorts still use basic straight seams and only require a little bit of pinning. Best of all, you get to decide how long or short they are. Some of the easiest fabrics to sew are also perfect for shorts. Denim, corduroy and cottons are perfect and won't slip around while you sew them.

Want to go for the gold and whip up a top? Keep in mind that shirts are always a more challenging sewing pattern than skirts or shorts. The challenge comes with the seam. Instead of sewing straight seams, you'll be working with curves. To get started with the least frustration, look for pullover tops that are constructed from three or four pieces and have no buttons or zippers to mess with.

No matter what you decide to try, from quilt blocks to tote bags with tons of pockets and zippers, always take your time. Don't get in the bad habit of rushing through a project. The quality of your sewing will show the time you took, and you'll continue to love the act of creation.

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