15 Top Beginner’s Sewing Tips – Sew Basic Series

A while ago I was sharing this on TitiCrafty: my 15 Top Beginner’s Sewing Tips…because Sewing is Fun 😉

I’m sharing it here, just in case you missed it!

This post is part of the Sew Basic Series (remember the fabrics 101 + heatpad  and the tools & notions posts?)

If you need some help visualizing on your sewing machine (or if you still don’t have one but you’d like to start learning) all the tools and knobs below, check my Sewing Machine: Dissected! Part 1 and Part 2: a lot of pics and descriptions are there Just For You (opens in a different tab!)

Now, you’ve decided to start the most rewarding crafting in the world (am I partial to this?), could you use some of my top sewing tips (listed in strictly random order)?

Sewing Tip #1. Say: “Cheese!”

Snap some shoot to existing threading, just to be sure you’ll be able to re-thread when you’ll need to (and you’ll need it soon, promise!)

Sewing Tip #2. Leave the thread guide up

This is an important tip! When you start sewing, the thread guide right above the needle have to be in its higher position.

If it’s not, as soon as you’ll turn the handwheel to start (see next step) the needle will unthread!

To be sure you’ll never skip this step, I’d suggest you to create a habit of checking it

Every. Single. Time.

you stop sewing (and eventually turn your hand wheel to put the thread guide in its higher position)!

Sewing Tip #3. Start by Hand

To be sure everything is perfect while you start, always do the first 1-2 stitches turning your hand wheel anticlockwise, so you can check if the needle is getting smoothly in the fabric, see if your fabric’s thickness is a problem (think hemming your jeans!), and avoid thread jams, plus, you’ll accurately define the first stitch placement.

Sewing Tip #4. Keep it down!

Never stop with your needle up, out of the fabric,while sewing a corner or when you need to slightly move the fabric (such as in a curved seam) or to pull out a pin.

Leaving the needle down and pivoting in the fabric, will help you to achieve a perfectly aligned seam.

Sewing Tip #5. When things goes bad, rethread

This is a rule, whenever you find in your seam a thread too tight or too loose, or your machine is skipping stitches, try rethreading everything, spool and bobbin (also if you think it’s all perfect!) – 99% of the times you’ll solve your problems!

  • To help yourself, keep the pics you took in Tip 1 on your phone or tablet, ready to check!

While you’re repositioning the bobbin, check for lint/bird’s nest right below the needle plate… this is often what causes thread wonkyness or missing stitches!

Sewing Tip #6. Check needle type and conditions

While an Universal needle can be perfect for starting (a n° 90-14 will be the right choice), with special kinds of fabric you’ll better choose the proper needle:

  • lightweight fabrics (like sheers or thin cottons) want a smaller needle (n° 60-8 or 70-9)
  • with thicker fabrics like denim, better use a bigger needle (like 100 or 110!)
  • to hem with a coverlock look (if you don’t know what it is, simply look at your double row t-shirt hem!), a twin needle will be your best friend 🙂
  • The most important kind of needles, for me, is the knit/stretch/jersey one: we call them ballpoint needles because they have a rounded tip that goes between knitted threads, separating them; if you use a Universal needle, chances are that you’ll end with unwanted holes in no-time… believe me or not!

If you need a visual reminder, check this guide, pinned in my “Sewing for Beginners” Board in Pinterest!

One more thing: always use a sharp/new needle – a bent or over-used needle can create a thread jam and suck your fabric inside the needle throat or (worst) break and spring into your eyes!

Sewing Tip #7. Check thread type

A rule of thumb is to use the same thread type in both bobbin and spool (unless you need to use embroidery thread, that will go only in your spool).

There’s no problem using different colors in your upper and lower thread (and it’s nice when you are topstitching a lined dress, to match both outer and inner fabric’s color with thread), but choose them from the same family (no polyester spool and cotton in the bobbin…) to avoid thread jams or breakages.

Sewing Tip #8. Clean her!

This sewing tip is a rule for your sewing machine health and longevity: try using an air duster or, better, a compressor to blow out any tiny thread or lint, hidden inside your sewing machine.

Check your sewing machine’s manual to see if you can unscrew something to clean your machine more in-depth and if you have to oil it and where.

Check this blog post too, to learn more!

Sewing Tip #9. How to sew a straight line

The trick is: never look at your needle! Being steadily in movement, can’t be a focal point for your eyes, it would be confusing!

Measure your seam allowances distance from the needle and (if your needle plate is missing those tiny parallel etched straight lines) mark the one you need on the needle plate somehow (an elastic band, Washi tape, painter’s mask tape, sticky notes are all perfect candidates!), creating a repositionable seam guide.

Try now to keep your fabric’s edge aligned to your improvised seam guide, then admire your straight seam!

Sewing Tip #10. Try on scraps first

When you cut out your pattern pieces, never throw away your fabric’s scraps, but keep them for practicing (and calibrating) your stitchings!

From left to right you can see I’ve adjusted stitch length and width to have a perfect decorative stitch!

Nobody can sew perfectly the first time that tries, and a seasoned seamstress too will choose to try a particular stitch or a stressful kinds of fabric (think slippery sheers, or buttonholes in knits…) on scraps before going on garment and eventually ruin her precious fabric!

Always recreate the same circumstances: if you’re going to sew on 3 layers of denim on your garment, practicing in only one layer won’t mean a lot!

Sewing Tip #11. Check the amount of thread on bobbin

…this may sound silly to you but, basing on Murphy’s Laws, if you have to guess exactly when your bobbin’s thread will finish, you can be sure that it will happen right in the middle of a princess seam (or any other complicated stitching), and you’ll notice it only after 30 cm of unlocked stitching….

Been There, Done That, Got the T-shirt 😀

Better change this nearly empty bobbin if you need to sew a challenging part of your garment!

Sewing Tip #12. Go Back & Forth

Start 1/2 cm inside your fabric edge, backstitch, then sew the seam: you’ve just fixed your seam’s head!

Do the same at the other end of the fabric: when you reach the edge, reverse your sewing machine direction, sewing a couple of stitches, then cut the thread tails.

In some particular situation (like on a dart’s head, for example) it’s better to simply sew off the edge leaving long thread tails, knot tails together then shorten them.

Sewing Tip #13. Lefties

To avoid messes (imagine your sewing machine needle throat gobbling your fabric, forcing you to cut a hole in the fabric… ask me why I know that…) start any seam holding threads tails on your left hand.

This is mostly important on lightweight fabrics and/or knits that are more apt to be swallowed!

Believe me, it’s not a good thing when it happens, and you have to re-cut two pieces of your pattern… and have no more fabric…

Can you see me tear my hairs out?

Sewing Tip #14. Control your speed!

Especially when you are a beginner, it’s better to go slowly, never push your foot down the pedal!

A little (but of a certain weights) sewing tip I learnt a long time ago (and I want to share with you now) is to put your naked (or with sock, if you live in a cold country, like me) foot on foot pedal: this gives you much more control than if you were wearing shoes!

Sorry – no pics of my naked foot LOL

Sewing Tip #15. Never skip a good press

One of the most important things to learn is how to properly press seams while you sew: this make the difference between (poorly) homemade and (shining) handmade!

You should never cross a seam with one other seam if the first isn’t pressed (either opened or to one side, as per instruction’s request)

 

Did I forget anything? Check my Pinterest Board “Sewing for Beginners” for some more trick from all around the web!

If you have a Sew Basic Beginner’s Sewing Tip to share, please leave us a comment!

 

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About the Author:

Hi there! I love sewing, creating my own patterns and refashioning pre-loved clothes... If you love the same things, why not be friends? See you on Pinterest http://Pinterest.com/MammaNene

30 Comments

  1. Rachel February 28, 2014 at 13:40 - Reply

    Great tips!

    • Mamma Nene February 28, 2014 at 16:32 - Reply

      Thanks Rachel 🙂
      Do you have something to add to this list?

  2. clara March 1, 2014 at 20:59 - Reply

    Graaaaande Irene!
    Grazie!!!
    Spero di trovare presto il tempo e la concentrazione da dedicare anche a questo!
    Buon w-end!

    • Mamma Nene March 2, 2014 at 13:48 - Reply

      😀
      Felice che ti piaccia, Clara!!! Capisco il fattore tempo… sto veramente utilizzando tutte e 48 le ore a disposizione al giorno… ah no? sono solo 24? Ah, ecco perchè non riesco mai a fare quel che vorrei 😉

      E chiaramente anche il fattore concentrazione… avendo una quasi 5enne che mi interrompe ogni 3 x 2…

  3. Nessa March 9, 2014 at 02:33 - Reply

    Sweet. Had I read those a while back, I could have skipped the learning by doing (and swearing) part. Thank you for the great tips, Irene. Another tip I had in mind was never to back-tack too close to the fabric edge because that usually ends in a thread salad. too. 😉

    • Mamma Nene March 12, 2014 at 11:23 - Reply

      Great add-on, your tip, Nessa! How many times my sewing machin ate my fabric’s salad LOL
      I feel like the try-and-fail part is an important part of the learning process, you can’t really skip it all!

      • Nessa March 12, 2014 at 22:12 - Reply

        Thank you, Irene. 🙂 I am still relatively new to machine sewing but just finished my first big dress on the machine. This time it went without the trial and error bit for the first time. It really was a boost for my sewing confidence.

        • Mamma Nene March 12, 2014 at 22:21 - Reply

          When it happens, it’s so satisfying… when I complete a project and I like it… mmmh… it’s a sensation has no price, I feel like a runner with its endorphins moment after the run!
          Go on, you’ll master the skill in no time… and: congrats: you’re sewing such interesting garments!

          • Nessa March 12, 2014 at 22:48

            It so is, you’re right. 🙂 And thank you. They’re mainly historical or at least historically inspired. Before last Christmas, when I got the machine, I have been hand-sewing all of them.

          • Mamma Nene March 12, 2014 at 22:58

            That’s a nice leap forward! I know there’s a learning curve, but it must be much faster by sewing machine, than by hand, isn’t it?

          • Nessa March 12, 2014 at 23:32

            About three times faster, yes. But for accuracy’s sake I’m still hand-sewing most outer garments like dresses. Because in some historical fashion communities the rules are that strict. Which is a good thing. 🙂

          • Mamma Nene March 12, 2014 at 23:36

            😀
            You’re a good girl! I have no patience at all for sewing by hand…

          • Nessa March 12, 2014 at 23:39

            Oh dear, you think? 😉 I had not patience before I took it up at all.

          • Mamma Nene March 12, 2014 at 23:43

            So maybe there’s hope for me too!!! Never too late, they say!

          • Nessa March 12, 2014 at 23:59

            I’m sure. Wishing you the best of luck. 🙂

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  5. Shirley Wood June 24, 2014 at 17:12 - Reply

    I am just learning to sew. Thanks for these great tips! Pinned to my Sewing Board.

  6. Ilaria T. July 3, 2014 at 00:16 - Reply

    Fantastici questi consigli. L’11 me lo devo tatuare, finisco sempre la bobina e me ne accorgo ore e ore dopo haha. Nel 14 mi son ritrovata molto: non riesco proprio a cucire con la ciabatta, a piedi nudi ho molta più sensibilità. Farò tesoro dei tuoi consigli, e ti sarò eternamente grata per i pasticci che mi eviteranno.. Continua così 😉
    A presto

    Ila

    Appesoaunfilo.wordpress.com

    • Mamma Nene July 6, 2014 at 09:37 - Reply

      Grazie Ilaria 🙂
      Indovina un po’ perchè l’ho scritto? Son campionessa olimpica di “termina-bobine” in corsa!
      Pensa che oramai riconosco il suono diverso che fa la macchina da cucire quando cuce con la bobina vuota 😀

  7. Great tips! I just got my own sewing machine and am slowly learning 🙂

    • Mamma Nene July 17, 2014 at 15:24 - Reply

      That’s great Caitlyn! You’ll be hooked for sure… with a sewing maching you can do nearly everything!

  8. 15 Tips for Sewing With Knits February 5, 2015 at 06:39 - Reply

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  9. Anita Mas October 12, 2015 at 15:34 - Reply

    Making sure that the thread guide up can keep the needle from being un-threaded? That’s good to know. I wondered why that happened so often. I’ll have to make it a habit to check on that each time I sit down to my sewing machine.

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  11. James Bergman April 6, 2016 at 17:43 - Reply

    I am trying to learn how to sew. It is one of those skills that my mom kept insisting that I needed but I never agreed on until I was (am) older. Anyway, I appreciate all of your tips, especially on saving scraps to practice on. My mom told me the same thing, only she said that she likes to use fabric swatches for her practicing. I suppose either one works.

  12. Faylinn July 8, 2016 at 18:02 - Reply

    I just got a new sewing machine and I am struggling with controlling my speed. However, I always wear shoes while operating the pedal and so I might try doing it barefoot the next time I sew. However, how do I keep my foot steady so that the machine goes at a consistent speed?

  13. Christine Hall September 27, 2016 at 22:02 - Reply

    A great guide! I think the condition of your needle is something that a lot of people overlook, especially as beginners. Thanks for the post!

  14. Carmen September 27, 2016 at 23:30 - Reply

    Hi!! Love the tips! I’m a beginner and getting ready to try a slouchy wrap with no shoulder seams. Pretty easy, I’m told. (Gulp!) Anyway, the material is that type of synthetic fleece that feels so soft you want to crawl inside and never come back out. Does this type of fabric need that ballpoint needle?

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  16. Joseph Davis March 5, 2017 at 21:15 - Reply

    I absolutely love your tips. l will still read a couple more tips this evening before I start on my sewing machine tomorrow. Thank you so much. You make it look easy.

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