10 tips for beginner sewists





In my first year of sewing what I've learned a lot. Some of it has been the hard way from mistakes, some of it I found through copious reading online...some things I tried then quickly realised they weren't that successful! Here's the top 10 I would go back in time and tell myself a year a go....


Fabric choice is crucial

The pattern you choose will have fabric suggestions. Use these as that's how the pattern has been designed. Then think carefully about the properties of the fabric you are using....this can massively impact how easy it is to sew the garment. Cottons are nice to work with, especially cotton lawn. Stretch fabrics such as jersey require a different approach, as do sheer and slippery fabrics. If you aren't sure which fabric to use The Fold Line have a really handy article for this.


Look around

Before I start any project I have a look at what other people have done for ideas and to see which parts are tricky. I look on Pinterest, The Fold Line, fabric and sewing blogs, and a good old Google search. I use a lot of indie patterns (I like their instructions more) and often these have links to other people's makes for inspiration.


Wash fabric before making

It might shrink, so what's the point in making something that won't fit after one wash?

Enjoy the leisure of marking, cutting and pinning


I am impatient. I rush to get to the sewing machine. This is a mistake. Every time I try to cut corners cutting or pinning I have to spend twice as long unpicking my stitches. Enjoy this for its own pleasure instead! I use lots and lots of pins when I'm working with slippery fabrics.



.....and don't forget to transfer markings to both sides of the fabric! On my first Francoise dress I marked the darts on one side only...so obviously I then had to go back and redo everything so it matched properly.

Tacking in place is not a waste of time


Especially for zips! Some of the tutorials I've followed for zips assume you can pin then stitch away. I sometimes get my zips placed wrongly and only realise once it's sewn, so this helps with that. It also makes it easier to get really close to zip teeth in invisible zips if the zip is already in place.

Sometimes you can skip backtacking


Every time you stitch you are meant to backtack a couple of stitches to stop the line unravelling. If a line of stitches is going to cross over another line, this will perform the same function. If you are in a rush then it isn't essential.

Learn to love the iron


I used to hate ironing. Pressing is a whole different thing though. Pressing as you sew makes sewing easier, and makes the garment look like it's meant to.

Make hems easier


I spend a long time pressing hems under using a seam gauge to measure how far to fold. Lately I have built in a step in the marking and cutting process to make this easier. When I'm tracing off a pattern I mark the hemline on the pattern, and trace this onto the wrong side of the fabric in dashed lines using a tracers wheel. The wheel creates a line that helps with folding anyway, and the carbon gives a visual guide. Now, it is important to evaluate your potential hem once the garment is constructed, as this can affect the hemline...but you can adjust for this. If you don't have to then it makes turning under, pinning and pressing much faster and easier.


Also, you can buy something called Wondertape. This is double sided tape that will dissolve in the wash. I used it for hems on my chiffon pussy bow blouse because the fabric would not press neatly.


Find patterns without fastenings

If you want to make life easy, and sew speedily, avoid buttons and zips. There are lots of patterns you can use that don't have either (like the Bettine dress). There's nothing wrong with these elements per se, but they cause me a lot of heartache and stitch ripping (mainly zips to be honest!)

Invest in good tools


Don't 'make do' with blunt scissors or needles. There are some things you can go without or substitute (like pattern weights...I use tealight holders) but your key tools need to be sharp.




Plus one more for good luck....


Check you have threaded your machine properly

Every time that my machine has jammed it is because I haven't threaded the machine properly, or kept hold of thread tails as I started sewing. Sometimes if this happens it is quicker to take out both the bobbin and the thread, and start setting up the machine again from scratch (rather than spend ages attempting to rectify without re-threading).

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Hi, I'm Laura. Welcome to my journeys with modern, feminine dressmaking and delicious food.
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