Learn How to Sew in 5 Easy Steps
Learn how to sew with confidence using this graduated, step by step lesson series. This 5-step online sewing series for beginners provides both free and inexpensive entry-level sewing projects, patterns, and learning materials. We'll start you out with a modest materials and shopping checklist, as well as a free printable "Get to Know Your Machine" sewing assignment.
Once you've completed the 5 step sewing basics, we'll then head you in the right direction for the next level of learning, and sewing success.
Your Beginning Sewing Supplies
A more complete list of sewing supplies is provided in A Combo Guide to Beginning Sewing & Authentic Period Costuming (below), but the following short list will get you through this 5-step lesson series:
- sewing machine and manual
- (2) size 70?10 H machine needles
- hand needle
- all purpose spool of thread (does not have to match fabric)
- measure tape or ruler
- fabric scissors
- (20) 4-inch squares of medium weight cotton or cotton-polyester woven fabric
- straight pins
- fabric marking pencil (chalk or washable ink, color should contrast with fabric colors)
- seam ripper
- tube turning tool
- ironing board and iron
You will also need:
- PDF download and 11x17 printout of the cat pillow pattern (free, below)
- 1/2 yard of calico fabric (for cat pillow)
- fiberfill or alternative stuffing (for cat pillow)
Step 1: Read Your Machine's Manual
Your machine's manual knows EVERYTHING about your machine!
Half the battle of learning to sew is learning how to properly operate and use a sewing machine. Sewing machine owner's manuals are EXCELLENT for getting you familiar with your machine and it's operation. Since every machine is a little different, no in-person instructor can do any better for you than your machine's owner's manual can. Determine you're going to read it until it makes sense, and I promise, it will. You just have to trust that it's worth the effort!
As you go through your manual pay particular attention to how to install a needle, how to switch out a presser foot, how to thread a bobbin, how to load a bobbin, and how to thread the machine. You'll also need to know where and how to use your stitch selection settings, including length and tension, and how to use the reverse stitching feature.
You'll also want to learn how to clean and oil your particular machine, so you can keep it in tip top operating condition.
So, grab something nice to drink, and go sit down by your machine with owner's manual in hand. Take your time. It won't be as hard as you may think! When you're ready, put on your standard presser foot, put in a new all purpose needle, thread your bobbin and/or machine, and proceed to the paper exercise in the next step.
P.S. - If you don't have a manual for your machine, you have no machine. Replacement manuals can sometimes be purchased from the manufacturer, or they can be purchased through eBay or other sources online.
Step 2: Practice Machine Sewing on Paper - Getting comfortable with your machine; a free sewing exercise for beginners
Right click on the image above, then choose "Save As" to load the image to your hard drive. Fit to an 8.5x11 sheet, and print. You now have a "Get to Know My Machine" assignment in hand!
Set machine for a standard 2.5 stitch length. Put the "start" to your machine's feed. Lower presser foot, hold the threads back, and stitch four or five stitches forward, then reverse the same, then proceed forward at a comfortable pace.
When you come to corners you put the needle in the down position at the corner's tip, lift the presser foot, swivel the paper on the needle, put the presser foot back down and proceed with sewing. When you come to the zig zag segment, stop, lift the needle (not the presser foot), switch your stitch settings to a wide, long zig zag, and proceed. Stop. Lift needle (not presser foot), change stitch settings back, and proceed.
When you come to the end, stop. Reverse four or five stitches, then proceed off the edge of the paper.
You can do the same paper exercise a couple times, or you can create your own to follow. Continue on paper until you feel confident with the basic operation of your machine.
Step 3: Practice Seam Types on Fabric Swatches
Congratulations! You're now ready to sew on real fabric. In this step you'll be making seam samples on fabric squares. This step will familiarize you with seam terminology, as well as familiarize you with various fabric manipulation techniques.
Please proceed by purchasing the following inexpensive digital sewing guide (you'll get immediate access). It walks you through creating thirteen universally recognized seam types, and it will get you used to fabric behavior, and proper pinning and pressing techniques. I promise that if you'll do these thirteen swatches you will feel your confidence absolutely blossom! With these samples completed you will have an excellent sewing foundation to build upon, and a much easier time reading and understanding store-bought patterns.
B.T.W.: Don't be concerned about the "historical costuming" part of the sewing guide title... just think of that section as a fun bonus! (It is interesting to peruse :-)
When you've completed all your sewing samples, proceed to step 4.
Beginning Sewing Guide... with a Bonus :-)
Complete sewing basics for $6.99
A Combo Guide to Beginning Sewing and Authentic Period Costuming (links to the author's webstore at TeachersPayTeachers.com)
This guide contains the most simple, straight to the point set of beginning sewing lessons you'll find anywhere. With this guide you'll learn all the modern garment construction skills needed for machine sewing, plus you'll get information on historical hand sewing techniques, as well as an extensive list of which garment components first appeared when.
Beginning sewers using this Squidoo lens will be able to jump right into the first practice section which entails doing sample sewing swatches. With the swatches you'll practice pinning, machine and hand stitching as required for modern garment construction, and you'll practice proper pressing. The guide will also take students into their first garment sewing project (module following below) by explaining common sewing terms and tasks, and giving a complete overview of how to properly prepare fabric and patterns for layout and cutting.
Outside of shopping for supplies, anyone using this guide can learn all of their basic sewing skills in one, easy-paced day. With these skills you'll then be thoroughly prepared for the Cat Pillow and First Garment sewing projects following (below).
Step 4: Make a Cat Shaped Pillow
Free beginning sewing project pattern
First, right click on this free cat pillow pattern link, then "Save As" to your hard drive. The pattern is an 11x17 black and white pdf file that you can copy to disc, then take to your local print shop to have it printed out.
This project is excellent for a beginner, incorporating fabric layout and dot transfers, curve stitching and trimming, corner stitching and trimming, turning, pressing, and finish hand stitching.
Follow the steps below, and use your Combo Guide (above) to make your cat pillow.
Step 5: Make a Simple Garment
Here is where you'll put your new skills to the test. See & Sew patterns are very simple by comparison to other sewing patterns, and I recommend them for first-time garments. Follow the See & Sew instructions for fabric selection (found on the back of each pattern envelope).
Before you head out to do your shopping, though, I highly recommend you first finish reading Section B of the sewing manual, A Combo Guide to Beginning Sewing & Authentic Period Costuming. Especially take in the segments on taking measurements, and pattern and fabric preparation.
Once you've completed your first See & Sew project, you can graduate to the intermediate patterns of Simplicity, McCalls, and Butterick. Keep in mind that Vogue patterns are advanced, often having rare construction steps. No matter which type of pattern you're using, all pattern manufacturers provide customer support phone numbers inside their patterns, should you need live support in understanding a pattern instruction.
If you've completed the 5-Step Beginning Sewing Series above, CONGRATULATIONS! Not only are you a trooper for buckling down and getting 'er done, but you can now head confidently into all the sewing crafts and hobbies that you've always wanted to try.
To keep you progressing in a steady, graduated climb we've put together the following resource lists. Our aim in compiling these lists was first, to help you create the perfect in-home sewing resource library, and second to stir your enthusiasm for sewing exploration.
However you choose to proceed from here, I want to wish you many happy years of home sewing!
Must-Have Basic Sewing Resources - These titles will round out basic sewing skills
Sewing Books "Just for Fun" - These titles will inspire you to sew for sheer enjoyment
More Advanced Sewing Resources
- About-Arts.com - Craft Resources
Directory of crafts related websites and discussion groups.
- Craft Site Directory
Your guide to arts and crafts on the internet.
Your Comments are Welcome! - If you enjoyed this resource, please social us. Thanks!
Mussarat J Moghal from Ontario Canada on July 31, 2012:
Great tutorial. I refreshed my sewing skills.
marsha32 on June 10, 2012:
Great lens! I am featuring it in my blog post today.
Sherry Venegas from La Verne, CA on February 23, 2011:
All three of my kids, even my son, can operate the sewing machine. The daughters are more accomplished than I ever got, and I sewed a heck of a lot.
JoyfulPamela2 from Pennsylvania, USA on February 23, 2011:
Great tips to get someone started in sewing! : )