10 Tips + Tricks for the Beginning Sewist

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Lately I've had a lot of people in my life express interest in sewing and it's been a lot of fun talking patterns, fabric, and adorable makes. It's the best when a girl's night involves coffee, a trip to the fabric store, chatting it up about style, the kiddos, and the husbands. Among these conversations are questions and answers to aspects of sewing that are nuanced and not necessarily known to the beginning sewist. Often times, getting started can feel overwhelming or as if sewing at home requires a natural talent, which is simply not true. As with any other hobby, time and experience are on your side - plus, armed with these tips, you'll be feeling confident with your sewing in no time! 

beginner sewing tips

So, without further ado, here are 10 tips and tricks that every beginning sewist should know: 

1.) Iron everything

Ironing is so important for a well sewn garment. Not only do you want to iron your fabric before cutting, you also want to iron your tissue pattern pieces on the lowest heat setting (synthetic). Ever wonder how to stuff all that tissue back into the pattern envelope? Just neatly iron it and slide it back in. No fuss! My iron is a constant companion during a project - pressing seams, ruffles, pleats, and starching wrinkle prone fabrics like linen. 

2.) Needles & Feet 

Regularly changing your needle is necessary but it's also important to know which needles to use for your fabric. Heavier weight material like denim requires a strong needle, a ball point needle should be used to preserve the quality of knit fabric, and your general purpose needles should fit the weight of your fabric. Feet also help wonders with a sewing project. An invisible zipper foot, gathering, and walking foot are must-haves for project ease. 

Beginner sewing tips

3.)  Washi tape
Sewing straight lines can be a challenge, especially when you're first starting. Mark your measurements with washi tape to help guide your fabric while you sew. This was a real life saver and now I have to have my washi tape. 

Beginning sewing tips

4.) Determining your pattern size

Learning which size to sew with a commercial pattern can be kind of confusing because they don't follow the ready to wear street sizing that you find in stores. Instead, you will want to take down your measurements and match them to the group of sizes on the back of the pattern envelope. Patterns are often split into two different sizing groups: 6-14 and 12-24 so think of this as a way to place your measurements into the right category. When you're ready to sew, check the back of the envelope and the pattern pieces for the actual or finished garment measurements. Often times, there is a good deal of ease included and this may change which size you will want to sew. As an example, my actual measurements are between a 12 and 14 but, for a true fit, I will usually sew a size 8-10. Or a 6, if I am feeling really motivated to workout and cut out cookies (even though I never workout or say no to cookies, the struggles!) 

*Special note about baby and toddler sizes: I haven't seen a commercial pattern that has included an actual measurement for the littlest ones. These often run rather large and I find that reading a pattern review in advance is a huge help!

Beginning sewing tips

Beginning sewing tips

5.) Pay attention to the bias lines

Each of your pattern pieces are going to have arrows pointing to the direction where you will want to cut out your fabric. For a garment to have the right fit, shape, and drape, it's really important to follow these lines. A quick way to tell which way your bias runs is to test the fabric's ability to give. The grain line (vertical) will have the least amount of give, the weft (horizontal) will have a slight give, and the bias (diagonal) will have the most give or stretch. 

6.) Take things apart 

I've found that one of the easiest ways to learn how things are sewn together is to take them apart. Have clothes that you aren't in love with anymore? Seam rip them! You now have a free pattern to work with. 

7.) Wash your makes on delicate

Hand washing your completed garments give them longer wear. Hand stitching, lace details, and other embellishments hold up much better on delicate. I also wash them in cold water to help maintain color and vibrancy since they're often being ironed. You don't want all of your hard work to be ruined in the washer!

8.) Know when to take a break 

This one is hard, and I still struggle with this one. If you're sewing while you're tired, stressed, or your mind is else where, mistakes will find you, and they will be silly. To save your seam ripper, and your sanity, know when it's time to walk away from the sewing machine. 

9.) You don't need a serger

A common myth is that you need or should have a serger for well reinforced or professional seams. Is it a quick and easy finish? Absolutely! However, you can still have a beautiful, solid finish without a serger. French, Piping, and Hong Kong finishes tend to be my favorites and most used. They also provide that extra touch to make the inside of a garment look elevated or expensive.

Beginning sewing tips

10.) Sew often!

In the year that I've been sewing regularly, I've learned so much through experience. Not only is sewing a lot of fun, the more you experiment with and try, the more you learn. It's completely normal to worry about lines, technique, and construction but it gets easier. If you have an inner perfectionist, then start small. 3-4 piece patterns like aprons, pajama pants, skater skirts, and the jiffy patterns are a great place to start and really hone in on basic skills before tackling a tougher project and feeling overwhelmed. If you like to dive right in, then try it! Either way, you're going to learn and enjoy the process at the same time. Time and experience is the ultimate learning tool.

Beginning sewing tips

Well, this is arguably the longest post ever but I hope that these tips and tricks have helped you or provided you with encouragement to try a project or two - or five. Let me know which tips were the most helpful to you and what you're working on! I love to chat it up about projects and love, love seeing what every one else is working on!

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