You just purchased your first sewing machine, and you want to sew all the things. But before you start cutting your fabric, here are some sewing tips for beginners that will make your experience more pleasant.
Is there a difference between a size 60 and a 100 needle? Should you start sewing with satin? Does a needle last forever?
Here are some answers that I wish I knew when I started sewing.
Sewing Tips for Beginners
Start with easy fabrics.
I know you might be tempted to use that beautiful and flowy chiffon fabric in a project. If you’re starting your sewing journey, it’s better to stay away from satin, organza, chiffon, and other lightweight or slippery fabrics.
You won’t know all the tricks when working with these fabrics if you’re a beginner. The probability of ruining your work is high, and you’ll be discouraged from continuing your journey.
Instead, use cotton, linen, or canvas to begin sewing. These fabrics are much easier to handle for beginners.
If you want to test different stitches & techniques, sew a button or a buttonhole, practice on fabric scraps first.
You don’t need a fancy sewing machine.
It’s very tempting to go out and purchase a sewing machine with all the bells and whistles. The truth is you won’t use most of the extra stitches anyway.
I’ve been sewing for almost a decade, and I’ve rarely used the decorative stitches included with my machine.
My go-to stitches are straight, zig-zag, blind hem, and overcasting, usually included in the most basic machines. Some less fancy machines also have an automatic buttonhole function and needle threader, making your life much easier.
The same applies to your sewing tools. Simple is best.
Over the years, I’ve amassed an extensive collection of sewing tools. As with the fancy stitches, there are some tools that I only used once or twice.
To begin, you’ll need a good pair of fabric scissors & snips, fabric chalk/marker, seam ripper, pins, and a ruler/measuring tape.
Take your time.
As with driving, speeding is a bad idea when sewing. It’s tempting to put the pedal to the metal to finish a project in one day. But you’ll risk getting crooked stitches all over your work. Nobody likes working with the seam ripper unless it’s indispensable.
Use your sewing time as a way to get in the flow. This is not a race. You’ll make fewer mistakes by taking it slow and enjoying the process.
Wash your fabric, girl!
I remember when one of my cats marked a table runner that took me hours to make. After tossing it in the washing machine, it smelled great, but it was ruined.
The cotton fabric had shrunk, and it had yellow and orange stains from the burlap that had softened. There was no way I could salvage it. With tears in my eyes, I threw it away (also, I could’ve repurposed it, but my inexperience didn’t know better).
If only I had taken the time to wash the fabric!!!
There’s nothing more fun than returning from the store with all those pretty textiles and wanting to do all the things. Take a breath and always wash them first.
Don’t forget to change your needles.
Sadly, sewing needles don’t last forever. Skipped stitches, thread breaks, and holes in fabric result from a worn-out needle. If you want to avoid problems, you should change needles every 8 hours. Don’t wait until they break!
Speaking of needles, match them to the appropriate fabric.
Chiffon can be a nightmare if you use a regular needle. The fabric will get stuck in the needle plate, and the needle could leave big holes in it. The end result won’t be pretty.
Thankfully, choosing the right needle for your project is not that difficult. Needles go from sizes 60 to 110. The higher the number, the thicker the fabric it can handle.
If you’re working with knits or stretchy textiles, use a ballpoint needle. A denim needle can be handy if you’re working with several layers.
Clean your sewing machine frequently.
Cleaning your machine weekly will prevent a lot of problems. You’ll be amazed by how much lint, threads, and dust can build up after a project or two.
Luckily, your machine will include a brush to clean the bobbin case and underneath the needle plate. It’s easy to do and will only take you a few minutes to do so to extend the life of your machine.
You also should oil your machine every four months. Some newer devices don’t require this but check your manual first.
Stop when you’re tired.
It happens. You get excited about doing a project late into the night. You’re tired, yet you push yourself to finish it. And then you realize that you joined the wrong pieces, missed a few backstitches, and the thread doesn’t match. You get the gist. Don’t. Sew. If. You’re. Tired.
You’re more likely to make mistakes, and you even might end up hurting yourself in the process. It’s so easy to forget to take your foot off the pedal when changing a presser foot that you could end up with a needle piercing a finger (True story!).
Turn off the machine and call it a day. That unfinished bag will still be there in the morning.
Switch off your machine before cleaning or changing needles.
Yes, that finger was my left thumb. Luckily, the needle only pierced my fingernail and some skin, but it went all the way through. It was painful and terrifying!
After that experience, I ALWAYS turn off my machine before changing a needle, a presser foot, or cleaning it. Your hands are your most valuable tool. Keep them safe at all times.
If you’ve been sewing for some time, what are the things you wish you knew before getting started? What sewing tips for beginners can you share? Drop them in the comments!