In this blog post, I’ll be talking about Sewing Tips For Beginners. I get asked a lot of questions online about how to get started so I wanted to put down my tips on this. I hope with this post it helps you on your way to sewing your own me-made items at home.
Sewing Tips For Beginners
If you’re reading this because you have been inspired to make your own clothes but don’t know where to start then this will help. Firstly it’s important to know that learning to sew is a practice and it will take time to get confident. I am still in on my journey of working towards more intensive projects but it takes practice. When you get started, be mindful that this is a journey that’s often a slow one. Practice over time is what sewing is all about and enjoying the process of making.
I always remind myself of the well-known quote ‘don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle’. Be excited about being a beginner because it means you are willing to learn, to try something exciting, and embark on a wonderful mission to me-made clothing. Below is the fundamentals of getting started but if you are interested in more vlogs and my sewing journey, I upload a YouTube video every Sunday with lots of sew-along videos.
I get asked the most about what sewing machines I would recommend. It’s a tricky question because without trying a make or model it makes it hard to recommend. I have summarised within a few different price points below so that there is a selection to suit your budget. There are pros and cons for different machines and price points but the question to ask yourself is ‘will this machine serve me long-term’? Consider having a sewing machine you can ‘grow’ with and will have more extensive features that eventually you will use when you develop your skills.
Fundamentals you need in a machine that I would recommend:
- A basic list of stitches like a normal straight stitch, zigzag, etc
- Built-in 1-step buttonhole feature (honestly this is a lifesaver) I used to have an old Bernina and had to sew buttonholes manually. Now I have moved onto a more modern electronic machine with button-holes built-in and it’s a game-changer.
- Built-in zipper sewing feature
- Electronic machines are great because they have a lot more functions, usually a higher price point but this means you can grow with them instead of likely growing out of a basic machine more quickly.
- Not essential but something I use a lot in my Janome DKS100 is an automatic needle threader – If you have bad eyesight or shaky hands, this is great.
- Automatic thread cutter – again not essential but a lovely added luxury if you can find this.
If your budget is below £150 then you’ll have to be mindful that these machines may not have all the functions needed for future use but it will be a great starting point. The John Lewis £130 machines are fab (they used to be 99 pounds but recently went up, as they are super popular) because they have the basic essentials. Not only do they come in different cute colors but the online reviews are positive. I would buy this machine for myself for traveling and for small projects so I think it would be a great first machine. I see a lot of people recommend this on Instagram as well, so if you’re starting out then have a look.
£150 – £250
This middle ground budget is a tricky one because there are so many machines on the market in this price bracket. The brands I have used in the past and trust are Bernina, Janome, Brother, and Singer. Going with a bigger brand means parts and maintenance is cheaper. This article by Bestspy is great for a thorough selection of models. There are many machines making this price point a bit intimidating. Make sure it has the list of fundamentals I listed above and check the reviews.
If you have a larger budget then that is great also! My current machine is a fabulous machine with lots of snazzy features and an electronic computer system. It’s the Janome DKS100 which retails for about 500-600 pounds. If that price is a bit on the higher side then I really recommend Janome machines overall. They are great for buying the spare parts as well as getting them serviced. Going for a computerized machine with more stitches and features will mean you can sew different fabrics with ease. I actually got my machine for 400 pounds because I traded it in for my old Bernina (actually regret doing this) so was able to bring the price down. In hindsight, I wish I had kept my Bernina also because it would have been great for embroidery and thicker fabrics. Even though it was old it was like a factory-style machine it sewed anything!
I talk about the right sewing patterns for beginners ALL THE TIME on social media, especially my Instagram & YouTube channel. It’s thanks to the team at Tilly and the Buttons that I got back into sewing in 2019. The Tilly Buttons patterns are a fabulous choice for beginners in my opinion. The patterns are perfect for beginners for the nonintimidating instructions, colour photos in the instructions, and easy to digest steps. I found them really easy to follow when I got back into sewing and for complete novices, they also have additional blog posts and videos to help.
For beginner projects, fabrics can be a bit daunting to choose from. When starting out it is good to practice on woven fabrics like cotton, linen, poly-cotton. Fabric types are one of those things you learn over time. One thing that has helped me with this is choosing my pattern first and then shopping for fabrics based on the pattern’s recommendations. Each pattern should have a list of recommended fabric types, so this is a good place to start. You will often see terms like woven and stretch and so I have summarised what these are below. Now with man-made techniques, there are more fabric types on the market which even a confident sewer can get confused by. Start with the basics and over time you will gain more experience in this.
Multiple yarns comprise a woven fabric, crossing each other at right angles to form the grain. Mainly natural fabrics like cotton, silk, and linen. Usually with no stretch on the grain and cross-grain but may stretch slightly on the bias (diagonal).
A knit fabric is made up of a single yarn, looped continuously to produce a braided look. Manmade fabrics like polyester and jersey. The confusing part is you can get natural fiber stretch fabrics like cotton jersey, this you will get familiar over time. Fabric will have a different percentage of a stretch; 5% is a low stretch and 20% is higher for example.
“Stretching is one of the tests to know whether a fabric is knit or woven. A knit fabric will stretch easily along its width, slightly less along its length, and it may also produce a run or lose its shape if stretched too much. A woven fabric will have barely any give along its width, and only slightly more give along its length.” article from Dutch Labels Shop.
Other Sewing Kit Essentials
Other things I would highly recommend having are:
- Goof fabric scissors
- a large meter ruler
- pins (2 packs is good)
- fabric clips if you prefer them to pins, great for accessible sewing or for kids
- tailor’s chalk or fabric pencils
- sewing needles
- sew-all polyester thread. I only tend to use cotton if the make is cotton and I am likely to dye the color.
- rotary cutter & cutting mat, if you prefer to cut fabric this way rather than scissors. You will also need fabric weights if doing it this way. For beginners, I recommend starting with scissors and pins first.
- machine cleaning kit – keep your machine clean to save any issues with maintenance down the line.
- selection of thread colours
- safety pins; great for turning through straps etc
- finishing touches like labels. I have my own range of these on Etsy, here.
- seam ripper/un-picker; this will become a very useful tool and don’t be embarrassed if you need to use it for mistakes. It how we learn and even the most skilled sewists have to use them.
To summarise, learning to sew may seem scary with all the factors involved. If you take your time, do your research, and know it’s a journey then that’s a great start. You don’t have to figure it all out straight away. The beauty of sewing is trusting the process and learning as you go. I hope you enjoyed this post. You can see more of my sewing makes here on my sewing tag. Also on social media at @paigejoannaa