Beginner's Sewing Lessons | Learn How to Sew with Easy Projects & Online Tutorials
Get Started With This Very Handy Hobby
If you haven't sewn before at all, or you are just beginning, then I hope this page will help you out. I've listed lots of basic information which you need to know to get started, as well as advice on buying a sewing machine, what tools you need, how to add zippers and much more besides.
Then there is a list of the best online sewing lessons on the web to guide beginners on everything from sewing hems to understanding the different stitches.
I have also listed some excellent tutorials for items which you can sew after you've learned the basics, then more challenging sewing how-tos after you have had some practice. The best way of learning to sew, after all, is to practice, practice, practice!
Basic Sewing Info
A Little Introduction
Sewing is a skill that I think everyone should have basic skills in, because it opens up a whole world of opportunity to you; from making home furnishings like pillows and curtains, to sewing your own clothes which are custom-made for your exact size and preferences. If you can't find something in a shop, you can make it!
If you are worried about budget, then you could learn to hand sew first, which only requires only a needle and thread. Hand-sewing is quite a lot slower than machine-sewing however, but is a good choice for fixing rips and tears or for small sewing jobs like sewing on name tags or buttons.
Nowadays you can actually find a basic sewing machine for a relatively low price ($80 is a good starting price). Basic machines allows you to sew with the most popular types of stitches - such as straight and zig-zag - and make sewing much quicker and easier, which would make a much wider variety of projects available for you to try.
At the other end of the price scale are heavy duty machines that can handle thicker materials and provide a huge array of stitches, tools and extras. You don't need to worry about these unless you become very experienced and perhaps want to sell your sewn goods.
Sergers (also called overlockers) are different to sewing machines and are used by professional or very keen sewers to give a professional finish to their products (especially on clothes). A serger cuts fabric at the same time as encasing the newly-cut edge in stitching ('overcasting') in order to finish it neatly and stop the material from fraying. You'll see this on the edges of sewn products you buy in shops. They are relatively expensive so I wouldn't worry about these if you are a beginner.
Seam allowance: When the edges of 2 pieces of fabric are sewn together they form a seam. The distance between the sewn line of stitches and the edge of the fabric pieces is the seam allowance. It's normally between 1/4" and 5/8".
- Interfacing: this is a material that is either sewn or ironed onto the back of a fabric is order to stiffen or add body to fabric, prevent stretchy fabrics from stretching out of shape, or add extra strength where required. Interfacing is used in many sewn products such as tote bags and shirt collars, and it is available in different weights and stiffnesses.
- Batting: this is a sheet of fibers which is usually sandwiched between two outer layers of fabric to add thickness and warmth - such as in a quilt. Batting is essential for quilting, and the 3 layers (fabric, batting, fabric) are sewn together all over (in parallel lines or more irregular patterns) to produce the traditional quilted effect. Batting can also be used in other products apart from quilts to give a padded effect.
Neither interfacing or batting is seen anywhere on the finished product - it's all hidden away.
Affordable Brother Sewing Machine
This machine is a great entry sewing machine at a good price; it lets you achieve the basic stitches that you need to complete most projects, and (judging by the excellent reviews) it is reliable too.
Sewing Machine Setup & Getting Started
- Tools to Get Started
The basic things required to start sewing.
- How to Buy a Sewing Machine
Help and advice to help you choose the best.
- How to Thread Your Machine
This will also be written in your machine manual.
- Sewing Machine Maintenance
How to clean out your sewing machine.
- Choosing the Needle
What needle sizes are used for each type of fabric.
- About Sergers/Overlockers
What they do and what options you can choose in a machine.
- Useful Sewing Terms
Very important words you will need to understand.
- Machine Stitches
Basic stitch categories, and tips on stitch width and length.
- Sew, Mama, Sew!
Great info on zippers, interfacing and other handy topics.
- Sewing Machine Feet
All about the choice of feet available.
- Ironing Board DIY
How to make a very useful ironing board to fit your desk.
- Practicing Sewing Stitches
Photos showing beginners exercises in using a sewing machine.
- Needles Reference Chart
A quick reference chart for sewing machine needle types.
Helpful Sewing Videos
Sewing Machine Feet
There are many sewing machine feet available and they can be quite intimidating, however most of the time you will only need to use one or two of these; usually the zig-zag foot and the straight stitch foot. If you move onto different kinds of techniques you will need other feet such as the 1/4" quilting foot for making quilts, the buttonhole foot for sewing on buttons, the zipper foot for sewing on zippers, a piping foot for adding a piped edge etc.
- Beginner's Guide
A video on using a sewing machine, plus the tools you'll need.
- Sewing 101 Hems
The most common types of hems are explained.
- Seam-Along Series
Fantastic tutorials to cover all types of seams.
- Free Sewing Book
Invaluable information about different aspects of sewing.
- 11 Sewing Lessons
Lots of good pointers to get you to the point of starting a sewing project.
- Sewing 101
Articles on sewing machine parts plus basic stitches.
- Tips for Beginners
Including easy projects from Burdastyle.
- Sewing Techniques List
A brilliant guide to sewing for beginners.
- How to Hand Sew
Very useful how-to with loads of photos.
- Hand Sewing Techniques
How-tos for getting started with hand sewing.
- Felled & Half French Seams
Shown via hand sewing, which makes it easier to understand.
- Perfect Baby Hem
How to create a super narrow hem without it curling.
Bicycle Lunch Bag
More Lessons & Tips - Plus a Variety of Great Beginner DIYs
- Sewing with Jersey 101
How to master the sewing of stretchy material.
- How to Serge Curves
If you're lucky enough to own a Serger, curves can be super quick.
- Adding Bias Binding to Curves
Get a crisp and neat finish without puckering.
- Sew an Easy Mitered Edge
Remove some fabric bulk to make smart corners on napkins.
- 7 Ways to Make a Ruffle
A quick summary of 7 pretty ruffle embellishments.
- How to Scibble in Thread
Photo tutorial for doodling onto fabric using a sewing machine.
- Drawing with Fabric & Thread
A method which makes pretty album and diary covers.
- Make a Scarf Out of Almost Any Fabric
Learn the rolled hem technique so you can turn fabric into a scarf.
- DIY Sleep Mask
This is a fab free pattern for a beginner.
- Pyramid Bookends
Fill with stuffing and rice to add weight.
Easy Project Tutorials
- 1 Hour Apron
Quick apron with a cute bow.
Using 3 different fabrics.
- 20-Minute Tote Bag
Simple tote bag with shoulder straps.
- Handmade Napkins
With bias binding edging.
- Sewing Machine Cover
10 different options to choose from.
- Sewing 101 Series
Lots of sewing tutorials to cover the basics.
- Cute Softies
Adorable felt toys with free patterns.
- Wool Felt Potholders
In lovely Autumn leaf shapes and colors.
- Cut-Out Beret
Felt beret with a pretty cut-out motif.
- Rabbit Softie
Easy plushie toy made by recycling an old t-shirt.
- DIY Fabric Screen
Made up of many circles of felt.
- Circular Earbud Pouch
Cute little zippered pouch to keep your earphones in.
- Reversible Cowl Scarf
Really easy, and I love the check fleece used in this one.
How to Sew an Envelope Pillowcase
This is the easiest style of pillow you can make, and is often a beginner's first project. Enjoy!
What You Will Need:
* A square pillow form; I will use a 18" square pillow form in this tutorial as the example.
* Fabric; For beginners I would recommend a plain cotton fabric which is medium weight - nothing too thick.
The size of fabric you require will be: (width of pillow form) x ((2 x width of pillow form) + 4"). So if you're using an 18" square pillow form, the piece of fabric will need to be 18" x 40". Simple!
* Sewing machine loaded with a thread that matches your fabric.
* Iron & ironing board
* Rotary cutter and cutting mat
* Sewing pins
Be sure to pre-wash your fabric before you start so it doesn't shrink at a later stage
- I'll assume you have cut out the size of fabric you require (see above if not), so the first step is to hem the short sides (labelled 1 and 2 on the diagram).
To do this, fold 1/4" of each of the edges over onto the wrong (reverse) side of the fabric. Iron the folds in place. Then fold each edge over by 1/4" again, and iron the fold. This will mean that the raw edge will be enclosed by the hem, making it neat and tidy and stopping it from fraying.
- Pin the folds in place and sew a straight stitch along each edge to secure the hems.
- Now lay the fabric flat on a table, right side up with one of the long edges nearest you.
- Fold the hemmed edges inwards so that one overlaps the other. Adjust how these sides are folded over until the fabric measures 18" across in total. The overlapping edge should lie further towards one side than the other, rather than being central, and the sides should overlap by approx. 3". As a guide, one side of the fabric should be around 11" wide and the other around 7" wide as you view it. It doesn't need to be exact.
- At this point you should have an 18" square shape. Pin the open edges in place.
- Sew along the pinned sides with a straight stitch and 1/2" seam allowance. You may notice that this will mean that the 16" pillow form will need to fit into a 15" gap; this is correct, and the snug fit will produce a better looking pillow :)
- Turn it the right side out now and insert the pillow form.
More Sewing Tutorials
Bias Tape Maker
Bias tape is used quite often in sewing, as either a way of finishing an edge or seam neatly, or as embellishment. If you find you make your own bias tape quite often, a machine will really help you to make the job quicker and more efficient:
You Will Be Addicted....
More Challenging Sewing How-Tos
- 1 Hour Bag
A lovely shoulder bag with a strap.
- Felt Circle Pillow
A pretty ruffle pillow with a zip.
- Turtle Pincushion
Adorable pincushion design with storage space.
- Sewing Caddy
Very useful project , complete with a detachable pincushion.
- Bird Mobile
Free pattern for a 3D bird softie, which you can then repeat to create a flock!
- Retro Curtains
With sweet little gingham ties.
- Sew 4 Home
Home décor sewing projects of varying difficulty.
- Fabric Basket
Useful basket with patchwork sides.
- Garbo Hat
Cool style of a hat, which is also lined.
- Handle Grip
A useul little thing to make carrying heavy bags more comfy.
- Ironing Board Cover
With a drawstring tie around the edge.
- Waldorf Doll
One for an adventurous sewer!
- Professional Lined Curtains
How to make some lined curtain panels with an expert finish.
- Patchwork Cube
A straighforward project which would be great for practising your basic sewing.
Zipper Tutorials, Buttonholes and Other Useful Tips
Sewing closures consist of zippers, buttons and fasteners.
- Zippers can be plastic or metal and can be found in a range of colours and lengths. Zippers come in a range of styles including invisible (where only the tag is showing), jean zippers (usually brass and are more heavy duty), and separating zippers for things like jackets where the zipper halves separate completely. All-purpose zippers are used for most sewing projects.
- Fasteners are often hidden within the sewn item and examples include Velcro, magnetic snaps, toggles, hook and eyes, and press studs. There is a variety of these notions to choose from depending on what you want them to do and how strong they have to be.
- Buttons obviously are attached to one piece of fabric and a buttonhole is sewn into the other piece of fabric which needs to be connected. Buttons are on show, so different decorative styles are available. Buttons can be pretty much any material, and can even be covered in the same fabric as the sewn item to produce a professional finish.
- Normal Zipper
As demonstrated in this zippered purse tutorial.
- Invisible Zipper
Useful for all kinds of projects.
- Sewing Buttonholes
Using a specific sewing machine foot.
- All About Snaps
And how to attach them to fabric.
- Sewing Stretch Fabric
How to deal with sewing stretchy material.
- Leather Sewing Tips
What you need to cut this tough material.
- How to Applique
A very detailed tutorial.
- Reverse Applique
A more unusual applique style but it looks really good.
- Free-motion Sewing
Used for quilting or decoration, free-motion sewing can also use a cheap machine.
- Sewing Tips 'n' Tricks
Including different machine feet, measuring tips and zippers.
- Troubleshooting Interfacing
All about interfacing and solving any problems you may have with it.
- Make Bias Tape
With this ingenious no-waste technique.
- Attach Bias Tape
With neat mitered corners for a professional finish.
- Sewing Straight
By following the edge of a strip of painter's tape.
- Patchwork How-To
How to sew together a crazy quilt block.
- Sewing Scallops
How to sew perfect curved scallops.
- Sewing With Jersey 101
How to sew knit fabrics without a serger.
- Scissor Saving Tags
Label your scissors so you use your fabric scissors only for cutting fabric.
- Tips for Topstitching
Decorative stitching advice and how to solve tension problems.
- Dart Transfer Tip
Lesson in how to make the creation of darts a lot easier.
Handmade Bias Binding
Measure Twice, Cut Once!