10 Simple Steps to Start Sewing

So you think you want to give this “sewing” thing a try? Let me let you in on a little secret. It’s not nearly as hard as you think it is. Still, there are things you’ll want to know before you go diving in headfirst. Whether you’re dreaming of starting your own handmade business or just thinking of picking up a hobby, check out these ten steps for getting started in sewing!

1. Decide what kind of sewing interests you

What are you most interested in making? Do you want to design clothes for your kids, or beautiful handmade quilts? Is it all about bridal fashion, or are you interested in the sculptural techniques of dollmaking? Different types of sewing use drastically different techniques, and rather than trying to learn everything at once, it’s best to pick a small area to start with. You can always branch out once you’re feeling a bit more confident.

2. Look for classes and mentors

In today’s information age, finding classes and guides is as easy as a quick internet search. In fact, there are lots of websites that offer online tutorials and classes that are perfect for beginners. You can easily rewind and watch again at your own pace, and don’t have to worry about trying to fit an in-person class into your schedule. Of course, in-person classes have their benefits, too. Often, you can find classes where the equipment is provided, so if you’re not sure yet that sewing is for you, you can try out a few projects without having to invest in pricey sewing equipment of your own.

3. Pick a project

When you’re choosing a first sewing project, try to keep it simple. There’s nothing more frustrating than biting off more than you can chew and struggling through it only to have the finished project come out a bit wonky. There’s plenty of time to hone your skills with tricky bits like zips and set-in sleeves later. Start small and simple. If you’re dreaming of gorgeous handmade quilts, start with a pieced fabric placemat. For aspiring fashion designers, start with a basic circle skirt, or drawstring pyjama pants.

4. Gather your materials

Every sewist needs some basic supplies, though you may need to experiment to find what works best for you. A pair of sharp fabric scissors is an absolute must. Only use them on fabric! Cutting other materials will quickly dull them, and there’s nothing worse than hacking your way through pricey fabric with dull scissors. For most sewists, a sewing machine is also a basic requirement, though you can always start with sewing by hand. Look for a machine that’s not too complex, and preferably one you can try out before you purchase.

5. Learn basic techniques and terms

You’ll need to know some basic sewing jargon and techniques before getting started. For example, what’s a seam allowance and what size allowance does my pattern use? What measurements does this pattern call for, and how do I take them? What’s the best way to use a seam ripper? Of course, you’ll always find you have more questions as you go, but it’s very helpful to find a beginners’ sew-along course, online or locally, so you can get a basic understanding and get those questions answered.

6. Share with friends

The trials, tribulations, and triumphs are best when shared with others. If you live in an area with a community of fellow sewists, look for a group you can meet with to swap patterns, tips, and ideas. If you’re more of an introvert, look to online sewing communities. When a pattern goes awry or you need some tips on how to maintain your sewing machine, it’s great to have resources like these to fall back on.

7. Learn from your favorites

Once you start sewing, you’ll start to see inspiration everywhere. Look at how your favorite clothes are designed, or what color combinations are in style this season. Flip through magazines and blogs to see what kinds of projects are out there, and how they use material. Even films and television can be great sources of inspiration. Keep a notebook handy to write down ideas or sketch out drawings. Whether you’re designing drapes for the living room or a high-fashion bridal gown, who knows when inspiration will strike?

8. Practise, practise, practise!

Getting good at sewing means you’re going to need to sew. A lot. Some things are going to turn out better than others, but you can up chalk every project, successful or not, as a learning experience. Try to identify where your trouble spots are. If you can’t get princess seams to turn out right, for example, or your hems always come out crooked, those are areas you can focus on and work to improve. Try making the same project several times. You’ll get a big confidence boost from seeing how much it improves!

9. Work on one project at a time

It’s easy to get muddled, especially if you’ve got lots of works in progress at once and not a lot of space to keep things separate. Spare yourself hassle and headache by limiting yourself to just one project at a time. Of course, if you discover a project is too challenging, it’s a good idea to set it aside to revisit later, but if you can avoid trying to construct multiple different pieces at once, you’ll find your sewing tasks to be much simpler.

10. Challenge yourself

Once you’ve gotten the basics under your belt, it’s time to branch out. Try a different discipline and see how it relates to what you already know. Tackle a more complex project, or design something entirely new! The great thing about sewing as a hobby is that there are basically no limits. From fun and funky mending to classic housewarming gifts to haute couture fashion, knowing your way around a needle and thread can take you almost anywhere.

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