Starting to Sew

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April 28, 2018 By Maria Greer

Before you can start sewing anything, you will have to decide what your first project is going to be. Any sewing project involves the same basic idea, you’re going to join two pieces of fabric together to make something. Clothing, home accessories or even a coat for your pet, any project that involves fabric by its very nature will require some degree of sewing.

If you are someone who has decided to start sewing, that first project could well be because you have discovered a large hole in a favorite garment, want to make a special quilt for a first grandchild or are fed up with the high cost of buying clothing for your kids.

By the way, now is a great time to get your kids matter their age.  I put together an entire guide to sewing machines for kids and teaching them to sew.

Sewing has long been the favored method for the budget conscious to repair damaged garments and avoid the expense of having to buy clothing or home accessories.

Your First Project

  1. Decide exactly what you want to sew. That sounds easy, but some sewing projects can stop a first-time sewer from ever using a sewing machine again because of unexpected difficulties that come up, making it hard for them to get the result they expected. Examples of common first projects that are more challenging than a beginner realizes are patching jeans with premade patches or replacing a zipper. In other words, any project that involves trying to sew somewhere that is not as easy to access using a sewing machine as you might expect.
  2. Choose the fabric you’re going to use. Whether you’re wanting to sew to do mending, make yourself a sun dress, or create a pillow for the corner of the couch, it is important to understand what fabric works best before you put scissors to fabric and start cutting.
  3. Prepare the fabric for use. Brand new fabric from the store will need to be prewashed unless you can say with absolute certainty that what you are making will never, ever, need to be washed. The one exception to this will be if you are buying pre-made patches for knees or elbows.
  4. Put the pattern you are using on the fabric. This step can be as easy as drawing a square on your chosen fabric (in this case the square is your pattern) or as complex as pinning multiple tissue pattern pieces to the fabric. More details about transferring your project to fabric are found in Working With Patterns.
  5. Cut the project out. Unless you’re working with pre made patches mentioned above or pre cut quilt squares, you will have to put scissors to cloth at some stage in your project. Helpful hints can be found in the section Cutting Out Your Project.
  6. Sew the seams. In most cases, you’re going to be using your sewing machine for this part, but there are some things (back to patches again) that it may be easier to do by hand. Tips and tricks for sewing seams using your sewing machine are covered in Sewing Seams.
  7. Finishing touches. For many sewing projects, the finishing touch is simply running an iron over it to press out any wrinkles caused by the sewing process. Buttons and other decorative touches that need to be added by hand would be part of this step as well.

Gather Your Supplies

Sewing Supplies


No matter what type of project you’ve decided to start with, any sewing that you do will require at least a few essential items to make your first adventure with sewing into a pleasant experience. One that you’re eager to repeat!

As keeps getting mentioned, sewing involves that you have at least a needle and thread. Pins are next on the list of must-have sewing supplies followed closely by scissors. Unless you’re determined to get the full sewing experience and do your project by hand from start to finish, a sewing machine is also recommended.

Two more essential tools for sewing that often are overlooked in a rush to start putting things together (and trying them on — if you’re making clothing for yourself) are an iron and ironing board.

Fabric and a pattern round out the list of basics that no one who is learning to sew wants to be without.

Now that you’ve got an idea about what you’re going to need to start sewing let’s break these items down and see the reasons that no sewing room is complete without having them on hand. More details about each item can be found in the section on Sewing Supplies

  • Needles: These sharp pieces of metal with a small hole in one end are indispensable for sewing projects. You don’t have to be planning to sew by hand to need a needle, without one your sewing machine would be nothing more than a large and awkward doorstop. If you’re going to be doing any hand sewing, you will also need a thimble to protect your finger.
  • Pins: These sharp pieces of metal do a great job of holding together the two pieces of fabric that you are planning on running through your sewing machine. Experienced sewers will often tell you that they ‘never’ use pins when sewing but if you keep asking, they will likely admit that their skill at using their sewing machine without pins didn’t happen overnight.
  • Thread: Modern day thread bears little resemblance to the heavy (and sometimes quite bulky) fibers initially used to join skins together. Manufacturers have created thread in a wide variety of weights and a stunning array of colors. Details about choosing the right thread for your project are found in the Sewing Supplies section under Thread.
  • Scissors: There are enough different types of scissors available that they deserve a section of their own in the Sewing Supplies section. For beginning sewers, two pairs of scissors are sufficient. A large pair for cutting fabric (never let someone use your fabric scissors for cutting paper!) and a smaller pair of snips for cutting thread.
  • Notions: Notions are anything small that is associated with a sewing project that is intended to enhance the basic project. Needles, pins, thread, and scissors are all considered notions, but a few minutes spent in the notions section of the fabric store you’re visiting, and you will be dazzled by the wide range of time-saving tools available. Not to mention the fabulous things like appliques or buttons you can add to a project to turn plain into stunning.
  • Pattern: A pattern can be as simple as a shape drawn on cloth that you follow to cut things in a straight line. It is recommended that beginners use some form of pattern for at least a little while until they are confident in their cutting skills.
  • Fabric: Without fabric, a sewing project is harder to complete. Creative designers have made garments from other items (like Lady Gaga’s dress of meat), but for a beginner, fabric is a good starting point. See the section on Choosing the Fabric for helpful hints and guidelines on which fabrics are likely to work the best for specific projects.
  • Iron: An iron has fallen from favor in households where speed is the order of the day, but a good steam iron is indispensable for giving a crisp professional finish to newly sewn seams.
  • Ironing Board: Like the iron, an ironing board has gone the way of the dodo in many households. You can substitute any flat surface for early sewing projects if it is well padded to keep the heat of the iron from damaging the surface. Different styles of ironing boards and accessories are available for serious sewers, but for beginners, a regular adjustable board is more than suitable.


Maria Greer loves to sew. She created to provide sewing tips, review the latest products, and most importantly built a community to express her love of sewing. You can email her at

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Maria Greer