Are you a sewing newbie and not sure where to start? Welcome, you’ve come to the right place! I was a sewing newbie a few short years ago and had no idea what I was doing. Don’t fret though: it’s pretty simple and we’ll have you stitching up a storm in no time! My next few posts is a short series just for you, sewing newbie! Today we’ll talk about preparation, then we’ll look at Essential Sewing Tools and Tools That Are Nice To Have, paper patterns and how to read them, reference books and courses I found useful, sewing terms and what they really mean, and finally we’ll sew a quick and easy project that will give you enough confidence to spring into some more projects pronto! Let’s get into it, hey?
1. Prepare your fabric
Let’s be honest—setting up that new toy machine is pretty exciting. And sure, you can totally get started straight away but it’s a good idea to prepare first. The most important preparation you can do is to launder your fabric. Why?
- Natural fabrics shrink—yup, by about 10-15 per cent, although some will shrink less and others more. We don’t want your heart to break when your project shrinks beyond repair after its first wash.
- Dyes can run, bleed and stain—sad but true. It’s best to know before you’ve committed your whole weekend to sewing a garment that you’re only going to be able to wear once, don’t you think?
- Unwashed fabrics, particularly those made from natural fibres, have a substance called ‘sizing’ on their yarns. Sizing helps the weaving process by making the yarns smoother so they run through the looms more easily. Removing sizing is a good idea because it’s just nicer to work with washed fabric.
Always launder your fabric the same way as you will launder the finished project. For example, if you’re making a casual dress you intend to wash in hot water and dry in a clothes dryer, then wash and dry your fabric the same way. By doing that your fabric will have done all its shrinking before you’ve sewn your dress, not after. Also, before you throw that yardage into your washing machine, it's a good idea to run a zig-zag stitch over the raw edge to prevent fraying.
Above: I use an overlocker, but it's just as easy to cast a zig-zag stitch over the raw edge.
After you’ve washed and dried your fabric you need to iron it. It’s a funny thing: I despise ironing in general but I love ironing fabric yardage! Weird, I know. It’s a good thing to learn to love your iron because you’re going to use it a lot when sewing. Always iron your fabric before you cut out your fabric pieces otherwise they will be inaccurate and off-grain (note: I will be explaining what ‘grain’ is in another post). We need those pieces to be on-grain and accurate because we use the fabric edge as our seam guide. If the edge is wonky our seams will be wonky too.
2. Prepare your tools and equipment
My closest fabric shop is about 40 minutes away and I hate starting a project and realising I’m missing an essential item, so I look after my sanity by preparing properly. It makes my life easier, and I guarantee it will make yours easier too!
I didn’t have many tools at first, so I just added them as I needed them. We will be covering essential tools in my next post so I won’t cover it here. So, if you already have a pattern and fabric ready to go, then make sure you’ve got the necessary notions and tools too. For example, you’ll need to have your shears or rotary cutter and mat, a few needles appropriate for the fabric you’re going to sew, plenty of thread and at least one bobbin filled with your thread. If I’m working on a large project I like to have two bobbins filled with my thread because I really hate getting on a roll and running out of bobbin thread mid-seam and having to stop to fill another one. Gah!
Make sure you read what notions you’ll need too. Notions are the extra, yet essential, bits and pieces and include zippers, buttons, elastic, hook and eye etc. Each pattern includes the required notions somewhere on the packaging.
Ok, have you got everything? Great—let’s move on!
Above: I am forever misplacing my shears between projects (so annoying). So now I make sure I have them on hand before I start a project.
3. Prepare your space
Making recommendations on how to set up your sewing area isn’t easy because it’s dependent on the space you have available. I don’t have a sewing room so I mostly use our dining room table (I have a very patient husband!). Sewing spaces are very personal, but these are the things I particular consider before starting a project.
- Make sure there’s no food or drink or anything else that can accidentally spill on your project. We want to have happy tears because your project is awesome, not sad ones because it got ruined by a glass of red.
- Give yourself enough room to lay out yardage to cut out pattern pieces, as well as around your machine to manipulate fabric and to pin pieces together. Sewing is much more fun if you’re not squished into an area the size of a postage stamp.
- Set up your iron and ironing board close to where you’re sewing. You’re going to be using that sucker a lot when sewing so don’t make it too far away.
- Try to set up your machine height and chair height so it’s ergonomically correct. I’m guilty of not doing this and every time I don’t I end up with a sore back and feel sorry for myself. We want your sewing to be enjoyable not debilitating.
- Use the best light possible. I like to sew near a window if I can. It helps me see my stitches and mistakes. Unpicking stitches in good light is essential, especially if your thread is very closely colour-matched to your fabric. We want happy tears, not sad ones—remember 😉
- Have two pincushions. I have one near where I pin pieces together, and the other next to my machine. As I stitch and remove pins I put them in my nearby pincushion and when one pincushion is empty I swap them over—easy!
And that’s pretty much it for this post! Next up we’ll be exploring sewing tools. Until then, happy stitching!
Do you have any preparation tips, or general sewing tips? Leave a comment below so we can all learn!