So…you want to sew?
You’re needing a creative outlet and are inspired by those who wield their fingers with needle and thread and stitch up lovelies on their machines.
And you want in on the fun! But you’re intimidated. It’s like driving a stick shift for the very first time, right?
What type of sewing are you interested in?
Garment making, quilting, practical bags and totes, or curtains, drapes, and home décor? Or you want to start out really small with a cute craft?
Let’s banish your fears. We’ll focus on five categories: garments, quilting, bags/totes, and curtains/drapes/home decor, and small crafts that require hand stitching only.
I’ll provide the resources so you can see what is involved in each category. Mull over the options and decide what direction you’ll take. Then we’ll cover the materials and supplies, and how to go about learning the ropes of your new-found hobby.
There is a LOT of information here, so hold on to your seats! Relax and read while sipping your favorite beverage.
Affiliate/Sponsorship Disclosure - A few of the links (Hobby Lobby & Singer Featherweight) in this post are affiliate links, which means if you purchase from them, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission.
Five Sewing Categories
1. Garment Making
Clothing can be difficult because of fitting issues. But it can also be easy for the beginner seamstress. If you’ve ever had home economics classes in high school, then you’re familiar with the items you were required to master – aprons and elastic waist skirts come to mind. Depending on the garment and because of their size and body shape, sewing for babies and children can be easy, compared to sewing for the developed bodies of teenage girls and women that require more precise fitting skills.
For the budding seamstress who wants to make clothes for themselves, check out these resources.
Tina Givens designs unique and whimsical clothing, and I believe, perfect for beginners as her garments are loose-fitting and layered with other pieces. The patterns are extremely simple. “Tina's approach to style is raw, layered, and deconstructed. With a subtle nod to historic generations, garments are modern, emotional, and poetic.” (quote from her website tinagivens.com).
Her patterns are also sold in individual shops on Etsy.com.
https://www.etsy.com/ Type in the search bar: tina givens sewing patterns
Bootstrap Fashion - provides made-to-measure sewing patterns from your own body measurements. After inputting your measurements, you’ll receive a digital file for printing out your patterns at home or at your local print shop.
Simplicity sewing patterns
Vogue, Butterick, McCalls
https://www.etsy.com/ Type in the search bar: easy sewing patterns or beginner sewing patterns
The Sewing Place
Girl Charlie (knit fabrics and patterns)
Sewing with knit fabrics can be tricky and may not be the first choice for the beginner sewer, but you can make it unintimidating with good instructions, both text, and video. At the end of this article are video link tutorials for beginner sewers and for sewing with knits.
2. Quilting – American Patchwork and English Paper Piecing
Quilting uses straight stitching on the machine (or by hand), which is easy, but is also a laborious and time-consuming craft. Two kinds of quilting you can check out are all-American style patchwork and English Paper Piecing. Both have different processes but are similar. English Paper Piecing is mostly hand-stitching. Both are beautiful! If you’re wanting to start out with hand sewing, English Paper Piecing would be ideal. Instead of providing quilting video links at the end, I’ve included them in this section.
American Patchwork Quilting
Patchwork quilting in America dates to the 1770s, the decade the United States gained its independence from England. These late-eighteenth- and nineteenth-century patchwork quilts often mixed wool, silk, linen, and cotton in the same piece, as well as mixing large-scale (often chintz) and small-scale (often calico) patterns. (Wikipedia)
Lori Holt/Quilt Supplies
Hobby Lobby (quilting cottons & sewing supplies)
All People Quilt – Quilt Patterns, How to Quilt, Tips & More
Your First Quilt –Beginner Tutorial – Part 1
Your First Quilt – Basting – Part 2
Your First Quilt – Part 3 Quilting
Your First Quilt – Part 4 Trim and Make Binding
Your First Quilt – Part 5 Attach Binding
Your First Quilt – Part 6 How to Wash and Label Your Quilt
Joann Fabrics online or in-store – Quilting Fabric
English Paper Piecing
English paper piecing is a method of patchwork where fabric is wrapped around fabric shapes made of thin paper, cardboard or heavy paper. Once the shapes are wrapped and ready, the sewer will hand sew the shapes together one at a time until the shapes become an intricate design. The paper or cardboard is removed once the shape has been sewn to another shape on all sides. This is an art for those who like to sew by hand.
The practice's name comes from the fact that it originated in England. Once a shape, block, rosette, or finished piece has been made, the papers are removed, leaving the fabric as the remaining item. (Wikipedia)
The graphic "the hexie project" comes from a lovely website called AnnWoodHandmade. She has delightful patterns to purchase and for free. I have made her tiny dolls and clothing. Check her out for this English Paper Piecing project or for other hand stitching projects!
English Paper Piecing Tutorial for Beginners
English Paper Piecing Basics - Use Your Scraps
How to English Paper Piece by Jen Kingwell – Fat Quarter Shop
What is English Paper Piecing? Quilting Tutorial with Helen Stubbings
Paper or Hexiform for English Paper Piecing? Top Tips for Using Both!
The Singer Featherweight Shop has English Paper Piecing supplies.
3. Bags and Totes
There are easy bags and totes and there are more difficult ones. But bag sewing can be a good place for beginner sewers. You can find books at your local fabric store on this subject or online, or you can find patterns online at the same websites listed above for garment sewing.
Simplicity – check the “craft” category
Vogue, Butterick, McCalls
Apple Green Cottage
She specializes in bags and totes.
The Sewing Place (garments and bags, etc.)
My Handmade Space
This site has loads of bag patterns that are not geared toward beginners but it may pique your interest. They also have fabric, bag hardware, and zippers.
Etsy has shops that offer sewing patterns for bags and totes. A lot of patterns are digital which means you will print them out at home or at your local print shop. You should be able to find a lot of easy-to-make bags and totes. Go to https://www.etsy.com/ and type in the search bar: easy bag sewing patterns.
For books on bag making with patterns, do a search for “bag sewing pattern book.”
4. Curtains, Drapes, and Home Décor
Sewing curtains and drapes and home décor can be very easy but also difficult for the beginning sewer. My recommendation for starting out is sewing simple café curtains and simple pillows. The home décor category covers more than just windows. Easy items would also be tablecloths and napkins.
After your skills improve, you can move on to sewing drapes and fancy window décor, adding fringe and such things to pillows, and stitching up stuffed animals and dolls. You can find patterns and instructions on these websites.
Simplicity sewing patterns – check the “home decorating” category
Vogue, Butterick, McCalls
Your local Joann Fabric store or online website:
5. Small Crafts
If using a sewing machine is daunting, try your hand at hand sewing! Even when using a sewing machine for your project, hand sewing is sometimes needed as well.
Before you attempt a small craft project, check out this link for A Beginner's Guide to Hand Sewing Stitches. After famiiliarizing yourself with the basics of hand stitching, check out the following links for small and simple crafts. If you need more help with hand stitching how-tos, do a search on Pinterest or Youtube.
Check out this website on how to do hand stitching.
Here are four of my blog posts on making easy crafts.
(a) Make a cute pink mouse pincushion or toy for a small child.
Click HERE for my blog post to make three blind mice! All hand-stitched.
Or make a black one!
(b) Make a simple little teddy bear - so cute!
Click HERE for my blog post to make this by machine or all by hand stitching.
(c) Make a Unique Accordian Book to give as a gift!
Click HERE for my blog post on how to make it. Can be done by machine or by hand stitching.
(d) Make a "I love you" card! A similar project like the accordian book but just one "page" and you can use all hand stitching if that suits you.
Click HERE for my blog post to make this beautiful card.
Machines and Supplies
1. Sewing Machines
If you don’t already own one, I recommend purchasing a machine in the $100 to $300 range. That is the low end for beginner sewers. Sounds like a lot of money, but you need a decent machine. If you are doubtful as to how far you will go in your new hobby, find a friend who can loan you theirs. See how comfortable you get using their machine.
As a beginner sewer, you don’t need all the fancy bells and whistles or the high-priced computerized sewing machines. I also do not recommend purchasing a child’s sewing machine. They are cheaply made and will not last. Check these places below to buy new and used machines. When purchasing online for a used machine, it’s best to purchase local. That way you can check out the machine first-hand to make sure it’s in good working condition. Bring a knowledgeable person with you who can give you a “thumbs-up” or “let’s find another one.”
Always, always, always check out reviews on the particular brand and model you want to purchase.
If you are a lover of vintage and want a fabulous machine, check out the Singer Featherweights! They’re worth their “weight” in gold, in my opinion!
The Singer Featherweight Shop
Because I’m a fan of Singer Featherweights and have my own 1948 221 Singer Featherweight machine, I highly recommend them! They are small and portable but are very well built to last a lifetime and more. These are straight-stitch machines only (unless you have a zigzag attachment). “If” you can find a used one locally at a great price, then do so. Make sure it works properly. People are finding them at yard sales and antique shops. I found mine locally online and tried it out before purchasing it for $250!
If you want one of these vintage machines that have been serviced, fully calibrated, cleaned, and fine-tuned, I recommend purchasing one from the Featherweight Shop. This is one place where you can trust ordering one online and shipped to you without trying them out. They will not be cheap. Not at all, but they are wonderful to sew on! Shipping is free and the machines are thoroughly and carefully packed and guaranteed to arrive safely.
This is my Featherweight. Her name is Emma Thea Rose!
CraigsList – for used sewing machines
Facebook Marketplace – log in to your account and check out the Marketplace section.
Joann Fabrics online or in-store (for new sewing machines)
You can purchase a sewing box filled with the necessary tools needed for first-time sewers online or at your local fabric store. Here are the basic tools you need:
Small scissors for clipping thread
Spools of thread in different colors
Small six-inch ruler
Sewing needles of varying sizes
Extra bobbins for your machine
Pins for pinning fabric together
Marking pencils for fabric (tailor’s chalk)
Iron and ironing board
For vintage sewing supplies, notions, quilting pattern books, and more! It's my go-to store for whatever my Featherweight machine needs! And they have great customer service.
More Workshops and Video Sewing Classes
There are lots of videos online for teaching you how to sew a myriad of items and tips on stitching zippers, sewing French seams - you name it. Once you check out the YouTube video links, you’ll automatically see more on other aspects of sewing.
Apple Green Cottage
Apple Green Cottage is a great place for beginners to find tutorials such as useful sewing tools, quilt-as-you-go for beginners, and much more! I would check this link out first.
A Beginner’s Guide to SEWING! How to use a sewing machine.
Beginner’s Sewing Course – Day 1 – The Basics
Learn How to Sew, Easy Sewing Class for Beginners!
Sewing 101 – Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
How to Sew Knit Fabrics on Any Machine: A Beginner’s Guide
How to sew KNITS on a REGULAR sewing machine? Here are simple STEPS and TIPS that I use!
Joann has a lot of video classes that you can start watching as a free trial.
Guthrie & Ghani
If you are located in the United Kingdom, the Guthrie & Ghani fabric shop in Birmingham, England would be a great place to purchase fabric, notions, and patterns, and take in-house sewing workshops. The owner of this fabulous shop participated in The Great British Sewing Bee a number of years ago.
Have you come to a decision yet? Sewing is fun but can be challenging for the beginner. Take your time. Relax. Enjoy the experience exercising your brain and hands in your new hobby. You never know where it may take you!
Tiny rag doll pattern and clothing by AnnWoodHandmade.com