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Sewing: Where to begin?

So you want to sew, but you've never used a sewing machine and don't know where to start? It can be difficult to learn without someone in person to teach you, but here's some tools that will help.

Learn your machine

Start with checking out this page (at least the first 13 steps about the parts of your machine) to familiarize yourself with the different parts of the machine. They will be located differently depending on the brand and model, but they all typically have about the same parts. Bookmark that page - it has a lot of info you may want to come back to.

I'm going to assume you have a sewing machine at this point. If not, start with buying one. If you are starting with a brand new machine, that probably means you have the manual, which is great! This will help you a lot. If you don't have the manual to your machine, try to find the brand and model number of your machine (the brand will probably be clearly labeled on the front of the machine, but the model number may be hidden on the bottom of the machine, on the back, or even possibly somewhere inside the casing.) Once you have found that, search Google for "(your sewing machine brand and model) manual" and see if you can find a (hopefully free) PDF of the manual.

If you are still coming up empty on finding a manual, try searching Youtube for "how to thread (your sewing machine brand and model)" and "how to wind a bobbin with (your sewing machine brand and model)."

Still coming up empty? Try asking any local friends if they could come look at it. While every sewing machine is a little different, someone who is familiar with them may be able to figure out how to thread it even without the manual. Or ask in a general sewing group on Facebook.

The most important skills you need to learn initially are:

  • How to thread a bobbin (the small spool of thread that runs along the bottom of your fabric)
  • How to thread the top of the machine
  • How to insert the bobbin and bring the bobbin thread up
  • How to adjust the stitch type and stitch length
  • How to "reverse" and sew backstitches
Once you can do these steps, you are in the clear.

Basic sewing guidelines

Most of your sewing can be done with a straight stitch and a medium stitch length. Any time you start sewing, start with a long tail from both your bobbin thread and your needle thread. Gently press the foot pedal to stitch a couple stitches, and then reverse and stitch a few stitches backwards. Then sew normally until you get to the end of your line, and again, do a couple "reverse" stitches. This "locks" the end of your stitching, like a knot would do, and keeps it from unraveling.

To join two pieces of fabric:

  1. Put them right-sides-together.
  2. Line the edges up.
  3. Starting at one end, with the needle lined up about 1/2" from the edge, sew a few stitches.
  4. Reverse a few stitches.
  5. Sew along the edge, staying an even 1/2" away from the edge, until you get to the other end.
  6. Reverse a few stitches.
  7. With the needle up, raise the presser foot and pull the fabric clear.
  8. Snip both your top and bottom threads.
To sew a basic double folded hem:
  1. Fold and iron about 3/8" of the edge of your fabric over.
  2. Fold that edge over once again about 1/2" so the raw edge is completely encased. Iron again.
  3. Pin it in place every 8" or so (approximately)
  4. Starting at one end, line the needle up just inside the inside fold (so about 3/8" away from the outside edge.)
  5. Sew a few straight stitches.
  6. Reverse a few stitches.
  7. Sew down the entire edge, making sure to stay along the inside edge of the fold (the goal is for your stitches to permanently keep the fold pinned down.)
  8. As you sew, remove your pins as you get close to them. Do not sew over your pins.
  9. Once you get to the end, reverse a few stitches.
  10. With the needle up, raise the presser foot and pull the fabric clear.
  11. Snip both your top and bottom threads.

-- Alyssa Leonard - 2017-04-08

Topic revision: r1 - 2017-04-08 - AlyssaLeonard
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