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Sewing For Beginners: 4 Tips On Where To Start

Sewing For Beginners: 4 Tips On Where To Start

I have a confession to make. In junior high, the semester we learned sewing, I got a D in Home Ec.
I spent all of my adolescence thinking that I could not sew.
It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I even thought about touching a sewing machine again.
Even after my grandmother generously gave me a machine for my birthday one year, it spent most of its days gathering dust under my desk.
I am a self-confessed perfectionist, and due to early failures and lack of knowledge, I had a lot of apprehension about even attempting a project.

It wasn’t until I got pregnant that I got really serious about sewing. Something about being broke and needing to nest necessitated me pulling out that machine and figuring out how to make what I was envisioning in my head. I learned a lot in those first few months of sewing! Eight years later and I would say I am a confident sewer, not advanced by any means, but able to carry out most things I desire to make. I still cry sometimes, and my most often used tool is still my seam ripper, but I get the job done.

I often hear people saying that they could never sew anything, sewing for beginners is seriously scary! I think, like me, these are people who were burned by previous experiences. In this series, we would like to share information to take the mystery out of the process, our favorite sewing books, and even some awesome tutorials! Anyone can do this craft, it is not as hard as we all think!

Here are my 4 tips for getting started if you are a beginning sewer:

Tip #1 – Don’t start with patterns from the fabric store. Just don’t. They are made for people who have been sewing for years, or who think that sewing needs to be complicated. I don’t care how many times or in how many languages a pattern is labeled “EASY” it’s not, so don’t believe it. My first real sewing project was making baby bumpers for my daughter’s crib. Had I found a pattern that said: cut a rectangle yay inches high by so-many inches wide, I would have been super successful off the bat. Instead the stupid tissue paper pattern I bought was unwieldy and had little triangles and stuff to match together. SO MUCH EXTRA WORK for no reason except to sell you tissue paper. I was so mad when I realized it didn’t have to be so hard. Down the line when you are more experienced, these are great, but for beginning sewing, you need to just walk away.


Tip #2 – Search online for free patterns or tutorials. Is there a thing you are longing to make? I am willing to bet you cold hard cash that someone has not only already made it, but taken pictures of themselves making it and posted it on the internet. This is a great way to learn! Many tutorials will have simple instructions and photos on how they made it. It’s like having a friend right there with you sewing, except you can scroll up and down as many times as you need to without shame. These tutorials often don’t need a pattern at all, but have measurements on how to recreate the project pictured. I made a similar tutorial and posted it right here at On The Rag Mag! One of my favorite places with tons of tutorials is the Sew Mama Sew Blog.


Tip #3 – Pdf patterns are awesome. Did you know you can buy patterns to download and print from places like Etsy? These patterns are usually accompanied by a tutorial with lots of pictures and tips and tricks. You can search for whatever item you want to make & pdf to find available items. Here’s a link to a search where I just put in sewing bag pattern pdf. Look at all those results! The great thing about buying a pdf directly from the author is that you can contact them with any questions you have about the pattern directly.

Tip #4 – Craft books are your friends. Whether you have the budget to buy them or the library card to borrow them, craft books are awesome. They are also big business right now, so there are ton of them out there. They usually have patterns in the back, but they are usually more simple than the tissue paper kinds you get at the fabric store. You will need to trace them or copy them if you have a library version, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: unless it’s a pdf pattern I ALWAYS trace it and use a copy for my patterns.

Craft books are great because they usually have great instructions and lots of pictures. The other thing I really like about them is that you can always find a bunch of other people online who have already tested the patterns! Almost any sewing book on the market will also have a flickr group filled with people who have made the project and shared it. There are often blog parties where people will sew a project all together and share the results. Very helpful!

If you are sewing from a craft book, ALWAYS google the book and find the errata from the publisher online. Books are coming out so quickly, there are often mistakes in measurements or instructions. If an instruction seems confusing or measurement way off, it is probably because it is!

I hope that these tips will enable you to start on the road to sewing, because it is such a rewarding hobby. Soon enough you will find yourself going down the aisle of a store and pashawing at the price they are asking for a bag or accessory, because you know you can make it at home for much cheaper and much cuter!

Melissa (158 Posts)

Melissa, known to the world as the foremost Glitter Technician, is the mother of two beautiful children and has two beautiful buckteeth. She currently spends her time making all kinds of quirky items and selling them in her Etsy shop. You can find more of her writing & her wares on her self titled site Melissa Nelson-Stippich.


  • i bought a huge dress today that i somehow think that i’ll be able to modify to either be a super cute shirt and skirt, or a dress that fits me.

    do i know how to do any of these things? no! do i love thrift store shopping so much that sometimes i lose my mind?! yes!

    come over here and do it for me, please! xoxox

    • If only! You need to invent that transporter first.

  • Today I had to take up the hem on some pants I just bought. Super easy if I knew how to thread a sewing machine, but I just can’t figure it out. I ended up doing it all by hand which took me a while. I too need you transported here.

    • Man, looks like Seattle could totally use a good tailor!

      All machines are relatively similar, maybe I can do a tutorial on how to thread one…

      Funny, but when I started sewing again after Jr. high, threading a machine was the only thing I DID remember. Must have been taught on one of the days I showed up.

  • Girl, that picture is genius! And your advice is completely spot on. In store patterns are slightly traumatic to say the least! I gotta say, I really dig Collett’s new sewing book. Full of some seriously good advice for the neophyte seamstress!

    • Aw, Thanks!
      I have looked at it once or twice, and it looks really nice! All of her patterns are so cute! I will have to get it.

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