Beginner's Sewing Resources

Learning how to sew? Don't know where to begin? You've come to the right place! Featuring tutorials by both Annika and her favourite beginner tutorials from around the interwebs.

 
 

Sewing 101 - Making bows

You have just acquired a sewing machine. Excited by all of the cool design ideas running through your mind, want to make something RIGHT NOW, but even sewing in a straight line seems totally intimidating.

Solution: learn how to make fabric bows!

This simple tutorial walks you through some very basic sewing and fabric terminology, teaching you some important basic skills, while also making something you can show off at the same time!

 

How to use a sewing machine (generic)

But wait! Annika! I don't even know how to use a sewing machine!? Well, this tutorial from With Wendy (along with a great beginner series) has got you covered!

If the little booklet that came with your machine isn't much help, or you're using an older/secondhand machine so you don't even HAVE a booklet, this video should help you out!

Note: Each machine will have a similar threading pattern to this, but to learn how to thread your specific machine, you should be able to google the name and model of your machine to find out how it's threaded :)

 
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How to thread a needle & HAND SEW

Handsewing 101 from MADE Everyday - how to thread both "normal" and embroidery thread through a sewing needle. You can also watch With Wendy's tutorial on how to hand sew here.

P.s. Needle threaders are life-savers ;)

 
 
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FABRICS 101

Going to a fabric store for the first time can be totally overwhelming and intimidating. Broadcloth? Rayon? Crinoline? Toile?! What do all of these things mean?!

With Wendy has a fantastic overview on fabrics, how to buy them, terminology, wovens vs knits, etc. It's a great resource for both beginners and more experienced sewists alike!

If you'd rather read than watch a video, using this Fabric Series from Colette, you can head into any fabric store with a bit more confidence, and also find what you're looking for!

Fabric Terms

Cottons

Linen & Rayon

Silk

Wool

What exactly is grainline and bias?

An in-depth explanation of the construction of fabrics (into the nitty-gritty of how fabrics are made and what they are made of!)

Learning About Fabrics 1: The Who, What and How.

A very important thing to understand with fabrics is the difference between KNIT and WOVEN fabrics! Here is an in-depth explanation:

What is the difference between knit and woven fabrics?

 

 
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An introduction to elastic

When you're learning to sew, elastic can seem very scary. I made this lace cuff tutorial to give you an easy entry to using elastic, and to see how applying elastic affects material!

This video by iamKayElle also demonstrates 7 different ways to use elastic. The video-aspect is a bit warped (hey, old school youtube!) but the information in the video is nonetheless useful and to-the-point.

 
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Circle Skirts 101

Why circle skirts? Because they're extremely beginner-friendly, easy to make, timeless (all that ever seems to change with trends is the length!) and a fantastic introduction into garment-making.

I have a couple of videos on circle skirts, that show you the basics!

1. Using stretchy fabric (no-zipper method) with a full circle skirt
2. Using non-stretchy fabric (and inserting a zipper) with a half circle skirt
[NOTE: These two methods can be combined to, for example, make a full circle skirt with a zipper, or a half-circle skirt with stretchy fabrics!]
3, Making a "squircle" skirt (square circle skirt)
 

Other useful resources for circle-skirt making:

Hemming a curved edge

Circle Skirt calculator

 
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Learning to Embroider

Embroidery can be a great way to add decoration to/upcycle your clothing. I have a couple of tutorials on embroidery that will show you the verrrrry basics! The most basic stitches that you'll need to get started in embroidery are running stitch, backstitch, splitstitch and satin stitch, as well as how to thread an embroidery needle. You can learn all of these in the following tutorials:

  1. DIY heart collar (satin stitching and how to thread a needle)

  2. Embroidery words (backstitching)

  3. DIY winking collar

  4. Embroidering flowers - an easy decoration technique

For a great resource with both beginners and some more advanced techniques, tips and tricks, Shiny Happy World has a great section on Embroidery, with a bunch of free tutorials!

 
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Patterns that teach you how to sew

Once you've mastered sewing a straight line and a seam, maybe made yourself a circle skirt or tote bag and 99 different bows in all different fabrics, you might want to move onto something a bit more challenging!

These sewing patterns teach you how to sew and give you an introduction into using commercial patterns, without making them seem totally scary.

Tilly & the Buttons
A company that makes both free tutorials and paid patterns that teach you to sew!

Colette
Both free tutorials and paid patterns that are easy to understand, printable, and teach you sewing basics. Their patterns also cover a large range of sizes.

Plus-size patterns
Not all of these patterns are necessarily beginner-friendly, but this page lists companies that make plus-sized commercial patterns, and The Curvy Sewing Collective is also a wealth of information on sewing and patterns for plus-size bodies! 

Sewing Lingerie: an introduction
The Jasmine Bralette by OhhhLulu is a great pattern for learn how to sew a bralette. There is also an accompanying sew-a-long by Annika showing you how to turn the pattern into a swimsuit!

 
My current sewing machine, the Bernina B335

My current sewing machine, the Bernina B335

 

What is a good beginner's sewing machine?

Buying a sewing machine is like buying a car, and the decision depends on both your budget and what you want to do with it. A cheap one might get you from A-B, but it won’t have many features or be super reliable. A more expensive one will have copious features and let you sew with almost any material, but you might not need all the bells and whistles until later on into your sewing journey. However, it will let you advance more easily. In deciding on a sewing machine, you should consider both your budget and where you want your sewing to take you.

I can only recommend from my own experience. My first sewing machine was the Brother JS series (mine was the JS 1400, but that was many years ago and currently available models will have different codes). It’s affordable - it usually retails for around $100-$200, and has all the stitches you'll need for at least your first year of sewing. It's best on woven (non-stretchy) fabrics, however, so if you want to get straight into lingerie, swimsuit or knit-fabric construction, you might find it a little bit frustrating. They also don't tend to last very long (a beginner Brother machine might last you 5 years if you're lucky). If this is a hobby you really want to throw yourself into, then I highly recommend looking at Bernina machines instead.

My second sewing machine was a computerized Bernina Bernette Oxford 6 which retailed (at the time) for around $300-$400. It is one of the beginner-level Bernina machines, however it's able to handle much more complex fabrics and has a LOT more stitch functions than a really basic machine like the Brother JS series. I used mine for 5 years (before acquiring a Bernina ambassadorship), and with regular care and cleaning, it still functions as-new. It is a machine that took my sewing from "beginner" to "intermediate", allowing me to sew things like knit fabrics, lingerie and swimsuits with more ease.

My current sewing machine is the Bernina B335, a solid computerized machine. It retails for around $1200-$1900 and is an extremely, reliable versatile machine, and it lets me create whatever design ideas that I have in my head. It handles all types of fabric with ease - I have yet to find any fabric it can’t handle. It is the machine of choice for fashion schools and universities, so I know it’ll last me decades to come (and it comes with a warranty of 10 years so you know they’re serious about their longevity!). It can drive at 900 stitches per minute (15 per second) which is really fast - I now complete sewing projects much faster than I ever could on my other two machines. If you’re serious about sewing and sew nearly every day, or own a handmade business, then it’s a really good choice of machine. Similar models are the Bernina B380 and B325. I go through all the features of the B335 in this video here.

Disclaimer: I am an ambassador for Bernina now, but that happened after I had already been using a Bernina sewing machine for 5 years. They’re my dream partnership because I really do believe that they make the best sewing machines on the market!

 

Beginner's Sewing Playlist


And, finally, you can also watch this playlist of Annika's videos which has been made for total beginners. The videos are ranked in increasing difficulty, for both instructions and inspiration as you begin on your crafting & sewing journey!

(Alternatively, watch the playlist on youtube HERE.)
 
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Confident Beginner's Playlist

If you're confidently able to sew in a straight line, have some idea of how seams work, can sew two pieces of fabric together and you're looking for more of a challenge - check out the playlist I've made that's a step-up from beginner! This is my "confident beginner" playlist, to come and browse through once you've gotten more familiar with a sewing machine.