Where to Start if You’re New to Sewing

sewing booksI’ve been a ‘creative’ all my life. Whether it’s sewing, cross stitch, painting-by-numbers or simply doing a jigsaw puzzle, you name it I’ve tried it. As a child my Christmas lists were generally based around circling numerous craft kits in the Argos catalogue – anyone else remember experimenting with sand art, weaving looms and Plaster-of-Paris animals?

I’ve always done a bit of hand-sewing here and there, but I only started proper ‘sewing’ and ‘dressmaking’ in the summer of 2010. I’m not sure what inspired me to begin but I’m so glad I did! Recently I’ve noticed that a lot of my lovely readers are telling me that they, too, are new to sewing and could do with a helping hand of knowing where to begin. So, here we go:

Sewing Machines for Beginners

toyota sewing machineMy sewing machine is a Toyota 15JSPB. It’s very simple to use, cost around £100 and has minimal stitch choices – that’s about all there is to it! Many bloggers talk about their fancy Janome, Singer or Brother sewing machines (or worse, their overlockers) but, for a beginner, I really would recommend keeping the cost down and starting simple.

My sewing machine may not be a Rolls Royce but, you know what? Look at all the things I’ve made with it – this blog is proof of that! My machine can help me to straight stitch, zig zag stitch and make button holes – and that’s really all you need.

Threads, Bobbins and Bits and Pieces

sewing accessoriesMy advice is to start your collection of sewing accessories small and then add things as and when you need them. Buy a good pair of fabric scissors, some sharp bead-headed pins and a reel of thread then you’re good to go! All the extra bits and pieces – like pattern weights, curved rulers and fancy sewing machine feet – are things you’ll pick up over time as the patterns you make get more complicated. Remember that all patterns come with a ‘things you need’ list, so check that before you get started.

In regards to sewing thread – I recommend a better quality thread (like Gutermann) for dressmaking and anything else will do for smaller projects. Yes, even those 500m reels you get at the market for 50p are useful!

Sewing Patterns for Beginners

This is a tricky one as what’s ‘easy’ for one person is quite difficult for another (I’m looking at you, Vogue)! I suggest choosing sewing patterns that don’t use too many different skills to begin with. Of course, the choice is yours, but here are a few simple patterns that I found useful for starting out with myself:

sew by cath kidstonSew! by Cath Kidston – this was the first sewing book I ever bought and I just cannot give it enough praise. If you’re looking for a wide range of homeware projects to make, with clear instructions, then this book is a must! I’ve almost made every single thing out of it.

tilly and the buttons cocoTilly and the Buttons Coco dress/top – this pattern is so incredible and so easy! I’ve made more Cocos than I can count – it’s such a simple pattern with minimal pieces and very clear instructions. An absolute essential for beginner dressmakers.

simplicity 6022Simplicity/New Look 6022 – a basic dress pattern, great for cottons and other easy-to-sew fabrics. I made this dress in gingham which is super cheap! There’s a sleeveless option if you don’t fancy making sleeves just yet and you get to practice simple bias binding around the neckline.

sewing bee bookGBSB circle skirt – this is the only pattern I’ve made from the first GBSB book but it was such a treat to sew. Only 2 skirt pieces and a folded over waistband then you’re done! Also a great introduction to inserting a zip.

Helpful Sewing Guides

The following is a list of useful online guides to various sewing techniques. Never be afraid to Google something if you don’t know how to do it! There’s no shame in not understanding what so-and-so on Twitter means when they say their interfacing won’t sit right despite their understitching. Sewing truely is another language…

I’m aware that I’ve not covered the obligatory ‘fabric for beginners’ module that other blogs always include – but I really do think that the choice is up to you! Cottons, jerseys and chambrays are easier to handle than laces, brocades and silks but that doesn’t mean you can’t use them! I’ll give anything a try – practice makes perfect – and you’ll never learn new things if you don’t experiment. That’s my opinion at least 🙂

If you have any sewing-related question then please leave me a comment below or get in touch via my contact page. It makes my heart smile to know that I’ve inspired so many people to give sewing, dressmaking and crafts a try – so thank you! And good luck 🙂


8 thoughts on “Where to Start if You’re New to Sewing

  1. I use a low-end Singer purchased for next to nothing, and it has suited me just fine for a lot of years of sewing. The only reason I want to upgrade is that the Singer has trouble with heavy fabrics and a lot of layers, but for ordinary sewing, it’s fine. So I totally agree with you about getting an inexpensive machine to start!


    • Yay! I’m happy to hear that 🙂 of course we can all dream of upgrading to something more fancy once we’ve got the hang of things but, for a newbie, starting low is definitely the way to go!


  2. Great advice.
    My first sewing machine was second-hand (ok, antique) – as was my second. Quality pre-loved machines can be great for starting out. I agree that it is silly to spend big until you are sure sewing is something you will love. Straight stitch, zigzag and button holes – as you say, that is all most sewers need.


  3. How funny I have that Jeans machine. It was my first machine too. Though I’ve upgraded I refuse to get rid of it because it’s such a workhorse, getting through multiple layers of thick fabric. It’s a definite winner. But the lack of needle plate markings and non-adjustable stitch length wound me up so I had to change machines.


    • haha! well I’m glad you approve! I agree that upgrades are definitely the way forward once you get more confident at sewing… perhaps it’s time for me to upgrade soon too then 🙂


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