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Avoiding Novice Sewing Mistakes

Wrong needle causes hole in shirt

This post is for brand-new sewists for learning purposes, and for experienced sewists to have something to laugh about — my ridiculous misadventures in teaching myself to sew.

Most of the sewing, isn’t the actual sewing, it’s the preparation. In my last post about sewing, I talk about equipment I use and patterns to consider. I didn’t mention the need for a cutting mat, rotary cutter, and ruler. Cutting Mat with Rotary Cutter and Ruler  If you don’t have the right tools, you will be extremely frustrated and quite possibly ruin your project. Here are a few quick tips:

* The first thing you must do is wash and dry your fabric. I made myself a skirt last year, but didn’t wash the fabric first. After a washing, it didn’t fit.

* Iron the fabric and pattern. Again, I’ve made this mistake before. You can’t be lazy in sewing — it’s very precise.

* Before cutting your fabric on the fold, don’t just fold the fabric automatically in half. Only fold enough to fit your pattern.

* Different needles are used on different fabrics. If you are sewing denim, you would use a another type of needle on a more delicate fabric such as knit. This is not a sales gimmick dreamed up by Singer. You really do need to use different needles. I have three ruined knit shirts to prove it.

* Make sure you are cutting evenly. This takes a lot of attention, and is difficult with very large pieces of fabric. Cutting straight is the hardest part of sewing, so make sure to use a cutting mat, ruler and rotary cutter. These are not cheap items, so buy them as you get coupons.

* If you want to practice sewing lines and curves, take the thread out of the machine needle and sew on copy paper. I learned this from my friend Mindy, who is an excellent seamstress and authored a book teaching kids to sew.

* Make sure to check the back of the fabric is not under your presser foot along with the front of your fabric.

My biggest piece of advice is, don’t give up! Learning to sew takes time, a seam ripper, great patterns, and a lot of patience. Once you have the hang of some basic sewing skills, you will be able to build on them quickly to make more complex projects. After investing in supplies, you can make beautiful things for your home and family customized to your style, without spending much money.



{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Gloria June 19, 2013, 2:08 PM

    When cutting out a pattern with curves, is it best to use good sewing shears rather than a rotary cutter? Is the rotary cutter butter for straight lines, or do they make them to go around curves (sort of a floating head on the cutter?).

  • Laura Macklem June 20, 2013, 12:44 AM

    Use a rotary cutter for straight lines and curves, that way you don’t have to lift the fabric when measuring.

  • Renee July 27, 2020, 11:46 PM

    Hi! The link to Mindy’s book on sewing for children how points to a website in another language (possibly about massage?). Without Mindy’s full name or the title of the book, I’m unable to look up her work. Is there an updated URL for her new website?

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