What I Wish I’d Known When I Started Sewing

sarah alm sewing

Picture an electric blue polyester-satin tube dress with spaghetti straps and a beaded appliqué — on a seven-year-old. That was my first sewing project, and it was not a costume! Since then, I’ve learned to deploy my glam style instincts more selectively, and I’ve also learned a whole lot more about sewing.

Here are a few things I wish I’d known when I first heard that blue polyester’s siren song:

Seam Finishes For the Win

Finishing the raw edges of your seam allowances adds polish to everything you make, and you’ll feel like a pro. Your pattern instructions probably have tips on basic seam finishes, but there are many options — have several in your toolkit. These days, serging is my favorite quick seam finish, and when there’s time, I love a French seam or a flat-felled seam. If all of these terms sound like Greek to you, don’t worry! Sewing is a technical craft, and learning the vocab is all part of the process.

Good Fit Is Everything

When you sew, you can not only envision and express your personal style, you can make those one-of-a-kind outfits fit like a dream, no matter what your size or how your figure changes. Learn the basics of what good fit means and how to alter patterns to meet your needs. It just takes practice, and you can do it!

Muslins Matter

“Make a muslin.” It’s one of those rules sewers hear and just … ignore, right? A muslin (a test garment using the main pattern pieces, in a fabric that behaves like the fashion fabric) is always worth the time it takes. It’s your go-to secret for great fit and finding out if the style is right for you before you cut into that amazing silk tweed or scuba knit.

detail of flirty dress sleeve

Get Obsessed With Fabric

Matching up the right fabric to the right style takes experience, but the more you can learn about different fabrics right up front, the better. If you have a local fabric store, go say hey and get to know the pros there, and ask questions!

Find Your Groove

There’s a rhythm to sewing — set up your space so it’s easy to do every step as you go, and don’t put off essentials (like pressing) until the end.

Invest For Big Returns

As soon as you catch the sewing bug, start investing in the best equipment you can afford, especially your sewing machine. Get tools that will last, and as you advance, keep investing in your creative passion. Fun fact: I learned to sew on my grandmother’s Singer Featherweight, a legendary machine that collectors covet. I still use it today!

Most of all, I wish I’d known how much being able to create my own wardrobe would let me express who I am. From tailored jackets to swimwear, I’ve learned that I can make anything. I love finding a fabric that scares me and looks impossible to sew, and making something gorgeous with it. But I’m never going back to electric-blue polyester satin — once was enough for that!

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22 Responses to “What I Wish I’d Known When I Started Sewing”

  1. HarbSew

    It’s a really helpful article for anyone who owns a sewing machine. I would like to add that every sewing machine owner should always strive to get good repair and maintenance services to keep their machine in good working condition. You can find more information about the sewing machine repair services we provide on our website. Check out our website

  2. Jeani Quinlan

    Nice. I understand about the lack of knowledge. I learned a LOT from working in different garment factories that saved me SO much time and energy.

  3. Gigi J

    I wish I knew that patterns default to a B cup and what to do about that many years ago. :) And how to make a sloper. Ye gads.

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  4. Vanessa Smith

    I live with in an apartment. What should I look for in a sewing machine before purchasing?

    • Nicole Hilderbrand

      More attention needs to be put on the feet of a sewing machine rather than the machine itself. Having and knowing the proper ‘feet’ will make sewing so much less complicated.

  5. Vanessa Smith

    I live with n an apartment. What should I look for in a sewing machine before purchasing?

      • Kimberly McAliley

        Get not that automatically does that. I don’t know much about sewing yet. I purchased my first machine last year but upgraded it this year.My new one is a Brother Pacesetter PS500 and I just love that it threads its own needle.

      • OrahLee Hoose

        My best needle threading tip is to lick-moisten the back of the needle, cut the thread end straight and (on a machine needle) know about how far from the tip the eye is. I’ve had good luck with these. If all else fails, keep trying another tip ! Keep sewing, don’t give up!

      • Jean

        Hold a piece of white paper behind the needle. That helps to see the eye. Wet your finger and put it on the front of the needle. The thread is drawn to the eye when the front of the needle is damp
        Hello Jean,
        Very interesting tip! Thanks!