Let’s get to it! Today you are going to learn to sew on your sewing machine!
Let me hear the shouts of joy! I know you will appreciate this quick and easy learn to sew lesson.
Free sewing lessons don’t come with a machine purchased at the big box retailers or garage sales so I am here to help get you started!
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If you are brand new to sewing, I suggest you bookmark this page so you can return as often as you like. You may also want to read “Get to Know your New Sewing Machine Today” where I review the basic machine terms that you will need to know.
I also highly recommend having your user’s manual nearby as all machines are slightly different.
Power cord and foot pedal
Scrap pieces of cotton fabrics
½ yard mid-weight Interfacing
Spare Machine Needles
Permanent Fabric Pen
Learn to Sew Lesson- Printable
Preparing to Sew
Now I LOVE to recycle, so I recommend going through your closet for unworn items that you don’t mind cutting. An old sheet or pillowcase is perfect for your cotton fabric.
If you chose to purchase fabric, you could get remnant pieces in most fabric stores for a fraction of the price. For the cotton, make sure that you will be able to see your stitching so you will want to use a contrasting thread color. Blue thread on white fabric works great for this. On blue fabric, you may want to choose a different thread color for this fabric. Just make sure you can see your work.
Cut your fabric down to manageable sizes. I recommend making a binder of stitches in this lesson. You can use any size that works for you. Maybe you already have 8 ½ X 11 sheet protectors you can put in a 3-ring binder? Or you may want to use a smaller 5 x 7 size you can slide into a photo keeper?
I have created a template for this lesson which you can access in my Free Resources Library. If you opt to use the templates, your ideal fabric size will be 6 inches by 8 inches. Cut at least 4 pieces of fabric and 3 pieces of interfacing in this size.
Using straight pins, attach each piece of interfacing to the back side of a piece of cotton.
Let’s Practice Sewing!
We are going to start with the very basics. So, turn that machine on!
Before we thread the machine, we are going to practice on paper. Again, please do NOT use thread.
For your convenience, I have included a couple of samples on page 2 of the Learn to Sew Printable mentioned above.
At the beginning and the end of each seam, you need to know how to fix your stitches in place.
Place your paper under your presser foot on the line and lower the foot. To fix your stitches, very slowly sew a few stitches and then use your reverse to sew backward over these stitches. Stop. Then, simply begin sewing forward again.
Practice this a few times on the paper.
Next, we will learn about pivoting.
You will normally pivot on corners rather than overlapping seams. As you near the corner, slow down and make sure to end with the needle in the down position. If your needle is up when you stop, rotate your handwheel clockwise until the needle is in the paper.
Left the presser foot lever. The needle will help keep your paper in place as you pivot the paper. Lower your presser foot and continue sewing.
The final skill before threading is curving. The best tip for sewing curves is to take it slow! As always, you are just guiding your fabric so that your needle aligns with the intended line of stitches.
Feel free to use the free template printable or simply create your own curves. Using your hands to guide the fabric, try to create a large figure 8.
Sewing on Fabric
Thread your machine and make sure you have a NEW needle. After sewing on the paper, your needle should be rather dull and this can prevent nice smooth seams.
Verify that your all-purpose presser foot is on the machine. Check your manual if needed. Your all-purpose foot will have a wide opening so that the needle can perform a zig-zag with clearance, and it will have a wide ditch on the underside.
Remember to change your needle for each project.
Place the piece of cotton without interfacing under your needle and lower the presser foot. Search your machine for the stitch selector and chose a straight stitch. For standard cotton fabric, your “normal” straight stitch will be a 0 mm width and approximately 2.5 mm in length.
Apply pressure to your foot pedal and lightly hold the fabric in the front. You should feel the machine start to pull the fabric by using the feed dogs located under the presser foot. Remember your job is simply to guide the fabric not to push the fabric through.
When you’ve sewed a complete line, lift your presser foot and make sure your needle is in the upward position using your handwheel if necessary. Then, pull the fabric out and cut the thread.
Your machine may have a thread cutter on the back or the presser foot ankle. If not, use your scissors. For practice, there is no need to be perfect so don’t worry about trimming stray threads.
Now, look at the stitches on the top and the back of the fabric. If your machine is set properly, you should see nice even stitches woven into the cotton. If your tension is off, you may see loops on one side or the other.
Use your fabric pen to write “straight stitch” on your fabric under this stitch. If using my template, you will attach the fabric to the template using a stapler or craft glue once you are done with this piece of fabric.
Depending on your machine features, you should be able to adjust your stitch length and width. Let’s do this. First, increase your length to the maximum length (usually 4-6 mm).
Put your fabric under the machine sewing next to your previous straight stitch and lower the presser foot. This new stitch will be a basting stitch. A basting stitch is generally used to hold fabric together for a short time and will be removed later in the project. It can also be used as a method to gather fabric.
Use your fabric pen to write “Basting Stitch” on your fabric under this stitch.
Next, we are going to start increasing our stitch width.
I recommend making several new columns on your cotton and making the fabric with your fabric pen with the stitch length and stitch width you selected. What you will find is that increasing your stitch width will create a zig-zag pattern. The larger the width you select will create a wider zig-zag stitch.
It is normal to experience bunching with a zig-zag stitch as the stitching will pull the fabric together. You will find the zig-zag tends to pull more on the lighter fabrics.
Lighter weight fabrics require the use of a stabilizer (also known as interfacing) to maintain the stitches. We will learn more about stabilizers in a later lesson.
Switch to one of your pieces of cotton with stabilizer attached. Sew a few zig-zags of various widths. You will quickly see the difference a stabilizer can make in your sewing.
On your fabric with the stabilizer, start DECREASING your stitch length. You will find that the length brings the stitches closer together. If you reach a length of 0, your feed dogs are no longer pulling the fabric through, and you will stitch in place.
Understanding the length and width will be critical when you start making buttonholes or working on stretchy fabrics.
Increasing your sewing skills
Now that we’ve covered the basic concepts let’s learn about your specific machine.
Use the remaining pieces of fabric to sew a line of each stitch available on your model. Depending on your machine, this may take more fabric than I recommended. Put the completed stitches in your binder for reference later. Use your fabric pen or the templates to document the needed info to select this stitch again.
Lastly, let’s learn a very simple technique for mending small tears in a fabric. This technique is perfect for this lesson because it is JUST a straight stitch!
Take one of your fabric backed pieces of cotton. Cut a small hole into the fabric but make sure NOT to cut into the stabilizer. Place your fabric under your presser foot horizontal to the tear. You will start sewing in the upper left slightly above the tear.
Stitch forward slowly and reverse to lock in the stitches. Then, stitch forward again until you have completely crossed the tear. Sew in reverse guiding your fabric just a small amount to the right. Once you have crossed the tear completely, begin sewing forward. Continue this process until the tear is completely covered.
This stitch is excellent for mending slight tears in linens such as bedsheets or bar towels.
We will learn more techniques, special stitches, and all about presser feet in a future lesson.
For the moment, I want you to take pride in the fact that you have mastered this Quick and Easy Learn to Sew Lesson.