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Beginner Sewing Series: Part One

Posted by Jaime Naples on

Beginner Sewing Series: Part One

Are you new to sewing like I am? I’ve been rippin’ seams for about a year now. A LOT OF THEM. Spools and spools….have been absolutely wasted! I often wonder if it is normal to lose so much thread? And, oh my, the places I find those lose fibers. They. Are. Everywhere. Literally. I won't even get into the fabric that could have been saved if I was a little more experienced. *sigh*

Today, I am going to share some great tips that were posted from the awesome members of the Handmaiden’s Cottage Pattern Group during our 2500 Member Fan Giveaway back in June. Yes, we gave away amazing prizes with the help or our fellow pattern designers! Just another sewing perk: Contests! Who doesn't like contests?

Now, some of the tips may seem more like advice and, well, obvious or common sense. As new seamstresses, we are excited, yet there is so much information to absorb. Here are some great basic tips from myself and our pattern group members:

Learning To Sew: 

Sign up for a sewing class. Learn from a friend or relative, a local sewing shop, a sewing retailer, or online. When I decided to take sewing seriously, I signed up for the Learn to Sew Class at Jo-Ann Fabrics. This introductory class was the perfect way to familiarize with widely used sewing terms, basic sewing machine operation, and sewing from pattern to finished project. I highly recommend it for any one at any age that wants to start their seamstress journey rather quickly. Although I have not yet tried one there are also great online classes such as the ones from if it is more convenient to learn at home. I have a free month coupon I've been hanging on to from a Jo-Ann Fabrics and I can' t wait try the online classes soon. Today only: Craftsy is sharing FREE classes for everyone. Don't miss out! 

Join A Facebook Pattern Group. Almost every independent designer has created a group to support their customers with their sewing patterns. If you are new to pattern groups, they are a great resource for beginners or any skill level. The great thing about sewing groups is there is often a few people who have already worked on the pattern you are in the process of sewing. There is always a helpful person just a click away in a encouraging, supportive and inspiring environment.  I love the sense of community, too, with like minded people. Our pattern group members are amazingly talented and their creative visions are endless.   If you are not a member please join us at The Handmaiden's Cottage Pattern Group.

Handmaidens Cottage Pattern Group

Before You Begin Sewing:  

Read the Pattern Instructions Before Start... 


     Handmaiden's Cottage Printed Petticoat Dolly & Me Dress Pattern 

 I know, I know, of course, you are going to read the pattern instructions before you begin sewing. BUT, if you are just starting out, reading the pattern multiple times while visualizing the steps is critical to successful completion.  I can’t tell you how many times I am moving right along with my project and I get stuck. Then I convince myself that I did not miss a step end up becoming  frustrated with the whole project. This is usually my cue to walk away and take a break as much as I do not want to do so.  When I return with a fresh mind to re-read the instructions I often find that I skimmed right over a crucial step, ugh. More QT with "The (Seam) Ripper."

Measure twice, then measure again.

Or, as one of our members put it: “measure, like, 6 times.” I had to giggle because I knew this is me every time I sew. I always felt I was pretty good at math and measurements but sewing has had me second guessing myself a bit. Being inaccurate in the math department is not particularly good for sewing.  Sometimes, I  it seems like hours that I am hunched over the fabric with shears in hand apprehensive to make the cut. But, I promise, with more  practice, you WILL get better. Sometimes, I just pretend my lack of measuring skills has allowed me to feel more like an experienced seamstress in the way that:  " Yeah, I totally meant to modify that" or “here is my hack on X pattern.” At times, it is a happy accident so a little rewording and imagination can save you time and keep the process going. 

appel stoopel dress eli monster

My happy accident.: The Appelstoop Dress by the Eli Monster  that I  "modified" because I struggled with measurements when I first started sewing. Even though the pattern did not call for a two fabrics for the skirt, I think it turned out beautiful. Had I been experienced enough, I would have known that the skirt length would have been fine without adding the extra as the skirt was plenty long despite my miscalculations. I used Brenda Riddle Fabrics from our shop. 

 Sewing Tip: Measure your child or model and follow the pattern size chart provided. As important to remember is that not all size charts are created equally.  Always measure your model to ensure a perfect fit. Pattern size charts may be different than store purchased Ready to Wear (RTW) clothing. Although the general sizing may be close, this allows for a more custom result.

Iron, Iron, Iron

Truth be told that before I really got into sewing, my iron and board was collecting dust for years. I even sold my ironing board at a garage sale a couple years ago, that’s how much I used it.  We are a casual, on the go family and the dryer was an ample “iron” replacement. Who has time to press clothing with all this chaos? BUT an iron is crucial to sewing and helps keep the fabric in place when sewing as well as a better finished garment. As one of our group members suggested: "No matter what you are doing in your sewing room, always leave the iron on to quickly press those seams and fabrics. Just remember to turn it off when you are done."

                        oslo iron sewing

     Pictured above: Lynn uses Oliso Pro Iron in her sewing studio. 

 Oliso Pro TG1600 Pink Smart Iron is a professional grade iron that Lynn uses at the Cottage. This is a great iron for sewing and the company pledges that it is scorch - free with fabrics. While this particular iron would be an investment for a beginner, I love how it glides across the fabric with ease. You do not have to keep ironing over a section of your fabric to get the "wrinkle lines" out either.

Since I wasn't ready to make quite an big investment in a professional iron, I use a Black and Decker SteamXpress like this one here. It is perfect for me right now. It even has a little chart on the bottom that tells what setting I should use for the fabric I am ironing. 



To wash first or not to wash first ?  Many times you will hear “Wash your fabrics first.” This is super important when using fabrics that are of a lesser quality, which will likely be the case when beginning your sewing journey.  The chances of shrinkage are likely when you wash your garment and all your hard work may be compromised.  On the other hand when working with high quality fabrics like from Rifle Paper Company, Cotton and Steel
it is not necessary to pre-wash. They even put this in a nice little note in the wrapped bolt.  That is one less step to get started on those anticipated projects and that is a huge plus! 

 do I need to prewash fabrics?

Fabrics shown: Games to Play on a Rainy Day: Playful Collection & Telephones in Aqua: Trinket Collection, Melody Miller, Cotton & Steel

 Trinket Fabric

Shopping Tip:  On a bolt of fabric, every two rows equals one yard. 

Environmental Factors

Huh? Yes, environment is something to factor in especially as newbies. Why? Well, concentration and a well- rested mind free of interruptions produce better results of course! If you are like me, and your creative space is in a community area in your home, it is particularly tricky to find an appropriate time to accomplish your sewing goals. My four kids come up with no less than 1000 questions they can simply ask Dad in the other room while the two dogs are on a high tail chase around the table can be and it is uber distracting. I often wait til the evening to get started and I am not a night owl.  Anyone else have these issues?

Here’s how you can make sure your mind and your environment is sew-riffic:

  1. Don’t Rush. Go slow, slow, slow. Taking your time will produce more professional garments. Our friend Amy, from Anna’s Heirloom Boutique, says it best: “Haste makes waste...every time I sew in a hurry, I screw up. Un-picking takes longer than if I had taken my time in the first place (especially with knits!)
  2. Don’t sew when you are tired, you will end up making more mistakes. Again, seam ripper is very handy but you really don’t want to spend THAT much time with it. Anyone see a recurring theme here?
  3. Never underestimate the power of good lighting. Your eyes will thank you as there is so much strain on the eyes which causes fatigue. Good lighting will allow you to sew longer as well.
  4. This is a hard one: Follow your intuition: Know when to walk away for a bit when you are having problems or getting frustrated. Things always work out much better when you have a fresh mind.

 I hope that you found some of these beginner tips to be helpful. Next time we will talk about pattern construction and sewing tools. 

Do you have a great tip you would like to share? If so, Leave a comment below. We would love to hear from you!

Hope you all have an amazing week, thanks for stopping by!


The Handmaiden's Daughter


I would like to thank the members of the Handmaiden's Cottage Pattern Group for the tips that they provided from the 2500 Fan Giveaway contest utilized in this post. Source can be found on the Handmaiden's Cottage Facebook Page.

**This post does contain affiliate links in an effort to connect each other with products and services that will enhance our projects. In exchange for sharing these links, we receive a small compensation. While doing so we will only promote the products and sites that we think will benefit our readers using our own personal experience and honest, objective opinions."

Handmaiden's Cottage

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