This week I will be posting Beginner Sewing Lesson 3, but first another info worksheet. At the beginning of the second and third class, after warming up on paper (see teaching tips at bottom of this post for printable sheets), I have students sew straight parallel lines on pre-cut scraps of fabric, each 8″ or so. After each line is sewn, I adjust the stitch length smaller and then larger so they do a variety of tighter and looser stitches. Why? So they can rip it all out of course! Practicing with a seam ripper is a good idea before the inevitable necessity of doing it on an actual project. Not to say they will never have an oops! on a project (we all do), but they will perhaps be more attentive in their work once they realize correcting mistakes is not as fun as avoiding them in the first place. And the different stitch lengths helps them understand how much tighter a small stitch length is compared to a larger one. Adding zig-zag stitch (for a challenge) or two fabrics together (this is more realistically what they will be sewing) is another idea. Heck, if time allows you could have them cut the fabric scraps after marking with ruler and chalk, then four tools would be practiced. I reuse the scraps from class to class so this is not so practical for me, but if you’ve got the spare fabric (old sheets work great) then go for it!
Basic Beginner Sewing Tools
Having the right tools and using them correctly makes the difference in your results being amateur so-so or professional ta-dah! It will also reduce frustration and increase satisfaction and confidence when approaching your sewing projects. This list only includes those tools that are needed for beginners. Most machine sewing projects can be completed with these basics. You’ll find all the tools indispensable for saving time, increasing accuracy, and simplifying tasks.
There are many choices in scissors based on purpose and style. There are right-handed or left-handed which are more conforming to your hand and perhaps more ergonomic. There are scissors that would work for either hand as well. Two steadfast rules with all sewing scissors are: 1) never use them to cut paper and 2) avoid accidentally hitting pins while you are cutting. Paper will dull them and pins will nick them, both greatly reducing their effectiveness.
Small scissors, or snips, are 3-5″ long and are the best for clipping and notching close to the stitch line and snipping thread tails. Unlike children’s scissors, they will have pointy tips, not rounded.
Sewing scissors are generally 7-9″ long. For a child’s hand, a length of 5-7″ is more appropriate. They feature tapered blades with slightly rounded tips that prevents snagging the fabric when trimming seams and doubles as a corner pointer. If you can only afford one pair, these are the ones to get.
General purpose scissors are a good idea to have handy for cutting leather, twine, paper, glue backed interfacing or velcro, etc.
A tape measure is most useful for taking body measurements when making clothing but no sewing kit would be complete without one from the start. They are handy for measuring fabric, elastic or ribbon lengths. Get a nice thick sturdy one that has both inches and centimetres. 60″ is plenty long enough.
A seam gauge is a six-inch metal ruler with inches down one side and centimetres down the other. It has a marker that slides up and down the centre. It’s used when the same measurement has to be made repeatedly such as marking buttonholes, hem depth or seam allowance. It is small enough to use on the sewing machine top which makes it handy.
What was sewing life like before this was invented? Thankfully we’ll never have to know! The name says it all—it is used to “rip” unwanted stitches out of fabric. One end of the curved blade has a sharp point which picks at the thread and the other has a ball point that helps to prevent the ripper from slipping and accidentally catching the fabric. The “u” between the two points is very sharp and cuts the thread. Seam rippers are also handy for cutting open buttonholes. It is a good idea to have more than one around as they can eventually break and you wouldn’t want to be stuck without.
Wood, metal or plastic–perhaps all three? Wood is inexpensive and possibly even around your house somewhere.
Metal is harder to find but available from builder suppliers and is sturdier than wooden.
Plastic would be my first choice. The clear quilting ones are great. They are see through which is a big bonus. The 12″ x 6″ is useful for so many things I won’t begin to list-but if you craft, quilt, design, alter clothes or make them from scratch, this is the ruler for you.
For the beginner, any one would do as the main use would be to measure and mark fold lines and chalk/pencil lines against.
A point turner is a hand-held, pointed plastic tool about 6″ long designed to poke into tight corners and push them out to produce crisp, sharp corners and points. The opposite end is flat or rounded and used to hold open seam allowances while pressing, so you don’t burn your fingers. Tips of rounded scissors can be used as a substitution if used carefully.
Pencils mark a thin line and are available in dark and light colours. Chalk is good for less accurate markings. Disappearing ink marking pens are also available but they cost a bit more.
Safety pins- These come in handy, especially for guiding elastic, cord, or ribbon through a casing.
Dressmaker steel pins are thin and long with a big ball point for easy gripping. You will use lots of these.
Pincushions are helpful for not losing pins. They are inexpensive to buy and fun to make J. Having two or three isn’t necessary but is really great, especially if they are all different.
There are two basic machine needles. Regular point needles are used for all woven fabrics. The needle will penetrate the fabric threads. Ball-point needles are used for sewing on knits. The rounded tip allows the needle to pass between the fabric threads by separating them. Using a regular point needle on knit fabric will result in skipped stitches and damage to the fabric. Needle packs are well labelled and most of this info is readily learned as you gain experience. Singer needles are colour coded and really a beginner sewist’s best choice. Denim, canvas, and leather have their own specialty needles.
*An iron and ironing board are essentials as well. As a teacher, you should have one in your classroom. The above are all available for purchase in the “notions” section of any fabric shop.
Beginner Sewing Lesson 3 is coming this week…follow me to get notified as soon as it’s posted. And thanks for getting creative with me! Xx
Slow, accurate work gets faster with practice. Fast, sloppy work never becomes accurate. Practice makes permanent.”