Tips for beginners to make sewing projects easier

tips for beginner sewers

Okay, none of these sewing supplies are a secret. They’re all readily available, but make sewing projects so much easier. These products and what I call ‘derp tips’ are things I’ve learned over the years and are items I regularly use in my sewing projects. So take advantage and skip all the years of headache. Go out get you some!

EZ Steam Tape

This is my secret weapon. I use this tape in just about every project. It’s like having extra hands and it’s super easy to use. Need to hold two pieces of fabric together? BOOM. EZ Steam Tape! Got a zipper slipping around under the sewing foot? BOOM! Use ez steam tape. Hems giving you issues? Put them in their place! Does it feel like your life is falling apart? Tape it.

Quilting or sewing clips

I bought a set of these tiny plastic sewing clips and I have never looked at pins the same! Bye bye pins. The clips are faster, don’t destroy or warp fabric, and don’t break your needles. Yay! Sometimes I get to “clipping” so fast they sling shot out of my fingers and disappear into the abyss. Invest in these little babies. You won’t regret it.

Pattern weights

Another reason to ditch old fashioned pins…pattern weights! If you work with sewing patterns a lot, these are undeniably useful and catapult your productivity. I can layout a pattern in a matter of seconds rather than spending 5 minutes pinning it in place. It also makes your fabric cuts more accurate. You’re not moving the fabric when you place weights on the patterns. You are also not putting pin holes in the fabric and you’re not destroying your fragile patterns. As Michael Scott would say, win win win! You don’t need to invest in the expensive fancy ones you see professionals using. See how I made a set of my own for $6.50.

Sharp blades

This is crucial for smooth sailing and accuracy. Whether you’re using scissors or a rotary cutter, it’s essential the blades are not dull. Dullness causes rugged cuts, fabric warping, and general inaccuracy. I’m all about making things easier. You’ll notice a rotary cutter is dull when there are threads still attached or every few inches the fabric is not separated. This is an indication there is a dull spot on your rotary blade. Time for a fresh blade. Worn scissors make fabric difficult to cut and often you won’t get a crisp edge, but rather something that resembles a small mountain range. Invest in a pair of fabric scissors you use ONLY on fabric. Paper and other non-woven materials are the biggest culprit for dull scissor blades. I like Gingher scissors but Fiskars is another affordable, quality option.

Sturdy ironing board

I know ironing boards are expensive, but a decent board makes a huge difference and will last a long time. I spent several years using the same old cheap @ass ironing board. The screeching and wobbling will forever haunt me. Plus the random POP! from the iron’s warping heat made me jump out of my skin. The cover on it was so worn and thin you could feel the metal grate underneath it. Sometimes that metal grate pattern would show up on fabrics I ironed. No good! Get an ironing board with sufficient, firm padding. I picked up a Bartnelli board with an iron rest and handy cord holder.

A quality steam iron

This goes hand in hand with the ironing board. I don’t believe there is a single sewing project I’ve done that didn’t require some kind of ironing. You can get decent, quality steam irons for less than $50. Get one that’s comfortable for you to hold, is adequately sized for your projects, and has variable heat settings so you can properly work with different types of fabrics. Steam is a must. My favorite at the moment is the CHI iron, but I was also impressed the Shark steam iron I had previously. I would still have that Shark iron if it hadn’t tried to win an Olympic medal nose diving off the board.

A sewing machine YOU like

I can’t stress this one enough. If you’ve read my post about how I got started sewing, you’ll know about my biased disdain for Singer sewing machines, #stillsalty. It wasn’t until I finally said ‘f*ck it’ and bought a different machine from Elna (awesome brand I grew to love) that I finally started improving my skill and enjoying the whole sewing process. You need a sewing machine that YOU like to sew on and that you enjoy using. You should feel love for your machine. It should bring joy. When you’re sewing it should be aiding you. Not working against you! Struggling with a machine that constantly has issues during projects is the worst kind of deterrent and half the reason my hair rapidly thinned at such a young age. Find a machine that sews smoothly with your workflow and doesn’t give you toddler tantrums. Make sure it has the features you need. Visit a sewing store and try out different brands. It may seam like a sewing machine is just a sewing machine, but they’re all just a little bit different.

Keep extra needles on hand

This is something I’m lazy about! I constantly forget to change out my sewing machine needles. It’s good to have a few extra all purpose needles. They do break on occasion. Also, there are specialized needles for different fabrics. Think about what types of fabrics you’ll be sewing with and get comparable needles. Sewing with the wrong type of needles can cause fabrics to pucker, missed stitches and even break a machine. Needles are crafted to work with certain fabrics by their thickness, dull/sharp points, and their shape, such as a wedge needle for heavier fabrics. Most needles are labeled with their matching fabric type so it’s easy to find what you need.

Quality sewing thread

This might seem like one of those ‘derp tips’ but thread quality can make or break a project. The cheap thread is usually inconsistent in thickness which can lead to breakage. It also might be really fuzzy which stems from the short scrap fibers used in production. Some of the cheaper polyester threads can actually melt under an iron’s heat! Quality thread will use longer and stronger fibers which lead to less breakage. They will also look better on your finished product! I like to get Coats & Clark or Guterman threads.

You may not need all the colors

Continuing with the thread discussion, it’s possible you won’t be using every color under the rainbow. Starting out, I always thought I had to buy the packs of thread with every color on earth. Brights, darks, neutrals, metallics, jewel tones, etc. In reality, I rarely used colors outside of a neutral palette. Of course, this varies for everyone and depending on your design aesthetics, you might be using all the skittles rainbow colors. Over the years, I have collected all the main colors and some brighter and muted tones, but I mostly reach for black, white, gray and some select muted colors like dusty blue and brown. I buy larger spools of my most used colors and smaller spools in the lesser used colors. These smaller spools tend to be threads I bought for a specific project.

Wind bobbins before starting

Having a bobbin ready to go when your thread runs out mid-project is such a time saver. When I get in a flow, it irritates me to break focus and wind a new bobbin. Think about how much thread you might need and fill bobbins accordingly. Or if you have to use multiple thread colors, fill a bobbin for each color before beginning. This will help your speed tremendously.

Patience and forgiveness

These are not “supplies” per say, but patience when learning and forgiving YOURSELF for messing up will go a long way. We want sewing to be fun, right? Be kind to yourself and don’t stress over mistakes. Let out some audible sighs, shrug your shoulders and go eat some candy. See it as a learning opportunity and you’ll do even better the next time. You’re awesome just for trying. I wish I had this mindset when I began sewing. I was so hard on myself for not “getting it” right away and feeling like a failure. We all started at the beginning. That’s where patience comes in. Sewing is a learned skill by rinse and repeat.

Eat everything at the buffet

Try your hand at any and everything to find where your true passion lies. If you have a strong interest in a particular area such as quilting, start with small beginner projects. If you’re not sure what you like to sew yet, dive into various projects (but not all at once and make sure it matches your skill level). Naturally, you will find yourself leaning towards one area or another. I did have a slight interest in sewing clothes from the get-go, but didn’t really have the skills or confidence to sew them. I grew my knowledge by making bags, small blankets, baby toys, plushies, home decor, and then finally explored clothing and pattern making.


These are some of my top tips and products to make sewing projects just a little bit easier. Things I wish I knew when I started sewing!

Erin

Erin has been a graphic designer by day and a seamstress by night for over a decade. At Mega Coven Art she combines her skills to give you useful sewing tips, costuming tutorials, and pattern drafting advice. And sometimes fancy tidbits from the Supernatural universe.

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