Sewing Basics 101: The preparation you do BEFORE you start sewing can make or break your sewing project. In addition to setting out your pins, and firing up old Gerty (the sewing machine,) here are 6 sewing basics for beginners that even experienced sewers often forget!
- Change your needle – Sewing machine needles take a beating! Over the course of a project or two, they will get dull and sometimes develop burrs which cause thread to catch on them. That’s all it takes to jam up your machine or at best make it run in a choppy way. This is one of those machine sewing basics we might skip. Surely the needle is FINE, right? Some experts say to change you needle with every new project. I’m not on that train, but If you have made a couple of projects, your needle probably needs to be changed. Do it ahead to prevent snags.
- Backstitch – If you are working with a straight stitch of any kind, backstitching is very important to make sure the thread you sew stays put! Have you ever had thread pull and move around after you sew? Backstitching can help make sure those stitches stay situated. Make sure you end all of your rows of stitching with another backstitch to tie things completely up.
- Clean a Big Work Surface – I have 3 boys. Like a lot of you, I do most of my sewing at the kitchen table. Unless I clean the surface right before I start, there will be little trails of their lunch all over my stuff. Trails of jelly on my beautiful fabric is a serious bummer! Especially if you are sewing clothes, big dresses, or a bed-sized quilt, make sure you clean a big surface before you start laying out your fabric.
- Prewash (Or Pre-Shrink) Your Fabric – When I first started sewing garments I thought, “Hey, I want to make my own clothes, but I don’t REALLY have to pre-wash fabric before I sew, do I?” I thought the purpose was just to get any sizing or manufacturing stuff off of it. When you are excited to get going on your project, the LAST thing you want to do is a load of laundry. But skipping the pre-wash step can really backfire in the long run! You will take a lot of time making this creation and carefully measuring…If you don’t pre-wash, your fabric can shrink and put all that work to waste. If your fabric is dry clean only, you still will need to pre-shrink it by steaming it. A dry cleaner can do this for you quickly and you don’t even need to wait for it to dry! The only exception to this is if you are sewing a craft that will never ever be washed. Even then, I’ve gotten in the habit…even stuff I didn’t plan to wash gets dirty. I throw it right in the wash when I get home from the fabric store!
- Sharpen Cutting Tools and Replace Blades – I don’t do this every time, but mostly every time. Here’s why – cutting through fabric with a sharp blade or pair of scissors is an absolute joy. Clomping through fabric with a dull scissors rotary blade is a chore and it doubles your work time during the cutting part of the project. I often cut my fabric over a cutting mat on my kitchen island. And every so often, I go over the edge and my granite countertop meets my blade. Suddenly there is one dull spot on the circular blade. If this happens, you will have to go back over your cuts which can make them less accurate as well. Just trust me – replace the blades before you start!
- Assemble PDF Patterns Ahead of Time – “Batching” tasks allows you to be more in the moment with each kind of task, and this makes the process that much more enjoyable. It might take you a while to glue your pattern together. If you are eager to get sewing, you could do a sloppy job. No one likes a sloppy paper pattern! Assemble your pattern ahead of time so you can just cut and sew all at one time. You can also cut the night before so your pieces are ready to go for your next sewing session.
- Test Stitches On Scrap Fabric – Before you start sewing your pattern pieces, take a minute and a scrap of your chosen fabric to get the machine settings right. Sometimes we are SO eager to get going, we skip this step and end up with loopy stitches on the back or our pattern pieces get knotted and jammed up in the machine – not fun! Taking a minute to get the tension and stitches right before you start your project will save you lots of disappointment later.
Did I miss any? What sewing basics do YOU always do? Leave me a comment!