If you’re here that means that you’ve mastered the following…
- You’ve gathered the essential sewing supplies
- You understand how important right angles are to protecting your back as you sew
- You know the parts of your sewing machine
- You know how to wind a bobbin and how to load a bobbin
- You know how to change your machine needle, how to thread your machine, and how to draw up the bobbin thread
- You know how to adjust stitch type, stitch length, and stitch width
- You know how to adjust sewing machine tension
- You know how to clean and care for your machine
- You know how to troubleshoot common problems
- And you have more than a basic understanding of fabric
We’ve come a long way, haven’t we?
But before we leap into practicing how to sew…
I want to encourage you to take as much time as you need to get comfortable with your sewing machine. After all, this is just the beginning of a long and passionate love affair.
And I promise you that if you don’t give up…
One day you will be the benevolent boss of your sewing machine and a master dressmaker.
Now, if you’re ready, it’s time for you to actually drive your sewing machine and take your first stitches.
So, let’s get sewing…
NOTE: This article may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure HERE.
Rule #1: If you want to sew lovely stitching lines, find the middle speed between painfully slow and breakneck fast. A good dressmaker knows that sewing at a moderate pace is one of the keys to pretty stitching lines.
Rule #2: As you sew, keep your fingers at least ONE inch away from the presser foot at all times! PLEASE, get in the practice of sewing safe right from the start.
Rule #3: When you’re stitching, you need to watch the raw edge of your fabric, not the sewing machine needle. Think about it this way: The needle isn’t going anywhere. But the fabric IS moving and you want to make sure that you can maintain an accurate seam allowance (SA).
Rule #4: Sewing is not a game of tug-of-war. Do NOT pull or push your fabric through your machine! Because this can result in ugly stitching, or, even worse, a broken, flying needle! Remember, it is the job of the feed dogs to feed the fabric through the machine, not you. Your job is simply to gently guide the fabric so that you maintain the proper SA.
Rule #5: Do NOT sew when you are exhausted — or drunk. Enough said.
How Fast Should You Sew
During this practice session, please unthread your machine and place an EMPTY bobbin in the bobbin case.
If you want to learn to sew, the first order of business is learning what moderate speed feels like.
To do this:
- Press your foot pedal just enough to get your machine sewing.
- Now, press it all the way to the ground. This will give you an idea of how your machine feels at its slowest speed and at its fastest speed.
- Then, find the middle ground between the two extremes. This is the sweet spot that you will sew at from this point forward!
Pro tip: If your sewing machine has a speed control lever like my Janome DC2014, then you’ll be able to control how fast your machine sews when you press the foot pedal all the way. I love this feature!
The next order of business is to learn how to sew a straight stitching line…
How to Sew a Straight Line
Get yourself a piece of lined loose leaf paper. Or, you could sign up and receive instant access to the practice sheets I’ve made just for you. All you have to do is sign up, using the form at the bottom of this page, and they are yours!
Now, please pretend that your piece of paper is actually fabric.
If you’re ready, let’s start stitching…
- Install a 80/12 or 90/14 Universal needle.
- Set your stitch length to 2.5 or 2.6mm.
- Set your tension to 4.
- Please take your sheet of lined paper and place it under your presser foot. Align it so that the needle is in line with the first line.
- Now, press your foot pedal and begin stitching a straight line.
Remember to allow the feed dogs to move the paper through the machine. Your job is simply to guide it. And keep your fingers at least ONE inch from the presser foot.
If you need to pause between stitches, remove your foot completely from the foot pedal. I don’t want you to accidentally set that needle in motion!
Practice until you feel one with your sewing machine and stitching straight lines.
Pro tip #1: If your sewing machines that have a Needle Up/Down button, you will rarely have to touch the handwheel!
Pro tip #2: When you complete a stitching line, get in the habit of pressing the Needle Up feature to raise your needle to its highest position. If your machine does not have a Needle Up/Down feature, then turn the handwheel towards you until the takeup lever is in its highest position. This is how you complete a stitch and avoid tangled threads!
How to Sew Outside Corners
Now that you’ve mastered the art of straight seams, it is time to learn how to pivot. Pivoting comes in handy when you need to sew something with an outside corner like a pocket.
You can draw a good sized square on a blank sheet of paper or download the sample sheets I’ve made just for you. All you have to do is sign up, using the form at the bottom of this page, and they are yours!
Here’s how you pivot:
- Align your needle at one corner and stitch forward.
- As you near the next corner, slow down. You don’t want to overshoot the corner.
- Stop a few stitches shy of the corner and turn your handwheel towards you until you reach the corner.
- When you reach the corner, sink your needle either by pressing the Needle Up/Down button or turning your handwheel towards you to lower your needle. It is essential that you lower your needle BEFORE you lift your presser foot!
- Lift your presser foot.
- Then, turn the paper to pivot the corner.
- Lower your presser foot, and then continue stitching forward towards the next corner.
Wasn’t that easy?!
Two Types of Curves
Frankly, curves can be a little tricky in the beginning. But if you follow my lead, you’ll be stitching curves like a pro in no time at all.
First, there are two types of curves you’ll need to know how to maneuver: (1) Convex and (2) Concave.
This is an example of a convex curve or an outward curve…
Other examples of convex curves are the shape of a princess seam or a curved pocket.
And here are two examples of concave curves, or an inward curve: the shape of a scoop neckline and an armhole…
Are you ready to take on curves?!
How to Sew Curves Easily: 3 Tips
- Mark the stitching lines of your curves with your favorite marking tool. Taking the time to do this will make all the difference in sewing curves accurately.
- Slow down. When driving, you’re always advised to take the curves slowly. Well, it is the same with sewing. If you slow down, you will find that sewing curves are easier.
- And as you come to a curve, reduce your stitch length from 2.5 to 2.0mm. A shorter stitch length will allow you to stitch with greater accuracy.
Just remember to increase your stitch length back to 2.5mm after you’ve sewn the curve area.
Now, that wasn’t so bad?!
Practice with Pretty Fabric
Now, it’s time for things to get real…
I know people will tell you slum it and buy some cheap fabric like muslin to practice on. And you certainly can.
But I would urge you to spend a few extra dollars and buy a yard of medium-weight, quilting cotton that speaks to you. A piece of fabric you love touching and looking at.
Now that you’ve got your pretty fabric, let’s begin…
- First, wind your bobbin.
- Then, thread your machine. And install your bobbin and draw up your bobbin thread.
- Change your machine needle. The one you’ve used so far to practice on paper is dull. And we don’t sew with dull needles, do we?!
- Fold your pretty fabric in half and press. You want to practice on a double layer of fabric to mimic real life garment sewing.
- Raise your presser foot. And place your fabric underneath about ¼ inch from the raw edge.
- Line up the raw edge on the right with the 5/8 inch seam line on your throat plate.
- To begin a stitching line and avoid a tangled bird’s nest, firmly but gently hold about four inches of the needle and the bobbin thread behind the presser foot and against the bed of your machine.
- As you stitch forward, try to maintain a 5/8 inch seam allowance. To do so, keep your eye on the raw edge, not the needle.
- At the end of your stitching line, lift your presser foot.
- And finally, pull your fabric to the back and over to the left. Bring both the needle and bobbin threads up and over the built-in thread cutter. Or, you can snip them with your thread snips.
Please stand and do the very happy seamstress dance around the room. Because you’ve just sewn your very first stitching line on real fabric!
Well, look at you…
You can now sew straight lines, pivot, and sew curved lines like a pro.
If you still feel a little unsure, just keep practicing until you get there. It is perfectly okay to go at your own pace. Just don’t ever give up, you hear!
Anyhoo, I’m waiting breathlessly to see you over at the cutting table. We are going to have fantastic fun dreaming, sewing, and flaunting our handmade garments!
Life is the ultimate red carpet event. Dress for it!
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Join me and I will send you a FREE copy of the Sewing Machine Practice Sheets! So you can begin mastering sewing straight lines, pivoting corners, and taking curves!
Plus, so much good stuff is coming that will allow you and I to finally unleash our dressmaking superpowers. And, I will also share weekly exclusive tips! Seriously!