sewing machine and iron with title "New Sewing Machine?"

Got a new Sewing Machine? Now What?

Just retired, new home, new baby – many things can trigger people to start sewing. Here are six things to get you off to a good start.

Learn the basics

It can be overwhelming to look at a finished project and try to figure out where to start. Sometimes instructions seem like they are written in a foreign language.

Taking the time to learn the basics will make your projects more successful. That will make the process more enjoyable and you more likely to continue.

Basics skills are a bit different depending on what your sewing goals are: Do you want to make clothing? Home dec items? Quilts? Dolls and toys?

If you have never sewn anything, decide which category you want to start with. Home dec items (like placemats or pillows) are usually simple and useful, so I recommend starting there.

The best way to learn is to take a class (in person is best) where you can get feedback and help from a teacher. Chances are, if you know someone who sews, they would be happy to help you.

Use good quality tools

You don’t need to rush out and spend thousands of dollars on sewing tools, but do consider them an investment.

It is better to have a few good quality tools than lots of useless trinkets.

large fabric scissors

The number one thing to invest in is fabric scissors. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to cut fabric and it’s not cutting properly. That will turn you off of sewing before you start. If you see scissors at the dollar store, don’t expect them to last twenty years.

Ask for specific things for your birthday or Christmas and keep your eye out at second hand stores or estate sales.

Use good materials

This is along the same lines as good quality tools. Poor quality fabric and thread is difficult to work with and will just make you frustrated.

Cheap thread is tempting, but it can actually cause damage to your machine. Stick to a name brand and ask people who sew for their recommendations.

To save money on fabric, look for fabric that you already have. Before you get rid of old clothes, look at it with fresh eyes and see if you could do something with it.

A skirt could become a pillow. A t-shirt could become a baby dress. Even if you don’t make an item, this is a great way to get fabric for practicing new skills.

Pick simple projects

The reason you want to sew is so that you can see a finished item that you have made. There is great satisfaction in making something with your own hands.

If you attempt something too difficult to start with, you are likely to give up and stuff it in a closet where it will sit for ten years.

Home dec projects are great, but you don’t have to be limited to that.

Want to make clothes? A skirt is easier than pants or a jacket.

Want to make quilts? A fence rail or nine patch is easier than a lone star.

fabric grocery bag

Look for patterns marked “beginner” or “quick & easy”. Build up to more complicated projects and you will have more success.

The Magic Market Bag is a great beginner project.

It is quick and easy to do and gives you something useful.

Learn from mistakes

Nothing will go perfectly all the time. Eventually you will cut something out backwards or stitch on the wrong side. That’s part of learning.

Every sewist has a seam ripper. Many people even give them nick names.

Don’t give up. Learn to laugh at yourself and move on.

Enjoy the process

Sewing is a relaxing and enjoyable hobby. 

Take your time. It’s not a race. Follow steps one by one. 

Fit sewing to your personality. Use the time to think or socialize or enjoy other entertainment. It’s up to you how you sew. It should be enjoyable.


flower shaped pincushion with pins
flower pincushion

Make a flower pincushion


Elizabeth DeCroos

Elizabeth DeCroos

designer, teacher, speaker

Elizabeth enjoys doing all types of sewing and needlework and teaching others new techniques. For more information or to have her speak to your group click HERE.

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