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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Sewing 101: Starting to Sew

It's always fun to learn a new skill but it can also be overwhelming, especially the first time you sit down to actually start.  You get yourself settled in front of your shiny new sewing machine, and then take a deep breath, and... now what?   

Well, you can either jump right into a new pattern or practice on scraps for awhile first. (I'm a practicer, myself.) Whichever you decided to do, I always tell my kids/students to remember three important steps every time they sew. These will get you started off right and prevent a lot of problems.  Here they are:

After you've done these three things, you're ready to hit the foot pedal and go!  

We'll talk about each of the steps in more detail, but I thought you might like the little printout above that you can tape to your sewing machine or your wall as a reminder! You can download it here. You'll be glad you did! Alright, let's take a closer look.

The first step is to line up your fabric. The engraven lines on the metal plate of your machine are very important, so you need to become familiar with them. If you have an older machine, the lines might not be marked but each one usually stands for a measurement, such as 1/4", 3/8", 1/2", etc.  These lines show the distance measured out to the side from the needle.  So if your pattern tells you to sew with a 3/8" seam allowance (as most CKC patterns do) then you will want to be sure you have a line that is 3/8" to the right of your needle. On my daughter's sewing machine I carefully measured over with a ruler and drew a straight line from front to back with a sharpie. You cannot sew a straight seam without a guide! 

Now that you know which line you want to follow, slide your fabric under the presser foot of your machine. You want the right edge of your fabric to line up with the 3/8" line on the right, and the far edge of your fabric to line up with the needle. See the photo above. 

The second step is to lower your presser foot. The presser foot is the little gadget that looks like skis, and you can lower it by using the lever behind it or to the back/right of it, depending on your machine.  After lowing your presser foot, check to make sure the fabric is still lined up correctly.  If it's not, raise the foot and retry until it is lined up right.

(Note: If you forget to lower your presser foot, the fabric will move around instead of feeding through, and the threads will get all tangled. This is why it's helpful to use the printed checklist until the steps become a habit.) 

The third step is to hold your threads! You need to find two threads (one from above and one from below) and hold them tightly.  You can hold them with two fingers as I do, as shown above, or you can simply press down on them against the machine so they won't slip. 

(Note: If you forget to hold the threads, they will often get pulled down into your machine and tangled. This is the most common complaint of self-taught seamstresses. So if you always hold the threads toward the back, you will save yourself a lot of trouble!) 

You do not need to hold the two threads the whole time you sew though. It is only for the first two or three stitches, until the threads have a chance to secure themselves in the fabric. The you can let go and use your hand to guide the fabric. 

It is a good idea to backstitch at the beginning and ending of every line you sew, unless the pattern tells you otherwise.  To back stitch, you will sew a couple stitches (while holding the threads), then hold down your reverse button or lever to sew a couple stitches backwards, and then release the reverse button so you can continue sewing forward.  This takes a little practice but it will soon become second nature. 

Then continue sewing along the length of your fabric.

When you get to the end of the fabric, you will again hold down the reverse button so you can do a couple backstitches to secure the thread.  Backstitching on both ends helps secure the stitches all the way to the ends of the seam so you will have sturdy construction. We want our cute clothes to last! 

After you're done sewing and backstitching, just lift up the presser foot and pull your fabric away. You can clip the threads and move onto the next step in your pattern!

Now you can see that getting started does not have to be overwhelming at all!  I hope you will take a minute to print out the little cheat sheet we have for you above. Cut it, tape it to your machine, and then jump right into sewing!  Your new adventure awaits.

Let's Create! ~ Kristen

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