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How to sew: a step-by-step guide for beginners

Learn how to sew clothes by hand with our step-by-step guide for beginners.


blue jeans with rose patches and a sewing kit

Key steps:

To make your own clothes at home follow our key steps:

  • Get everything you’ll need for the project.

  • Start with a simple line stitch.

  • Add in more complicated elements as your confidence grows.

  • Be sure to avoid common pitfalls.

Want to enter the world of fashion with clothes made by your own hands? Want to know how to learn sewing at home but not sure where to start? Learn how to make the most of the sewing kit hiding at the back of your closet with this comprehensive and easy-to-follow guide for beginners. We cover all the key basics of sewing for beginners; from a basic sewing guide to top tips and common mistakes to avoid. 

If you’re upcycling old clothes be sure to give them a thorough wash beforehand with some good quality laundry detergent and fabric softener like Skip.

How to sew by hand: first steps

Taking it one step at a time is the most important thing to remember when learning how to sew. For beginners, it can be easy to get frustrated at the beginning but you’ve got to master the basics before you go on to anything more complicated.

Start by getting together all the equipment you need. This usually includes needles, thread, fabric, pattern, fabric scissors, pins and fabric chalk (make sure it’s machine washable). You might also want to invest in some sewing books or at least have a look at catalogues to give yourself a bit of guidance.

Next, start with a basic project - like sewing a cushion. This will teach you all the key skills that you can then use to start making your own clothes.

  1. Thread the needle, tie a knot, and start with a simple line stitch to attach two pieces of evenly-sized, square fabric together.

  2. Sew all the way around three sides of your fabric but leave one side open.

  3. Turn the material in on itself so that your seam is on the inside of your empty cushion.

  4. Fill the cushion with padding until you're happy with it.

  5. Sew the final side together.

Once you feel confident with this, try adding other elements such as a zip or buttons when sewing up the final side of your cushion.

Sewing basics for beginners: how to choose a sewing pattern

Now you know the basics you can try bigger projects like sewing your own clothes. One of the most important steps for this is choosing a sewing pattern. There are a few things to consider if you're new to sewing:

  1. Always start with something simple otherwise it might all get too much and put you off.

  2. Avoid anything too fitted to begin with as this can be tricky to sew.

  3. Opt for patterned rather than plain fabrics as they are more forgiving of any mistakes.

  4. Purchasing paper patterns may be easier to start with as you don't have to worry about printing them correctly. 

  5. Study everything on the pattern thoroughly before you decide to try it out.

Safety Warning

Always be careful of needles when you’re sewing, it’s easy to hurt yourself.  Always keep them well away from children.

Common mistakes when you’re learning how to sew

We all make mistakes when we’re learning, there’s no shame in that. But it’s worth being aware of some common ones in advance to help you avoid them.

  • Using the wrong size needle. Always match your needle to the fabric.

  • Getting the measurements wrong. Measure twice, cut (or sew) once.

  • Holding the fabric too tightly and stretching it out. You want a firm, but gentle, grip.

  • Choosing the wrong type of fabric for the garment. Avoid stretchy materials for your first few projects.

  • Using blunt needles. You need a sharp needle to sew more easily.

  • Using blunt fabric scissors. This will make it difficult to cut your fabric cleanly.

  • Not finishing the seams so they remain visible. An easy way to finish seams is to sew a zig-zag stitch on the edges of the fabric before turning them in and sewing them together.

Now you know how to sew there’s no stopping you. Start putting your skills into practice and check out our ideas for upcycling clothes for inspiration. The best thing about making things yourself is that you can upcycle beautiful old clothes into modern styles. You’ll be guaranteed a unique look and lots of compliments.

Originally published