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Sewing Basics

If you don’t have a lot of experience making clothes but would like to learn how, sewing for toddlers and babies is a great way to learn. Young kids think it’s cool to wear stuff their mom (or dad) made, and you don’t need to buy much fabric to make an entire outfit. Most of the things I make my kids are cut out of fabric remnants that I buy for half price or less at my local fabric store.

Here are basic materials for getting started:

  • Sewing machine. I have a Brother sewing machine that I bought from Costco ten years ago. I used it to sew my wedding dress, a couple of jackets, and many other random projects and it still works great. I dream of owning a Serger – someday…
  • Good fabric shears. Otherwise you will give up before you get your first outfit cut out. Mine are Gingher brand, very similar to these
  • Pincushion with pins
  • Seam ripper
  • Needles
  • Thread
  • Something to store all of your sewing supplies in. I use a fish tackle box my Grandma gave me to use as a sewing box the Christmas I was six years old.

Extras you will probably want to get eventually:

  • Buttons
  • Elastic
  • Zippers (my daughter won’t wear anything with a zipper in it, so if your child is the same way, don’t bother)
  • Embroidery scissors – nice for cutting thread but so are the child safety scissors you have for craft time.

A few tips:

  • Don’t be afraid of buttons. Most modern sewing machines have a buttonhole feature that makes sewing buttonholes very easy.
  • Straight pins are your friend – it’s well worth the extra time it takes to put them in your fabric to keep seams straight and line up.
  • Zig-zag edges of woven (non-stretchy) fabrics before sewing together to prevent fraying
  • Use a zig-zag stitch when making clothing out of stretchy fabrics. A straight stitch is fine for wovens (if a woven item is cut on the bias – which makes it a bit stretchy – you probably want to use a zig-zag stitch).
  • As a general rule, pattern pieces for most articles of clothing should be cut out in such a way that the vertical line of the clothing (when the wearer is standing up with their arms hanging at their sides runs parallel to the selvage.

If you’re looking for a book, The Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing : Step-By-Step Techniques for Making Clothes and Home Furnishings is the sewing reference I turn to most often. You can get used copies off of Amazon for almost nothing.

Have any questions, comments, or other tips? Please let me know!

MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

3 thoughts on “Sewing Basics”

  1. Thanks for the serger tip, Kelley! I just blogged about your giveaway, I think your Etsy stuff looks amazing!

  2. By the way, I have that book you mentioned, and it is invaluable. My sister gave me a copy a couple years ago for Christmas, and it was one of the best gifts ever.By the way, have you seen the giveaway over on my blog?

  3. Have you looked on craigslist.com for a serger? That’s where I found mine – a really good White that was about 15 or 20 years old, but still in excellent shape. The best part? The price. $35.

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