Sewing is growing in popularity.
Sewing can be complicated to learn, which many beginners make the same mistakes, so I have compiled 17 common mistakes to address this issue.
We will highlight the most common errors made by beginners using their sewing machines. Hopefully, this will help you to avoid making the same faux pass yourself.
- 1) Choosing an Expensive Sewing Machine
- 2) Choosing Fabric That Requires Advanced Skills
- 3) Not Following Pattern Instructions
- 4) Failing to Press the Seam
- 5) Taking Unnecessary Shortcuts
- 6) Giving Up in the Process of Learning
- 7) Not Knowing When It’s Time To Rest
- 8) Sewing For Other People Without Knowing The Basics
- 9) Not Learning The Terminology of Sewing
- 10) Failing To Prepare The Fabric
- 11) Not Learning To Read a Sewing Pattern
- 12) Choosing a Pattern That Needs Major Changes
- 13) Not Following The Fabric Guidelines On Your Pattern
- 14) Attempting Advanced Pattern Styles
- 15) Panic Buying Before You Can Even Start Sewing
- 16) Choosing The Wrong Materials For Sewing
- 17) Sewing Too Many Garments In One Go
1) Choosing an Expensive Sewing Machine
As a beginner, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to find a high-performance model with a huge range of features.
Some people will already have a machine at home. Grandma’s old balance wheel (manually operated) could easily do the trick. As long as it’s functional and not rusty, you can start practicing with it. Yes, in this age, it’s hard to imagine sewing while moving your feet to power it. It’s the best alternative, though, if you can’t afford to buy one as yet since you are just starting to learn. And it’s not bad to start with the basics.
How about when you are ready to make a purchase?
Sewing beginners don’t need to buy sewing machines that are extremely costly. No matter how excited you might be to run to the nearest store and purchase one that will suit your expensive taste and style, we suggest that you weigh up some options first before pulling out those bills from your pocket…
As first timers, you are trying to learn and study first how to sew fabric. You are not going to sell it yet. You don’t even know if your passion for sewing will last or it is only a passing fancy. So, it is always best to be practical and smart just to be sure. You can always buy the computerized sewing machine of your dreams once your budget increases.
One thing to bear in mind regarding computerized machines: if your budget is less than $300, consider buying a high-quality manual machine instead. Many experts suggest that this approach will get you started with a better class of sewing machine.
And always keep in mind that in buying a sewing machine be it pricey or not, impartial reviews are well worth consulting. Also, check for the brand names and features. Usually, trusted brands are trusted for a reason. Most of the big players offer very affordable machines in addition to the higher-end models. Regarding features, think first about what you will use the sewing machine for. If you are honest about your requirements, it will help you make the wisest choice.
So… You do not need to spend a fortune. Make a sensible selection based on your budget and needs rather than dashing out to buy a $1000 sewing machine thinking that this will lead to success.
2) Choosing Fabric That Requires Advanced Skills
Don’t run before you can walk.
Beginners should always bear in mind that learning to sew, even though it looks so easy watching sewers at work, is never an easy task. There is lots more to it than merely inserting a needle and letting it run into your fabric.
One wrong move may result in creating unnecessary holes in the cloth. So never jump into delicate sewing fabrics such as chiffon, georgette, satin, silk, velvet, taffeta and or straight from the onset. These fabrics should be not experimented upon while starting to learn.
Georgette, chiffon and silk fabrics should be handled more delicately because they are transparent and are very thin. You can see through them. Any wrong seams will be very evident. And they all require a French seam, a kind of seam that has a very fine finish that conceals any undue seam.
Corduroy, taffeta, and velvet also demand advanced skills. These fabrics are nubby and quite rough to sew. So, if you are a beginner, pick cotton fabrics first. Cotton is tough fabrics and is cheap. If you happen to stumble and make the traditional mistake of overlapping seams, you can always repair it easily without any noticeable holes.
There is enough time for you to learn so do not rush things. Better results come from experience and discipline so take it easy.
3) Not Following Pattern Instructions
Not following instructions is like diving into the sea when you don’t know how deep it is.
There is always a corresponding rule for everything. Ignoring guidelines just because you thought you were doing the right thing and you don’t need instructions anymore will not get you to the finish line more quickly. Well, it might but with some mistakes.
Such guidelines are given to help teach and guide beginners on how to sew using patterns in the correct manner. Learn to be patient and stop taking shortcuts when you haven’t perfected yet the art of sewing.
Sometimes, when you are more advanced, shortcuts can be OK. Just to be sure it will not affect the quality of your work. While perfecting your sewing skills, just relax and take your time. There is no reason to hurry.
4) Failing to Press the Seam
You often hear from your sewing instructors to always press the seam after and before you continue and join it with other seams.
As a beginner, iron pressing is always much better than using just the hands. This is because ironing produces a flatter seamed fabric (unlike with plain hand pressing which sometimes leaves a crumpled look).
But, of course, as you go along the way, you will learn how to expertly press seams using your own hands alone.
It’s not essential to keep jumping up and heading to the ironing board. Sew several seams first. If you are working on a blouse perhaps go for the shoulders, sleeves, and side. Take them over to your sewing machine. Press them. After this sew them all and you can save some time without taking shortcuts…
5) Taking Unnecessary Shortcuts
The reason why there are instructions is for you to follow the steps precisely.
If you think your life will be much better-skipping stages, then you are completely mistaken.
There is no shortcut to success. It involves hard work and perseverance.
Attaining a quality sewn garment simply cannot be achieved if you keep on looking for the easy fix. You might succeed at first, but it’s not an enduring strategy. This is particularly true for most beginners. You are likely to make more mistakes and thus need to carry out alterations in the process.
More haste, less speed.
Take pride in your work and look towards achieving fine results rather than shaving off time. You are supposed to be enjoying yourself so ease up and do things properly.
6) Giving Up in the Process of Learning
Everyone makes mistakes! No one is exempted from that.
Some sewers, when starting out, even fail to perfect a single garment after trying many times.
Letting those failures provoke you to give up only means that your efforts and time have been wasted. Don’t quit!
The most valuable thing about any mistake is learning from it. This helps you to avoid repeating it. Take note of what went wrong and ask yourself why it happened. Stop and think.
Things like creating a button hole in the wrong pocket or accidentally cutting the fabric leaving a hole in it… Classic and understandable errors. Everyone has experienced those things. And it’s perfectly normal. Even the best designers in the world at one time needed to replace the damaged fabric.
Making mistakes is part of the learning experience. You should let your mistakes become your best teacher to hone a better you.
Never give up and never let failure get in the way of your sewing aspirations.
Keep in mind that those who give up never win.
You will in time get to perfect everything continues until you get it all right.
Read on the next part of the article which will deal with more things which often go wrong when you are a beginner using a sewing machine.
Take heart: it’s not you, these things happen to everybody. Be aware of things to avoid, though, and you are less likely to slip up.
We will continue in our 17 commons mistakes made by beginners with their sewing machines.
Everybody makes errors but knowing how to avoid them helps.
Don’t be scared to experiment but steer clear of the usual mishaps by arming yourself with as much information as possible.
Here are more pitfalls to sidestep when you are starting out with your sewing machine…
7) Not Knowing When It’s Time To Rest
Often, when you are just starting out, projects can seem incredibly complex.
There might be a time when you keep on getting stuck with a specific step. Sometimes you might keep repeating the same thing and ending up with the same result. Your frustration and anger grow. The temptation is there to quit.
Do not think that taking a break is admitting defeat. The reverse is true. You should be enjoying yourself so if you find out that something keeps going wrong, take a step back and think about why.
You know how you best relax. For some people, it might be taking a walk while others enjoy hitting the fridge for some ice cream. Simply leave the sewing machine and get some perspective.
Come back when you are calm and study exactly what went wrong and caused you to get stuck. Do some research.
You’ll often find that a very brief pitstop helps you to return with renewed focus and determination.
8) Sewing For Other People Without Knowing The Basics
Many people who do not sew think that garments simply sew themselves with the right machine. Nothing could be further from the truth. While sewing is incredibly enjoyable, it’s also very hard work.
Take plenty of time before you start sewing for others to fully get to grips with the basics that you need to sew well. Practice, practice, practice.
One good tip is not even to tell other people that you have a sewing machine. It might be hard to contain your excitement, but you are better off to devote the time to learn your craft before undertaking projects for others. Whether this takes the form of commercial work or a favor, do not heap on extra pressure by needing to consider other people.
Friends and family often have no real concept of the time involved in sewing something well. They also seem to think that custom-made clothing is cheap. Be firm and set down boundaries.
The most important thing for beginners is to feel comfortable with their machine and to think of their own needs first.
9) Not Learning The Terminology of Sewing
When you are starting to sew, the large number of technical terms can seem bewildering.
Be realistic. It’s not like learning another new language. There are a finite number of special words or phrases which keep on cropping up. Do yourself a favor and familiarize yourself with as many of these as possible.
Whether it’s the features of particular garments, sewing techniques or the parts of a sewing machine, the more you can commit to memory the better. Increase your understanding. Look at learning this new craft as a challenge, not a chore.
If you learn best as you go along then do it in this way rather than attempting to memorize long lists of words. This approach is more practical, and you can see what you are learning in context.
However, you choose to learn, do not overlook the importance of being well versed in the terminology of sewing.
10) Failing To Prepare The Fabric
Shortcuts usually lead to failure. A lack of preparation is inexcusable.
It’s understandable that you are eager to get going when you have a new project in mind, but you need to get started in the right way.
Some materials require washing or dry cleaning before use. Denim needs to be popped in the machine while wool requires dry cleaning.
Material can often shrink after washing so doing this before making something new from the fabric is crucial if you want the finished article to fit!
Interfacing, lining, and also trim often need to be preshrunk too. If this shrinks up and the garment doesn’t, it will still do you no good.
Make sure that any accessories which you sew on to your garment are compatible. It’s no use lining a machine washable blouse with a dry clean only trim.
Be patient and take your time before wading in. You will avoid many mistakes and unwearable pieces of clothing if you exercise caution and prepare properly.
11) Not Learning To Read a Sewing Pattern
Patterns are critical. Every symbol, marking and the label has a specific meaning.
If there is something on the pattern that seems alien, take the opportunity to learn what it means. Use whatever resources you feel most comfortable with, online or offline, and make it your business to find out.
Think of the time you invest here as a saving in money potentially wasted if you ruin the garment you are working on.
Check out this outstanding guide which will help you to differentiate between the markings commonly found on sewing patterns.
If you skip this and try to avoid learning, it could be a costly mistake.
12) Choosing a Pattern That Needs Major Changes
If you are beginning to use your sewing machine, the very last thing you need is to be faced with major alterations. Even something demanding a large number of smaller changes is to avoid. Keep it simple.
When you are starting out, choose something like a pillow or scarf. These small projects are great and do not bring with them the need to start embarking on serious alterations.
In particular, you should avoid:
- Redesigning or combing patterns
- Bust alterations
- Resizing or grading patterns
Think about your strengths and weaknesses. How much do you relish a challenge? Do you want an easier life? Be honest about exactly what you want from using your sewing machine. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
You can always build up to more complex projects, but it’s best to do so slowly.
Check out the final part of this series for five more mistakes to watch out for when you are beginning to use your sewing machine.
Now we will conclude our series on mistakes that beginners make when using their sewing machine.
Take note of these five commonplace errors and try to avoid them to enjoy hassle-free sewing.
13) Not Following The Fabric Guidelines On Your Pattern
In choosing fabric for your garment, always refer to the fabric guidelines behind your patterns. These lists serve as guides for beginners regarding the type of material they should choose for the pattern.
Always ask yourself if the fabric you want is suitable for the garment you will be working with. Never use any fabric that your pattern envelope says shouldn’t be used.
You need to start with cotton first until you familiarize yourself with the different textures at your disposal.
You may use any fabric you like provided the texture is similar to the ones indicated on your pattern envelope. Pattern suggestions are not created to limit your fabric choices though.
These guidelines are there to help you know which fabric to use as a beginner and to also avoid any future mistakes in your sewing experience.
14) Attempting Advanced Pattern Styles
Checking the Internet to learn how to sew is a good thing, but a great deal of advice is targeted at much more experienced sewers. Modern technology can be extremely useful, but many websites simply don’t teach the basic things about sewing.
Again, I remind you about shortcuts. Some may pick things up faster but that doesn’t mean hurrying is OK. Do not rush. You should always start from the very beginning.
Simple and easy patterns are best for beginners. Make a mini skirt out of woven linen fabric. Or shorts from cotton. These are the fabrics of choice for first-timers. They are soft and more manageable to handle.
You can actually start with a simple handkerchief or a big scarf. Or shorts and perhaps pajamas afterward. This is how it should be, a progression from small garments to bigger ones until you get to learn more and can then create beautiful, more ambitious products.
You will get used to sewing in time. Learn how to enjoy performing the basics. There is surely a lot that you can learn online but there is a great deal that you need to know which is not shown or taught digitally.
With sewing, the more you practice, the more you improve as you move along the way… And the better you get, the more your skills are developed. Practice always makes perfect. There is no doubt about it.
Enjoy and feel the rewards of becoming better at sewing. And, before you know it, you will have already started mastering the craft.
15) Panic Buying Before You Can Even Start Sewing
Everyone’s guilty of gorging on sales, especially if all the patterns and expensive fabrics are priced at very low rates.
Again, this type of panic buying is best left to advanced learners. For the simple reason that (as I mentioned before) you don’t know if you will suddenly lose interest in sewing.
What if you give up in the process? Well, you will sell those fabrics and patterns I guess. But then again, experienced sewers might have the same, a lot of stacked fabrics and patterns too and no interest in buying more.
You may get free patterns with instructions available from the Internet too. Take your time.
After making a series of garments and feeling sure that sewing is what you want in your life then by all means splurge and indulge on sale items.
But until you’re in the in thing mode or trial and error phase, we suggest you get to keep your impulses in check and wait for the right time. That is when you are sure that sewing is for you.
16) Choosing The Wrong Materials For Sewing
Often, to save cash people tend to skimp on budget and buy tools that could rightly be considered second best. In other words, products barely fit for the work in question. Or sometimes they will use what is available to hand at home.
Using scissors meant for cutting paper: this one is definitely a no-no. There are special scissors designed to cut fabric, and ordinary scissors are simply not up to the job. These are also not that sharp and might cause unevenness in the fabric’s cut.
It’s alright to consider alternatives as long as using such materials won’t hamper the time and the job itself. It shouldn’t compromise the quality of the product and the integrity of the sewer.
Most of the time, what you thought was helping you to save money can actually cost you dearly. If things get messed up with your garments, you will create problems like increased duration and workload.
And with that comes additional expenditure if the fabric and patterns you used don’t live up to what they are meant to. Doing the job will tend to become harder, and you will take longer to finish your garments.
Using the correct materials will not only save you time and money, but it will also allow you to complete the work better and more easily.
17) Sewing Too Many Garments In One Go
It is natural to be highly excited to sew if you are a beginner. The tendency is for you to have the desire to keep on sewing and try doing more while you are not yet done with your first garment.
There is nothing wrong with that as long as you can perfectly coordinate everything.
But it is advisable (and wiser at that) to start and finish one at a time. In that way, you will feel more fulfilled and not too tired especially after seeing your very first finished product rather than trying to finish everything at the same time and not seeing the fruits of any of your labor yet.
There is nothing more fulfilling for any first-time sewers than to get to do their first garment and watch it hang in front of them. That will definitely push you to do more. And full of more enthusiasm than ever rather than tiring yourself doing too much simultaneously.
Again, a big NO to shortcuts, please.
You will learn along the way, and you will also definitely make some mistakes while doing your first project. And that is how you will learn and will be able to apply such lessons to your next projects.
Often multi-tasking slows you down rather than speeds things up. Think about doing things online… Three windows and nine tabs diminished your attention span. You do less not more.
Pay attention to these problems, try to not to fall foul of them and enjoy your sewing experience to the full!