How to Teach Someone to Sew

Sewing is fun and rewarding, but for those who are just now learning, it can seem complicated and agitating unless they have a good instructor. It’s hard to teach certain people particular talents but, when it comes to sewing, it can be quite easy if you teach the learner to take baby steps.

Most people teach sewing the way they were taught in Home Economics or by their mom. Usually, you’re taught first to learn what the parts of the machine are, get used to threading the machine, winding the bobbin, various thread types, assorted fabric types and so forth. Not the best sewing technique, actually. Let the person who is learning actually experience the fun of sewing then bog them down later with all the details.

If someone is interested in learning how to sew they may become uninterested quickly because of all the technicalities involved with threading, bobbin-winding, proper needles and threads and other boring things. Of course, there are some things they must get familiar with before they take their first few stitches, like lifting the presser foot up and down or how to guide the fabric as they stitch.

A straight stitch is the best technique for a new student to try. Sewing one layer of fabric can get complicated for a new student, because the fabric or thread could “bunch up”, so start with a double thickness of fabric. Instruct the student to push gently on the pedal and not “floor it”, and instruct this before letting them take a seat at the machine.

Help the person line the fabric up, under the presser foot, and how to turn the wheel and make the needle go down. Starting with the needle down is a big help to many students. In addition, have them gently hold the needle and bobbin thread when starting. This will prevent many headaches since the threads can tangle the easiest when you’re first starting the seam.

The student should hold the threads, while guiding the fabric for the first few stitches, then can let go of the threads and strictly guide the fabric. Tell the student not to worry if the line is not straight or even. Using striped fabric may help the student learn to sew straight. Allow the student to sew down the fabric then stop, clip, and start again. After sewing these straight lines several times the student should be ready to try something a little more challenging.

Move on to a piece of cloth that the learner folds once, then once again, on the edge. Now see if he or she can sew straight down the hem. Point out the split in the foot as a guide, the side of the foot as a guide, and/or the guide on the dog feed plate as reference to help the person sew straight. Reassure the person that it’s okay if they are having difficulties staying straight – it will come with practice.

When the stitcher gets almost to the end of the hem have the person fold the next side, then once again, so they can learn to turn a corner. Encourage them to stop a short ways from the very edge, lift up the presser foot while needle is down, then turn the fabric until it’s facing the proper way for the stitching.

Each time the student tries something new have him/her try it again and again until they have it down-pat. This will make them more confident when they move onto the next step. After it appears that the student can sew a straight line and turn a corner the next step is to try a small project alone, such as a tea towel or place mat. Instruct the person on how to start, reverse a few stitches to secure, then sew around the perimeter. Advise the person how and where to stop and how to back-tack to keep stitches from coming undone.

Continue trying to work up to more and more difficult projects, such as sewing on lace or ribbon, putting in elastic, and making a simple garment. Eventually the person will need to learn the basics of the machine itself, like how to oil it and how to change the needle.

Learning to sew is fun; teaching someone can be challenging, though. But, if you have a little patience, and you’re willing to let the person learn at his or her own pace, everything should go nicely.

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