If you’re in the beginning stages of learning how to sew, even stitching together a simple seam can be confusing. Sewing is overwhelming for many people mainly because they don’t start the right way. There is too much overwhelming information out there and without some serious sewing courses, it is difficult to know where to start. For that reason, we put together the Learn To Sew Box, which includes full size patterns in your choice of size, your choice of fabric, and the main sewing supplies you need to sew a dress from start to finish- The box will not only teach you how to sew, it will also give you the satisfaction of wearing a dress you made in your perfect size!
Giving you a sneak peek into the Learn to Sew Box, we put together a step by step guide to sewing a seam properly following three important rules! Once you know these rules you can apply them to any kind of seams, garment details, pockets etc.- anything you wish to sew!
Rule #1: When stitching a seam together the face of both fabric pieces should be touching.
This is a simple rule that will ensure you don’t have to worry about sewing on the wrong side of the fabric. When you’re pinning together the seams getting it ready for stitching, make sure the face of the fabric on both pieces is touching. When your seam is stitched, the clean side of the seam will correspond to the face of the fabric and the excess seam allowance will remain on the inside of the garment, corresponding to the back side of your fabric. If you get used to following this rule, you will never need to redo any seams just because of a simple error in sewing on the wrong side. How do you know what is traditionally considered the face side of the fabric? You can figure it out visually by comparing what side has the more detailed weaving or vibrant color. However, it is actually up to you what side of the fabric you want to use for the garment you’re sewing- Don’t be intimidated by what is “supposed” to be the face of the fabric. If you really like a fabric’s look on the back better than the front, feel free to use that as the face of your garment. Additionally, for many solid and print fabrics that look the same on both sides, this rule doesn’t apply.
Rule #2: Pins should be placed horizontally along the seam before stitching.
When you put two pieces of fabric together to create a seam they must be matched and briefly stabilized in place with pins. This keeps the seam perfectly aligned and connected before receiving a final machine stitch at a specific seam allowance (distance from the edge). Many self-taught sewing enthusiast and beginners don’t pay attention to the direction of the pins when putting a seam together, but it is actually quite important.
The direction of your pins is not only a factor that influences how efficiently you sew, but it also affects the safety and correct alignment of the fabric. For that reason, pins should be placed horizontally along a seam and not vertically. Why is this such a big deal? Well first and foremost, when you’re running a stitch on your machine, you should be able to comfortably (and conveniently) remove each pin one by one right before the needle approaches it. When the pins are aligned horizontally this is very easy and safe to do! Speaking of safety, if your pins are aligned vertically you will most likely prick your fingers occasionally as you hold and move the fabric under the presser-foot. A horizontal positioning of pins is less likely to hurt you due to the way they are placed in relation to your hands. In addition, placing the pins horizontally maintains a much stronger seam alignment and stability, stopping the two pieces of fabric from bulking and sliding up and down (which often happens when the pins are inserted vertically).
Rule #3: Back-stitch the beginning and end of your each seam, unless your sewing machine has tension issues.
The phrase above probably sounds very confusing to the sewing beginner so we’ll try to break it down for you.
Back-stitching is when you reverse a stitch on your sewing machine or by hand in order to lock it in place, thus stopping it from coming apart. This is necessary for most stitches in order to maintain durability. It might seem like an extra step, but once you get into the habit of starting and finishing your regular machine stitches with a backstitch it becomes very natural. There are some stitches that don’t necessarily require backstitching.
For example, sewing a hem can be finished by overlapping the end portion of the stitch with the beginning. However, for good measure and because you should develop good-quality habits from the start, we recommend that you back-stitch all your seams. Read our tutorial on backstitching to learn more about how to back-stitch by hand and using a sewing machine.
There is nonetheless a factor that could influence whether you back-stitch both at the beginning and end of the stitch. If you notice that your sewing machine is pulling and wrinkling the stitch even slightly, it might have some tension issues or need to be readjusted. You can look into fixing this either in your manual or by finding some information online. What happens with a straight stitch when your machine has tension problems and you back-stitch both at the beginning AND end of the stitch is that there’s no way to release the stitch wrinkles so the seam itself ends up looking bulky and wrinkled. A way to prevent this issue is to backstitch only at the beginning or only at the end of your stitch, and then iron the wrinkles out towards the end that’s not backstitched.
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Designer by trade and dressmaker at heart. I spend most of my days obsessing over new fabrics and daydreaming new ideas.
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