Best Sewing Projects for Beginners

There is a progression of basic sewing projects that I have used in teaching beginners how to sew. These steps when followed have always produced excellent results for the beginner and quickly developed the beginning sewer into a sewer that is not afraid to tackle almost any project from a simple skirt to a bathing suit or formal dress with all the trimmings. Because a sewing machine is an easier machine to use, each project listed should be sewn with a regular sewing machine and not a serger.
Before beginning any sewing project, the sewer should learn the basics of how a sewing machine works by using the instruction manual that goes with the sewing machine that is being used. The beginning sewer should learn how to thread the machine, wind the bobbin, clean the machine, use the proper needle, know how to stop the machine, reverse the stitch, understand a basic straight stitch and zig-zag stitch, and have sewn with the machine on good sample material. As the sewer progresses, more complicated abilities can be learned like making buttonholes, blind hemming, embroidery, etc.
Purchase a basic sewing book put out by Simplicity Pattern Company, Inc. is a must for any sewer whether they are just beginning or have sewn for many years. For the purpose of this article, the beginner should orient themselves to three basics areas. They are:
  1. The Sewing Pattern: Understand what a sewing pattern is, how to read the pattern envelope and directions, how to select the right size, how to alter the pattern, and what the markings on the pattern are for. If you use a Simplicity Pattern, you may contact the company with questions about your pattern project. Contact information is at the top of the direction page enclosed with the pattern. That is why I have suggested a Simplicity Pattern for each project.
  2. Basic Sewing Tools (other than the sewing machine): Understand how to use basic tools like scissors, straight pins, marking tools, hand sewing needles, thread, and the mistake eraser otherwise known as the seam ripper.
  3. Basic Fabric Facts: How and why to select a certain type of fabric, understanding the quality of fabrics, knowing the cleaning process for each fabric, what is a selvage, fold, grain, bias, and nap, and determining the length and width of the fabric when picking it out at the store.
After being orientated on the above basics, it is time to start on the projects listed below.
  • FIRST SEWING PROJECT should be a simple tote bag with a zipper. The fabric should be some sort of light-weight canvas, possibly broadcloth or light-weight denim. The pattern can be something simple like Simplicity Pattern #3822. There are a couple of reasons that this is a good beginning project. First, the material is easy to sew without it slipping around. Second, a zipper is easier to install on this fabric and builds confidence for harder projects later on. Third, if this project is not sewn perfectly, the average person would not be able to discern that. Fourth, there are no alterations that need to be done to the sewing pattern. Before starting the project, make sure the fabric is preshrunk (that means washing and drying the fabric and possibly ironing it), because you are working with cottons. This will insure that the project will not pucker after washing. Use a jeans/denim sewing machine needle. If a regular sewing machine is used, use a zig-zag stitch on the edges of the fabric after cutting out the pattern and before sewing any of the pieces together. This will prevent the fabric from raveling.
  • SECOND SEWING PROJECT should be a simple A-line or straight skirt with a waist band, zipper enclosure, and darts. The fabric can be cotton, wool, or linen. Simplicity Pattern #6758 New Look would fit the requirements for this project. Some alterations may need to be done to the pattern to obtain a perfect fit but it should be minimal. For this project the skills that are being repeated from the first project is sewing in straight lines and installing a zipper. The new skills learned are working with a waistband, darts, and hem. With this project completed the combination of skills repeated and new skills learned has taught the sewer almost all of the basics for clothing construction without having to do a lot of fitting and fancy stitching. With the type of material suggested, a 70/10 sewing machine needle would be appropriate.
  • THIRD SEWING PROJECT should be a simple dress with a zipper enclosure, darts, simple neckline, and plain short sleeves. A good fabric would be a cotton or linen. Simplicity Pattern #3533 is a good basic pattern. Once again some alterations may need to be made but they will most likely be basic alterations that are not complicated. This project repeats the skills of zipper installation, straight seams, darts, and hemming. The new skills learned are interfacing around the neckline and setting in sleeves. After this project all of the basic skills have been covered except doing buttonholes and buttons. This skill can be learned later by making a simple button-down blouse or a vest.
With the foundation of these three projects, a person can build on the basic skills learned and soon be sewing blouses, blazers, pants, vests, bathing suits, etc. All pattern company products can be explored until the sewer finds one that they personally like. The sky is the limit. Sewing becomes a wonderful skill that just grows and grows. Don't be afraid to make mistakes or to have some failures. Everyone that sews has their share of failures.
Some books that may be helpful in sewing instruction are put out by Simplicity, Vogue, and Sandra Betzina. Always read pattern instructions carefully before laying out, cutting, and constructing a garment. You can find the patterns listed in this article by going to and doing a search or by visiting your local fabric store that carries Simplicity patterns.

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