I remember back when I was living in Germany and teaching myself how to sew, I couldn’t have done it without my computer. I was using all German patterns, and the instructions came in every language…except English it seemed! Ahh – the days before PDF patterns. Using google translate for just about every German sewing term imaginable, with some crazy results. And googling things like ‘how to sew a button’, ‘why is my thread bunching up’, and ‘what is an overlock stitch’? This was back when sewing bloggers weren’t as prolific, and I could find a handful of women to follow on-line (shout out to Rae!).
Truth be told, I couldn’t have done it without google.
So I thought it would be fun to share with you, 10 things I most certainly searched when I started sewing:
1. How do I thread my sewing machine?
I bought a new sewing machine and was ready to go…I had my new hobby and was sure I was going to love it. The only problem, I couldn’t thread it. Were these instructions written in Greek? Oh no – that’s right, it’s German.
Answer: Although this tends to be slightly different for all machines, this set of photo instructions by Instructables is pretty right on. Many sewing machines have the same basic parts, especially the entry level ones, and threading a machine is often standard. The only main variable being if the machine has a self-threader. If you google search ‘how to thread my sewing machine BRAND NAME’, you will find that most sewing machine companies now have YouTube video tutorials teaching all of your sewing machine basics.
2. Why does my thread keep bunching up?
This was my second biggest issue, mainly because I wasn’t threading the machine properly. Unfortunately, I thought it had something to do with my thread tension – so I really started messing with that on my machine….not knowing that most machines are sold with the tension set to standard (perfect for a beginner sewer). I really messed myself up there. I also learned the great sewing term ‘birds nest’.
Answer: Yes, sometimes this does happen because of tension. Sometimes it happens because you haven’t threaded your machine properly, and sometimes it happens because you haven’t threaded your bobbin properly. Other culprits include an unclean machine, or time to replace the needle. Craftsy wrote a great article explaining it all HERE.
3. How do I sew a buttonhole?
Ahhh…the ever elusive perfect buttonhole. Most beginner sewing patterns come with buttonholes, because zippers are scary after all. Furthermore, almost everyone can sew on a button by hand. Almost. But the buttonhole itself? What is that weird looking foot that came with my machine? And why is my thread all over the place, and why am I using my seam ripper on my finished garment? That is even scarier!!! Praise be to God, most machines come with an automatic buttonhole feature now. Ask your sewing machine dealer to show you how to use this bad boy – you will thank me later.
Answer: Every sewing machine is different, so there is no one way to answer this buttonhole question overall. Sew Mama Sew has a great round up of buttonhole sewing per machine brand HERE. Wanna here something cool that Google taught me? You can actually make buttonholes by HAND. Yeah, probably takes tons of time – but there is a cool tutorial for it HERE.
4. What is a baste stitch?
I had to google this question time and time again, as I could never quite remember what the pattern instructions were asking me to do! What is a baste stitch, a straight stitch, an overlock stitch, a zig zag stitch – I couldn’t keep them all straight! Basically a baste stitch is when you are using your machine settings at its longest stitch length for a temporary stitch. This is called for a lot in sewing patterns in order to get the most professional finish possible.
Answer: Here is a great tutorial for basting on your machine. And I didn’t realize it until just now while writing this post and researching, that you can also do this by hand! Looking for other types of stitches? Here is a cool resource for learning about all of the basic stitch types.
5. What is interfacing?
I was so confused by this stuff. What was my German pattern trying to tell me? You should’ve seen me trying to figure it out using only hand motions and my very limited language skills in the fabric store!! Lol. I finally had someone show me – and then proceeded to use the SAME interfacing for every single sewing project that called for it since. You live and you learn, and then you get Pellon.
Answer: Interfacing is your new best friend. It comes in a variety of weights, from light to heavy – flexible to stiff. You can use different interfacing on knits, wovens, quilts, whatever project you are working on! My favorite will always be anything I can iron on. Here is a great resource for choosing the right type and weight of interfacing for your projects.
6. How do I sew a pillowcase dress?
Don’t deny it. We’ve all sewn one, or one hundred, of these timeless easy-to-sew dresses. Its like a hazing for beginner seamstresses, must sew pillowcase dress, must sew pillowcase dress. Like a beginner sewing mantra.
Answer: Shout out to my friend Melissa of Sew Like my Mom for being the number one google return, ranked on the top of the SEO search results. Here is the easiest pillowcase dress DIY ever.
7. How do I sew a gathering stitch?
Because once you start sewing pillowcase dresses, you immediately start sewing ruffles next. And a ruffle is the main reason you would be sewing a gathering stitch. Sew all the ruffles! Lol – there is nothing wrong with ruffles, they are like a beginning seamstress right of passage. We all have an obsession every now and then.
Answer: Depending on who you ask, there are various ways you can sew ruffles. The easiest, get a ruffling foot. You will thank me later if you end up becoming a ruffle lover. Then there is the classic double baste stitch and pull method, sew a single baste stitch and pull, or the infamous mess with the tension on your sewing machine for hands free ruffles. Dana talks about the last two methods HERE. But to boil it down, to sew a gathering stitch…refer to No. 4’s baste stitch question. It is essentially sewing a basting stitch without backtacking the ends – and then pulling on the bobbin thread until your fabric ruffles evenly.
8. How to sew on a sleeve
Ok, maybe this one was just me. But the first 7 or so times I tried to sew anything with sleeves, I swear they ended up with either the fabric wrong side out, the sleeve upside down with the seam on top, or with a large puff gathered shoulder because I had miscalculated when cutting the pattern. And don’t even get me started on the setting-in sleeve method of trying to sew around that dang curve with awkward pins!
Answer: Dana blew my mind when I saw this tutorial a few years ago, and I haven’t looked back. I am not even going to dignify set-in sleeves with an answer, you can google that one yourselves if you feel so compelled (although you probably already have).
9. Free baby bib pattern
This question is probably closely followed by ‘how to make an elastic waist skirt’. Projects like these – the baby bib, the twirl skirt, the pillowcase, and the pillowcase dress are perfect for beginner seamstresses because they are easy to achieve and yield great results! They are encouraging projects to start you on your sewing journey, and will make you want to keep coming back for more.
Answer: This is essentially the same one I started out with. My Mom and I made boatloads of these bad boys when my first daughter was born. Unfortunately, many of them were embroidered and our second child had to use bibs that had the wrong initials on it. Baby bib warning – unless you plan on making them for each child – you will feel massive amounts of guilt watching your subsequent children wearing the wrong initials.
10. How do I open my own Etsy shop
Don’t even lie. You know you googled this too. A few months after you start sewing your ridiculously cute fabric bibs / cloth diapers / elastic skirts, people start saying…you should sell those! And you know what? You think so too. So you google it.
Answer: It’s easy to start a shop. Very hard to make it successful. Like an entrepreneurship, it is a start up business that takes time, effort, money, and lots and lots of hard work. HERE is the Etsy answer for starting your own shop. And HERE is another answer for how to make that shop successful.
Just remember – they ain’t no shame in the Google Sewing Game. Google is your friend.
At least, it was mine.
And you can look forward to the whole new set of google questions once you master these. Such as: ‘how do I print a PDF pattern’, ‘how do I sew a welt pocket’, and ‘how do I make my own patterns’? In the sewing world you are constantly growing and learning, your tastes evolving, and your talents increasing. And that just may be what life is all about. So thank you Google, without you I would’t be where I am today in my sewing and professional world. And my guess is, neither would millions of others.