Beginner sewing projects?

So, years ago I got a sewing machine, and have barely used it… Today, I fired it up and decided to give it a go… I did make a fleece head band for my kid today (just in time for the hottest part of the summer!). Any other suggestions for basic, beginner sewing projects? A bag maybe? If you know any good youtubers with these sorts of projects that might be helpful.


I love making furoshiki (Japanese reusable wrapping cloths). Cut out two pieces of fabric the same size, sew them together, turn them right side out, top stitch. Pretty much idiot proof, and an environmentally friendly replacement for gifts, lunch bags, and more. I use one every week to bring scones for breakfast when I get together with friends.

I’ve also had some success turning old pillows into floor pillows. I follow this Apartment Therapy pattern, except I prefer to sew the pillows together instead of knotting them. (Shake/push the pillow stuffing to one side of each pillow, sew the “deflated” sides together.)


Making curtains from sheets is another good learning exercise. If your stitches aren’t perfect, it doesn’t matter, because they’re 7’ in the air, or right at floor level.


Simplest project I’ve sewn up is a tea cozy. Something similar to this one.


Hmmm… I wonder if I could make a larger version of that and turn it into a sewing machine cover. My machine just has its original plastic cover, and it’s ripped to shreds.


The purse and cover that came with my Bernina certainly contribute to my pride of ownership.


What I really want to make is something like this:

It would push hard on the boundaries of my sewing skills, though. I’d definitely have to simplify it (no quilting, for starters).


Quite a few books on sewing have a laundry list of small projects that you may or may not want to attempt.

For instance, this one:

Drawstring Bag (sort of an evening reticule or handbag)
Book Cover
Child’s Skirt
Sewing Aids-- (pin cusion, scissor, holder needle case)
Shopping Bag
Baby Towel
Door Organizer
Roman Blind
Man’s Tie
Place Mat
Baby Blanket
Bolster Pillow
Jewelry Roll
Polar Fleece Hat and Scarf
Café Curtain

Each incorporates some specialized technique. The book’s okay as a reference, and quite honestly, I never tackled the projects, because they appealed to a different sort of reader. But YMMV. Maybe find the book in a library or bookshop and see if you like the ideas. Or find a similar pattern from pinterest or a sewing blog. And, then, there’s paper patterns-- the actual kind that you don’t have to tape together from 16 pieces of A4. But most of those are clothing patterns.


Do you have a local sewing, craft, or fabric store? They will do cheap or free classes which can both help give you experience and inspiration. The paid classes will probably include everything you need for materials and such.

I think good beginner projects would be things like tote bags, pillow cases, shower curtains, placemats, napkins, and beginner quilt patterns. There’s a ton of stuff you can do - just don’t get too ambitious at first unless you have a high threshold for frustration.

One tip - when picking fabric, consider the directionality of the print and how it will fit in with the pattern you’re using. (Not all prints are directional.) If it’s a directional fabric you will probably need more than the pattern recommends.

My, my. Aren’t you boujie? (I kid, Mrs. Ficus is a huge Bernina fan.)


Maybe learning how to do things with webbing straps, such as the straps on a child’s backpack? Adding straps, repairing straps like if they’re coming loose at one end, replacing a sewn-in buckle or mount point, that kind of thing.


Do you sew? Your idea sounds like a recipe for tension problems.


Hmmm, yeah. I’ve done those sorts of repairs often, but never on a machine. If the thing is already assembled and multiple layers, hand-sewing is often the way to go IMHO.


No; I have sewn, some but not much. I accept what you’re saying, although I’ve seen people doing that kind of repair. Maybe it depends on the thickness of the webbing?


Sewing webbing can be done, but as this post implies, there might be technical difficulties to overcome


Tension problems are the worst, especially when you’re a perfectionist. I used to service Mrs. Ficus’ mechanical machines when she had some (including numerous Featherweights - which I have a soft spot for) and solving tension issues could be very frustrating. But I actually enjoy that kind of thing.


i make bags, do some repairs, and i made a cover for my sewing machine – those all have tested my very limited skills so far, and i found them fun to do. i also plan on making aprons as gifts, and costumes! my biggest successful project so far was i took apart a simple cotton coat that i found in a thrift – i liked the style but not the fabric – and used it to make a pattern for a new coat in a fabric that i like.


I sew some.
I started a few years ago with bags- they’re useful, and if you start simple, they’re pretty good beginner projects.
A couple of things I’d suggest:

  • Check you local library- mine offers classes and even equipment
  • Use good thread. Cheap thread is the worst and leads to huge frustration
  • Use good needles- and use the right needles. It makes a big difference.
  • If you can, get decent scissors. I have one pair for trimming thread (and trimming thread only) and another for cutting fabric (and ONLY CUTTING FABRIC) and woe upon anyone who touches those scissors.
  • Get used to ripping seams. It’s part of sewing, I think.

I think I started by doing repairs on denim- darning with my machine and whatnot. That got me comfortable pretty quick, but might not be a good place to start generally.


Don’t use universal needles. They are universally bad. Get a good brand like Schmetz. Replace them often (a general rule of thumb is replace after every project). Needles are cheap - what’s not cheap is your time from troubleshooting dull needles or risking damage to your machine from a worn needle breaking.

And don’t use the old thread from your grandmother’s old sewing box. Thread goes bad. If you pull on a strand of cotton thread it should “pop” apart cleanly. Get a good brand like Aurifil. Also use the right thread - cotton versus polyester makes a big difference, and use the right thread weight for the job. If you work a lot with colors and have a thread brand you like, order a color card (and get one with actual thread samples).

And get them sharpened once a year. You don’t need hundred dollar scissors, but a decent pair of shears, and small ones for cutting thread will save you time and frustration.

And when you find a seam ripper that you like, get a bunch of them. They will eventually wear out and break. Mrs. Ficus has a drawer full of her favorite Clover 482/W seam ripper.

Basically, with sewing just about everything other than rulers and a few other things should be considered a consumable. Cutting mats, rotary cutter blades, pins, irons, scissors, and so on will wear out and need to be repaired or replaced. Even sewing machines themselves should be serviced every so often to keep them in top running condition. It’s not a cheap hobby, but that doesn’t mean you need to sink a ton of money into it to enjoy it.


Alright-- here’s a question for you sewists.

Does anybody know how to use silk organza to copy a garment?

Funny you should ask: my daughter is currently in a fashion design class at the School of the Art Institute and organza (not silk, though) is the material they’ve been taught to use to go from craft paper pattern to a working ‘draft’ of their project. I’ll see what she has to say about the process.