Sewing is the process to use thread to mechanically attach to print planer pieces of Fabric together. Generally, the pieces are cut in specific shapes that after so together will create a three-dimensional form. Often these forms are to fit around the shape of the human body or a piece of architecture.
To get started sewing you only need a few basic supplies. The following supplies are recommended for beginners and nothing more is need to start hand sewing right away. Hand sewing is an important skill to know but a sewing machine is an essential tool for anyone pursuing sewing for more than emergency garment repair.
Minimum Sewing Supplies
Additional Recommended Sewing Supplies
Hand Sewing vs Machine Sewing
Hand sewing can be done anywhere and doesn’t need electricity. Early sewing machines also did not need electricity but instead used the caloric burn of the operator through a foot pedal to move the needle and make stitches.
The stitches made by hand are different than those made by a lock stitch machine. A machine stitch will generally be more consistent, faster, and stronger than a hand stitch. Whenever possible a machine should be used to sew materials together so time is not wasted with less effective hand stitching. Just about every kind of stitch can be made by various sewing machines. A notable exception is a decorative hand stitched buttonhole.
Types of Hand Stitches
- Blind stitch - nearly invisible on one side of the fabric
- Blanket Stitch - binds the threads on the edge of woven fabrics to prevent unraveling - See: How to Sew a Blanket Stitch
- Overcast or Whipstich - wraps around the edges of fabric and can prevent fraying, can also join pieces of fabric together such as a hem See: how-to-sew-an-overcast-stitch
- Buttonhole stitch - similar to the blanket stitch but ties a knot with each stitch to make the stitching more durable to the wear and tear of button insertion - See: How to sew a Button
- Backstich - basic hand stitch that is similar to the running stitch except that after comming back through the fabric, the sewer goes back to the location of the previous stitch and pushes the need through the fabric at the same location, doubling up the stitch - See: How to Sew a Backstich
- Basting Stitch - temporary stitch used to hold pieces of fabric together during the construction process or to quickly mock up a form to check size and fit - See: How to Sew a Basting Stitch
- Running Stitch - basic hand stitch that goes into the fabric, travels a bit, and then back through the fabric in the opposite way. Multiple stitches can be made at once - See: How to Sew a Running Stitch
Types of Machine Stitches
Types of Machines
- Lock Stich
- Overlook Stitch
- Specific Task Designed Industrial Machines ( cover stitch, automatic flat felling machine, webbing cross stitch, jeans riveter, etc)
Domestic vs Industrial Machines
Domestic or consumer sewing machines are cheap and versatile. Most can to a multitude o stitch types but because they are not single purpose built they tend to do each task worse than a dedicated machine. For example, on multi-purpose domestic machine may have an edge stitch function to try to capture fraying fabric edges, but it would be no match for even a domestic serger.
All domestics sewing machines can sew in a straight line, but they will be limited in the thickness of fabric that they can sew through, and the number of layers of even thin fabric that they can sew through as well as how thicker thread can’t be used. Generally, if one is careful, they can work around these issues. But eventually the strength and specific built purpose of industrial machines is essential to make sewn objects.
Basic Sewing Machine Parts
- Feed Dogs
- Bobbin Case
- Needle Bar
- Presser Foot
- Rotary Hook
- Bobbin Winder
- Thread Routing
- Thread Tensioner
- Tension Spring
- Stitch Length Adjuster
- Reverse Stitch Lever
- Tension Discs
- Thread Spool Holder
Different Machine Sewn Seams
Straight or Plain
A straight seam is made by placing the ‘right’ sides of the fabric together lining up the edges. Then the fabric is fed through the sewing machine under the presser foot with the desired seam allowance, which is how much space is left between the stitching and the cut edge.
True Flat Felled
A true flat-filled seem has interlocking edges of fabric and two sets of stitching going through four layers of the fabric. This is done with specialty equipment and machines that feed the fabric into the presser foot and make the fold.
With a bit of practice and some ingenuity, this can also be made on a straight stitch machine or a domestic home sewing machine. It is not as fast but it is just as strong. Flat-filled seams are often used on the inside inseam of pants so they do not split since they go through four layers of fabric.
Mock or Faux Flat Felled
A Faux Flat Felled seam is made starting with the wrong sides of the fabric together lining up the edges. Then press the seam to one side. Trim the lower seam allowance in half. Fold the top seam allowance around the bottom seam allowance enclosing it. Use an iron to press the seam allowance flat and around the bottom allowance. Make sure the width is even. Stitch a second set of stitches along this folded edge. This seam is not as strong as a true flat-felled seam that goes through four layers of fabric twice.
A french seam is made by placing the wrong sides of the fabric together lining up the edges. Then stitch a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Press the fabric and then topstich.
This seam is often seen on the outside of jeans. Sometimes it uses the selvage edge of the fabric. The selvage edge of the fabric is the factory edge that does not unravel. Other times it uses surged edges of fabric. It is a basic straight seam that then is pressed flat and open, or “busted” open.
An overlock stitch machine or serger is used to keep the threads from unravelling on the cut edge of woven and knit fabrics. A serger is ideal for stretchy fabrics since the the stitches will resist breaking when the fabric is stretched. Since a serger cannot backstitch, the chain from the serger needs to be secured so the seam does not unravel.
- How can I use thicker thread in the machine?
You need to use a larger needle. We have larger needles and the cabinet. A size 16 or 18 will work. You also need to adjust the bobbin case tension. When adjusting the bobbin case tension the little turn of the screw goes a long way. Maybe eighth to a quarter turn.
Sewing Material Suppliers
Jo-Ann’s Fabrics - 1533 Golden Gate Plaza #153 – (440) 684-1567
Thrift Stores such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, the Cache are good places to get unique materials for projects.
The online retailers below also have a wide selection of fabric but you must plan ahead due to shipping times.
Straps / Buckles / Webbing
Thread / Needles
Trivantage Only sells wholesale.
List of Inflatable Companies that fabricate sewn inflatables.
- How to Sew a Tote Bag
- How to Duplicate a T-Shirt Pattern
- How to Use an Iron
- How to Sew Sleeve Plackets
- How to Sew a Zipper Fly and Waistband
- How to Sew a Button
- How to Sew a Collar
- How to Sew a Rolled Hem
- How to Sew a Blind Hem
- How to Sew a Dart
- how-to-adjust-sewing-machine tension
- How to Wind a Bobbin
- How to Sew a Double Welt Pocket
- How to Sew Pants
External Sewing Links
REFERENCES / TECHNICAL
The sites below contain a wealth of information about sewing and pattern making and are worth browsing and reading.
- The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing by Kathleen Fasanella 1997. ISBN 0-9663208-4-0
- Metric Pattern Cutting by Winifred Aldrich. Book. Publisher: Blackwell Science. ISBN 0-632-03612-5
- Pattern-making Made Easy Book. by Connie Crawford. ISBN 0-964-95167-3
- Sewing for the Apparel Industry by Claire Schaeffer. (2nd Edition) Book. ISBN 0-131-88443-3
Big Picture Science podcast Apt to Adapt June 9, 2014
Electric sewing machines - after the introduction of the electric sewing machine vs the pedal driven machine it saved -15 calories an hour which added up to -51000 calories a year, enough to run a few marathons.
The archive saving home sewing history from the trash - The Verge