To Sew or Not to Sew


I have a conundrum, and I’m hoping you can help me with it.

I have a beautiful sewing machine that my husband (then boyfriend) bought me a few years ago. It’s perfect, decent-quality, and it’s been used about twice (and by him). I love it; it was exactly what I wanted at the time.

The problem is, I’m bad at sewing. I don’t mean comically bad. Tim Gunn would have a heart attack if he saw my sewing skills. I’m disastrous. Despite that, I still have this strong urge to sew!

I want to make my own clothes and maybe quilt a little. I would like to be able to use a sewing machine for my steeks as I’m hoping to eventually knit more sweaters in the future. Some knit projects need linings. I’d like to not be limited away from those because I can’t sew. I want to make our home decor, like pillows for our sofa. See? I really want this!

So, here’s my question:

Do you know of any online courses that are really good at teaching a newbie to sew?

It doesn’t necessarily have to be free. I’m willing to pay if the class is well taught. I can’t really go anywhere (other than online) to learn because we have one vehicle, which is usually with the husband. Online is my best bet.

Thanks for any help you can give me!

49 thoughts on “To Sew or Not to Sew

  1. I can recommend sewing books and real classes. Not just online, but where you sit down with a person and learn.

    • Books I could do. The problem is around here the local classes are during the week, and that’s just not feasible for me. My husband works nights and drives; I work days and walk.

      But I will check our some books! 😀

      • I second the books idea. I learned to crochet from a library book. Once you have found a beginners’ sewing book with a project you like, supplement the instructions if anything puzzles you by looking online for YouTube and blog tutorials.
        Pillows for your sofa would be a great starting point. Cushion covers are not too difficult.
        You will be fine. I think knitting is trickier than sewing, and if you have the patience to decode a knitting pattern …

    • I second YouTube. Also, when I learned to sew, my mother had me practice following lines drawn on paper (no thread in the machine — just a needle) until I got the hang of how to work the motor and control speed. After you get the hang of lines, you can try following scribbled curves. Once you get that technique down, you’ll find there are fewer things to think about when you’re working with the real thing — fabric!

  2. Hi! I received an e-mail this week with a website called, they have videos. I really don’t know if they are great because I didn’t try, I usually use youtube 🙂

  3., baby! They’ve added a lot of new sewing classes and have a few free ones as well (putting in zips and getting to know your sewing machine are two free classes that come to mind). I just signed up for the free classes but, like you, I’d like to use my machine more and even make my summer wardrobe. Good luck!

    • I second the Craftsy recommendation! I’ve been learning lots about quilting from their Block of the Month videos.

  4. I agree with the use of YouTube. But apart from that – just have a go. If you’ve not used your sewing machine in 2 years how do you know you are so bad?
    Start with something really simple, like an envelope cushion cover.
    Perfect something simple before you move onto the complicated stuff, then you won’t be put off when something doesn’t go as planned.
    As I tell my daughter most projects (until you get good at it) involve alot of unpicking!
    Make sure your machine is threaded correctly first and refer to the trouble shooting pages of your manual.

  5. has a number of sewing books AND DVDs on sewing. The reviews there might help you pick a book.

  6. I’m terrible too. A few weeks ago I had the “urge” too. I sent the energy and word out that I wanted a sewing machine. I got one from my DH boss, a vintage 1950’s universal. Thing could sew leather! Then a mother’s day come early new basic Brother. works like butter super easy to use….For us sewing dummys! Then a straight out of a Sears catalog 1980 Kenmore. Careful what you wish for is my lesson learned! Any way. I just sat down and sewed line after line till I got the tension I (thought I) wanted then didnt stop till I got a straight line. I have made a dress and a skirt….they aren’t….perfect, ahem….but I did it! Just like knitting…sit down and put your nose down and get to it. You got this ❤ and if you find an online class….email me the info, would ya?

  7. I don’t sew either so can’t offer advice but I can offer encouragement. I think sewing would be such a useful skill.

  8. I love sewing but most of my learning had been done by myself with a bit of expert input from my mum. I would say pick a simple project – like the cushion I made on my blog – two seams, done! If you can sew a straight line on the machine you can pretty much sew anything.
    If it’s patterns you are frightened of – give it a go in material you don’t care about first, but choose the simplest patterns you can. Once you’ve made something you can wear you feel like you can do anything 🙂

  9. i’ve tried learning through videos, and it’s a good option for some people, but for me, I do best if there’s someone standing over my shoulder. Maybe your local sewing store knows of someone (or even one of their employees) who would be willing to come to your home when you are available for a private lesson (or semi-private–find a friend or two). just a thought.

  10. I would recommend just plain YouTube and Craftsy. I enrolled in a couple of classes and they are fantastic. Most of them are paid classes but you can find some mini-classes for free.

    I’ve started recently to sew and it’s so exciting. Just practice with some scraps of fabric making turns, following lines, etc.

  11. Another vote for Craftsy! I just paid for one of their classes to finally learn to use my serger. I haven’t done the class yet, but I’ve looked through the video tutorial and they all look FANTASTIC! Extremely reasonable price, and I can watch everything again and again.

  12. Craftsy is a great place to find classes. There are some fantastic free ones too. I also recommend that you google what you want to make with tutorial. I found some great bag tutorials that way. Often times there are more than one and combining them all will help when you aren’t quite sure how to do a particular step. Good luck! I’ve always wanted to sew and have never made it past the lousy beginner stage:)

  13. I have been sewing for over 25 years and am pretty good at it. I learned in high school, the best place to learn because you sew every day with an instructor there to help you when you get stuck. My best piece of advice is to remember this: It is very expensive to make your own clothes, between the pattern, fabric, notions and time. And the end result may or may not look good or fit.

    That said, find a pattern that you like and fits you well. Steer clear of tricky fasteners like buttons that can be a dead giveaway for an amateur, and experiment with slightly altering hemlines, necklines and play with fabrics and embellishments to make each variation on the same pattern unique. Also, stay clear of knit fabrics unless you have a serger.

    I have a few sun dress patterns that either pull over my head or have a simple zipper (which I am finally good at) and I’ve made dozens of dress variations that all look distinct from each other. I can walk into the project knowing that it will fit and turn out.

    I love sewing, I hope you do too!

  14. I started by doing anything in a straight line like curtains – nothing fancy, just straight seams. Then I built my confidence doing things like that and then branched out to more complicated projects.
    don’t know if this helps … 🙂

  15. I’m pretty useless at sewing but as most people have said, youtube is by far your best bet, and you can pause it and play it again and again. Also just pop to your nearest material shop and buy a baby pattern, that way you can see how using a pattern works and techniques you need etc but only use about 1metre of fabric (in most cases you can just use an old pillow case, then you’ve spent next to nothing) Get sewing for sure, I love it xxxxx

  16. I’ve never taken a sewing class, but I love Craftsy’s knitting classes. They’re professional, let you interact with the teacher and classmates, and have great course materials to help. They seem to have many sewing classes. Keep trying! If you really want to do it, you will. It just takes practice. I’m comically bad with a sewing machine as well, and I just get too wrapped up in knitting to want to expand my crafting skills.

  17. Hi! I started with a quilt book, then I used a store bought clothing pattern, which has instructions for beginners in every pattern. I’ve been sewing for over 20 years, & I have learned most everything from reading. Funny thing, I learned an incredible amount of info about what tools to use to get the effects that I want by subscribing to notions catalogs; such as Keepsake Quilting and Nancy’s Notion’s. Now I do alterations for people and construct one a kind items upon request. Love sewing!!!

  18. I am in the same predicament as you! I have this nice Husqvarna sewing machine that my aunt bought me as a bridal shower gift and I really want to start using it. I’ve only sewn a few things on it. I recommend Craftsy or E-Sewing workshop I believe it’s called. Good luck!

  19. There’s a website called sewing pattern reviews. They have online video classes that show you how to make a garment. I have never tried one but I know they exist! It is free to register on the site which has user reviews and images of sewing patterns from many different brands.

  20. Just get on with it! Try something simple and have confidence in yourself. Pretty soon you’ll be trying something more difficult and remember, you can practise first. So if your garment needs a button hole, do a few practise ones first until you feel ready to do it for real. Also, do you have any friends who can sew a little? perhaps you could get together and help each other?

  21. I done a short evening course which I found excellent for learning all the fiddly bits. It was handy having someone there to help when you got stuck. Small projects are good for starting off too. I have a book called stitch by stitch which has lots of manageable projects and which focuses on building up skills project by project. Also, I was pretty hasty and didn’t bother ironing and measuring properly at the start but this stuff is actually really important. Best of luck! Looking forward to seeing some lovely sewing projects.

  22. TBH I would get kitted out with your machine’s manual and look on tinternet for stuff you like and step by step piccies and build your confidence that way 🙂 No need to go to expensive online, or real life, classes 🙂
    Google “x pattern instruction” that you like and go from tube also good :

  23. I would find a useful book – but more importantly, once you’ve worked out how to thread the thing, and stick bobbins in, practice and practice. Start small and work up. When I’ve taught people, to begin with I get them to sew lines on paper, straight ones, wiggly ones, round corners, etc. Cushion covers are a good place to start. And don’t be tempted to go too fast (common mistake for beginners). Chugging along slowly is ok. The foot-pedal is not a car accelerator 🙂 If working with a pattern, measure twice, cut once, make sure markings are clear – and I tend to go round the shapes with washable pen or tailor’s chalk, to give me a line to sew from. Hope that’s helpful.

  24. I don’t believe you can be “bad” at sewing! Anyone can sew! I would agree it may be easiest to sit down with someone in person. A friend of mine said she went to JoAnne’s fabric store for a quick, beginner lesson. You would only have to go once to get a grasp on some basic skills. Then you could work on your skills from home with more info from the web. Here is an easy little project I did recently that doesn’t involve any hard patterns! I have been considering doing a quick beginners course on my blog for new sewers like you. You have been my sign that I need to do it! Thank you! I am enjoying your blog! 🙂

  25. If you want to practise a technique, but don’t like to waste fabric, try making a child’s activity book; one page can have several buttonholes that overlap buttons sewn onto the following page. Another page could have a zipper or even two or three. There could be a pocket page, too. You can even make several pages for each technique and end up with several books. These are great for toddler gifts.

    Or you can make a sampler book to keep for yourself, illustrating the various techniques as you learn them. The ‘pages’ can be kept in a 3 ring binder, either by punching holes in them or by putting each into a clear page protector.

    Try your library for instruction books, too. Ours has lots, for all levels of sewing.

  26. I am SO glad you posted this request! My husband bought me a beautiful sewing machine for Christmas when I expressed interest in making some things. I don’t even know how to thread the dang thing and the little booklet confused me. Lol. I didn’t know where to look and this is a massive help. Thank you!!

  27. I suggest finding a little old lady at a fabric store and asking for a tutorial from her. Maybe even a neighbor? Can you think of how it would brighten her day? Pick an easy pattern and ask her help with it!

  28. I learned to sew primarily from trial and error, books and you tube. I would really recommend youtube if you want someone to show you. The videos are almost always really helpful.

  29. Start with the simplest project you can think of (like a pillowcase), and use the cheapest fabric you can find, expecting a do-over or three. For me, it took a lot of practice to get the hang of sewing: I learned mostly by making mistakes and then figuring out what happened. I’m still an amateur but have managed to make clothing I actually wear, and no one has pointed and laughed at me (yet).
    A good sense of humour and a cold beer are very useful to the process, I find.

  30. Although I don’t know of any courses, (I’m sure all the other commenters have given you more than plenty options) … I’ve been sewing on a machine since 1974 (Home-making class in Junior High) and I was really bad then, thought there was no way. I was really bad until one day , sometime in my early twenties, something just gelled, and I got better faster. I think that is called the learning curve, and it’s directly proportional to how much you sew. (I probably didn’t really sew much until I started to get good, see?) Practice makes perfect, whether taking a class, or just sewing from home 🙂

  31. Maybe you could learn in bits. You tube has videos for everything. If you’re working on a project that requires a certain stitch or whatever, learn only that right then. Then with the next project, learn one new skill, and on and on. Before you know it, you’ll be a sewing machine (haha….that turned into a pun!)
    Good Luck!

  32. Simple, go to There are many on-line sewing classes. To become good at sewing you just have to sew. No one is great at it with out practice. You can do it. I know that you can.

  33. Craftsy is one that comes to mind. I started to sew in much the same way. I got the book “vogue sewing” it has loads of information and is available online through Amazon. It’s a great reference book. I also started taking the magazine “Sew Beautiful” great photos and if you have an ipad or nook you can get it delivered via them. This will inspire your technique. But above all you have the key yourself and that is “desire”. Don’t let your lack of experience or knowledge stop you from getting a simple pattern and diving right in. You will make mistakes but you will learn from them and you will learn by doing, good luck I can’t wait to see your first project.

  34. they have set up a wonderful platform for classes. I’m working my eay thru a few of them. You can post questions for the teacher, stop and review. I love it for knitting. I peeked, and they do have some sewing. Don’t just go and buy a class tho. Sign up for their emails. They periodically have sales. (Like 50% off a $50 class. No joke).

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