My Sewing Blog
If you've never tried using zips in your sewing projects, don't be scared to give them a go - practice makes perfect in this case, and once you've got the knack of the zipper foot, you'll find you breeze through it in no time! Everyone has a different way of showing you how to do it, so here's our top tutorials from across the web on how to insert different types of zips in different ways.
How to Insert Zips
This comprehensive guide from Make It Love It shows you how to insert both regular and concealed zips - and uses tape to help hold everything in place with concealed zips!
We also love these tutorials from popular pattern designer, Sew Over It - the afficionado's at dressmaking! Lisa shows you how to insert zips on actual garments and offers loads of top tips along the way.
For those who want to try more advanced zip techniques, we also like this lapped zip tutorial from Coats:
New to dressmaking or looking to give it a try? Fear not - pick one of these beginners patterns and some cheap dress fabric and have a go! What have you got to lose?
15 Easy Dressmaking Patterns for Beginners
So you've seen all the new cute crochet yarns and patterns on our website right? And you've looked at them wistfully, wishing you could create something as lovely as that... well guess what, you can! Although it can seem daunting, crochet is a great needlework to have a go at, and in some ways much simpler than things like knitting - so why not have a go?
It's always hard to learn from written instructions, so we're here to show you the top youtube videos we've found for beginners crochet, to teach you all the tricks and techniques you need to know!
And once you feel like you can give it a go, take advantage of our fab offer - grab yourself a FREE pattern of your choice when you spend £15 on crochet yarn!
Top Videos for Crochet Beginners
How to Crochet a Granny Square for Beginners
First up, here's a great little video that clearly explains how to get you going on a few basic crochet techniques. It's quite a long video (about 25 minutes), but well worth the time as it takes you through step-by-step to create a sweet little granny square. Granny squares are one of the most popular projects for crochet beginners as they are fairly easy to complete and come together reasonably quickly.
Learn to Crochet - Chain Stitch and Single Crochet Stitch
If you've got a little less time on your hands and just want to try out some basic techniques without a specific project in mind, this little 5 minute tutorial on chain stitch and single crochet stitch is great. It's supposed to end up being a crochet dishcloth project but you don't necessarily have to continue all the way to the end. It's handy for showing you how to crochet lines of stitches across and back, and for practising these two stitches.
How to Crochet in a Round - Magic Ring and Chain Stitch
If you're looking to have a go at crocheting things like hats and mittens later down the line, one of the best methods to learn is how to crochet in a round - and this video is great for teaching you two techniques to do so. Once again, it's really only a technique tutorial so you won't get a project out of it but it's great for practising before you start on something new.
How to Crochet a Rose for Beginners
One of the most popular crochet projects out there is how to make a crochet flower, and this tutorial is a fab walk through how to do a pretty little rose. You'll need a standard needle to sew it up a little at the end, but this is a great little crochet project for beginners to get started!
Kids love getting crafty, and the more creative the project, the better. Although it can take a bit of practice to get to grips with a needle, they'll soon be stitching non-stop! Felt is one of the best materials for kids to work with - it's pliable, forgiving and cheap enough to make mistakes without wasting money! Take a look at twenty fun projects for them to get started on sewing...
20 Felt Projects for Kids
This envelope cushion cover is a really easy project, no putting in zips and if you don’t feel confident in sewing buttonholes, you don’t have to as the back can be left as it is. A great project for beginners to get used to their sewing machines!
How to Sew a Simple Cushion Cover
You Will Need
- ½ metre of your chosen fabric - we've used this fun owl fabric
- Cushion insert 36cmx36cm
- Sewing machine
- Tape measure
How to Sew
1. Cut a square 40cm x 40cm for the front
2. Cut 2 oblongs 40cm x 28cm.
3. On the inside, fold over edges for the back and sew a 1cm hem. Fold over another 3cm and hem. Finish by topstitching along the outside edge.
4. Pin right sides of front piece to right sides of back piece, overlapping the two back pieces and sew all round with 1cm seam.
5. Cut corners on all 4 sides and press seams, then turn right side out and press before putting in cushion insert.
And here it is in our fantastic Makower Nautical Fish fabric, made by a fab friend who wanted to have a go!
Even the best of us can feel beaten when it comes to attempting to sew certain fabrics - chiffons, silks, satins and suiting can all be tricky fabrics to work with, to name but a few. If you're struggling, don't give up - have a quick read below and get back on track!
Sewing Tips and Tricks: How to Sew Tricky Fabrics
How to sew slippery fabrics - fine chiffon, charmeuse, satins etc
These can be a total nightmare to sew straight lines in, as the fabric is usually so light and/or silky that it moves with hardly any encouragement. To help eliminate movement you can try a number of different techniques.
The easiest (or rather, most convenient) method is to do a hell of a lot of pinning. If you pin every couple of centimetres, it ensures minimum slippage, although it feels like a total pain to sew. Remember, it's not as bad as attempting to sew the same hem three times and unpicking all the stitching!
Another technique is to use basting stitches to hold it in place. Whilst this can be a good way of keeping it together, I would highlight that this is not great for all fabrics - some fabrics show marks where the basting stitches were, so check on a bit of scrap before you start basting and sewing, then realise you've ruined the fabric.
Some people also find using tissue paper or the actual pattern paper is helpful. You can sew over it, eliminating some of the slippage, and then simply tear off the paper afterwards. Don't forget, however, that this means you may not be able to use the pattern afterwards if it tears apart too much!
If you're willing to invest some money and a bit of risk, there are also temporary adhesive sprays now available which create a slightly tacky surface on the fabric and help keep everything in place. Some people swear by these as miracle products, but be warned that you will need to patch test them as they cannot guarantee it won't mark your fabric either.
Finally - make a cuppa, take a deep breath and gather your focus! Half the battle is having the patience and mental energy to concentrate hard and take it one step at a time without getting flustered and letting it affect your sewing. Using a new, sharp needle can be helpful too!
How to sew stretch fabrics - knits like jersey, lycra etc
Stretch fabrics have to be treated with extra care when you're sewing them as they're easily prone to being warped and stretched as you sew - one key rule to remember is not to over-encourage the fabric under the machine. Let the feeder move it naturally.
Make sure you are using the right stitch for the fabric. I wouldn't recommend using straight stitch on stretch fabrics as it has a tendency to overstretch and warp the fabric as you sew, as well as risking ripping when wearing the garment. Select a zigzag stitch on your machine, and choose a width and length setting that you think is firm enough and pretty enough - practice on some folded scrap pieces before you begin to get it right. Zigzag stitch allows for more movement when wearing the garment as well as being more accommodating under the needle.
Another top tip - make sure you're using the correct needle! If your fabric has quite a bit of stretch, then I'd suggest using a stretch needle as these are specifically designed for handling your fabric. You can, of course, use a stretch needle on all types and weights of stretch fabric. A ballpoint needle is okay for lighter stretch fabrics, as its slightly curved/rounded which means it can loop in-between the knots of the knit, rather than catching on them.
One more thing you can get to help with sewing stretchy fabric is a different presser foot - a walking foot is particularly helpful. It allows the fabric to be fed under the needle with more grip, stopping the two layers from stretching against each other. Some machines come with a walking foot, others may have a dual feed foot - you can use either, but check your manual for what is best.
How to sew bulky fabrics - suiting, coat fabric, wools and tweeds
Sewing bulky fabric like denim or coat fabrics can get pretty tricky, usually just due to the sheer amount of layers of thick fabric you're trying to get under the presser foot. Simple tricks include pressing seams open and trimming seam allowances to help reduce bulk and create a flatter surface, but sometimes it requires a bit more help than that!
One of the best solutions to this problem could be to invest in a walking foot, which like for stretch fabrics, keeps the layers feeding through evenly without one getting stuck.
Make sure you're using an appropriate needle too - a denim needle is ideal, and prepared for use with tougher fabric, whereas standard machine needles might break under the pressure. You might find that increasing the stitch length also helps.
If you're still having trouble getting the fabric to feed under the presser foot effectively, using the wedge method is another good solution. Often, and especially when starting to stitch your layers of fabric, the presser foot is lifted up at an angle at the front. This prevents the fabric from moving through easily as the back sort of jars the feed. In order to put pressure onto the front of the presser foot and make it lay flatter, fold a bit of fabric to a similar thickness and use this as a "wedge" at the back of the footer. This should even out the pressure and get your fabric under the presser foot fully, to continue stitching.
How to sew plush fabric
So I think you're probably starting to see a theme here...
Plush fabric is often hailed as one of the hardest fabrics to sew with, often putting beginners off from using it. But fear not - the difficulties are easy to resolve with a bit of extra TLC to the process!
Firstly, make sure you don't overstretch the fabric when cutting. A good idea is to pin the edges together to keep everything equal and in place. If you've cut it wonky to begin with, you're already fighting a harder battle than you need to be!
Next, pin like your life depends on it! Like stretch and slippery fabrics, plush fabric is prone to being stretched out of shape easily, so the closer you pin it the less likely this is to happen - I recommend every 2cm or so. It seems excessive, but gaps that are too bag allow the fabric to slip still, and although its a pain to keep stopping to take pins out, it means you'll only have to stitch it once!
As with the other fabrics, a walking foot is a good solution to problematic stitching here. As with the other fabrics, it helps feed both layers in at the same rate, limiting the amount of warping or overstretching.
Another great tip for sewing with plush fabric is to ensure you're stitching with the nap of the fabric, rather than against it. This doesn't affect the straightness of your stitching, but sewing with the nap rather than against it ensures that it lays flatter, giving a neater and more professional finish.
Any other helpful tips or advice to add? Comment below and let others learn from your sewing wisdom!
When you're new to machine sewing, footers can seem pretty confusing and daunting - no longer, with this fantastic guide to sewing machine footers! Covering the most common range of footers used, find out what's available and what you should be using for each type of sewing project or fabric.
National Hobby Month: Sewing Machine Footers Explained
Standard/universal machine foot
Sometimes included in the accessory pack for your sewing machine, zipper foots are essential for inserting a zip using your machine. They let you stitch closer to the zipper teeth, and help achieve a neater finish.
Another life saver for sewing garments, which often comes with your machine as standard. You use them to set the width of your buttonhole, which makes sewing garments so much easier as they often need at least 3 buttonholes that are exactly the same size!
Blind Hem foot
This foot is great for when you're trying to create an invisible hem on your machine, something which is hard to achieve using a standard presser foot.
These are used in conjunction with a double needle to create pin tucks on garments. They are used less and less nowadays but you might see them used in some older sewing projects.
The edge stitch foot is great for anyone who does a lot of topstitching, as it allows you to keep your top stitching beautifully straight. It's sort of similar to a blind hem presser foot.
Invisible Zipper foot
Another life saver for dressmakers! Invisible zips are used quite a lot in women's dressmaking, especially on skirts and dresses, so this foot is invaluable. It allows you to sew closely and accurately to the zip teeth, achieving a much smoother and neater finish.
Open Toe Embroidery foot
This is one of those jazzy feet for a bit of experimental embroidery! It's becoming quite popular again now as sewing techniques like free stitch style come into fashion. It allows you to move the fabric and needle around more freely, enabling you to trace shapes and outlines much better than a standard foot as you can actually see what you're doing.
Jeans foot (for heavy fabric)
This foot is designed for sewing heavy fabrics, so is a great addition to your machine gadgetry if you sew a lot of jeans or thicker garments like coats.
This footer is mainly designed for quilters, due to its width which is uniform for most patchwork and quilting projects. It's also great for stitching smaller items such as children's toys, however.
If you ever sew with oilcloth, this is a definite must-have item! Worth its weight in gold (and sanity), this foot is coated with teflon which enables it to glide over the surface of the fabric without sticking. If you've ever tried sewing oilcloth, pvc or leather without this, you'll know how impossible and frustrating it is!
Rolled Hem foot
This is a great little presser foot which allows you to neatly turn the edge of the fabric under twice, resulting in a super neat hem! They're available for all different weights of fabric too, depending on what you're working on.
If you struggle with sewing bias binding, this is a good foot to have to hand (see what I did there?). It is usually used in conjunction with a binding attachment, and makes sewing the binding a hell of a lot easier and less fiddly!
Looking for a new magazine to have a flick through every month for ideas and inspiration? Here's our pick of the top magazines to subscribe to for those that love sewing - and they're not all solely magazines for sewing!
Our Top 5 Magazines for Stitchers to Subscribe To
One of our favourites, Mollie Makes is fab for new sewers and those that like all kinds of stitching as well as sewing. It's more craft-focused than sewing-focused which is sort of nice, as you get to try out different things and also appeals to people that enjoy a bit of crochet or knitting alongside their sewing! Best of all, their free gifts are usually fun little projects that you actually want to use!
Craft seller is another great magazine, especially for those that sew for business as well as pleasure. While this is also a mixed-media magazine, they always have super trendy and super cute projects in there. The one amazing element of this magazine is the handy business tips and finance tips for each project - it will tell you what you can make a project for and roughly what you can expect to sell it at. Like Mollie Makes, the mix of crafts can be really helpful and inspire you to make something along the same lines.
Sew is another classic, offering a range of projects specifically for sewing. Most of the time they tend to be a bit more home/item based sewing than garment sewing, but the magazine is also great for info about new products and techniques. They also cover a range of techniques, which is good for beginner to intermediate sewers.
Burda Style Magazine
Burda Style is one of my favourites because it's more fashion based than other sewing magazines. Whilst a lot of them feature a few clothing patterns, this is much more tailored to the dressmaking market, which is my kind of sewing! It might be a little unsuitable for a beginner though (unless you're feeling ambitious!), as it can include more complex techniques and sewing. The big bonus is that they feature soooo many patterns, it's amazing!
For more ideas and inspiration, why not take a look at our range of Books - including books on sewing, knitting, crochet, creative stitching, toy making and quilting!
Having some trouble with your latest project? Whether it's skipped stitches or funny sewing machine noises, take a look at our list of common sewing mistakes and how to get them fixed so you can get on with stitching your latest textile project!
10 Common Sewing Problems and How to Fix Them
My machine won't turn on or sew
First of all, check that your power cable and foot pedal cable are plugged in all the way - you'd be amazed how many times I've done this (and forgotten to switch it on at the wall)!
If this doesn't work, check that your needle is inserted correctly and tightened enough, and your presser foot is correctly attached and down. This should sort out any non-technical issues with your machine that stop it from switching on or sewing.
The bobbin won't wind
The first couple of times I started using my machine, I did it wrong so many times. Make sure you follow your manual instructions for how to switch it to bobbin winding mode - I kept forgetting to switch my metal bobbin winder to the right to get the thread to start winding!
My thread keeps breaking when I sew or thread up my machine
This is usually a problem with your thread rather than with your machine. It's most likely that the quality of your thread is not high enough for the tension or type of sewing that you're doing. Most branded threads are of a higher quality than unbranded ones, but do cost more - we would recommend Gutermann for a high quality thread, and they're a pretty trusted brand worldwide so don't just take our word for it!
The thread keeps unthreading itself when I start sewing
Not an unusual problem, this could be that you have not threaded it properly - the issue is usually that you've not hooked it around the metal hook at the top of the machine properly or enough. Sometimes it might be that you've not got enough thread hanging out the back of the needle, so it's being pulled back through every time the needle starts moving.
If that's not working, check that you've got the metal hook at the top up as high as it will go. You need to have the needle up when you begin sewing, so twist the wheel at the side towards you until you can see the metal hook at its highest point.
The thread is getting caught up and tangled underneath my fabric
This is usually to do with thread tension of the top (needle) thread, not the bobbin thread. Try adjusting the tension either way and go again.
Another reason may be because you're getting the threads tangled up in the machine - quite commonly this happens when you start or end your stitching. Make sure you start a couple of millimetres in rather than right on the edge of the fabric, and then reverse stitch if necessary. If you start right at the edge of the fabric, you risk missing out the fabric and the needle and thread going right down into the bobbin thread chamber, tangling there and either getting caught up completely (sometimes dragging your fabric down with it) or stitching this knotty mess onto the back of your project.
I've got puckers in my fabric, around my stitching
This usually means that you're feeding in the fabric too forcefully or misshaping the fabric in some way as it goes under the footer. This can tend to happen when you're new to sewing, as you learn how the feeder does its job. You only need to guide the fabric to keep it steady with your hand, not physically push it under the needle/footer.
Puckers can also occur when you are stitching too fast without feeding your fabric through at a fast enough rate. Just remember not to get too hasty with your foot! If it feels like your machine is going too fast even with gentle pressure on the foot pedal, check that your stitching speed on your machine is set to low or medium.
I've got uneven or skipped stitches in my sewing
Uneven and skipped stitches are usually due once again to that bane of sewing, thread tension. Thread tension can be a tricky thing to work out, especially as a beginner, as it depends on the fabric you're using and sometimes can be affected by your thread as well.
Tension is not the only factor that creates this stitching problem, however. The way you've threaded the bobbin affects how the threads are sewn in and brought together, so check that you've inserted your bobbin in the right way and that the end of the bobbin thread is not getting caught on anything. Make sure the bobbin is unwinding the correct way according to your instruction manual, and that it is properly hooked round the metal plate.
My fabric is moving about all over the place when I start stitching
Easy to forget, but simply make sure your presser foot is down! Use the lever that is to the side of the needle arm, at the back to lift and lower your presser foot. Without it, the fabric feeder doesn't do it's job properly so everything just goes everywhere and sewing in a straight line gets very tricky!
I'm trying to sew with oilcloth and it keeps sticking
Oilcloth is a horrible fabric to work with when you first start having a go, as it needs specialist equipment or techniques to be able to sew it effectively. If you've just slid it under your machine with nothing else changed, take it out!
Because of the waxy nature of oilcloth, it's prone to getting stuck a lot, on every surface of your machine. There are generally two ways around this: first, the easier and quicker option, is to cover your fabric surface in greaseproof paper and sew over the greaseproof. This stops it sticking to your machine, and you simply have to tear off the greaseproof when you're done.
The second option is to buy a special footer for sewing with oilcloth/pvc fabric, which helps stop the presser foot from sticking to the waxy surface of the fabric, therefore letting it go through the fabric feeder smoothly.
The sewing machine keeps jamming or not stopping properly when I lift my foot up
We've been having this problem recently, and sad to say, it probably means your machine needs a service. It might be that you're getting your threads tangled as you're sewing, in which case make sure that you start a couple of millimetres into your fabric and have the tension right.
Most of the time, though, it's a part of your machine that needs either repairing or just needs a bit of fine-tuning and TLC. Quite often, the spring in the foot pedal can begin to get stuck, especially if your machine is a bit old. Other times, it may be that a part of the motor is not working properly and needs replacing. Take it to a reputable sewing machine repairer - ask your local fabric/sewing shop if you need some help in finding one, as they can usually recommend someone in the area.
New to sewing, or just never really learnt what was what when it came to fabrics? Check out this handy guide to fabric types, which helps explain the most common types of fabric and their uses. A great post to have to hand when looking at new projects!
The Ultimate Fabric Guide
Cotton is one of the most widely occurring natural fibres in fabrics. It is comfortable against the skin with a breathable quality, and feels soft and smooth to the touch.
Rayon is a semi-synthetic fibre made from cellulose. It behaves much like a natural fabric despite containing some synthetic elements, and often appears as a lustrous fabric akin to silk.
Linen is one of the oldest types of fibres used in fabric, and is made from flax. It is very strong and durable, whilst remaining cool and breathable, making it ideal for items like trousers or summer suits.
Silk has always been associated as a rich and luxury fabric for hundreds of years, mostly due to the intensive manufacturing methods involved in processing silkworm cocoons. Silk fabrics have a lustrous quality to them, and are extremely versatile - they keep you warm in winter and cool in summer, making it a super comfy fabric to wear. It usually comes in a range of fantastic shades as it is one of easiest fabric fibres to hold dye.
Wool tends to be used less often in fabrics nowadays, but was once a staple fibre in fabrics during the Middle Ages! It is made from the hair of sheared animals, spun and woven into strands and then fabric. It's greatest quality is its warmth, and it is also breathable. Wool can come in a variety of textures from a super soft, fine weave like cashmere to a more scratchy and coarse weave.
Synthetic Fibres are often also added in conjunction to these natural fibres to produce similar fabrics at a cheaper cost. One common example of this is polycotton, which is often used in place of 100% cotton fabric as a cheaper alternative that behaves in much the same way as pure cotton would. The most common synthetic fibres are nylon and polyester.
Common Fabric Types
is one of the most widely available and widely used fabrics. It is very versatile and can be used in a mix of dressmaking, quilting and craft projects. It comes in a wide variety of patterns, designs and colours and ranges in quality.
is a very light and transparent fabric that is often used for a fluid drape to a garment. It can be made from a range of fibres, including rayon, polyester or silk. It has a delicate and soft quality to it which is often desirable for evening or occasion wear.
is another light and sheer fabric, but with more stiffness than chiffon. It is often used over lining fabrics for a beautiful sheen over the top, or can also be used as an interfacing or interlining for other light fabrics.
is another commonly used fabric for dressmaking, due to its stretch. It is a knitted rather than woven fabric, making it stretch beautifully and accommodate shape well. It is often used for more casual garments or body con style garments. It's often a mix of cotton, wool, silk, rayon, nylon or polyester.
is available in a variety of thicknesses, and possesses a wonderful drape, making it great for elegant dressmaking. It is slightly crinkly in texture and usually made from silk, polyester, rayon or wool.
is a combed cotton, once again with a light quality. It has a good balance of stiffness and drape, but comes in different weights. Finer lawns can have a silky texture.
is sometimes used in place of chiffon, for a heavier weight fabric. It is semi-sheer and often available in a good variety of colours and designs.
is one of the most beautiful lining fabrics ever! It is so light that it is not usually used to make garments alone, but sits so comfortably against the skin that it is perfect for lining. It is made wholly of silk.
is a cotton fabric designed specifically for making shirts due to its medium weight - it is easy to tailor whilst being breathable and comfortable against the skin. It comes in a wide variety of patterns and colours, as well as a wide range of quality.
is a woven satin fabric that is crinkly textured on one side and shiny on the other. It flows and drapes well, making it ideal for making dresses. It is often made using silk, rayon or polyester.
can be made from either cotton or wool. It is a brushed fabric with a soft surface texture. Lighter flannel is made from cotton and is used for garments like shirts, whereas heavier wool flannel is suitable for garments such as suits.
is a beautiful fabric that is often used for evening and occasion wear due to its luxurious semi-shiny texture. It is reasonably crisp and therefore able to hold some structure, making it ideal for things like party dresses. It can be made using a variety of fibres of varying quality, including silk, rayon, nylon and polyester.
is a fabric made of silk, that uses irregular threads in order to create "slubs" in the fabric texture. It is fairly stiff and crisp, but it tends to fray a bit.
is a sturdy fabric made from wool, that is ideal for suiting due to its reasonably stiff and strong qualities.
is quite well known for its recognisable patterns - often using multiple colours woven in to create a mottled or flecked effect with lots of texture. Made from wool, it is quite sturdy in nature, making it a popular choice for suiting and skirts.
Weaves & Knits
Plain weave is a simple weave in which the threads form a criss cross pattern. It is the most common form of weave for fabrics, including cotton, lawn, taffeta and more.
Twill is a woven fabric with a diagonal pattern, making each side of the fabric look different and therefore creating and right and wrong side. Fabrics such as denim use a twill weave.
Satin weave is used to create a sheen or shiny surface on the fabric. Common examples are duchess satin, sateen, and silk charmeuse.
Knits are made differently to weaves, using a knitting machine to create loops of fabric that interlock and create a stretchier fabric than traditional weaves. Because of this, sewing with knits can be harder and requires more concentration and greater skill, as they are more prone to warping during sewing. Sometimes it is necessary to use more specialist equipment such as different needles for your sewing machine, and special stitches for stretch fabric that can accommodate stretch without breaking.
Fabrics come in a variety of weights or thicknesses, from light to heavy. Heavy fabrics are thicker and contain more weight, but can add bulk when used in dressmaking. Light fabrics such as cottons, tend to be thinner to the touch, and even to the eye with a sheerness about them. Consider the weight of the fabric not only in how it will sit or add bulk, but also how heavy it is to wear. Light weight fabrics are more suited to summer, whereas heavy fabrics tend to be more wintery.
Drape is a very important factor to consider when purchasing fabrics for dressmaking. The weight of the fabric can affect its drape: for example, heavy fabrics tend to be a bit stiffer, leading to a more structured look. Drape is mostly affected by the stiffness of the fabric - the stiffer the fabric is, the more structured it will look. Lighter fabrics such as chiffon are much more fluid and give a softer drape and flowing feel.
The amount of stretch in a fabric depends upon the way it is made and any elastic components in the fabric make-up. There is a certain amount of give or stretch in all fabrics, but often these can be limited in fabrics such as quilting cotton. The fabrics with the most stretch tend to be ones that are knitted rather than woven, and/or incorporate elastic elements such as lycra.