Sewing Techniques You Should Learn First | Madam Sew

Sewing Techniques You Should Learn First

Tips from the MadamSew sewing community

About a month ago we launched a question in one of our sewing facebook groups.

sewing group

And guess what, we got 522 reactions! How cool is that?


I went through all of the comments and wrote this post based on what you all shared. It isn’t possible to limit this post to 3 techniques. There is so much to learn. Here is your sewing wisdom and these are your tips and techniques to learn when you start!

When we say ‘beginner’ our community thinks about things we wouldn’t have thought about ourselves, but are very true! Check out Linda’s warning :-)

Linda Hill

This little overview is not only very interesting for a beginner but for everyone that sews to refresh some habits that you might have forgotten (deliberately or not :-)). It can also be used as a guide when you are looking for online videos or tutorials for beginners. We are not explaining all the techniques that we are referring to in this article. That would be a complete beginner course.. Maybe.. Some day :-)

But, we now know what you think is important to know, so we can start using this information for future blog posts. For now, just use the different techniques listed as keywords in Google or any other search engine to find the tutorials. If we have our own tutorial at hand, the link is there. And know, you can YouTube EVERYTHING. There is so much valuable information online.

What to start with, can depend on what you want to do. Maybe you want to quilt, or sew little accessories or sew clothing. Different disciplines may need different approaches but there are some basics that everyone that uses a sewing machine and fabric needs to know. You’ll see.


You need to learn the machine. A lot of people in our community agreed on this. Too many sewers get discouraged because they don't understand their machine. And there is a lot to learn about a sewing machine and using it properly. Grab your machine’s manual and read it, cover to cover. You’ll gain a lot of time afterwards. Believe me!

    • Threading and unthreading a machine correctly
    • Knowing how to change the needle
    • Knowing how to correctly fill and install a bobbin
    • Understanding thread tension
    • Maintaining and cleaning your machine regularly
    • Knowing different stitches: different sizes of straight stitches and zigzag stitches
    • Knowing what needles to use for a particular job

Once your machine is set up, the next step is sewing with that machine.

Sewing straight, in the right direction and staying in control at all times. Personally I think this is the first real “technique” and the most important one.You decide where your stitches need to be! Navigating with a sewing machine is what you need to do to sew consistent seams and hems. You don’t want the stitches to wander too far off your seam line or hem. A great tip for someone that never used a sewing machine before is to take a plain sheet of notebook paper and sew down some lines. Do this until you can sew them all straight.

Another important step in using your machine is learning how to pivot to the right or left while keeping the seam measurements. There are some tools that you can buy to help you keep a straight line when you have not mastered this yet. The Sew Straight Set is assembled for this purpose. Most of the items in that set can also be purchased separately, like the magnetic seam guide or the specialty presser feet.

And 2 last tips regarding your machine: ALWAYS turn the handwheel towards you :-) and hold your thread when you start to sew.


Another basic that all sewers need are fabrics. Knowing more about textiles types will come in handy when you are in the fabric store to choose fabrics for your next project.

You also need to understand how a fabric is constructed. The grain lines, the selvage and the bias of a fabric are essential when you start cutting up your fabric for clothing or bias tape.

Before you start sewing, wash all of the materials first!

We haven’t dived into this subject yet in our blog posts so this will be on our list for later this year. If you don’t want miss out on our blogs, subscribe to our mailing list here


Your iron is as important as your sewing machine. Always press as you sew and iron your seams open. All those folds need to be crips to get straight flat seams. Press your seam before you go to the next one. Ana wrote a very interesting blog and made a video called “Pressing Basics for quilters” and Carole blogged about “Pressing Principles” as well.

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Many of you referred to ripping out seams as an absolute basic. Knowing how to do so and accepting that this as a part of the sewing process for everyone, is vital to keep calm and enjoy sewing. I did a blog on seam ripping and the different ways to do this some years ago.


If you are sewing clothing, patterns are also something to master. If you hold a clothing pattern for the first time, it may look very daunting. Take it step by step and find information on:

    • How to read a pattern and understand the symbols
    • How to lay out a pattern and straighten your fabric
    • How to follow the instructions that come with a pattern

Learning how to adjust and alter the pattern is probably next level but it’s important to know that you need to do this before you cut the fabric. Taking proper measurements goes with this of course. What is more discouraging than going through all the work of making a garment that doesn’t fit?

Always read the entire pattern before starting your project, especially before you start cutting your fabric. And when you are cutting out the pattern pieces on your fabric, leave the fabric flat on the surface. Don’t lift it up.


For people who start to quilt, I extracted these tips out of the facebook comments:

    • Practice quarter inch seams
    • Learn how to square up your fabric
    • Iron! Iron! Iron!
    • If it says 5/8" seam - use 5/8 inches, otherwise the pieces might not fit together

Carole wrote a complete series about Quilting for Beginners. The first one of that series is called “Basics, tools and a simple block”. A very interesting post to check out when you want to start quilting.

Other posts in that series are: Making Half Square Triangles, The Flying Geese Method, Choosing Colors and Prints. More blogs from Carole about borders, binding and batting and can be found on the MadamSew Sewing Blog (go to page 10)


Here is a little list of 18 different techniques that were listed by multiple people in the comments. For some of them we have a tutorial. In general, it is also good to have a basic knowledge of sewing terminology. It is hard to find the right tutorials or ask for help if you have to refer to a bobbin as a “thing”, for example. Basic terms like needle plate, spool, bobbin, casing, hems, seams are some of the terms you need to know.

    1. Learn to pin or clip
    2. Learn to cut fabric accurately
    3. Doing a hem
    4. Different seaming techniques
    5. Do a 45 degree angle turn
    6. Turn corners
    7. Straight hand stitch
    8. Ladder hand stitch
    9. Sewing on a button
    10. Darn a sock
    11. How to knot a thread
    12. Staystitching
    13. Understitching
    14. How to hem with an invisible stitch, we have 2 posts about this…one about blind hemming and one about invisible hemming
    15. Herringbone hems
    16. Applying bias tape…we have one post about making bias tape and one that shows how to use a bias binding foot
    17. Inserting a zipper
    18. Tacking


“Measure twice, cut once.”

“Make backstitching a habit.”

“Always practice and test, test, test on scraps!”

“Master your tools.”

“Always trim your threads for a clean finish.”

“Basting is not a dirty word. Don't be afraid to baste difficult areas, such as zippers, sleeves and pockets. Saves a LOT of ripping out.”

“Clean up as you work.”

I like to end this post with 4 comments that really spoke to me. I hope they do to you too!

andrea bernal
maree bloxham
buffie elizabeth

When you start, don't start with something too hard and remember people that have been sewing for years are never experts or more special than a beginner were always learning!

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It is a comprehensive guide that covers various essential sewing techniques for beginners, reflecting the collective insights and advice gathered from your sewing community. It’s structured effectively, outlining crucial aspects of sewing machines, fabrics, ironing, patterns, quilting, and an array of techniques. The emphasis on understanding and mastering the sewing machine is paramount, detailing essential aspects like threading, changing needles, adjusting tension, and knowing different stitches. Your tips for navigating with a sewing machine and using aids like the Sew Straight Set provide practical advice for sewing consistent seams and hems.

James Walter

I am a first-year Baby Boomer. My junior high clothing instructor, Mrs. Baker, must have been overwhelmed when all 40 of us girls streamed through her classroom door on the first day of school. I was quite annoyed when we spent the first four weeks of class reading a book about how to sew. We were given a list of supplies that we had to have before beginning our project. It took my parents all four weeks to fit the extra for those supplies into our family’s budget. Before the semester ended, I had learned to straighten the grain of the fabric before cutting, how to gather material, measure and press the hem before sewing it with a “blind stitch”, and attach a waist band to the apron. I did not realize until later that I had also acquired the skills necessary to make a skirt. The only thing lacking was how to install a zipper, but my grandmother only used buttons for the plackets in her skirts, so I followed her example. Years later when I was a substitute teacher, I subbed in a clothing class at the local junior high on the day that the student projects were due. They had made a “book” (examples) of all the things they would need to know for the year’s assignments—various types of button holes both hand made and machine made, “regular” zippers and invisible zippers, hemming stitches, darning stitches, pockets, kick pleats, etc. I wish I had made a similar “book” when I was in junior high. My clothes over the years would have been much better looking if I could have referred to those various techniques and skills.

Dale Lopez

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