6 January 2012

How to Stitch: Part 2

This post is part of the Learn to Sew series aimed at beginners.

If you've read the previous posts, you'll know how to set up your sewing machine, thread it and start stitching. Now practise stitching straight lines, curved lines and corners.

Stitching a straight line

Once you’ve got the hang of stitching willy-nilly, you’ll want to practise sewing in a straight line. To get started, try drawing a straight line directly onto your fabric as a guide. You can also use the guidelines on the needle plate (that metal bit under the presser foot), which tell you how many cm or inches the edge of your fabric is from the needle. Take a bit of time getting used to controlling how the fabric goes through the machine, until you’re happy with your straight lines.

Stitching a curved line

Once you’ve mastered stitching in a straight line, how about trying a curve or two? Draw a wavy line onto your fabric, keeping the bends of the curve nice and large for now (you can narrow them as your stitching gets more precise). Place the fabric onto your machine so the presser foot is lined up in the direction of the first bit of the curve.

When you stitch, you’ll want to gently guide the fabric with your hands, keeping the presser foot lined up with the direction of the upcoming part of the curve. Go slow, taking as many pauses as you need to keep up with the twists and turns. It does take practice to get the hang of this, so have a few goes until your stitching line is following the drawn line.

Turning corners

Draw a right angled corner onto your fabric to practise. Start machine stitching along one line until you reach the corner. You want the needle to be pushed down through the fabric right at the point of the corner, so you could use your hand wheel to help you get to the exact point precisely.

Raise your presser foot so you can pivot the fabric so the next line to stitch is in front of you and parallel to the guidelines on the needle plate.

Lower your presser foot again when it’s in the right place, and continue stitching. Voila!

Want more? Read Easy Sewing Projects for Beginners
Catch up on other Learn to Sew posts


  1. Ah, the simple joy of learning how to stitch. Happy days!

  2. This takes me back to my schooldays - where we had to pass our sewing drivers license! We were given a piece of paper with straight lines, squares, zig-zags, spirals, etc, and had to sew them with an unthreaded machine, the needle left perforations in the paper revealing whether you passed or failed!

  3. Hey, Sherry! We had to get a sewing driver's license, too, in Albuquerque! It was on paper, not fabric. But I can't remember what we made.

    Thanks Tilly, always enjoy your lovely pics & verbiage.

  4. Tilly, this is so gorgeous! I know a few people who are starting sewing (or scared to start) so this is an excellent resource! You're amazing! Thank you for taking the time!

  5. Thanks so much for this series Tilly - I'm mostly self-taught and often wonder whether there's something really obvious I've missed out on. Now I'll know!

  6. Veronica + Sib - aw thanks, I'm really pleased that you like them.

    Sherry and Karen - that sounds like a hoot! My friend made this game where two players race sewing machines round a paper race course - sounds very similar! http://www.ordinaryadventures.com/racingmachines.html

  7. awesome!!! I got a nice singer sewing machine for christmas and I have been struggling! this helps!

  8. It helps to practice by sewing on a piece of lined paper without thread. Once you can sew several pages of lines flawlessly, you can proceed to fabric.

    It's good to practice curves by following a line (first on paper, then on fabric), but the experience of sewing a curve using the cut edge of the fabric as a guide is different. If one is not using thread tracing, the next step would be to cut curved pieces and seam them using only the cut edge as a guide.

    Other basic exercises include sewing a series of lines on two pieces of fabric together using only the presser foot as a guide. The lines should be perfectly straight. You can cross the lines with another series if desired.

    A variation is to draw a high arc and sew two piece of fabric together using the first arc as a guide and using the stitched lines as guides thereafter.

  9. I'm watching patiently with pad and pencil as you refresh me about things I've forgotten. Great posts!

  10. I'm currently trying to master this. I'll sew a nice straight line...except for one little tiny bit where the line wavers by a millimeter. Frustrating! I don't know if I should ignore it when it happens, or go back and rip out several feet worth of stitching, or what. And I'm learning how to sew from the internet and books, so I can't ask anybody IRL.

  11. Thank you so much for this series! My daughter and I are learning to sew together and this will be such a help!

  12. You are the best teacher. Im trying to do everything you say.Thank you
    Maria Cerezo
    Great Houghton-Yorkshire

  13. I just started sewing with a machine. I had gotten some tips and help from my friends over the phone and a few tutorials here and there on the internet. However, your tutorial helped me sooo much! I was really confused in some areas but every tutorial I viewed seemed to skip the little stuff that I was getting caught up on. But YOU touched base on the little stuff. THANK YOU! I'm sooo thankful for your blog and your help! I can't wait to try my first project. I'm definitely much more confident now! a million thanks!!!

    1. Oh I'm so happy you found it helpful! It's often the little things that can stump us so I tried really hard to think of all the stumbling blocks and questions that newbie stitchers would have. Thanks for the feedback :)

  14. Wow, thank you so much for this! I've been scouring the internet for the past few days hoping to get a jump start on using my new sewing machine, but everyone assumed I already knew something and were throwing around all kinds of terms I don't know yet. I love this really, really beginner stuff, and your photos are excellent. Yay!

  15. thank you so much!!!
    this is the only resource ive found online that was understandable.
    very many thanks!!!

  16. But what about manipulating the stitch length, tension, type? That's where I tend to get lost.

  17. This blog is so lovely!
    I found this today after a mildly depressing first encounter with machine sewing! I've been bought a sewing book as a present and thought I would just dive straight in... after taking about half an hour to thread the machine I then attempted to make a tea cosy. It isn't a total disaster but has an err 'interpretive' shape as my following the curve of the fabric went a little awry!
    Was feeling a bit disheartened that it wasn't perfect and then found your blog. I am now going to go back to the beginning tomorrow and practice the basics before attempting to craft something else. Plus the pictures of the lovely clothes you have made re-inspired me! Some wobbly stitching and misshapen tea cosy will not put me off!

    Thanks :-)

  18. I bought a sewing machine and some fabric yesterday and in 1.30 I had a new cushion cover. Your tutorial is amazing. Thank you Tilly!

  19. thank you for your tutorials - easy to understand language and great visuals. Well done you!

  20. So far reading your tutorial is great. It's the easiest to understand and one that goes in order that is easy to follow of all the tutorials that I have come across.

  21. Just wanted to say Thanks for these tutorials! I got a sewing machine about 8 years ago. I didn't have proper instruction and got frustrated and quit. I'm now trying to get back into it to maybe make cute things for my daughters (3 yrs; 6 months). These tutorials are so helpful! Thank you!!!

  22. An excellent blog, and so helpful. I'm really glad you make the time and effort to post these. Thank you!

  23. I was looking up tutorials on how to set up the machine and start the threading the works you are awsome I got right to it and this is the best blog and steps and pics ever with out you I wouldnt know where to start I was lost for more than a year with this machine sitting around

  24. Some really great advice and tips, I'm about to start me first sewing project and I am being a bit ambitious


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