More and more people rely on the Internet and can’t do without. In the past, manual crafts were learned from family or the community – think of the monks who would learn illumination or calligraphy, or manual crafts that were transmitted from father to son (smith, typographer, tailor…) or from mother to daughter (seamstress, washerwoman, embroiderer…)
But without an experienced master at his or her side, a young person interested in a craft had no chance of learning it.
These days, things have changed. Thanks to the World Wide Web, everyone can familiarise themselves with techniques they could not otherwise have learned in any other way: lacking a tatting grandmother or a hand-quilting mother, kids – and adults – learn to sew online, in front of the screen.
The Web is a true cave of wonders, with hundreds of websites run by amateurs and professionals generously sharing their knowledge.
But how to find your way through this labyrinth of sewing tutorials? We are here to help.
To begin with, we will talk about the best sewing blogs for absolute beginner sewers.
Hand stitching is a basic technique necessary for finishing a lot of projects. Good beginner sewing blogs take you through the main stitches. Photo by mollydot on Visualhunt
Their main advantage is that they’re free. But this also means that you won’t necessarily find the best quality – so let’s separate the chaff from the wheat.
Since an exhaustive list would be very, very long, we have chosen those with the best content and the best presentation – which is important for a very visual craft.
The Spruce offers a series of blogs which take you through the fundamentals of sewing. This includes simple hand sewing techniques, how to work with fabric grain, choosing and operating a sewing machine, how to make a seam and even some non-sew techniques for putting two pieces of cloth together.
The tutorials are divided into smaller increments which are easy to understand and build up on. Generally, you will have one illustration per increment, making it a true step-by-step tutorial. Some of the tutorials are not as richly illustrated, but the simple text usually remains easy to follow.
The advantage over running texts in longer paragraphs is that you’re unlikely to overlook a step, since each step is clearly marked and numbered.
Tilly’s tutorials have a larger text block than the Spruce, but they are clear and well-illustrated and cross-referenced. If by accident you choose a tutorial that’s a few steps ahead of what you can do, there are cross-links to other tutorials so you can fill in the blanks. They teach basic skills such as threading your sewing machine, shaping a sharp corner and shaping curves; then you can move on to sewing skirts, dresses and tops. You can buy patterns directly from Tilly if you see something you like in one of the tutorials, and she also offers workshops to learn sewing online.
This specific blog post not only addresses the basic skills you will need to learn, but actually gives you a lesson plan – a way to plot your sewing projects to progressively add new skills – from sewing a pillow to making a top to sewing an A-line skirt. The blog also gives basic tutorials and more advanced projects. Unfortunately, it is no longer active, but the archives are still there to browse and learn.
Colette specialises in easy-to-use patterns that even beginner seamstresses will understand.
You could also find books and other materials for learning how to sew…
PIllows and cushions make good beginner sewing projects and can be found in many variations on sewing blogs and tutorials. Photo by meg’s my name on VisualHunt
We tend to equate blogs with amateurs and a simple presentation, often hosted on a blogging site and without their own domain name.
But there are commercial and learning sites that have a lot to offer, too.
These mini-tutorials give the bare basics of hand sewing, sewing with a sewing machine, and making flat-felled seams. They are good when you are really, truly, trying out sewing for the first time, being short, concise and not hidden among thousands of other tutorials for more advanced techniques. As you progress, you will want to try out other websites to learn more techniques and start your first projects, but as an introduction to the world of sewing, Instructables is just fine.
Scroll a bit down on this site and choose “Essential Techniques” on the sidebar to get a wide range of sewing video tutorials on various sewing techniques ranging from how to pin to “sewing a pickstitched lapped zipper in a faced edge”. There is something for seamstresses of every level to learn and grow.
Video tutorials are easier to follow than picture blogs – you can pause the video at any time to see the specific hand movements or how the fabric is guided through the sewing machine. The disadvantage of this site, though, is that the tutorials are not in any way organised according to difficulty level, so you will have to browse through all of them to find the beginner sewing techniques you need to learn how to sew.
Professor Pincushion offers hundreds of free video tutorials ranging from beginner sewing tips such as the right thread tension for your sewing project to shortening zips; various specific sewing techniques such as sewing inset sleeves to bias tape; and clothing tips for distressing denim fabric.
They are not organised in any way, so it’s hard to pick out the beginner sewing techniques, but you can search the video archive for something specific.
In addition, you can join and watch the truly advanced sewing tutorials for $5 a month.
Also discover where you can find free sewing patterns online…
More advanced sewing tutorials and blogs will show you how to make your own bias tape. Photo by clumsy kristel on VisualHunt
There are some things you will find on all the blogs mentioned above – with good reason.
One is your sewing supplies. Before learning how to sew, you will a need a minimum of sewing tools, of as good a quality as possible.
Most of these (well, maybe not the sewing machine) you will find in a well-stocked sewing kit available at most department stores.
And with sewing machines costing a pretty penny, be sure the one you get has a good guarantee.
The best counsel any blogger can give is not to try and run before you can walk, or you will find yourself with amateurish-looking or failed projects that will demotivate you in the long run and tempt you to give up sewing altogether.
You will need to practice your hand and machine stitches, just like a child practices its letters before trying to write words and sentences.
Would you like to know where the best sewing classes are held?
Now that beginner sewing websites are no longer a stranger to you, you should consider adding to your skills with additional sewing techniques such as creating your own sewing patterns.
To learn to make sewing patterns, the site Clothing Patterns 101 offers a basic introduction on how to take your measurements, make pattern blocks and extrapolate from there. To make sewing patterns, you have to understand how patterns work and how all the pieces of a garment fit together. Making a pattern block makes it easier to draft patterns to your own measurements from the start, instead of having to adjust each pattern to your body once you have finished roughing it out.
Ralph Pink also offers a computer program to help you fit your measurements onto patterns.
To try out your nifty new patterns, buy some cheap fabric such as muslin so you can see how a finished piece would fit and correct any mistakes without ruining the expensive japan-print silk you bought for the project.
Burda, the famous sewing pattern company, offers online sewing courses, as does Tilda and the Buttons which we mentioned above.
There are also free online sewing courses covering a range of subjects, and learning portals such as Craftsy and Skillshare offer some free introduction sewing classes. If you want to go further, why not invest in a full Skillshare membership for advanced courses or, even better, get an online tutor here at Superprof so you can correct your mistakes in real time and get answers to all of your sewing questions.
Most of the time, we think of clothing and garments when we think of sewing. However, sewing also includes crafts that are far away from tailoring – such as bookbinding.
Bookbinding also requires sewing skills – find great tutorials online. Photo by Graphicgirl_ on Visual Hunt
A well-bound book is held together not just with glue, but more so by the strength of its stitches, whether on ribbon or string, in traditional sewing methods or Bradel binding.
There is Wikihow for your online sewing lessons; for academic spirits with a passion for artistic bookbinding, try the Society of Bookbinders.
You can complete your sewing apprenticeship by learning how to knit, crochet or embroider.
Discover more resources to help you learn sewing…