Sewing 100

If you have never sewn before and want to learn.. let’s start at the very beginning.

You are sitting in front of your machine… remove the thread from the top and remove the bobbin case.
You will need to refer to your manual a lot, so I recommend you make a copy of your manual, put the copy in sheet protectors and in a 3-ring binder. You might want to get a few 3 ring binders, a 1/2″ for your manual and a 2″ for the samples you are going to be making. You might want to pick up 2 packages of 50 per package sheet protectors. One package will be used up with your manual and the other with samples.

So with thread removed you are going to start sewing. The lesson is learn to control your machines speed by pressing on the presser foot or knee controller. You will learn to control your machine, learn to sew straight lines, turn a corner, sew curves and wavy lines.

NEVER, NEVER move the fly wheel backwards.. that is away from you!!!! always toward you. You can throw the timing off… that is a bit of an expense to have timed.

so let’s begin. Until I figure out how to scan these and put in a PDF, this is the best I can do. Photos! You can draw your own practice sheets. Make copies!

sewing straight linbes

This is a simple sewing straight lines, up and down across the paper.

wavy, straight, zigzag

Here is a wavy, straight, and zig zag lines. To do the zig zag you will need… sew to the ‘\’ and stop at the bottom. With needle down in the paper, lift your presser foot, turn the paper, put the presser foot down and sew. Sew to the point, stop, put needle down in the paper, lift presser foot, turn the paper, put the presser foot down, sew.. repeat.

wavy and scallops

More wavy and now scallops. You will follow the above instructions. Stop, needle down, lift presser foot, turn paper, presser foot down, sew, repeat


Again, you are going to sew to the corner, stop, needle down, lift presser foot, turn paper, presser foot down, sew, repeat.


round and round you go!

sewing at a diagonal

here you are so sew at a diagonal, each row. Start with the dotted line and continue sewing from the corner of each box to the corner of each box.. row by row. See how straight you can sew.

Hold the papers up to the light and see how well you followed the lines.


Sewing Machine Stitch Sample Form

copy/paste into a word doc. Delete this line. Adjust to fit page. add more if you need it. It is YOUR form.

Sewing Machine Stitch Type Form Page__________

Fabric Type______________________________________________

Stitch Type ___________________ Stitch Setting ____________________Stitch Length ____________________

Tension Setting _____________________

Type Needle _________________Needle Setting ___________________

Type Thread Top _____________________________ Type Thread Bobbin _______________________________

Attach Sample
Notes __________________________________________________________________________________________________


Sew Straight

I am not sure what to title this.. Sew Straight or how to sew straight lines or what if I need a 3 inch hem? for now.. sew straight is it.

Most sewing machines (and sergers) have markers for sewing a 5/8″ seam allowance on the needle plate. Usually there are several lines with numbers etched into the needle plate.

What is a needle plate? it is the metal plate the needle goes down into.

Here is my Singer 401 needle plate with numbers and a grooved line representing 5/8″.
Needle Plate
You can see numbers 3,4,5,6 which represent the distance between the needle and the edge of the fabric.

When I need a 5/8 inch seam allowance which is called for in a pattern (5/8″ is the industry standard in sewing patterns unless otherwise stated). I lay the edge of the fabric on the 5/8″ line and sew.

But what happens when I need 1″ or 2-1/4″? often times a childs hem will be 3″ when sewing vintage patterns. I have marked my machine!
finished NP markers

You can see I have taken out to 4-1/4 inches.

This is how I mark my sewing machine Needle Plate and on to the bed of the machine. I mark to the edge of the bed of the machine.

I need to gather a tape measure, a seam gauge or ruler, scotch tape, a pencil or pen, an exacto knife or straight edge razor.

Place scotch tape – I prefer the magic tape (green label) because it can easily be removed – on the bed of the machine. Don’t worry about covering the slide plate or bobbin cover.

I have used an exacto knife and “CAREFULLY” sliced the tape where the needle plate slides, where the needle plate comes off, opening up the holes for oiling and screwing in the fabric guide.

Place the tape measure under your pressure foot and bring the needle down right on the 1″ line. I bypass the edge of the tape measure because it has a metal end. Do not go through the tape measure, just to the line, drop the pressure foot to secure the tape measure.
step 1

with a pencil… mark with a dot the edge of the presser foot. Make a note at the measurement. On my machine, the point where the needle goes down and the edge of my presser foot is 1/4″

If you have lines and numbers on your needle plate, note the distance from the needle to the etched line/number. Mark 1″, and how ever far you want to go. I use 1/4″ markers.

I use the seam guide to make straight lines making sure the lines don’t go off at an angle. Once I am done, I write the measurements on the tape. I now place another layer of scotch tape over the first layer. This will keep the pencil marks from rubbing off. Once again you need to trim all of the tape.
needing to be trimmed

second trim

so there you have it… how I mark my machine for sewing straight lines well beyond 3/4 of an inch.
the end

Singer Slant-O-Matic

Can a home sewing machine go through 8 layers of heavy denim? well, mine can! I have a Singer Slant-O-Matic 401A.

Using Jeans Stitch – thread used to sew denim… in both top and bobbin, my machine went through denim like it was running through silk.

Here is my little pictorial.

My husbands jeans - ripped pocket
as you can see my DH ripped his jeans, caught it on the corner of a table I am sure. They are going into the recycle box.

cut leg off of jeans

I have cut the leg off and cut off all of the seams. Turning the jeans fabric, right side, wrong side for all 8 layers… don’t want someone to accuse me of cheating!

8 layers

Using 6 stitches to an inch, adjusting the presser foot tension on top of the machine, replacing the universal needle with a denim needle… Ta Da!

holding up off the table

I have tried so many ways to pick this fabric up off the table to show all eight layers stitched together but the back 2 layers keep curling.

It dawned on me I didn’t show this on my machine so I went back and took some photos

Being sewn on machine

a view of machine

Finishing off

Flex Ruler

Flex Rulers can be used for many things, especially when it comes to sewing. Flex Rulers can show the shape of things.

If you need a flex ruler and don’t have one…use foil!

flex ruler basic shape

flex ruler more complex shape

pretty cool eh?

I am using the foil flex ruler on my Glider Project to make a pattern

The Glider Project 2

Duct Tape Dress Form Part 2

Supplied Needed and the Stand

I have talked about duct tape and stuffing and on to the rest of the supplies needed.

Duct tape sticks to your skin! You will need to cover your body. Some use trash bags and others use T-Shirts. I prefer to use a Turtleneck and find nice ones at the thrift stores. If using a t-shirt, you cut the sleeves off and use around your neck… I don’t like to do this because taping the sleeve to the neck of a t-shirt in my opinion just doesn’t hold up as well if placing on a stand. The sleeve represents the turtleneck.

You will need at least one T-Shirt if taping to the hip and 2 if taping down to the mid thigh.

As you tape the fabric of the T-Shirt pulls up so the shirt you are wearing bunches up and is now around your hip.

You will cut the shirt off under the arms so that it becomes a skirt, just place it over the bottom of the other shirt and keep taping. Again purchase your shirts from the thrift store, rip off your husband’s favorite shirt that you can’t stand any more but don’t spend a lot of money as it will be cut and hidden under the tape. If you look in the men’s section, you can find new shirts for about $1.00.

So far you need, duct tape, stuffing, at least 2 T-shirts..3 if you are going to make it longer then hip level.. or 1 Turtleneck and 1-2 T-Shirts.

Now the Stand….

Decide if you want to make a double that sits on the table, no stand or if you are going to make a stand. The advantage of sitting on a table is you don’t have the added expense of a stand and the disadvantage is it makes it hard to fit longer dresses or blouses.

To keep the double stand straight whether it sits on a table on on a stand, you need a ‘t’ structure inside. This is made from a vertical cardboard tube, PVC, a mic stand or ?. You will need the cross piece of the ‘t’. The shoulders rest on this part and you will need shoulder pads or tape stuffing the it so it is padded. I have used pants hangers so the hanger fit inside the double. It can’t be wider then you are. I have cut 2” pvc and cut it to fit. I bought a little hacksaw and with a little patience, you can cut through it in no time. You will need to tape the crossbar to the vertical pole and it will take a bit of tape to get it not to wiggle.

There are several types of stands. Some use a microphone stand, some utilize a Christmas tree base and PVC pipe fixed in the stand and still others have really creative ideas for stands. I made a stand with wheels I can roll around.

I helped a lady make a double… I being the sucker and she used a microphone stand. Her complaint was the stand wouldn’t stay up. Her husband had tightened it really tight yet as she worked on it, it slipped down. The form was around the part that needed to be tightened. Fortunately, she cut her form open and taped the stand in place and it no longer slides.. Not everyone will have this problem but something to consider. Knowing that this could be a problem, Duct tape the stand so it won’t slide down.

The Christmas Tree stand can be found at thrift stores around Christmas, I even saw one on the side of a country road for 6 months before it finally disappeared. If you use PVC, it need to be at least 3 inches in diameter. Two inch PVC just isn’t strong enough and will bend

You could use galvanized pipe back in the plumbing department, but it is heavy and very expensive. I use this for my full body half scale dress form and for my pants form. It ran me approx. $40 for my half scale and $70 for my pants form.

If you make a form that sits on the table and you decide you need a stand for it, you can use a bar stool. Again, look for one in the thrift store, ask for one on or if worse comes to worse you can buy one. Wheels can be added.

I made my own stand using a toilet flange. They are under $5 at a hardware store, look for the black pvc isle. They come in 3 or 4 inch which means that is the size pipe that will fit into it. The black or white pvc will come in 10-12 foot lengths. Ask the sales person to cut it to the height you need. I need 5 feet. You pay for the full length and will walk out with two pieces. They may charge you $0.50 cents they may not for the cut.

Toilet Flange turned so that the ring with the holes is down against the wood.

ABS sewer pipe it does come in white

A wood round called a stain grade round- lumber department. It is 1 inch thick, smoothly sanded so it can be left alone, stained or painted. I purchased the 17 3/4″ but it says 18″, but it also comes in 24”. There is more stability in the larger round.

wood round

You will need screws to screw the toilet flange to the wood round.

If you want wheels, you will need to decide what kind of wheels you want, some come with screws. Since I go from bare floor to carpet, I chose casters. Great on carpet but does roll freely on the floor, I keep my foot on the round!

If you choose this method, you will want the pipe to be as tall as you are from the top of your neck to the floor. When measuring full length dresses or skirts, you will measure to the top of the wood round. If you add wheels…. it is like wearing 3” heels!

Well, pretty close anyway.

Duct Tape Dress Form Part 1

It can be called a Duct Tape Dress form, Duct Tape Dummy, and Duct Tape Double

I have decided to split this into several articles so it doesn’t get boring and I can add photos.

If you are sewing for yourself, at some point you will want a dress form. I have had several and my favorite is a duct tape double. It is cheap to make but you do need someone to wrap you which takes about 2 hours.
So you find a Sucker I mean friend or husband, or Mom to do the wrapping. Once you have your double, it makes it so easy to fit yourself, stand back and see what needs altering, it makes it easy to adjust the pattern and then sew.

I recommend if you are sewing for one of the kids or husband to make a double of them, even though children change quite rapidly, it is worth the 2 rolls of duct tape and 2 hours once a year so you can keep sewing and they never have to try it on… and say… ‘I’m busy’, ‘owie the pins are pokey’ or ‘not now I am doing my homework’ – <– the only time I hear this is when I needed to do a fitting!
Really small children are too wiggly to be taped, their bodies are straight up and down which makes it so easy to sew for them. Husbands are hard to talk into getting wrapped in duct tape, I have a solution which I will talk about much later.

Duct Tape comes in a rainbow of colors; silver, blue, red, purple, green, brown, white, hot pink and bright orange, and more! See them at: Duct tape comes in two size rolls, 20 yards and 60 yards.

I would say if you have to have a color… buy the large roll of silver (as an example) at the cheaper price then spend the money on your final wrap in the color of your choice to save money. Silver on a 60 yard roll at a hardware store (HomeDepot or Lowes) is cheaper then a color on a 20 yard roll at Wal-Mart. I do want to add, do not buy cheap tape! Buy a sturdy tape be it Duct Tape or another brand… do not buy it from the dollar store! These cheap tapes do not offer the stiffness or thickness of Duct tape. The cheap brands glue just doesn’t hold up and the thin tape doesn’t hold the shape of the person your are taping.

How much tape you will need depends on your size and the size of the rolls you purchased and how many layers of tape you use, as well as how far down you tape, and did you make arms for your dress form. You can always buy more tape then you may need and return the unopened rolls for a refund. I wrapped my daughter who is a size 3 in ready to wear or a size 10 in patterns, it took me 120 yards of tape, I did 4 wrappings. Three wrappings on the body and the final or 4th once it was stuffed.

I suggest using tape closer to your skin color. Using colors such as purple because purple is your favorite color, then making purple clothing… often times doesn’t make the garment look good because the purples clash and are not complimentary. You stand back and don’t like the garment when in reality it is beautiful. This means don’t let the kids any where near the store when buying duct tape! ROFL!!! I told my daughter, ‘if you want hot pink, you buy it, I will wrap you, but you are sewing your own clothing because that color is too hard on my eyes.’ She choose white. I wish they had tan available back then, white is bright. I have yet to tape over it in tan.

You will need to stuff your double. I have read people using old clothes, pillows, and other stuff… but honestly, pillow or stuffed animal stuffing is $1.97 a bag. It is light, easy to stuff in all the rounded places a dress form has and makes it light weight. Again, if you purchase too much, save the receipt.. the unused stuffing you can always return.

Don’t put arms on your dummy, it makes it too hard to pull anything over the top. You can make arms that can be removed or added as needed. I will cover this in much later in the article.

Next is the supplies you will need and a bit on stands.