Here we go! It’s Learn to Sew time. Who’s ready?! This is Lesson #1 of the Learn to Sew Series. How to Sew a Straight Line.
Before you read this post please make sure you have Met Your Machine, checked out the Sewing Dictionary and know How to Buy Fabric. Also, please read through and commit yourself to our Learn to Sew Series Pledge. THEN you can get started.
How many times have you heard-”This is easy as long as you can sew a straight line?” Well, let’s start with the basics today and learn to sew a straight line.
Sounds easy enough right? Let me just preface this by saying, it takes time and practice to sew a straight line. Your lines may not be perfectly straight to start with. They may not be perfectly straight for a while. That’s OK! I promise. Just do your best and keep practicing.
How to Sew a Straight Line:
Get a piece of fabric ready to practice with-just a scrap of something will do. It’s going to be easiest if you fold it so that you are sewing through 2 layers of fabric while you practice.
First, thread your machine (including the bobbin of course). Make sure you have your machine set to sew at an average stitch length (your manual will probably tell you what that is).
Now, take your piece of fabric and place it under the presser foot. For starters I want you to line your fabric up so that the right edge of your fabric matches up with the right edge of your presser foot as you look at it like I have done in this picture below and lower the presser foot so that it is holding your fabric in place.
Before you start to sew use your hand wheel (or button if you have a computerized machine) to lower the needle so that it is all the way down into your fabric: (always do this when you begin to sew)
Now, slowly press your foot pedal down to begin to sew. Stitch for 1 inch:
Then push the reverse button or lever to back stitch for 1 inch (sew backwards over what you just sewed):
After you have back stitched over that 1 inch, proceed with a forward stitch again. You have just created a knot so that your stitches won’t come loose.
Continue to sew forward. As you do, try to keep the edge of the fabric lined up with the edge of your presser foot. This will help you maintain a straight line. Also try to keep a nice steady pace.
Once you reach the end of your fabric, knot it again. (Sew to the end, back stitch for about 1 inch then sew forward again.)
Raise your presser foot and gently remove your fabric. Snip the threads that are attached to your fabric. Guess what? You just sewed your first straight line!
But wait-there’s more to learn.
What if you are sewing a straight line and you come to a 90% angle corner (like if you are sewing a rectangle or square) that you need to turn to continue sewing (because you will in this week’s project)? What do you do?
Sew almost all the way to the corner, but leave yourself about 1/4″-1/2″ of space between your needle and the very edge of the fabric. Making sure to lower your needle all the way into the fabric (this is very important), lift your presser foot. Your fabric will stay in place because the needle is holding it, but you can now pivot it so that it is positioned to keep sewing, now in the new direction. Lower your presser foot and continue to sew. (See in the image how I have sewed down the fabric and I am now turning to sew a new direction. My needle is down in the fabric but my presser foot is lifted so that I can turn my fabric while not losing my place):
A couple more things. Sometimes you will be asked to baste. A baste is a long stitch that is much looser than a typical stitch. When you baste you do not knot at the beginning and the end. This is because you will probably be picking the baste stitch out (if it is just there to hold your fabric in place for the time being) or you will be using it to gather (which we will learn about in a few weeks). Here’s a baste:
A hem is when you fold under the fabric twice and sew it in place to create a nice finished edge (like at the bottom of your pants). To hem you will first fold the fabric under about 1/2″ and press (iron) it into place. Then fold it the same amount again, press it again and then do a straight stitch along it:
Here’s a hem being sewed:
And here it is finished:
Here’s an important thing to know when sewing a hem or at other times. If you are sewing a small area, like a pant leg, guess what? You can take off part of your machine to make it easier. See, now I can sew that complete loop so easily. Give it a try-that part of your machine will come right off and then go back on when you need it back on:
Now, I told you to use the presser foot edge and match it up with your fabric edge to sew a straight line. This is what I do at least 90% of the time when I am sewing, because it creates such an easy guide. But occasionally you will be asked to sew a certain seam allowance. When that happens you need to use your seam guides to guide you instead of the presser foot. In that case you will line up the edge of your fabric with the seam guide you need and try to keep it steady with that line as you sew:
OK, that’s it. That’s lesson #1-How to Sew a Straight Line. Practice, practice, practice. You will sew millions of straight lines in your sewing life. And you’ll get better as you go. DON’T get frustrated if it’s not perfect. It’s OK!
And, one last thing-don’t forget this guy-your seam ripper. When you make a mistake, the seam ripper will fix it. Trust me, I have been sewing for years and I use my seam ripper all the time. That’s the beauty of sewing. If you make a mistake, you can fix it.
Your Assignment (This Week’s Project):
With the lesson you just learned, you can now sew baby burp cloths made from cloth diapers. It will involve a hem and a straight line-perfect practice right? Here’s the tutorial: