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Sewing Tips

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

There's so much information out there about sewing.

Here's what I'd like to share with people new to sewing.

The Big 4 Commercial Pattern Makers

Sewing patterns are a good way to learn how to make garments, bags, and other things without a lot of guess work. The key is to measure yourself and use those measurements to determine which pattern size to use. PDFs are available, but I prefer the tissue. I usually iron it out, cut the pieces, and fold them back up and put the envelope under a heavy box or book for a little while, then back in my drawer. There are sales all the time, so just check the stores or websites before you buy. For me, I like the detailed step by step instructions and some include videos. How to read a sewing pattern:


I enjoy looking through lookbooks online and at the store. The online archive goes back all the way to the early 2000s on Some brands have a tradition of publishing patterns that are similar to whatever was worn at the Presidential Inauguration or some popular fashion forward events. Current Lookbooks ( Archive mccallpatterncompany Publisher Publications - Issuu

Quilt Shop Patterns

I have found a lot of interesting patterns at quilt shops and quilt shows. I do not quilt, but I regard quilters as the Queens of Fiber Arts. They blow me away everytime! I did enjoy making bags and purses, but I only need so many bags. I really like Emmaline Bags. By Annie is utilitarian and practical. When I discovered Soft and Stable, it was a game changer! I use it instead of interfacing. The projects look so much better and they are much more durable and crush resistant. I used it in a messenger bag for my Niece and it was amazing. Her Mom asked me for another one!

You can also find cute labels, funky zippers, and creative fabrics and other nice touches that I really have not seen at other places. There are a few in my area that I like: Not Your Mama’s Quilt store, Stitched with Love, and Urban Spools.


I put labels on my handmade projects now. Saw it on a blog. Why not? I buy online from Wunderlabel. I’ve bought from a seller on Etsy before, but I like the Wunderlabel more.

Embroidery, applique and embellishment

My machine, Babylock Sophia 2, has a small embroidery hoop. I don’t know a lot about this topic, but it is as broad and deep as sewing is. I mostly use it for personalization and embellishment. I’ve only seen the rhinestone embellishments in the independent stores and bead stores. Hot fix crystals and so much more - for less than 5 dollars. My Aunt got this one for $3 and it’s washable. I made a kaftan for her with it. Of course they are plastic. The swarovski ones are beyond my needs, but they are out there!

Fabric Stores

You can get fabric everywhere: by upcycling or buying new. I find myself keeping old clothes and everything for projects. It doesn’t always get used, but it’s good to experiment with. I had an old jean jacket that I gave to my cousin to practice sewing appliques on. I took my Grandpa’s old ties and saved them. I ended up sewing one into the facing on a skirt. I stop in local small stores when I travel and I am rarely disappointed. Many have closed though. I’ve found the most interesting things. I go in the cultural stores whenever I can. I found some incredible chiffons in Little Mogadishu in Minneapolis and most of the African wax prints are in Mom & Pop places, which might be an old storefront in a neighborhood or an office building. I’ve even been in a store in a storage unit, but I was not disappointed! Find dressmakers. They sell fabric too. I found one of my absolute favorite prints in Chinatown in Houston in a Vietnamese dressmakers shop. It is always a conversation starter. There is a place here in Dallas, Richard Brooks Couture Fabrics. $300 a yard fabric. His remnants are $100! That is out of my price range, but sometimes I go in there just to experience another level of professional sewing. He sews for the high society events. I got a $60 boiled wool and made a cape at the remnant sale. Make it an adventure!

Jo-Ann Fabrics has the most selection, but the other big boxes, Walmart, etc. are good for notions. Jo-Ann is more expensive, but they are wonderful when it comes to Big 4 patterns. They rotate brands during the sales and they have end of season clearances. I’ve found patterns at overstock stores too. I rarely pay the $15-$30 price on a package unless it’s urgent or a necessity. Some special releases go out of print. I didn’t buy the Black Panther Dora Milaje costume and I can’t find it in the store anywhere now. Before Covid, I’d go flip through the catalogs on the table, they have all the new and old patterns when I need some inspiration. Generally, you look in the book for the numbers and then get the pattern out of the drawer. Going through drawers with no number is a losing game. There does not seem to be any type of order to it. The fabric district in Dallas is our apparel fabric gold mine. $3 a yard tables and so much more. I’ve gotten some great deals there. Some sell online. Most don’t. This is where we also get the wedding, special occasion, prom and home decor fabrics.

Sewing Machines and Supplies

Endless selection. I noticed the pro’s machines are much simpler than the ones for home sewing. My first machine was a Singer from Wal-Mart. I like Baby Lock because I first tried it in a sewing class at B-Sew Inn, and I traded mine in for that. They all do the same thing, so it’s your preference. I found this incredible magnetic pattern cutting sytem from DIY Style Shop and I use it for all crafts. I find that cutting makes or breaks the project, so having room to cut goes a long way. We had a friend who had access to a commercial cutting table and it was worth the trip every time. I used to just take fabric and patterns to cut instead of sewing. I am using rotary cutters the most. Pinking shears are absolutely great. I have a lot of scissors. I also inherited sewing supplies. I bought the The Palmer/Pletsch Complete Guide to Fitting when I got serious about garment making. I do recommend it because it shows you how to fit yourself with the pattern tissue! I don’t have to do a lot of altering, so it works. But I also make things that don’t require that much fitting.

Online stores: Sew Much Fabric

Influencers and online communities

They offer a fresh and updated look at sewing, while promoting lots of brands and products. Many work with the manufacturers and they are not as diligent about tagging their ads like other influencers. A lot of the models in the pattern catalog have their own websites and Instagram accounts. I didn’t figure this out for a while! With a few exceptions, they are not the most experienced sewers, but they make sewing look fun. The most experienced people I have met, don’t care about social media and they don’t use it to teach sewing. The one that appealed to me is Mimi G style. I like her old blog because it’s more real life clothes than unwearable social media clothes. She also teaches sewing and the people I know that took the classes like them. The sewing blogs are hanging on by a thread because the focus has changed to Instagram and TikTok, but the community is super active and vibrant. People really like Sewing Pattern Although there is encouragement and support, I have discovered multiple sites filled with a lot of hateful, intensely detailed critiques of people’s sewing pictures. This goes waaaay back and it was really terrible to find. They try to set rules about not criticizing new sewers, but there really are no boundaries. I found I was spending more time looking at this content than sewing. I had to scale back and pretty much ignore it to find balance. They host sew-alongs and contests that can be great, but it does invoke time pressure. I like to be very detailed and take as much time as I need, so this didn’t work for me. I found my local in-person group from the online promotions. I enjoy getting together to sew. The local groups can be a lot of fun. Local folks:

Learning Resources

There are so many ways to learn. I found these helpful. B-Sew Inn

Your local quilt stores probably have classes too. That’s it for now! Might update this if I think of more.

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