Learn to Sew – A Straight Seam – Beginners Tutorial

Do you want to learn to sew?  Think it is too difficult? I have been told by so many people that sewing is just too hard…well I thought I would start addressing that by making tutorials for the absolute beginner.  I will be bringing out a series of very basic and easy to follow tutorials to get you started on your learn to sew journey.

Learn to sew - step 1 - straight seam

Today I am going to start with a staple part of any beginners project and that is a straight seam.  This is used to join two straight edges together, as in a skirt, or pillowcase etc.  For almost every project you will need to be able to sew a straight seam.  Most patterns will tell you the seam allowance, which is the amount of extra they have allowed for the width of the seam.  For this one I have chosen 1/2 an inch (a little under 15mm), this is very common seam allowance.  Seam allowances are easy to work with, just read on you will see!

What you will need to Learn to sew a straight seam

  • Scrap fabric two pieces the same size
  • Thread – I have used black thread so that it is easy for you to see, but you would use a thread that matches your fabric.
  • Pins
  • Sewing Machine
  • Scissors

Let’s Learn to Sew!

Step 1 – Arranging Fabric

Learn to sew - step 1 - straight seam

I have used a scrap piece of fabric and cut it two for this tutorial.  When you are learning to sew it is good to have a little practice on a scrap piece before starting on an actual project.  First up you will need to lay your scrap fabric pieces right sides facing each other, lining up the edge you want to join.  The right side of the fabric is the outside of the fabric that you want people to see when your item is finished.  You can see in the photo above that I have folded the corner up a little so you can see the right sides are facing (touching) each other.

Step 2 – Pin your Seam

Learn to sew - step 1 - straight seam

When you pin your seams you want the pins sticking out the side of the seam like shown in the photo above.  This will help hold the fabric stable and flat.  Also if you happen to sew over a pin 9 out 10 times the needle won’t hit it and you will just be able to pull it out afterwards.  Please DO NOT sew over your pins.  Accidents happen but if you sew over them on purpose you can break your needle and/or bend your pins.  Don’t pin right at the very start of the seam as the presser foot of your machine will just end up on top of the first pin.

 

Step 3 – Seam Allowance

Learn to sew - step 1 - straight seam

Here is the promised piece on the seam allowance!  As I said earlier I am using a 1/2″ seam allowance this time.  If you look at the photo above you can see my machine has all the different seam allowances marked on it.  Your machine may look a little different than this and that is fine.  Yours may have only mm or only inches, so here is a little guide for you.

Learn to sew - Seam Allowance Conversion Chart

To use a seam allowance you just line up the raw (cut edge) of your fabric with the correct mark on your machine.

Step 4 – Placing Fabric on the Sewing Machine

Learn to sew - step 1 - straight seam

With your presser foot lifted up, slide you fabric underneath and line up the raw (cut) edge with the 1/2″ seam allowance line.  You want to make sure you have a little bit of fabric under the presser foot so you won’t be sewing from the very edge of the fabric.  That will cause bunching and the fabric not to be pulled though by the feed dogs under the foot.

Learn to sew - step 1 - straight seam

Lower your presser foot, making sure that the excess thread (tails) are pulled towards the back righthand side.  See the two black threads in the photo above.  Now you are ready to sew!

 

Step 5 – Starting to Sew a Seam – Lock stitch/reverse

Some machines have a Lock stitch option, if yours does you can use that at the beginning and end of a seam, in place of following this step.

Learn to sew - step 1 - straight seam

On some machines (mine included) you will need to hold onto the thread tails as you start sewing.  Otherwise the machine will pull in the top thread out of the needle for you or create a birds nest of thread…either way not a great start!  So hold on to those two threads and sew two stitches slowly.  If you are not comfortable doing two with the foot pedal you can just turn the wheel on the right hand side of your machine towards you for two complete turns.

Learn to sew - step 1 - straight seam

*LEAVE YOUR PRESSER FOOT DOWN!  I have lifted mine to show you how the two stitches look. Your needle will be up and out of the fabric too.

Learn to sew - step 1 - straight seam

Using the reverse on your machine (which can be a lever or a button to press), sew back over the same two stitches.

Learn to sew - step 1 - straight seam

*LEAVE YOUR PRESSER FOOT DOWN! Above you can see that I have gone over the same stitches and am back at the starting point.  You have now completed the lock stitch so that your seam will not come undone at the ends once you have sewn it.  Therefore you will need to do this step again at the end of your seam.

Step 6 – Sew your Seam

Learn to sew - step 1 - straight seam

Making sure that the raw edge stays lined up with the 1/2″ seam allowance mark on your machine, sew slowly until your first pin.  DO NOT sew over it!

Learn to sew - step 1 - straight seam

Remove the pin and sew to your next pin.  Remember to keep that edge lined up with the 1/2″ mark the whole time. Repeat this step until you reach the end of your fabric.

Learn to sew - step 1 - straight seam

Now reverse over two stitches (just like you did at the start), and sew over them again.

Learn to sew - step 1 - straight seam

Lift your presser foot and cut your threads (remember to leave a little thread on the machine (tails) for next time). You should have something that looks like the photo above!

Learn to sew - step 1 - straight seam

Since we lock stitched at the start and end you can now trim the threads off.

Learn to sew - step 1 - straight seam

And there you have your straight seam!  And you are well on your way to learning to sew!

Bonus Hint – Press with your iron!

Learn to sew - step 1 - straight seam

The seam now looks like this on the right side.  For a much more professional looking finish press the seam with your iron. To press a seam lay it flat on your ironing board and ‘press’ the iron on it to hold it flat.  Keep the iron still rather than moving back and forth which can stretch and distort the fabric.

Learn to sew - step 1 - straight seam

Doesn’t that look so much better?  Now you have a perfectly flat straight seam!

Next Step – Finish the raw edge to prevent fraying

Luckily for you I have a tutorial which I prepared earlier! 5 Ways to Finish a Seam Without an Overlocker (Serger). If you want to use a serger go for it!  They are an excellent and super quick way to finish those raw edges.

If you have any questions, or requests for tutorials, please leave a comment below!

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Learn to sew - step 1 - straight seam