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5 keys to overcome your fear of sewing

There’s something about a sewing machine that can be so darn intimidating– it’s enough to frighten prospective sewists into packing that machine away in a closet with an open-ended “someday I’ll learn” feeling.

If this sounds familiar to you, the truth is, all you need is a patient friend to walk you through the basics. And guess what? I can be that friend, albeit virtually, for you!

If you missed it, I blogged my heart out about learning to sew last October on Simple Homemade with the series 31 Days of Sewing School. I’m currently hard at work on an eBook that will be released in a few short months, which will include all of that series and more, and I’ll be here at Simple Mom regularly to teach you something new, too.

And in the meantime, here are some of the highlights from Sewing School that you may have missed. You might think of these as friendly bits of encouragement as to why you don’t need to be afraid of sewing.

sewing machine manual

Did you know you have a secret weapon for your sewing journey? You won’t want to stash this one away in a file cabinet in the garage…

sewing essentials

Big fabric stores can be overwhelming, but you really only need a handful of essential supplies to get started.

sewing machine needles

Choosing the right needle is a major factor in avoiding breaking them… so is keeping your finger away from the presser foot– I speak from experience on that one.

sewing machine tension

One thing that often makes sewing a tense activity is when your tension is out of whack. Know what to look for when something is off and seek out the help of good troubleshooting resources if yours appears funky.

5 keys to overcome your fear of sewing {}

Even an amateur can have fun with different stitches… there’s a few that will be most commonly used, and found on almost any sewing machine.

Today I’ve just scratched the surface of what 31 Days of Sewing School includes. If you want to learn to sew or even if you already know a few things, be sure to check out the series.

I’d love to hear from you now! Are you a long-time sewista, a novice, or someone who wants to learn? What would you like to read about in future sewing columns from me– tutorials, basic instructions, stories?

Reading Time:

2 minutes





  1. Kim @ Extra Organised

    Very timely as I’m about to do some sewing with the guidance of my mother-in-law this weekend. It will be the first time I’ve used a sewing machine in about 25 years and I’m a bit scared. I don’t even know what I need to know as yet! Looking forward to reading your posts.

  2. Rebecca

    I would love some help learning basic alterations & repair!

  3. Jenn @ A Simple Haven

    Oh, what a great resource your eBook will be! I love sewing (or at least I love what sewing can produce :)) but it was overwhelming at first. I think what got me over that hump was seeing the amazing stuff you can make with even very simple patterns. For me, that was the motivation I needed.

    I’d love to see some fun tutorials!

    • Nicole

      It’s true– even the simplest pattern can turn out something amazing, simply because it’s handmade!

  4. Tracey

    I have always wanted to sew. I took it in college and had to sew a chambray shirt and gaucho pants for my very first clothing construction items. Needless to say, I did not fair very well and have steered away from all attempts of putting fabric together with a sewing machine since then.

    • Nicole

      Ha! Project selection is half the battle. I can’t believe they started you on something like that!! Starting simple will ease you in– don’t give up, but maybe work your way up to the chambray (isn’t that back in style now?!). 🙂

  5. Sarah Westphal

    This is amazing.

    Here I am looking at my late mother’s sewing machine wishing I knew how to use it and am strongly considering putting it into a yard sale tomorrow.

    The pull to put it into a yard sale is pretty strong…but the possibility of making my own throw pillows, drapes and duvet covers is stronger still.

    I am going to check out your 31 Days series and see what this sewing stuff entails.

    Thanks so much!

    • Nicole

      Hi Sarah! Now you’ve hooked me in to your decision; did you decide to keep it?!

  6. Allie H

    The single BEST piece of advice I have gotten that I remember every time I sit down at my sewing machine is this “you are not going to ruin it. you can mess up your stitches and take them out over and over again, and unless you cut a whole in your fabric, everything else is fixable”. that’s all the encouragement I need to sit down, keep going, albeit slowly, and rip my stitches out over and over until I get it right.

    • Nicole

      That’s so true!! If you don’t mind, I just might have to quote you in my book, because that is such sage advice.

  7. Debi

    I bought my machine at Target and it did NOT come with a manual! Even my mom could not figure out how to thread it. But my dear hubby ordered the manual for me as a gift (?) and that helped a bit. What really got over my fright was getting my daughter one-on-one sewing classes at a local boutique. She got the pride of making her own totebag and I got to learn how to thread the crazy thing. 🙂

    • Nicole

      I’d say that was a great gift from your hubby! 😉

  8. Mrs. Tucker (Patti)

    While the *idea* of sewing makes me wish I could, the actuality of it makes me itchy! I admire those that do, but for now, I will stick with baking and maybe learning how to code.

    • Nicole

      I’d say those are both worthwhile ventures. 🙂 At least you probably have an appreciation for hand-sewn things, and that’s a valuable quality in my opinion, even if you don’t exactly have the desire to do it!

  9. Esther

    I’ve done okay with non-clothing items and children’s clothing and outerwear. But I’ve NEVER successfully made something for myself. I’ve given up really.
    I think my daughter would totally be interested in the Sewing School!

    • Nicole

      Sewing for self is definitely a challenge. I’ve always resorted to my mom or my husband’s measuring and fitting to help out, but I finally got a dress form this year– hoping that makes it easier, if I ever get the time to sew for myself, that is!

  10. Danielle

    I am a total novice but would love to learn more. Looking forward to your ebook! I did follow your 31 Days series and it definitely helped.

    • Nicole

      Thanks, Danielle!

  11. Tanya

    My grandmother gave me her old machine 2 years ago and I have yet to take it out and make something. I have been wanting to make my son a blanket for when he get into his big boy bed but I guess I haven’t been brave enough yet.

    • Nicole

      You can do it!! You might want to take your machine in to get serviced if it hasn’t been used in a while, to give you a clean slate. I love it when grandmas pass down their sewing machines– it’s so special!

  12. Jess Versteeg

    I have a sewing machine and I grew up watching my mom sew but I’m afraid to really start. I’ve done a few very basic projects like a pillow case or a table runner, but anything more than that is scary. I’m definitely going to follow along!

    • Nicole

      I hope it encourages you to dive in deeper, Jess! 🙂

  13. Rachael Alsbury

    BRILLIANT! I cannot wait for the E-book. I have always wanted to sew! I have good intentions, but I am just too intimidated by the mechanics of the machine and the measuring/mathematical part of patterns and cutting fabric. Thanks!

    • Nicole

      Oh, the math still gets to me sometimes, but that’s when I’m thankful for my husband the engineer/Human Calculator. Seriously though, it’s not as complicated as we think, at least not for simple projects. You can totally do it. 🙂

  14. Claire @ Lemon Jelly Cake

    My greatest issue/hinderance to sewing is not having a permanent place set up for my sewing machine. I hate the set up/clean up, but if I had a place where I could be messy and not have to worry about clearing it away to make room for dinner, I’d be much more eager to sew again. I might just have to try that! 🙂

    • Nicole

      I know that feeling, Claire. I have a really small space right now myself but at least I can do some work without having to go the dining room table. I think I might have to work on a post on working through this issue, because I know you and I are not alone!

  15. Kristen

    I want to learn! I don’t even own a sewing machine- any advice on a great beginner machine for good value?
    Also a bit daunting is the presumption that its very time-consuming. Is it? As a mama to a toddler & trying to conceive another, is this a realistic time to begin this venture?

    • Nicole

      Hi Kristen, this post might help you sort out what you need:

      It can definitely be time-consuming; my advice is to start with SMALL projects, so you can actually experience the excitement of finishing something. I think it’s a great time to start though. There are so many little things you’ll be able to sew for your kids over the years that will be really special to them.

    • Nicole

      Hi Kristen, This post might help you as you figure out what you need:

      It can definitely be time-consuming; I say start with SMALL projects so that you can experience the excitement of finishing something (that’s huge for me). I think now is a great time to learn, because over the years there will be so many little things you can make for your kids that will be really special to them. 🙂

    • Nicole

      Hi Kristen, This post might help you as you figure out what you need:

      It can definitely be time-consuming; I say start with SMALL projects so that you can experience the excitement of finishing something (that’s huge for me). I think now is a great time to learn, because over the years there will be so many little things you can make for your kids that will be really special to them. 🙂

  16. Katie

    Yes! Your sewing machine instruction manual is one of the best beginning resources out there. In fact, I struggled to learn to sew for years with my grandma’s hand-me-down Singer (without a manual) and had no success. When I got a new machine (with manual!!) for my birthday it started to make sense. Read the whole thing there is great information in there. It even teaches you to smock, not that I have been brave enough to try it yet. 🙂

    I would love to see some great sewing for kids (or by kids) activities for the summer.

  17. Emily

    Love this!! Once upon a time I taught home ec to middle schoolers. I seem to have forgotten what I used to teach. I do have a sewing machine and since we live abroad (currently in Ecuador) and I generally have to make the specialty things I want, this is a great refresher! Thanks!! 🙂

  18. Andrea

    Your series sounds great (as does the e-book)! I have a sewing machine from Goodwill that’s gathering dust as we speak. My mom was available to teach me to sew when I was growing up, but I wasn’t interested–and now we’re 1800 miles apart! I will be taking a beginners’ sewing class with a friend this summer. I’m looking forward to learning!

  19. lonestarsky

    This sounds awesome – I’m about to inherit my Granny’s sewing machine from my aunt, who no longer uses it. I’ve wanted to learn to sew for ages but didn’t want to buy a machine incase I decided sewing wasn’t for me. I’m going to give it a go though, and would love some basic ‘how to’ posts and tutorials 🙂

    • Nicole

      How special to get your Granny’s machine!

  20. Erin

    I’d love some tutorials for specific projects. The colored pencil case you sewed that is pictured on your blog? That. And other simple things too. Especially interested in kid- related projects. We are budget-tightening so being able to make gifts inexpensively for birthdays we are invited to would be a real help to our family, plus give me a chance to exercise my sewing skills!

  21. Jaclyn

    Great post! I have been sewing since I was pretty young, taught by my mom. I think the key is just to start with simple projects and patterns and work up from there. So many people comment on the clothes I sew and imagine that it’s very difficult or complicated…it’s not. The actual mechanics of sewing aren’t hard. It’s really just learning how to put those pattern pieces together, and how to troubleshoot when things go wrong. And just doing it, over and over. I personally love the creative process of it and being able to make pretty, interesting things for myself.

    I’ve been asked to each a class on sewing a skirt at our local quilt shop this summer. I’m excited to pass on what I know! I’ve never taught sewing, though, so I hope it goes well. My project today is testing out the skirt pattern that’s been chosen.

    • Nicole

      Such great insight, Jaclyn! Best of luck with the class. 🙂

  22. Katie

    My mom was a masterful seamstress who tried to share her love for sewing with me over and over when I was young. I always admired her talent but was never interested in learning it myself. Now, as a mama, I just wish I would have taken her up on her offers of lessons! She died when I was 20 and I would give just about anything to sit with her and learn. I got a sewing machine for Christmas a few years ago and have used it here and there to make an apron and a simple rag quilt. I’d love to use it more and get better at it.

  23. Kris

    Hi Nicole,

    how kind of you to share your knowledge. I wish I could just simply do that sewing thing. My mom had two sewing machines the electric and the manual one. I wish I could use it too or maybe ‘for starters’ at least the manual one. Actually, I tried many times but sewing maybe hates me or something. 😀 It would be a great pleasure to have some help about it.

  24. Sarah

    Thanks for the inspiration! I haven’t used my machine for close to a year now. 🙁 I used to have a group of friends that would get together to sew and share tips and techniques. I learned some great stuff from all of those wonderful women. Unfortunately we kind of lost contact. I might just have to start up my own group!

  25. Pam @Mommacan

    I just want to sew slip covers for pillows. Pillows can change the mood of a room and a bunch of different kinds for different seasons would be so cool.

  26. Sara

    Five years ago I bought a sewing machine in a fit of good, creative intentions. Every time I tried to thread the bobbin, I couldn’t do it! Eventually, I gave up and put it in my closet.

    I’d love help to conquer that bobbin

    • Nicole

      Hi Sara,
      Maybe this post will help?
      Otherwise, don’t be afraid to take it in to your local sewing machine shop and ask them if they can help. I did that once because something seemed wonky and it literally was simply that my bobbin was in backwards!

  27. paccana

    This is incredibly helpful, I can’t thank you enough for giving me the confidence to finally pull out my sewing machine! You rock!

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