Beginner Sewing Projects

Kate Miller-Wilson
woman learning to sew

If you're just learning how to sew, it can help to have a few beginner sewing projects on hand to practice your new skills. The best starter projects are easy to make but also very rewarding, helping to enhance your enthusiasm for sewing.

Easy Decorative Pillow

Throw pillows in your favorite fabrics make great accents on sofas, armchairs and beds, and they're also very easy to make. You can even create a throw pillow by hand if you don't have a sewing machine yet. For the best results, choose a lightweight cotton fabric like those used for quilting. These fabrics are easy to handle, especially for beginners. If you'd like a unique look, consider using a vintage fabric or part of an old garment.

Things You'll Need

  • 16-inch by 16-inch pillow form, available at your local craft store
  • Half a yard of pretty cotton fabric
  • Two yards of lace (optional)
  • Sewing machine (optional)
  • Hand sewing needle and thread
  • Scissors, tape measure, and pins
  • Pencil
  • Iron

What to Do

  1. Spread out the fabric, and cut it into two 18-inch squares.
  2. Place the printed sides, also known as the "right sides," of the fabric together, and pin three of the four sides. If desired, insert the lace as you pin, with the lacy edge facing into the pillow.
  3. Sew around three of the four sides, using your sewing machine or by hand. Leave a one-inch seam allowance. When you're done, remove the pins and turn the pillow right side out. Use the eraser end of the pencil to poke the corners of the pillow to help make them pointed.
  4. Iron the pillow. Insert the pillow form, and hand sew the final side closed. Tuck the raw edges in, and work slowly. Your pillow is done!

Simple Reversible Table Runner

Need a fun craft to decorate your holiday dinner table to show off your skills at your next barbeque? A table runner is a great craft project for beginners. Try to measure carefully for this project, since sewing straight seams is important for the final look. Choose a fabric that is heavyweight to give the table runner the appropriate body. If you'll be using the runner outdoors, choose a fabric that's suitable for outside use.

Things You'll Need

  • Half a yard of heavyweight fabric in a print you love
  • Half a yard of heavyweight fabric in a coordinating print or solid color
  • Sewing machine and thread
  • Tape measure, pins, and scissors
  • Iron

What to Do

  1. Measure your first fabric, and cut a rectangle that is 21 inches by 43 inches. Repeat with the second fabric.
  2. Place the right sides together, and sew two of the long sides and one of the short sides, leaving a half inch for the seam allowance.
  3. Turn the table runner right side out, using a pencil or knitting needle to make the corners square. Use the iron to press it.
  4. Turn in the final side, and secure it with pins. Sew this side closed, keeping the stitches a quarter inch from the edge.
  5. Top stitch the rest of the table runner by sewing a quarter of an inch from the edge all the way around. This helps give it a finished, professional look. Iron again, and enjoy!

Basic Beach or Pool Cover-Up

Whether you're heading someplace warm for a winter vacation or need a new cover-up to wear at the beach over the summer, you'll be proud to wear this easy project you can make yourself. Choose a very lightweight cotton that coordinates with your bathing suit. This one-size-fits-most wrap design makes a breezy and cool beach skirt.

Things You'll Need

  • Two yards of lightweight cotton fabric
  • One and a half yards of pretty half-inch-wide ribbon
  • Sewing machine and thread
  • Scissors, tape measure, and pins
  • Iron

What to Do

  1. Spread out the fabric, and cut a large rectangle that is 72 inches long by 34 inches wide.
  2. Hem all four sides of the rectangle by rolling the raw edges under. Sew about a quarter inch from the edge all the way around.
  3. Fold over the edge on one of the long sides, making a pocket about an inch deep. Use the iron to press it, and secure with pins. Sew along the edge, staying on top of your previous stitches.
  4. Thread the ribbon through the pocket, gathering the fabric up along the length of the ribbon. Try on the cover-up, adjusting the fabric to cover your waist. Secure the edges of the fabric to the ribbon using your sewing machine. To wear the cover-up, just tie the ends of the ribbon at your hip.

Helpful Tips

Keep the following tips in mind as you work on your first few projects:

  • Look for starter projects that are simple enough to keep you feeling successful. Stick to projects with fewer than six steps and that require only a few pattern pieces.
  • Choose fabrics that are easy to work with. Shiny or silky fabrics like satin can be too slippery for new seamstresses. Look for simple, inexpensive options, and buy extra in case you make a mistake.
  • Review the functioning of your sewing machine before you get started. You'll need to be able to sew a running stitch and a reverse stitch. Also educate yourself on how to sew a hem.
  • If you'd like more projects suited to beginners, peruse the pattern aisle at your local fabric store. Most patterns are labeled with the difficulty level.

Moving on From Beginner Sewing Projects

As a beginning seamstress, it may seem daunting to think about moving on from the easiest projects to more advanced designs. However, the skills you learn with these simple projects will make it possible for you to tackle greater challenges. To keep expanding your skills, always choose projects that are a little bit harder than your previous work. That way, you'll learn something new every time you sew.

Beginner Sewing Projects