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created 18 May 2016
Sewing 101 Syllabus
Originally posted to the 18cLife mailing list,
this article is reproduced here by permission of
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I've taught Sewing 101 at the Hive series of
workshops several times, and I've gradually
shifted what I teach from actual stitching to much
more basic lessons. I start with things
- What "small needle" means — I encountered one
learner who kept being told "your needles are too
big" and kept buying shorter and shorter needles
until she ended up with the world's shortest
quilting needles that no one could sew with. Now
I'm always careful to be specific and say
"thinner" and "fatter" vs. "shorter" and "longer"
in the appropriate context, but I also say
something brief about "smaller" and "bigger" in
case they encounter other people who use those
- How to match the thickness of the thread to the
coarseness of the fabric.
- How to match the fiber that the thread is made
from to the fiber the fabric is made from.
- How to match the thickness of the needle to the
thickness of the thread.
- Tradeoffs between short eyes and long
(embroidery) eyes in needles.
- Tradeoffs between cutting a longer vs. shorter
length of thread to sew with.
- How and why to use beeswax on the thread.
- How to thread a needle.
- How to make a knot in the end of the thread.
- How and why to position and reposition the
thread in the needle as you thread it and as you
sew (and why it's usually not worth it to use a
- Tradeoffs of different kinds of pins.
- How to keep the thread from twisting as you sew,
and what to do if it twists.
- How and why to secure the fabric (by pinning it
to your pants leg, or whatever).
All this could take up a whole workshop and you
have still not taken a single stitch! If there's
time, I teach running stitch, backstitch,
combination stitch, and whip stitch, and when to
use each one. If we're lucky, we might
manage to sew a little bag with a drawstring, but
we usually run out of time. I don't worry
too much about whether they'll remember how to
form the various stitches. That, they can
get from a book. The other stuff, not so