Sewing 101: Skills, Fabrics, and Techniques

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Course No. 4081
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What Will You Learn?

  • numbers Read, customize, cut, and sew patterns for everything from garments to home goods.
  • numbers Learn the vocabulary of sewing, from basting to bias cuts and more.
  • numbers Master the use of the concealed zipper foot and the delicate art of creating a zippered seam that is invisible and smooth.
  • numbers Explore the myriad types of thread available, as well as clever storage tips for your thread collection.
  • numbers Gain the skills necessary to feel confident sewing any pattern-or creating your own.
  • numbers Complete over a dozen projects, including a customized dress shirt.

Course Overview

In today's society, sewing may seem like a lost art. We can drive to a store or log on to our computers and get clothing or home décor in any color, shape, style, and size we desire. If a seam comes apart in our pants, we can dispose of them and buy a new pair.

But sewing has benefits beyond the instant gratification of shopping. Even those of us with minimal needle skills can save a great deal of money by hemming pants and mending rips and tears rather than buying a new item. With a few more skills in your toolbox, you can tailor store-bought clothes to better fit your figure or add custom details to reflect your unique sense of style.

Across 40 practical and hands-on lessons divided into four modules and taught by veteran sewing instructors Ashley Hough and Aurora Sisneros of the National Sewing Circle, Sewing 101: Skills, Fabrics, and Techniques will introduce you to the joy of sewing through a world of fabrics, stitches, and inspiring projects.

By the time you complete this course, you will have made several pieces of clothing, home décor items, and accessories that are suitable for your own use or to give as gifts that will be cherished by friends and family. Sewing is an art with endless possibilities and you can only get more efficient and finessed as you hone your craft over the years.

Gather Your Notions & Prepare to Sew

While you can certainly enjoy this course without the use of a sewing machine, for the full experience of practice swatches and sample projects, you will want to have a standard home sewing machine at your disposal. Your instructors will walk you through the main parts of the machine and help you troubleshoot the roadblocks you may encounter as you sew.

Tips about working with your sewing machine are found in every lesson, including:

  • Exploring the various types of feet and when to use them;
  • Using your machine's settings for various types of stitches and stitch lengths;
  • Manipulating the hand wheel for safely stitching over pins or zippers;
  • Modifying your machine's speed so you are sewing at a comfortable pace; and
  • Spotting the tell-tale signs that your machine's needle needs to be replaced.

You will also learn about the many types of fabrics that you'll encounter at the fabric store and which fabrics are best suited to the type of project you want to create. Some of the many varieties include:

  • Beginner Fabrics: Fabrics like cotton or linen are easy to cut and sew and very forgiving when it comes to the small mistakes that novice sewers make. They're also inexpensive and come in a wide variety of colors.
  • Intermediate Fabrics: Once you've mastered your skills with cotton, you can try your hand at trickier fabrics like eyelet fabric, which requires some planning around its holes, or satin, which is very slippery.
  • Advanced Fabrics: Finally, there are stretchy fabrics like knits, lace fabrics, and sequined fabrics, each with their own unique challenges. These are covered in the more advanced lessons of the course.

Among the many gems of information in this course are the clever tools that the instructors use that are not considered traditional sewing implements, such as:

  • Blue painter's tape to draw lines on the right side of oilcloth,
  • A chopstick to create sharper corners when you turn out a piece,
  • Binder clips as an alternative to pins for leather and faux leather, and
  • Clever sources of thin paper to use when creating your own patterns.

Master Tips & Techniques Born from Experience

One of instructor Aurora Sisneros' favorite phrases is, “Guess how I learned that?” While every crafter makes mistakes, you can certainly learn from the experiences of your well-seasoned instructors and avoid some of the most common errors.

You'll also uncover secrets for:

  • Adjusting a pattern if your measurements fall in between two sizes, like a size 10 in the bust but a size 12 in the hips;
  • Recovering an old, wrinkled pattern so it can be used again;
  • Sewing around tricky curves and sharp corners so they will look professionally finished;
  • Picking the right foot to attach an invisible zipper;
  • Sewing a small piece of elastic to a larger piece of fabric, distributing it evenly; and
  • Hemming pants or a skirt, including a way to hem when you don’t have much extra length available to fold under.

Project Guides & Inspiration

Sewing 101: Skills, Fabrics, and Techniques has dozens of projects that you can complete using the patterns that are included as a PDF download with your course. They will help you hone your skills with different fabrics, techniques, and settings on your sewing machine.

  • Bags, bags, bags: From a small notions bag made of cotton with heavy interfacing to a clutch made of waterproof oilcloth, there is a bag pattern for every occasion. Bags are a fun way to practice skills and finish a project in an hour or two. They also make wonderful gifts for people of all ages and genders.
  • Home décor: Revive your old patio furniture with vibrant new cushion covers made to fit perfectly. This project will have your neighbors wondering just how much you paid for your beautiful new cushions.
  • Garments: Once you learn the no-fail method for making customized shirts that fit perfectly every time, you will go to the fabric store instead of the department store when you need a new shirt.

Each lesson is filmed from a variety of angles, including close-up shots of stitching, details of seams, and the position of the presser foot, so you’ll have no problem following along with your own projects at home. The individual projects are followed in minute detail, so you'll be able to watch your instructor sew from start to finish while applying the invaluable skills you will pick up along the way.

A Never-ending Source of Enjoyment

When you've completed this course, you will be more confident and comfortable with your sewing machine, including how to troubleshoot common problems. Not only this, but you will be able to walk into a fabric shop and immediately know what you need for each new project. With the skills and habits you will develop, you can take on more complicated patterns and find inspiration for numerous projects for your home, your closet, and gifts for friends and family.

Lifelong sewers Ashley Hough and Aurora Sisneros simply radiate with the joy that comes with being able to make something with your own hands (with a little help from a sewing machine) and their enthusiasm is contagious. Join them in Sewing 101: Skills, Fabrics, and Techniques and see what you can create.

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40 lectures
 |  Average 27 minutes each
  • 1
    Getting Started & Understanding Your Machine
    Gather your shopping list to be prepared: a sewing machine, needles, spools of thread, straight pins, measuring tools, fabric, removable fabric markers, and scissors. Walk through the parts of the sewing machine, including the "bag of parts" that you get with a new machine, and review some common troubleshooting scenarios if you're working with an older or unfamiliar machine. x
  • 2
    Needle & Thread, Fabric & Interfacing
    Explore the myriad types of thread available, as well as clever storage tips for your thread collection. Then, review the variety of needles you can use with your machine, from universal needles to specialty needles for stretchy fabrics, delicate fabrics, or thick fabrics. Finally, select and attach the type of interfacing that will provide optimal stability to your fabric. x
  • 3
    Cut like a Pro
    Identify the edges of your fabric—raw, folded, and selvage—and accurately place and pin your pattern pieces using the grain line. Compare the process of cutting out your pattern pieces with fabric scissors to using a rotary cutter, and why flat-head pins are the best choice for the latter. Finally, learn a trick to reviving a wrinkled old pattern instead of buying a new copy. x
  • 4
    How to Sew & Beginner Sewing Terminology
    This lesson walks you through selecting the correct presser foot, pinning your fabric pieces together, determining the correct seam allowance, and finally, letting your machine do the hard work for you. Sample swatches with clear contrast between fabric and thread allow you to see important concepts like backstitching, stitch lengths, and types of stitches. As you work, learn the vocabulary of sewing, from basting to bias cuts and more. x
  • 5
    Bring It All Together
    For your first project, create a beautiful notions storage pouch with three coordinating cotton fabrics and heavyweight interfacing. You will apply everything you have learned in the first five lessons and be amazed by the quality of your finished product. This pouch would make a great handmade gift for other crafters or for children to carry art supplies or small toys. x
  • 6
    Spotlight Project: Infinity Scarf
    If you want to learn how to work with stretchy knit fabrics (and if you enjoy accessorizing with pops of color) this lesson shows you how to create an infinity scarf. Learn about the needles, feet, stitches, and pinning techniques that are best for this stretchy fabric. Once you've seen how easy it is to create this versatile accessory, you'll want to make a dozen more! x
  • 7
    Skill Building: Making Your Own Bias Tape
    While you can buy pre-made bias tape at the fabric store, if you want to save money and achieve a more customized look, you can create your own using scraps of fabric you already have in your stash. Even a fat quarter is plenty of fabric to edge a baby bib, which is exactly what you'll be creating in this project guide. x
  • 8
    Designer Hints: Invisible Zippers
    Invisible zippers are perfect for skirts, dresses, and any garment where you need a zipper for functionality, but don't want it to be a design feature. Master the use of the concealed zipper foot and the delicate art of creating a zippered seam that is invisible and smooth. x
  • 9
    Spotlight Project: Boxy Pouch
    Continue working with zippers in the Boxy Pouch project. You'll learn how to create a 3D boxy bag with contrasting lining, a strap, and fabric zipper tabs. Conquer your fear of gussets with a foolproof method. These bags are indispensable for sewing notions, small knitting or crochet projects, art supplies, toiletries, LEGO blocks, or other small toys. x
  • 10
    Spotlight Project: Pajama Pants
    Nothing makes a lazy day feel even more luxurious than when you are wearing custom-designed pajama pants that you sewed yourself. It's the perfect project for fun, colorful fabrics. With this project, you'll learn how to create a channel to add an elastic waistband for the ultimate in lounging comfort. If you're looking for practice hemming before you hem your expensive pants, this project offers tips for you to get your feet wet with cuffs and hems. x
  • 11
    Spotlight Project: Reusable Tote
    Create a unique lunch tote lined with vinyl for easy cleaning. Get insider tips for sewing with vinyl, which is difficult to work with, resists pinning, and can stick to your sewing machine. Fold and sew a 6-inch gusset so your tote bag stands up on its own. You can then create the same pattern in larger sizes to use as a grocery bag or even a beach bag. x
  • 12
    Two-Handed Hot Pads
    In this lecture, create the first of an assortment of useful home goods: two-handed hot pads lined with heat-resistant batting that are perfect for moving trays and large pots. Understand why finishing your edges with bias tape is important when creating curved pieces and how to create and attach pockets that are the perfect size for your hands. x
  • 13
    Towel Toppers
    Sew a towel topper that not only keeps your dish towel close at hand, but makes your towel look like a delightful little dress. Discover the technique for creating a folded hem and neater seams on a steeply curved edge. Compare methods for attaching your towel topper to your oven handle. x
  • 14
    Reusable Bowl Cover
    Customize bowl covers for your favorite bowls using cotton fabric, elastic, and rickrack. These covers are handy for carrying a dish to a potluck, protecting picnic food from the elements, or just keeping that plate of cookies out of sight and out of mind. This project is a valuable first step in customizing a project to the size of an object, as opposed to from a pattern. x
  • 15
    Couch Caddy
    Keep your favorite book, reading glasses, and remote close by when you're relaxing in your living room with a couch caddy made from cotton fabric that coordinates with your existing decor. Learn how to create pleated pockets that make it easy to drop items in and take them out. You can make a weighted pocket for the other side or cut the project longer so the extra length can tuck under the seat cushion. x
  • 16
    Hanger Buddy & Plate Holder
    Make travel and camping easier when you make two simple projects: a zippered pouch that ties to a standard clothes hanger and can store accessories, jewelry, makeup, or other small objects, and a pouch that holds a plate, napkin, and silverware. Learn the "window technique" for hiding zipper tape under a decorative edge and how to best secure hook-and-loop tape. x
  • 17
    Outdoor Fabric & Cutting Perfect Squares
    Save money and create new cushions for your furniture. Explore the various fabrics that are good for indoor cushions, dog beds, throw pillows, or outdoor cushions. Calculate the amount of fabric you will need to buy to cover each cushion perfectly. Learn how to cut perfect right angles so your cushions look professional and neat. x
  • 18
    Setting a Zipper & Finishing
    Use your old cushion's measurements to determine where to put the zipper on your new cushion cover. Proper zipper placement ensures that your cover is easy to put on, is on a side that faces away from view, and any prints on your fabric are displayed right side up. You will also learn how to shorten a zipper that is too long for your cushion. x
  • 19
    Shaping the Cover
    Give your cushion cover dimension by adding gussets. Of course, since you have done your custom measurements, these gussets will give your cover a perfect fit to your existing cushion. Take your mastery of gussets one step further by learning how to create a gusset on an edge that has a zipper. Finally, cover your old cushions and enjoy! x
  • 20
    Getting Started & Expanding Your Stitches
    It may be tempting to stick to the default construction stitch for everything, but your machine can do so much more. Get a demonstration of stay stitching on a shirt pattern and see why you should never skip it. Then, learn how ease stitching makes it much easier to fit a sleeve into an arm hole. Finally, learn why topstitching is important and explore what color thread to use. x
  • 21
    Sewing Darts & Pleats
    Add dimension and texture to your projects with darts and pleats. Learn how to read a pattern to determine where darts and pleats should be placed. Review the process for creating knife pleats, box pleats, inverted box pleats, single pointed darts, double pointed darts, and curved darts and learn when to use them. x
  • 22
    Tips for Sewing Curves & Corners
    Smooth curves and sharp corners are the hallmark of an experienced sewer. While many issues can be avoided by adequate pinning and sewing slowly, there are others that require some specialized tricks that may not be listed in your patterns. Learn how to place a single stitch that will give you sharp corners with thicker fabric. x
  • 23
    Professional Seam Finishes & Ways to Hem
    Replicating the tailored seams and hems of a quality store-bought garment is easy to do with your home machine if you know these techniques. Using fabric swatches and contrasting colored thread, your instructor will walk you through creating a French seam, flat fell seam, double fold hem, and blind hems, as well as using hem tape. x
  • 24
    Selecting Shirt Size & Stitching Shirt Front
    In this first of six lessons, learn how to take measurements to create a garment that will fit the garment wearer's body perfectly. Begin your shirt sewing with the pocket and shirt front. Alter a rectangular pocket pattern to create a pointed bottom. Learn how to read your pattern so you attach your pocket at the perfect height on the shirt and pin straight. x
  • 25
    Adding a Yoke & Stitching Shirt Back
    The yoke is a way to add designer details to the top of your shirt. If your pattern does not include a yoke, learn how to create your own yoke pattern piece. Learn how notches help you align your pattern pieces and when you can safely clip them off. Finally, identify the pitfalls that are common when novice sewers try to customize a pattern. x
  • 26
    Adding Plackets & Stitching Sleeves
    Prepare your sleeves for plackets by adding pleats using a clever pinning trick. Learn how to read the placket pattern piece so you can accurately cut your fabric, mark it, pin it, and stitch it to the sleeve. It can seem like a lot of work for a small design feature, but it is one that takes your shirt from average to exceptional. x
  • 27
    Cuffs & Sleeves
    First, pin your front and back pieces together and use a construction stitch to attach them. Next, learn how to work with the difficult opposing curves of an armhole piece and sleeve piece so you can stitch shoulders that are smooth and don't have puckers. Then, sew the longest seam on your shirt, from the cuff to the armpit and then down the side. Finally, explore the variations you can do on a standard cuff. x
  • 28
    Adding a Collar & Stitching Shirt Front
    Add your front band to finish the front of your shirt and be ready for buttons—and do it all with only one seam! Add pins for perfectly positioned buttonholes. Stitch your upper and lower collar pieces, using interfacing to add stiffness to the fabric and trimming your seams to create crisp corners and smooth curves. Finally, get tips and tricks to perfect buttonholes. x
  • 29
    Selecting Jacket Size & Altering Pattern Pieces
    When it comes to sizes, outerwear measuring is different than measuring for shirts, pants, or skirts. Knowing how to measure correctly ensures the perfect fit for your new jacket. You'll see how to adjust collars and cuffs for height and shape to suit your sense of style, as well as how to design pockets that suit your hand size. Finally, learn how to add on to a jacket pattern to make the finished jacket longer. x
  • 30
    How to Sew the Modified Pattern Pieces
    If you've done modifications to your collar, pockets, length, or zipper, learn how to attach them to your original pattern pieces so they look like they were meant to be there all along. Your collar will lay flat, your pockets will be placed perfectly, and your zipper will zip easily every time. x
  • 31
    Adding a Lining & Stitching Sleeves
    Attach your sleeve linings in a way that you can avoid doing extra top stitching. If you did the pajama pants project, this is a logical extension of the technique used there. Attaching the sleeve will be easier with the knowledge you gained in the custom shirt lessons. While jackets are much bulkier pieces, your instructor will give you tips for working with the fabric. x
  • 32
    Spotlight Project: Knit Pencil Skirt
    Take your measurements to create a custom pattern for a pencil skirt in your exact size and preferred length. Learn how to set up your serger to create a solid side seam and how to test the fit so you can adjust your pattern on the fly. Follow along as you see how to sew a stretchy elastic waistband to stretchy knit fabric. x
  • 33
    Faux Fur & Leather
    Faux fur and faux leather (vegan leather, or pleather) use the same needles, foot, and techniques. Cut faux fur without tiny pieces of hair flying all over your sewing room and learn how to sew pieces of faux fur together in a way that looks seamless from the right side. Leather and faux leather cannot be pinned without permanent holes, so get tips for "pinning" these pieces without pins. x
  • 34
    Sequined & Sheer Fabrics & Lace
    Sequined fabrics, sheer fabrics, and lace can be frustrating to work with for beginners, but with the tips and tricks in this lesson, you'll be able to add these dramatic fabrics to your projects. Learn how to cut, prepare, pin, press, sew, and hem these fabrics with tricks your instructor has mastered over her years of experience. x
  • 35
    Quick Tips & Bonus Project
    Explore the ways you can maximize the potential in all fabrics from velvet and velour, to silks and satins, to embellished and textured fabrics. Practice your skills with pleather and velour to create a unique and stylish case to protect your eyeglasses. x
  • 36
    Sewing Laminates & Laminate Cutting Tips
    Learning to sew with laminates can greatly expand the number of projects you can tackle; because they are virtually waterproof and easy to wipe clean, you can make things you can't make with cotton. Explore the features and benefits of oilcloth, vinyl, and laminated cotton. Observe the most effective methods for cutting and caring for these tricky but infinitely useful materials. x
  • 37
    Vinyl/Oilcloth Receipt Wallet
    In this project, you will create a receipt wallet from oilcloth using a walking foot on your home sewing machine. Next, sew with clear vinyl to create zippered pockets for your wallet. Finally, join the vinyl to the oilcloth to complete the project. x
  • 38
    Laminated Cotton Receipt Wallet
    To appreciate the differences between oilcloth and laminated cotton, this lesson walks you through the same receipt wallet project using laminated cotton for the outer layer. Because of the natural fiber weave in laminated cotton, it is important to finish the raw edges so they do not fray. x
  • 39
    Spotlight Project: Oilcloth Money Wallet
    Oilcloth is durable, easy to keep clean, and comes in myriad colors and designs. Your instructor has created her own oilcloth wallet pattern, which holds credit cards and cash, has a pocket for coins and receipts, and closes securely with a metal snap. Best of all: you don't have to turn it right-side out when you're done sewing! x
  • 40
    Spotlight Project: Oilcloth Pleated Clutch
    Oilcloth is so affordable that you can create a bag for every occasion and in every color of the rainbow. In this project, you'll be creating visual interest by sewing pleats across the front of a clutch-style handbag. Your recently acquired skills in zipper installation and gusset creation will be put to the test with this thicker fabric. x

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What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 40 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course companion book
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 40 lectures on 8 DVDs
  • 72-page printed course companion book
  • Downloadable PDF of the course companion book
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
  • Closed captioning available

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 72-page printed course companion book
  • General Supply List
  • Needle guide
  • How-to reference guide for course projects

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Your professors

Ashley Hough Aurora Sisneros

Professor 1 of 2

Ashley Hough
National Sewing Circle

Professor 2 of 2

Aurora Sisneros
National Sewing Circle
Ashley Hough is a lifelong crafter, having learned to sew from her mother at a very young age. Her patterns have been featured in national publications such as Sew News and Sew It All, and she has been seen on Sew It All TV, the National Sewing Circle, and Quilty's "This is My Quilt." Although Ashley loves all types of crafts, she is especially fond of sewing and loves sharing her passion with others so they can create...
Learn More About This Professor
Aurora Sisneros learned to sew at a young age from her mother, a master seamstress. After 15 years working in Information Technology, Aurora realized that many women needed an enjoyable hobby to help them unwind after a long day at the office or caring for children. Aurora now owns Fabric Bliss, a fabric boutique, sewing studio, and knit lounge in Denver, Colorado, where she loves teaching and inspiring women to embrace their...
Learn More About This Professor


Sewing 101: Skills, Fabrics, and Techniques is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 33.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Skilled and well put together My grandfather was a tailor, and this course seems as thorough through the basics as I can remember him sewing!
Date published: 2020-11-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good intro, but not enough info for the projects I'm a total beginner and wanted to learn how to sew with a sewing machine. The basic lessons are pretty informative and easy to follow. However, I have two gripes. One is that some of the instructors seem to assume that a person has all the fancy equipment that a beginner may not want to invest in. This isn't that big a problem. The bigger problem I have is that the guidebook only has instructions for a handful of the projects from the course. It would be helpful if the guidebook at least had lists of what is needed for each project. In particular, the "pajama pants" project starts with the instructor saying "take your pattern and cut out the fabric" - but no info on where the pattern came from or what kind of fabric to use. Other projects only tell you what you need as they go- so if you want to work along with the class, you have to watch the whole thing first so you know what to go buy in order to make it. It's a good class, but it would be nice to have lists of supplies needed for each project and possibly better instruction on what patterns are used (or how to make them yourself)- either in the guidebook or at the beginning of each project lecture.
Date published: 2020-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Says what it means, and means what it says. Impressive camera work, well synchronized with what sewer is doing. This course is a treat and a delight. Have already pulled out my stash for select projects. Much fun!
Date published: 2020-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very practical Refreshing change from the other, mor theoretical courses. This course is about doing something (sewing). Very practical info. Very good visuals.
Date published: 2020-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great lessons! This course paid for itself in the first lesson and then again each lesson following. Instructors were easy to listen to and provided great instruction. Worth every dollar.
Date published: 2020-07-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Super review Takes the basics and reviews a current sewer of skills that are always needed.
Date published: 2020-06-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great videos Lots and LOTS of tips!!! I have sewn for years and am STILL learning tips and techiques.
Date published: 2020-03-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sewing 101 I have been sewing for many years but I noticed there are differences in equipment and technique that were not available when I began. I want to update myself. I have not completed all the DVD in the set yet but so far the instruction is detailed enough the get a clear understanding of basic information needed to begin sewing. So far I am pleased with my purchase and new learning expience.
Date published: 2020-03-12
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