101 Sewing Questions and Answers Part 1

In sewing, there are a lot of questions out there and a lot of different answers.  This post is my compilation of 101 most asked questions and answers about sewing.  My article is very long, so I broke it into two separate article posts.  This post is part 1, with questions and answers to 1-50 and part 2 with questions and answers to 51-101.

Patterns Questions

1. What do notches mean on a sewing pattern? Notches on a sewing pattern are marks for you to use to line up the different pieces of fabric you will need to sew together.   The notches are like puzzle pieces that go together.
2. What side of fabric do you pin the pattern to? The side of the fabric you pin the pattern to will be noted on the instructions and layout of the pattern.  Sometimes you will pin it to the wrong side of the fabric and other times to the right side.  Just follow the instructions on the pattern insert.
3. How do you cut fabric with a pattern?  You cut the fabric from a pattern with the pattern pieces.  I always cut out the pattern pieces first and lay them on top of the fabric I’m about to cut and pin them in place.  Then I cut around the pattern pieces.
4. How to use a sewing pattern without cutting it? You can use a sewing pattern without cutting it.  By using some tracing chalk paper and a pattern wheel tool.  You place the tracing chalk paper between the pattern and the fabric with the marking side against the fabric.  Next, take the pattern wheel and run over the top of the pattern lines.  By pressing down and using this wheel, you will transfer what you trace onto the fabric so you can the fabric and not cut the pattern pieces.

Learning to sew

5. How can I teach myself to sew?  I would recommend you to learn to sew by taking online classes, classes in person, or even some private lessons.  I love taking new classes, and I always find something I can learn as a takeaway from almost any class even though I have been sewing for years now.

Functions on a Sewing Machine

6. What is the reverse lever on a sewing machine?  The reverse lever on the sewing machine is for sewing in reverse.  By pressing the reverse lever, it will lock the stitch into place and keep it from unraveling.
7. How do you finish a stitch on a sewing machine?  Finishing a stitch is when you make sure to keep the thread from unraveling.  You will use the backstitch at the beginning of your seam and the end of your seam.  By backstitching, you will lock in and essentially knot your seam thread to the fabric.


8. What does backstitch mean?  It makes the thread that you have sewn in keep from coming out.  Essentially it ties a knot in the thread to keep it from unraveling from the fabric.
9. What is backstitching in sewing?  It is a stitch you use to keep the thread from unraveling from the fabric.  Backstitching is when you sew in reverse or turn the fabric around and sew back overtop of the stitching you have already sewn into place.

End Stitching

10. How do I end a stitch when using a sewing machine?  Some sewing Machines have a reverse lever so you can sew backward over the top of the stitches.  Other sewing machines have a stay stitch that ties a knot in the thread in place for when you start sewing on fabric and when you come to the end of a seam.
11. How do I lock stitch on a sewing machine?  Hold down the reverse lever to make the sewing machine sew backward for a couple stitches.  If the sewing machine doesn’t have a reverse, then stop at the end with the needle in the down position.  Rotate the fabric 180 degrees and sew over top of the already stitched in stitches about 3 or 4 stitches.

Stitches on a Sewing Machine

12.  What is the actual difference between stitching and a seam? Stitching is where the thread is sewn into the fabric to create a design.  The technical reasoning is a seam is sewn in to keep two pieces of fabric together.  Stitching usually doesn’t have a purpose of holding fabrics together, and the seam does hold them together.  Although stitching is used as a broad term to what the sewing machine does, it creates stitches.
13. How do you adjust stitch length on a sewing machine?  It will depend on if you have a manual or a computerized sewing machine.  On the sewing machine, you will change the length of the stitch by increasing the size or lower it.  A general most common stitch length is 2.5 to 3.  On a manual sewing machine, you will turn the stitch length knob to adjust the stitch length.  As for a computerized sewing machine, you will change the length with a button to either lower the number to create a shorter stitch length or increase the number to make a longer stitch.

Issues with a sewing machine

14. Why sewing machine stitches coming undone?  If the thread weren’t knotted to not unravel at the beginning or the end of the stitching, it would come undone.  Another reason your stitching
15. Why is my thread looping underneath?  The thread looping on the underneath side of the fabric is caused most of the time when the thread comes out of the take-up lever.  People think it’s the bobbin thread messing up, but it is the top thread.  Rethread the top thread and the bobbin thread.  This will usually fix the looping issue.
16. How do you fix a sewing machine that skips stitches?  Make sure to use a new needle for each project you are sewing.  By using a new needle, it will help prevent your sewing machine from skipping stitches.  Also, you can rethread your sewing machine.  By doing both of these things, it should stop the sewing machine from skipping stitches.
17. Why is my sewing machine not sewing properly?  If your sewing machine isn’t sewing properly, rethread the top thread and the bobbin.  Make sure you have the right thread and needle for the project you are sewing.  Most of the time this will make your sewing machine work properly.

Sewing Stitches

18.  Why is my sewing machine stitches not catching?  If your sewing machine isn’t catching stitches, then it’s most likely one of three things.  The sewing machine isn’t threaded properly, or your needle is old.  And the final thing that could be causing the machine not to create a stitch if the timing is out of alignment.
19. How can I troubleshoot loose stitches on a sewing machine?  Troubleshoot loose stitches by making sure you have the machine threaded correctly.  Rethread the entire sewing machine; top, and bobbin.  Change the needle to a new needle.  Check the tension setting on the sewing machine after checking the thread and changing the needle.  Sometimes the tension needs to be a little tighter (higher) than the regular setting.

Basic Sewing Questions

20. What are sewing machine programs?  You can program some computerized sewing machines to sew out a series of different stitches.  You will use these stitches for decorative stitching or even machine quilting.
21. Is an industrial sewing machine the same as a household sewing machine?  No, an industrial sewing machine is not the same as a household sewing machine.  An industrial sewing machine is made to sew for multiple hours a day non-stop day after day where household machines are not designed to be used every day 6-8 hours a day, day in and day out.  Industrial sewing machines usually have only a couple of stitch functions where a household machine has many different functions.

Broken Zipper

22. Can you fix a broken zipper?  Most of the time you can not fix a broken zipper, but you can have a new zipper sewn into place.


23. How is sewing important?  Almost anything you use with fabric or material.  These include anything from furniture to car upholstery to clothing.  Sewing is a great creative outlet.
24. What is simple sewing?  Simple sewing is just basic sewing like doing a quick him on a pair of pants or fixing a seam that has come undone.  I would consider simple sewing to be anything that just takes a short period to do.
25. What is a sewing stitch?  It is a stitch that is created by hand or by the sewing machine to hold two pieces of fabric together.  It can also be a decorative stitch instead of a functional utility stitch.

Tools in Sewing

26. What are the tools in dressmaking?  Dressmaking tools are any sewing accessories you need to make a dress from sewing pins to a sewing machine.  These tools can consist of pins, marking pens, measuring tapes, rulers, thread, needles, thimbles, and I’m sure many more things I haven’t thought of.  As a dressmaker, you can use as few tools or as many tools as you want.
27. How to take care of sewing tools?  The is no specific rule of how to take care of sewing tools.  My rule of thumb is always to put away my sewing tools when I’m done with them.  Never to use your sewing scissors to cut paper with.  So hide your sewing scissors from anyone else in the household if you want to keep them nice and sharp.
28. What are sewing tools defined as?  Sewing tools are any accessory you use to sew or even help aid you in sewing.  There are numerous sewing tools out there for you to use in sewing.  Go to any local fabric store and look at the accessory isles and see what all is available or even do a search for sewing accessories.  These include pins, scissors, thimbles, seam guides, seam rippers, etc.  The list is never-ending.

Sewing Pins

29. Can you sew with pins in the fabric?  Yes, you can sew with pins in the fabric.  I would not recommend for you to sew over top of pins on a sewing machine.  The reason you shouldn’t is the sewing machine needle can hit the pin, breaking the needle and possibly throwing the sewing machine out of timing.  If the sewing machine is out of timing, it will have to go into the shop for repair.

Types of Sewing Pins

30. What types of sewing pins are there?  There are different types of sewing pins.  For me, there are the good ones and the cheap bad ones.  There are regular sewing pins and quilting pins.  The good ones are nice and sharp and go into the fabric smoothly where the cheaper ones don’t go through fabric easily and seem to snag on the fabric.  Good quality pins will cost a bit more than the bad ones.  There are also safety pins, and for quilting, there are bent safety pins.  The bent quilting safety pins are great for pinning through multiple layers of material and batting.  These pins hold all three layers together to keep them from shifting while you quilt all thread together.
31. What are sewing pins used for?  You will use sewing pins to hold pieces of fabric lined up together while sewing.  These pins keep the fabric from shifting while you sew.  There are many different types of pins.  There are straight pins, quilting pins, flat head pins, safety pins, and even bent safety pins.  With some different materials, the holes the needle punches will never go away even when you remove the pins from the fabric.  When using pins, always test by pinning pins on a scrap piece of fabric if you are not sure if it will create a permanent hole in the fabric or not.

Sewing Tools

32. What is the meaning of measuring tools?  Measuring tools are tools that you use to differentiate distance on particular material or object.  Sewing machine measurements are in metric forms of measurements.  Often with sewing, I use a flexible measuring tape to take different measures.
33. What do tailors use?  Tailors use a multitude of sewing accessories to create and sew together clothing.  These also include but are not just limited to, needle, thread, measuring tape, pins, sewing machine, serger, seam guides, iron, steamer, and there is more I am sure I’m missing some items.  Not all tailor will use all these items, and some will use all these and more.

Sewing machines and Hand sewing

34. What are the different types of sewing?  The different kinds of sewing would be hand sewing and sewing by machine.  There are all kinds of different hand stitches you can do.  With a sewing machine, you can do an unlimited amount of stitching and create most anything if you put your mind to it.  When you hand sew, it will take time, but you can once again create anything you want to make.

Sewing Machine Types

35. What are different types of sewing machines available?  There are domestic, industrial, handheld, and toy sewing machine.  Domestic sewing machines are for home use.  Home machines have many different stitches.  These sewing machines are for sewing as a hobby but can be used every day.  They are not meant to be used every day for numerous hours a day like industrial sewing machines.  Industrial machines are built to be continuously used over 40 plus hours a week.  These industrial sewing machines usually just have one stitch function.  Handheld sewing machines are very cheap sewing machines that are meant only to repair a seam not sew an entire project.  They only sew in a straight line and use a small spool of thread.  Toy sewing machines are for kids, they might attempt to sew but are just very basic sewing machines and really meant just to be a toy.

Sewing Stitches

36. What is the strongest sewing stitch?  The strongest sewing stitch I use is the reinforced triple stitch.  It looks like three rows of dashed stitches, but it sews overtop of itself a total of three times.  One time forward, Once backward, and then again another time forward.

Temporary vs. Permanent Stitches

37. What is a temporary stitch?  A temporary stitch is a stitch you sew into the fabric that you will remove before the item is finished.  It is put into place to keep the fabric together sort of like pinning but basted into place.
38. Which stitch do you use as a temporary stitch?  A basting stitch is used as a temporary stitch.  If you don’t have this specific stitch on your sewing machine, then set the stitch length to the longest (highest number on your length available).
39. What is a permanent stitch?  A permanent stitch is a stitch that is meant to stay in place once you sew it in the fabric.  You can always remove stitches, but sometimes it is a pain to remove the tiny stitches.  With some materials the holes the needle punches will never go away even when you remove the thread stitches.

Finishing Stitches

40. What are neatening stitches?  Neatening stitches are when you finish the raw edge of the fabric.  By sewing the raw edges, it will keep the fabric from unraveling and improve the quality of the item you are sewing.  My great grandmother always said to sew the inside seems no one will see as neat as you sew the parts people will see.

Sewing Machine Parts

41. Are all sewing machine bobbins the same?  No, all sewing machine bobbins are not the same.  Each manufacturer uses a different size bobbin for their sewing machines.  Even within the same brand of sewing machine, you will have different size bobbins for different models.
42. How does a bobbin work on a sewing machine?  A bobbin in a sewing machine works by having the top thread from the needle to be looped around the bobbin thread down inside the bobbin compartment.  Without having a bobbin in the sewing machine, the machine will not create a stitch.
43. What is a foot control on a sewing machine?  The foot control on a sewing machine controls the speed at which the sewing machine will sew.  It is like a gas pedal on a car, the harder you push or press it, the faster the sewing machine will sew.  As well as vise verse, the lighter you press on the foot control, the slower, the sewing machine will sew.  Most sewing machines will not sew unless you are pressing the foot pedal to make it sew at whatever speed you like.

History of the Sewing Machine

44. Who invented the sewing machine?  The first working sewing machine was invented by an Englishman named Thomas Saint.  Although, his sewing machine wasn’t advertised or even reproduced.  That machine was created to sew leather and canvas.
45. What year was the sewing machine invented?  The first actual working sewing machine was in 1790.
46. How did the first sewing machine work? The first sewing machine was a chain stitching sewing machine with an awl to punch a hole in the leather and then followed by a needle with the thread to create the chain stitch.
47. How did the sewing machine change society?  Sewing machines changed society by now you can sew so much more than you can in the time it will take to hand-sew something.

Sewing Benefits and Drawbacks

48. What are the negatives of sewing?  The negatives of sewing are like anything you do in life, it takes time to get good at it.  You have to learn and always be open to keeping up on the knowledge of sewing.  Therefore, just know that you can spend a lot of money to get started with sewing and not like it at all.  Nowadays, it’s cheaper to go out and buy a ready-made outfit than to buy the fabric and supplies to sew it on your own at home.
49. What are the positives of sewing?  The positives of sewing are you can really customize what you are making.  Also, once you are good enough at sewing you can really create anything you want to wear, it just takes time.  Making custom gifts for people is really nice.
50. What age should you learn to sew?  There is no actual age that you should learn how to sew.  Therefore, any age from the early years of age five on up to 100 + years.  Just start with the basics and learn from that point onward.