Did you get a new sewing machine for Christmas? I hope so! I had a few PDF pattern customers yesterday purchasing for themselves or a loved one who is just learning to sew. Almost all of my PDF sewing patterns are perfect for beginners, even a first project. (The exceptions would be, perhaps, the diaper cover patterns and the Peas in a Pod pattern, but even those are not too difficult). Pillows are a traditional first project and are so gratifying to make - you can really make over a room in a few hours. I can't wait to slip my Christmas pillows out of the covers I made with my Easy Pillow Covers Pattern and into something else. I have my eye on this Pillow & Maxfield fabric over at AllegroFabrics.com.
Some guidelines for beginners choosing a first project:
1. Fabric. Don't try to sew a first project with knit fabric, or with satin or other slippery fashion fabric. Use a good quality woven cotton. Though you may not want to spend a lot on fabric for your first project 'in case it doesn't work out', avoid the temptation to buy the cheapest fabric you can find. Many of the inexpensive 'house brand' fabric-store fabrics are poor quality and tend to fray to bits while you sew. Cheap fabric is also unforgiving should you need to tear out your stitches and re-sew. Instead, use a 40% off coupon on a full-priced designer fabric (most chain stores carry some Michael Miller and Robert Kaufman, for example) or wait for a sale. Fleece is a good second choice for beginning sewing. It doesn't fray and the pile tends to hide minor sewing infractions.
2. Pattern. Boutique PDF patterns such as the ones you will find on etsy or youcanmakethis.com, are a great choice for beginners because they normally include step by step instructions, diagrams, and photos. Look for well-established sellers with proven feedback. Choose simple patterns or no-pattern sewing projects created with mostly straight lines, such as pillow covers, blankets, or a simple tote bag. Don't be afraid of gathering or ruffles, though - they are simply created with straight lines as well. Reversible patterns are particularly gratifying for beginners, since all the seams are on the inside of the project and don't need finishing. My shop carries a reversible girls' top pattern, reversible baby dress pattern, and reversible hat pattern for baby and child. Leave buttonholes and zippers for a subsequent project once you have some sewing under your belt.
3. Notions, Tools, and Trims. "Notions" used in the sewing sense means those little sewing extras you need to complete your project, including thread, pins, fasteners like buttons, snaps, elastic, polyfill, etc. Your sewing pattern should have a list of any notions you need. When you have some time, browse around the notions wall of your fabric store to get an idea of what kinds of things are available. Tools you'll need include good sewing scissors, a hand needle, a ruler or measuring tape, and a seam ripper (yes, you'll need one), plus some extra needles for your machine. You will also need an iron and ironing board for pressing as you sew. Don't skip the pressing! Trims are things like rickrack, bias tape, lace, etc. and the requirements for these should also be set out in your pattern.