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Sewing 101: Skills, Fabrics, and Techniques

Unleash your creativity with the help of two highly skilled sewing instructors that take you from novice to advanced projects, and gain the skills necessary to feel confident sewing any pattern—or creating your own.
Sewing 101: Skills, Fabrics, and Techniques is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 46.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good instructor loved the project! I made two projects and plan on making more.
Date published: 2023-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from easy to follow I used to sew when I was younger but am now finding out that I was doing a lot of things the wrong way and by the seat of my pants. I have not watch but three sessions so far and am not ready to start sewing but watch when I have time and am learning even before starting to sew again.
Date published: 2022-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Easy to follow for the Novice Individual lectures are easy to follow, explanations simple
Date published: 2022-09-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not necessarily for beginners I'm not sure this course would be good for complete beginners as claimed. There was a lot of "check your sewing machine manual because machines are different", so a live course at a sewing center for your specific machine would be more helpful for new learners. I have some sewing experience, but was put off by the sometimes casual approach to measurements or specific patterns/templates. While there are a number of them included, they're not always. (Note: I did not try to print any out, so I don't know if that works or not.) In the class on pajama pants, she basically just said "get a pattern for pajama pants." In the last class, the instructor said the measurements/pattern were "included in the download for this class," but as far as I was able to determine, the download had exactly the same info as the physical booklet and did NOT include this information. It looked like these classes were taken from previous individual Natl Sewing Circle televised segments, but there should have been more attention to detail given when the whole thing was compiled for The Great Courses.
Date published: 2022-05-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lots of information We have found huge amounts of info on all imaginable intro level projects. My husband is even watching to make a shopping list for all the fantastic tools Ashley and Aurora are demonstrating!
Date published: 2022-03-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great intro to Sewing I want to learn how to sew. My eyes are much better than others in the family. They have trouble seeing well enough to thread the needle. Sewing is a good skill for everyone to learn. Anyway, this course is very well laid out and the instructors are knowledgeable, informative and engaging. I have not sewn in the past, so am taking my time to learn the basics very well. Soon I will attempt some repairs on good clothes with ripped seams and move forward from there.
Date published: 2022-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from New sewing techniques I'm currently still watching the DVD's But so far loving it there are a couple of things I never really new although I have been sewing most of my life. I hope to learn more. The hostess is very pleasant and tells you everything you may need to know. I know I will learn a lot more as I continue to watch it.
Date published: 2021-11-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Can't believe what nice things I have made! This is an excellent course. The teachers are charismatic and explain things very well. I used to sew 50 years ago but had forgotten everything. I am doing things with the course now that I couldn't do 50 years ago, so I don't feel so bad about having let my skills atrophy. Can't recommend this course enough to anyone who wants to try sewing.
Date published: 2021-11-11
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Unleash your creativity with the help of two highly skilled sewing instructors that take you from novice to advanced projects over the course of 40 lessons. With Sewing 101: Skills, Fabrics, and Techniques, you can gain the skills necessary to feel confident sewing any pattern—or creating your own.


Ashley Hough

Cotton is my favorite fabric to work with. It’s very versatile, comes in hundreds of colors and prints, and I can make anything from garments to home décor to quilts.


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 garments and home décor.

Aurora Sisneros

There is something about MAKING and CREATING that satisfies an inherent need in the human soul!


National Sewing Circle

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 creativity.

Sewing 101: Skills, Fabrics, and Techniques


Getting Started & Understanding Your Machine

01: 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.

25 min
Needle & Thread, Fabric & Interfacing

02: 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.

30 min
Cut like a Pro

03: 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.

18 min
How to Sew & Beginner Sewing Terminology

04: 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.

32 min
Bring It All Together

05: 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.

33 min
Spotlight Project: Infinity Scarf

06: 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!

19 min
Skill Building: Making Your Own Bias Tape

07: 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.

30 min
Designer Hints: Invisible Zippers

08: 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.

22 min
Spotlight Project: Boxy Pouch

09: 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.

40 min
Spotlight Project: Pajama Pants

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.

23 min
Spotlight Project: Reusable Tote

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.

34 min
Two-Handed Hot Pads

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.

25 min
Towel Toppers

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.

19 min
Reusable Bowl Cover

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.

19 min
Couch Caddy

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.

20 min
Hanger Buddy & Plate Holder

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.

40 min
Outdoor Fabric & Cutting Perfect Squares

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.

18 min
Setting a Zipper & Finishing

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.

33 min
Shaping the Cover

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!

25 min
Getting Started & Expanding Your Stitches

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.

20 min
Sewing Darts & Pleats

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.

25 min
Tips for Sewing Curves & Corners

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.

17 min
Professional Seam Finishes & Ways to Hem

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.

30 min
Selecting Shirt Size & Stitching Shirt Front

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.

31 min
Adding a Yoke & Stitching Shirt Back

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.

21 min
Adding Plackets & Stitching Sleeves

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.

23 min
Cuffs & Sleeves

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.

31 min
Adding a Collar & Stitching Shirt Front

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.

26 min
Selecting Jacket Size & Altering Pattern Pieces

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.

36 min
How to Sew the Modified Pattern Pieces

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.

32 min
Adding a Lining & Stitching Sleeves

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.

28 min
Spotlight Project: Knit Pencil Skirt

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.

27 min
Faux Fur & Leather

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.

40 min
Sequined & Sheer Fabrics & Lace

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.

33 min
Quick Tips & Bonus Project

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.

31 min
Sewing Laminates & Laminate Cutting Tips

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.

25 min
Vinyl/Oilcloth Receipt Wallet

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.

41 min
Laminated Cotton Receipt Wallet

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.

18 min
Spotlight Project: Oilcloth Money Wallet

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!

37 min
Spotlight Project: Oilcloth Pleated Clutch

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.

31 min