When I first joined the SCA, I had zero sewing skills or experience, other than attempting to use a (cheap, horrid) sewing machine, and failing miserably. I had zero garb that didn’t come from thrift stores or hand-me-downs — and while I could get it all onto my body, it didn’t fit well enough to feel good or look good. Even now, when my hand-me-downs are much nicer quality than they used to be, they’re built for someone else’s shape and for someone else’s tastes, and I’m only barely beginning to know how to make things for myself.

Repeat: I am a BEGINNING sewist. I can’t help but feel that I barely have anything to teach.

But I also know that if someone else — who considered herself a very raw beginner as well — had not overcome her nervousness and offered to teach me what little she knew at the time, I would still not have a single garment that I’d made for myself. So, as nervous and unskilled as I feel, here goes. Here are the PDFs and websites that I’ve found most helpful and clear at teaching rectangular construction. Some of these are also mentioned in my other page, Other Living Historical Blogs, but they’re scattered amongst other things that are less helpful for a beginner.

Let’s start at the very beginning
A very good place to start
When you read, you begin with A, B, C
When you sing, you begin with do, re, mi

– The Sound of Music

Threading A Needle: My own post. This is something I thought I knew how to do, until I saw someone else do it differently and realized how much better her way was. Even if you think you don’t need a needle threading tutorial, please check this one out, just in case you can benefit. And if you know an even better way than this, please share it in the comments below!

Basic Stitches

Running stitch. Modified, this can become a basting stitch (larger), darning stitch (several parallel rows of tiny running stitch), or Holbein stitch (running stitch in one direction, then turn around and do it in the opposite direction).


Backstitch for left-handers or right-handers.

Blanket stitch for left-handers or right-handers..

Buttonhole stitches for left-handers or right-handers.

Whipstitch for left-handers. I couldn’t find one for right-handers that was clear of instruction, with good contrast between the thread and fabric, and pictures large enough to see. Please, if you can find a good tutorial with helpful directions and clear images (preferably with thread and fabric that contrast strongly so that they’re easy to see against each other), let me know in the comments below, and I’ll edit this bit. In the meantime, just do it backwards. Usually it’s lefties having to do this. Try it — it’ll be an eye-opening experience.


Setting a gore in slit fabric.

Keyhole Neck Facing Tutorial (PDF). Originally found at; I snagged it in case, as happens occasionally, it disappears before I can make use of it myself.

To Be Added: Hemming. Neck and cuff treatments. Necklines – facing, rolled edge, V, square, boat, crew, scoop. Gathers. Pleats – rolled, cartridge, stacked cartridge, knife.

Decorative Sewing


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