Sewing Basics

This page provides a short introduction to basic sewing techniques, including threading a needle and tying a knot. If you have never sewn before, it’s a good idea to work through this page before beginning an e-textile project.

Supplies

  • Conductive thread
  • Large-eyed needle
  • Scissors
  • Fabric

Thread Your Needle

Measure out and cut approximately 2 feet (3/4 meters) of conductive thread.

Start by threading a needle with your conductive thread. Pull the thread through the eye (the hole) of the needle until it’s at least 6 inches (20 cm) long. You should now have two thread ends coming out of your needle, a short one and a long one.

Tie a knot near the end of the long tail.

Begin Sewing

Poke your needle through your fabric, pushing it from the back to the front of the cloth. Pull the thread until your knot presses snugly against the back of your fabric. Note: generally you want to hide your knots on the back side of your fabric. That’s why you begin by threading the needle from the back to the front side of your cloth.



Push your needle through the fabric again, about 1/4″ (5 mm) away. This time, your needle travels from the front to the back of the fabric.

You’ve just made your first stitch! Make new stitches by following the same basic procedure, pushing your needle from either the back to the front or the front to the back of the fabric. Each stitch should be about 1/4″ (5mm) from the previous one. Larger stitches will snag on things and cause your fabric to bunch up.


Make sure to always pull your thread snugly to avoid leaving loose thread behind. Check your stitches periodically for tangles, knots, loose stitches, and puckered fabric.


A line of stitching should look something like this:

Tye a Finishing Knot

When you’re done stitching, bring your needle to the back side of your fabric (if it isn’t already there). Bring your needle through your last stitch. Pull it until you’re left with a small loop of thread on the surface of your fabric.

Thread your needle back through this loop.

Pull your needle until the loop closes. This creates a snug knot on the surface of your fabric.

Repeat this process, of making a loop and threading your needle back through it, at least one more time to create a strong and secure knot.

Clip all of your loose knot ends to about 1/4″ (5 mm) and seal them with a dab of glue or clear nail polish. This will prevent them from fraying and coming untied.

Tips

  • When you trim the excess thread from your knots, it’s best to do so about 1/4″ from the knot. If you leave the thread much longer, it may make unexpected electrical contact with other thread. On the other hand, if you cut the thread too short, then it may fray and cause your knot to come undone.
  • If you’re having trouble sewing in a straight line (or a smooth curve), try sketching your intended sewing path onto your fabric first. Hint: chalk will wash right out of your fabric with water.
  • Keep your stitches close together, no more than 1/4″ (5 mm) apart. This will help your design to hold up over time.