I'm a total sewing newbie and I just bought a new machine in December and have tried a few projects since then to learn to sew. The place where I bout my machine offered a free "get to know your machine" class, which was very helpful. It was nice to know a little about how things work on my machine before I started trying to learn the actual sewing stuff. I didn't have to look in my book so often to figure things out while working on my first projects. So I highly suggest this if you can find a place near you that does a similar class.
After that, my first projects were pillowcases. I bought sale fabrics that I liked so if I totally messed up I wasn't out a lot of $.
Besides that, something I can really use. After that, it was a fleece blanket (2 big pieces of fleece sewn together all around-- good practice for squaring up and rotary cutting---whew!). Then I moved on to simple drawstring bags and totes, which were great to learn several new techniques on a small scale. Also, coasters and hot pads are great for the same reasons, including using different fillers, fusible backings, etc, also on a small and friendly scale.
I found that for me, starting with small projects that I actually had hopes of finishing and not too complicated has helped me gain some confidence to move on to more and bigger projects. Also, I have a short attention span, so finishing a complete project in a couple of hours was great!
Anyway, having so much fun learning and good luck to all the other new sewers out there! I've bought a couple of books but haven't really dived into them yet to say if I think they are helpful--but soon I hope!
Just finished a cute fabric envelope yesterday, but I read on here somewhere that you can't post pics until after so many posts, and this is my first one....