Re: Bunch of random sewing and knitting questions...
I love prudentbaby.com for sewing. They have cute sewing ideas/patterns and some great tutorials. (it's a blog)
I recommend a trip to the fabric store for learning the types of fabric. If you know someone that sews -aunt, grandma,neighbor, random old person(you live in Florida so I had to say that!)... take them with you. you'll get to feel the weave and thickness. Flannel isn't just flannel... some is soft and thick. Others are not as thick and some are not even very soft! It would be hard to explain the difference between a polyester knit and a cotton but you'll feel it instantly! Most people think of a project/thing they want to make and then go buy the fabric for it. For example if you wanted to make a baby blanket... you would decide what to use based on what you wanted it to look like. Flannel, minky, fleece, cotton (quilt fabric).... but you could make it out of a Polyester-cotton blend, a knit,velvet, satin or even terry cloth. Or a combo of any of them. That is the fun part of sewing. You don't have to be conventional! If you wanted to make a Satin & terry cloth blanket you can! Once you know the fabrics and have confidence, then go thrift store shopping and internet shopping for fabric. (you'll save a ton of $... 2 weeks ago, I purchased 11 yards of designer fabric on Ebay for 99 cents plus 9.00 shipping (an auction)! Yes that is less than $1.00 a yard! Oh and it is spectacular fabric!)
My machine came with a stitch guide. If you have your manual... you should consult that. Most anything can be made with a straight stitch or a zig zag. There are specific stitches that make sewing hems for dress pants, patches (fixing a hole), button holes, or elastic. (Most machines have those). But most stitches are really just used as decoration by the average person.
You'll need to change stitch legnth and width for projects. (For example you would use a very tight -little legnth/width zig zag for a button hole but would use a wide/loose zig zag to sew on thin elastic in a channel. (sew over the top of elastic but not through the elastic) I learned a lot by looking at how commercially produced clothing/items are made. Also I own like 3 seam rippers! The best lessons are through trial and error!
Also you don't just change the stitch for sewing different things. You might need a heavier thread and needle for denim than you would silk. OR you might need a walking foot for lots of layers. The best advise I can give on thread.... ALWAYS use the same thread in the bobbin as you do in the top spool. If you want some sort of visual effect of a diffrent color bobbin thread....Buy the same brand, kind, weight. Otherwise the tension will be off and you'll be pulling out your hair trying to figure out what is wrong! I take a corsage pin (t-pin would work too) and pin the bobbin to the top of the spool it belongs to. I use to try to "conserve" thread and use left over bobbins (since nobody would see the inside seam) and I didn't have enough bobbins. I didn't want to unwind the thread and throw it away. Just save yourself the headache.... buy extra bobbins. You can always find a batch of 20 for less than $5.00 (with shipping) on ebay.
I think what books depends on what you intend to make. I'd just watch a ton of old "sewing with Nancy" videos on youtube. She was the best!