Have you seen the return of the Great British Sewing Bee and decided to give garment sewing a try? Can’t figure out where to start? I’ve got you! Here are my top tips for how to start learning how to sew your own clothes!
Please note that this was written during the UK lockdown so I am writing this specifically with online resources in mind, I will write another version once lockdown has ended.
What equipment do you need?
Obviously you will need a sewing machine. If you have one you can use/borrow (from a safe distance!) then that’s amazing! If not, there are some great starter machines available to order online from John Lewis, Sewing Machines Direct or Sew Essential.
I also recommend you buy a pair of fabric scissors, a tape measure, pins, a stitch ripper and some thread.
How do you learn how to use your machine?
Once you have access to a sewing machine, you will want to learn how to use it. With the adult education facilities and sewing schools closed there are still lots of other options available to you. A book like the Tilly and the Buttons Love At First Stitch: Demistifying Dressmaking is a great introduction as it talks you through how to thread and use your machine as well as including some great beginner patterns. If you would prefer to learn via a video you could purchase their online class ‘Make Friends With A Sewing Machine’ which would be an amazing way to learn at home. There are also some amazing sewing tutors doing one-to-one online classes at the moment – Ana of Cocowawa immediately springs to mind, she is lovely and will teach you via video in your own home! She also does kids classes! If you get stuck with something specific then don’t forget you can always turn to YouTube – there are a wealth of sewing tutorials on there, I am sure you will find the one you need.
What fabric is good for beginners?
Once you know how to use your machine, then you are going to need some fabric. Before rushing out and buying that beautiful silk you’ve seen online, it might be worth starting with something you already have. Do you have a bedsheet that won’t be missed? Or maybe a man’s shirt that you love the fabric of? Making mistakes on fabric you already have can be a really good way to learn how to sew without any big or costly consequences, so have a dig around in that bag of stuff that’s heading to the charity shop and see if there is anything in there you can use!
Once you are on the hunt to purchase some new fabric, great fabric shops to look at include Minerva Crafts, Fabworks and Bobbins and Bolts. Start off with some stable cotton such as chambray, quilting cotton or cotton poplin. They are easy fabrics to start with because they don’t shift around and aren’t too delicate nor too thick to learn on.
What patterns are good for beginners?
You will also need to get started with some basic patterns! Again, I am going to mention Love At First Stitch as it talks you through from making a basic headscarf through to making a simple skirt and then onto PJs and dresses! Tilly also has a new book out called Make It Simple which sounds brilliant for beginners but I haven’t personally used it. Some of my favourite beginner patterns include the Cleo Pinafore, Metamorphic Dress, Ogden Cami and Stevie Dress. With all of these patterns you can order a paper copy of the pattern to be posted to you, or you can buy a digital PDF version to print off at home, make sure you know which one you are getting before you order! I would always recommend starting with independent patterns as I find them much more user friendly, and assume much less sewing knowledge than the traditional ‘Big 4’ brands of Butterick, Simplicity, Vogue and McCalls.
How to use a garment pattern?
Using sewing patterns isn’t too hard, you need to accurately take your measurements THIS is a good guide on how to do it. I urge you to take them accurately, don’t feel tempted to ’round down’ to make yourself seem slimmer as you will end up making clothes that don’t fit. Your body is perfect as it is and deserves to have clothes that fit! Once you have your measurements you need to follow your pattern instructions one step at a time. There is no rush, feel free to take things slow and turn to YouTube for help if you need it. Reading pattern reviews on blogs is another good way to learn how to do things. If you are unsure, you could always attempt a pattern that has a sew along. A sew along is where there is a blog post talking you through each step of a pattern, Grainline Studio are amazing at this and I highly recommend starting with something like this Willow Tank and Dress sew along. or even purchase a pattern that comes with an online class such as the Tilly Learn How to Make Skirts online class or the Closet Case Learn How to Sew Clothing one.
Finally, just have fun experimenting! I don’t think there are many sewists out there who actually got much wear out of the first or even the second thing they ever made! Please don’t see it as wasteful but see it as a necessary learning experience to give you a lovely hobby that will give you joy for years to come! I think the benefits of sewing are so many that I highly recommend you have a go.
I hope this hasn’t been too much information! If you have any questions, pop them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!