So, You've Just Started Sewing?
So, you've just started making your own clothes, or maybe you started a while ago and lost your sew- jo, or maybe you haven't started and you're trying to figure out if this is the right path for you? Don't worry, I'm here to help!
Everyone's sewing journey is unique, your taste in clothing might be different from your friend's and your wardrobe needs could be different too. This is where the fun comes in, each decision is your own to make, take what you want to from this post, and leave what you don't want- this is your skill to curate!
There are a few different subjects we need to touch up on to get you going; patterns, fabric choices, resources and inspiration.
Oh patterns, what a mind field! For those of you who are really new, a pattern provides you with the shapes you need to make clothes, these are measured to roughly fit your shape and you can choose your size based on measurements. When you purchase a pattern you will usually be given instructions with it to help you get the job done! Some of the more traditional pattern companies expect a certain level of knowledge from the sewer but I am about to introduce you to some great brands that will teach you as you sew.
When a budding sewist gets in touch, I always, always, always recommend Tilly And The Buttons, and I have my reasons too! In each TATB (Tilly and The Buttons) pattern you will have a lovely little instruction manual, a bit of an explanation of any techniques you will need, a jargon busting section to help you understand the terms being used, photographs of each step and extremely comprehensive instructions. These patterns also have a line on each piece to help you lengthen or shorten as required, this will help you to get a better fit right from your first project!
So what should you start with?
Well, the easiest patterns out there are probably the TATB Dominique or Stevie. Dominique is a simple skirt pattern with no fussy buttonholes and an elasticated waist, really keeping fitting to a minimum! More into a dress or top? Stevie is a simple tunic shape with a tie back opening, simple, button- free and with a grown on sleeve so theres no faffing trying to neatly insert a sleeve. Not too far away from these two is the Lotta. Lotta is a dress with an elasticated waist and is suitable for both wovens or knit. This will likely be a pattern you will reach for again and again as you learn to work with different fabrics and textures!
These are 3 extremely wearable, fashionable and versatile patterns to get started with, they will help you to build up your confidence before moving onto some new components! So, what next? Here our pick's for 'development' patterns. These are great ways to build up skills and try new shapes.
Tilly and The Buttons:
Closet Core Patterns:
What should you look out for when choosing a pattern?
- Check out the recommended level but do not be put off either! If you see it, you think you understand how it would go together and you are really keen, give it a go! Worst comes to worst you read through the instructions and bench it until you feel a little bit more confident. The pattern will still be there in a few months!
- How does it fasten? Am I going to need to do 10 buttons and holes? Will I need to insert an invisible zip? I'm not saying avoid these things, but it's something to be aware and prepared for, we don't want you to loose your motivation!
- Is there a sew along I can follow? Watching a sew along as you go can be a real comfort to help you visualise some of the instructions and see how someone else has tackled it.
- Is this a pattern/ shape I will get a lot of wear out of? If you think this is something you probably won't make again, avoid. Yes you need to start with simpler tasks but this doesn't mean you have to make things you don't like- this will 100% put you off!
If you have concerns about throwing money at garments you worry won't be wearable, there are lots of free patterns on the market, look at Peppermint Magazine & Tessuti Fabrics for some free, simple patterns suitable for beginners.
My advice? Start with cotton, a plain cotton. Bit boring? Yes, but I do have my reasons!
- Cotton is usually pretty cheap. Especially for your first few makes, you will likely not want to throw lots of money at it as lets be honest, it will have it's flaws, you will probably still wear it wether its layered under other clothes or when you're lounging around the house or you might strike gold and get a great first garment but don't apply any additional pressure by spending big!
- Cotton usually presses quite well. Just as important as your actual sewing is pressing. If you want a really good crisp finish, cotton will help you get there.
- By choosing a plain cotton you will be able to see your mistakes easily, make any markers you want to and not get distracted by a busy pattern. Also, kind of naughty but if you accidentally get your sides mixed up, cotton is often double sided so it wont ruin your garment!
- Cotton is usually not very slippy meaning once you have pinned your seams, they are unlikely to move making it easier for you to get an accurate seam.
Once you feel like you have had some success you can introduce a small, busy print, or something with a kind of spaced out print that doesn't need pattern matching- trust me, you don't want that kind of hassle just yet!
So what are you best steering clear of? Any lightweight satin fabrics will be your enemy, they are slippy, they are difficult to press and they will show off every imperfection in your sewing. Anything too bouncy like a velour or double gauze can be a bit tricky too, the thickness of the fabric makes them a little bit unpredictable and can quite easily look un-neat.
As well as shifty surfaces, it's wise to think about prints. Check's and stripes add the task of trying to match them, it's not essential to match, it's totally up to you, but anything as bold as a stripe can really stand out when it's not matched up.
What other woven fabrics will be suitable?
Linen's and linen mix's will be quite easy to work with too! This is great, especially for summer as it opens up a new texture! As well as linen, you can start to think about viscose too. Try to avoid very light and floaty bases and try to source slightly heavier ones instead. With viscose having a gentler drape than cotton it may slip a small amount but if you take your time the pay off will be worth it!
Corduroy fabrics can also be lovely one's to start with! Bear in mind some corduroy fabrics have a bit of stretch and this will make it a bit trickier to work with so seek out non- stretch versions. Corduroy comes in a variety of weights with 21 wale being pretty light and 6 wale being the heavier. All will be nice to work with but remember the more plush the fibres, they more movement you can expect although the cord channels are usually quite grippy to one another. There is an extra layer of care required with cord fabric's that you need to be aware of, always iron on the reverse and pay attention to the nap when you are cutting out- all your pieces need to go in the right direction.
If you're like me, you may want to sew for comfort and this often means jersey! Some jersey fabrics can very slippy and have a bit of a mind of their own but this does not mean you should avoid all jersey! When you're getting going, I recommend choosing heavier, sturdier knits such as a ponte or interlock jersey. These fabric's are a great buffer as you develop your new skills (yes working with jersey is a whole new skill) and will help you to get to grips with the movement of stretch fabrics. A good cotton jersey would be your next move but until you are fairly confident, avoid any viscose or tencel jerseys! My starter pattern for working with jersey is the TATB Nora, it's a quick sew, super versatile, easy pattern to amend and requires very little fitting!
Other great beginner jersey patterns include:
- Tilly and The Buttons Coco
- Tilly and The Buttons Lotta- jersey version
- Tilly and The Buttons Billie Sweatshirt
- Nina Lee Southbank Sweater
There are some really amazing resources out there to give you a helping hand as you start your sewing journey! Some do have a cost associated but there are also lots of free options out there too!
Tilly and The Buttons run a fantastic blog filled with demo's, tips, tricks and inspiration. You might even find the odd sew along! As well as this you have the option to purchase online classes that you can do in your own time, at your own speed and look back at again and again. Some of these courses are shaped around making up one of their patterns ie 'learn to sew jersey tops' holds your hand and teaches you to sew the Agnes top pattern and others are based around getting to grips with a particular skill. Like with their patterns, these courses are very well put together and are very easy to follow with both videos and text.
Another great resource by TATB are their books. My particular favourite is the 'Make it Simple' which gives you beginner friendly patterns and methods to help build a capsule wardrobe in minimal time! This book of patterns teaches you about amending the patterns to fit, how to make them and how to customise your garments too! Possibly more suited to beginners though is the 'Love At First Stitch' book. This is totally orientated to beginners and is a super starting point with some easy projects to get you going! Both can be purchased directly from Tilly and The Buttons website.
By Hand London is a fantastic pattern company making beautiful ladies and children's patterns and also their exceptionally helpful bodice fitting guide. This guide will help you to make alterations in order to get a much better fitting garment and will show you the signs of when to make adjustments and what adjustment you will need to do too.
The Sew It Academy is a subscription service filled with a never ending course of lessons and projects that will teach you absolutely everything you need to learn about sewing. By paying monthly you have unlimited access to the classes to work through at your own pace. The advantage here is that you will cover a huge range of subjects so you can spend as much time as you like learning. You can choose your subscription subject of womens, mens or kids, the lessons have a mix of video and text, making it easy to follow.
A lot of things you will be a bit unsure of can be found on Youtube. Anything from sewing techniques, pattern and fabric choices, pattern alterations and fit amendments are all our there for the taking! There are some amazing bloggers out there with so much knowledge to share! Some great pages to go and follow are S.O Sew Dressmaking, Made To Sew and TomKat Stitchery!
Sewing inspiration can be found in so many fantastic places! Part of your sewing journey is finding your style and making choices that suit you!
- Instagram is an amazing place for inspiration, not just seeing what others have made, seeing different pattern & fabric combinations but also seeing what real life people are making and wearing and seeing their opinions of various fabrics or patterns. Thinking of making a pattern but want to see how it looks in a variety of fabrics, a lot of pattern designers create a # for each pattern so you can see real life examples!
- Pinterest is a great source for street style and trends that you can then start to re- create. This is a great way to really get to grips with the kind of clothing you want to make and it will help to determine your fabric and pattern choices.
- The Fold Line is a blog/ shop where you will find a huge array of patterns to purchase and lots of amazing blog posts and reviews. Join their facebook group to be part of a truly wonderful community of people willing to help or inspire you at any moment!
- As good as YouTube is for technical help, there are lots of amazing accounts that are great for seeing what others are making, fabrics they are purchasing and listening to general sewing chat! Some of my favourite's are The Baker That Sews, Sewn On The Tyne and What Abi Makes.
- A lot of people like to listen to podcasts while they are sewing, this is a great way to feel like your sat with friends and to learn a little something while you're at it. My favourites are the New Craft House podcast and Love to Sew.
I hope that this quick read is enough to help you to make good choices and either give you the confidence to get started or keep your interest while you build your skills up! You can find all our products suitable for beginners by following this link!