So when I was sewing clothes as a beginner it was probably one the least coolest things you could do.
Honestly, much of the time it was just me and little old ladies in Liberty’s haberdashery department. Indie patterns and sewing blogs weren’t really a thing. At least not in any way like they are now (and thank goodness!) But maybe now with so many resources and support it can all be a bit daunting.
I mean, where the heck do you start?
And actually, ‘how do I start sewing my own clothes’ is one of the biggest questions I get asked. So because sharing is caring, this post is all about how to start sewing your own clothes.
It’s basically the post I wish I had read when I first started sewing my own clothes.
I’ve decided to cover the three main basics:
- Sewing Machines
- Best patterns for beginners
Heck, even if you’re an advanced sewer you’ll still want a read so you can throw down some of your own stellar tips for beginners.
So let’s get stuck in, shall we?
To be honest, before you can start sewing we need to talk about equipment. I mean, a sewing machine is pretty darn key, right? 😁
I’ve written about tips for buying a sewing machine you’ll love before and the tips still stand. But if you’re a beginner the main thing I’ll say is:
Get the best machine you can afford.
I know that sounds counterintuitive, but I know so many people who’ve bought a super cheap machine and regretted it. Cheap machines just make the process of enjoying sewing so much harder with bobbins that snag and poor stitch quality.
Look, I’m not saying go out and spend your nest egg on a machine, just be savvy. To be honest, you don’t need fancy digital displays or millions of stitches. But what you do need a machine that will sew an excellent straight stitch and zigzag stitch. Ooo, and maybe an automatic button hole, because time saver!
What you need is a good machine with sturdy innards (preferably metal over plastic). Look for basic models of top brands like Pfaff and Bernina. Buy in sales or buy second hand. And definitely have a play on some different machines so you can get a feel for what you like.
Also, don’t cheap out on feet for your machine, it’s best to have a few feet that are good quality instead of a flotilla of crappy ones. My favourite feet are my blind hem foot and an edge stitch foot, and a walking foot is must if you plan on sewing knits.
Confused by feet (heck, I know I still am sometimes!)? You can read more about feet in this post here.
I know it feels kinda counterintuitive, but hear me out. You may think it’s best to save money by using super cheap fabrics, but this can sometimes work against you. So really, do yourself a favour:
buy good quality fabric.
Cheap fabrics can actually be much harder to sew. They might be more slippery and harder to control which is not what you need when you start out.
I’m not saying you should run out and buy super expensive fabrics (cost doesn’t equal quality) but just don’t immediately default to the bargain bin. Look for places online that have a reputation for selling good quality fabric (you can see a bumper list of online suppliers here and tips for how to get the best fabric when buying online here).
Better yet, go out and feel different fabrics in person. Hands down it helps you to understand what different fabrics are like. I know i definitely ordered some really sketchy fabrics in my early days before I appreciated what different terms meant. Like learning that drill (a super heavy fabric) is not the same as twill (a lightweight fabric for shirts). 😬
I’d say quality also applies to zippers. Buttons, interfacing, even thread you can cheap out on to a certain extent, but never zippers. Just other day I used a cheap zipper and had it fall apart after 1 wear. Now I have a pair of overalls that need some serious TLC. Ugh.
Look, I’m not going to tell you that you can’t sew a pair of jeans straight off the bat, because, heck, you could if you wanted to. At the same time, there’s definitely some places that might be easier to start as a beginner.
In the end you’ll probably want to:
find simple patterns.
In general as a beginner I’d look for:
- Patterns without zippers or buttons. Simple pull on designs mean you can focus more on getting to grips with sewing straight lines (not fiddling with zips or button holes)
- Patterns with sew-a-longs or accompanying classes. I think instructions have gotten really good over the past 6 years or so. I reckon it’s thanks to all the Indie (Independent) pattern companies. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye out for patterns that have additional support either with dedicated posts or classes describing different parts of the process.
Best Patterns for beginners
Some of my favourite patterns for beginners:
Marilla Walker’s Maya top and dress – I love the options for this and the fact that it pulls over your head is a big win (no pesky closures). This also was the basis for one of my most favourite makes – my Elizabeth Suzann inspired linen tee.
Fancy Tiger Crafts Fen dress – I love this dress. I mean look at those pockets! And like the Maya dress it pulls on over your head – no closures for the win! You can see my version here and a slightly hacked/altered version here.
Lisel & Co everyday skirt – I just love the classic shape of this. I know it has a zipper, but the simple shape would makes it a great first pattern.
Tilly & the Buttons Dominique skirt – to be fair, all of Tilly’s patterns are great for beginners. Her instructions are super clear and she has great sew-a-longs on her blog.
And there you have it. In a nutshell I guess you could say the key is buy the best quality you can find without breaking the bank.
And avoid zippers. 😂
Have any of your own tips for beginners? Don’t be shy – share them in the comments. Heck, I know I’m always looking for new tips and tricks.