This week marks 4 years since I first started sewing. It’s something I really love doing and I often hear people say “Oh I wish I could do that!” so to mark my 4 year ‘sewiversary’ I thought I’d share some thoughts and resources for anyone new to dressmaking or thinking about getting started. (I’ll post some links along the way, none of this is sponsored, just things I genuinely like or have found useful!)
After some time of thinking “wouldn’t it be cool to make my own clothes” I realised I never would unless I had the tools to do so, so one day I decided to buy a sewing machine. I figured that, at the least, it would get used for fixing hems or fancy dress costumes if I didn’t take to sewing as a hobby. I bought a cheap model from John Lewis and have since upgraded but I still keep hold of my old machine just in case.
If you’re not in a position to buy one then maybe you’d be able to borrow from a friend or depending on where you live could visit a sewing cafe to use their machines. When I first got mine I didn’t even know how to thread it so spending time getting to know my machine was really useful for me.
Learn a bit about fabric types
An early mistake I made was not understanding the properties of different fabrics which led to me trying to make up a Tilly and the Buttons Agnes top in quilting cotton rather than stretch jersey…I didn’t realise until I was a good bit through! (don’t worry, the quilting cotton was re-purposed into a make up bag!)
Living in Shetland means I don’t have a bricks and mortar shop I can visit to feel different fabric weight, texture, drape etc so I rely a lot on having looked up the properties of fabrics or the descriptions given by online fabric shops. Lots of the shops I buy from also post videos on Instagram which gives you an idea of how the fabric moves. Some recommendations if you’re new to sewing and trying to get the fabric choice right are:
- Sew Me Sunshine – Harriet has posted excellent descriptions of fabric properties, often posts videos of new fabrics in her Instagram stories and sometimes gives suggestions for how the fabrics could be used.
- Sew Over It – who have a feature on their shop site where you can shop fabrics by the garment they are intended for.
- I’m sure there are plenty of others who do similarly, these are just ones I’ve frequently used 🙂
If in doubt then being patient and ordering a few samples can make a big difference in getting your project right and saving you money!
Check your wardrobe
Have a look at what you wear most often. When I first started dressmaking the temptation was to make all the pretty full skirted dresses but I know that in reality that’s not so practical for my day to day life. Try to find patterns and fabrics which will go with things you already own, you’ll be far more likely to wear your me-made items. The Fold Line is a great resource for finding patterns. You could also search the pattern’s hashtag on Instagram or see if the pattern co has a Pinterest page with sewist’s makes on it.
Once I’d been sewing for a while I started to focus less on just completing the garment and more on getting it to fit me nicely. Personally, I think being able to get something to fit just right is one of the most rewarding things about sewing your own clothes, it can take a while to figure out though. By Hand London have recently released their Bodice Fitting Companion ebook which gives helpful explanations of where you may need to make adjustments and tells you how to do them. Closet Case patterns have a free ebook for pants fitting adjustments too.
If you often have trouble getting the fit right from shop bought clothes then it might be worth making a toile from muslin to look for fit issues before you cut into your good fabric. It’s also worth noting that you might find you need different alterations for patterns from different companies, for example, I know some companies draft their patterns based on someone taller than me so I usually have to adjust the length for those, other companies have patterns drafted for someone with broader shoulders than mine etc. You’ll soon have a good idea of what your usual fit adjustments are and which company’s patterns tend to fit you straight out the packet.
Feel the Fear
This is one of my favourite blog posts from Closet Case patterns and I’ve gone back to it every now and then when I’ve needed reminding of what I can achieve. Sewing is about having fun so don’t let fear hold you back, you can do far more than you realise!