Friday, 15 July 2011

Learning to sew clothes through the blog world -a (long) list of starting points

This post is a bit of a shout out to my friend Dani, who told me that she had a sewing machine and knew how to use it, but didn’t know how to sew clothes on it. She writes a lovely blog called Gourmet Gaming, where she makes real life super tasty looking meals based on food featured in computer games. As today is her birthday, I thought I would get round to finishing a post I have been working on about how to start sewing. This is particularly sensible as I have been wrestling for days with the shifting skies skirt which continues to mess with my head despite being very simple. 
It still looks a lot like this.

I am not an expert or even intermediate, I suck at most parts of sewing, but when I started it was because I got hooked on sewing blogs and they taught me how to do so many things and inspired me to make stuff. Sewing clothes is a bit overwhelming at first and there is lot of new things to learn. Therefore I have had a glance around the web and found some good places to start.

One of the best sources of really detailed thorough tutorials for different parts of the sewing process (online that is) are sewalongs, where a clever person makes a specific garment that you can follow along with, with each step and possible alterations explained. Whilst these are obviously based on a specific pattern, the techniques can be applied to anything.  A lot of the posts I am about to reference fall into this category.

Obviously the web is a big place, and there are many talented people with amazing blogs and sites , these are just a  few. Actually quite a lot now I’ve found them all.. but hopefully this will be a suggestion of some starting points and a signpost to some amazingly talented sewers and bloggers who have certainly taught and inspired me a lot.

Tilly and the Buttons

Overall learning to sew posts-where do I start?

What do I need? Whilst many sewers hardly have any tools, and others have lots, it’s always useful to know what the various things do..

Making stuff from patterns
Reading and understanding dressmaking pattern envelopes 
It’s often worth making a muslin or toile (a rough run through of the pattern) to see if it fits.

Basic techniques

A Fashionable Stitch 

Seam Finishes – Generally I just do a zig zag stitch over the edges of my fabric so it doesn't fray but there are other fancier options! There are a lot of posts out there for these, a good overview here
but Sunni's is probably the most comprehensive:


Hemming-Frankly. I still completely suck at this! Hems can be as simple or complex as you like.
Hems have to  be marked all round so that they are level (despite the body’s lumps and bumps, and whether the fabric has stretched etc) ideally by an experienced seamstress (like your mum) but usually by a semi-willing helper with no idea what they are doing, plus its actually slightly tricky getting them straight. There are clever ways of making it easier though

Sewing a bust dart

Zip. Zips are either visible or invisible  (invisible zips are sort of inside out with the visible bit of the teeth on the inside of the garment-often used on skirts)
Hand picked visible (hand sewn-sounds like more work and looking tatty, actually less fiddly and often looks better)

Fitting probably shouldn’t be a beginner technique, but getting the bust size wrong without knowing what is going on will put you right off sewing so it’s best to have a basic idea. Most patterns, like ready to wear clothes from shops, assume you are a B-C cup. Obviously an awful lot of us aren’t, so we need to adjust the patterns to allow either more or less space, this can a bit fiddly but is usually quite straight forward.

Full Bust Adjustment (these are all over the web and generally the same sort of method

Sewaholic for A Fashionable Stitch


You must wash your fabric before you use it to make something (unless its dry clean only), otherwise it can shrink and it wont fit anymore once you’ve washed it.

Cutting fabric

Working with knits (stretchy jersey not knitting!)


  1. Wow, what a comprehensive post! Thanks for the linky love, and you're doing great you know. I think having the guts to get stuck in and the tenacity to stick with it and muddle through is half the battle!

  2. Wow, this post is going straight into my sewing resources bookmarks. Thanks for all the links (and for including mine!).

  3. Thanks for the post! There is another thing worth mentioning, and that is PBS. There are some fun shows on Create TV:
    Though some shows are hosted by famous quilting Gurus, they show different methods for garment creation. I DVR these shows and sit with a note pad , when I do not feel like sitting upright at the computer :) I fast forward thru segments that do not interest me. Very inspiring.