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A Sewing Beginner’s Guide To Beginning…

A Sewing Beginner’s Guide To Beginning…

Today’s guest post is by amazing Offset Warehouse customer Suzy Weeks. We were desperate to find out about her first foray into sewing – and what an incredibly inspiring read it is! If you’re just starting to sew, or are a little nervous to get going, here’s Suzy’s amazing advice…

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So, where to begin?

I’ve always really, really wanted to sew. I remember my grandma teaching me how to do some hand stitches and I once made a skirt from a pattern with my mum when I was 13 (it ended up too small to wear… more on that later…). A few years ago I signed up and paid for a beginner’s guide to sewing but in the end was not able to make the class. ‘Voiled’ again.
Then a few weeks ago, I spied a garment making course run by Derbyshire Council and dashed to sign up. I decided to make a skater style dress for a friend’s wedding in the summer. It’s been a fabulous journey and I’ve learnt so many skills and made so many mistakes along the way that I thought I’d jot down a few tips for someone who, like me, is just starting out.

1. Sew Something You’re Going To Love

Suzy Fabric

I was making a skater style dress against the very sensible advice of the teacher, the lovely Lyndall Bond, who was rightly concerned that it was much too complicated for a beginner. I assured Lyndall that it would be fine but had absolutely no idea what making the dress entailed. I took the view that to put my time, energy and heart into it I had to love what I was making. I am also rather lucky to have a mother-in-law, who is a dab hand at sewing, and was happy to help me outside the class (this probably explains my unfounded confidence).

2. Buy The Pattern According To Your Measurements Not Your Clothes Size

I very nearly fell headlong into this trap when buying my pattern, despite the fact that Lyndall had repeatedly emphasised the need to go by measurements, not clothes size. The pattern I bought came in two sizes 6-8-10-12-14 or 14-16-18-20-22. I’m an 8/10 in the shops, so I thought I could get the smaller pattern as there was no way I’d be in the bigger category but no, my hip measurements came in at a 16; luckily I checked and bought the bigger pattern. I suspect the skirt I made when I was 13 was made to my dress size not my measurements and came up small as a result.

3. Read The Pattern

This sounds obvious but for some reason I turned up at the second class with the pattern still neatly tucked in its envelope. It’s just a set of instructions and I can follow instructions right? Well yes, essentially a pattern is a set of instructions, but, a set of the most complicated instructions written in a special code, only dressmakers and those in the fold understand. I didn’t know a stay stitch from a top stitch. Read the pattern from start to finish and ask your teacher to explain, or look up on the internet, anything you don’t understand.

4. Don’t Be Afraid Of Making Mistakes

Suzy Fabric Layout

Most silly mistakes can be undone (apart from cutting your fabric). Just at step two of my pattern, for example, I made an error at every single possible opportunity; I got the wrong layout of pattern pieces for my width of fabric, so re-pinned it. I pinned my pattern on upside down, so re-pinned it. Then I noticed an arrow marking on the pattern. Lyndall explained that I needed to line this up parallel to the selvedge edge of the fabric, so I re-pinned it. Then I read the pattern! It said to put the two right sides of my fabric together when laying the pattern, so, you guessed it, I re-pinned it. The mistakes continued like this and I don’t think there is a single step which I haven’t had to modify or redo along the way. I’m sure it’s all part of the learning process and not because I chose something way too complicated as my first proper project!

5. Strive For Precision

The more precise you are at every step, the more likely it is that a) you won’t make an ‘undoable’ mistake and b) your item will look great, you’ll love it and want to do more sewing. Win win!

Beginning to sew

Thanks Suzy. This is absolutely amazing advice – and what an incredible first make! I wish I’d read this when I was first starting. If you like the fabric Suzy used it’s our Violet Pansy Print Organic Cotton. Go and check it out. Or if this article has given you an idea for a blog post you want to share, just get in touch with me: [email protected]

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  • I really enjoyed reading this piece because it clearly showed how difficult sewing can be. Many people tell me sewing must be so easy and then when they sit in front of a sewing machine, they are scared and apprehended about where to begin. The important thing to remember, is what Suzy mentioned–don’t be afraid to make a mistake. I’ve been sewing for 10 years and still make plenty of mistakes! Sewing is a process where you’re constantly learning and trying new methods, I haven’t met anyone who knows everything about sewing, so don’t think you have to know it all to get started.

    Reading patterns and instructions are also great pieces of advice. Sizes in patterns are very different than store clothes. In store clothes I normally fit 0-2 on top and 2-4 when it comes to pants or skirts, but in patterns I usually need between sizes 6-12 to make the clothing fit properly.

  • I have been thinking about learning to sew and so I really appreciate all five of these points. I really think that it would be important for me to make something that I would love, because it would otherwise go into the trash and not be worn. However, you started sewing something complicated because you knew that you would love it. What type of pattern would you suggest for me, as a beginner with no handy mother-in-law, to start with?

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