I've been getting a few requests lately to share my favorite patterns and sewing advice for someone who wants to start building a handmade wardrobe, but is a newbie to sewing. So I wanted to build this post as sort of a resource for beginners. I'm going to list my favorite places to find sewing tutorials and information, my favorite online fabric stores, my favorite places to find patterns, and some of my own personal favorite patterns - all suited for someone just starting out.
These are just some of my personal favorites, so if you have anything you'd like to share, drop a comment below!
Getting familiar with fabric is really important before you get into sewing. The right fabric can make a garment, or break it if its the wrong weight and drape. Some of the biggest sewing fails comes from pairing the wrong fabric with a pattern, not necessarily from poor technique or sewing quality. So you should become familiar with the difference between knits and woven (remember, knits are stretchy like t-shirts, woven for the most part are not), as well as some of the different types of each. For example, a lightweight jersey knit is going to drape and sit completely different than a heavier weight ponte knit. So pay attention to what a pattern suggests for fabric.
If you're able to go to a fabric store in person and touch and feel the different kinds of fabrics, its a quick way to learn. Otherwise, some online fabric shops offer swatches for a few dollars each so you can feel for yourself before committing to a lot of yardage.
Speaking of online fabric shopping, these are some of my favorites! I know there more out there, so if you have another go-to, don't forget to tell me in a comment below!:
- Stylemakerfabrics.com - you can get some pretty good deals here sometimes.
- Califabrics.com - my newest favorite <3. Most of the fabrics in the above photo came from there.
- Girlcharlee.com - specializes in cute knits!
- Spoonflower.com- a bit expensive. But thats because anyone can have their designs made into fabric/wallpaper, wrapping paper, etc. And you can shop other people's designs. So if you're looking for something unique, this is a fun spot.
Another note on fabric - when building a handmade wardrobe, you'll want to keep in mind your personal style. You want your handmade pieces to fit flawlessly into your closet/wardrobe. It can be easy, when fabric shopping, to get sucked into really fun and flashy prints or other fabrics. But stop and think if it really fits in with the rest of your wardrobe. Maybe that is your style - colorful and lots of prints! Hey, thats cool! But does your wardrobe contain mostly muted solid colors? Or just subtle florals? Is that bright yellow cat print really going to work with your other garments, or do you only attracted to the fabric because its cute and stands out? Just keep it in mind! I still struggle with this every time I buy fabric. I'm drawn to those quirky fabrics, even though its not actually my personal style anymore.
Same as with fabric, there are soooo many great pattern companies out there, both big name and indie. You seriously could spend forever looking for the perfect patterns (I know because I still do all the time). Here are some brands I love:
- Simplicity (including New Look & Burda Style), McCall / Vogue / Butterick - the big four
- Megan Nielsen Patterns - Meg also has maternity patterns! A little biased because I work with her, but I love her patterns!
- Paper cut Patterns - my second favorite go-to
- True Bias
- Closet Case Patterns
- Sewaholic Patterns
- By Hand London
- Grainline Studio
- Named Clothing
- Tilly and Buttons
- See Kate Sew - a sewing blogger with lots of her patterns for sale, and some freebie ones! A lot of one for kids/babies to. And if you're nervous about putting a zipper in a garment for the first time, I would suggest trying out one of her freebie zipper pouches first!
So, when ordering most indie patterns online, they will offer you a choice in receiving a paper pattern in the mail, or an instant download PDF pattern (usually for a cheaper price). With PDF patterns, you can either print it yourself on a home machine - printing out on multiple 8x10 pieces of printer paper and then taping them together (I did a how-to post for Megan Nielsen here), OR you can get it all printed at once as a large format A0 or 36x48 print - either at a copy shop like Staples, or through a PDF printing website. I use the site PDF plotting and it's so much easier than taping a million papers together! You just choose how many pages are in your PDF file, how many copies you want, and then upload the file. Its delivered to you in a few days, and then you only have to worry about cutting or tracing just like with any other pattern.
My Favorites - Very Easy
When looking for beginner patterns, most indie designers will have a difficulty ranking system. Look for something like 1/5, beginner, easy, super easy, etc. Even the big 4 will have text on the front of some of their patterns that say Super Easy! or Learn to Sew!
This first set is some that I consider super easy. Very beginner. In other words - start here! lol. These are patterns that don't have any frou frou details, no difficult closures, and no need to perfect fit. They're all either loose fitting or stretchy - no darts required.
My favorite absolute beginner go-to patterns are easy, no-fuss knit pieces. And Megan's Axel skirt fits the bill. Its quick, simple, but stylish. And when you use heavier stable knits like I did in all threes examples above, you don't even need to hem. So super simple!
Another simple design to start out with is a t-shirt dress. Again, its a simple construction. I've kinda perfected my own pattern over time, but this one is pretty close.
-Don't want to invest in actual patterns yet? Try a DIY! I made this off the shoulder tutorial a few years ago, and its been a hit! No pattern required.
-Another easy Megan Nielsen pattern - the Eucalypt tank/dress. A basic closet staple that you can do so much with - like add patch pockets and a faux collar like above!. I've made quite a few of these.
- A recent favorite Papercut Patterns Kyoto tee/sweater. Its very on trend right now with the ruffle on the sleeve, but there is no crazy construction required. A gathered ruffle is very basic sewing!
- I also love this Simplicity pattern 8335. Again, trendy with those details, but they're easy details, I promise.
A few more:
-I made this BurdaStyle 6663 right after I had Penny, I just can't find the photos. No fancy closures or facings, so suuuuper easy. And really cute with the ties at the shoulder.
- Megan Nielsen Virginia leggings. Basic leggings with elastic waist and a few variations!
- One of the easiest beginner things to make is a basic skirt. Like the knit pull on skirts I talked about earlier, a drawstring (or elastic waist) skirt is so so easy and therefore usually someones first garment (it was mine!) This BurdaStyle 6416 is super cute.
My Favorites - Level 2 Easy
These next ones I would still classify as easy, but one step up. They include detail such as zippers, plackets, buttons, etc. So they probably wouldn't be your very first sewing project. Bt once you have a couple of super easy ones under your belt, these would be your next step.
I have made soooooooo many Darling Ranges dresses. So many. And I have another one in my queue. I love it that much. The placket/buttons and pockets in this pattern may be a bit intimidating, and move it up into this next category, but it is so satisfying and rewarding to make. And p.s - I helped create the sewalong for this pattern if you need help with construction!
This one is Vogue 9075. Its a simple staple design, but involves pleats and a zipper, and princess seams, so definitely next level easy. But honestly one of my favorites. There is a dress version and jumpsuit version, and can be made in wovens or knits.
A few more:
-The True Bias Ogden came and Lodo dress are such classic shapes and closet staples. The only reason I include them in this category instead of the super easy one, is because they have facings/linings. Still not hard at all, though!
-This BurdaStyle 6401 dress is pretty cute. It's loose fitting - so you don't have to worry about darts are seams and getting the right fit, it just has a zipper back closure.
Another option for patterns - vintage! I found both of the above on Etsy. Just pay attention to the measurements on the back pf the patterns, because vintage sizing can be a lot different than modern sizing.
Sewing Tips and Tutorials
I know sometimes, as a beginner, even an easy pattern can breeze over something that leaves you confused. If you are brand new to sewing, and you need help understanding some techniques and termonology, there are so many resources online to help!
- Search Youtube for video tutorials!
- Craftsy offers tutorials and online sewing workshops. Check out their blog under the sewing fundamentals or sewing techniques categories for a whole bunch of tips. Or sign up for one of their online classes.
- Most of the indie pattern companies have blogs where they include specific sewalongs for each of their patterns, as well as tips and tutorial posts. Tilly and Buttons has a great 'learn to sew' section that I love, with posts ranging from marking and cutting fabric, to how to set up your machine, to how to make buttonholes.
- I also love See Kate Sew's post about fabric grain.
- Megan Nielsen has a bunch of these types of posts on Design Diary, a lot of which I've written! Some that I think are useful for beginners:
- important sewing tips you should know
- my favorite sewing supplies
- tips for cutting fabric
- the importance of ironing and pressing
- six seam finishes and when to use them
- clipping vs. notching
- understating - what it is and why it's important
- how to sew and invisible zipper
- how to sew a centered or lapped zipper
- how to sew a knit neckline band
Again, everything here is just some of my personal favorites, and just ones I would consider easy, beginner, or next level beginner. I could do a whole other post on intermediate and advanced patterns and information!
I'm also thinking about doing a separate post talking about sewing for babies/toddler/kids, and how to find free patterns for them. Any interest?