Sewing for total beginners

In the New Year I began a beginner’s dress making course because I want to make good use of my amazing sewing machine and make some nice clothes. The main thing I’ve learnt so far is that sewing isn’t as daunting as I thought it was, and following a pattern is much easier than it looks. The difficulty is the tailoring to a body and doing curves and working with funny fabrics. But basic non-fitted clothes are really easy to make! I managed to make a pair of pyjama bottoms without any assistance in just a few hours by following this pattern, which explains all the steps in a lot of detail.

My finished garment

The only difficulty you may have is the buttonhole; I am fortunate enough that my sewing machine has a button I press that automatically makes a buttonhole to exactly the size I want! To be honest, the buttonhole is for a ribbon around the top to tie the trousers up, but the trousers are also elasticised; so as long as the elastic holds the trousers up, then you don’t need the ribbon or the buttonhole. The pattern comes in two pieces, one piece that wraps around each leg. All you are really doing is sewing the legs up, sewing a crotch and then adding a hem at the top and feeding an elastic band and ribbon through and then sewing up the seams. Simple!

The part that actually takes the longest is printing out the pattern on paper (I recommend printer-happy tracing paper), assembling all the A4 sheets into one massive pattern, taping it all together, and then cutting out the actual legs. The pattern calls for a long piece of fabric that is folded to make the ribbon belt, but I chose to use a piece of actual ribbon that went with my fabric instead. The instructions are self explanatory so I won’t go into the details, but here are my lessons learnt:

  1. Fusible interfacing sticks to fabric when you iron them together. It makes the fabric stiff and very easy to work with. However only one side (the rougher side) is sticky and when you try and stick the wrong side you just get it trying to stick to your iron and then it becomes a complete sticky mess. The iron then doesn’t iron smoothly and you’ll have the scrub the stuff off it. This article has details on how to fuse the interfacing.
  2. Pin everything and don’t be afraid to pin every few centimetres. Better too many than too few. In the dressmaking course I learnt the best way to pin was perpendicular to your sewing so you can actually sew over them, which holds everything in place until your done. This is easier than trying to remove them as you go. This article has more details.
  3. The trousers in this pattern are always far too long (well perhaps not if you are over 6 foot) so don’t bother cutting them to length until you’ve done everything else and the person who will be wearing them has got them on. Pin the bottom hem to the right length whilst on the person and then do your final seam.
  4. If this is your first sewing pattern, use good quality cotton. Cotton is really easy to work with and doesn’t stretch and also feels nice on the skin for pyjamas. I have tried using jersey and I’m clearly not competent enough yet to get it to lie properly!

Finally, the best bit about making your own clothes is you get to choose whatever fabric you like. There are so many to choose from and if you find something you like, make sure to check on eBay and Amazon to see if you can get a better price. Alternatively, get something really cool from Etsy – here are some of my favourites for pyjamas:

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