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Dressmaking for beginners – comments and suggestions

Dressmaking for beginners – from clothes-press – is a short guide to getting started with making clothes. Learn how to sew, what equipment and books you need, what courses and free tutorials are available, where to get help and inspiration, how to choose patterns and where to buy fabric.

If you have any comments, questions, recommendations or things you’d like me to cover please add them below.

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Jude Bernard June 2, 2010 at 10:09 pm

This is a great article, thank you! I have just started sewing and found your list of shops useful. I have also bought online, this shop http://www.sewbox.co.uk is particularly good as it matches fabrics to matching threads and zips for you so I don’t have to go out again to get the matching notions. The range isn’t huge but it’s a new shop so I guess it will be growing.

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Stephanie June 5, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Thanks – I’ll take a look!

Steph

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Leah Taylor August 8, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Hello, thank you for listing my shop in your article. I love your blog, you write so clearly!

I just wanted to let you know that Sewbox is indeed a new shop, I set it up in April this year, and I had my first baby the following month in May, so it’s been a bit of a whirlwind :-) I am just now getting ready to expand my range of fabrics and in the next month or two I will be stocking lots of Liberty loveliness (including print jerseys), the full John Kaldor range, some dressmaking cotton lawns from Alexander Henry, and lots more. So you’ll see a much larger range in the shop, though it will take a bit longer to add the matching threads!!

Thanks again and happy sewing
Leah xx

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Kellie-Jay October 13, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Hi there,

It’s a long shot but do you know where I can find out standard sizing for children’s wear in the UK? I’m thinking of manufacturing coats for children but cannot find any standard for say boy age 8, arm length chest, height etc……

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Stephanie October 18, 2010 at 3:24 pm

Hi Kellie-Jay,

As far as I can work out, standard UK clothing sizes are part of the European standard EN 13402. There are some standard size charts for children’s clothes with approximate ages in the UK book ‘Metric Pattern Cutting for Children’ by Winifred Aldrich – pages 18-20. You can look at these pages on Google Books.

Good luck with your business,

Steph

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Claudine February 17, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Thanks for linking to me!

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Bose July 5, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Hi,
I have sewing experience spanning 2-3years in Nigeria. Having recently relocated to UK last year, getting my feet and bearings together meant being away from sewing so I could focus on getting a much needed education.
Just got a Singer 1509 sewing machine. Do I have to buy a table to insert my machine into (like the old models) or any flat table?
I find this site very helpful, thank you for your hints.

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Stephanie July 25, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Hi, Glad that you find the site useful. I can’t find any pictures of a Singer 1509 but if it’s anything like the Singer 1507 you can just use it on any flat table. You don’t need a special table to put the machine into. Steph

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Rachel October 26, 2011 at 12:42 am

Just to say, I’ve found your website very informative and helpful. The information is just enough and not too daunting for a beginner like me, and well-organised.. Now all I have to do is to decide on which machine to buy, then I can start! I will be checking back later…

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Stephanie October 28, 2011 at 9:31 am

Hi Rachel, Thanks for your comment – glad that you find the information useful. Good luck with choosing some material and getting started! All the best, Steph

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Laura April 21, 2012 at 12:31 pm

Hi, thanks for this wonderful website!
I’m stuck. I’m making my first dress. It has a sweetheart neckline. How do I hem this neckline? It seems impossible!

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Stephanie July 2, 2012 at 4:01 pm

I think that you need to use a shaped neckline facing rather than trying to hem it. There’s a great tutorial on Gertie’s Blog for Better Sewing for making a sweetheart neckline facing. Hope that helps and good luck!

Steph

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merick August 30, 2012 at 5:47 pm

WOW
I am just learning to sew and this info is exactly what I needed. Thank you.

“When you are a choosing sewing pattern” should be “When you are choosing a sewing pattern”

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Stephanie September 1, 2012 at 8:54 am

Hi merick,

Glad that you found the information useful. Thanks for pointing out the typo – I’ll correct it!

Steph

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Khill October 9, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Hi Stephanie. Thank you so much I really enjoyed reading your wealth of information; maybe you could/would address a few subjects for me. All of a sudden (age 48)I have this absolute desire to buy a sewing machine and start cranking out nice quality dresses and things for my loved ones and grands…both my son and daughter are all of a sudden pregnant, so I have two grandkids on the way and I want to make things. (ps I am not the creative type either, so this is really surprising for me to have creative or artsy cravings) My question is, is it more economical to sew dresses than to purchase them. I don’t know anything about fabrics and sewing but I see ladies at church with dresses made of really beautiful “stiff” “thicker” types of materials…automatically you can tell it’s a really good quality dress, as opposed to the thinner cheaper materials most of my clothing is made of. Since I can’t buy too many I was thinking maybe I could learn to sew them. Is it more economical, after you purchase the materials(not including the initial cost of the machine) to sew your own clothing with the nicer materials?? For instance a $100.00 dress is going to have a more decent quality material. I was even wondering about making things to sell on ebay? [F.Y.I.; I sewed a few things in high school and my mom always had a sewing machine but not much was done with it, so I am somewhat familiar with the process and am not too intimidated] Again, many thanks. God Bless you.

Karen
Georgia USA

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Stephanie October 10, 2012 at 3:18 pm

Hi Karen

Thanks for your message – glad that you enjoyed reading the information. In answer to your question, I’d say that overall it’s more economical to buy dresses than to sew them. By the time you’ve bought the pattern, fabric, thread, buttons/zippers etc, you probably won’t save money if you compare the cost with a cheap dress.

BUT it is more economical if you are creating dresses that are well-made from beautiful fabric, that fit you perfectly and where the design can be customised so it’s exactly what you want. This kind of dress would cost $100s so I think it is worth sewing yourself. If you buy good materials and take time with the sewing and fitting, you can make something really nice for much less than it would cost to buy, and it’s a great feeling to wear something you’ve made yourself and feel proud of.

I think the most important thing though is whether or not you enjoy the sewing. Is there anyone you could borrow a sewing machine from and have a go at making something?

If you’re thinking of making things to sell, you might want to have a look at Etsy as well as eBay. In the UK we also have Folksy and Not on the High Street – I’m not sure what other sites there are in the USA for selling crafts.

Anyway, good luck and hope you have fun with this!

Steph

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Tayme Canencia October 15, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Hi! I want to start making my own clothes but i find it tough for beginners like me… I want to design my own clothes and your article seems to be very helpful. Hope you can suggest some items where I can buy in the philippines that has good quality too, especially the sewing machines.. are portable sewing machines durable and good for starters?

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Stephanie October 22, 2012 at 11:35 am

Hi Tayme

Sorry, I’ve never been to the Philippines so can’t recommend where to buy things there. Sewing machines – yes, you can get sturdy, durable portable sewing machines. My sewing machine is a portable one – it’s simple to use and I’ve had no problems with it over the last few years. I don’t really have enough space for anything other than a portable machine as I need to pack things away when I’ve finished sewing.

Hope that helps,

Steph

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Deborah Tayler November 29, 2012 at 9:20 am

The New Look pattern with the stripy top in the top left of the photo of patterns looks like just the thing I’m looking for. Can you let me know the pattern number, as it is tantalisingly out of sight in the picture!

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Stephanie November 30, 2012 at 8:56 am

Hi Deborah

The New Look pattern number is 6838 – the top is made in a knit fabric. By coincidence, I was browsing in ‘The Works’ bookshop yesterday and they had a book called ‘SEW U Home Stretch’ by Wendy Mullin which also has a similar pattern for a boat neck top.

Hope that helps!

Steph

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Sally Dixon January 1, 2013 at 7:41 pm

Hi there, I just wanted to say what a fabulous website you have which is very imformative to us beginners, I have noted all the basic equipment you need and have also purchased the book you recommended Sew Everything Workshop. I have sewn before, but a very average. So I have decided that I would like to go into dressmaking seriously, and I thank you for all your useful information. Keep up the great work. It is also great to get ideas from other beginners and experienced dressmakers

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Stephanie January 17, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Thanks – good luck with the dressmaking!

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Lila Hotta January 12, 2013 at 7:19 pm

Could you add a basic glosary like : pleat, armhold etc…?

Thanks for this article, very helpful.

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Sel February 9, 2013 at 4:24 pm

A very helpful and friendly site with lots of helpful advice. I’ve just been given a sewing machine from my family and am seriously thinking about starting my own little dressmaking business from home. I will be referring to this site often.
Thanks again
Sel

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Natalie December 10, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Just a quick note to say thank you for taking the time to set up this site. It’s a bit overwhelming for beginners but lovely to know that there is a whole community of friendly people out there! Thanks again.

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Stephanie December 11, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Thank you! Hope you find it useful.

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Michael March 26, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Check out MerchantandMills.com – their patterns are very easy to follow and their aesthetic is really beautiful (the styles, fabrics, packaging, photography, everything!). Highly recommended!

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dee March 27, 2014 at 9:35 am

Can you please explain the terminology used on pattern pieces, for e.g. grain line, etc etc.

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Stephanie March 27, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Hi Dee

There’s a pretty comprehensive list of definitions of sewing terms the BurdaStyle website. Another alternative is in Threads Magazine.

Hope that helps!

Steph

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Iyen June 15, 2014 at 8:26 pm

Hi,
i am looking for a pattern specialist to help with patterns,Grading, prototypes and samples for women’s cloths.

Could you make some recommendation – i leave in New York.

Thanks
Iyen

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Stephanie June 17, 2014 at 8:19 am

Hi Iyen

Sorry, I live in the UK so can’t make any recommendations about pattern specialists in New York. Good luck in your search.

Steph

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Sophie September 4, 2014 at 2:38 pm

What a great article! As a complete dress making novice, your article has been so helpful, thank you.

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Vashti June 4, 2015 at 12:59 pm

Hi this information was really useful for me as a beginer.Thank you i will be checking your website for more future info.

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Jessica July 10, 2015 at 3:49 pm

this is the most helpful site i have researched. thank you so much! :D

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Stephanie August 31, 2015 at 5:11 pm

Thank you! Glad you found it useful.

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Sheenah February 15, 2017 at 10:59 am

Hi

I’m looking to start making clothes and duvet covers, especially evening and prom gowns,I’ve never sewn (well with a sewing machine) but I’m going to take sewing lessons, I also would like an all in one machine that will basically sew all the above,and what is the best material to use,any suggestions and advise please

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Stephanie February 15, 2017 at 5:33 pm

Hi Sheenah

I’d suggest buying a mid-price machine – look for one with all-metal body parts, an adjustable speed control, multiple needle positions and a one-step buttonhole. You don’t need an expensive computerised machine to sew clothes and duvet covers. My sewing machine is a Janome 419S which is a good sturdy, basic machine. If you’re going to take sewing lessons, it’d probably be best to get advice there on the best options for sewing machines in your country.

Duvet covers tend to be made from extra-wide sheeting cotton or polycotton. Evening and prom gowns are often made of different kinds of silks but it might be an idea to start with some less-expensive polyester satin for your first attempt.

Good luck – hope you enjoy your new sewing projects!

Steph

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