When I originally wrote this post in early 2012, I linked to projects such as this
cushion cover and shopping bag. These are lovely quick-and-easy makes to get started with. If you’re like me though, you’ll be gagging to get stuck into making clothes as soon as you can. Back then I struggled to find dressmaking patterns that I’d recommend for new stitchers, so eventually I decided to design some myself, with jargon-busting instructions and easy-to-use photo instructions. I’ve now updated this post (in 2014) to include these new projects – yay!
On to my tips for choosing easy beginner sewing projects…
1) Go for simple construction
Ease yourself in gently with a project that doesn’t require too much precision sewing. Look for straight lines and not too many pieces, and avoid techniques such as gathering and pleating until you’ve got a few makes under your (homemade) belt. Start simple, and you can progress to the more complex projects later on. Try these cute and easy-peasy projects to show you the basics of construction - the Brigitte Scarf and Bow Belt.
2) Check the fabric suggestions
Just as important as simple construction, check that the project is compatible with fabric that's easy to sew. While you’re still getting used to your sewing machine, the last thing you want to do is sew material such as silk which will slide all over your machine, or a stretchy jersey that may leave your seams wiggly. Medium-weight woven cottons are perfect to get started with as they lie flat, press well and don’t slip around. They come in lots of tempting prints (patterned prints hide dodgy stitching!) and are easy to find in fabric shops and department stores. Give them a whirl with the Margot pyjamas pattern in Love at First Stitch.
3) Avoid fiddly fastenings
Inserting zips and getting to grips with the buttonhole function on your sewing machine can be a little daunting to new stitchers. If you don’t feel ready to sew zips and buttonholes just yet, don’t! Choose a project without fastenings for now, such as the Miette wraparound skirt which closes with waist ties.
4) Pick something that’s easy to fit
One of the best things about making your own clothes is that you can tailor them to fit you. However, since we’re all different shapes, getting a fitted bodice or trousers to mould perfectly around your lady curves can sometimes take a bit of work. So let’s save that fun for later! Choose a simpler shape, such as the A-line Delphine skirt pattern in Love at First Stitch, or the Miette skirt which you can adjust the fit of with the waist ties. The Margot pyjamas are also easy to fit as they have a baggy, forgiving shape and close with an adjustable drawstring. Once you're ready to move on to sewing knit fabric, the Coco top or dress is a good option as it's got a relaxed fit, as well as a small number of pieces and simple construction method.
5) Make it again and again
My final tip for beginner sewing projects is to choose something you can see yourself making more than once. Practising the techniques and steps in a pattern a second time is great for cementing what you’ve learnt, and it will make you feel good about your progress. Sew something that you’ll love so you can enjoy the process more than once!
Wishing you lots of fun with your sewing projects!
If you've sewn before, what was the first thing you made and how did it go? Do share!
Like this? Read more Learn to Sew posts and check out my book for beginner dressmakers.