Sunday, 8 January 2012

Easy Sewing Projects for Beginners


So you've got to grips with your sewing machine, and you're itching to make something. Which sewing patterns are easy enough for beginners? I've gathered together a few suggestions for things you might want to try, but first a few tips for choosing an easy project. I'm a big advocate of diving into sewing fearlessly, but for your very first project you might want to ease yourself in gently:

* While you're still making friends with your sewing machine, it's advisable to choose a project with simple straight lines. You may want to avoid curved lines, gathering, pleating etc for now.

* Zippers and buttonholes are a little tricky at first, so go for a project that doesn't need a fastening, and save the fun for another day!

* When buying fabric, a medium-weight woven cotton would be good for a first project as it lies flat, presses well and won't slip and slide all over your machine. There are lots of lovely printed cottons available in department stores, haberdasheries and online fabric shops.

* Patterned fabric not only looks pretty but can hide dodgy stitching!

* Read through the pattern or tutorial instructions in advance to ensure you have all the materials you need to hand - not only the fabric, but matching (or contrast) thread, sewing tools, plus any extras that the project may need, such as elastic, buttons or interfacing.

* You might also want to consider whether you can see yourself making up the same pattern a few times. Once you've completed your first project, it's worth going through it again to remind yourself what you learnt... and so you can feel you've made progress with your second try!

Right, onto my suggestions for beginner projects:

UPDATE! Since I first wrote this post, in response to the shortage of easy patterns for beginners, I designed some and wrote a book!


Miette Skirt
No zippers, no buttons, no fuss! Just scope to practise your straight stitching and learn the basics of garment construction. This seventies-inspired skirt is super simple to fit with the adjustable waist ties. The pattern instructions include a jargon buster and photos of each step to take the head scratching out of sewing. A rare beginner project that's actually wearably stylish!


Margot Pyjama Bottoms
PJs are a great first garment project as they're easy to sew and super forgiving. Plus, you'll only wear them round the house so you don't need to worry about dodgy stitching! The pattern for these Margot pyjamas is included in my book, Love at First Stitch, which takes you from stitching novice to having a whole wardrobe full of clothes you'll be proud to say you made yourself. You can get it on Amazon, in all good bookshops, or order a copy from my shop and I'll sign it for you.



One-Hour Skirt
A delightful video tutorial by Brett Bara author of Sewing in a Straight Line. This skirt is so easy, it doesn't require a pattern - just your own waist and hip measurements - nor a zipper as it's elasticated at the waistband. A great project for using the prettiest or wackiest fabric you can find.



Cushion Cover
This cushion cover is an "envelope back", so it requires no zips, buttons or topstitching... plus it's easy to take the cushion out if you spill wine on the cover! This tutorial is very clearly explained, so it should be simple for a beginner to follow. The only potentially tricky part is when it comes to hemming, which requires precision stitching - practise on some calico first until you feel comfortable trying it on your nice fabric.



Brigitte Scarf
The first project in my book is the ridiculously easy Brigitte scarf - this extract on my blog shows you how to make it. Channel Riviera Chic by tying it around your head or neck.


Lavender Bag
Is this the easiest project ever? Could be! Handmade Jane's tutorial only uses a small amount of fabric so you can make lots of them to practise.


Bow Belt
Another project from Love at First Stitch is this gorgeous bow belt, also featured here. All you need is fabric, matching thread, two hooks and eyes (or velcro), and some interfacing, which you iron on the fabric to act as a stiffener. This project is a great way of snazzing up an outfit - get some inspiration from bow belts that have already been made by other people here and here.


Shopping Bag
Karen from the brilliant blog Did You Make That? talks us through making a simple tote. A bag is really easy for beginners to practise sewing straight lines and corners, and you don't need to worry about it fitting your body. You can use a medium-weight cotton - choose a lovely print or go for plain calico and try out the fancy topstitching settings on your machine to decorate it.

If you've sewn before, what was the first thing you made and how did it go? If you've got any suggestions of your own for first sewing projects, do leave a link in the comments.

Like this? Read more Learn to Sew posts and check out my book!

65 comments:

  1. thanks for this very interesting post :) personnally, i'm starting with a bag (without zipper ^^)... i'd love you to explain the pyjama bottoms step by step though, so i can understand how trousers are made... :)

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  2. My first sewing project (after sewing at elementary school a looong time ago) was Colette's Madeleine mini bloomers (http://www.coletterie.com/colette-patterns-news/free-pattern-to-download-the-madeleine-mini-bloomers). Easy to make and looks cute. And the pattern is free!

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  3. My first sewing projet was a skirt! Not the "One hour skirt", but very simple too. I love the video tutorial you posted: so simple for beginners.

    Thanks for sharing,Tilly!


    http://alicecloset-sewing.blogspot.com/

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  4. Aww, this takes me back. It's funny, but I'm not an advanced stitcher at all, but reading your posts about the bare basics reminds me of how far I've come! Anyone new to sewing - it does get easier, I promise!!

    As for my first project, I had to actually go and check on my blog as I wasn't sure. It was a silk cuff from Sew it Up by Ruth Singer: http://gentlewomanthief.wordpress.com/2009/08/20/silk-cuff-finished/

    All hand-sewn as this was before I got my sewing machine. My second was an 18th century shift and, since I'm a bit bonkers, my third ever sewing project was a pair of 18th century stays (corset) (my first project with my sewing machine). I think there's something to be said for knowing what it is you want to make and going for it!

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  5. I remember being really excited when our Handicraft lessons started at school (here they are mandatory for all girls in grades 5-9). In fact, I couldn't wait for the sewing bit to start and made my first project at home with the help of my Mom. It was a circle-bottomed bag with ribbon closure (like the one the washing bag has) for all my crafting supplies. The bottom was a little tricky to sew so it took me a while and I'm pretty sure my Mom helped me out a little along the way, but looking at the bag now I can say that it has stood the test of time and still makes me proud.

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  6. the first thing I ever made was a small black velvet bag with sliver embroidered spider webs all over it. The textiles teacher was very pleased with herself when I showed her it, even though I had made it myself with no help from her at all!
    The first thing I made outside of school was a black a-line skirt, I didn't have a pattern, I just drew around a existing skirt and cut it out, and my mom helped me put the zip in.

    Leahx

    avintagethread.blogspot.com

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  7. I would suggest starting with a project that really interests you. The first thing I made was a simple A-line skirt with a side zip. I decided early on that I would try not to be intimidated by anything sewing related. The second was a dress, again with a zip.

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  8. Great post! I teach 6 children once a week, between ages of 7 and 10 and these are great little projects.

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  9. These are great suggestions for beginning Sewists! Thank you for your inspiration!

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  10. thank you for this series - and this post! i have sewed some pillows and bags in the past several years but nothing recently and i want to get back in, so this is very helpful. i would LOVE an explanation on sewing patterns because i have a really hard time understanding them!

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  11. This is so clear and helpful for me:)

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  12. thanks for the link to the skirt video, such a cool idea!

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  13. Thank you so much for this post! I made a doll a few months ago (you can see it here: http://titchystitches.blogspot.com/2011/11/meet-baby-amyrlin.html) and I vowed that I wouldn't do anything so small and curvy again until I got to know my sewing machine better (and re-learned how to sew) So now I'm on to super simple projects (going to make some handwarmers tonight). I will definitely make a few of the things on your list! Thank you again!

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  14. Thanks for your learn to sew series, your clearly labeled pictures are great! I would love to do a PJ bottom sew-along with your help!

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  15. I made a circle skirt and the funny part is although since I already finished a lot of projects, this skirt remains unfinished since 5 years.

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  16. I don't remember what the first thing I made was, but i've been teaching some friends recently and have

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  17. My first sewing project was a dress, Butterick 5209, the halter version. It's not the perfect beginners pattern, and I knew it before I got started but I fell in love with the pattern and since I am stubborn I just had to make it. The waist was tiny while the bust was very big so I had to deal with that. The process was a bit frustrating but it turned out really good! I wore it to a wedding and it felt so good to walk around in a dress I made!

    That was back in 2010 and ever since I've been hooked! I just love to make things myself, even small things like a drawstring bag.

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  18. My first sewing project was a pair of elasticised shorts in Home Ec class back in Year Eight. That cut was no one's friend. But I tell you what- I wore those suckers to death!

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  19. Thanks for your suggestions, y'all! I'm tempted to try some of these projects, especially the Madeleine mini bloomers.

    Clare S - crikey, C18 garments as your second and third ever projects! I'm impressed!

    Leah - haha isn't that always the way!

    Readythreadsew - that's a great tip. If it doesn't really interest you, it's that bit easier to give up if it gets tricky.

    Jamie - I'll try to do a post on reading sewing patterns at some point.

    Earendil and Julie S - okay, I'll try to make some time to do a pyjama sewalong too!

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  20. Apart from the simple tote bag we made back in home ec class (including the application of an animal - I zigzagged around the silhouette of a duck!) my first real sewing project was a petticoat. The tutorial said to zigzag over a piece of string and use that to gather the different strips of fabric. Needless to say, it wasn't the easiest first project, but I still wear it sometimes. :D

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  21. I took a required home economics class as a very young teenager and remember virtually nothing about it. I didn't finish whatever it was I was making.

    The first thing I made as an adult was in a class at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. It was a twill skirt with a waistband with hooks and eyes, and an invisible zipper. I did my best, worked hard, and learned a lot, but it would not have been wearable had it been cut to fit me.

    My next project, in the same class, was a blouse with a collar, cuffs and continuous sleeve placket made with bias strips that we made from scratch without a bias tape maker. The experience was the same. I learned a lot, but I never could have worn it, even if the fit had been flattering, which it wasn't.

    I should add that I was sewing on an industrial machine, which is much faster than a home machine with no sewing experience so that made things considerably more difficult.

    Sewing, or garment construction, requires numerous skills that aren't acquired overnight.

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  22. Thanks for these posts! I'm just getting back in to sewing after a while off and being self taught I'm trying to do things right this time. I especially love the bow belt. I'll be making one this weekend :D

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  23. oooh i love these posts! i don't consider myself a beginner anymore, but inevitably you explain something that i've forgotten (or never knew!!). i agree with the other comments about starting with something you love. my 1st project was a draped dress with a back zip from an old bed sheet (with pintucks on the hem!). (but i might have a slight masochistic tendency....)


    and i still need to make myself a bow belt!!

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  24. I can't remember the very first thing, though there is a shaky hand-sewn pin cushion I made for my Granny still somewhere about.

    Right now I'm taking a break from baking and wearing an apron I made in school more than 20 years ago on one of those big green Berninas. I got an A!

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  25. Mine was this bag: http://sdmikke.blogspot.com/2009/03/pleated-purse-pattern.html Made from poplin and quilting cotton, easy-peasy, and I use it ALL the time.

    If you're making a first foray into garments, I recommend simple children's clothes. Dresses, especially, are a great way to try out techniques like gathering and attaching bodices to skirts on a small scale, and if the finishing is a bit dodgy, well, kids don't care.

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  26. Thank you so so much for this tutorial, I got a sewing machine for christmas and I am an absolute beginner. I was a bit scared of threading the machine to be honest but after reading this I am itching to get started! I'm planning on trying to make a shopping bag as my first project, wish me luck!

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  27. Loving your blog, and would love a step by step guide to pyjame making!! Keep up the good work :o)

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  28. I love whole learn to sew series. I've linked to it from my blog

    http://cutekidsclocks.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/really-easy-tutorial-tuesday.html

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  29. I made a circular skirt with a zipper. Then made a different skirt a day for 2 weeks straight! Love them all!!! And can't wait for summer to wear them!

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  30. I just started learning how to sew and I stumbled across this page. wow these beginner patterns look like so much fun! and yes please I would love to have extra instructions for making the pyjama pants! :D

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  31. I love this! I am wanting to learn how to sew. But, to be honest, its so scary! I don't even know what tools to get as a beginner. Can you post what tools would be good to start with? teehee. thank you! LOVE youe blog, btw!

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    1. There's some advice on essential tools for starting out in this blog post. Hope this helps. Ooh and thanks for your kind words about my blog!

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  32. I just made a skirt for my little girl! Wooooo hoooo. And last week I made a bag and a mini-me bag. I'm thinking of ordering the Sencha blouse pattern next... Thank you Tilly for helping me to finally get the sewing machine I got for Christmas out of the box. Seems like I might have two new hobbies - sewing, and following sewing blogs. Fab.

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  33. hello, just wanted to say love your blog, i came across it looking for some sewing inspiration as i've not long bought my first sewing machine (having done no more than stare in fear at my gran's for years). Did a quick sewing class to learn how to thread the machine, and have just made the quick envelope cushion cover you recommend above. Can't wait to try my next one! thanks!

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  34. I just finished my first sewing project using instructions from the Internet. This was my third attempt at the little sunglass pouch as the other ones did not fit my sunglasses! It is a bit uneven because I am sewing by hand for lack of a machine (all the ones under 100 dollars got terrible reviews on amazon), but it's cute and it works!

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  35. Thanks Tilly, I am learning a lot from you. I not long bought the book Sewing in a straight line on eBay and I am going to sew my own clothing. Not so long I've learn to sew a pants via a good friend of mine. This pants I will post shortly.
    Thanks again Tilly, you are the best!

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  36. my first sewing project was menstrual pads....! it was pretty easy once i got the hang of it and they work great!

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  37. Awesome blog Tilly! Love the book for straight stitching. Seems like I spend way to much time creating things when it seems there is a much shorter way of doing things.

    Here is a link to a similar project that I have listed in my shop to your, "Cute and Cuddly" gifts. They look like they would take half the time that I did when making mine. Here is the link: http://www.artfire.com/ext/shop/product_view/LauraBelle/4124416/Handmade_Fun_Pajama_Stuffer_of_Pillow_Hugger/Childrens/Housewares/Pillows

    I did have fun making them, but I definitely want to try the ones in your book. Off to check out the price.

    Thanks again Tilly for your wonderful projects.
    laura

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  38. Bought my first ever sewing machine yesterday, a Singer, per family sewing traditions. Only problem is I have not a clue how to sew... looking forward to going through your blog for all the help I can get! I have a craft blog and am going to document my journey there, I will certainly link to yours when I've used your advice ;) Thank you in advance for sharing

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  39. Thanks for the advice. Think I'll give the cushion cover a go first! I'll post my results here: http://seonaidthompson.blogspot.co.uk/

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  40. Thanks so much for all these projects! I am so keen to try one or two :)

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  41. I love this please do some sew a longs :-) xxxx

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  42. Hi,
    Will you please post a link to your Blog at The Sewing Community? Our members will love it.
    Members include: Needleworkers, Clothes and Dress Makers, Enthusiasts, Experts, Groups, Clubs, etc.
    It's easy to do, just cut and paste the link and it automatically links back to your website. You can also add Photos, Videos and Classifieds if you like.
    Email me if you need any help or would like me to do it for you.
    Please feel free to share as often and as much as you like.
    The Sewing Community: http://www.vorts.com/sewing/
    I hope you consider sharing with us.
    Thank you,
    James Kaufman, Editor

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  43. Hi Tilly! I am brand new to the world of sewing (just got my first sewing machine this month) and I found your blog through Kollabora. It's fantastic! Thank you for the wonderfully helpful "Learn to Sew" section. I particularly appreciated the ideas for first projects that are still exciting pieces. I can't wait to make the One Hour Skirt. I just wanted to drop a note to say 'great job!' and to chime in my vote for a step-by-step intro to pattern reading.

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  44. Just stopped by for some idea's, I just got my first real sewing machine on christmas (i had a mini one with 4 stitch options, it was constantly causing problems so I didnt sew much besides bags and heat packs) I absolutely love my new machine! And finished my first project on it, I made an infinity dress with a pretty red knit and adore it. My mom wants me to make one for her as well!
    Happy sewing everyone!

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  45. Thank you for your great instructions. Easy to follow and the pictures were very helpful. Thanks!!

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  46. Thank you so much for these wonderful 'how to' posts. I received my first sewing machine for Christmas, and after watching and practicing all the basic steps I finally tackled the "One Hour Skirt". SUCCESS!! Thank you so much.
    http://laurapeta.wordpress.com/

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  47. Just got my first sewing machine and enjoying reading your blog. Lots of inspiration and beginner stuff so I'm not getting frightened ;-)

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  48. Hi! I'm an argentinian girl learning to sew and you are sooo HELPFUL :) I'm learning a lot with you. Thanks for your generosity! Helvi.

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  49. Phwew - I decided to be very "special" and my first project(as in the first time I had ever touched a sewing machine) was a cushion cover with a hidden zip and an applique curdoroy heart, why do i make my life so difficult for myself?

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  50. You are so wonderful! I recently got a sewing machine and started looking up all these cute patterns to sew but of course, got way ahead of myself and botched quite a few fabrics. Thank you so much for these awesome and super helpful beginner tips! :)

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  51. My first project was a book cover at school. I didn't go back to sewing for 20 years!
    The first thing I made for my little one was a dress; a t shirt cut down and a circle skirt made from one of my dads old shirts attached. It looked pretty cool, especially with her little white ankle socks!
    I need to work on finishing things, I get very enthusiastic and find myself rushing through bits that I should take my time over.
    I am currently working on a dress for myself, a simplicity project runway pattern k2444, I like the look of your skirt pattern, that may be my next adventure!

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  52. The first thing I sewed on my own with my very own sewing machine was a bunny head shaped pin cushion. I remember feeling so proud of myself having sewn painfully around the long "realistic" ears and the curve of the face. I thought that it would turn right-side-out perfectly so you can imagine my disappointment when I did turn it inside out and begin stuffing the cushion that the ears started to take on a direction of their very own!

    I'm not trying a pinafore which was in last months edition of Cloth. It's incredibly stressful!

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  53. This morning my cousin dropped here brand new sewing machine at my house. With out a receipt and no room, she needed to get rid of it and knew I liked a challenge. I spent about an hour watching tutorials and since then, have been practicing making things without a pattern. Made three crating pouches for my nieces . the roll up kind and a taggie for my newest niece. My son will have to wait since I only had girly fabric left from some bows I made. Overall I an excited to try and make some new things. Would love to tackle a few totes for my sons lunches

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  54. I've just found your blog and am so glad I did! I want to make clothes for my daughter so nought a sewing machine but had no clue where to start. Your tutorial is brilliant and so easy to understand - I can't wait to get sewing now! Thanks so much x

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  55. This blouse is excellent for my church uniform. It's easy to care for and feel so comfortable. The cost is very affordable for the good value. i would recommend devon and jones d555w

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  56. Hiya! Love this blog! I just bought my first ever sewing machine, and decided to try out the one-hour skirt. I thought I'd followed the instructions meticulously, but I guess there was some "I assume you know this" involved, because I ended up with a gorgeous skirt, except completely inside out. So embarrassing. I thought, well, at least until I got to the elastic, that I could just flip it around, and voilĂ , but no such luck. I pinned the right sides together, and I assume at some point she flipped the one side or something, but I don't know when. I'm realising that if I had done exactly the same, but with wrong sides pinned together, it would have turned out perfectly, so I'm kind of bummed. Not sure if you check these comments anymore, and I know it's not your tutorial, but was still hoping for some guidance. (Hoping it's a common newbie mistake.)
    Thanks.

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  57. My first project(s) was throw pillows made from upholstery samples. (My aunt is an interior decorator.) After that I made a boy and a girl doll outfits. After 18 years of not sewing anything other than a ripped seam or missing button, I made a dress out of a pillowcase Thursday. Today, I recreated the same pattern but used unused fabric and added pockets. It's a simple design and they both came out really cute.

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  58. for the skirt video: can we make the skirt longer and how? because im a very tall girl and thats realy short.. well u get the idea

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  59. I received a sewing machine for Christmas and made my first creation yesterday, the bow belt from your tutorial...it turned out really well and I can't wait to make a few more. I do believe today's project will be pillowcases from a gorgeous fabric shower curtain that I no longer use. Thank you for the amazing tutorials and inspiration, Tilly!

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  60. My mum bought me a sewing machine for a Christmas present! My first project was to make a cuddly toy elephant a waistcoat - which for a firt timer didn't turn out to badly. I then remade it but now have to figure out how to do the button hole. My machine has a specific setting for this but I have no idea how to use it - any helpful hints & tips??

    Thanks!

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  61. Hi, I am 12 and I got my machine two months ago and all I can sew is a relly good mini pillow. Any Quick and Easy Recommendations?

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  62. just found this blog and love it! it's perfect for me as my boyfriend recently bought me a sewing machine but i haven't got a clue. i completed my first project yesterday - it was a fabric picture - but i'm thinking of trying the skirt!
    charl
    www.aplaceonthebookshelf.blogspot.com

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  63. First time ever sewing and I made an Owl stuffed animal for my FIRST niece!! (I have 8 nephews and am super excited about there finally being a girl!) It was very easy and came out amazingly well!!

    http://weallsew.com/2011/01/19/snuggly-owl-by-ashley-johnston/

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  64. Hi , having mentioned to my dad that I had handsewn a coat for one of my hens ( she was moulting and looked sort of pathetic , it also offers a degree of protection from the attentions of randy cockerels !) from some of the fabric I had taken home after my mum died , now she was a great seamstress taking on responsible and terrifying projects like wedding dresses ! so I think because she did I never needed to ,anyway in the way of dads everywhere a sewing machine duly appeared and like many of your other contributors it has been staring at me from the corner of the lounge ! now I feel I could even take it out of the box , maybe even read the instructions - baby steps

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