10 August 2022

Six Steps to Starting Sewing

Six Steps to Starting Sewing - How to get into making your own clothes

Fancy sewing your own clothes but don't know where to start?

If you've stumbled upon this site while researching how to get into sewing - in which case, welcome! - you may have spotted that we offer lots of resources aimed at stitchers, including complete novices, from step-by-step patterns and award-winning books through online video workshops and free tutorials.

It can all still be a bit of a maze of information though when you're just starting out and don't know what you don't know. So I thought I'd break it down into six simple steps to get started sewing. You're welcome!

Six Steps to Starting Sewing - How to get into making your own clothes

1) Get a sewing machine

Whether you buy, thrift, rent or borrow it, you'll obviously need to get your hands on a sewing machine. Shopping for a machine can feel a bit overwhelming, but all you really need is a machine that has a straight stitch (for most stitching) and an adjustable zigzag stitch (for finishing edges and sewing knits). Full-size machines (rather than those cute half-size models) are best for garment sewing. If you want to try before you buy, go to a specialist sewing machine shop or large department store such as John Lewis if you're in the UK. Or keep it easy by buying online. 

I always say that the best machine is the one you have, so don't sweat the decision too much!

Read more about choosing a sewing machine

Six Steps to Starting Sewing - How to get into making your own clothes

2) Gather a basic toolkit

As well as a sewing machine, you'll need a few low cost tools. Don't worry about getting everything at once - all you'll need to get started is a pair of fabric scissors, pins, tape measure, seam ripper (for unpicking temporary stitches... and mistakes!), marking tool (such as a chalk pencil), iron and ironing board. You can find these on Amazon, at department stores or indie haberdasheries - take a look at our wonderful stockists for some of our faves.

Read more about your essential sewing toolkit

Six Steps to Starting Sewing - How to get into making your own clothes

3) Learn to use your machine

Before you dive into your first dressmaking project, get comfortable using your sewing machine. You'll need to know how to set it up and do things such as raising and lowering the presser foot, how to thread your machine, and do some basic stitching practise on scrap fabric.

Learn all this and more in my video workshop Make Friends with a Sewing Machine

4) Choose your first project

The big question is what are you going to make first? Exciting! When choosing a first project, make life easy for yourself by picking a pattern that is simple to construct and easy to fit, without fiddly bits.

Browse our collection of easy sewing patterns for beginners!

I designed our Dominique skirt to be the perfect project for novices wanting to practise straight line sewing. For something a little more complex but still easy enough for beginners, try our bestselling Stevie tunic, cult favourite Cleo dungaree dress, simple Jaimie PJs (which have a handy FREE YouTube sewalong!), addictive Bettine dress, or our cute & comfy Erin dungarees. You can buy sewing patterns online or at indie haberdasheries or department stores.

Find out more about choosing an easy sewing project

Six Steps to Starting Sewing - How to get into making your own clothes

5) Buy some fabric

One of the most fun parts of being a DIY dressmaker is choosing your material! But it can definitely be confusing if you're just starting out and don't know what you're looking for. Your pattern will list suggestions for fabrics to look for. You can stray from the list, but bear in mind the properties of the fabrics suggested will impact how the final garment looks, feels and hangs. If they work with your pattern, I'd recommend starting with woven fabric that isn't too slippery, such as chambray, denim, cotton canvas or drill, viscose (AKA rayon) as long as it's not too slippery, or cotton lawn.

Go shopping in person so you can get a feel for the fabrics, or buy from indie haberdasheries who are usually happy to offer you advice by email and even send you swatches so you can see and feel the fabrics before buying - take a look at our wonderful stockists for some of our favourite haberdasheries!

As well as fabric, you'll also need some other bits and bobs, such as thread (get all purpose polyester thread in a colour that matches your fabric) and anything else listed on the pattern. Your chosen pattern will tell you exactly what you need, so don't worry about buying anything before you have a project in mind.

Six Steps to Starting Sewing - How to get into making your own clothes

6) Get sewing!

Once you've got to grips with the basics of your sewing machine, chosen your first project and got your fabric and thread, you can dive right in! Our sewing patterns and books come with clear instructions with a jargon buster which translates the sewing terms and photos of each step. If you would like some more help, look out for a sewing class near you, or take one of my online workshops and you can watch me sewing the steps up close, pausing and rewinding whenever you fancy.

Take my class for beginners, Learn to Sew Skirts or Sew an Easy Dress!

Six Steps to Starting Sewing - How to get into making your own clothes

And that's it! I really hope this post has made it easier for you if you want to get into making your own clothes. It's such a rewarding hobby - I hope you gain as much enjoyment from it as I have :)

We'd LOVE to see what you sew! If you're trying a Tilly and the Buttons sewing pattern or taking one of our online workshops, share your progress shots and finished makes with us on social media at @tillybuttons using #TillyAndTheButtons.