Once you have some familiarity with using a sewing machine and patterns, there are many possible sewing skills to learn, and many possible paths to learning them.
My thoughts on learning to sew started as a reaction to the book ‘Dressmaking’ by Alison Smith, so although I don’t think that is at beginner level, I do mention it.
These are the guides I still think of rather than forgetting after a first look. (Or being disconcerted by/ rageous about all the errors !) I prefer lots of pictures, detailed instructions, videos, and gentle guidance through a set sequence of learning projects, so my choices won’t suit everyone.
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Go your own way with the help of a reference book
If you want to follow your own choice of projects – add to your skills by using easy patterns with clear instructions.
There are several groups of patterns specifically for beginners. Easiest :
Kwik Sew Kwik Start.
Simplicity ‘Learn to Sew‘ patterns.
(P.S. In my opinion and from what I”ve seen of them, Simplicity ‘Learn to Sew’ patterns are better than McCall’ ones. Simplicity and Kwik Start patterns have special instructions with extra help for beginners.)
A little more skilled :
Simplicity ‘It’s So Easy‘ patterns are more trendy casuals.
Beginners’ patterns from styleARC for modern classics.
Shapes patterns, more ‘arty’ styles from Sewing Workshop/ Cutting Line.
Several pattern companies rate their patterns for level of difficulty. And have detailed on-line sewalongs with photos in their blogs for extra support.
Sewaholic patterns are very popular.
(Beware patterns labelled Very Easy by Vogue, and Easy by McCall’s. They’re just ‘easier’ !)
Or free download patterns from Hot Patterns for softer styles.
Also most patterns that can be sewn quickly, see my posts on patterns that can be sewn in less than 2 hours, Index page 8.
Search for free download sewing patterns and find multiple possibilities. Many of them are very simple, but with varying quality of instructions.
If you’re happy in casual unfitted styles, you can dress well at this level of sewing skill.
If you go your own way, you’ll probably want a general reference book for support when instructions assume you already know how to do what’s needed.
Many people recommend the Readers Digest Complete Guide. Probably not for compete beginners. Full of drawings.
Some beginners find the big ‘bibles’ overwhelming. Me and My Sewing Machine is a good reference book for basic processes.
The late Shannon Gifford’s beginner classes cover basic techniques by making samples. Available as e-books from Pattern Review.
Here are some specific sources for learning more sewing skills.
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Kwik Sew have a series of books which include patterns, one of them about learning to sew.
Easy Sewing the Kwik Sew way by Kerstin Martensson includes patterns very like Kwik Sew Kwik Start ones. The basic patterns, and pattern altering and sewing techniques are much easier than the ‘Dressmaking’ book. Limited but effective skills. Simple sleeves, collars, facings, casings. No darts, zips, waistbands in the Kwik Sew book, while they’re all in the first project in ‘Dressmaking’. These Kwik Sew patterns are based on the casual dartless block for tops, with elastic waists for skirts and pants, so they don’t need much fitting work. The technique illustrations are diagrams. Includes simple knits and a multitude of pattern changes for different styles.
These ‘Kwik Sew’ patterns are ultra classic, not at all trendy.
The equivalent Kwik Sew Kwik Start patterns have somewhat more current proportions, but you don’t get all the guides for making other versions that you get in the book.
tee Kwik Sew 3766
blouse Kwik Sew 3475
pants Kwik Sew 3314
straight skirt Kwik Sew 3765
The book and patterns do assume you already know how to use a sewing machine, the basics of fabrics types, pattern layout and cutting, etc.
The only DIY pattern alterations in this book are making different lengths and adding some facings. There are different necklines marked on the patterns. But the book does show that you can make a large range of styles using just these simple pattern changing skills.
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I have seen some other DVDs and didn’t think they were good enough to justify the effort of finding what you want when there’s only a minimal menu.
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I haven’t got a serger so can’t say much. But when I was looking for information about them, I did like the Palmer-Pletsch Serger Basics DVD. The exercises look good for understanding what’s going on. (I couldn’t make head-nor-tail of the associated book.)
Of the books I’ve seen, Simplicity ‘Simply the best‘ has the most specific guidance on using a serger for all the processes in making clothes.
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There’s no clear dividing line between Beginner and Intermediate.
I put most garments that need zips and fitted sleeves at a higher level of skill.
The first Threads magazine Teach yourself to sew DVD is more advanced than the Kwik Sew book. Make a skirt and jacket using darts, gathers, zips, waistband, skirt lining (Simplicity 2424 jacket, Vogue 8464 skirt). Nothing on pattern making.
In my opinion, many patterns labelled ‘Easy’ are at the top of this level or above. And most Very Easy Vogue patterns are actually Intermediate 😀
Each item you make that’s a little different, you add to your skill. At Intermediate level you can deal with anything that isn’t too structured or fancy. A variety of fabrics, sleeves, waistbands, collars, zips, pockets, plackets, yokes and pleats, plus easy dress and jacket linings.
Next post in this group has some comments on learning these intermediate sewing skills and above.
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There’s no way any one person could know about all the possible sources on learning to sew – a bit like independent pattern companies, they’re spreading wildly!
And different types of learners prefer different types of support.
These are just the ones I’ve seen and kept.
Hope you find what you enjoy learning from, and which gives you ‘I can do this’ confidence 😀
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Links available February 2013
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