Imagine a classroom full of students who are just learning how to sew. Some have sewn a pillow case at summer camp or picked up a hand-sewing needle to attach a patch to their backpacks. Some have sewn some garments and are just here to learn the rules. Others might have never sat in front of a sewing machine before.
If you were sitting in this classroom, where would you fit in? Nobody will be a beginner just like you because not all beginners are alike. Not all beginners have the same amount of knowledge or the same amount of confidence.
In episode 96 of the Seamwork Radio podcast, Sarai and Haley talk about three levels of beginners: absolute beginners, true beginners, and advanced beginners. It helps to know where you currently fall as a beginner so you can identify patterns that match your skill level.
So let’s look at all these different beginners and find some approachable Seamwork patterns.
If you’re an absolute beginner, you're brand new to all of this. It's an exciting and intimidating phase to be in, because everything is new, but it's also the most fleeting phase. You won't be an absolute beginner for very long! As an absolute beginner, you are still learning how to use a sewing machine. Once you have a handle on that, you’ll work on other basics, like how to measure yourself and how to use a pattern. Also, you probably don’t know all the sewing terminology, so you're in for a hefty vocabulary lesson. Remember, you’re at the very beginning of your sewing journey.
So what are some tips for absolute beginners as you start to navigate the sewing world?
Tips for Absolute Beginners
Choose small projects. Pick simple projects to help you practice sewing straight lines. Non-garment sewing can sometimes be a good start if you are an absolute beginner.
Sewing home decor is underrated. It’s quick, you can practice the essential skills, and it’s low-pressure. Find some exciting printed fabric and make pillows, napkins, tea towels, or a tote bag. If you want to start with a garment, make something that’s easy to fit or start with something casual, like an apron.
Seamwork patterns for absolute beginners
- The Ollie grocery set will help you practice sewing straight lines, finishing seams, and pressing. There’s a step-by-step sewalong here.
- The James glasses case looks impressive, but it’s an approachable project for an absolute beginner.
- The Quince jacket is perfect if you want to jump into garment sewing. It has straight seams and a loose fit and works well in beginner-friendly fabrics like chambray.
Madhu is a simple-to-sew top with elastic finishing, so you don’t need to worry about zippers or buttons. It also works well in beginner-friendly fabrics like chambray. There’s a step-by-step sewalong here.
If you can sew a seam and your machine isn’t completely foreign to you, then you’re a true beginner. You might have dabbled in making clothes or home decor, and you’ve likely picked up some sewing vocabulary. You’re getting more familiar with the basics and starting to pick up new skills.
So what are some tips for true beginners?
Tips for true beginners
Find projects that introduce 1-3 new skills. You'll have more success if you seek new projects that teach you just a couple of new skills. You might get overwhelmed if you choose projects that teach you too many skills at once. If you aren’t sure how to identify new skills, read this article or listen to this episode of the podcast.
Sew it again. Revisit projects you’ve already made, but try them in a new fabric. Working with different fabrics is a huge part of learning sewing skills.
Seamwork patterns for true beginners
The Georgia dress has some great skill-building details, like darts, a facing, and a curved hem.
The Benning dress will help you practice gathering and sewing a V-neck. There’s a step-by-step sewalong here.
The Joss Pants are ideal for beginners who want to skip sewing pajamas and learn to sew a pair of everyday pants. You'll learn how to sew an elastic waistband and patch pockets.
Micah is a great pattern for beginners if you want something simple and elegant. It will teach you how to sew a V-neck facing and a faced split hem.
- A skirt like Jenna is a confidence booster. It’s packed with skills, like an elastic-back waistband and inseam pockets.
Laura is another option for a skirt, especially if you want to play with fabrics. You can make it in linen or cotton or choose a more challenging fabric to grow your skills, like this silk version.
Suppose you understand the core techniques for garment sewing, like sewing curves and hems, installing facings, setting in sleeves, and maybe experimenting with zippers or buttons. In this case, you’re likely an advanced beginner, which means you’re gaining momentum. You can make it further in the sewing instructions without having to stop and look up definitions or find tutorials. Being an advanced beginner is so fun! You can linger here as long as you want.
Tips for advanced beginners
When you’re an advanced beginner, focus on leveling up your skills. For example, learn how to sew more closures, try sewing on the bias, or start making your own bias tape. This is also a time in your sewing journey where you can think about what parts of your creative practice you want to grow. For example, you can dive deeper into specific techniques based on your interest, such as working with knits or learning some basic fitting skills.
What are some helpful patterns for advanced beginners?
Seamwork patterns for advanced beginners
- The Pauline skirt will teach you more advanced skills, like an invisible zipper and sewing panels with a slit.
- A T-shirt like Ryan is the perfect way to explore sewing with knits since it has several versions with different neckline options you can pair with a placket or patch pocket.
- The Orlando T-shirt is another option, and there is a step-by-step sewalong with tips for sewing with knits here.
- The Bo is ideal for beginners, because it has a simple fit, and learning how to sew bias tape is one of those essential skills that you'll use all the time.
- If you have a handle on the basics and you want to pick up some more advanced skills, try the Natalie shirt. You’ll learn how to sew a collar and button placket.
As you can see, being a beginner in sewing isn’t a small feat—you’re learning so much! Many makers self-identify as beginners long past these three levels, and that’s ok. Every project will teach you something new, every mistake will end in a lesson learned, and with each new fabric, you’ll continue to expand your expertise.