When you are first learning how to sew, it’s really powerful to think about the endless possibilities for your wardrobe. You can pick ANY garment and ANY fabric, sew it to fit your body, and then wear it with pride. No matter how long you have been sewing, this creative process never stops being thrilling. But when you are first starting out, how do you pick projects to start with? And then how do you pick fabric? And which do you pick first?
Remember how we said sewing was an adventure? Well this is where it becomes a really fun choose your own adventure. This video will give you some tips to help.
Let’s start with picking your first garment project. This is the fun part, so don’t stress out! You can start with almost any project when you are first learning how to sew. You can choose a simple project so you can get your feet wet, or you can dive into a more challenging project and just take it slowly, because the sewing instructions will take you through each step, and you can pause at any time to look up a technique, ask the sewing community for help, reach out to your local fabric shop for some pointers, or take a class. You aren’t in this sewing thing alone.
When you are first starting to sew, it helps to pick projects that satisfy your curiousity. Are you curious about how to sew knits, because that’s your favorite fabric to wear? Start with a knit project, like a T-shirt. If you really want to know how to construct a pair of pants, then find a simple pants pattern. Here are a three tips to help you choose good beginner sewing projects:
Tip 1: Look for fewer closures: If you find buttons and zippers to be intimidating, look for a garment that doesn’t have a lot of closures. Elastic might be easier than zippers, and patterns that have wider necklines can slip over your head.
Tip 2: Pick a simple silhouette: If you aren’t ready to deal with a lot of fitting, pick a project that has a simple, loose silhouette. It will give you some flexibility to start with. If you aren’t sure how a sewing pattern will fit your body, take a close look at the pattern. Most pattern companies will give you a description and include illustrations of the pattern, also known as technical flats, to help you envision it on your body. Seamwork patterns have detailed fit guides you can find on our website, so you can see how the garment is meant to fit. And Seamwork members can download a PDF of all of our design flats, so you can cut them out and use them for planning projects.
Tip 3: Choose a skill-building technique: Learning a new technique is really motivating, because it’s just going to make you hungry to learn more. When you are first starting, pick projects that teach you a new skill, especially a skill you can google, like sewing bias tape or sewing a dart.
With these three tips in mind, that’s why we chose the Bo top for this sewalong. It’s loose-fitting, so chosing a size is easy (you only need your bust measurement), it doesn’t have any closures, and it will teach you an essential skill for sewing–attaching bias tape. If you sew Bo, you’ll learn all the basics, plus how to attach bias tape. So for your next project, installing a zipper won’t feel too tricky.
Now it’s time to talk about fabric. Should you pick your fabric after your pattern, or pick your fabric and then your pattern? Good news, it really doesn’t matter. If you have fabric on hand, you can find a project that works. If you have a pattern, the pattern will tell you what kind of fabric to buy. You can start with either, but no matter what, you’ll need to know a few basic things about fabric.
The first question to ask is: is it knit or a woven? Knit fabric has stretch, so if your pattern calls for stretch, be sure to use a knit, otherwise you might find you can’t move in your garment.
Next is the fabric contents: You’ll learn to think of fabric in terms of what it is made of. Does it contain cotton, silk, linen, polyester, or rayon? All sewing patterns will give you a list of the types of fabric you can use for the project.
Next is drape: Drape refers to how the fabric hangs on your body. Is it flowy or stiff? Fabrics have different movement on the body. For example, you’ll quickly learn that all cotton is not equal. Quilting cotton is called quilting cotton because it’s a little stiff and ideal for precise quilting. It can work for garments, but not all garments. It doesn’t drape well, so it won’t hang on your body the same way that a shirting cotton would. The more you sew, the more you will get a feel for drape.
Finally, think about what you like to wear. Check the labels on your clothes and write down the names of the fabric. You’ll find these same names in the fabric store, so it helps to know the types of fabrics that you enjoy wearing. It all comes down to personal preference.
The more you sew, the more you will learn about fabric. It just comes naturally. So as you are learning, experiment with different fabrics, and take notes along the way.
Before we move into the next video, where I will show you how to pick a size, I just want to recommend a fun class we have here at Seamwork that can really help you sew clothes you want to wear. It’s called Design Your Wardrobe and in 3 weeks, we’ll walk you through designing a collection of patterns to sew. You’ll create a mood board, pick fabric, and assemble individual looks. It’s super fun and great if you are just starting to really think about your style. It’s also in the Seamwork Classroom, so go check it out. Next up, let’s talk sizes!