Sew Now is the UK's fresh new sewing magazine with a firm eye on helping you bring catwalk and high street trends into your wardrobe and home. Every issue is packed with fashion picks, pattern inspiration, fabric ideas, refashioning tips and exclusive projects for you and your home.
Do you want to practice your sewing skills but you’re nervous about cutting into the lovely fabric! In our new series Dressmaking for Beginners we’re going to be looking at basic skills you need to begin making your own well fitting clothes. In this post we’re looking at a few ideas for sourcing inexpensive or free fabric you can use to get started.
Sew Now Magazine has been created especially for beginners through to intermediate sewers and dressmakers. We try and keep everything simple with step by step photos for all the projects we feature and we always have ‘Skill-Builder’ articles by sewing experts, which help you develop your skills each month alongside a project to try it out on.
It comes with free patterns each month on the cover so you can start building up your pattern collection as well as all the projects to sew inside. You can find all of our back issues here – Sew Now Beginner Dressmaking Magazine (some of our old issues are a real bargain!)
Finding Cheap fabric to Practice Dressmaking
Sourcing fabric can be one of the most fun parts of making clothes, everyone loves a trip to the fabric shop! (ok well maybe just crafty types like us!) Dressmaking fabric can be very expensive, which is one of the reasons we believe people are so reluctant to have a go. Here are a few ideas for where you can find cheap fabric to practice your dressmaking –
Bedding – sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers – either old (clean) ones that you no longer use or cheap bargain offer duvets from supermarkets. You can sometimes buy double duvets for under £10 when they have been reduced. Don’t think about whether you ‘adore’ the pattern just see it as test material for trying out your new techniques.
Table Cloths – one stain and a tablecloth is rejected, so much fabric you can use for your practicing!
Old clothes – we’d recommend giving in tact clothing to charity shops but if they’re no longer fit for purpose, then they are ideal for transorming into something new. See below for a couple of great ideas for transforming large shirts.
Curtains – not every curtain will be ideal for turning into wearable garments, but some lightweight curtain fabric will work.
Charity Shops – worth a regular root around your local charity shops to see if there’s any fabric, or items that you can upcycle.
Friends and Relatives – if you’ve found slim pickings in your own house, put a call out to friends and family, they may be delighted to get rid of the stash of fabric they have left from an elderly relative or the piles of old clothes they haven’t had time to take to the recycling yet.
Freecycle – Post an ad on freecycle saying you’re after some fabric… you’ll be inundated!
Remember, this is just for getting started, if the fabric isn’t exactly the kind of thing you’d buy don’t reject it, it’s so much better to make mistakes on cheap fabric that won’t make you cry when something doesn’t go quite right! You’re biggest problem is not finding fabric to practice your dressmaking, it’s finding somewhere to store it all!
Fun kids clothes to make using found fabric
We love the internet and all the fabulous sewing bloggers who post free tutorials, be sure to visit the links and explore their blogs, they have so much you can learn. These little projects are perfect for getting the sewing machine out and just having a go without spending any more than the cost of some thread and a little elastic. If it doesn’t look perfect, don’t worry – you’re a beginner dressmaker, not a fully fledged sewing bee!
Starting your journey to sewing your own clothes with some simple kids garments is a great place to begin practising new techniques and getting that buzz of having made something that will actually get worn! (maybe!!!) If you don’t have a ready-made mini-me to dress, we’re sure there are friends and family that would be delighted to have a few handmade kids clothes for their little ones – especially if they come without a price tag!
We love this super quick T-shirt hack to make a lovely little nightdress, there’s a full tutorial to make this by sewing and craft blogger Autumn of ‘It’s always Autumn’
T-shirts can also be transformed into cute little trousers or PJ bottoms – there’s a great sewing tutorial from Bec who blogs at Mellebug and Me
If you’re nervous to start with sewing patterns then following simple tutorials like this post from sewing blogger Justine of Sew Country Chick is ideal to get you started. It’s made from a pillowcase. The beauty of using the pillowcase is that the hem is all done for you, so it only takes minutes to transform it into a cute little skirt. If like many of us you don’t have piles of unused vintage pillowcases around the house, you can find these in charity shops, on ebay or perhaps pick up a cheapy one from a supermarket.
Ashley of Make It – Love It shares this brilliant tutorial for turning a pair of old battered jeans into a really cute little skirt. It’s a brilliant idea rather than chucking jeans with holey knees away, even if your child has outgrown the waist, you can still then add them to the hand-me down pile instead of leaving them for the landfill pile and those extra bits of denim are always handy to keep in your fabric stash!
This is such a great idea as you get to sew a button up dress without having to worry about button holes! the free sewing tutorial is by Candice Ayala who has loads of great upcycling inspiration on her blog.
Another fab before and after! This time a mans shirt transformed into a beautiful dress complete with sleeves. This would be great for summer or teamed with tights, boots and a cardi for winter. The free sewing tutorial is from sewing blogger Sarah, of Our Life is Beautiful blog.
We’d love to hear where you find cheap dressmaking fabric to practise your sewing skills! let us know in a comment or post a pic of your upcycled make on our Facebook wall.
With very few exceptions, we all wear clothes and have drawers and wardrobes full of them. Very few of us know the person who made our clothes, or even which country they were made in. In this post we look at a few of the basics of dressmaking for beginners.
There is something magical about having the skill to construct your own clothes in the 21st Century. Dressmaking as a hobby is growing in popularity around the world, especially in the UK, for a number of reasons. Whether it’s a simple T-shirt, kids PJ’s, a pretty summer dress or even a pair of knickers, making your own clothes is a hugely rewarding skill/craft that few people ever take the time to learn. Crazy when you think how huge the fashion industry is!
There are thousands of patterns available to buy from big pattern houses through to small independent designers. Patterns for every garment type that we can adapt to fit perfectly to create a unique style. You just need to learn the basic skills to start sewing your own clothes and Sew Now is here to help get you started and share patterns with you each month in our inspiring sewing magazine.
Who made your clothes?
There’s an ethical angle to sewing your own clothes too, especially if you also source your fabric carefully.
Most of our clothes are made by anonymous, low-paid seamstresses working in factories on the other side of the world. Each garment maker sewing a seam here or a button there on huge assembly lines for the throwaway fashion industry.
If the above ‘Mini Fashion Protest banner’ gets you thinking a little deeper, find out more about the ‘Love Fashion – Hate Sweatshops’ campaign over at The Craftivist Collective.
When you make your own clothes, you start to look at every garment in your wardrobe with wonder as you begin to understand how much skill and time must have gone into every stitch, dart and hem of those jeans, or that jacket that cost just £30!
We’re proud to be part of the growing, global community of dressmakers. People who love to sew their own clothes, whether to make a unique statement, for ethical reasons or just for the buzz of saying “I made this”.
With some determination, some advice and a few lessons, you could slowly transform your wardrobe into #memade fashion! (or maybe just learn how to sew your own knickers to start!)
How and where do I begin making my own clothes?
Sew Now is a sewing magazine dedicated to beginner and intermediate sewing. We handhold you every step of the way with the sewing projects and we have a team online to help if you get stuck. Just ask us on our Facebook page!
Dressmaking for beginners: Tools you need to begin dressmaking
This is by no means an exhaustive list. The following are essentials you’ll need to get started.
Sewing machine (see below)
Sewing machine and hand sewing needles
Scissors, for fabric, for trimming thread and for cutting patterns (that’s 3 pairs in total)
Ironing board and iron
Dressmakers chalk for marking out patterns
Dressmaking for beginners: Buying or borrowing a sewing machine
Fairly obvious, but to start with you will need a basic sewing machine if you don’t already have one. We would advise asking friends and relatives if they have a machine you could borrow before you invest in a machine. Often people have sewing machines lurking in cupboards that they used once to sew a pair of curtains 20 years ago.
There are many sewing machines available secondhand (although you may need to get them serviced). If you’re after a bargain there are plenty of affordable entry-level machines in supermarkets and department stores. In issue 13 of Sew Now, you’ll see advertised the Singer Fashion Mate which is a perfect beginner sewing machine for dressmaking from less than £150.
Don’t stress about needing overlockers/sergers yet. Yes, they are very useful, but you need to get skilled up on your sewing machine first. #babysteps
Dressmaking for beginners: Master your machine
In every issue of Sew Now we have a ‘Master Your Machine’ and ‘Basic Stitches’ handy guide printed at the back. No matter what your machine, it will have the same basic makeup so it’s easy to learn what all the various buttons and levers do. Machines almost all come with numbered arrows to show you how to thread them (and usually have extensive instruction booklets) but if you get stuck there are plenty of youtube tutorials to get you started.
Play with the stitch selector, choose stitch width and length and start to get a feel for how the fabric moves through the ‘feed dogs’ as you sew. Nothing beats practice, so take the opportunity to mess around with any fabric scraps before starting on any projects.
Dressmaking for beginners: Reading a Sewing Pattern
Sewing patterns are very daunting to look at for beginners, but most come with explanations of every step. Grab yourself a hot drink and take an hour to read through the pattern step by step before you begin. Patterns include helpful information sheets, especially those aimed at beginners.
Over the next few weeks, we will be going step by step through everything you need to understand about reading a sewing pattern. We’ll be looking at the following:
Dressmaking for beginners: Choosing a Pattern to Sew
Start simple! Don’t try anything too complicated that will leave you frustrated and confused. The patterns that come with Sew Now are all aimed at beginner sewing, we won’t include anything overly complicated.
Sewing magazines are an amazing resource for beginner dressmakers. We always feature a free pattern cover gift and sometimes two! The beauty of buying a magazine pattern is that you know there will be lots of other dressmakers sewing up the same pattern. The editor and team are on hand to help too, if you get stuck. You also get all the patterns inside and loads of fabric inspiration and helpful sewing advice.
Many beginners don’t realise that it is possible to preserve a sewing pattern by tracing out the size you need and keeping the original. This means you will be able to come back to the pattern and make it in different sizes if needed (in case you shrink, grow… or just get it wrong first time!)
Buy back-issues of Sew Now from Craft Stash which also has a huge selection of Sewing Patterns, including plenty of beginner patterns. Get a real bargain with our older issues, some from just £3 and they include Simple Sew or Butterick pattern gifts too!
Look out for the words ‘Beginner’ or ‘Easy’ when browsing through patterns, our big sister dressmaking magazine Love Sewing shared this helpful list.
A godsend when you get stuck! Look out for patterns which have been featured in Sew-Along’s or have accompanying video tutorials when you are starting out. With sew-alongs as with magazine patterns, there are many dressmakers following the construction process and asking questions along the way.
Dressmaking for beginners: Selecting fabric type and quantity for your sewing pattern
The pattern will advise you which fabrics to use and how much you need as in the example above where lightweight woven fabrics like crepe, faille and satin are recommended. The table then shows the amount of fabric needed. So for example for size 14, sewing up view B if you buy a fabric which is 45 inches wide you will need 3 1/8 yards of fabric. If you need that converted to metres, just google it!
For beginner dressmaking stick to patterns that don’t need precise pattern matching to look good. Steer clear of stripes or very large patterns. We also make fabric suggestions with all of our featured patterns and sewing projects in Sew Now.
Before you cut into any expensive fabric, sew up a voile (a test garment) in an inexpensive fabric to test that you are cutting the correct pattern size. It will be worth the time and effort as you can then sew with confidence when you get started on your chosen fabric.
Be sure to tag us over on Instagram with #sewnowmag when you finish your first garment! We’ll be cheering and offering congratulatory biscuits and hot tea!
See more Dressmaking for Beginners tips on our Pinterest board
We were so impressed with their amazing craft blog, we thought we’d share some of their great sewing tutorials for kids clothes with you – have fun making these fun little sewing projects and be sure to let your kids help with choosing fabric and thread.
These are just 5 of loads of patterns over on Tia and laura’s blog – head over to find tutorials for making little kids toys, bags, capes and all sorts of fun little kids sewing patterns.
Books by Tia and Laura of Little Button Diaries
These talented ladies have just produced another fab book with GMC Books. Containing 15 fantastic space-themed projects to make, The Space Craft Book will get children crafting and creating in no time. Aimed at boys and girls aged 3+, all of the projects can be made either from readily available items or from easy-to-source materials, parents don’t need much crafting experience to help! Laura and Tia also write craft tutorials for craft superstore Hobbycraft, work on blog projects with Paperchase, Cath Kidston and Laura Ashley, and write a monthly craft or baking project for one of their local parenting websites, www.brightonmums.com. Other titles include: The Pirate Craft Book, The Knight Craft Book, The Princess Craft Book, Now I Can Sew, Now I Can Papercraft, Mini Makers and The Big Book of 100 Little Activities.
Issue 14 of Sew Now will be in shops from Thursday October 19th – lucky subscribers will get their hands on this issue over the next few days, so keep an eye out for your postie!
Get ready for Christmas with this issue, which is full to the brim with stylish festive projects for your wardrobe and home. You can download all of the free pattern templates here now –
McCall’s 9-in-1 Mix and Match sewing pattern
Your free McCall’s 9-in-1 dress pattern lets you be your own dress designer with interchangeable bodices and skirts, to create your perfect party outfit.
This is such a versatile pattern, just look at all the different dresses you can make!
For more casual autumn days, try sewing your version of the kimono jacket featured in this issue.
We also think your going to love this Liberty scalloped edge top, both this and the Kimono Jacket are quick beginner-friendly projects.
Whoever you’re sewing for this Christmas, we’ve got lots of gift ideas from a fancy flamingo toy for little ones to a tweed wallet for the man in your life. Of course we also have lots of festive homewares, including a sparkle stocking, felt decorations and Scandi mitten garland.
Now is the time to start sewing up some pretty handmade decorations for Christmas, some great projects you can sew up in front of a roaring fire (or just something good on the telly!)
These DIY Christmas jumpers will bring a smile to their faces, perfect for fun Christmas day pics!
We also have loads of handmade gift inspiration for you this month!
What else can you find inside this bumper festive issue…
Liberty scalloped-edge top
Get ahead for Christmas jumper day with our kids’ Christmas tree jumpers
Angeline Murphy tells us how to get the best from evening fabrics
Easy wrap-around kimono jacket
Step-by-step guides to help you sew your free pattern, including sewing bodices and working with lace
Sew a gadget cover with upcycled denim
Meet silk scarf designer Karen Mabon and learn about her inspiration
Brighten up your fireplace with a sparkle stocking
Craft with the kids and make festive felt decorations
Make a man smile and sew a tweed wallet
Sew our fancy flamingo in a night
Get a little Scandi style and make a pretty mitten garland
Jamie Kemp’s guide to mending pockets
We can’t wait to see what you’ll be sewing from our latest issue – share your work with us on our Facebook wall or tag us on Instagram #sewnowmag
Spend an evening in the company of dressmakers and sewists and meet the team at Love Sewing and Sew Now at this fab event in aid of The Eve Appeal the only UK national charity raising awareness and funding research into the five gynaecological cancers.
Put on your glad rags and join the Love Sewing and Sew Now teams for a night of fun and excitement. In honour of the Vogue Patterns Cocktail Hour campaign, we’re giving you the chance to show off your makes, bags, dresses or separates with this special evening of cocktails, nibbles, prizes and of course chatter with like-minded sewists.
Please note it is not a competition to see who’s wearing the best outfit. You don’t have to wear one of your own creations and you’re welcome to bring ‘non sewing’ friends or partners. We just want to meet you all and party whilst raising some funds for a brilliant charity.
Bring a friend, a date or come on your own, we’ll be here to make sure everyone has a brilliant time! You’ll be able to take a look up close at finished versions of these gorgeous patterns and maybe get some inspiration to sew one yourself! You can always chat with our expert teams and dressmaking bloggers if you want advice on fabrics.
The event takes place on November 10th at an amazing venue, The Refuge, in Manchester City Centre where we’ll showcase the gorgeous garments from the Cocktail Hour collection of patterns and have a huge raffle to raise funds for The Eve Appeal – the only UK national charity raising awareness and funding research into the five gynaecological cancers.
It’s so easy to get into Manchester by train or car if you’re coming from further afield.