Beginning dressmaking? Three ways master the basics

Dressmaking class for beginners

If you are considering taking up dressmaking as a hobby have a look at these three ways to learn and get making quickly.

My new year's resolution was to learn how to sew - specifically clothes. If, like me, you don't have anyone nearby who can teach you, starting on your own can be a bit daunting. Luckily this is a growing hobby and there is a lot out there to choose from in terms of learning new skills. After a bit of internet research, and dedicated Great British Sewing Bee viewing, I narrowed down three different learning routes and cost options.
£ - Get a pattern and use internet videos.
££ - Get a beginner's sewing book and follow it.
£££ - Enrol and take part in a sewing class.

£. Pattern + Internet...£5
The idea of jumping straight into a sewing pattern filled me with fear. I really had no idea what to do. Finding videos on line was difficult as in order to be useful it needs to be ultra-specific... and I didn't know what I was looking for! If you have some sewing machine competency then this might work for you, but as a complete beginner not for me.

££ Book.....£13-20

My lovely dressmaking auntie heard about what I wanted to do on my annual Christmas visit, and gave me an impromptu gift to help me on my way - The Great British Sewing Bee companion book from series 1. Her one piece of advice was 'start with something simple like a cushion, and cut carefully'. I devoured the book (which had no cushion instructions) and ended up more at sea than ever. This was going to be even more complicated than I thought. I needed help with machine basics on top of everything else. 

*I later discovered Tilly Walnes' Love at First Stitch*. 
After trying out all three methods I would recommend this as the most cost effective way of moving from complete novice to competent(ish) dressmaker. Step by step photographs and uncomplicated language make this so easy to follow, and the projects I have made using her instructions have caused me the fewest headaches.

£££ Sewing class...£40+
So, to advance from my present state of owning one book, I ended up looking for a class. None of the local classes were on when I wasn't at work, or were aimed more at home craft. Eventually I discovered The Thrifty Stitcher; a London based tutor with a variety of sewing and dressmaking classes with dedicated beginner packages! Off I booked, and off I went, full of anticipation.
Greeted with a lovely cup of tea in the cosy studio I discovered the Thrifty Stitcher was in fact Claire-Louise Hardie, producer of the GBSB itself. 

I had booked the Ultimate Beginner's Day which started with getting to know a sewing machine (yay!) and learning sewing techniques to create a cushion (nod to Auntie). Though most things explained were in the book I had been given, and I have later discovered them in other books, I felt so much more confident having someone show me what to do. It was suddenly so obvious, and DOABLE. For the afternoon session we were required to bring fabric along, and I had even been crippled with nerves over this...who knew there were so many different types of cotton! Now, in this haberdashery haven it was all explained, and made perfect sense.
In the afternoon we moved on to demystifying patterns (I am still struggling with commercial patterns as they really are complicated until you are used to them!). For my pyjama bottoms there was some case in point learning in tailoring clothes to fit as I am so much shorter than most people. This plus other tips from dealing with the kinds of alterations I was always going to make has already been really helpful. No notes needed as handy newsletters and tip sheets have followed by email.
Suffice to say I was so proud as soon as I retuned home I immediately instagrammed my creations....

After my class I was so enthusiastic I went on an Amazon spree and swiftly purchased the second GBSB book 'Fashion with Fabric', and 'Love at First Stitch'. A new world opened up when I explored the Tilly and the Buttons website. Before when I had looked I was still confused. After my one sewing day I suddenly could navigate to what I needed, and followed instructions with success.
If I was starting from the beginning again I would be tempted to learn just from Tilly's book and website, but I think investing in the day's session got me going much faster.

Coming next... projects that went successfully (and why!), and lessons learned from epic fails.

Let me know if this was helpful, or if you have any beginning sewing tips.


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Welcome to Sewing and Other Stories; my journeys with sewing and knitting; pattern reviews, tips and guides for beginners. I'm also the designer behind West Beach Knits knitting patterns and I host a Knitting and Sewing channel on YouTube where you can see all of this in person. Come have a look!

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