Beginner dressmaking - learn to sew knit fabrics online workshop

Beginner dressmaking - learn to sew knit fabrics online workshop

My dressmaking skills fall firmly within the 'enthusiastic beginner' category, and I have been wanting to learn to sew with knit fabrics for a while, but have been a little apprehensive. Luckily one of my favourite sewing bloggers Tilly Walnes has created an online class precisely for beginner dressmakers who want to use jersey fabrics on a regular sewing machine. Included in the package is a pdf pattern along with a series of how to videos and helpsheets....basically the most hand holding you can possibly have from home! So I signed up, collected my materials, and started my adventures in knit fabrics. 
The workshop is arranged into a series of lessons that you can explore in any order, at any time and revisit as often as you need. This turned out to be really useful as I could dip into and out of information about supplies and tips whilst I was at home and elsewhere on my mobile devices. I took quite a whole from signing up for the course to project completion and it is reassuring to know that there is no rush or deadline to work to. You also have weekly updates from the community emailed to you to keep you motivated and to see what everyone else is up to.

Lesson sections:
  • Introduction
  • Choosing Jersey Fabric
  • Find your size and cut your fabric
  • Intro to sewing jersey tops
  • Steps for sewing jersey tops
  • Conclusion
Learning to sew jersey tops online workshop review


This section is all the basic admin to help you in your pre-sewing preparations - welcome, supplies and FAQs. Along with the workshop you are able to download and print a pattern for the Agnes top, which is the feature of the tutorial. Up to date I have not been keen on using pdf patterns – mainly because I thought it must take a long time to put them all together, and I wasn’t very confident in my skills in printing and collating with accuracy. If you really want a paper pattern you can purchase one at a reduced cost and have it delivered. Given that I already had the pdf version included I decided to give it a go first and see how I got on with that before investing in another paper pattern that I might not need.

The instructions for printing the pdf pattern were very clear. I first printed page one on its own, and used the measuring square to check the settings were correct. They weren’t, but the instructions helped me quickly sort this out and my second print matched exactly. In the end there were fewer pages than I anticipated, and the order in which to join them was clearly signposted. Honestly I wasn’t keen on cutting and sticking 24 pieces of paper (carefully too). It took about 15 minutes in the end to create one large piece of paper with all the pieces on it. In my opinion 15 minutes is not a long time when you weigh potential cost savings (pdf patterns are cheaper anyway, let alone including postage costs). Also I decided not to trace my pattern (which usually takes a while too) and instead cut the paper down to my size. Normally I wouldn’t take this bold step but seeing as I had a pdf pattern I knew I could print this out again if I needed another size. This is another definite advantage to pdf patterns that I was pleased to discover through taking this workshop.

Learning to sew jersey tops online workshop review

Choosing Jersey Fabric

The second section is all about what jersey fabric is and how to source it. There is a short video which explains how to determine the stretch of fabrics which is useful for working confidently on future projects too. After completing this section I felt that I understood the language around knit fabrics a lot more and could more easily navigate the online fabric stores. There are links to these included, but it is worthwhile also having a look on the Tilly and the Buttons blog as that's where you can find discount codes for these sites.
I bought my fabric and thread from Backstitch, who I love because they suggest matching thread and really fast delivery. I had a free delivery code (tilly) that I pulled off the blog.

Find your size and cut your fabric

This section is perfectly pitched for beginners and is packed with handy tips - including how to lay out your fabric and pattern pieces for maximum value. There is a lot of help for people who may want to alter the pattern (for example making it longer). I am lucky in that I didn't need any of these adjustments in the end, but I am shorter than average so you may want to hold up the pattern pieces and have a play around before cutting your fabric. I tend to use scissors for cutting but was glad I had seen Tilly using a rotary cutter in the video as once I used this I realised I never would have got the correct cut using scissors. Knit fabrics move around way too much otherwise, and my cutter and mat cost me about £20 altogether on amazon. As you can see I haven't invested in official pattern weights, making use of handy candle holders instead. 

Learning to sew jersey tops online workshop review

Intro to sewing jersey fabric

This was by far one of the most useful videos in the whole workshop. I had read about stitches and needles that you might have to use but to be honest hadn't really made sense of it. The clear and carefully paced explanations and visuals helped me to establish exactly what to do to join knit fabrics, and why. I had to do quite a bit of testing with my machine and scraps I had saved (from earlier advice) in order to find a stitch that wouldn't leave gaps at the seams. 
*In fact - my original machine was a basic model that had been kindly donated by my husband's cousin. It had done well up to now but there was no facility to adjust stitch width or length. I ended up with a new sewing machine of my very own, as a result of trying to work with knit fabrics. And I love it. *

Steps for sewing jersey tops

The workshop also comes with a pdf leaflet of instructions that I printed to follow along with the videos. Though the videos are so in depth you don’t need the instructions in order to complete the pattern, this is handy just for double checking whilst sewing without rewinding the video. The session videos themselves contain a mixture of explanation along with instruction, and move at a comfortable pace. Each step is broken down into its own session so you don’t lose your place and you can clearly see Tilly's sewing too - not just a during or after photo. The Agnes pattern comes with a variety of customisable options including ruched sleeves and necklines. All these options are clearly covered in their own workshop steps so you can pick whichever matches your design without having to watch all the videos. 
The making of the top itself is relatively quick and simple - attaching shoulders, neckband, sleeves and side seams. I struggled with pinning the neckband in place as it is designed to be smaller than the bodice (so the top doesn't gape horribly). There are two methods outlined for doing this successfully, and I found the 'quartering' method to be most accurate. I was also glad that the pattern itself was designed so that there wasn't a lot of easing required to attach the pieces together - I have tried some patterns with much larger sleeve than armholes and almost been a nervous wreck by the end of them. Definitely a good one to try if you are just starting out in knit fabrics and keen to quickly gain confidence.


Hooray! A list of all the new skills covered to make you feel smug and even more accomplished, plus a chance to share what you have made!

Learning to sew jersey tops online workshop review

Learn to sew jersey tops online workshop - quick review

Cost - $69 (about £45). As I subscribe to Tilly's newsletter I was lucky enough to be mailed a discount code on release. I haven't seen one for a bit but definitely recommend signing up to the emails as there are sometimes other really good discounts that come up. This also includes the pdf pattern which normally retails at £9.50. This workshop is less expensive than one you attend in person, but is obviously still a purchase that you need to consider. When I was looking in June I couldn't find anything that was as detailed as I needed it to be. This certainly is.
Ease of administration - Signing up is super quick and easy. As this is a distance learning workshop there is no time pressure for completion, and it fits in easily around life. It took me three months from signing up to completed garment as I was dipping in and out of it along with other projects. Having pdfs of supplies was also handy when I happened to walk past a haberdashery and wanted to see if they had elastic in a particular size. I now also have the pattern and instructions saved on my computer if I want to make it again.
The Agnes pattern - The pattern is simple enough to be successful, yet considered enough to look nice, and even look quite accomplished given the options available for customisation. (Just before publishing this today Tilly has posted an Agnes Dress option on her blog today - even more choice!). It is also quite a quick make as it is simple, and there are also added speed advantages in working with jersey as you don't have to finish the seams with stitching (my most hated task).
Clarity of instruction and explanation - The videos, pdfs and other information is so easy to follow. It isn't snail's pace, but is thorough enough to make you feel like you know what is going on, and what to do.
On helping to be confident in sewing with knit fabrics - The amount of information, and the way it is presented has completely demystified knit fabrics for me. I am ready and keen to make more items using this fabric (ahem Agnes Dress now!). 

If you want to head straight on over and sign up here's the link: 
Let us know how you got on, or share your beginner's tips and Agnes tops below.

Here's my second go!!!

I got my fabric from Maud's Fabric Finds. It's and Art Gallery Fabric jersey, and it's about £15pm. It wears much better than my first attempt, and I had a go at ruching the front. I recommend having a couple of practice goes first at it takes a bit of getting used to.

Beginner dressmaking - learn to sew knit fabrics online workshop


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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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