Ultimate Beginners Day Sewing Package with The Thrifty Stitcher

Learning how to sew; beginners guide. dressmaking course review

Have you been inspired to start sewing but aren't sure where to start? I really wanted to take up dress making as a hobby for a long time but wasn't sure how to go about getting started. I didn't want to invest in a machine if I was awful at it... and wouldn't know want to do with it in any case. I wanted someone to show me how to use a machine and how to understand patterns so that I could make my own clothes. I did a lot of searching on the internet and finally found the classes that The Thrifty Stitcher runs in North London. I signed up for the Ultimate Beginners Day Sewing Package which combines two half day workshops into one day's learning (10.30am - 6pm) for £94.


Booking the course was easy. It's an online system and you get some handy info and directions along with email confirmation. The course is structured in two halves with lunch in between (you can stay and have a packed lunch or go down the road for a bite to eat if you fancy). The morning session focuses on becoming familiar with using a machine for sewing, whilst the afternoon concentrates on making clothing using a pattern.

You do need to bring 2.6m of your own fabric for the afternoon session, which sounds straightforward but if like me you have no idea what to buy it is a little more complicated! I didn't want to spend a lot of money, and had wanted a specific design, in homage to my sewing auntie who got me started on this road. I also had no idea about fabric shops nearby so stayed online. If you sign up for this course I recommend looking for a plain cotton, cotton lawn or flannel. (You don't want quilting cottons either.... if you aren't sure leave a comment below and I'll point you in the right direction).

Ultimate Beginners Day Sewing Package with The Thrifty Stitcher


The studio is situated in Stoke Newington. It's about a 10 minute bus ride (15 minute walk) from three different underground stations servicing Piccadilly, Victoria or Northern lines. The studio itself is located in a building which houses a number of units, and a shared restroom. When you sign up you get directions, photos and a number to call if you need it. It did take me a little while to find what I was looking for but I got there in the end, eventually entering a cosy studio with lots of tea and biscuits. The studio was full of inspiring sewing makes, books and equipment. There are individual machines, a lovely big cutting table with stools to perch at, and irons for pressing. The music in the background kept a nice atmosphere for is whilst we were focusing on our sewing.

Ultimate Beginners Day Sewing Package with The Thrifty Stitcher
Photo courtesy of Katie Hyams and The Thrifty Stitcher


The instructor on my day was Claire-Louise Hardie, the Thrifty Stitcher and GBSB producer/author herself. (Much GBSB talk ensued throughout the day with lots of questions from us about what it was like behind the scenes). CL set a really relaxed atmosphere for us, which I appreciated as I was super nervous of making silly mistakes. There was no need to ask lots of questions because everything was clearly explained and demonstrated. She also gave us lots of tips as we were learning that I have used a lot since. I stayed in the studio over lunch and in this time CL was chatting to us and suggesting sewing books projects that we might like based on our personal styles.

Ultimate Beginners Day Sewing Package with The Thrifty Stitcher
Screenshot of home page; Photo courtesy of Katie Hyams and The Thrifty Stitcher


I came away with two patterns from my day; one for a cushion and one pattern set that included pyjamas along with pyjama top and robe. These were great patterns for us beginners as we could practise key skills confidently. Before we went near the patterns we started with an introduction to the sewing machine, including how to thread it, what all the parts did, and a practice at setting one up and stitching straight lines, curves and corners.

The cushion was made in the morning session after our introduction to the machine. We learned how to find the grainline, how to pin patterns and how to cut. The cushion also involved learning to press and sew hems of specified widths (using seam gauges in our case), finish seams, as well as actually sewing two pieces of fabric together in straight lines, turning the correct way out! I loved the extra touch that CL gave us with these cute tags that we could sew into our very first projects (you can just see it in the corner...'I made this').

Ultimate Beginners Day Sewing Package with The Thrifty Stitcher cushion

In the afternoon we made our pyjama bottoms. These were from a commercial pattern company and CL talked about how sewing patterns differ from each other, and from high street sizes. She also showed us what all the markings on the pattern and the packet meant, We learned how to measure ourselves and use these to select pattern sizes, and how to adjust patterns for fit. We were guided through each stage so didn't need to use the instructions that come with the pattern (which to a novice sewer do look quite intimidating). Having become sewing masters earlier in the day the construction of these pyjamas was fairly straightforward, and CL helped us with fit as we went. Having her show me exactly what I needed to do to alter mine was a lot more straightforward then it would have been to follow written instructions. And these pyjamas are really comfortable! I did not need anywhere near as much fabric as was recommended in the joining information, and have used leftovers for toiles since.

Ultimate Beginners Day Sewing Package with The Thrifty Stitcher pyjamas

After the course there was a handy email that had all the steps for making the cushion in it, along with tips for threading sewing machines. I have made quite a few cushions since and have found these instructions really easy to follow.

I have also used the pyjama pattern since. I used it to make a shorts pyjama set from Liberty fabric. This hasn't been posted yet as I am struggling to get a good photo! The rest of the pattern is a lot more difficult than the pyjamas....(apart from the shorts which are essentially the same pattern pieces but shorter). When I do post I'll link here....

Learning to sew: beginners guide - final thoughts


I really don't think I could have asked for any more from the day itself. I came away loving sewing, and feeling confident enough to have a go on my own (cushion only to start with!!)

Did I learn everything I wanted to?
Yes. I came away being able to use a sewing machine, and enough to get going with a pattern. Things I thought might be tricky like sewing curves and corners were covered, along with lots of extra information that helped me understand the language of sewing patterns. I know what ease and grainline are, and why clothes need to be cut in certain ways, and how to sew in a straight line! I also am familiar with commercial patterns and their markings so can give one of these a go in future.

Could I have achieved this on my own?
No way. Certainly not in a day or this successfully. Before I saw this I had been looking at a book for beginners, and following the GBSB on TV, but it wasn't easy to follow. I needed someone to demonstrate and show me what to do... and I needed a machine to work on as I didn't have one at home. Part of the reason I did a course was to see if I liked it/could do it before I went away and invested in anything. Since I went I have found a lot more help for beginners out there, but you need a machine at least!

Loved and loathed
Loved the social sewing and cosy atmosphere.
Loathed travelling into London.

Who would I recommend this to?
Anyone who would like to start sewing, especially if you don't have any equipment to get going with. There were people on the day who had done some sewing before and were coming for refreshers, and there was a group of friends who had all come to learn a new hobby together.

Please leave your beginner sewing course recommendations in the comments below! This course is in London so it would be great to hear about what else is available around the country............

Learning to Sew: Beginners Guide - one day dressmaking course


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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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