Sewing Tips for Beginners: Garment Sewing

To make your own clothing is to say yes to the challenge, yes to the deeper joy, and yes to ourselves. It is a way to infuse creativity deeply into our everyday lives and feel connected to who we are.


If you’ve been thinking about starting to sew your own clothes, you’ve come to right place! I know it can be intimidating, but getting started is really the hardest part. For some tips on where to start and some ideas on where to get great beginner patterns, read below.

Where to Start for Absolute Beginner Sewers

First, you’re going to need the basic supplies: A sewing machine and a basic sewing tool kit. If you’re just starting out, I recommend getting a very simple sewing machine- the most fundamental stitches you need are the straight stitch and the zig zag stitch (my first sewing machine was a basic Brother machine that costed about $129 on Amazon. The reason I do not recommend buying the most expensive or fancy machine is because it can be overwhelming to learn all the functions of a fancy machine when you are still grasping the basics. Also, you may try it out and decide you don’t really like sewing. In this case, you didn’t spend a ton of money so it isn’t a big deal.

For the basic sewing tool kit, you will need: fabric scissors, paper scissors, a seam ripper, pins, a measuring tape, tailors chalk or else a washable fabric marker, and an iron with an ironing board.

Before you sew anything, I strongly recommend getting to know your sewing machine. Read the manual and test out the stitches. The more comfortable you feel with all the machine functions, the better off you’ll be (and the more you’ll get out of the machine).

General Tips for Beginners to Sewing Garments

  1. Always press your seams! Every-time you sew a seam, it should be pressed. This will create a nice crisp finished look. I’ve also been told that un-pressed seams really make it obvious that your garment is homemade. A tailor’s ham will make your life a lot easier but you can still press your seams without one.
  2. When sewing a lining or a facing, always make sure to notch the convex seams and clip the concave seams (such as necklines). This will help the facing/lining fold nicely inside your garment and give you a clean look on the outside.
  3. Top-stitching can also help if you can’t seem to get your facing/lining to stay on the inside of the garment (if you aren’t sure of what top-stitching is, see my post on sewing terms here:
  4. Pay attention to sizing information. Do not simply decide which pattern size to make based on your store-bought clothing size because they are different! Take your measurements and use them as a guide to figure out which size you should make.
  5. Use sew-alongs or patterns that come with easy to follow picture instructions. These types of patterns generally cost more, but it’ll be well worth the money. Especially if you’re completely new to sewing. If you buy a regular pattern without any type of tutorial, you’ll probably spend a lot more time googling what certain stitches are or what certain sewing terms mean. So, buying these types of patterns can just make the overall experience of sewing your first garment a lot less frustrating and time-consuming. Here are some links to places you can buy patterns with tutorials:
Beginner sewing pattern.
Photo credit: Tilly and the Buttons
  • I love Tilly and the Buttons! You can access their patterns on their website, at indie pattern shops, or you can buy their books on Amazon. A single pattern is about $25 CAD and their books about about $40 and come with 6-10 patterns. That is expensive but, like I said, they all have very easy to follow instructions with picture-by-picture steps. You can also register for a video tutorial (they are a bit pricey though). Of the books, I’d say the Make it Simple or Love at First Stitch are great options. If you opt for one pattern (instead of a book) try to choose one that has the ‘easy’ label on it (such as the skirt pictured above)
  • Style Sew Me also has some sewing patterns that are easy to follow and they post the sew alongs for free on YouTube. A good one to start with is the Madison cardigan. It’s a fast and easy project- plus its pretty! Their patterns are around $16 USD or $21 CAD. Again. it’s worth it for the video tutorials.
Beginner sew-along. Cardigan
Style Sew Me
Burda Sew-Along
Burda Acadamy

Burda also puts out 3 different magazines (each are about $12 CAD)

Burda Kids, Burda Easy magazine or Burda Style. Burda Easy is a magazine that comes with lots of patterns that are all easy. All come with picture-by-picture instructions. Burda Style is another magazine that comes with patterns but usually only one sew-along (or sewing lesson as they call it). Of the two, I’d go with Burda Easy. The burda magazines are a cheaper option but they are also the last ones I’d recommend because you will also have the extra step of tracing your pattern which can be a pain. Plus, these magazines are translated from German and, sometimes, the translations aren’t that great.

  • Mimi G Style has some free tutorials on her website too and they are amazing! She also teaches a lot about techniques while she sews which I’ve found very useful!

4. Make something simple that doesn’t need to be fitted perfectly (think flowy skirts, blouses, or pj pants). Making these types of garments eliminates the need to do any type of tailoring. Plus, with structured garments, imperfections are a lot more noticeable.

5. Try not to take it too seriously. If you’re too scared to wreck the fabric, just remember it’s not a the end of the world if you have to throw it away and buy more. It’s all part of the learning process- especially for creative projects. You could also use some cheaper fabric for your first project or, if you have kids, you can make something for them first (because they’re smaller, so you’d need less fabric, which requires less money).

“When you take risks you have to be willing to process failure, because there is inevitable failure in creativity,”

Bob Iger

6. If you’re feeling too intimidated to try any pattern on your own, it may be best to try a local in-person course. These generally start from $100 but you will have someone there to ask questions and guide you. This can be very helpful to get you get your first project done and get you feeling more confident!

Thanks for reading and happy sewing! Let me know if you know of any other sew-alongs not mentioned above!

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