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Sew Curious? Here Are The Top 4 Things You Need to Get Started Stitching Your Own Wardrobe

by Kimberly Payne

Sewing your own clothes is life-changing, and I truly believe that anyone can do it. The main reason to make your own clothes is because most garments you buy just don’t fit very well. If your body is anything but what the fashion world considers standard then you’re left with poor-fitting clothes. Let me get you started on sewing clothes that actually fit your body.

1. A Simple Sewing Machine

If you are just starting out and need to buy a machine, a basic sewing machine is all you need. I used a beginner Brother machine for the first 15 years I sewed, and it wasn’t until I had my business for a few years that I decided to upgrade. Most garments only require a couple of stitches—straight and zigzag. You can sew every type of fabric and nearly all patterns with those two stitches. When starting your machine search, I recommend looking into Brother, Janome, and Singer, all three of which put out great machines under $200.

2. Fabric for Beginners

While most patterns you will be sewing give you some guidance on recommended fabrics, there are a few general rules to follow when you are starting out. Focus on fabrics that aren’t stretchy such as cotton, linen, broadcloth, and cotton lycra. Try to avoid fabrics that shift and slide while sewing, like knits. You can work up to these fabrics, but for your first projects, aim for easy-to-work-with fabric. 

3. A Basic Pattern

With a machine and fabric in hand the real fun begins, but don’t let all the possibilities overwhelm you. A project like an elastic-waist skirt or pajama pants is a great way to get a feel for your machine and working with fabrics, and the more wins you have as you begin sewing, the more likely you are to keep going. But remember that your projects will never be perfect—I have been sewing for over 20 years and I still make mistakes on every garment! There are two types of patterns that you can buy. Paper patterns can be found at your local fabric store, whereas PDF patterns can be purchased online, printed at home, and taped together. The indie sewing community has many beginner-friendly companies that not only provide great basic (and free!) patterns but also resources for sewing them. Below is a list of pattern companies that do a fantastic job of providing patterns and resources for sewing. 

4. Your Measurements

The last—and what I consider to be the most—important part of sewing your own clothes is understanding your body measurements. Measuring your body before starting a project will give you the information you need to choose the right size. One of the benefits of indie pattern companies is that they do a fantastic job of explaining what measurements to take and how that corresponds to the size chart. Your finished garment is going to be much better if you sew the correct size based on the pattern. Even if you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of sewing your own clothes, I am confident that just by starting you will see that it isn’t nearly as complicated as you think. – Kimberly Payne


Payne2 f17edThe author sporting one of her Straight Stitch Designs patterns

Indie Pattern Companies Great for Beginners

Sew DIY 
Beth creates patterns with simple lines and classic shapes and uses her YouTube channel to walk you through patterns, machines, and other sewing tips and tricks.

Hey June Handmade 
Adrianna provides simple, modern sewing patterns that are fun to sew and work for both beginner or experienced sewists.

Straight Stitch Designs 
I aim to provide patterns that offer style and comfort combined—the clothes you grab for in your closet on a regular day.

Jenny focuses on patterns for curvy women and provides all the resources for fitting patterns to your body.

Helen’s Closet 
Helen creates modern designs for the home sewist and believes that fashion and style are for everyone regardless of their body shape and size. 

Photos courtesy Kimberly Payne

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2022 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today! 

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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