One of the greatest challenges when it comes to learning how to sew your own clothing, is understanding fabric drape, weight and which ones to choose for a particular design. This is certainly a skill that is learned through experience and trial and error. In fact, you should expect to make lots of mistakes (and learn form them) in the beginner stages of learning how to sew. The most important thing to remember is not to give up and that it is normal to feel uncomfortable with certain techniques or make errors that force you to start again- it's all part of the process! Luckily, there are some concepts you can learn beforehand that will save you from making some of those frustrating mistakes. When it comes to fabrics, theory and practice work best together. In this fabric tutorial, we'll give you the fundamentals on some basic types of fabrics and their best use. We'll also include physical characteristics like drape, sewing difficulty and ironing practices.
Distinguishing between blouse weight, dress weight, shirting, bottom weight, suiting, and coating:
To master the basics of fabric, it is important to gain a better understanding of the various weights available. Fabric weight refers to how heavy and thick a fabric is. Sheer, thin fabrics are usually very lightweight while bulky, thick coating fabric is one of the most heavyweight. To make it easier, textiles are divided into the following basic categories according to weight, thickness and structure:
Blouse weight: The lightest of all the weights, blouse weight fabrics are usually very thin, drapey and could be sheer or semi-sheer. As the term suggests, this category is used for various styles of tops like blouses and lightweight shirts. As you'll soon learn, blouse weight fabrics are not appropriate for styles like dresses (unless used in combination with a dress weight) because their sheer lightweight nature usually can't withstand the wear and proper drape necessary for a dress' functionality.
Shirting: This is usually a cotton fabric that is thinner and lighter weight but has a higher thread count. A higher thread count creates a more smooth, lustrous cotton fabric with better draping capabilities. Shirting fabric can also be yarn dyed which creates a chambray-like effect. While shirting can sometimes be used for dresses, it is found more often with classic button down tops. While some shirting fabrics can be categorized as dress weights, some thinner, semi-sheer shirting may not always be appropriate for use with dresses.
Zippers can sometimes seem very intimidating to sew and we often choose to avoid them instead of confronting them head on. Sewing a zipper can be a real challenge when you are in the beginning stages of learning how to sew. However, just like all the best things in life, nothing comes without a little bit of patience and lots of practice. We’ll cover how to sew various styles of zippers in future blog posts. For now however, sewing an invisible zipper might be just what you’ll need in order to break that initial fear of setting in a zipper as a beginner.
You’re probably wondering why we think invisible zippers are the best to get started with… Well, they aren’t necessarily “easy” but they follow a minimal amount of steps that also happen to be pretty simple. That is not to say you won’t need some trial an error to adjust and make some mistakes, but an invisible zipper will give you far less headaches than a front-fly zipper or a lapped zipper. Another upside to learning how to sew an invisible zipper first is the fact that it is the most versatile of all zippers- It works just as well on bottoms as it does on fitted dresses and tops. As a matter of fact, it is probably used on dresses and tops about 90% of the time and as a sewing beginner, you’ll most likely begin your journey by learning how to sew dresses and tops first. This means that mastering the invisible zipper first, will save you the headache when you’re looking for an easy, fast way to add a garment closure for many of your future projects.
Perhaps one of the most difficult and time consuming aspects of learning how to sew is getting accustomed to using your sewing machine. Nonetheless, feeling comfortable sewing on your machine is essential to making good quality, professional looking clothing. You should think of your sewing machine as you do of your car- you have to feel in complete control of it and get attuned to it's rhythm in order to feel fully secure using it. Time and practice is definitely on your side here! Before you get started on sewing actual seams, you should first practice on scrap fabric until you feel comfortable sewing a straight stitch in one swift move, without having to stop constantly. As you learn how to sew, you will also come across round and angular edges, so practicing them on your machine until you feel comfortable sewing them will save you lots of frustration when you're ready to sew the big stuff.
Below we listed 4 practice exercises you can do in order to feel more comfortable using yours sewing machine. They will help you feel more confident with certain stitches and seams that you'll come across quite often as you learn how to sew.
Google has become our answer to everything. We ask Google our question first before asking the person next to us. The internet has become an incredible tool from entertainment, shopping, learning new skills and even completing a college degree.
While the internet has become our answer to everything, the virtual aspect of it still remains just that: virtual. When it comes to learning how to sew, online sewing tutorials can be a life saver when you're in the middle of a project and you have a pressing issue. Even when you're looking to finally learn how to make your own clothing, the resources that are out on the web are undeniably golden. But how far can the web really go when it comes to teaching a sewing beginner? The process of learning how to sew is already overwhelming when taking a physical sewing class and having all the necessary tools in front of you. Below, we'll take a look at some of the pros and cons of learning how to sew through online courses- Learning is certainly very individual for everyone so let us know which option works best for you in the comments section!
Beginner Online Sewing Courses
1. Learning in the privacy of your own home: Feeling comfortable is a huge plus when it comes to learning. Although some people learn best in a classroom with an instructor, others do much better in the privacy of their own homes where they feel most at ease. When it comes to sewing, taking an online class can prove to be a great option for those that can't realign their schedule with a physical sewing course. Online classes offer the privilege of learning a craft while wearing your pjs and eating a bowl of cereal at your own convenience.
2. Learning at your own pace: When you take a physical sewing course, finishing a beginner sewing project in just a couple of days can prove to be challenging. Online sewing classes give you the flexibility to focus on specific portions until you really understand them before moving on to the next steps. As a beginner, you feel less pressure and and can really go at your own speed. Learning how to sew is something you shouldn't rush into anyways- feeling comfortable with your sewing machine and learning to handle the fabric can require a lot of time and shouldn't be rushed initially. In addition, having the time to break down the mistakes you make in the learning process, can teach you a lot about dressmaking. Patience and time is always key when learning how to sew- Online classes allow you to really break down the material and go at whatever pace you feel most comfortable with.
3. Being able to manage the learning material in real time: Pause, repeat etc. You know that moment when you can rewind a movie if you've missed something or fast forward if things became a little too boring? We all do it. An online sewing course is no different. Learning from something that is pre-recorded that you can rewind and fast forward an infinite amount of times allows you to go back to any section you find more challenging and obsess over it (in a good way) until you really get it. When learning how to sew, obsessing over something you don't initially understand is sort of the best thing you can do, as long as you're not actually driving yourself crazy in the process. Learning to sew online allows you to pause, repeat, rewind, and fast forward the material anytime you feel a little stuck or need to revisit certain techniques. This is an an advantage that you'll never have when taking a physical sewing class- After all, you can't fast forward and rewind your sewing instructor....
1. Difficulty with sewing tools and fabrics: This one can cause some major issues for a sewing beginner... As opposed to other crafts, sewing requires the use of specific tools as well as learning how to use them properly. Taking a list to the fabric store and browsing through uncharted territory can be a little terrifying for a beginner. Although online sewing classes can offer a lot of flexibility, it does not take away the overwhelming aspect of shopping for sewing tools and the feeling of uncertainty when it comes to using them properly. It all goes back to this feeling of "loneliness" and inability to get assistance in real time (which we'll talk more about bellow). When you're unable to find all the tools in your list, you get stuck on having to find substitutes and the whole experience becomes a lot more overwhelming then rewarding. Physical sewing classes that require you to bring your own tools are also guilty of this. If you're a complete beginner, and have never sewn before getting the tools might be a bit stressful. The best option is to either get the Learn To Sew Box which already comes with all the basic tools, fabric, and patterns required, or get some extra assistance at the fabric store.
2. Can't ask questions in real time: Unfortunately, you can't raise your hand in front of your computer every time you have a sewing question during your pre-recorded online tutorial... (wouldn't that be nice?). As a beginner, questions and confusion are inevitable and having someone there to address even the simplest of issues can be key to learning faster. As convenient as they are, online sewing classes unfortunately do not offer answers in real time unless you are taking a live class that features a live chat. As a result, you end up feeling unsure and a bit insecure about whether you're doing everything correctly.
3. Missing the tactile aspect of the learning process: Dressmaking is one of the most tactile crafts out there. For a garment to be sewn properly you have to take everything in account from the drape and hand of the fabric to how easy it is to iron and work with under the presser foot. Have you ever ordered a dress online only to receive something that feels nothing like what the pictures displayed? It happens so often. The truth is understanding the tactile nature of sewing comes with practice over time. However, if you're relying strictly on online classes to learn how to sew, you're limited on actually getting to touch the fabric, sewing machine and tools that are being worked with. As a result, your sewing experience and the final garment's fit might feel a bit disappointing. Because sewing requires work with your hands, seeing a sewing tutorial in real life makes a huge difference in understanding the varying unspoken aspects of dress making: How the fabric will act when being stitched; Is it easy to pin? Is it easy to Iron? How will it drape and withstand cutting? How will the garment drape and fit in the end? A sewing video class offers only a single perspective in which things sometimes appear to be much simpler then in real life.
4. Getting distracted and losing focus: Procrastination is a disorder that can plague even the most focused of minds. It is only human after all to get distracted when in the comfort of your own home. Turning Netflix off is much harder than it appears and the excuses for why your sewing class can wait until the weekend might prove to be a, shall we say, ... problem. Taking that online sewing class at home requires that you push yourself mentally and remain focused by your will power alone. There are no instructors and people around you to inspire you to focus, and the lack of time restrictions will allow you to put it off for as long as possible. The longer you put it off the greater the chances are that you'll eventually lose interest. With a physical sewing class or a physical sewing project that you already have all the tools and fabrics for, you'll be motivated and encouraged to focus with a sense of urgency that can be lacking in the strictly-virtual world of online sewing.
A Learning Solution For Sewing Beginners
So what is the best option for a sewing beginner? As mentioned above, online sewing courses have some tempting pros but depending on the type of learner you are, relying on them alone can end up leaving you disappointed and even wanting to give up. Because of the tactile aspect of sewing, online sewing courses should be used to enhance as opposed to strictly teach from scratch. Their value is unparalleled when looking to add some extra knowledge to the basics you are already familiar with.
Here are 2 suggestions for how to get started as a sewing beginner the right way- using both online and physical resources without limiting yourself:
1. Mix both options while paying attention to how you learn best.
You might already be familiar with your best learning practices in which case whether you prefer strictly online or more physical interaction when learning will be easier for you to decide. However, we recommend mixing both for best results, then choosing an option that you feel works best for you and your lifestyle. Don't discount a sewing class at your local fabric store just because you feel it's a waste of time and money compared to the virtual resources available to you- You'll soon realize that being able to see other people pin their fabric and use theirs sewing machines will push you in the right direction from the get-go. Once you've laid down the base, online classes are an incredible tool for advancing and enhancing those basics. You can also watch some basic sewing tutorials or take a basic sewing course online before your physical sewing class- This will open your eyes to what you can expect and make you extra prepared, absorbing as much as possible from that initial sewing experience.
2. Try the Learn To Sew Box:
If you have a busy schedule that doesn't allow you to take an actual sewing class, or you simply don't have access to a physical sewing class in your area, the Learn To Sew Box allows you to learn how to sew in the comfort of your own home without the hassle of shopping for tools and fabrics on your own. It is a box that comes with the basic tools you need to get started and includes your choice of 3 fabrics, dress patterns in your size, matching thread and detailed guide- all you need is a pair of good scissors and a sewing machine and you can make that perfect A-line dress. The reason why the Learn To Sew Box is so effective is the fact that it's simple: The patterns are marked and already sized to your preference (S-M-L) so you don't have to spend days deciphering complicated multi-size store bought patterns. The crepe fabric choice is guaranteed to have the correct drape and the matching thread and tools minimize confusion and stress when getting started. The tools and sewing patterns are reusable, so if you like the final result you can make the A-line dress in a variety of fabrics. It is a great blend of individual learning while minimizing some of the negative aspects of online learning described above. Tackling the issue of asking questions in real time, the Learn To Sew Box includes an email address that you can use to ask any questions you may have throughout the learning process.
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A designer by trade and dressmaker at heart. I spend most of my days obsessing over new fabrics and daydreaming new ideas.
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