Monday Motivation {How to Sew Garments for the Beginner} | Go-Go Kim

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Monday, April 30, 2018

Monday Motivation {How to Sew Garments for the Beginner}

Sewing garments is a wonderful way to build your sewing skills! Many quilters stared out sewing garments and moved on to making wonderful quilts.  My adventure started with quilts and has found its way into the garment world. 

Welcome back to Monday Motivation!

How to sew

Making garments was once a skill that was taught while you were growing up by your mother or grandmother.  My grandmother was an excellent seamstress.  I do not recall her even looking at a pattern but everything she would stitch together appeared to be perfect.  She also did not make a mess when she was sewing .  I am not as tidy or perfect and I am somewhat convinced that elves were actually the ones creating all of the garments she would make based on the lack of mess.

Sadly, I learned nothing from my grandmother's incredible skills. Finding my own way in the vast world of apparel sewing has been a great adventure. Thank goodness for library books, blogs and YouTube! All of these resources have been very helpful in learning how to sew nice looking clothing that is practical and beautiful.

Inspired by all of the fabulous seamstresses on social media, I wanted to finally take the plunge into sewing my own clothing.  Before I started sewing, I decided not to set myself up for frustration and failure by making a few rules.

The guidelines I set for myself were:

1.  I wanted to make things as inexpensively as possible. The items would have to be sewn either        from my stash or something I found on deep clearance.
2.  To make at least one of each basic type of garment that would be worn daily.
3.  The patterns be a mix of commercially produced and independent designers.
4.  To find help by any means possible ( Instagram friends were my Lifeline).
5.  That mistakes were perfectly acceptable.

With these simple rules set I was ready to play!

If you have never before tried to sew your own clothes, I highly recommend making a simple skirt or a simple blouse first.  The first on my list was a skirt with pockets.  I had made skirts in the past but never with pockets.  When I buy pants or skirts off the rack, I look for pockets.  The goal of mastering pockets was mandatory.

To learn this skill I used Simplicity pattern 1369 .  This pattern had been previously recommended to me by a friend.  It was the perfect choice with simple and clear instructions, few pattern pieces and best of all...pockets!

How to sew skirt

The pattern is written to have a gathered skirt.  I prefer pleats, so I spent a little time and made one pleat in the front and one on either side of the zipper in the back.  I made sure to write the measurements on the pattern so I would remember for the next time I make this skirt.

One of the most brilliant tricks I learned was from a You Tube video by Zede's Sewing Studio,  a quick and easy way to mark your fabrics. The tip was originally for marking bust darts but it also works perfectly for zipper and  pocket marking!

To do this, you place the pin through where you need to mark and run your marking tool where the pin hits.  Perfect marking spots! I found out later is it a tip that has been used for years.  So happy I had found it!

I started with Colette Patterns for the independent patterns.  Their website offers some free patterns for you to downland.  They also have an array of tutorials to help you create the most beautiful finished clothing with their help.

I made one blouse (the free Sorbetto), two skirts using The Ginger Pattern, and a pair of pants using The Clover pattern.

I made The Ginger Skirt in two ways.  This pattern includes three styles of a simple and flattering A line skirt.

How to sew Garments

The second Ginger I added pockets. Pockets are addictive. If I can add pockets, I will!  After you make this skirt once, it becomes faster and easier each time.  The waist is not too low and fits nicely. The hip area is fitted but not to tight. 

The Colette Pattern pieces are  a thicker tissue paper than the industry patterns making them easy to handle ( this is a bonus for me) and are also easy to read (another bonus).  The patterns are written with simple step by step instructions in a way that makes it easy to finish this skirt in a few hours.

I really liked the way Colette Patterns finishes the waistband.  It is brilliant! The final look is very clean.  There is no hand sewing an eye and hook to the top.  Once the waistband is on, you are done!

With skirts under my belt, making dresses was my next focus.  The sewing skill difficulty level was much higher with these than I expected.   Both were industry patterns.

McCalls Pattern M7117 is a wonderful pattern.  This pattern has the great feature of bust cup sizes to make fitting so much easier.  It took me a few days to finish this dress since I hugely underestimated the length of time to cut out the skirt panels.  The pattern is well written with good steps and accompanying photos.

I also made New Look pattern 6447.  This pattern did not have pockets but being a thrill sewer, I added them into the dress.  This dress did not have the bust adjustment as with the previous pattern.  Be sure to make a muslin for the bodice area before cutting into your fabric to determine if you need to make adjustments. As you become more confident with your skills, you will happily be able to take what you have learned from other patterns to make everything just as you prefer.  It is pretty cool.

My last efforts were tops.  I made a few different styles from both commercial and independent companies.

My favorite is the Shoreline Boatneck by Blank Slate Patterns.  I highly recommend this pattern to everyone!  Beginners will love how easy it is to read and make.  Experts will love how fast it is to put together a lovely top.  This may be my most favorite pattern ever!  When the pattern is delivered to your email, it it accompanied by free online tutorials for some of the techniques that you will use to make the top. I was very impressed that everything I needed was provided and I did not have to do any research at all.

How to sew garments

I also made another blouse using a reprinted retro Jiffy pattern 1364 .  This blouse was another great easy to make top using bias tape around the arms.  It features for options for sleeves or sleeveless.  It was my first time using bias tape in garments.  Bias tape is a breeze to use once you lean how.  The finished look is well worth the small effort!

This past year I also dove into knits! The Patterns for Pirates Wiggle Dress is made for everyone! It takes about 3 hours from start to finish and the directions could not be easier!

If you have ever mastered curved piecing, you will have no difficulty with setting in sleeves! I discovered it is the same thing!

It is pretty exciting to have the quilting and garment sewing worlds come together! It is like magic for me!

A post shared by Kim Niedzwiecki (@gogokim) on

Here are some tips for beginning garment sewing from my experiences:

1. Have the right tools on on hand.  Marking tools, scissors, the correct needles for fabric and good sharp pins will help you be more successful and much less frustrated.

2. Make sure to read not only the fabric requirements but the notions that you will need to complete the garment.  Interfacing, thread ( I use Aurifil 40wt for my garment construction), zippers and bias tape are all items that you could possibly need to finish your garment.  If you will be using your serger, I can highly recommend Aurifil 40/3. It can withstand high speeds and gives a flawless finish!

3. Know your sizes.  Patterns are not according to your off the rack size, they are based on your measurements.  Measure yourself and remember that size is only a number, not a judgement. You are size BEAUTIFUL!

4. Read all the instructions before cutting into your fabric.  If there is something you do not understand, you can ask friends or look it up on google to guide you to find the right answer.

5. For more fitted patterns and especially when you are making a more advanced pattern, create a muslin.  There are many good classes, books  and tutorials on proper fitting.  People are all different sizes and shapes.  For my garments, I needed to make small bust adjustments and adjustments for a long waist.  Once you have figured out how to do these adjustments, your items will be custom to your shape and look fabulous!

6. PDF patterns have to be printed up and put together.  Washi tape or painters tape is your best friend. You can use it to tape the pattern pieces together and if you mess up, you can easily remove the tape and retape. An added bonus is that both are useful other places in your sewing room! Washi tape for the WIN!

I have recently learned that, of all things, glue sticks are even better than washi tape for connecting your paper pieces!

A post shared by Kim Niedzwiecki (@gogokim) on

I did find that independent designer patterns were worded in a way that most people can read them easily or figure out with the images provided what the steps were.  Industry patterns seem to be written for people that already know how to sew garments.  If you are beginning to sew or need a refresher in garment sewing, I recommend independent patterns first.

Learning more about garment sewing helped me to appreciate how much work goes into everything I wear.  Even my nine year old had remarked on how much time and effort goes into each piece of clothing.  If nothing else, that was one thing that struck me the most.  That most children never see what goes into making the clothing they wear.  It is a great life lesson for both of us.

It has helped me in my other sewing.  The exposure to a different type of sewing seems to given me a new perspective on my other sewing projects.  I feel more confident to try new things!  It is kind of exciting!  If I can do this, you can too!  Just make that first stitch!


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