Question: Beginner sewing

A reader writes in late June:
Hi Kelly! My name is S. and I am just letting you know, you’re inspiring me. I have a 7 month old daughter, K., and I am wanting to homeschool her. But the main reason I am writing you is to ask where you get your patterns and how did you learn to sew. I have a sewing machine… But the best I can do is make basic pillowcases and curtains! =]

I am wanting to learn how to sew clothes. If you have any tips, please let me know. Thanks again for a very entertaining blog! (By the way, your children are beautiful! I love their names!!)


Thank you for the email! I learned to sew as a child, or rather I was around sewing a lot (my mother) and gradually learned over the course of my childhood. I was at the so-so sewing and/or curtains stage in the year 2000 when my mom gave me my first real machine. I started sewing in earnest after my children were born.

As far as patterns, well, it depends on what you want to sew. I personally love Ottobre but they aren’t really “beginner” patterns by any stretch.  I am friends with the two lovely people who started Patterns by Figgys, which are beginner-friendly patterns for children – lovingly drafted, unique, and have large size ranges. Really the best of all worlds. And finally, you can just go into a Joanns or Hancock Fabrics and grab some patterns when they’re on sale and get started. Most established pattern companies know their stuff enough that you are pretty safe to try something out.

It’s good to have a little guidance before selecting patterns. If you find a few things you like online – either sewing patterns or readymade clothes – I can help direct you to some patterns that might work for you.

As for learning, I find the best thing for many people is to take a class or find a mentor to help you. Your mentor ideally shouldn’t be someone who says they can sew (lots of people say that but their skills aren’t sturdy or reliable), but someone whose items you’ve seen and you like and someone who is frothing at the mouth to teach (these people exist – I’m one of them!). I am happy to mentor you online inasmuch as I’m able but of course, a person you could meet with would be even better.

Do you live in or near a city? If so, and you have the funds, or a sponsor, a class is a great way to get a head start.

Of course there is more information online, many amazing books, tons of YouTube tutorials, etc. It depends on what kind of person you are and how you best learn. Example: when I was first learning to knit, at a certain point I needed to learn how to do a simple cast-on. I went online and looked and looked and I couldn’t get it and I spent over an hour and wanted to cry and/or pee my pants. Then I bought a beginner book and just read the actual words describing the long tail cast-on method (not looking at the pictures) and it clicked. Maybe the writer was gifted. Maybe I am more written-word oriented than picture oriented (this would explain why the abovementioned Ottobre patterns work for me). In any case, don’t let one or two bad spells deter you. There is a perfect methodology/teaching method out there to assist!

I loaned that book to another person and never got it back. I hope she got good use out of it too!

Finding an online group that is supportive and clicks is great, too. There are so many. Again, I was part of a group for a few years and it lost a group owner and got a new one and that changed everything for me.  I hang out a bit at the forums on Pattern Review and Sew Mama Sew. I haven’t found the group that clicked as well for me as I had a few years ago, but I know it will happen again in time.

Good luck and if there is any way I can help, don’t hesitate to email/send pictures/IM/DM/tweet etc! Please do take me up on my offer because one thing I love more than anything else is assisting people in their stitching adventures.

(& thank you for the compliments!)

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