Dressmaking for Beginners

Written by calandra cooper
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Dressmaking for Beginners
Carelessness and lack of pride in workmanship by beginners results homemade-looking garments. (Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

The art of sewing is more than cutting and stitching. Sewing is made up of many individual skills, each contributing to a professional-looking finished project. It's easy once you know how to do it. For a beginner, the most difficult part of sewing is acquiring the right tools and supplies and following directions so you're able to learn how to sew correctly.

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Purchasing a Sewing Machine

A sewing machine is probably the single largest investment for a beginner sewer, but if properly cared for the machine can last for years. A basic sewing machine, modern or vintage, containing a straight stitch, zigzag stitch, reverse mechanism and a few speciality stitches is sufficient for the beginner. Features beyond those are bonuses which the beginner will eventually grow into as their skills progress. As a rule, the more a sewing machine can do the costlier the machine. Beginners should purchase the best sewing machine that does the most for their money.

Taking Measurements

Good advice to a beginner sewer is to measure twice and cut once. Learn early how to take careful and precise measurements because it's impossible to make a professional looking garment without taking good measurements. Use a flexible tape measure and don't hold the tape too snugly against the body. Get an assistant to help take your own body measurements and always take measurements over undergarments normally worn with the garment being constructed.

Purchasing Supplies

Skimping on tools and supplies costs a beginner more money in the future because the cheap stuff will break, not function properly or require frequent replacement. Purchase the best tools and supplies you can afford, adding to your collection over time. Initial tools for a beginner include a dress form, shears, seam ripper, flexible tape measure, pinking shears, marking tools and an iron.

Selecting a Sewing Pattern

Most sewing patterns manufactured today state the level of difficulty on the outside of the pattern envelope. Select a sewing pattern made for beginners. Patterns suitable for beginners generally contain fewer pieces and don't require zippers or too many buttons. Beginners should get in the habit of studying the pattern envelope itself because the illustrations contained on the envelope itself help illustrate the types of fabrics to use and gives the user some type of idea on design and fashion trends.

Reading the Instruction Sheet

Pattern instruction directions are typically found on an instruction sheet inside the sewing pattern envelope and simplify construction. On a vintage sewing pattern instructions are also found on the back of the pattern envelope. While an advance sewer may veer from instructions and develop their own design process; it's important that beginners read the instruction sheet carefully and follow directions precisely.

Marking Pattern Pieces

Construction markings are guideposts to putting together your project or garment. A beginner may be tempted to take shortcuts, but this is a mistake. Take great care in marking all the pattern pieces clearly and precisely no matter how painstaking or insignificant they may seem. Mark darts, seams, notches and other construction markings according to the pattern instructions using marking paper, tailor tacks or tailor's chalk. Once care is taken in marking the pattern pieces cutting is a breeze.

Constructing the Garment

A beginner sewer can avoid a homemade-looking garment through patience and following careful instructions. Beginners avoid mistakes and frustration by taking their time, avoiding sewing when they're tired and not working on single projects in one sitting for extended time. Beginners must remain fresh and focused in their work. Get plenty of rest, work in a comfortable area and set reasonable time limits to sewing, for example no more than two hours a day.

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