Dressmaking Tips

Updated April 17, 2017

Dressmaking is a creative and rewarding craft that lets you make original clothing for yourself and your family. You will be able to choose the styles, fabrics, colours and embellishments you like. If you are new to dressmaking, read all of the information provided with your sewing machine and patterns. When you are comfortable with the equipment and tools you will use, you will enjoy a successful dressmaking project.


Become familiar with the tools you will be using. Your primary tool will be your sewing machine. Read the manual, learn the parts of the machine and maintenance, tension settings and needle sizes required. Many machines have extra features for fancy stitches, but learn the basics of the machine before advancing to more challenging features. Have basic hand tools available to make dressmaking easier, such as high-quality sewing shears, a work surface with a cardboard cutting board to lay out your patterns and fabrics, and appropriate lighting to make the project easier to see.


Learn the proper way to measure and size patterns to fit properly. Wear undergarments that fit well when taking measurements. Take measurements with a tape measure around the widest part of the bust, at the navel for the waist and the widest part of the hip. Take additional measurements, depending on the pattern, for the arm and back lengths. Take measurements from under the arm to the wrist, from the base of the neck to the back waist, and to the hemline.


Patterns provide a wealth of information. The images on the front of the package show all the styles the pattern will make, and the back shows line drawings of back views. Use the sizing charts to select the size closest to your measurements. Choose a pattern appropriate for your level of dressmaking. Most patterns are marked with a skill-level recommendation. Start with simple styles with no collar or waist and few darts for shaping. Look for sleeveless styles or those with built-in sleeves until you are comfortable working with fabrics and your sewing machine.


As a beginner, select fabrics that are uncomplicated to work with. Avoid stretchy, napped or overly textured fabrics that can be difficult to manage. Use the pattern fabric suggestions on the envelope as a guide to selecting the type of fabric for your project. Plaids, stripes and repeat patterns may be difficult to match, while overall prints and solids require no matching. Purchase the yardage listed on the pattern, and follow the pattern layout sheets included with the pattern for folding or opening fabric and positioning the pattern. Be sure to mark darts, make any adjustments to seams, or lengthen or shorten where necessary before cutting the fabric.

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About the Author

Erika Marie started writing in 1996 and has covered a variety of topics, including arts, crafts, and home and garden. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in art from Rowan University.