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How to learn sewing & dressmaking at home

Updated April 17, 2017

Sewing, particularly dressmaking, is a craft best learnt by a combination of academic study and hands-on practice. Distance learning courses provide options for those who prefer to work on a set curriculum. However, a student of dressmaking can also become proficient by a program of self-study based on a book designed to teach sewing and dressmaking skills. Decide which way you prefer to learn, and dedicate time each week to expanding and perfecting your craft.

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  1. Purchase a home study course in dressmaking, or alternatively a sewing book designed to teach self-study dressmaking techniques.

  2. Study and learn the basics of sewing, and practice the techniques until comfortable with them. Beginning topics should include: pinning and cutting fabrics, working with commercial sewing patterns, proper use of a sewing machine and basic sewing stitches.

  3. Use a dressmaker or tailor form, or find a friend to serve as a fit model for your projects. This allows for the development of proper fitting techniques, a critical aspect of successful dressmaking. Practice fitting garments onto your model or dressmaker form, focusing on various types of garments and construction. You may want to ask several friends of varying body types to serve as your models, to give yourself practice in pattern alterations and fitting problems for different figures.

  4. Learn new techniques as your skills develop, continually increasing the difficulty of the techniques. Be sure you are comfortable and confident with each skill before moving on. More advanced techniques include: various seam finishes, working with knit fabrics, lining garments such as jackets and trousers, and fabric manipulation techniques such as smocking and pintucking.

  5. Sew several practice garments commissioned by your fit models or family members. Let them choose the type of garment and fabric, just as a customer might request. Make the garment, fitting it to the person's figure, and let them offer feedback on the fit and construction of the garment. Continue to alter the garment until they are satisfied with it, and take notes as to any alterations or changes that were made for future reference.

  6. Continue to learn new skills as you master old ones. This will widen the range of garments you can make and increase your confidence. Once you feel you can fit and sew with confidence, you may want to continue your training with a book or course on designing your own patterns, bridal sewing techniques, or men's tailoring.

  7. Tip

    Distance learning programs for dressmaking can be found by searching online for correspondence schools. Self-study course manuals can be found at bookstores or ordered from online sources. Whichever you choose, look for reviews from previous students to determine the best choice for you. Dedicate time each week to your sewing. This will give you a sense of forward momentum with your education. There are numerous websites and online videos that can help demonstrate sewing techniques. Utilise these, as well as sewing forums, if you have any difficulty with a technique.

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Things You'll Need

  • Sewing and dressmaking course or book
  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing kit containing basic sewing items: scissors, thread, needles, pins, marking and measuring tools
  • Dressmaker or tailor form (optional)

About the Author

Kelli Nottingham has been a freelance writer for more than five years, with published works on topics ranging from international travel to home decor DIY projects. A graduate of Duke University and the University of Colorado, Nottingham holds degrees in anthropology of religion, with a focus on religious ritual. She is also a recognized professional speaker with national experience.

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