Beginners Dressmaking - Pattern and Fabric Suggestions

If you are just starting out dressmaking it can be hard to choose a pattern, there are so many to choose from.  The same goes for fabric so much choice can be exciting but also confusing !

Here's my tip for beginners

1.  Fabric
I would suggest a woven cotton, or woven viscose rayon for beginner projects.  These fabrics are easy to work with they aren't too slippy, they don't fray too much and they don't roll.  These fabrics also press well which is very helpful too.  

Woven Viscose Rayon
Look for Viscose/Rayon Challis for a smooth soft draping fabric, or crepe which is not as soft and has a slight texture and can be finer.

You could use quilting weight cotton fabric or a smooth cotton lawn. Cotton will not drape like viscose bear this in mind when picking your pattern.

2. Patterns
Making a simple classic design, practicing it and making that pattern really well can really build your confidence.  Most patterns tell you the level of sewing experience required by a rating like Easy, Average, Advanced.  Patterns refer only to the sewing element of dressmaking though and really you need to consider the fitting element too.  

Fitting a garment can be hard and making pattern adjustments can be confusing and frustrating for beginners. Patterns that are less fitted are therefore easier.  You can tell by looking at a pattern if it's fitted or not but also the pattern should tell you the body measurements and the finished garment measurements, the difference between these two measurements is called ease, and obviously the more ease the looser/less fitted the garment is.

Cutting out
The number of pattern pieces also gives you an idea of how long the garment is going to take to make.  If you have 15 pieces to cut and sew together it might be easy but it won't be quick.  If you want some quick makes to start a handmade wardrobe or simply because you don't have a huge amount of sewing time spare bear this in mind.

Here's a few of my recommendations for beginner patterns.

1.  The Shift Dress/Top 
This pattern from Sew Over It London for a very classic shift dress is semi fitted with bust darts and a "set in sleeve" - a set in sleeve is something quite handy to learn.  There is no zip in the back just a hook and eye fastening, or you could use a button.

There is the option for no sleeves, and also an option to make a top rather than a full dress.

Changing the fabric really changes this dress and it's a great pattern to showing off a beautiful print.

I love this sew over it pattern and found the instructions and fit excellent I would highly recommend for a beginner.

It's available to purchase here 

There's also a similar free pattern here 

I made this shift dress pattern top (the pattern has a line showing where to cut for the top version), I also changed the pattern for short sleeves.  This is made from viscose challis which I got from weavedee (online store), I think they still have some left.  

2. Salme Kimono Top
This is a very simply yet classic design.  No sleeves to insert as they are what is called "grown on" i.e. they are just part of the fabric.  You need a fabric with good drape like a viscose for this to work.  There are neckline facings and cuffs on to finish the sleeves.

It's available to purchase here

This is my version in a very smooth viscose challis

You can see the cuff detail here which means no stitching shows on the sleeve edge.


4. Simple Summer Top
This free pattern from Colette patterns is really well written.  It has bust darts so it's semi fitted and also have bias bound edges on the neck and arm, which can be tricky, so good to master. There's a few different options all free to download to pdf.  I've made a couple in cotton lawn and they are lovey and cool in summer.

5. A Pleated Skirt
Slightly more advanced with pleats a waistband and concealed zip, and lining so a slightly longer make but still a beginner level pattern.  This one from Sew Over it is a great classic design.

You can purchase this here 

6. PJ Bottoms
If you want to make trousers then a good starting place is PJ bottoms with an elastic waist.  There's lots of patterns online including this free on here

7. Off the Shoulder Top
These are a great beginner pattern as the elastic makes fit really easy. Different fabrics really change the look.  


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