Six tips for dressmaking beginners

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Making your own clothes can be a very satisfying and useful hobby, with browsing patterns one of life’s greatest pleasures for dressmakers.

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‘Dressmaking patterns’ is a term to cover patterns for all clothes – not just dresses – for adults and children; in the same vein, ‘dressmaking fabrics’ covers a wide range of materials. Patterns are generally graded according to difficulty, especially with the big-name brands, which serves as a great guide. As your experience grows, it will become clearer how to interpret all the lines and shapes.

Easy does it

As a beginner, it can be easy to gravitate towards patterns marked ‘easy’ and spend your time poring over pretty dressmaking fabrics rather than tackling something a little more challenging; of course, there may be different interpretations of the word ‘easy’!

Woven fabric

Woven fabric is easier to work with for those starting out due to the way it handles. Woven dressmaking fabrics don’t stretch in the same way as jersey, for example.

Size

Although size is a good guide and you will have an idea of the size you need when you buy in a shop, the size on a pattern might be quite different. These are marked on the pattern as actual measurements of your body and garment measurements, which factor in a little extra to allow for movement. Take your own measurements at key points, and don’t forget that it is easier to take a garment in than to find material that has been cut away!

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Trial run

Consider making a toile, which is essentially a mock-up using a cheap fabric such as muslin or calico. A trial run gives you a chance to see how the finished article will look, feel and fit before tackling the pattern with your beautiful dressmaking fabrics.

Work it out

Follow the instructions and pay attention to anything that sounds complicated. This can be another reason for trying a toile.

Essential information

Each pattern, however difficult, will come with instructions and other key information, such as a suggested fabric type, how much seam allowance to factor in, and how to incorporate the grain line.

Threads Magazine is a great source of dressmaking tips. You can then enjoy browsing Dressmaking Fabrics online or in your local haberdashery store.

As with any skill, the more you practice, the better you will get.

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