In recent years, with the increasing popularity of the "do it yourself" philosophy, the amount of people wanting to learn to sew is undoubtedly on the rise.
Whether you are attracted to haute couture, beginner's sewing or simply curious to learn how to make your own clothes, as a nation we are becoming more and more interested in sewing as an outlet for our creativity.
You just need to watch popular TV programmes like Escape to the Chateau DIY to see how many people are creating things for themselves using recycled materials. Angel, who loves all things vintage, and her many acquaintances on the show can be seen making curtains, wall hangings, reupholstering furniture and completing many more sewing projects in an attempt to save money and re-use materials that have historic meaning to them and their new (or old!) homes.
Learning how to sew also allows you to make and design your own soft furnishings and garments and, in turn, spend less money on clothing and indeed interiors, which isn't always respectful of human rights and the environment.
The handmade element makes a lot of people want to take sewing classes: the feeling of personal achievement, the pride of having been able to make a dress, a pleated skirt, a trouser hem or a nice bag all by yourself.
But remember, Rome wasn't built in a day, and sewing a dress, trousers or a skirt does not happen by magic: you have to buy all the sewing essentials - which can be expensive - and then learn the technique.
There are many ways to learn to sew and embroider these days:
- An online sewing course,
- Private tuition,
- A sewing manual,
- Learn via online haberdashery and dressmakers sites: Sew Essential
- Read a sewing blog: Guthrie & Ghani, What Katie Sews, Did you make that?, etc.
- Subscribe to a sewing magazine such as Love Sewing, Simply Sewing, Sew Now, etc.
When you start, knowing how to use your sewing accessories is not easy.
That's why in this article the Superprof editorial team is sharing some useful tips for sewing newbies.
Think Carefully About Your Sewing Project
This is probably the first tip for all sewers out there, to avoid making mistakes and to ensure you make a well-sewn piece, you have to know what you are doing.
This requires you to have a clear idea of what you want to sew before you start.
Sewing can be motivated by wanting to give creations as a gift to others, to meet a personal need or a simple desire to create.
It is what you've decided to create - and the recipient of said creation - that will predetermine the choice and quantity of fabric.
Indeed, sewing one or two small tops for a 6 year-old girl is obviously not going to require the same amount of material as making double curtains for two big French windows.
Therefore, the sewing project in mind pretty much dictates the tools you need to buy at your local haberdashery or, for the impatient sewer, from an online haberdashery website: satin measuring tape, seam ripper, Japanese ruler, sewing needles, sewing thread, fabric, etc.
To sew a zip, re-do the zip of a tent, customise a top or pretty dress, for example, the choice of colour, type and thickness of fabric will be completely different.
Another tip: do not forget about sewing patterns.
Have you ever seen an electrician wiring a new building construction without a plan?
A pattern will also break down the work into different stages so you don't do everything in a rush.
For example :
- Take a day or an evening to trace the pattern,
- Another to cut the fabric,
- Then the next to start sewing.
If you still find it too complicated, use a sewing kit for beginners: these are usually very well done, and allow you to progress quickly with the right equipment and pre-cut fabric included.
Want to sew but ran out of inspiration? Having a quick skim at sewing blogs on Google can quickly give you fresh sewing ideas.
Discover how you can make your own sewing patterns...
Get Good Sewing Equipment
Like all skills, sewing requires you to fork out a bit of money to acquire all the essentials.
Equipping yourself properly to sew is indeed one of the most important tips in dressmaking. Here is a list of the must-have sewing tools:
- Sewing scissors: a big pair of scissors to cut fabric, linen scissors for finishing,
- A seam ripper: to sew a buttonhole or repair a badly stitched seam,
- Tracing paper: to customise sewing patterns,
- Sewing needles: compare the different models,
- Safety pins,
- Tailor's chalks or pencils: to mark fabric,
- An iron,
- A sewing machine: an electronic sewing machine will be easier to handle because settings are automatic, although more expensive than a mechanical sewing machine.
It is almost a truism: to sew in favourable conditions, it's important to set aside a proper workspace.
Tidy, make room, and set up your work station in a clean and bright space. A tidy, cleaned and well-lit room also allows you to clear your thoughts and work better.
On one hand, a sewing machine can be bulky, and you have to free yourself from the space to store all your fabrics and tools from your sewing box.
To enhance your creations, you may want to think about investing in a piece of furniture and a lamp to illuminate your work and the sewing machine.
Discover more on how to sew efficiently by using your sewing machine...
Pick and Prepare Your Fabric and Thread
It is important to spend time choosing your fabric and thread for embroidery or sewing.
You're not going to hessian fabric to make a vest top that you can't even put on once you're finished!
Jersey, jeans, leather, cotton, poplin, cretonne, cotton piqué, pure cotton, terry cloth, flannel, batiste cotton, velvet, coated cotton, denim, linen, silk, wool, polyester, etc: there's a multitude of fabrics, both natural and synthetic, which, depending on how they are made, will be thicker, thinner, or more rigid.
The same goes for thread.
After comparing all fabrics in a haberdashery, we recommended that you wash the fabric before sewing.
Make sure to steam iron fabric after its first wash so it adjusts to its actual size. This step is useful in the sense that the fabric will shrink to its final dimensions.
It would be a pity to take measurements - respecting the 1cm extra on the pattern for the sewing margins - and then you can't even put the garment on once it's all finished.
Now all you have to do is get to work!
See how you can make quick progress in your sewing with these tips!
Practice Sewing With Simple and Easy Tasks
When you start, after having scanned the net to choose your sewing machine, you have to learn how to use it, like a new toy placed in the hands of a child.
A zigzag stitch, straight stitch, overcasting, crowbar, bobbin, presser foot, length and width adjustment, etc. are all words to familiarise yourself with.
Familiarise yourself with your sewing machine
To learn how to use your new Singer, Husqvarna or Brother machine our humble advice will not please everyone: practice, practice, practice.
Sew straight and parallel lines on poor quality fabric which you don't intend to use.
It can be an excellent exercise to test your straight stitch or zigzag stitch for example, and practice varying the tension of the thread.
You will first of all learn how to thread the spool and insert the bobbin. Make sure that the spool of thread is of the same quality as the thread already in the bobbin, in order to obtain regular seams.
And, depending on the type of fabric you use to sew, you will have to learn how to choose and change sewing needles regularly. It's simple, but it's not invented.
Last tip for using a sewing machine: never panic and persevere.
Faced with a jam, a bad stitch, an irregular seam or completely ruined seam, do not be afraid to stop and do it again.
Make things simple and easy by making simple and easy things
Sewing by hand or machine may be more complex than you expected.
Our first creations rarely meet our expectations.
That's why we recommend you start sewing gradually, taking on bigger tasks little by little.
You should begin by making simple pieces: sleeves, waistband, elastic waist, etc. Then, make a stab at invisible lining, buttonholes, the finishing touches when making shirts, tops and dresses.
Sewing should always remain a pleasure, a hobby, a passion, driven by an insatiable thirst to learn.
Superprof recommends taking regular breaks so you don't let negative ideas, irritation and frustration drown out your desire to succeed: everyone can excel at sewing.
Our final piece of sewing advice: to improve your level, there's nothing better than individual lessons with an experienced teacher!
Where To Find Sewing Classes in the UK
The fact is that you can find sewing courses just about everywhere. Unlike, say, a Maths topic, for which training is usually held in an educational establishment and follows a more or less academic structure in terms of timetabling, sewing lessons are often run as workshops in the form of continuous study over the space of a week, for example, or as a one-off experience (perhaps a singular day/morning/afternoon session). The courses could be offered in blocks of two or more if the subject requires it or if a higher level of skill is desired. Not to mention, of course, the huge choice of online training that's available.
So, what is it about this craft that has taken your fancy?
Are you keen to develop a skill that you can make money from (for example, making toys, soft furnishings or unique garments to sell on eBay or Etsy) or are you simply looking to become more handy around the house (for instance, being able to sew buttons back on your shirts or taking up trouser legs that are too long)? Some women (though this is a very dated and stereotypical view see it as a being a real housewife's duty to know how to sew!).
A sewing instructor can be very useful in helping newbies and experienced craftsmen and women alike to build on their skills. Research acquired by the Craft Hobby Association indicates that more than 4 million people do sewing in connection to their home and that the same number of hobbyists dabble in dressmaking.
With so many different uses for the craft, you need to ask yourself what it is you want to learn to sew for, how you'd like to learn the skill and what budget you have to spend on developing your skill - and all of this comes before you start shopping around for courses (or else you may find yourself enrolled on several different sessions covering completely different areas!).
Below we will explore just some of the different types of courses and where you could enrol on them.
One-off arts and crafts experiences
Stitched Up, with its HQ in Chorlton, offers a range of workshops, parties, and educational events to suit a variety of ages. You can attend a class to help you repair old clothes, find a course that helps you to transform lifeless garments into something new and exciting or you can simply be enlightened as to how to use your sewing machine confidently.
A campaigner for upcycling, Stitched Up also holds a Swaps and Sales event which encourages an eco-friendly way of refreshing your wardrobe.
Sew It With Love
This company offers a range of sewing classes in London, adapted for all different levels: Beginners, Advanced Beginners, and Intermediate Dressmaking. As a beginner, you might find introductory courses like how to sew a tote bag, how to sew a pyjama set, how to use a sewing machine, and other general taster sessions introducing you to the art of sewing.
Advanced beginners, however, may discover how to make alterations, how to sew with jersey fabrics, how to sew lingerie and an introduction to dressmaking.
Meanwhile, intermediate dressmaking students will explore pattern cutting, how to sew cigarette pants, how to sew the perfect fit and how to copy your existing clothes and fashions.
All of the classes, which have excellent reviews from previous students as can be seen on the website, are very affordably priced with most coming in at less than £100.
Dressmaking - Leeds City College
This eight-week, part-time, beginner sewing workshop priced at just £60 is designed to help you to advance in the area of dressmaking. During the sewing lessons, you will learn to pin fabric using a simple pattern; thread a machine and wind a bobbin; sew a straight seam; take measurements correctly; insert a regular zip.
In the first couple of sessions alone you will already work towards making a cushion cover and a tote bag; this will enable you to learn some of the beginners sewing skills.
Online self-training methods
Possibly one of the easiest ways to learn to sew is to use the Internet. We use the term 'easiest' loosely because we are aware that a skill that requires this much attention to detail can be hard to master by simply reading written instructions, looking at 2d images or watching pre-recorded videos with no opportunity to stop and ask the demonstrator questions.
However, it is possible to find some really great tutorials on places like YouTube and Instagram. Basically, the Internet is a huge, free to access resource that covers almost any subject you can think of! Just think of it as your free, digital sewing school!
What you could also do is buy an item that you are interested in making yourself and pick it apart (literally) to see how it has been made so that you can attempt to copy the method yourself.
Get tutored in sewing with Superprof!
At Superprof, you can find a variety of individuals with experience in textiles who are just raring to pass on their knowledge, tips, and tricks concerning the craft. In London alone, Superprof counts more than half a dozen tutors starting from just £10 an hour.
Be sure to check what sewing projects your guide has planned for you and what sewing equipment you will need for your lessons (i.e. a fat quarter, scissors, thread, wool, rulers, etc) as you don't want to waste any valuable one-to-one time.
On the Superprof website, you can filter the results according to your level or your personal interests; for instance, you might like to consider those who are qualified in the fashion industry if you are keen to learn about dressmaking and tailoring. It is important to note that with expertise comes the ability to charge more for their time, so don't be scared off by tutors charging a higher hourly rate. It just means they're really good at what they do!
Challenge Yourself and Your Sewing Abilities
Now that you're a dab-hand with a sewing machine, do you fancy an even bigger challenge? One that entails showcasing your sewing abilities in front of a few people... ok to be seen by the whole nation?!
The Great British Sewing Bee is an English reality show starring amateur sewers who take on challenges as they compete to be named Britain's best home sewer. And who wouldn't want such a title?
Sewing was hugely popular among women during the early 1900s, and many women today still see this as an invaluable skill and therefore take pride in their ability to sew. However, sewing is no longer reserved just for women.
Despite being seen as an old-fashioned tool or trade by young millennials, crafting has soared in popularity again over the last decade. Personal shops like eBay and Etsy are no doubt huge contributing factors in this increase in uptakers, because there now seems to be a big call for homemade, personalised items. A quick search on Etsy shows very competitive pricing for handmade items which, in turn, proves that this skill is continuing to be used by young craftspeople with the added know-how of using technology to make money from their creations.
Joe Lycett, the newest host of the Great British Sewing Bee, which (when the series is being broadcast) is aired on Thursdays on BBC2, said: "My mum loves this show and she’s bursting at the seams she’s sew excited! Weave talked about it and she says I’m tailor made and I’ll have the contestants in stitches.”
According to the BBC website, the show's creators are looking for a new collection of talented home sewers to showcase their talents on the sixth series of The Great British Sewing Bee. Therefore, if you are (or someone you know is) a brilliant amateur sewer, then they want to hear from you!
We hope that the above guide to learning how to sew has been helpful to you. Discover also what you can do with all of your leftover fabric... such as a bag, an iPad holder, a cushion cover, a hair bow and sew on and sew forth...