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Beginner’s guide t

DRESSMAKING Get started with expert help & step-by-step guides



37 Skills Workshops

Helpful How-Tos

sic s a l c a w e S stulip dresside! how–to in MADE WITH


26 Easy Projects



Machine Know-How

INSIDE: Measuring ✓ Fitting ✓ Tools ✓ Seams ✓ Pockets ✓ Hemming ✓ Zips


Beginner’s guide t





126 essential skills

tools & notions


15 Measuring yourself 24 Understanding your pattern 52 Cutting out fabric 54 Pattern alterations 86 Hand-stitching guide 94 Ironing and pressing 100 Seam types and finishes 104 Adding decorative piping 119 Inserting invisible zips 124 Adding buttons and buttonholes 126 Sewing in-seam pockets 138 Inserting sleeve types 154 Hemming your projects 160 Sewing glossary

6 Sewing machine guide 8 Machine tips and tricks 9 Cleaning your machine 26 Fabric markers 29 Washing symbols 30 Fabric types and uses 42 Choosing machine threads 64 Adding interfacings 72 Scissors and shears 74 Rotary cutters and pinking shears 77 Pattern weights 88 Machine needle types 105 Using seam rippers 114 Zip types and uses

32 Working with jersey fabrics 38 Adding decorative eyelets 44 Sewing with delicate fabrics 66 Matching up prints 96 Adding decorative pintucks 110 Sewing neat pleats 132 Working with lace fabrics 150 Adding neat collars



78 142


48 Patterns & projects 10 Pattern: The Adele Dress 16 Classic stripe top 12 Cosy jersey poncho 35 Stripe jersey skirt 36 Cute bow tee 37 Colour-block maxi dress 41 Eyelet detail T-shirt 47 Pom pom infinity scarf 48 Layered tulle skirt 56 Cross-back summer top 60 Bomber jacket pattern hack 70 Statement circle skirt 78 Multi-way wrap dress 82 Kimono-inspired jacket

90 Belted tunic dress 99 Pintuck panel T-shirt 106 Colour-block shift dress 113 Pleated jersey skirt 117 Exposed-zip skirt 120 Zip detail trench coat 128 Boho pleated maxi skirt 135 Lace cut-out top 136 Lace applique sweatshirt 142 Statement sleeve top 147 Chic trouser pattern hack 156 Patternless circle cape


know your

machine tips Whatever type of sewing machine you have, it’s key to use it and maintain it correctly to keep it whirring away nicely! Follow these tips to get the best out of your machine, from cleaning to tension settings.

1 2 3 4

Use the same colour of thread in the top and bottom spools for most of your stitching – only use diferent colours for decorative stitching. Use the same type of thread in the top and bottom spools, as this will result in a more even tension. Always ensure your fabric is fat and smooth, as you will get neater stitching. Pressing before you start is always a good rule.

Always work a few stitches on a spare scrap of the same fabric you will be using to make sure the machine tension is correct. Diferent thread and fabric will need diferent tensions, so check it whenever you start a new project. If the stitches are loopy or overly tight then you need the change the tension so that the top and bottom thread loop together evenly. Read your machine manual to see how to change the tension as each machine difers.


The most important thing is to keep the stitches straight. Machines come with marked measure lines on the needle plate – keep the edge of your fabric running along it as you stitch. Stitch very slowly to start with and increase your speed as you gain confdence.

6 7

If you are stitching curves, stitch very slowly and gradually ease the fabric round using both hands so you stitch a neat curved line.

Don’t forget to clean your machine regularly as fuf gets caught under the teeth and this will stop your machine working smoothly. Your manual will show you how to remove the needle plate and get all the fuf out or refer to our helpful cleaning guide, opposite.


Get your sewing machine serviced by a professional regularly or when you don’t feel it stitching the same as usual – it will make a great deal of diference! Look online to fnd your nearest machine service or repair shop.


Keep your sewing machine covered up when you’re not using it to keep the dust out, and protect it from accidents and spills. With your new-found sewing skills you could even make your own pretty cover!


Have a look at all the diferent stitches your machine can do and read your manual, which will tell you what to do with them. Mostly, you will only use the straight stitch for seams and hems, but the zigzag stitch can be just as useful – it’s brilliant for working along the edge of a fabric to stop it from fraying. You can alter the length and the width of the zigzag using your machine dials, so adjust it to suit your fabric weight. The zigzag stitch can also be used for decoration so have a practice to see which diferent efects you like.


Change your needle regularly – they become blunt with time and use. Change it at the start of every project, using a needle that suits your fabric type.

MACHINE STITCHING You’ve cut out your sewing pattern and fabric, pinned your first pieces together, and now it’s time for the fun part – sewing on your machine! Follow these machine-sewing steps for a neat line of stitching every time, whether you’re sewing a seam or topstitching. 01

Raise the presser foot and slide the fabric under it where you want to start sewing. Machines often have a guide on the plate, giving measurement guides for seam allowances. Line up the fabric edge with this guide to your pattern’s seam allowance.



As you control the speed of your sewing with the foot pedal, gently feed the fabric under the presser foot. If you find that you need to support the fabric with a little more tension, hold it in front of, and behind, the foot and ease it carefully through.


It’s easy to turn a corner without finishing your thread. Make sure the needle is down in the fabric at the point where you need to turn, then raise the foot and spin the fabric round to the new direction. Lower the foot and continue your line of stitching.


Once your stitching line is done, finish securely by making a few stitches back and forth over your line. With the needle in the up position, raise the presser foot and pull out your fabric. The threads will still be attached, so snip these off to finish.

how to

measure yourself A great ft always starts with accurate measurements! So before you get started on your project, follow these steps for taking the key body measurements.


lways measure yourself before you choose a pattern size. The sizing can vary greatly from pattern to pattern, so don’t just assume you’re a particular size. Take all of your measurements, then compare them to the size chart (usually printed on the pattern envelope or on the instructions sheet inside). Measure yourself in your underwear, and preferably in the bra you’ll be wearing underneath your garment as this can alter the measurements slightly. For accuracy, use a fabric tape measure as it’ll curve around your body. You can measure yourself standing in front of a mirror, but for best results ask a friend to help so they can check the tape measure is sitting in the right places. Make sure the tape measure sits snuggly around you, but that it isn’t too tight. These are the most common measurements you’ll need for most dressmaking projects, so take them carefully and write them down in the My Measurements table.


8 6




1 2











Around the fullest part of your bust, across the centre of your nipples.




This is your nipple point. Use this to determine the positioning of your dart if you are performing a bust adjustment.



Your natural waistline, where you bend to the side.



Around the fullest part of your thighs and bottom.



From the top of your spine at the base of your neck to your natural waistline.



Stand against a wall without shoes on and measure from the top of your head to the foor.



The circumference of your neck at its fullest.


Across the back, directly under the arms and above the bust.






Once you’ve taken your measurements, write them down in this table so you’ll always have them to hand when you begin a new dressmaking project.





From your neck to the garment shoulder seam.




From the shoulder seam to your wrist.




From your crotch to the foor.



From your waist to the foor.



From your crotch to your waist, or wherever you want your waistband to sit.



know your

fabric types From the lightest chifon and softest cotton to heavyweight denim and canvas, there are so many fabrics to choose from! Pick the right one for your project with our fabrics guide and handy table.


here’s such a wide range of fabrics available that it can be impossible to know where to start, but it all begins with the project. Firstly, decide on what you’d like to make, and then use the recommendations given in the pattern instructions to pick a fabric type that suits (the print and colour are up to you, though!). With a few diferent garment projects under your belt, you’ll soon be able to match fabric types to sewing patterns with ease. Fabrics are made from diferent types of fbres, either natural or manmade, which give them their properties and govern how they behave. Fabrics can be woven, non-woven and knitted, which again afects their weight, drape and stretch. Many fabrics can be bought in diferent weights, too. Once you have this information about the fabric types, you can decide which one best suits your project. For example, if you’d like to make a fowing summer dress, it’s best to do it with a lightweight woven, natural fbre, such as cotton, which is breathable but has a little synthetic fbre added to give it drape. A cotton mix would be a good choice here.

NATURAL FIBRES Natural fbres can be split into two categories: animal or plant-based. Animal-based fbres include wool, silk and hair, such as lambswool, camel, merino, alpaca, mohair, llama, angora and cashmere. These fabrics are wrinkle-resistant, warm and comfortable to wear and drape well. There are three plant-based fbres extracted from diferent parts of the plant – the fruit, the bast (stems) or the leaves. Fabrics in this category include cotton, coconut (coir), bamboo, jute, fax (linen), hemp and sisal. These fabrics


are usually strong and breathable, and are often naturally renewable.

MANMADE FIBRES Regenerated natural polymers such as acetate, rayon and viscose rayon are extracted from plants like wood pulp; synthetic polymers are derived form petroleum oil such as acrylic, nylon and polyester. These fbres all have diferent properties and are often blended with natural fbres by diferent ratios to mix the desirable qualities of both.

WOVEN FABRICS Woven fabrics are made from two groups of threads – the lengthwise warp and the widthwise weft. They come in a variety of diferent weights, so are suitable for a range of dressmaking projects.

NON-WOVEN FABRICS These fabrics are fray-resistant, don’t stretch and can easily be cut to any shape. They include fabrics such as felt and feece, which are created by condensing woollen fbres. Real or faux leather and suede can also be used entirely for garments or work well as smaller accent details such as pockets and lapels, and are great for making bag and accessories, too.

KNIT FABRICS These fabrics are formed by threads that loop around each other and give the fabric its stretch and elasticity. Double knit fabric is formed of two layers combined in one fabric, so it is thicker and has greater strength but less elasticity. Knit fabrics are virtually crease-free and comfortable to wear – hello, secret pyjamas!

WASHING FABRIC Not all fabrics wash in the same way, so here’s how to ensure you use the best setting for your chosen material. It’s an age-old sewing debate: to pre-wash, or not to pre-wash? It may not seem like it, but washing your fabric is one of the most important steps in dressmaking. It’s vital for the longevity of your finished garment. Fabric can shrink and its dye can run, so – as much as we might want to skip this step and get stuck into sewing – it’s always best to pre-wash it before you start your project, either by hand or by machine. This depends on the fabric type and how you intend to wash the garment when it is made – wash it on the temperature setting you usually use for accurate results, but always check the fabric care instructions first, too. If you’re unsure, cut out a small sample, measure it and wash it using different methods to see what causes the least shrinkage and colourrun. Testing this will ensure any shrinkage happens before you start to stitch – which in turn means you can wear your me-mades for years to come. For more tips on fabric care, refer to the laundry symbols on p29.

fabrics and uses

When you’re matching up fabrics and patterns, the variety can be overwhelming! So refer to this table next time you’re fabric-shopping – it includes the common fabric types and what they’re used for. FABRIC NAME





Manmade fibre (synthetic polymer)

A wool-like texture, colourfast, washable, strong and warm

Sweaters, sportswear, knits and upholstery


Natural fibre (cotton)

Tightly woven, inexpensive fabric

Dresses, aprons, quilts and toiles


Natural fibre or blend

Lightweight woven fabric. Soft, fluid and easily washable

Dresses, blouses and skirts that need to drape well


Natural fibre (cotton or linen)

Light to mid-weight plain woven fabric with a coloured warp (usually blue) and a white weft

Shirts, dresses and blouses


Natural fibre (cotton, silk) or manmade

A lightweight, sheer fabric with an irregular surface and slightly rough feel. Tricky to work with

Eveningwear, especially as an overlay, blouses, scarves and lingerie


Natural fibre (cotton)

Mid to heavy-weight cotton with distinct ribs (or wales) which can vary from needlecord to jumbo cord

Jackets, trousers, skirts and pinafores


Natural fibre (cotton)

Made from the fluffy seed pods of the cotton plant. It’s hardy, breathable, heat-resistant and absorbs moisture

Most garments as it comes in a variety of weights to suit different needs


Natural fibre (silk, wool) or manmade

A general term for all fabrics which are made by twisting the fibres to create a crinkled texture. Doesn’t crease easily

Evening dresses, trousers and suits


Natural fibre (cotton)

The warp and weft threads are different colours with one dominating on the surface. Strong and hardwearing

Jeans, jackets, skirts


Natural fibre (wool) or manmade

Knit fabric with a deep, soft pile stretching across the grain

Jackets, tops, childrenswear


Natural fibre (silk)

Sheer fabric with a grainy feel that is soft, fluid and strong

Scarves, blouses and eveningwear


Natural fibre (cotton, wool, silk) or manmade

General term for knitted fabrics from fine to heavier weights, including single, double and interlock jerseys. Stretchy and crease-resistant

T-shirts, dresses and casualwear


Natural fibre (cotton, linen)

Fine, lightweight fabric with a crisp finish. Crease-resistant

Summer clothes, nightwear and handkerchiefs


Natural fibre (flax)

Smooth surface, often with slub, breathable, strong, creases easily. More lustrous than cotton

Blouses, dresses, lightweight jackets and trousers


Manmade fibre (synthetic polymer)

Trademark name for a brand of Spandex fibre. Strong and very stretchy



Manmade fibre (synthetic polymer)

Strong, stretchy and quick drying. Often blended with natural fibres

Outdoor clothing, jackets and bags


Natural fibre (silk) or manmade

Plain weave, sheer fabric

Bridal and eveningwear or sheer curtains


Manmade fibre (synthetic polymer)

Strong, soft and supple and doesn’t crease. Dries quickly

All clothing types and sportswear


Natural fibre (cotton)

Lightweight fabric with fine cross ribs. Soft and durable and less prone to creasing than plain cotton

Dresses, skirts and shirts


Natural fibre (silk) or manmade

Smooth, shiny and drapes well

Lingerie, nightwear, eveningwear


Natural fibre (silk) or manmade

Finely woven, mesh fabric. Lightweight and softer than net

Skirts, costumes and veils


Natural fibre (cotton, silk) or manmade

Thick, soft pile. Frays easily but has a luxurious finish and drapes well



Natural fibre

Includes lambswool, angora, cashmere, mohair, alpaca. Naturally stain and crease-resistant, good at heat retention

Coats, suits, dresses, trousers


cross-back top 07






oss Try making the cr e t th back detail withou your e curved edges to giv ok. top a different lo


SEWING THE FRONT Step one Sew the front pieces with the right sides (RS) together along the centre front. Step two Press open and flat. 07 Step three We added topstitching to the front either side of the centre-front seam for decoration. Step four Sew the bust darts in place if you have them on your pattern. ADJUSTING THE FIT Step one Before proceeding with constructing the top, first overlap the back pieces as shown and lay them RS together on top of the front piece. 08 Step two Machine-tack the back to the front at the shoulder and side seams and try your top on to assess the fit. The shoulder seams may require some adjustment to ensure the back pieces hang and fit correctly. Step three Pin the shoulders as required once you’ve adjusted the fit, if necessary. Step four Remove and mark that pin line with a solid line in an erasable pen (I used a Frixon pen that disappears on application of heat from the iron). This will be the new stitching line. You can see the degree of adjustment we needed to make in the image, but the adjustment needed will be different on each individual body, so play around with the fit until it’s right for you. 09 Step five Draw a dotted line 1.5cm (5/8in) up from your stitching line. 10 Step six Trim away the excess from the dotted line







and repeat this process for the front and back shoulder seams. 11 Step seven The same method applies to altering the side seams if you needed to adjust those to get the fit right, too. Your adjustment is now complete and you’re ready for final construction. JOINING THE SHOULDERS Step one Neaten the raw edges of the shoulder and side seams on the front and back pieces using a machine zigzag stitch or overlocker. Step two Sew the front and back pieces RS together at the shoulders only. Step three Press the shoulder seams open and flat and open the whole thing out so it’s laying flat RS up on your work surface, as shown. 12 BINDING THE EDGES Step one We used approx 3.5m (4yds) of 12mm (1in) folded width bias binding, but if your top is larger or longer more bias tape will be required. You may also be able to cut your own bias from the shirt sleeves depending on the amount of fabric you have left. 13 Step two Cut the bias binding into three lengths. Open out one long side and pin one strip RS together all the way around the front neckline. Step three Pin the other two strips around both front armhole curves in the same way, extending all the way around the curves of the back pieces and stopping at the side seams. 14

Step four Stitch all the strips into place. Step five Clip the curves and grade the seam allowances to reduce bulk. Step six Press the bias tape to the inside of the top. We understitched the seamed edge of the tape before stitching the other side to the top to neaten, but this step is optional. Understitching is a line of machine stitching worked through the bias tape and seam allowance only to give a neater edge and finish, and won’t be seen from the RS. Step seven Pin the other folded under edge of the tape to the inside of the top and then stitch neatly into place. 15 Step eight Once stitched, trim away any excess bias tape that extends beyond the side seams. JOINING THE SIDES Step one With the RS together, pin the front and back pieces together at the side seams and then stitch into place. 16 Step two Press the side seams open and flat.

e Topstitch the centr front seams for a . super–neat fnish

HEMMING THE TOP Step one The front piece will now extend past the finished edges of the back piece at the side seams. Neaten the raw edge of the front hem. 17 Step two Press the front hem to the wrong side so that it is now level with the side seam of the bound back piece. 18 Step three Stitch the hem in place in line with the stitching on the bias-faced back piece to finish.





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Beginners Guide to Dressmaking  

Start making your own clothes with the Beginner's Guide to Dressmaking Want to learn everything there is to know about dressmaking? Whether...

Beginners Guide to Dressmaking  

Start making your own clothes with the Beginner's Guide to Dressmaking Want to learn everything there is to know about dressmaking? Whether...