before you dive in
Sewing might seem like a daunting and expensive hobby. But it really needn’t be. I’ve put together a 5 step guide to get you off the ground with your first project.
1. Test the waters
Before you jump into action I recommend familiarising yourself with the process of sewing by watching our ‘Getting Started’ video series. This will give you an introduction to sewing before you’ve lifted a finger (you’ll find them at the bottom of this page). The videos cover everything from what tools you need, how to use your machine, choosing fabric, cutting patterns and some seam practising to get you started.
If you’re still keen to start sewing after watching these then jump ahead to step 2.
2. locate a sewing machine
If you already own one then perfect. If not, I recommend borrowing a sewing machine to use for your first sewing project. This way you can see if you like sewing before investing in your own machine. When you come to buying a machine, some recommended makes include Pfaff, Singer, Elna & Bernette by Bernina (I cover more on this in the ‘Your Tool Kit’ video.)
Other tools you’ll need include: an iron, ironing board, sharp scissors, tape measure, a box of pins, an unpicker/seam ripper and a sewing needle.
3. Choose your fabric
Having a fabric you really like is so important. It will motivate you to focus and sew the piece to your best standard if you think you’ll be keen to wear it at the end. To start getting familiar with textiles I recommend start by going into some of your favourite clothing stores. Have a feel of the clothes and take note of the fabric compositions on the labels. Try them on and consider how the fabric feels in your fingers vs how it drapes on your body. Take pictures, videos and notes if you want to.
Once you’re ready to go fabric shopping I recommend going into store rather than ordering online. Sales assistants should be able to help if you’re able to tell them the kind of fabric you’re looking for and the kind of pattern you want to sew. For a beginners project I recommend working with 100% cotton because it's fairly robust, easy to iron and isn't too slippery. Linens are also a good beginners fabric but they can be slightly more slippery which is why I recommend cotton over linen. If you’re feeling unsure about what to choose you can always send me photos and I can help to advise!
Lastly, you need to know how much fabric to buy. If you’re planning to sew one of our beginners tops the fabric requirements are just below. You’ll also need to get some lightweight iron on fusing, matching thread and buttons.
Fabric width 150cm | Sizes 6 - 12 = 90cm | Sizes 14 - 20 = 150cm | Sizes 18 - 20 = 160cm
Fabric width 110cm | Sizes 6 - 12 = 150cm | Sizes 14 - 20 = 150cm | Sizes 18 - 20 = 160cm
Fabric width 150cm | Sizes 6 - 12 = 125cm | Sizes 14 - 20 = 150cm
Fabric width 110cm | Sizes 6 - 12 = 190cm | Sizes 14 - 20 = 220cm
4. get practicing
To set up your machine at home you’ll need a clean table with good light and an ironing board set up nearby. Before you start your first garment take the time to get familiar with your sewing machine. Our video series will show you how to thread up and also help with some trouble shooting and common problems.
Next you can practise some simple seams as shown in our ‘seam types’ and ‘binding’ videos. For this you could use an old bed sheet or tote bag as practise fabric.
5. Start your first project
Once you’ve followed the steps above you’ll be ready to dive into your first sewing project! If dedicating a whole weekend to sewing seems unrealistic then I recommend breaking down the project into bitesize sections.
1. First you’ll need to pre-wash, dry and iron your fabric. I usually pre-wash at 40 degrees with no detergent. The pre-wash will remove any shrinkage and make sure your finished garment is fully machine washable.
2. Next print your pattern and cut out your size following the size chart. You can either print on A4 at home and stick the pages together to form an A0 sheet. Or you can send the A0 pattern document to a sewing printing company - my favourite is NetPrinter. They will print it in A0 and post it to you.
3. Cut your fabric - you’ll need a big clean surface for this! Follow our video on cutting for help with this.
4. Now it’s time for sewing. I recommend sewing for no more than 3/4 hours in one session. Sewing for the first time takes lots of concentration and it’s best to approach it with a clear head. If you get tired and frustrated then immediately step away from the machine and come back to it another day! You might like to plan 3 or 4 sewing sessions for yourself and relax into the process.
5. I always recommend doing button holes and buttons as a separate task. After you’ve finished your garment you might be tired and this last step takes longer than you think! Sew on your buttons holes first and then you can slowly sew on the buttons while you listen to a podcast or watch tv.
choose your workshop
The goal for this workshop is to get your sewing journey off to a strong and positive start and create a well made garment that you’ll be excited to wear.
If you're a total beginner this workshop will take you a little longer than the Cara Top Workshop but it's certainly still an achievable starting point.
You'll learn every single skill that I use to make these clothes having spent 10 years studying, working and perfecting my techniques.
You’ll finish with 2 pairs of trousers, 1 over shirt, 1 simple blouse and 1 top. And if you make each piece in 2 fabrics you’ll quite literally have created your own individual capsule wardrobe that’s personal to your style and shape.
the 'getting started' series
To get you ready to sew we've created a series of free tutorials covering everything from equipment to threading your sewing machine, trouble shooting suggestions, practising different seam types and cutting out your pattern.