Sewing Clothes – 10 Tips To Get You Started

What to do when you get to the store to buy your first sewing clothes project

Sewing Clothes

If you are new to sewing, and are not sure where to begin – here are some tips to help you
navigate your first purchase. If you are like me and have an enormous fabric and pattern stash, you can apply these principles to shop in your stash! These 10 tips for garment sewing success is a great place to start sewing successfully and hone your sewing skills. Sewing clothes is a fun way to express your style and exercise your creative talent.

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1. Before You Shop

Pro Tip: Decide what you are going to make before you get to the store.

Now this sounds simple, but it is so easy to get distracted by all the pretty fabrics and enticing patterns. Are you in the market for a simple dress pattern? Maybe you are looking to make separate pieces, like a top and pants. Before you start sewing, or shopping, you need to decide what you want to make.

Great beginners sewing ideas can be found here: Easy Sewing Projects For Beginners.

2. Dress Pattern, Pant Pattern, All The Patterns

Sewing Makes And Plans Volume 8
Pro Tip: For beginners, Selecting a pattern is the first step.

Choose a basic pattern that has clean lines and techniques you feel comfortable with i.e. zippers, buttons, etc. It’s great to stretch your talents, but that should be one or two new techniques, not the entire garment.

Start with an easy sewing project, check out this list of Pattern Sewing For Beginners — My Favorite Pattern Companies.

3. Dress Fabric, Jacket Fabric, All The Gorgeous Fabric Choices

Pro Tip: Select a fabric that is recommended by the pattern company.

Once you have selected your pattern – read the back of the pattern envelope. There is
so much information here. Look at the type of fabric the pattern designer suggests and
use one of those. It’s okay to go off the rails, but make the garment out of a recommended fabric first, this will help you see what the fit, drape, style etc. was intended for this garment and will help ensure success.

My most frequently asked question — where do I find great online fabric — here is my list: My Favorite Online Fabric Stores

4. Ask The Sales Staff For Help

Spring Pattern and Fabric Haul
Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Find the types of fabric recommended on the back of your pattern envelope – not all cottons, silks, wools, jerseys are the same. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, the sales people know their stock and are typically very knowledgeable.

If you need help reading the pattern, start with this primer on How To Read A Sewing Pattern Envelope.

5. How Much Fabric For A Simple Dress, Fun Shorts, And All The Things

How To Sew Slippery Fabric
Pro tip: Get enough fabric for the sewing pattern.

On the back of the pattern it will indicate how much fabric you need. At this point, you
can guess your size (don’t get me started on the sizing – it’s awful). There will be two
lines for each size – 45” wide and a 60” wide (if you are not sure, measure it at the desk
or ask the salesperson) each width will have a different yardage requirement. Be careful
to take into consideration stripes, nap and one directional patterns – these may require
more fabric.

My rule of thumb when I don’t know what I’m going to make is listed below. I often choose a fabric from my stash and don’t have enough for all the pattern pieces. When that happens, I get creative with color blocking or pattern modification. It’s a fine balance between purchasing enough fabric and not having too much to complete your garment.

  • 3 yards for a dress pattern – more if it is maxi
  • 3 yards for a jacket pattern
  • 2.5 yards for pants, but I’m short
  • 1.5 yards for a skirt
  • 2 yards for a blouse
  • 1.5 yards for a top

6. You May Need A Muslin

Pro Tip: Make a muslin for the best fit.

Decide if you need to make a muslin (test fitting garment). It is always a good idea.
For this you will only need an inexpensive fabric that has the same weight and hand as
your fashion fabric.

Visit my basic fitting video series to get you off and running on the best fit possible. Begin with Draping 101.

7. Necessary Notions

The Ultimate List Of FAVORITE Sewing Supplies
Pro Tip: Check the back of the pattern to see what notions you need.

Matching thread, of course, also zips, buttons, tape, interfacing, lining, etc. Choose your notions carefully. The thread should match, for most beginner garments cotton coated poly is
fine. Zips should usually match the background color – pay attention if it should be an
invisible, traditional or separating zip and also what length. Buttons are organized by size, the pattern will indicate what size is recommended.

My Ultimate List Of Favorite Sewing Supplies will get you started with the best tools. 

8. Get Everything Cut

Concord T Shirt Sew Along
Pro Tip: Gather everything you need cut before heading to the cutting table.

Have your fabric and notions that require measuring out, cut at the cutting table. Again, if you are unsure, ask the sales help. Most stores will not take a fabric back once it’s cut. Make sure you get one continuous piece of fabric

9. Prep Your Fabric

Pro Tip: Always prep your fabric before cutting.

For garment sewing projects, you need to prep you fabric choice before you cut into it. If you are going to wash and dry your finished garment, then you need to wash and dry the uncut fabric in the same manner. For example, fine fabrics might require being washed in cold water and line dried — prep your fabric by cold water wash and line dry, then wash your finished garment the same way every time.

Handling fashion fabric in this manner will help prevent shrinking fabric. You put a lot of time, effort, and money into making this dress or outfit, you want it to last.

10. Start Sewing

Barrett's Custom Design
Pro Tip: Have fun and enjoy your sewing journey.

Cash out, head home and dream about your exciting new creation!

From paper pattern to sewing tutorial, you will be sewing gorgeous clothes in no time.

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel, Barrett’s Custom Design, and follow along as I make fun garments and explore sewing techniques.

Sewing Your Own Clothes

Sewing Clothes

It’s easy to plan stunning clothes with these 10 tips to garment sewing success. The art of sewing clothes is really just that — a form of artistic expression. And like any artisanal craft, you need to practice, try new things, and have fun!

Happy Sewing,



Make your garments better with my 21 Tips To Take Your DIY Garment From Homemade To High End

Do you love Sew Alongs and Sewing Tips and Tricks – My Youtube channel Barrett’s Custom Design is filled with great sewing techniques served up with a few laughs. 

In my Sewing With Sandi Etsy Shop has over 500 hard to find women’s, men’s, and children’s patterns along with costume and craft patterns. You will find little girls’ bows, a few sewing notions, sewing kits, but mostly lots and lots of patterns. 

If you are looking for personalized sewing instruction, one-to-one zoom time, discounts, and exclusive pattern drafting and sewing videos then check out a membership at Sewing With Sandi. We will make beautiful clothes together. 

34 thoughts on “Sewing Clothes – 10 Tips To Get You Started

  1. Oh how I wish I had learned how to sew. I feel like this is a skill that I am lacking. My daughter has been able to learn some sewing from my mother in law, but I wish it was something I could teach her instead. Maybe now that I have some free time on my hands I need to get my sewing machine out and start learning how to use it.

  2. I always admire someone who can sew…can’t do so much as a button here. Well I can, but it is sooo frustrating.

  3. I love to sew but haven’t for awhile. I guess I have the perfect opportunity to pull out the machine and fabric. Thanks for the information. Nicely laid out and would be very helpful if you were first starting out.

  4. I like the tip about making a decision before you go to the store and avoiding the distractions. I’m easily distracted so this is something I need that constant reminder about!

  5. Reading this made me think about my brother-in-law. The other day on Facebook he posted that he just learned there was a thread “cutter” on the side of his sewing machine, haha. All of these years that he has used it, and he has always cut his thread with scissors. Proves that we learn something new every day – thank you so much for this information!

  6. I have so many great seamstresses in my life that I never felt as though I needed to know much more than how to sew a button or mend a seam. However, if there’s one thing this quarantine has taught me, it is that basic skills are more essential than ever!

  7. I’ve been crafting masks these last few weeks, might need to step it up a bit and expand my skills after we can head to the stores again.

  8. Love this! I haven’t tried to sew anything other than a hole or a button for close to 40 years. I almost didn’t pass that home economics module. hehe

  9. I no longer sew clothes, I do quilt and make small projects. The hardest part for me always is picking out my material. So many wonderful choices!

  10. Excellent tips! I used to sew a lot and made many of my clothes as a newlywed. Sadly I lost my sewing machine during the Joplin tornado in 2011. I should purchase another one!

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