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Saturday, 3 March 2018

Please contribute: tips for sewing a simple skirt

Shall we do a collaborative blog post?  All about tips for sewing beginners about sewing a skirt.

At our monthly meetings we often get the question from sewing beginners: "I would like to sew but I never have before and I don't know where to start".  We have lots of advice and tips so how about collecting it all in one place?  Like right here!

We often recommend that a beginner sew a simple skirt first. There isn't quite as much going in terms of different elements that a dress or trousers would demand (getting sleeves to fit into the armhole, or doing a front zip on trousers).

First tip: when you want to use a stretch fabric and you have never sewn before then pick a firm jersey fabric that is a bit thicker than the cheaper jerseys that are very saggy and extremely difficult to sew with. Sewing with thin jersey fabric is something that I still can't do. Avoid it if you want to retain your sanity. Honestly.

Woven fabrics are much easier to sew with (as far as I'm concerned), but because they don't stretch they need to be fitted to your shape to look good.

There are different skirt styles with different degrees of difficulty. A gathered skirt made from two rectangular pieces is the easiest, - circular skirts and skirts made from flared panels are also relatively simple.

The more pieces your pattern has the more sewing you'll do, but you also get more opportunity to fit the garment to your shape because you have more seamlines you can adjust.

Sewing in a zip isn't as difficult as I feared when I was a beginner but you may want to go with a button closure on a first project. See how you feel.

A commercial pattern is useful because it has instructions: not just how to sew but there is also the layout of the pieces for cutting out, and it tells you which piece to interline. There is also really useful guidance on seam allowances and how to do the different ways of stitching (like top or edge stitching, under stitching, stay stitching, or how to stitch for gathering - all kinds of information).

The sewing pattern size is not the same as your dress size in shops. Measure your waist and hips and compare to the measurement table on your pattern. Most pattern envelopes have multiple sizes in them, often split by the smaller and the bigger sizes.

Above all pick a skirt shape that you are excited about! I often make the mistake of falling in love with the pretty fabric they used and forget to check the line drawing to see if I actually like the style. Which is kind of important.

Now I've gone on much longer than I meant to. I haven't even said much about sewing itself (the things we discover as we go along) - I hope that other Dressmakers Club members want to give tips and advice in the comments!


  1. I would say keep in mind your own shape when choosing patterns - if you're not the shape of the model the proportions won't look the same - I always like a straight skirt but a straight skirt pattern looks more like a pencil skirt whereas I find an "A Line" balances my broad hips and falls straight looking like the straight skirt I was after in the fist place! To look like an A Line, it needs a REALLY exaggerated increase at the bottom on me.

  2. Going for an A-line skirt, as Samantha suggests, is a good option. I like the one included in New Look pattern 6035. This is a bargain pattern as it also includes a simple to sew top, and, for when you are more confident,trousers and a jacket. What I like about the skirt is that it hangs from a yoke, instead of having a fitted waist band, so, for most figure shapes except extreme pear shapes, you only need to make a toile of this yoke to find the right fit. You do have to insert a zip but there are no darts to contend with. I would also recommend for those who want a straight skirt, but not skin tight fitting, New Look 6164, again a pattern with several items- a top, a dress and a simple drapey jacket- to make in jersey. The skirt is pull on with an elasticated waist and requires only the sewing of straight seams. If you use medium weight ponte roma it is a doodle to sew.

  3. My tip would be not to underestimate the fitting and pressing process. It makes a really big difference to the finish of your garment. there are lots of great online tutorials and videos on the best way to press darts and seams.

    If possible (it depends on the pattern) I always tissues fit AND baste and fit the fabric to myself to check the fit. There is nothing worse than finishing a garment to find that it doesn't fit!!

  4. Spray starch helps a lot with sewing wiggly knit. Just make sure it's washable. I use 3 tablespoon corn starch to 1 cup water.

  5. The best tip I ever got was to go with the finished garment measurements, not the body measurements which are always printed on the back of the envelope. Sometimes, you would see the finished garment measurements on the envelope, but mostly you only find them on the pattern itself. The measurements to take into account, I think, are always the bust, the waistline and the hips.
    Also, when you buy ready made clothes, the area which never fits on those is very likely to need amendments on your pattern. Google how to adjust a pattern to your individual body shape.
    And I can't stress enough good feet (and the right foot!) for your sewing machine. There are loads, and I would recommend a free class on craftsy: sewing machine feet from A to Z by Stephanie Lyncecum.


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