Getting Back Into Sewing Clothes

It's been about a month since I started working at Stitch magazine, and I'm starting to get the hang of things. I've been editing projects, corresponding with designers, and so much more. But, admittedly, there's one area where I could use more knowledge, and that's sewing clothes.

I'm going to make this dress. (Easy Kimono
Sleeve Dress by Charise Randell, Stitch With 
Style
2013) 

I come from the land of quilting, and I don't think I've sewn a garment since middle school Home-Ec. What a fun class! My first project was an "A" pillow, in a bold green fabric with white piping.

At some point after finishing the pillow, the class was guided through making a pair of shorts. I selected a navy fabric with a tiny flower print for my pair. I don't remember much about the process, just that it was enjoyable, and in the end, my shorts fit.

Now, here I am at Stitch, and I'm ready to get back into sewing clothes. I've been inspired by a pattern in Stitch With Style.

The Easy Kimono Sleeve Dress (p. 51), designed by Charise Randell, is adorable. I'm already thinking of what fabric I'll choose, and where I'll wear the dress. Fall is here, so I'd like a cooler-weather dress.

I'm a little nervous about jumping out of my quilting comfort zone, but I'm also excited for the challenge.

Whether you prefer sewing by machine or by hand, Sew Beautiful magazine has plenty of garment projects if you're looking for inspiration. You can get a free trial issue here.

What about you? What was the first garment you ever sewed, and where are you now with sewing clothes? I can't wait to hear.

Happy stitching! 

 

Other sewing topics you may enjoy:

Categories

Fitting & Alterations
Abby Kaufman

About Abby Kaufman

Abby Kaufman is assistant editor of Stitch magazine. When she's not scoping out new fabrics for her collection, Abby enjoys outdoor activities, and spending time with her husband and two dogs. 

26 thoughts on “Getting Back Into Sewing Clothes

  1. I learned some sewing from my mother about 45 years ago by cross-stitch sampler. Then, some hand sewing but Home Ec in grade 7, I did my own tote bag and in grade 8, an A-line skirt with a zipper in it. Pillows are a better idea, in my opinion! Anyway, since then I have made dresses, Halloween costumes for my children, children’s clothing, and a prom gown for one of my daughters. Now I am into making baby blankets and quilts but still have patterns for easy to make slacks, skirts, jackets and lots of quilting patterns. Trying to keep it all simple and do-able so I avoid frustration but I am not afraid to follow a tailored pattern. The dress you will make IS adorable and comfortable. Just get to know your machine and set it up properly for your garment fabric…and remember that seam allowances will be different for the clothing than quilting. Have fun and take your time….never rush, just enjoy the process! Sincerely, Vicky P., Farmington, NY

  2. I started sewing when I was about 9 or 10 years old. I would always take the scrap pieces from my moms’ dressmaker and make little dresses for my Barbie dolls. Made lots of tube tops then haha. My first real garment was a floral, A-line skirt with a zipper we made in Sewing and Textile class in grade 8 of high school. Since then I’ve seen a wide variety of things: bags, dolls, bedding, pillows, dresses, pants, quilts. I absolutely love to sew!

  3. I sewed a pair of sweatpants in 8th grade home ec, then did not sew at all for about 20 years… Back to sewing for a few years now, and literally tonight, I will finish hemming my wedding dress, an aqua (“beach glass”) dupioni silk fifties-style dress with v-neck and v-back, a full skirt, pockets, and a self belt that I put together from several different patterns. I underlined and fully lined, used French seams and pinking shears, and a horsehair hem and a grosgrain waist stay – all things I’d hardly heard of a few years ago. I love sewing magazines and the internet for expediting my skills improvement!! The dress isn’t “perfect” but it’s my best yet, and Saturday I will wear it with pride.

  4. Kyniska, congrats on finishing your wedding dress – it sounds incredible! Victoria, I think you’re right. Trying to keep it simple is the way to go. I tend to put projects down when they get too complicated, and avoid returning to them, and I don’t want that to happen when I start sewing clothes.

  5. I, too, began learning to sew at my mother’s knee, literally!! At age 3 or 4 I would sit under her old treadle machine when he legs got tired (she didn’t have an electric one yet) and learned to pump it as she asked. Then I took the scraps and made doll clothes. Mom was a perfectionist and later took tailoring classes and became quite an expert at her craft. I am not as driven, but have enjoyed sewing all my life. Some of my happiest memories are of browsing through fabrics and notions and pattern books for hours as a youngster. I made my prom dress, my wedding dress and 3 bridesmaids gowns. My sons recall having homemade pajamas and Hawaiian shirts and shorts, even their Sunday-go-to-meeting suits and ties were often home made. Sure saved a lot of money back then. Getting older, working full time and having arthritis had forced me to avoid the sewing machine for a long time, but 6 years ago when my last son got married, I dusted it off and made the bridesmaids gowns with matching purses, and ties for the groomsmen in a lovely hydrangea blue, since the bride’s choice of color could never have been found on a store rack. Wish I could post a photo here, it was my crowning achievement. Once I retire, I hope to get back again to sewing for my grandkids. Just at a slower pace than before.

  6. My first garment was a pair of white Bermuda shorts with a windowpane pattern in very narrow red and blue stripes, sewn on a machine in the basement of my college dorm. I worked very hard to match the stripes over the whole garment, and was very pleased when I finally matched them to my satisfaction. Of course, the human body is curved, so you can imagine that they were not only uncomfortable but had a very strange looking fit. I wore them several times before I would admit that matched stripes were less important than comfort and a good fit! Sewing lesson #1, learned the hard way!

  7. I started sewing when I was very young. I made several gathered skirts in grade school and graduated to “shift” dresses in high school. Now about 50 years later, I make most everything I wear, slacks, tops, dresses, etc. I have even made a wedding suit (very fancy jacket and long straight skirt) for a friend. I has been an ongoing adventure that I have thoroughly enjoyed.

  8. The very first garment I sewed was a simple A-line dress with a lace inset in the back of the u shaped neck. I really loved that dress! I wish I had the time for all of the ideas and project in my head! I have a lovely studio and it would be “sew” nice to be down there all day long instead of the drudgery or work! :^)

  9. My very first garment was a windowpane check coatdress with piping and bound buttonholes. I was taking sewing lessons and my Mother was determined to enter me in the Singer sewing contest. Well, I came in first, for a 12 year old this was thrilling. In high school, while taking Home Ec. I made a wool vest which I covered with hand embroidery and a coordinating skirt. I entered it in the make it with wool contest and placed first, my passion for sewing was growing. My teacher suggested I apply to F.I.T. in N.Y.C. The following year I left everything familiar behind for the city! It was the most amazing time in my life. Got a job as an assistant designer for a sportswear company, one year later gave it all up to move back home and get married. Many years later opened a successful liturgal dancewear co. 7 years later closed it due to a back injury. Now it is 8 years later and I am trying to come back, regain my skills and hopefully be creative once again.

  10. Hi Abby – I started sewing when I was about 6. My mom taught me of course. At first I made clothes for my doll, and then I made clothes for a baby cousin. I don’t remember the first clothing I made for myself, but I made most of my clothes all through high school. What I didn’t learn then was altering patterns so they fit me perfectly, and that has always been a gap in my sewing knowledge. I did learn other wonderful sewing and hand finishing skills from my mom. As I aged, I wanted more tailored clothing so I stopped sewing for myself. I never stopped sewing for the home, though – curtains, pillow cases, pillows, tablecloths, comforters. Just recently I’ve made it a goal to learn to fit patterns to myself, and I’ve made several skirts and a blouse. It’s going pretty well. I still have a lot to learn about fitting and altering patterns.

  11. Wow by high school I was already getting certificates for my sewing and embroidery from the University of London.
    I started sewing at age 5 I made a swimsuit, a hat and hammock for my teddy bear. I learned to knit at age 6. I have made hundreds of clothes and always wished I had followed my dream to work in Fashion but alas I never did.
    I made all my children’s clothing up and knitted all their sweaters until they left home and that was just my hobby, I’ve made every item of clothing over the 54 years I’ve been doing it.
    I make a sell vintage clothing and that is where my heart is at the moment. I have also ventured into bag making and recently bought a machine that would work well with, leather lets hope it works out well.
    I also like to recycle fabric and have some projects going for that too.
    I would love to teach dressmaking if their was an interest for it I think their is nothing like having made a beautiful piece of clothing that is totally unique not like what is on the racks at the mall. I would love to see younger people more interested in it.

  12. oh yes – junior high Home-Ec class. My first project was a circle skirt and I had a devil of a time hemming it. This was in the 50’s and there was no such thing as “ease” in fabric. But I wore that skirt proudly. All through high school I made most of my own clothes – unless I bought separates. I had to tweak the Simplicity patterns because the measurements were never what my body was. And Butterick patterns were the only others available, and their measurements were even harder to tweak. When I was 15 I made a Mothers’ Day dress for my mom, all in secret at home. I sewed in dotted swiss and cut the pattern to match the dots the best I could. She was surprised, because it looked store-bought. Now all I sew are small things – projects that get done in half a day.

  13. reading other entries – I remember that my great Aunt Opal taught me to sew clothes by hand for my dolls. I learned to take tiny, even stitches before I was in school. I guess I was 4 or so. She was the one who encouraged me to embroidery too. My grandmother taught me to crochet and I taught myself to knit. But it all started with handwork for my dolls. I tried to teach my own daughter, but she wasn’t interested. She has my first Singer portable, but I don’t know if she will ever use it. Before I gave it to her, I tested it out and the thing still hums right along. I learned on a White Treadle when I was around 12.

  14. I have been sewing since I was about 10 or 11 when I started sewing doll clothe in junior high I made the outfit I wore in the fashion contest. I have made my own clothes, kids clothes and even taken worn clothes apart to make a pattern to make more of them. I am now 56 yrs old and am still making clothes for my grandkids. Enjoy sewing it can be relaxing if you let it.

  15. I have been sewing since I was about 10 or 11 when I started sewing doll clothe in junior high I made the outfit I wore in the fashion contest. I have made my own clothes, kids clothes and even taken worn clothes apart to make a pattern to make more of them. I am now 56 yrs old and am still making clothes for my grandkids. Enjoy sewing it can be relaxing if you let it.

  16. My VERY first garment was a pair of “gauchos” (a split skirt) back in Home-ec class MANY years ago…I hated every part of the project, but they did fit.

    Fast forward about 3 years and I decided I wanted a wool skirt suit, but didn’t want to pay the going price for one…so I decided to make one…and I did, although I surpassed my Mom’s knowledge when I got to setting in sleeves. Not one to be deterred, I went a bought a book on sewing and the rest, as they say, is history.

    I am completely self-taught and I’ve made everything from simple pillows to Wedding gowns, dolls, quilts, and my latest project was re-covering outdoor furniture for a customer a few months ago. I’ve worked as a seamstress for a dry cleaner and bridal shop.

    I LOVE to sew and make art – it’s my passion! I even have a website all about learning how to sew.

    Paula

  17. I started by sewing doll clothes, and somewhere along there graduated to sewing clothing for myself. I don’t remember how the transition came about, but my older sister and I and our younger sister somehow learned to read and interpret patterns. I think maybe she was in highschool by that time, and in home ec class. She passed on her knowledge and we also figured things out.
    I remember sewing a khaki twill A-line skirt (this was in the early ’60’s), a red tiny flower pattern dress that I loved, and also learning to mix pattern pieces from different patterns.

    Once, in high school, I sewed an olive green wide wale corduroy dress with a beautiful lapped neckline with a single button. By now, I knew that what I sewed was unique (I thought). So imagine my surprise when I was at a party in someone’s basement, and down the stairs came a girl wearing the same dress, only hers she made with burnt orange corduroy! We had a laugh about that!

    Just now, I am not sewing clothes. I have moved over into quilts, wall hangings, bags, pillows, etc. Partly because of time restrictions as I am working. My two daughters, who I used to whip up snazzy items for, are not living at home anymore and it is difficult to get the fit right without them there. I tried that, and had to do too many changes to the garments so they would actually wear them and they would fit. Perhaps I will get inspired to make something for myself.

  18. I started by sewing doll clothes, and somewhere along there graduated to sewing clothing for myself. I don’t remember how the transition came about, but my older sister and I and our younger sister somehow learned to read and interpret patterns. I think maybe she was in highschool by that time, and in home ec class. She passed on her knowledge and we also figured things out.
    I remember sewing a khaki twill A-line skirt (this was in the early ’60’s), a red tiny flower pattern dress that I loved, and also learning to mix pattern pieces from different patterns.

    Once, in high school, I sewed an olive green wide wale corduroy dress with a beautiful lapped neckline with a single button. By now, I knew that what I sewed was unique (I thought). So imagine my surprise when I was at a party in someone’s basement, and down the stairs came a girl wearing the same dress, only hers she made with burnt orange corduroy! We had a laugh about that!

    Just now, I am not sewing clothes. I have moved over into quilts, wall hangings, bags, pillows, etc. Partly because of time restrictions as I am working. My two daughters, who I used to whip up snazzy items for, are not living at home anymore and it is difficult to get the fit right without them there. I tried that, and had to do too many changes to the garments so they would actually wear them and they would fit. Perhaps I will get inspired to make something for myself.

  19. My first was a crop top and a skirt in 9th grade home economics but I haven’t sewn any since the patterns started not fitting me. I wear a 16 in regular clothes and I would have to wear a 22 in Simplicity.

  20. I have been sewing since high school but really got back into it when my children were little. I made most of their clothes and then started sewing for myself again. I still sew for my grown children. My son is impressed that I can make shirts for him that fit. I also sew for husband.

  21. I just started sewing again also and I am very rusty. I am relearning set-in sleeves and zippers. I want my garment to look store bought. I look forward to improving as I follow the articles in your magazine.

  22. I first started sewing when I was 12. Both of my grandmothers and my mother sewed. My mother had already taught me how to use tailors tacks to mark dots and darts, so when my Home Ec teacher wanted me to use tracing paper and wheel, we butted heads a bit. In Home Ec I made a simple skirt, but then at home using the same material, I made a handbag with a full flap which I hand embroidered. Over the years I have made clothes for myself, my daughter, & grandkids. I have made pillows, curtains, and pot holders. I even made a new cover for a very old baby buggy using the old parts as a pattern, for my daughter and twin grandkids.
    I have also worked at a motorcycle accessory company making saddlebags, at a tent & awning company where I helped with awnings, made custom fit boat covers, tote bags, and other misc items that they designed. I have also worked for Folbot, Inc. which manufactures folding kayaks.
    I am preparing to work on more clothes for myself as well as making baby clothes, booties, blankets for my soon to be great-grandson.

  23. I started at about 9 or so. My mother, grandmother and aunt are/were very accomplished sewers who designed and made their own patterns as well as the clothing. I was not allowed to touch the sewing machine though, my job was to take out pins, cut notches, etc. In high school I took a home economics class that required making a tote. The tote was easy enough, but the embroidery pattern I chose for the pocket was way over my head (I still do not like to embroider). I started sewing regularly after I go married, mostly because my father-in-law gave me a sewing machine, but it took over twenty years for me to fall in love with sewing, to take my time and enjoy what I was doing and look forward to it. I used to see it as a necessary chore, a way to get high quality clothing (that fit) for less money. I now love sewing, my goals are to take my time and try to get things as perfectly as I possibly can and even if it is not perfect, still love the results.

  24. I learned to sew making clothes for my Barbie doll. Then I spent the summer babysitting and bought my first sewing machine when I was 12. I made all my clothes from that point on and my daughter had a beautiful wardrobe as a child. I haven’t made anything in quite a while, but now that I’ve had bariatric surgery I need a whole new wardrobe and I’d like to make it myself!! I’m also teaching my grandchildren to sew — haven’t a clue where my desire came from, my mother couldn’t thread a needle!!

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