Skill building garment making sequences from commercial companies

You haven’t got to choose your own sequence of learn-to-sew-clothes projects. There are several companies that do it for you – most of them are pattern companies which want to encourage you to sew so have a focus on teaching. These video classes and books include patterns, and show you how to sew specific patterns. Though of course the sewing skills taught are generic, and you will be able to use them on other patterns.

These courses start from complete beginner to garment sewing, though they don’t all start with basic machine skills, see Get to know your machine posts.

Sadly, most of these pattern groups do not include extended sizes. There’s a special section near the end below.

On-line videos and DVDs

Would you find it less stressful to make doll versions of garments first ? No worries about fit or flattery ! or wasting large amounts of fabric.
Rosie’s doll clothes patterns each have a sew-along video. She has a sewing course (on-line video or DVD) which works through 8 doll clothes patterns (included) for 18″ dolls, to learn starter sewing skills.

Palmer-Pletsch Learn to Sew is on 4 DVDs, with associated paper patterns : make an apron and a nightwear/ casual leisurewear set (body bust 30″-44″), with a workbook of samples (change fabrics for night/ casual daywear).
Cumulative – you can’t start with DVD 3 ! DVDs :
1 – apron.
2 – robe or ‘kimono’ jacket.
3 – pyjama or elastic-waist pants, pyjama jacket or camp shirt.
4 – extra skills.
Or download videos at Palmer-Pletsch Digital. Patterns not included, paper patterns have to be ordered separately : apron, pyjamas and robe.

The Closet Core patterns Learn to Sew Clothing course is mixed in style. They aim to make you confident in following written instructions, so their materials are a mixture of written and video, the videos are not ‘complete’ sew-alongs. There are three main patterns, for top, skirt, and pants. Each comes in 3 versions with different style elements, and there are full pattern pieces for each.

From there you can go on to more specialised courses for making :

Sew Over It patterns Stitch School
Sew Over It patterns are more oriented to dresses and softer styles.
Introductory video classes, with pdf patterns included (pay extra for A0 printouts) :
Introduction to sewing : video course making cushion/pillow cover, zipped purse, pyjama bottoms.
Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking : video course making circle skirt, pencil skirt, shift dress/top.
Introductory e-books : with pdf or A0 patterns for clothes for body with hips 34″-60″, 86cm-152cm.
The Beginner’s guide to sewing e-book teaches new skills with each project as you make a cushion/ pillow cover, drawstring bag, tote bag, zipped purse, wrap skirt, pyjama bottoms.
Moving on to the next level, in the Beginner’s Guide to Dressmaking e-book you work through making an a-line skirt, shift dress, and tee.

Sew Over It don’t suggest a specific order for their intermediate to advanced classes, but you would learn much the same skills as in the discontinued YCMI series by following the beginners’ guides with this video ‘master class’ sequence (pdf patterns included) :
Grace sleeveless dress.
Sewing and Fitting trousers – easier pants.
Advanced pants – full and narrow legged pants with fly zips.
Women’s and Men’s shirts.
Tailored jacket.
The Carrie pants pattern goes up max body hip 60″, the other patterns go up to max body bust 45″, max body hip 48″.
SOI also have several courses on learning to sew knits.

Those courses aim for classics and normcore styles.
Sew Liberated patterns are for more casual relaxed ‘artist-crafter’ styles. They have a Learn to Sew course with an intro video class on basic skills, then 10 garments to make, from elastic-waist pants to a lined coat, including tee and leggings. Papers patterns included. From the class materials available so far, the instructions are slow and detailed (6 hours of video about making elastic-waist pants).
Their main pattern range goes up to body bust 53″/132cm, hips 55″/140cm. No skirt – if you love skirts try Sew Over It or, after making your pj pants, see the Elastic-waist skirts post.

If your style is looser and more creative, especially lagenlook, Tina Givens patterns has a Learn to Sew course with patterns and videos. Good variety of fabrics and techniques. Here’s an idea of the style. She claims the course is for complete beginners, but the guidance on absolute basics such as using a sewing machine and cutting out is minimal. I suggest this course is better for confident beginners. Especially as sometimes her patterns and instructions are more ‘starting points for creativity’ rather than the detailed accuracy and completeness someone like me is more comfortable with !

You might like to start first with the old boho book on sewing without patterns (scroll down for the much cheaper recent edition).
Next section on more books.

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Some people prefer books to videos, as you have more control over the pacing and it’s easier to look at topics on other pages.
I like to have videos to be clear about what is needed, as well as pictures with writing for reminders and quick reference.

Most ‘learn to sew’ books are about home dec, bags, quilting, ‘little’ projects.
There are a few which teach through making clothes. Here are some authors I get on well with. Patterns included. I think you need to be a confident beginner to use these, see the two Beginner Sewing posts. Although these books focus on good instructions, most of them don’t suggest a ‘best’ sequence for making the projects included. I have tried to put the books in order of how advanced your sewing would be if you worked through all the projects included.

Very basic casuals : The Act of Sewing by Sonya Philip of 100 Acts of Sewing patterns. Full size paper patterns which need tracing, for cut-on sleeve top, skirt, pants (both with elastic-waist), sleeved shirt (body bust 32″-58″). Quarter of the book is on making those 4 garments, quarter on improving the fit, and half the book is instructions for choose-your-own variations. Instructions for changing necklines and adding buttonholes, facings, gathers, pleats, pockets, yokes, also for piecing, flaring or narrowing pattern pieces. No darts, collars, zips, or knit fabrics. At about advanced beginner level of sewing, but if you like casual wear that will be all you need 😀

Sonya has slightly easier but similar pdf patterns, and video sew-alongs with a few style variations, in her classes at Creative Bug.

Basic casual classics including collars, hood, sleeve cuffs, buttonholes : Easy Sewing the Kwik Sew Way by Kerstin Martensson. Long out of print, from the days when Kwik Sew patterns were famous for clear instructions with many diagrams. Full size traceable patterns (body bust 31″ – 45″) for tee, blouse, elastic-waist skirt and pants, with all the pattern pieces needed for many variations.
Patterns have somewhat dated proportions, so look for modern equivalents. These are more recent Kwik Sew alternatives, but sadly even they are now out of print as the whole pattern line has been discontinued : tee Kwik Sew 3766, skirt Kwik Sew 3765, pants Kwik Sew 3345. The blouse is camp shirt style, try New Look 6197. If you use patterns which are not in the book, you’ll have to make your own variant pattern pieces. Look at the patterns included with the book for how they’re done – you’ll be able to trace off some of them.

The Merchant & Mills Workbook includes 6 main patterns with variations, in ‘crafter casual’ style, and aims to increase your sewing skills.

More ‘girly’ styles in Tilly and the Buttons patterns book Love at First Stitch : pj pants, then blouses, skirts, dresses. Some are more fitted styles so need darts and zippers. I don’t think this book is for complete beginners as there’s a big jump in skills needed to go from scarf to pj pants. See Amazon ‘look inside’ for photos of styles included – work through them in turn to learn many skills. Full size traceable patterns, or download (body bust 30″ – 48″). Clear photos of techniques.

Intermediate level classics : Alison Smith is an expert sewer – not a pattern maker but a teacher to high quality. Her books have good photos to show techniques, and download pdf patterns for very classic styles. You could go up to Upper Intermediate level with her guidance. Most of her books focus on technique, but she has three which teach through making garments.

Dressmaking Step by Step has 12 basic ‘classic’ style patterns with variations (tops, skirts, pants, dresses, jackets, no knits or fleeces). Good big photos. Paperback.
Dressmaking is a bigger version of the same book with more variations on the patterns, and leads up to higher levels of technique. The fabrics chosen make the clothes look frumpy, but the technique teaching is excellent. Some years ago I wrote many posts on this book, links in this long review. Used to be a big hefty book, now a Kindle edition available through Amazon UK.
Download pdf patterns up to body bust 45″, body hip 48″.

Her most recent book claims to be the second edition of that. Not exactly the same, this version includes simple shirt and unlined blazer. Download pdf patterns, body bust 32″-47″. 31 projects in all, some include simple pattern hacking. Projects are not labelled with difficulty, but individual techniques are. If you follow the sequence of patterns, you work up from skirts to jackets as in the courses above.
UK edition called The Dressmaking Book.
US edition, called Sew your own Wardrobe, appears otherwise to be exactly the same book.

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Biggest range of sizes

Sadly the possibilities are not extensive, though recent courses are more inclusive.

Up to confident beginner
These Advanced Beginner written instructions do include patterns for extended sizes :
– Sew Over It beginner courses in e-book format (see above, e-book not main video courses), up to 58" body bust.
– Sonya Philips' book The Act of Sewing, up to 58″ body bust. Also the patterns with her Creative Bug classes, see above.

Up to Intermediate
Sew Liberated patterns go up to about 56″ body hip, and their Learn To Sew on-line video courses teach sewing skills up to about upper Intermediate level.

Muna and Broad patterns is one of the pattern companies that specialises in larger sizes. Their styles are mainly casual and loose fitting. They do not suggest a specific learning sequence, but they do divide their patterns into 5 levels of difficulty. Their patterns go up to 64″ bust body size, and they offer to draft larger if you need it.

Patterns with a wide range of cup sizes
If you don’t want to all the hassle of doing an FBA yourself.
Cashmerette is another pattern company for larger sizes, body bust size up to 62″ and cup sizes A-H. Their patterns are more fitted, with many dresses. They have a series of on-line classes about making various styles, with an emphasis on pattern hacking. They do claim to have a ‘learn to sew’ bundle of patterns, but I don’t think they are very easy.

These pattern ranges cover a wide range of cup sizes but aren’t oriented to teaching :
Sinclair patterns go up to 60″ bust, and increase the cup size designed for with the size of the pattern.
Jennifer Lauren Handmade patterns include pattern pieces for cup sizes A to F, body bust up to 62″.

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For those of us who do fit in the size range included in these courses :
from beginner to blazer – Wow, big achievement 👍 😀

Though don’t think you have to be able to make a shirt, fly-zip pants, and a blazer to be able to call yourself a sewist 😳 Or to sew your elastic waist skirt using couture methods !

Choose to stop, enjoy, and congratulate yourself on what you can already do at any point in any of these skill building sequences, and you’ll find you can make many garments and other items. No need to add more techniques unless you want to ♥️

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