What are your styles ?

There are many styles involved in sewing your own clothes.
There’s such a huge range of items you could make when you can sew, it’s good to know your preferences to help avoid getting overwhelmed, or feeling guilty about what you ‘ought’ to be able to do. I’ve spent much of my life thinking I ‘ought’ to be able to make a blazer, though I haven’t actually worn one since the 1970s ! Now I’ve managed to convert that ‘ought’ into an interesting challenge perhaps for the future.

What is your learning style, your sewing style, your pattern-using style, your clothing style ?
– your clothing style – do you love dresses or pants ? edgy or romantic ?
– your learning style – do you get on best with videos or text ? need an overview ? very detailed instructions or just a general idea of what to aim for ? to learn with other people ? how do you deal with mistakes ? or give yourself a little reward ?
– your sewing style – do you like to use techniques that are quick? quality? couture?
– your use of patterns – make your own ? use only one pattern and make variations ? use a different pattern every time ?

It’s helpful to know your preferences – to clarify where among all the myriad sewing possibilities you belong πŸ˜€ Some of these options you may know without doing any sewing (your favourite clothing style, and learning style). Some you can only find by doing some making (how do you like to do your sewing, and use patterns). So, more on these choices below.

There is much to talk about, so this is a long post !
There are sections on :
– your clothing style.
– specific sewing skills needed for your clothing style.
– your :
– – learning style,
– – sewing style,
– – pattern using style.
– the basic 20% of sewing skills, and what you can do with them.

Core 4 wardrobe building, personal style

After all your learning to sew, you can make a ‘Core 4’ of jacket, top, skirt, pants for wardrobe building.
See Core 4 wardrobe plans from Nancy Nix-Rice (more professional styles) and The Vivienne Files (more casual styles, the lines of text aren’t marked as links but they are clickable).
Use their ideas only as guides to the general principles of basic wardrobe building, as their specific examples are much more complex to make than you yet have the skills for.
And beware following other people’s ideas of what you should wear. My wardrobe consists almost entirely of over-sized pullover tops and padded vests, two items which stylists and wardrobe planners rarely mention. I don’t own any dresses, I do have a couple of rarely-worn skirts.

But you can still have fun with making an entire wardrobe which is right for you πŸ˜€

Which variations of your chosen course patterns would you like to focus on, to express your personal style ?
If you don’t know what your clothing style is, just choose the variations you like best. That preference, for what makes you feel and look good, is the base of your personal style. Choose to wear what you love, what makes you feel “you”. No need to know what label someone else might give to these clothes.
If you don’t know how to start answering that question, here is a post on beginning to identify the many clothing details you may prefer.

Members of Seamwork can take an on-line wardrobe design course free, which includes a style workshop. The course includes a pdf of line diagrams of all Seamwork patterns. And members can download at least 2 patterns a month ‘free’.
I like the Seamwork approach to style because it doesn’t use categories, but if you find style categories helpful there are many options linked to from this post.
Sew Liberated patterns have a Mindful Wardrobe course, which is not just about style but also about the process of making clothes as self-care.

Most pattern companies don’t give wardrobing advice. Some who do are Sewing Workshop patterns, in their Sew Confident series, though they assume you want to use their patterns which are angular and loose fitting, and that you look good in black. Similar in style is Cutting Line Designs, who give wardrobe advice based on a pdf of line diagrams of their patterns. And there’s a pdf book with basic starter patterns and wardrobe building advice from Deer & Doe.

Planning a wardrobe includes knowing your best colours – the ones that make your eyes look bright and your skin clear, as well as making you feel happy and confident. For over half of us, black is not the best way to go. There are some starter links to colour advice from about 5/8 of the way through this post.

Learning more sewing skills for your clothing style

You may find you only feel happy and true to yourself when wearing specific styles.
I’ve put the way each style may be named in brackets ().
– sweatshirt and joggers (sporting, athletic),
– tee and jeans (casual, natural),
– shirt, blazer, and tailored pants (classic),
– leather and studs (edgy),
– a closely fitted dress (dramatic),
– a flowing dress covered in embroidery and lace trim (romantic),
(or of course some other combination of your own, I’m just using these as examples).
If you’re in one of these groups, you will need to learn more sewing skills than described in the posts in this beginner series, to be able to make the clothes you want to wear. But you don’t need to learn all possible sewing skills, only the ones used in making the styles you like to wear.

There are some extra techniques needed by nearly everyone who wants to make more than the simplest clothes. Such as buttonholes, collars, plackets, pockets, waistbands, zips – see the Intermediate list on the Learn to Sew tab top right above, or the Technique tabs at top of page.

Apart from those general Intermediate skills, each person who wants to wear one of the above styles will want to know a different group of additional skills.
Here are some possible places to start, mostly links to my posts :

tee, sweatshirt and joggers :
sewing knit fabrics.
using a serger/ overlocker.
Further advice depends on whether you wear these items for comfy slouching or for active sports.
If you’re slouching, you just need to know the basics about sewing knits, as above.
Really active clothes can need specific shapes, fabrics, and techniques. Fehr Trade and Jalie are examples of specialist pattern companies. But there are many patterns from other companies, see this list of Top 10 activewear patterns from The Fold Line.

classic styles : shirt, jeans, blazer
tailored pants (link to a specific course, one of many)

sewing leather

– a closely fitted dress,
fit challenges
fitting techniques
An easier option is to make a wrap dress from knit fabric. There’s a near beginners’ class from Craftsy. That Butterick pattern is no longer available, but here’s a list of possibilities from Threads magazine.

– a flowing dress covered in embroidery and lace trim,
see Embellishment on the Techniques A-G page.

– more difficult fabrics : see Sandra Betzina’s book Fabric Savvy

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Learning style
So you know what you want to learn. What is the best way for you to learn ?
Do you learn most easily from video, photo tutorials, text ? do you need an overview to provide context, or are you happy to learn from topics presented piecemeal ? For me an overview is essential.

I’m a very visual person. For media – I prefer videos and photo tutorials, though I admit I give instructions myself in text with few images ! I’m not tidy, I need all my tools visible. (Most people like this keep their tools on wall racks, but I live under the roof here, so I have not got many vertical walls, and they are filled with bookshelves.)
I also find it very helpful to my confidence to be able to look at samples of a technique I have made before.
You may have good muscle memory, so don’t need a visual reminder of what you can do.

I’ve also realised I stay with courses in which the teacher engages with the camera, eye-movements and talking as if to a person. I suspect Creative Bug teachers are coached to do this. With Craftsy it’s a bit hit-and-miss.
The first time I do something I like to follow very accurate and complete instructions. I get very discombobulated by errors in instructions, though I know some people can just laugh and move on.

In general about your style of learning : what support do you need for coping with your errors, and how do you give yourself a treat for achieving a learning step ? Here’s a post about dealing with your mistakes.
Or support for dealing with the confusion and distress caused by teacher errors, and how you manage to cope with them ! Teachers’ errors – best to just move on, that also needs support with self-care, kindness, compassion β™₯️

How do you celebrate achievements ? Finishing a project is itself hugely satisfying. For encouraging yourself through all the little steps on the way, there are many free rewards, such as having a cup of tea and a biscuit, or going for walk. I’m a pattern nerd, and find buying a pattern makes a good celebration πŸ˜€

Do you like to jump straight in to a challenging project, or to make multiple samples and learn new skills very slowly ? I find I like making samples, but only if they’re in a planned sequence leading to a project. Are you independent and like to find out for yourself how to do something. Or do you prefer specific guidance about every detail. Choose the courses you take accordingly.

Some people have had difficulty with COVID because you learn best in a social setting. One of the good reactions to COVID has been the big increase in on-line sewing courses. But that’s not much help if you need to be with people ! Hopefully it’s beginning to be possible now for you to find ‘live’ classes locally. At least look for an on-line class with an active ‘community’. Stitches run on-line real-time classes on Zoom, you can see the other people taking the class, and ask the teacher questions. I can’t advise you on finding local classes, but perhaps you can take some tips from these posts on your needs for best learning.

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As well as your clothing style and learning style, you will probably find you have a Sewing style.
Perhaps you prefer quick and easy, or boutique quality, or everything couture quality. Do you want a new dress to wear this evening, or do you look forward to the 80 hours of hand sewing needed to make one of Claire Shaeffer‘s jackets ?
I don’t go as far as couture, but I stopped following a couple of courses taught by popular teachers because they didn’t meet my need for quality. The aim of this blog is to point out the little extras in a technique which can elevate your makes from get-it-done to good.
The ‘make a skirt in 30 minutes’ attitude : it gives that great feeling of ‘hey I made this’, if you need that quickly. And the feeling of wearing your own choices. But otherwise for me it’s too much like fast fashion, so is not at all an expression of my personality. I’m definitely into slow sewing : making something that I will want to wear, and that will stand up to being worn and washed well into the future.

As well as the above specific links, see this post for some more advanced possibilities. When you sew, is your focus on enjoying the sewing process or on getting a wardrobe ? Some people love to learn ever more sewing techniques, and there’s a life-time of opportunities awaiting them.

Or you may find you want to make your clothes entirely by hand. After all, everyone had to do that until about 150 years ago, and it’s still done in couture. Focus quietly in the moment. Get in touch with the making traditions of 1000s of years. See for example Fibre&Cloth for booklets and kits, occasional live or zoom classes at Stitches, or try to catch a class from Tatter.

Or you may find you don’t want to make clothes at all – there are active groups/ teachers/ pattern makers out there who focus on quilting, toy-making, hats, bags, home dec, outdoor gear, and more. Or you may want to make clothes for children but not adults. Knowing the 20% of basic sewing skills will serve you well for making any of these.

Love sewing but don’t actually make : Perhaps you enjoy the pattern making, or fabric handling, more than the sewing. Or find you love to read about sewing (I enjoy reading pattern instructions, but know that few people share this pleasure πŸ˜€ ), look at ‘I made this’ blogs and Instagrams, watch videos, explore pattern sites, watch vlogs of friends chatting about sewing, listen to podcasts (not for me !), take courses on sewing related topics such as style, pattern making, embroidery. Or help with running your local guild. So many fun things to do πŸ˜€

It is a hobby after all, a way of taking a pause from obligations and getting some relaxation and enjoyment, so no need to feel guilty if you don’t actually sew πŸ˜€ What is your most rewarding and renewing way of spending your spare time ? I think I might have to say my hobby is taking beginner sewing courses ! though one of my treat/ escapist activities, what I often wake up thinking about (so where my creativity lies), is expanding my blog posts πŸ˜€

– – –

What is your attitude to patterns ? do you prefer to :
– use basic shapes and your own measurements,
– use your own patterns,
– use commercial patterns.

* Use no formal pattern
UK magazine Simply Sewing has some pattern-free projects in each issue.
In Daisy Braid’s book Sew it yourself you make clothes from simple shapes, mainly rectangles.
Or try Rosie Martin‘s books.
Or this book for copying your favourite clothes.

* Make your own patterns, perhaps having learned how to from a book or course.

* Use commercial patterns, and :
– use one pattern repeatedly,
– develop one pattern, and make a variation of it every time you make something, so you never need to develop another basic pattern again (I have so many fit issues, this is easier for me than having to start from scratch every time I start working with a new pattern),
– get bored unless you use a different commercial pattern every time.
– use zero-waste patterns.

The powers you have when you know the basic 20% of sewing skills

If your focus is on what you make, whatever your style you need to know the basic sewing skills. As Seamwork says : know 20% of the possible sewing skills, and you can do 80% of what is needed to make garments. And to make the other types of item listed above. What an amazing selection of items you can make with just those 20% of sewing skills.
For those whose main interest is having me-made clothes, and who are comfortable with wearing simple apparel : with only the basic 20% of sewing skills you can make a whole wardrobe πŸ˜€

You need at least to know how to :
– use a sewing machine to sew straight and zig-zag, or backstitch and overcast by hand,
– use patterns,
– cut out fabric,
– press,
– sew and finish seams and hems (straight, curved, corners),
– make an elastic casing.
Those skills are used whatever, and nearly whenever, you sew. The simplest ways of doing the next items are needed to make clothes :
– add sleeves,
– finish a neckline,
Only add more skills (for starters : make a belt/ strap, add a patch pocket, alter the length of pattern pieces) if you feel the need for them.

Yes, even to learn these basic skills takes quite a big investment of effort, time, and determination. But you will have learned a huge amount, can make many more items each time you add another skill, and have many exciting and powerful tools for enjoyment and self-care.
πŸ˜€ πŸ‘ β™₯️ πŸ‘ πŸ˜€

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These are now the sections in this group of posts on learning to sew garments :
The way this group of posts has become so large just shows how much there can be to know about sewing, and how many options you have, even at the lowest levels.

These are a couple of posts on starting to understand your machine :
1. learn to control speed and direction, by stitching on paper.
2. thread the machine, stitch on fabric.

This is the post I keep referring to about learning the most basic skills before starting to make garments.

1. Start on the path to learning to sew garments :
1A. Pattern lines which teach.
1B. Some big ‘learn to sew’ courses.
2. Some shorter courses.

3. Make making easier – levels of difficulty, suggestions for practising.

Moving on from the basics

While writing these posts, I was thinking about varying a garment pattern in two contexts :
4. Variations on a cut-on sleeve top, now expanded to include more garment types :
Variations A : change style elements.
Variations B : from pullover to open front.
Variations C : using your fibre-arts skills
D : Variations on the 2 patterns used in the Seamwork learn to sew course, a dress with waist seam, and a robe-style jacket.

5. Become aware of your many styles.

6a. Beginner wardrobe A : add skills as you make clothes. This post provides a guided sequence of making which you might follow.

6b. Beginner wardrobe B : some possible outfits/ capsules from specific pattern lines.

– – –

These are posts on specific easy-make garment styles :

Cut-on sleeve tops – group of five posts :
1. patterns,
2A. Reasons to make a test garment.
2B. Making a test garment, and adjusting for fit and preferences.
2C. An example of a changed test garment, plus how to revise your pattern.
3. Sewing a cut-on sleeve top.

Peasant-style tops, with gathered neckline and raglan sleeves.
More easy tops.

Elastic-waist skirts.
Elastic-waist pants.
Leggings.

Robe style jackets.

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