A complete variety of garment types can be made with the simplest of sewing techniques.

This is one of my posts that kept expanding, so I’ve divided it in two sections :
A. garment types in a possible sequence for adding techniques as you make (this post).
B. some possible easy outfits/ capsules from specific pattern companies which (to my taste) design stylish casuals (see here).

I must admit that this post mentions very few dresses, the focus is on casual relaxed styles. If you’re a ‘one-and-done’ person who always wears dresses, this approach may not be for you. Though it is very simple to lengthen many top styles to make a dress, if that interests you. It’s neckline and sleeves, plus gathering, that you need the skills for to make a simple dress, and these skills can be learned by making tops.

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Making a wardrobe while developing skills

The links here may be to :
– posts on technique,
– individual patterns,
– collections of suggestions for items to make.
Some of these links are to complete posts, some to parts of posts.
The illustrations are just typical examples, mostly there are many other patterns in the same style.

Most of these posts are about using woven fabrics.
Sewing knits can be very quick and easy once you know how to do it. But knit fabrics are not easy for beginners to make successfully, as these fabrics move around and stretch while being cut and stitched.

See Muna & Broad patterns if you need a larger size than the patterns mentioned here.

Once you’re comfortable with all the techniques, and know your style and best colours, to make an integrated ‘minimum needed for the purpose’ wardrobe takes some planning. See some starter links to planning advice 1/8-1/4 of the way through this post.

– – –

After learning to sew seams
and hems,
understand a pattern,
and cut out fabric (note the links at end),
you will be able to make many non-garment items, see this post.

To move on to making clothes, the easiest technique to add is making a
simple casing (easiest casing is similar to making a hem).

Then you know enough techniques to make :

Easiest bottoms :
elastic-waist skirts
elastic-waist pants
SOI pjs Sew Over It

Many more pant and skirt options available to you when you know how to vary the length – see first section of this post.

Easiest knits :

Techniques for sewing knit fabrics on a domestic sewing machine.
Using a serger/ overlocker.
First knit garment – Leggings.

For more support on making a whole wardrobe from knit fabrics :
Meg McElwee of Sew Liberated patterns has a Craftsy video class on making 5 knit garments, including tee (2 necklines), hoodie, yoga pants, dress, pdf patterns included.
Or you could work through the Made My Wardrobe Home collection of 5 knits patterns, for 3 tops, leggings, joggers, all of which have on-line videos. Buy patterns, make donations for videos.

Each of these groups of tops adds a more difficult neckline technique.

Tops with a casing neckline
So the methods are only a small step on from making elastic-waist skirts and pants.

technique : casings.
patterns : A few top patterns are suggested from about 3/8 way through this post.
wilder-top Wilder top from Friday Pattern Co.

There are more suggestions in this post on peasant neckline blouses.

Tops with a faced neckline

I personally think it is much easier (though not easy) to finish a neckline with a true facing, rather than a bias strip facing. So I am surprised that many beginner patterns include a bias strip facing. Although nearly all instructions for making them give a distorted result.

facings technique : facings, with some suggestions on learning to make them.

some patterns :
There are many top patterns with a faced neckline. The only trouble is it often isn’t possible to tell without looking in the pattern envelope what the neckline finish of a pattern is.
If there is a double line around the neck in the line diagrams, that suggests it is finished with a bias-strip facing, see next section.

Here are a couple of near-beginner dress patterns with faced neckline.
There are more pattern suggestions below : you can use all the patterns with a bias-strip-facing neckline if you draft your own facing pattern to use instead (see facings post link above for instructions on doing this).
McCall’s 6465 – choice of sleeves, hems. Craftsy video class. (out-of-print pattern but available on-line and as pdf)
McCall’s 7120 – choice of necklines, sleeves, pockets, hems.
McC7120 McCall’s 7120
Simple dress patterns like these can easily be shortened to tunics and tops.

Yoked smock top
Sew Liberated Nocturne top has a video course on making it.
Comments on the course from about 1/2 way through this post.

Tops using bias strip facing to finish neckline edge :
technique :
Make your own bias strip.
Even if you use bought bias tape, I don’t think it is easy to apply it well.
There are details about the bias strip facing technique needed to get a good result, from about 1/4 through this post.

I think it is easier to use a true facing neckline finish, see above.
This post has links to instructions for drafting a true facing pattern (about 1/4 of the way through), to use on a neckline when a bias strip facing is the neckline finish in the pattern. Or there are links to videos showing facing pattern drafting in the facings post.

Some patterns for bias-strip-facing necklines and cut-on sleeves
These patterns are mostly ’boxy’ straight-sided styles.
So it’s simple to make a larger size if you like wearing ‘over-sized’ tops. According to the BMV ease table, tops are ‘loose fitting’ if they have more than 5″ ‘ease’ (difference between garment measure and body measure), and ‘very loose fitting’ if they have more than 8″ ease.
For example if someone with body bust 42″ wants to make a very loose fitting top, they need to choose the size of a boxy-top pattern which has a finished bust measure of at least 42+8=50″.

louboxtop Lou Box Top from SewDIY

Cut-on sleeve tops series
1. patterns – purchase or make your own.
2. fit – make a test garment and improve the fit and look, then revise the original pattern.
3. make – the sewing skills you need to make your top pattern.

More patterns and on-line videos for cut-on sleeve tops
Patterns and videos for boxy tops from Cal Patch and Sonya Philip.
All Well Workshop box tops pattern includes a ‘hacking guide’ for other styles.
Tropical Research ’T’ pattern is similar, with different variations, and beautifully illustrated instructions, also links to videos.
momosAtelier tops pattern has separate sleeves and includes sleeve variations.

Butterick 3039 is a wardrobe pattern for sizes 16W – 32W (‘jacket’ has finished garment bust 49-65″). Top and dress with cut-on sleeves and bias-strip-facing neckline, elastic-waist skirt and pants. The shirt-jacket has collar and button front, so is a bit outside the scope of the sewing skills being suggested here.

Flat-set sleeve
technique : Instructions for getting a non-distorted result at the underarm point where sleeve seam/ side seam/ armhole seams meet : see ‘flat set’ sleeve in this post.
patterns :
Many casual styles have this type of sleeve. I’ve mostly mentioned this if I give a link to a pattern.
SP flat set slv
Sonya Philip has a flat-set sleeve top among her patterns and in her book The Act of Sewing.

Simplest jackets
Many teachers and pattern designers suggest a robe-style jacket, with a neckband along the front edges and round the neck, as the easiest jacket to start with. These have to be held closed with a belt.
For a first make : belt, pockets, perhaps sleeve cuffs are optional.

technique : This type of neckband is one of a group of similar techniques which are used for many purposes, see casings post.

some patterns :
There’s now an individual post on patterns in this style, see here. Below are links to some of them.

quince img
The Seamwork Quince robe-jacket is made almost entirely by straight line stitching.
Variations on the Quince pattern, at the beginning of and from about 1/2 way through this post.

Palmer-Pletsch have a learn-to-sew course consisting of DVDs + paper patterns. The second DVD is on making a robe. Their instructional DVDs are cumulative, so DVD2 assumes you have worked through DVD1 first. Slightly more difficult armhole than the Quince.

Sew Girl Suki is an indie pattern for a robe-jacket with separate flat-set sleeves,
with a clear photo tutorial, (scroll down to about half-way)
and access to a video (move along the time line to 3hrs 9min).

All Well Workshop have a cut-on sleeve jacket pattern with ‘hacking guide’ for variations (the quilted ones are made from pre-quilted fabric).

Tropical Research has two easy drop-shoulder jacket patterns which can be made from nearly any fabric and include quilt-it-yourself instructions. The Cozy coat has 2 neckline shapes, the Kimono cardigan has a neckband. Both patterns have links to videos and several variations.

McCall’s 8052 is a softer style easy jacket. Has to be made from fabric with 2 good sides, as the ’shawl’ collar/ neckband is a single layer of fabric. Pattern provides sleeveless and 3 sleeve length versions. Crop or extend the body length yourself. Can be made from light wovens and light knits.

For more ideas for robe variations, see this pinterest board.

Make a vest by omitting the sleeves. (Fitted jacket patterns may need a change to the armhole when converting to a vest. Causal styles have much bigger armholes so no change is necessary.) Finish the armhole edge with a true facing or bias strip facing – see above on tops.

Make an unlined coat simply by lengthening a jacket pattern and using heavier fabric, perhaps in a larger size.
For some ideas see the Tropical Research patterns above.
And see Sandra Betzina’s book for advice on using fabrics beyond the light-medium ones best for beginners.
There are methods of adding a lining which are not too difficult, but perhaps not for early beginners !

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Any added technique greatly increases the range of garment styles you can make. These are some
next step techniques for advanced beginners :
change length,
patch pockets, first 1/3 of this post,
straps and belts.

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Here are the sections in this group of posts on learning to sew :

1. Start on the path to learning to sew :
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

4. Variations :
Variations A : change style elements.
Variations B : from pullover to open front.
Variations C : using your fibre-arts skills

5. Become aware of your many styles.

6a. Beginner wardrobe A : add skills as you make clothes.
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 three posts :
. . . patterns,
. . . fit, and style preferences,
. . . sewing.
Peasant-style tops.
More easy tops

Elastic-waist skirts.
Elastic-waist pants.

Robe style jackets.

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