What is your preferred speed of learning ? You haven’t got to keep rushing on to the next skill, though some courses give that impression – and some people want to ! There are many ways you can strengthen your skills at a given level of difficulty before moving on, perhaps by making the same item several times, or making another similar item.

If you push yourself on to do something despite being worried or nervous about it, then sewing is not a pleasure but a stress. So it’s important to change the way you are going about things. Perhaps by :
– doing more searching to find instructions that you can follow easily, or
– back-tracking to an easier task and doing more practise with a focus on confidence and relaxation, as you build up to having more sewing skills.

For the first approach : I have made many comments in other posts, such as the first posts in this group and the post on your styles (see the list of links at the end), about finding the right teacher/ instructions/ learning pace for you. Something that makes you feel “I can do this” as you watch or read. If anything makes you feel uncomfortable, I suggest you try to go elsewhere.

On practice : this is another post which expanded so much it became unwieldy and is now divided into parts:
– the same garment feature, such as a neckline or sleeve, can be made using several different techniques which are at different levels of difficulty.
– some suggestions for practising.

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Levels of difficulty

Any course that teaches how to make garments has to include many skills which are all needed for the first ever project – using a machine, using a pattern, cutting out fabric, before you ever get to doing the many techniques involved in sewing and pressing seams and hems, finishing a neckline, adding elastic, sleeves and pockets. Perhaps you would like to learn these skills more slowly, if so see section below on practising.

Not only do we all have different preferences for how we learn to make our clothes (see Section 5), there may also be many different methods of dealing with a particular sewing task. And these different techniques vary in difficulty. Neckline finish, sleeve attachment method, and elastic casings come up repeatedly in this group of posts.
So that multiplies what there is to learn.

Elastic casings are often considered the easiest garment-making skill to learn after seams and hems, as the easiest casing is like sewing a hem. So there are many patterns for elastic waist pants and skirts. And there are many casing methods, some (including the easiest) are described in the casings post.

The two Seamwork patterns mentioned in the post on big teaching courses have different ways of finishing the neckline : neckband and true facing. There’s another method, bias strip facing, much used in beginner patterns but which I don’t find at all easy to do well (see this post).
Sadly there’s no trivially easy way of finishing a curved neckline. Except for a few halter and peasant style tops which have a casing neckline so are like making elastic-waist pants, see this post for some links.
Otherwise I would put the neckline finishing methods in order of difficulty as : neckline band (for jackets but not tops), true facing, bias strip facing.

The two Seamwork patterns also have different ways of attaching the sleeves: straight seam + square underarm, and fitted armhole.
There are several more ways of adding a sleeve, see this post.
These include a third method, intermediate in difficulty between the two Seamwork patterns, the ‘flat set’ method used in the Sew Liberated top. In my opinion, the best method for sewing this type of sleeve is described in that post.
And a fourth type of sleeve is much used in beginner patterns, the cut-on sleeve. There are 3 posts on that, starting here.
A fifth method is raglan sleeves. I think they’re actually easier for beginners than cut-on sleeves, as they don’t raise the problem of what to do with the seam allowances at the underarm curve. Some examples in the posts on peasant style tops and more easy top ideas.

With armholes, I don’t think the order of difficulty is entirely clear. The sleeve-armhole post linked above mentions dolman sleeves as the easiest, but I don’t think they are flattering on every body shape, mine included ! Fitted sleeves (as in the Seamwork Georgia) are at the top for difficulty but well worth learning.

Sadly these different methods for dealing with part of a garment are not easily interchangeable. The pattern needs to be specifically for one of them. You may find one of the many methods for doing a specific sewing task is your favourite, but if you want to be flexible about which patterns you can make, you will best learn several methods.

Perhaps that is all too much information ! If so, stop here and quietly settle down to do some sewing. Just choose a beginner project and learn the techniques that come up in it. Not to worry about the others. Only come back to here when you feel ready for further learning, for expanding beyond the course and techniques you have been working through. Example : learn each casing technique as you come to it, rather than trying to sort out some general rules as I did for the casings post πŸ˜€

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Some suggestions for building up difficulty

If you feel overwhelmed, an easy solution is to make the same item again and again, perhaps in different fabrics, until you feel confident about what you are doing.

Or it’s usually possible to break the learning down into smaller segments, so you can just focus on one new partial skill at a time, then combine them together, see example in post on sewing a facing.

Allow yourself to go right back to the beginning if need be. I can remember having anxiety attacks when stitching along straight lines on paper. Allow yourself to take a time-out and recovery pause when you need it.

If you feel at any point your course is going too quickly for you, here are some ‘take a pause’ possibilities :

For more easy-makes practice see this post, which suggests items you can make each time you add a another beginners’ sewing skill. Many non-garment items you can make with the start-to-sew skills you are learning, such as totes, home dec, toys.

Sew Over It have a selection of easier patterns. Pick ones you feel you can make. Some have videos. A few have kits, so no need to find fabric and notions. Some may be for later as they add more skills : making straps, adding zips, sewing knit fabrics.

The importance of repetition to consolidate skills

Perhaps you’re a timid sewer and are daunted by techniques such as the facing and fitted sleeves needed to make the Seamwork Georgia dress or convert it to a top. And need more practice with all those curves before you feel ready to make a whole garment. Make as many samples as you need to, until you feel confident to do a process for real. Or at least until you don’t have an anxiety attack – practice your self-care !
Find a pattern line or sewing bible with instructions that make you feel “I can do this !” πŸ˜€
Then how many samples do you need to make – 1, 5, 10, 50 πŸ˜€

Sonya Philip started her sewing career by making 100 versions of a simple dress (here’s a photo). She called her resulting easy pattern line 100 Acts of Sewing.

As a timid learner, I find it helpful to make a workbook of samples, to remind me that I do know how to do given techniques.
And I need to allow myself to be free to make 100 samples if need be, however many samples turn out to be enough before I relax about a technique.

Here’s Deborah Moebes of Whipstitch on repeating as the way we learn.

When I want to make many garment samples but feel I would be wasting fabric, I look for a similar doll clothes pattern and make that until I feel confident enough to try an adult size item. Rosie’s Doll Clothes patterns have detailed sew-along videos. I do try to use ‘full-size’ techniques even though they can be a bit fiddly at small size, rather than the easier doll-clothes-making techniques.

Building up skills

Do you find faced necklines and fitted sleeves a bit too challenging ? see the facings and sleeve-armhole posts for links to good instructions.

It helps if you can identify the basic skill used in each step of a complex project, though that’s not easy for a beginner.
There’s a detailed example in the facings post on making a neckline facing.
It may be possible work out a hierarchy like this for many of the main tasks used in making a garment. Use these hierarchies as a plan for working up to being able to do a whole process.

Then practice by gradually building up the skills until you can do the whole process without finding it daunting. For example a facing skills learning sequence might be :
– practice all the most basic skills,
– practice groups of basic skills which make a major component. In the faced neckline example there are 3 groups : two types of open seam, and processing the neckline seam.
– combine these groups of skills into an entire facing.

Cut some pieces of scrap fabric, and make as many samples as you need at each level of practice, enough to feel confident about what you are doing. Make 1, 10, 100 samples of faced necklines, without being in the middle of a major garment-making project where making a mistake matters.

Many of those steps require a change of work station, from cutting out fabric, to hand work (such as pinning, trimming), to main machine, to serger/overlocker, to pressing.
No wonder people can find making a facing daunting – there’s much involved ! Focus on the little component skills and build up from there.

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Even simple sewing involves many skills. The Seamwork Learn to Sew Clothes class lists 36 skills. In that course you work through 46 lessons about basics before you make your first garment. There’s another 20 lessons on combining basics into some of the main tasks in making clothes (see my example above about facings, the other big task Seamwork include is sewing a fitted sleeve), before you make the second garment.
The ability to sew a simple item is not a trivial skill that can be acquired in an instant. Even books that claim to teach you to sew in 30 minutes actually only teach one new skill in each time period. You have to work through all the projects in the whole book to have started on your journey of learning to sew πŸ˜€

There are many groups of skills involved : using a machine, handling fabric, using patterns, as well as gradually increasing and combining your sewing, pressing, and garment construction skills. Let your skills develop at what is a natural pace for you, very quick or ultra slow. So you remain confident rather than anxious πŸ‘ and enjoy what you can make at the level of skill you have.

What a blessing ! increasing both your sewing skills and your confidence β™₯️ πŸ‘ β™₯️ πŸ‘ β™₯️

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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, 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.

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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.

Robe style jackets.

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