This is the second post in this group on starting to learn to sew.
The first was about pattern lines that aim to teach.
Good if you like being independent, but you may prefer someone to provide a guided sequence of learning for you to follow.
This post reviews some expensive sewing courses.
This started as a single post on learning to sew, which became one of my very long posts. I kept coming up with more things I wanted to say. It’s now divided into sections (and sections of sections !), see links at end.
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Big courses for complete beginners
Here are comments on some expensive and detailed courses, plus a note on a much cheaper one. The expense mainly comes about because these courses aim to provide personalised quick-response reaction to queries about sewing and fit.
There are many cheaper courses in the next post. And many other courses and pattern lines listed in the right side menu here.
P.S. The Seamwork Learn to Sew Clothing course errors have now been revised in updates, but as I have not seen the new course materials I don’t know if my opinion has changed.
Warning : There are many mistakes, gaps and mix-ups in the (first edition of) instructions for the Seamwork course. Confusing and upsetting for my type of learner. I need courses that hold my hand and build confidence, not ones that leave me puzzled and wondering what to do for the best. Luckily this level of errors is rare.
I agree if you think it’s very odd for me to start with a course that I couldn’t recommend. But this is the course that stimulated the thinking which developed into this whole group of posts. I love the general idea. With its emphasis on making samples complete with practice pattern pieces, and ticking off skills acquired, this could be a good teaching method for me. I was very enthusiastic about the general principles on which the course is based – until I started trying actually to follow the instructions. I am definitely knocked sideways by errors in instructions. The general principle was carried out with little attention to detail. They claimed that they had tested their instructions, but there were some big errors which were so obvious any reviewer must have been exhausted, drunk, or seriously ill to have passed them as okay. If you do try this course, the errors are mostly in the written materials, so it is important to watch the videos first to be clear about what to do. But even a couple of those are ‘do what I do, not what I say’!
The general principle on which this course is founded :
The Seamwork course focusses on learning 36 general sewing skills by making samples. The first half of the course is about the most fundamental skills, such as sewing seams and hems, understitching or edgestitching. Next these basics are combined into big garment construction tasks, such as making a facing or setting in a sleeve. Then celebrate you have learned those skills by making two garments. An excellent plan for developing skills, if the instructions are error-free. See an example (from me) of this approach of building up from basic to complex skills, in the facings post.
The Seamwork patterns included are well chosen. There are no problems with the pattern instructions. These patterns have been available for some time, and made by 100s of people, so they are well tested.
First is a robe-jacket that (apart from the back neck) only needs straight stitching and turning corners, the Quince.
Belt, pockets, and sleeve cuffs are optional, perhaps leave them for a later make.
Or you could make samples for practice.
Example of isolating components of a new pattern to practice before making the whole garment :
– sleeve cuff : cut 2 rectangles say 15″ x 5″/40cm x 15cm, and use one as the sleeve, one as the cuff.
– attaching neckband to back of neck : trace off neck area sections of the pattern, measure neckline length, cut a practice neckband piece say (neckline length + 4″/10cm) long and 6″/15cm wide.
– belt : cut a practice piece say 2 feet/60 cm long and 6″/15cm wide.
– belt loops : the pattern piece is 5″ x 2-1/4″, about 13cm x 6cm.
– patch pocket : cut smaller rectangles.
If you’re a Seamwork member you can search Quince in Projects to see many versions. People have made this from a much wider range of fabrics than in the instructions – lighter and heavier. Go with the easier (i.e. stable, non-slippery, mid-weight) recommended fabrics if you’re an early learner.
In the Seamwork Learn to Sew course you then learn to sew curves, so you can make a shift dress with faced neckline, set-in sleeves and curved hem, the Georgia.
This pattern thankfully does not use a bias strip faced neckline, which most people do not get a good result with. (See this post if you want to try sewing one, but in my opinion this is not a beginner skill.)
The body bust range for Seamwork patterns is quite extended : sizes 33″-54″ / 84-140 cm. The largest size limit may matter for the Georgia dress.
But the Quince jacket is very loose fitting – there’s a big difference between your body measures and the garment (this difference is called the ‘ease’). The largest finished garment size of Quince is 72″/183cm, and Seamwork say a very-loose-fitting garment should have at least 7″ ease. So people up to 65″ body size can wear the largest size and get the loose-fitting look.
If you do need a wider range of sizes, try Muna & Broad patterns.
Their maximum body bust is 64″-162cm, and they offer to grade larger if you need it. Though you may not, as their easiest jackets have largest finished garment measure at bust level of 83″/210cm :
Belmore jacket (video sew-along).
Medlow robe (video on collar application).
The Torrens box top is M&B’s easiest top, with a choice of 3 sleeves (video sew-along). Largest finished garment measure at bust level is 77″/ 195cm.
Lengthen to make a shift dress (in their pattern resources, there’s a note on how to do that).
There’s another ‘major investment in learning’ course, from Sew Liberated patterns. These ‘big’ courses have a community and individual support, so can be a worthwhile investment if you want to start with good hand-holding !
The first three classes of the Sew Liberated Learn to Sew sequence will get you to Advanced Beginner level of sewing skill. The entire Sew Liberated sequence will take you from complete beginner to upper intermediate level. Pattern sizes for body measurements up to : 53″/132cm bust (C cup), 55″/140cm hips. The first course is about the sewing tools needed, and learning to use a machine. The next two courses make the garments in this image.
No emphasis in this course on generalisable skills, though of course you learn them. Nor so much sample making. The Sew Liberated course has a very different style of teaching compared to Seamwork. Two people on the videos, not only an experienced teacher but you sew-along with a complete beginner who asks questions, with much encouragement and laughter (and the instructions have to be correct and complete !). The classes include an optional more challenging extra : in-seam pockets in the pants, and neckline notch in the top, see image above. The top has ‘flat-set’ sleeves, intermediate in difficulty between the sleeves of the Seamwork Quince and Georgia.
The personal support with this course is good. A company which makes big claims about support does need a ‘public face’ who is both knowledgeable and generous, and they are. There’s also a supportive community.
I came to a halt with the Sew Liberated series only because the later patterns are styles I would never wear. I found I couldn’t force myself to keep going just for the skills experience !
There’s a another big though much less expensive course from Closet Core patterns, patterns and instructions for making top, skirt, pants, with variations (which include some Intermediate skills). My comments about this course are also in the next post in this series. I didn’t stay with this course as it aims to teach you to follow pattern written instructions, while I am most comfortable when first learning with having complete videos which I can sew-along with – so I have no concern about whether I’m doing the right thing 😀 Though I can be very flexible once I know what I’m doing !
So it’s a good idea to know a bit about your learning and clothing style preferences, to choose between these expensive courses. See the final post in this group, on all the different ‘styles’ or personal preferences that are involved in sewing.
By contrast, the course Basic to advanced sewing from Udemy is very much cheaper, so of course does not include personal support. It consists mainly of clear videos about making samples, rather than learning by making garments, so I have put it here rather than in the next post. The samples go up to Intermediate level (buttonholes, zips, pockets), so it is quite a bit more challenging. Perhaps a course for refreshing and advancing your skills rather than for complete beginners.
The samples are followed by making 3 items with video sew alongs : two bags (pdf patterns included) and a shirt jacket. The McCall’s 7365 shirt pattern is no longer available. Butterick 6841 is an example of a shirt pattern with band collar and yoke (also sleeve cuffs, easy to omit) but with side seams and one-piece sleeves.
See the next post for many other cheaper easy options for routes to learning.
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A 3-item outfit ?
An outfit of top, pants (or skirt), and jacket ?
None of the courses, either expensive or cheap, shows you how to make a complete outfit including top, bottom, and layer.
But there are many patterns at early beginner level which show you how to make the components of an outfit, see list of links below. These include much easier pants and tops than the ones made in the Sew Liberated course.
You haven’t got to take any of these teaching courses, either expensive or cheaper (see next post), to learn to sew.
The first post in this group (see 1.A link below) links to patterns which aim to have good instructions.
Also see links below if you would prefer to start your learning by focussing on making an outfit by making individual types of garment : tops, bottoms, jackets.
Or you may like to start with easier ‘pre-garment’ projects, to learn the basic skills of using a machine, handling fabric, using patterns, etc., see this post.
It is good to have a vision of what you’re aiming for, a ‘goal’, an image or feeling of what you would like to be able to make. This provides a guiding light, the impetus to keep developing. But it’s not a good idea to use your ultimate goal as something to beat yourself up about when you haven’t got there yet. There are so many items to enjoy making at every level of skill, so focus on developing your skills at whatever speed gives you a balance between learning more and enjoying yourself and feeling relaxed 😀
The previous link is to a post about makes at the earliest stages of learning). That post includes a section on how to vary your makes, if you find yourself wanting to make the same item several times. And once you get to making garments, there are all the ‘variations’ posts, so you could actually spend a lifetime using just one basic pattern ! At least there’s no shortage of things you can change, no need to be bored while you make your 100 samples on the way to getting comfortable with making a given pattern 😀
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These are now the sections in this group of posts on learning to sew :
3. Make making easier – levels of difficulty, suggestions for practising.
Moving on from the basics
While developing these posts, I was thinking about varying a pattern in two contexts :
4. Variations on a cut-on sleeve top, now expanded to include more options :
Variations A : change style elements.
Variations B : from pullover to open front.
Variations C : using your fibre-arts skills
4. Variations on the 2 patterns used in the Seamwork learn to sew course, a dress with waist seam, and a jacket.
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 :
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.
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Good Luck with finding the best support you need for your learning.
Making sewn items can be exciting and rewarding.
Celebrate what you can make at whatever level of skill you have reached. Even at the easiest levels, sewing can be a complex skill, and learning to do it can take much determination.
♥️ 👍 ♥️ 👍 ♥️
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