Beginners Patterns – Where to start

Dressmaking can be so rewarding but it can also be incredibly frustrating, especially for a beginner trying it out for the first time on your own. First you have to find a simple pattern easy enough to construct but modern enough not to feel like you’re recreating your grannie’s wardrobe!

We’ve scoured the world of independent patterns and found some absolute gems. Our top patterns for beginners include:

Victory patterns Roxanne Shirt –  a surprisingly simple top with looks so modern and cool – Bekki’s made 2 of these now and her latest in viscose with pretty blue floral contrasts is just so cool!


Clothkits All-Seasons Shift Dress – this is a great first dress for beginners with just enough details to make you feel like you’re really learning some great new skills! Tracy Corns uses this pattern to teach our beginners shift dress class and she’s had some great results from newbie dressmakers so far

shift dress.JPG

Tilly and the Buttons Coco – great for getting to grips with knits in a simple, super easy to wear style – see Freya’s write up about making one of her lovely versions here and here are some great versions made in one of our workshops

coco 2.jpg

Sizing can be the first hurdle to getting the right fit on your first garment. Most mainstream patterns have a lot of ease (the amount of extra fabric added above the body measurements for movement and styling). This can mean that you are often swayed to cut a larger size than you need to, often a couple of sizes larger than the size you might buy from high street stores. Always check the finished garment measurements to see what the finished look will be. As a general rule on loose fitting tops I use just the bust measurement to determine the size to cut, on dresses which are more fitted I use the bust and hips and then I check the finished garment measurements of the waist – if this is not included on the pattern envelope/ printed on the pattern then I will measure all the pattern pieces and add these together it to check (remember to take off the seam allowance!). It’s always a good idea to make a toile (cheaper fabric mock up) of the first dress you make as there are so many areas where the fit could need altering. It can seem like a faf when you’re starting out but it’s worth it for several reasons. Firstly it will help you achieve a good fit on that garment but also you will learn to spot any regular fit issues you may need to tackle. I really like The Complete Photo Guide to PERFECT FITTING by  Sarah Veblen for learning about how to fix fit issues.


And then there is the language of sewing – notions, notches, toiles, basting -It can all be seem a bit baffling when you’re getting started. To get to grips with the basics I love The Sewtionary by Tasia St.Germaine of Sewaholic Patterns.


Many independent patterns do have comprehensive info and glossaries included as part of the pattern instructions to help you understand these new terms. When you pick up a new pattern take a little time to make yourself a cuppa and sit down to read through the instructions before diving in to the cutting out!


We’ve just started developing our own patterns at Crafty Sew&So  – read about how we’ve got started with creating a sizing chart based on real women’s measurements and the first steps in pattern development in my previous blog here

Our first pattern is a simple A-line skirt. Here’s our first version.



Everyone at Crafty is now busy sampling and testing the patterns and instructions and we’ll keep you posted on our progress. If you are a blogger and interested in helping us sample and test our pattern please get in touch!

Happy sewing!

Sarah x


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