Here’s how to… make and customise your...

Here’s how to… make and customise your own clothes

Have you ever bought a dress that looks lovely, but could do with a little tweak here and there to fit better? Or a pair of trousers that are slightly too baggy around the waist, but fit like a dream everywhere else? I have. And it’s a real pain not having basic sewing skills to fix those little niggles.

But with household names Eva Longoria, Katie Holmes and Chris Martin all confessing to picking up a sewing needle, as well as a clutch of crafty programmes bursting onto our screens, 2013 is proving to be the year of the great sewing revival. Not to mention it helps keep your wardrobe fresh and ever-changing without spending loads. So we spoke to Simplicity’s sewing specialist Wendy Gardiner, who’s been kind enough to offer her top tips for beginners. Once you know the basics, making and customising your own clothes will be oh sew simple!

First, you’ll need to get kitted out. To avoid a last minute dash to the craft store, make sure you tick these sewing kit must-haves off your list:

First and foremost, choose your favourite patterns & fabric.
Embroidery scissors are a must for every budding sewista.
Tape measure
An essential part of any sewing kit.
New needles
Ensure you have a good stock of sewing machine needles – use a new one for each project to avoid damaging fabric.
It always pays to choose a good quality thread. A long-lasting cotton-wrapped polyester thread will bring the best results.
Sharp pins
Always be armed with plenty of pins.
Marking pencil
These are great for helping mark out where to cut, and can help to avoid any sewing mistakes.
Seam ripper
These are great for correcting any mistakes you make along the way, they effortlessly cut seams and not  fabric.

If you’re new to sewing, then starting simply is a must. Don’t be tempted to jump in head first on a complex project. Instead opt for really basic patterns, like maxi dresses or summer tea dresses. Some Simplicity sewing patterns come with easy to follow instructions and essential tips – from what equipment to buy to the amount of fabric needed. Perfect for a beginner

Once you’ve chosen a pattern, the first step is always to make sure that you have selected the right size template, checking your measurements against the pattern envelope. Remember, with multi-size patterns – like Simplicity’s Amazing Fit range – you can easily and quickly cut from a small waist to bigger bust or hip- allowing you to adapt sewing patterns if you aren’t the same size as an off-the-peg garment from the high street.

In the early stages, make sure you opt for a fabric that’s easy to sew. Woven fabrics like cotton, linen and linen-like, polyester/cottons, gabardine, wools etc are firm fabrics that are easy to handle. Avoid slippery silks and chiffons until you have completed a few sewing projects.

Once you’re confident, a sewing machine really helps speed the process up, giving you neater results too.
If you are yet to splash the cash on a sewing machine, then take a look at these pointers. A sewing machine is a real investment, so find one that meets your specific needs.

// Opt for a reputable brand. This means good access to spare parts and optional extras.
// Decide what type of project you’re buying the machine for. Find a machine that matches your particular needs.
// If your budget can stretch to it, a computerised model is ideal for beginners. Automatic settings offers a great helping hand.
// Try before you buy. Take your own fabric samples to try on the machine, from fleece to chiffon. Make sure it is the right machine for you and your favourite fabrics.
// Pick a machine that can do more than you want it to at this stage. If you do this it allows you to develop your skills with the same trusty sewing machine, rather than outgrow it early on.

If you’ve hit a stumbling block on a sewing project, then take a look at Simplicity’s website. It’s bursting at the seams with how-to videos and essential advice for beginners.

So what about you? Will it be something you give a go? Or are you already a sewing-pro?

Images via Shutterstock