How to flatter your figure when sewing

Become your own wardrobe designer - we’ve advice on how to choose the right garments to sew!

1. Know your neckline
When choosing a neckline take into account your bust size, shape of your face, length of your neck and your body shape. Do you want to emphasis or play any of these areas down?
Generally, higher necklines suit slim builds and lower necklines can accentuate the bust line.

measuring for bra.jpg

2. Up close and personal
Make sure you your bra is the correct size and doing the job it’s supposed to do!
For larger busts, choose a bra with thicker straps and not too much padding.
For smaller busts, wear a bra that has extra padding in the lower part of the cup so that the bra pushes up what you’ve got!


Band size: Measure under your arm and around the front just above the bust where the straps meet the top of the bra cup. This measurement should be rounded down to the nearest even inch. 
Bust size: Without pulling the tape measure tightly, measure the fullest part of your bust. Round this measurement up to the nearest inch. 


3. One size doesn’t fit all
Make sure you select the correct pattern size. Measure yourself and go by the sizing on the pattern (and not the size you pick for high street clothes). Pick a pattern range that offers fitting options.

4. You’ve got style
Empire-line garments are brilliant at disgusting areas you want to hide. Wrap tops are great as they give the illusion of a tiny waist. Showing a little cleavage with a sweetheart neckline or a little leg with a slit is also a good way of drawing the eye away from troublesome areas, and banish those bingo wings with a pretty bell sleeve.

 5. All in the detail
The rule is that small petite frames can add flounces, beading and bows while fuller-figured women should keep things a little simpler and add pintucks or darts and accessorise with jewellery.

 6. Colour coding
Wear colours on the top or bottom depending on which area you want to play up or down. Wear light and bright colours to highlight, and dark colours on the areas that you want to disguise.

7. Fabric matters
Select a fabric weight and pattern that suits your frame as well as the sewing pattern. Fabrics that drape are a good option to hide areas you don’t like. 

8. Adjust and improve
Accept that you'll need to make adjustments to your sewing pattern to make it fit you best. Very few of us will match exactly a pattern company’s standard measurements for each of the measurements of a size.

9.  Healthy hemline
Choose a hemline that makes the most of your legs. The most practical and flattering is a hemline that sits just above the knee.

10. Add height
Always wear heels – a little height will make you seem taller and also slimmer. Make sure you wear these shoes when you're taking up the hemline to get the correct length for you.

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How to sew a sweetheart neckline

We share tips for sewing the perfect sweetheart neckline for a romantic night out

What is a sweetheart neckline?

The beautifully curved neckline of a sweetheart neckline features two curves over the bust, which drop and meet at the décolletage in a point and resembles a heart-shape. It’s a neckline is a very flattering but also very pretty neckline for bigger busted women

Styling and sewing tips to achieve the perfect neckline

1. Bear in mind that the sweetheart neckline results in showing a little more cleavage, so if you want a less revealing look, then you may need to alter and make deeper.

2. When sewing, always make sure you clip seams into the curves so that the fabric lays as flat as possible and also get rid of any bulky seam areas.

3. To create a perfect sweetheart neckline you should press as you go. Start on the outer edges of each
semi-circular cup and work inward towards the centre of the heart, rather than working from one side seam to the other.

4. Always measure correctly to make sure that the middle of the sweetheart neckline sits neatly at the cleavage for a perfect fit.

5. Understitching will prevent facings from showing and will also help you achieve a smoother professional neckline finish.

 6. The sweetheart neckline is meant to show off your curves especially when combined with a defined waistline and full skirt. Why not add some thicker straps for extra support for the bust.

TIP: This is a much softer choice than a V-neckline, which doesn’t suit everyone, and really is easier to sew than it looks.

TIP: Play up the romantic curves of this prtty neckline with a short necklace, and adorn bare arms with bracelets

TIP: A sweetheart neckline design doesn’t necessarily have to be on a strapless garment and looks stylish with sleeves

Simplicity 8051

Simplicity 8051

Four gorgeous sewing pattern with sweetheart neckline

PDF digital sewing patterns and how to use them

We love digital patterns, and there has been a real increase in demand for the PDF sewing patterns over the last few years. These provide sewers with instant access to all sorts of patterns, some of which are only available this way

Here are our top 10 tips for printing out, assembling and tracing your sewing pattern downloads:


1.If you’re new to digital patterns, start with a simple pattern that doesn’t have too many pieces which will be easy to put together.

Printing your pattern correctly is key. Patterns can be viewed in the Adobe Acrobat Reader.

3. PDF patterns will come with a test square. Print this off first to make sure you have the pattern scale correct. If it isn’t the correct size, go back and check you printed at actual size or 100 per cent.

4.  When downloading your pattern, remember to save and store it somewhere safely on your computer. We have a folder on our computer and save by company and pattern name so they are always easy to find. 

5. We recommend printing your patterns in draft to save your printers ink. They are still readable but print out much quickly and the ink dries quicker.

6. PDF sewing patterns will include a pattern layout, illustrating how your printed pattern pieces should fit together – it probably isn’t necessary to print these out as you can refer to them on your iPad or computer.


7. Trim off any excess blank borders and cut roughly around the pattern pieces. Don’t worry about trimming to size - this is easy to do when pinned to the fabric.

8. Pattern sheets are usually numbered to help you put them together. Use tiny pieces of transparent Sellotape to stick pattern pieces together making sure you put them together as accurately as possible.

9. Make sure you mark all the usual notches and other marks in the normal way.


10. Some PDF sewing patterns contain overlapped pattern pieces, so tracing is necessary. Go around each pattern piece with a different coloured pen tip so each piece is easily identifiable. Burda do a range of gridded papers that can be purchased or you could just use brown paper.

Advantages of PDF sewing patterns include:

  • If you want to make again, you can simply print it out again.

  • All the patterns can be stored digitally saving lots of sewing room!

  • To avoid the guilt make sure you recycle any paper scraps when cutting out.

  • Some PDF patterns are interactive, which means you can choose your size to print out.

Disadvantages of PDF sewing patterns include:

  • It does take time to piece together.

  • As there’s no pattern envelope, you need to find ways to store your cut-out patterns either in a large brown envelope or if you have a dedicated sewing area, we’ve seen some sewers clip to a coat hanger and store on a rail.

Example of PDF layout for Ravenna, Straight Stitch Designs

Example of PDF layout for Ravenna, Straight Stitch Designs

What are sewing terms and what do they mean?

Don’t let not understanding a sewing term stop your dressmaking creativity.
We’ve an A-Z of guide to all terms you’ll find on a sewing pattern

Adjustment line: Indicates where a pattern can be lengthened or shortened.
Alter: Term used to change or revise a pattern or garment to fit an individual.
Anchoring stitches: These machine stitches are sewn with zero stitch length to keep from pulling out and also the term is used when you stitch backwards for a couple of stitches to anchor.
Armscye: The opening in a bodice to which the sleeve is attached (also more commonly known as an armhole).
Baste: Temporary long running stitches, made by either hand or machine, that holds the fabric together before permanent stitches are applied.
Bias: A direction of a piece of woven fabric, usually known as ‘the bias’. This is a 45-degree angle to the grainline or diagonal direction of the fabric.

Buttonhole placement: A cross marks the spot where a button needs to be placed. A solid line indicates the length of the buttonhole.
Cutting layout: These are like a map showing how to fold the fabric and position the pieces for the most economical use – this will vary with garment view, fabric width, pattern size and nap.
Cutting line: This is the outermost dark line marked with the size.
Dart: A tapered fold in a pattern to allow for fullness which helps shape garment to body contours. Mark and fold along the centre line, matching the dots and stitch to the point.
Dots, squares and triangles: These indicate areas of construction where precise matching, clipping, gathering or stitching is required.
Ease: There is often wearing ease and designer ease. This will affect how close or loose fitting a garment is. Wearing ease is calculated to allow garments to move with the body whilst Designer ease is the style element. Woven garments need wearing ease to allow for movement.
Easing line: This short broken line, with dots at either end has a directional arrow to mark the area to be eased.
Fold line: This indicates that a paper pattern piece needs to be placed on the fold of the fabric so that two identical halves are cut as one avoiding additional centre seams.
Grain line: This is the suggested direction in which to place the pattern piece on the fabric with arrow parallel to the selvedge.
Hem allowance: Amount of fabric allowed for the hemming.
Line drawings: These show the shape and outline of the design plus any details such as seams and zip location.
Notches: These diamond shapes appear along the cutting line for matching seams.
Pattern layout: Diagram found on instruction sheet, which indicate how to lay out pattern pieces on the fabric.
Seam allowance: The area between the fabric edge and the stitching (usually 15 mm (5/8”) for dressmaking).
Seam line: Denoted by a long broken line along. These must be matched when putting the garment together for stitching and not the raw edges.
Toile: This is a garment made from cheaper fabric like Calico and is used to ‘prove’ a pattern and make sure the pattern fits perfectly.
Views: Designs that appear on the paper patterns to show optional styles such as length, sleeve and hem variations
Yardage block: Indicates how much fabric, interfacing and lining you require to make a particular view on a pattern.

Sewing terms and what they mean

Back waist length: Measurement from middle of most prominent bone at the base of the neck down to waistline.
Bust line: The horizontal line running across the back and around the fullest part of the bust. It’s an important measurement for correct pattern sizing.
Full bust: Measurement taken around the fullest part of the bust and straight across the back.
High bust: Measurement taken above the full bust measurement under the arms and around the back and chest.
TIP: If this measurement is more than 5cm (2”) larger than the full bust measurement then pattern size should be selected by the high bust size and alterations made to fit the fuller cup.
Hip point: Measurement from around the fullest part o your hips.
TIP: If waist and hip measurements are not both included on the pattern – choose pattern for hip measurement.

In-seam: The inside leg seam that runs from crotch to hem.
Waistline: This is the thinnest part of your body – tie a piece of string around your middle and allowing it to settle at natural waist.

If there is a term that isn’t on our list drop us a comment below.

How to make your sewing successful, the short way!

We share six our favourite shortcuts and tips for successful sewing

Beautiful Women Sew

1. Lengthen the stitch

Your sewing machine is likely default to a 2.5mm stitch length but it’s actually a little shorter than required for making garments.

Start by increasing to 3mm.

The thread should break first when you pull a seam apart and not tear the thread.

Increasing your stitch length will also make unpicking is less painful!

2. Pinning

Place the pins at right angles to the seam with pinheads to the right side of the needle. This makes sewing much quicker, the pins are easier to remove as you sew, and you won’t prick yourself.

However why use pins at all on straight seams – they’re sometimes more trouble than they’re worth! Simply hold the fabric pieces together in you right hand as you sew to get the right tension. Try using a fabric template instead of pins to measure hems accurately and press into place.

tracing sewing patterns.jpg

3. Prolong the life of your sewing patterns

As sewing patterns are made from lightweight tissue paper, they tear easily when using especially if use more than once. For your favourite patterns, consider cutting out pieces of interfacing and fusing on to the reverse of the pattern pieces or tracing onto freezer paper.

Always iron the pattern piece before using as working with torn, tattered and creased patterns can affect the finished fit of the garment. Consider using pattern weights instead of pins when cutting out.

4. Clip corners

Make sure you clip the corners and trim away the excess fabric on pieces that require turning to the right side. This gets rid of the fabric bulk and makes the fabric lay much flatter and neater.

Sewing Threads.jpg

5. Posh threads

Don’t be tempted to skimp on your threads. Cheap threads can cause all sorts of problems from frustratingly breaking every few stitches, upsetting the tension on your sewing machine and causing skipped stitches or birds nesting where the threads bunch up underneath near the throat plate. You can diminish a lot of the problems buy choosing quality threads. For example the Gutermann thread pack has been specifically designed to be used with its fabric range Notting Hill.

Pressing and sewing.jpg

6. Every which way you press

Pressing is the most underestimated part of your sewing, we cant exaggerate enough that you should be pressing as much as you are sewing. This will in fact help you when your sewing to create a much more crisp finish. You can use your iron to help manipulate the fabric into place and just by adding steam if can help shape the fabric. It also makes top-stitching much easier.

A handy guide to sewing with print fabrics

We all love to sew with print fabrics but it can be slightly daunting, use these helpful tips to help you sew with print fabrics and inject some much needed colour into your wardrobe

Print fabrics have become a staple all year round and there's such a a wide range of printed fabrics to choose from these days. As soon as you mention print fabrics, we automatically think of the wonderful cottons fabrics but print fabrics are available in all sorts of fabric types and weaves. What fabric you choose will determine which interfacing, seam and hemming techniques that you decide to use.

TIP 1 - Sizing up your print
Be aware that prints with large floral images and one-way designs will require more fabric. They  need care in placement and are best for simple patterns with very few pieces.

TIP 2 - Rule of thumb
Use small print for smaller garments
Use large print for larger garments
Some prints require a lap layout especially if it has a one-way pattern

TIP 3 - Print Size
If you're a beginner to dressmaking, always choose a small print to work with, sewing imperfections are less likely to show here. However from a distance too smaller print, can look like a plain fabric. Consider wearing a belt to pick out one of the dominant colour’s or adding contrasting plain piping and decorative facings to accentuate the garment.

TIP 4 - Getting a feel for the fabric
Try to avoid choosing prints from a sample – unfortunately you won’t be able to get a proper feel for whether the fabric hangs nicely and whether the print suits you. Be brave – different size prints look great together but don’t mix too many patterns. Use a common colour, same weight and drape to hold it all together.

TIP 5 - Pattern Layout
If you're using a print fabric with a large motif, drape the fabric over your body to try different placements to check the best place for the larger motifs. You don’t want a huge bloom somewhere inappropriate!

New Look 6271

New Look 6271

Simplicity 1459

Simplicity 1459

How to sew the perfect patch pocket

Up the ante by adding pockets to restyle a tired garment in your wardrobe or easily add then to a sewing pattern.

Meghan Hunt shows how to add patch pockets

Patch pockets are versatile and very easy to sew, and can be found on anything from shirts and trousers to purses, dresses, tops, bathrobes and more.

How to sew patch pockets

Steps to make
1. Cut two pocket pieces using the template at the back, or drafting your own by cutting a rectangle that is 2cm wider and 3.5 cm taller than the desired pocket size.

Step by step in how to make the perfect patch pocket

2. On the right side of the pocket, mark 2.5cm down from the top of the pocket. Fold down with right sides together and press.

Step by step in how to make the perfect patch pocket

3. Using a 1cm seam allowance, sew down one side, across the bottom, and up the other side of the pocket. This secures the folded top down and creates a fold line. Don’t sew across the top.

Step by step in how to make the perfect patch pocket

4. Flip the folded section right side out so that the wrong sides of the fabric are now together.

Step by step in how to make the perfect patch pocket

5. Press the remaining sides of the pocket in towards the middle, folding along the stitching line as your guide. For nice and neat corners, fold the corners at a 45-degree angle.

Step by step in how to make the perfect patch pocket

6. Turning the pocket to the right side, stitch 2 cm from the top, catching the folded edge underneath. This secures the top folded edge of the pocket in place.

Step by step in how to make the perfect patch pocket

7. To attach the patch pocket to your garment, place your garment right side up and position the pocket on top. It may be helpful to secure it in place with pins. Then, sew along the edge of the pocket, starting on one side, stitching across the bottom, and sewing up the other side. Don’t stitch the pocket closed across the top. You now have a beautiful patch pocket!

This guest feature was written by Meghan Hunt. For more excellent tutorials visit her blog: MadebyMeg

Pep up your patch pocket

Patch pockets are one of the most common pockets you’ll come across but they needn’t go unnoticed. Here are some tips to make them extra special:

  • Use a contrasting or printed fabric to make your pockets stand out.

  • If your fabric has a print, trace your pocket template onto tracing paper to help you decide exactly what part of the design will show on the pocket.

  • Add extra detailing such as flap, pin-tuck or bias binding for a designer look.

  • Topstitch pockets in place with a contrasting coloured thread.

  • Always sew a triangle or square of additional stitching at the top of the pocket sides to reinforce and avoid tearing with constant use.

  • Why not try draft your own custom patch pocket?

  • They needn’t be square - curved patch pocket look very stylish. Remember to clip into the corners so that curve will lay flat.

  • Always press your pocket at every stage. To achieve straight edges, cut the pocket template from thin card minus the seam allowance and use with the fabric to iron around to get a perfectly neat pocket. This will also work on curved edges too.


If you found this useful, you may want to also check out our step by step
on sewing an inseam pocket - click here

How working with denim fabrics can help your sewing

Kim Collins shares her tips on working with the working class fabric | denim

Sewing with denim - topstitching

What’s not to love about denim? Its humble beginnings of the workhorse utilitarian textile, and used for work clothes, it has also been a fashion staple for the past 50 years plus. Denim is a great versatile fabric for all kinds of sewing projects but can be a little intimidating.

Pairing denim and fabric

pattern fabric description - denim.jpeg

You really need to consider the elements of the pattern you’re using to select the correct weight denim to work with:

  • Heavier weight types of denim are more suitable for sewing patterns, which are simple in design and require structure, and use straight seams such as bags, vests and alike.

  • Embellishments or details of the design such as ruffles and the likes, may not be suited for heavy weight denim.

  • Denim is a twill woven fabric that’s woven on a diagonal and isn’t suitable for obvious diagonals.

  • It’s always best to follow the lead of the designer’s pattern fabric recommendations.

  • Use a cotton wrapped polyester, or polyester thread while sewing your project for durability.

  • Use a contrasting thread colour for the topstitching.

Preparing your fabric

Before pre-washing, sew an overcast or zigzag stitch to prevent fabric fray. Pinking shears can also be used.

Raw denim, not sanforized (pre-shrunk) will shrink anywhere between 2 and 5 per cent. Take that into consideration while measuring your fabric. Prewashing 2 or 3 times in cold water with either like colours or separately is essential before cutting or sewing, as denim will continue to shrink.

TIP: Add white vinegar to the final rinse to eliminate any traces or detergent and to neutralise the PH level. Vinegar will also help retain the colour and prevent premature fading.

Machine dry until the fabric is slightly damp to prevent premature crocking or atari that will cause the dye to bleed in the creases. Press the fabric while slightly damp and lay flat to air dry.

rule of thumb - denim.jpeg

Stitching denim

It’s best to use a fresh needle at the start of the project. Denim needles would be the best pick. Denim will dull a needle quickly so you may need to change out the needle depending on the size of the project.

Machine tension
A standard tension setting is typically a 5, but if you’re sewing a thicker denim and using a thicker thread you’ll need a looser tension. Test tensions with scraps of fabric and thread that you’ll be using for your project for the optimal tension.

Stitch length
Heavy denim should have roughly ten stitches for every 3mm (1in) and lighter weights twelve stitches/3mm (1in).

Using a sharp pair of scissors is essential. I find a rotary cutter works well too but always start with a new blade.

A 1.27cm (½in) hem is recommended to prevent roll up.

Flat felled seams are the most popular for both durability and to conceal raw edges, as well as a clean finish with a decorative top stitch. Pressing the seams throughout the process will help you achieve a crisply finished seam.

When using an interfacing, use a lighter weight fabric to preventing it from being too bulky. A fun contrasting fabric would be a fun touch.

Professional finish
Sewn denim just as any heavier woven fabrics is going to have thick layers. Pressing seams flat as well as giving each exposed raw edge a zigzag, overcast stitch or a straight stitch with a trim with pinking shears will give your seams a professional quality finish. As always, take it slow for clean straight stitches and press to set the seam before moving on to the next step.

Gutermann jean thread pack

Gutermann’s Jeans thread pack is perfect for decorative seams and denim repairs. It includes 5 reels with bi-optical colour tones of ochre, amber and dark blue to blend in with allsorts of denim to give a professional finish. There are two reels of extra strong thread in each pack to work on heavier weight fabrics. The pack is priced at £18.99 and can be purchased in the UK - click here

Kim Collins, designer and onwer of Ann Normandy sewing patterns

This featured was written by Kim Collins who lives just outside of Detroit, MI in the US with her husband, 13-year old son and their St. Bernard, Bode.
It doesn’t get any better than to bring together constant lifetime passions to create a women’s apparel sewing pattern collection.
Kim Collins’ journey in clothing design started early in life while being taught how to sew by her grandmother.
Kim Collins, designer and owner of Ann Normandy Design.

What marking tools should I use when sewing?

Marking tools are one of the most helpful tools in your sewing box but regretably, there’s not one marking tool that will handle every job

Range of marking tools from Sewline

Range of marking tools from Sewline

Marks made with marking tools indicate to sewers:
where to cut, fold and stitch and also to mark essential garment construction details like dart placement


  • Keep marking tool sharp for accurate and precise lines

  • The darker the fabric colour, the lighter the marker colour

  • Always test chosen marker on a fabric swatch before you use and check to see if it shows through to the fabric’s right side (especially if markings aren’t removable)

  • Pressing can set the marker, so always removed before pressing

Sewline marking pencil

Dressmaker’s Pencils

These are great for the placement of finer lines, and you hold it like a pencil so you have more control over your markings. It’s available in a range of colours and many pencils will also have an eraser or brush on the opposite end to rub away unwanted chalk markings. Chaco-pencils are the latest edition to create the thinnest of chalk lines and these can be refilled like a mechanical pencil.

Dressmaker's Chalk

Tailor’s Chalk

The most basic marking tool which comes in the familiar wedge shape for easily grip and marking and available in blue, yellow and white. Chalk makes a non-permanent line that brushes or washes out (there’s also a vanishing chalk version that disappears on ironing).  Chalk wedges need to be kept sharp, otherwise you’ll end up with un-sharp lines! Chalk marks can wear off so not the best marking tool, if you need to handle your sewing project constantly such as in patchwork and quilting. A disadvantage is that, it doesn’t always make a precise line and can be difficult to manoeuvre. If your preference is chalk, try using a chalk wheel for fine lines, it’s shaped like the wedge but has a plastic casing that is easier to handle. Chalk is superb for marking long fold lines for hems and garment alterations.

Marking Pens

Prym Love marking pen

  • Water-soluble – these look like children’s colouring pencils and come in a range of colours suitable for different fabrics. Any marks made will dissolve in water when you wash the fabric, but always test on a swatch first. Use these on the right side of the fabric.

  • Air-erasable (vanishing/magic pens). This style of pen leaves a bright pink line that will fade after 48 hours and is best used over smaller areas for intricate drawings on embroideries and appliqués.

Tracing Wheel

Tracing Wheel

Use these in conjunction with tracing/dressmaker’s paper. There are 2 types: one with a serrated edge and one with a smooth edge. Tracing paper is placed between the pattern and fabric, the wheel then applies pressure to transfer marking to fabric. The serrated edge wheel produces a dotted line and is suitable for most fabric types whilst the smooth edge wheel creates a solid line which avoids piercing the fabric so is ideal for more delicate materials and transferring marks internal lines such as darts on garments or positioning marks for motifs.

Clover Hera Marker

Hera Marker

This ink-less and chalk-less tool looks like a plastic butter knife. Press the edge along your fabric to create a temporary crease, which will stay visible until you wash or press. Used with a ruler, it will allow you to make long straight lines for quilting. The other end is thinner and can be used for folding appliqué back.

The basics on how to look after your sewing machine

7 tips to help your sewing machine sew like a dream!

1. Quality comes first
Avoid buying inexpensive, low quality and coated sewing threads, as they’re bad for your sewing machine, produce extra lint and can clog up your machine. 

Over-used or bent needles can cause stitch problems. Make sure you change your needle regularly. Around 10 hours of stitching is a good time to change your needle. Experts say that your sewing machine will have fewer skipped stitches if you use Mircotex needles as they’ve a sharp tip and penetrate the fibre quickly.

2. Lint-free
It’s important to give your sewing machine a brush often to remove thread dust and lint. Don’t be tempted to clean with canned air or to blow inside your machine as this can add moisture, and cause the dust and lint to jam up the machine even more.
Use a nylon brush that comes with your sewing machine (as well as a tiny screwdriver). Doing this regularly will make sure your sewing machine run much quieter too. Of course, always make sure your sewing machine is switched off before doing this! Clean the exterior of the machine with a soft cloth.

3. Lubricate

You’re sewing machine has lots of moving parts so oiling is essential to keep it running smoothly. Always use good quality fine sewing machine oil that’s clear so won’t ruin your projects. Your sewing machine manual will tell you exactly where to put the oil – you only need a few drops. Always clean your machine before adding the oil.

We’ve found this oil pen from Madeira that’s perfect for the job! Find for £8.84 on Amazon - just click on the image.

 4. Regular service
Most of us aren’t very good at having our sewing machines service so when you do, pick a reputable dealer that knows about your sewing machine brand. Ask on sewing forums for recommendations if you don’t know one.

5. Problem solving
If you’ve tried rethreading your machine and changing the needle then the next step should be to clean all the areas that can build up with lint such as the bobbin case and footplate.

 6. It’s a puzzle
Only take small parts of your sewing machine apart at a time to clean putting back together and moving onto the next. It happens to the best of use and it can get very confusing if you have a lot of screws and parts all over your sewing table, unsure of where they all go. If in doubt, always refer back to your instruction manual.

 7. Take the time
It’s a perfect time after a sewing project to give your machine a little TLC. Take a moment to wipe it down with a damp cloth, remove any dust and lint. Your sewing machine will then sew like a dream the next time you use it.

What are sewing patterns and how do I use them? The beginners guide

Presented with a printed sewing pattern, it can be quite a challenge to understand it but once you’ve start to grasp the terms and learn what you are looking at – you’ll find working with sewing patterns becomes easy!

The choice of patterns is much more exciting today with lots of new contemporary independent designers and companies, but whatever pattern you choose, the pattern language
remains the same.

Getting to grips with the envelope front

Most pattern envelopes show a model wearing the garment styles so that the sewer can get a feel for how it will look when the garment is made up. Some pattern brands also include illustrations showing seams, pockets, sleeves and any other styling options – these are known as views.

Patterns are usually multi-sized. Many pattern companies will also provide a pattern in two different size ranges that have a crossover of sizes. For example Simplicity 1279 comes in H5 and R5 that covers sizes 6-14 and 14-22.

Named or Numbered
A sewing pattern has a number to identify the pattern design, which is usually a four-digit number. Smaller independent companies prefer to give their patterns a name, which helps sewers remember them easily.
The envelope may also have a description about the garment advising you on the sort of fit to expect or that the pattern belongs to a collection of patterns.
Skill level
Most pattern envelopes will point out what sewing skills are required to make up the pattern ie beginners, intermediates or advanced level. Some patterns will also say how long it will take to sew – mainly found on more simple patterns.

Selection of Pattern Envelopes

Here, will be listed any items that you’ll require to make the garment such as items like threads, zips and buttons.

Body measurements
This section is important section to compare with your own measurements (height, chest, bust, waist and hips). It’s likely that you’ll  be a combination of sizes so if you are making skirts, shorts and trousers – choose your hip measurement. And if you’re making dresses, tops and jackets – use your bust measurement.

“We recommend highlighting each of your measurements on the pattern across the pattern sizes to see which pattern size is the closest to your actual size.”

Fabric requirements
The two most common fabric widths will be quoted 115cm and 140cm (45″ and 60″). This will help you choose how much fabric you require for your size and pattern choice. The yardage block indicates how much fabric, interfacing and lining you require to make a particular pattern view. Always take the pattern with you when go shopping for fabric to check the width and so that you don’t forget any notions you may require.

The envelope back

If the illustrations or views weren’t shown on the envelope front, they’ll appear here on the back.
These explain about the design as well as particulars like zip location.

Pattern Types
This information will assist in selecting the right pattern for your height (without shoes) and your shape. The options are typically as follows:

  • Misses – Designed for women of average proportions between the height between 5ft 5″ and 5ft 6″

  • Women – Designed for women who are between 5ft 5″ to 5ft 6″ tall with larger bust and hips than Misses

  • Petite – Designed for women with a shorter back-waist length, and a height of between 5ft 2″ and 5ft 4″ tall

Fabric Suggestions
The suggested fabrics will be listed here and the pattern has been specially designed to use with these fabric types. We recommend following these suggestions as they’ve been rigorously tested to obtain the most professional finish for the garment. The list is very comprehensive and may also carry a warning of fabrics that aren’t suitable.

Pattern sizes
Don’t be alarmed about whether you are a pattern size 10 or pattern size 20. Your aim is to make the garment fit you the best it can so always use your body measurements rather than a pattern size.

It’s a common misapprehension that you should select the same size that you buy readymade clothes on the High Street and the main reason why finished garments don’t fit as well as expected. It’s important to realise that very few of us will match a pattern company’s standard measurements. For more information of taking accurate body measurements.

“Keep a record of your measurements but always redo these every time you make a new garment, even if it’s a pattern that you’ve used before.”

Additional information

reading the back of a sewing pattern envelope.jpeg

Finished garment measurements
These measurements allow for garment ease, which essentially means how much room there is to move around when the garment is completed. It may also quote a wearing ease. This is the minimum amount of ease for comfortable. Within the sewing industry wearing ease is usually 6.4cm at the bust, 2.5cm at the waist and 7.6cm at the hip area. Design ease is the amount that the designer has added/subtracted to create a specific silhouette.

To determine ease, measure your pattern from seam to seam (excluding any seam allowances) and match these up to your body measurements to the total pattern circumference measurement – the difference is the amount of ease the pattern has.

“We suggest that you never cut corners here by skimping on fabric. Always use the correct seam allowance as these can affect the final fit of the garment.”

All the above information is provided in a neat table on the back of the envelope, so its easy to follow!

Inside the pattern envelope

Instruction pattern sheet
This is your guide to making the garment. It will provide step-by-step through the making process with relevant images to explain trickier steps. Instructions do vary from company to company but the basics will the same. Always read through instructions carefully before starting, as they will include advice on cutting layouts, how to arrange the pattern on the fabric and more useful information. On Burda patterns, cutting layouts are unusually on the tissue.

Pattern Tissue
This fine tissue paper is your pattern template and you will need to cut out the pieces that relate to your size and view. Check that the pattern includes seam allowances, some patterns from overseas sometimes don’t.

Croquis Kit
Croquis is French for rough sketch and this is basically what it is. Some patterns contain a Croquis Kit that can help you gauge whether a garment will suit you. Be the designer and use these rough line drawings designs to shade in fabric colour, texture and mix up the pattern pieces in order to get the right style for you before you buy and cut out fabric.

Other pages you may like…

Taking accurate body measurements when sewing

It’s important to take accurate measurementswhen making your own clothes.
Here's our essential guide to help you get the best fit possible!

What other measurements may I need to know?

Shoulder length
Measure from the base of the neck to shoulder point.
To find base of the neck – place tape measure around your neck under the thyroid.
To find the shoulder point – raise the arm to shoulder level and this is where the dip forms at the shoulder bone.
Waist height from floor
Place a book between your waist and the wall, and mark this position on the wall and measure distance from waist mark to the floor.
Front waist length
Measure vertically down from the prominent shoulder bone over bust point to the waist.
Back waist length
Measure from the top of your spine to natural waistline.
Arm length
Measure from the shoulder bone to elbow and then with elbow bent measure to the wrist.

Make sure you update your measurements regularly

Always keep a record of all your measurements but redo these every time you start to make a garment, even if it’s a pattern that you have made before unfortunately we don’t all stay the same size, no matter how hard we wish it!!).

Tips for choosing a sewing pattern

For skirts, shorts and trousers – use your hip measurement to choose a pattern size.
For dresses, tops and jackets – use the bust measurement to choose a pattern size.

Pattern Types

This pattern style is designed for women of average proportions between the height between 5ft 5in and 5ft 6in (without shoes)
Designed for women who are between 5ft 5in to 5ft 6in tall (without shoes) with larger bust and hips than Misses.
These patterns are designed for women with a shorter back-waist length, and a height of between 5ft 2in and 5ft 4in tall (without shoes).

What is ease?

Garment ease
For a garment to fit comfortably, the pattern might say it has ease. This is so you can move freely.
Wearing ease
This is the minimum amount of ease for a garment to be comfortable. Within the sewing industry wearing ease is usually 6.4cm at the bust, 2.5cm at the waist and 7.6cm at the hip area.
Design ease
This is an amount that the designer has added/subtracted to create a specific silhouette. To determine ease, measure the pattern from seam to seam (excluding seam allowances) and compare it with your body measurements to the total circumference measurement of the pattern. The difference is the amount of ease the pattern has.

What type of sewing pattern should I choose?

Make choosing a sewing pattern easy - we discuss paper, digital, printed fabric sewing patterns, as well as drafting software and other pattern sources

It’s exciting times for sewers as new sewing pattern companies have sprung up making pattern choices much more interesting. But what type of pattern do you choose? Choosing the right pattern is important, it’s the first building block to a successful garment

Tracing a paper pattern


This has been the most longstanding way of making and sewing your own clothes. Printed patterns usually have 3 elements: the envelope, the tissue pattern and the instructions.


  • You’ve a tangible pattern that can be used time and time again

  • Comes in an envelope that can store everything together

  • Many have multi-sizes so you can cut out the size that best matches your measurements.

  • Making adjustments for a better fit can be marked on the pattern


  • Well-used patterns become tatty and torn. Although you can make a duplicate pattern from freezer paper or from special squared pattern paper as shown in the photo above.

wild ginger patternmaster.jpg


Pattern drafting software is a digital computer programme that allows you to input your own measurements and print out a personalised pattern block and eliminates some of the fitting issues. Here's a couple if you are considering buying software:

Lutterloh - The pattern system consists of written instruction an instruction DVD, sewing hints, fashion styles with its corresponding sewing patterns, a cardboard tailors curve and a tool-set.

Soft Byte - Fittingly Sew is a UK based company whose main products are built-in pattern and body blocks for woven fabrics. The software gives you full control of where to place darts, tucks, pleats, as well as  seam allowances.

Wild Ginger - PatternMaster V5 software has a host of software packages for pattern drafting and looks like pattern envelopes with each CD-ROM containing one garment with a variety of variations much like a regular. The come with tutorials to show you how to save the patterns with your won measurements, and there's no size limitations! You can get a demo to download before you buy which is really useful.

TIP: Do make sure that any software you buy is compatible with your PC before buying!


Most of the independent sewing brands now offer the digital choice and being able to download a pattern from the internet is becoming a very popular way to buy patterns.

  • There's no print production or postage charges so these can be a cheaper way to buy patterns
    (but not always).

  • Pattern is immediately downloadable

  • The pattern can be saved on your computer and printed out as many times as you need for making different sizes or alterations.

  • Many of the patterns are exclusive

  • There can be a much wider range to choose from

Some sewers don't like to join the printed A4 pages together to form the pattern pieces but this should take no longer than 20-30 minutes.

Waffle Patterns PDF sewing patterns are particularly good quality PDF's and have arrows on the pages to help line up the pattern.

Here's just a few of our favourites: Designer Stitch, Waffle Patterns, Go To Patterns, Lekala, Sewaholic, DG Patterns, Tilly and the Buttons, Sew Over It, Megan Nielsen, Liesl & Co, Burda Style, Tessuti, Victory Patterns, Jamie Christina.


Fabric or pattern first
This is the age old question. The pattern has been designed with specific fabrics, fabric weight, drape and stretch in mind. If you’ve a certain fabric in mind, make sure that you choose a pattern that includes it on the back of the envelope. Fabrics are usually listed from the easiest to the more difficult.

Easy, Intermediate and Advanced
Most patterns will have a sewing rating to show how difficult the pattern is to sew from beginner (easy), intermediate and advanced. The rating can be quite subjective and can vary between the pattern companies but it’s a good stating point. To understand more about the pattern, you should read the insturctions to see whether it has techniques that you’re happy to tackle buttonholes and adding a zip.

skirt printed pattern kit from clothkits.jpg


Some companies offer their patterns printed directly onto the fabric providing a kit that contains everything needed to make the garment. This makes the dressmaking process quick and easy, and it's ideal for beginners and experienced sewers.

Clothkits has a fab range of fabric kits. This skirt is designed exclusively by Minimodern and has a fun pet and sounds fabric design that's been printed with a special pattern  guide so that you just select the size you want and cut! Available in sizes 8-20 for £38 and along with many other skirt and dress designs from Clothkits.


  • Very simple to make and follow

  • the kit contains printed fabric ready to cut and sew, zip, thread, label and the step-by-step instructions


  • Can be more expensive but remember this does include fabric and everything you need

  • You are limited to the fabric chosen

Magazines that come with full sewing pattern pullout


Magazines with pattern pullouts
There are a wide selection of books and magazines that feature patterns including Burda style is a beautifully laid out magazine with over 40 patterns in each issue that offers a whole world of fashion for sewers. All patterns are rated by sewing expertise and there’s something for everyone, from the beginner to the more advanced. A great magazine bringing the craft of sewing to a new generation of fashion designers, fashion enthusiasts and DIY’ers. Priced at £9.99 per issue.

Others to look out for our La Maison Victor, My Image and Ottobre Design.

If you have just started to make your own clothes, choose a relatively simple pattern with a not too fitted style such as an A line skirt or tunic top. Many sewing patterns companies will have their own collection of patterns for beginners, trust us, you’ll make something you’ll love forever.

Other features you might find useful

How to take accurate body measurements - Simple tips to help you get the best fit possible!
Threads to get good results - How to choose quality threads that are right for the job
Dress for my body shape - Learn to balance your silhouette and choose styles that suit it!
Beginner's guide to sewing pattern - Get to grips with pattern lingo.

How to use embroidery in your sewing

Embrace the embroidery trend! Here are 3 ways to create embroideries


A hand-embroidered design can really make a garment truly personal to you. There’s lots of websites with free downloadable designs or if you’re creative, you can sketch out your own design. We love the new free embroidery designs from DMC Creative which are downloaded from their website. The Summer Peony Flower & Good Luck Dragonfly is shown on this denim jacket and the Cherry Blossom design shown on this stripy Breton top. The DMC Creative designs are available to buy as kits too, which means you get all the coloured threads you need to stitch the design.

Summer Peony Flower kit, £12.96
Cherry Blossom kit, £6.48


Janome MC500E

You’ll need an embroidery machine or your sewing machine may also feature a range of embroidery stitches.

Janome’s embroidery only machine
The MC500E is the latest embroidery only machine from Janome, which can offer sewers professional-style embroidery at home. The embroidery machine is capable of producing designs up to 200mm x 280mm, making it easy to embellish garments accessories and furnishings. The full colour display screen tells you everything you need to know. Choose from one of the built-in designs or download your own from the internet – this model has a host of powerful editing features providing extensive creative opportunities such as flip, rotate, resize, edit or combine designs to make your project one-of-a-kind. The machine stops automatically after sewing each thread colour so you can walk away while its embroidering, then just thread up the next and see the design develop before your eyes.


Simplicity large embroidery flowers - 1930104005a.jpg

There are some lovely ready-made motifs and patches. Give a garment in your wardrobe a new leash of life. Could something you made ages ago do with a bit of a refashion? Motifs come in iron-on, sew-on and glue-on options and are a great quick and easy option to customise.

We love this large floral cluster design
Design A130, £6.50 from Simplicity

Things you’ll need to create embroidery designs

1. Stabiliser
Use a stabiliser to back your fabric. This will help your embroidery to stand out, retain its shape, and give you a much crisper professional finish.

2. Hoop
A hoop is an essential bit of kit and keeps your fabric taut while stitching. They come in a variety of sizes so choose one that comfortably fits your design.

3. Correct thread & needle
Use embroidery thread that is designed for the job. Hand threads, which can be divided into several strands are handy and allow you to vary the weight of your stitches to add depth to a project. Select a good quality thread that is washable and fade resistant. Use a ballpoint needle for best results. The pointed end will pierce and stitch most fabrics,

Embroidery tips:

  • It’s easier to add an embroidery while the pattern piece is flat and before before putting a garment together

  • If new to embroidery, start with a small design that’s not too challenging

  • Always do a test embroidery first on a spare piece of your chosen fabric

Sewing books released in 2017
Dressmaking books for 2017

If like us you're hooked on sewing books and can't get enough of them – we've got the ultimate guide to dressmaking books, which were released in 2017


Designing Clothes with the Flat Pattern Method
By Sara Alm

Sewers learn a technique that opens up myriad possibilities for making one-of-a-kind garments with this book. By using basic pattern blocks called slopers, Sara shows you how to design new shapes, style lines, and fashion details - creating patterns for nearly any piece of clothing they want to sew. For example, taking  basic straight skirt pattern, and it can be converted into any other skirt design. Change the hemline or the basic skirt shape from straight to A-line to full swing with gores. Try adjusting the waistline placement or convert it from waistband to waistline facing, and change the style and placement of the closures. Once sewers understand the basics of flat-pattern designing, the options are endless. Divided into sections – skirts, tops, and trousers, the knowledge is easily transferred to designing other garment such as dresses, shorts, jumpsuits, and outerwear. 
Where to buy
Published by Creative International Publishing, and available for £15.18 from Amazon.


Singer: The Complete Photo Guide to Sewing
By Nancy Langdon

This is such a good reference for every sewer and includes 352 jam-packed pages and 1,200 photographs covering every aspect of fashion and décor sewing. It will help you choose the right tools and notions, use conventional machines and sergers,
and perfect your fashion sewing and tailoring. With step-by-step instructions
for basic projects beginners and highly skilled sewers will turn to this book time
and time again. This is the third edition and has been updated with new photography and the latest innovations in sewing products and techniques. Learn how to get the most out of your sewing machine, take proper measurements , read and understand commercial sewing patterns, alter store-bought patterns for a perfect fit and achieve thoroughly professional results.
Where to buy
Published by Creative International Publishing, available for £16.99 from Amazon

The Maker's Atelier: The Essential Collection Sewing with Style
By Frances Tobin

A career in fashion, a love of fabrics, a lifetime making clothes, a keen sense of style that works for women of all ages and shapes make Frances Tobin patterns for
The Maker's Atelier so successful.
Frances has designed eight essential patterns, with options to create a collection of 31 stylish pieces for your wardrobe. The collection is mix-and-match, offering garments for all kinds of occasions where key fashion trends have been improved to create versatile simple staple shapes, which translate well into dressmaking patterns to make easy-to-sew garments.
Patterns come in sizes 8-20 (UK) plus guides on measuring and fitting, and advice on fabrics.
Where to buy
Published by Quadrille, and available from Amazon for £19.82 (normally £30)


Sew Caroline Weekend Style
By Caroline Hulse

Popular sewing blogger, Caroline Hulse’s new book is perfect for those learning to sew, and includes must-have-tools and materials, basic stitches and step-by-step finishing techniques. The book is full of pretty pastels, modern photography and wonderful easy-to-follow projects, making it a perfect title for your summer sewing and crammed full of wardrobe must-haves. A couple of our favourites are the afternoon skirt, Saturday morning shorts, date night skirt, and darling shift dress.
Where to buy
Published by Fons & Porter, distributed by F&W Media in the UK, priced at £18.99 and available on Amazon for £11.10.

The Skirt Emporium
By Madame Zsazsa

This is a fun, quirky book that’s packed with 25 gorgeous, colourful skirts for adults up to size 20 UK (16 US) as well as some for children. Using the clear explanation, useful sketches and beautiful pictures to guide you, choose from A-line, bell, circle, straight, gathered, wraparound and elasticated styles, and also learn how to add underskirts and create maternity wear. All the skirts can be easily customised using the full-size pullout patterns, and each is shown made from several different fabrics and trims to inspire you to follow your own personal tastes. With tips on stitching, advice on choosing fabric and a comprehensive guide to cutting and using the patterns, the book shows you exactly how to create your own fun and flattering designs!
Where to buy
Published by Search Press, and available for £9.78 from Amazon (normally priced at £12.99)

Stylish Wraps Sewing Book
Ponchos, Capes, Coats and More - Fashionable Warmers that are Easy to Sew

By Yoshiko Tsukiori

Popular Japanese fashion designer and author Yoshiko Tsukiori presents a fabulous new collection of lightweight wraps that are easy to sew and look fantastic.
The book provides five pull-out patterns, which can be used to create to create 22 timeless wraps to keep the chill off and look great in the process. Just a few of the pieces that can be made using the patterns are a casual-to-dressy hooded cape, flowing draped jacket or vest and a simple, feminine, lightweight poncho. 
Yoshiko Tsukiori is an icon of DIY fashion, garnering fans in France, Australia, the UK and the US, as well as in her native Japan. She is the author of the universally popular Stylish Dress Book series.
Where to buy
Published by Tuttle Publishing, and available for £9.55 from Amazon (normally priced at £11.99)


Stylish Remakes
Upcycle Your old T's, Sweats and Flannels into Trendy Street Fashion Pieces
By Violette Room

Now you can use Japanese fashion ingenuity to up-cycle and re-invent tired old clothes and charity shop finds into trendy new clothes. In this book, Violette Room - the Japanese clothing company known for relaxed, everyday styles - shows you how to give new attitude to clothes you've had hanging around for years. With just a little cutting and sewing you can create fun new pieces from flannel shirts, T'shirts, sweatshirts, bandanas and more. It's inexpensive and often free too. Add a fun and fancy bow or collar to your favourite T-shirt or sweatshirt. Make a dress or bag from a handful of old bandana scarves. Combine a skirt and top to create a unique new dress or tunic. Craft a fashionable new skirt or dress from a pair of flannel shirts. Embellish your old sweats and other odd bits-and-pieces to morph them into something new!
Where to buy
Published by Tuttle Publishing, and available for £6.66 from Amazon (normally priced at £7.99)

A Beginner's Guide to Overlockers, Sergers & Coverlockers
By Clémentine Lubin

Get the most from your machine whether its an overlocker or coverlocker with this comprehensive and easy-to-follow guide. Full of practical advice to help you master all the features and applications of your machine, you will learn how to handle your machine using its more complex features and will soon be finishing hems like a professional sewer. There are 50 beautifully photographed step-by-step lessons to guide you through all the skills you need to get started, and 15 lovely projects to make, to apply your knowledge and help you realise your sewing goals. This book includes full-size, foldout patterns and is the essential guide for all aspiring sewers. It’s a fab resource for those new to these machines and a great source of inspiration
and ideas.
Where to buy
Published by Search Press, and available for £9.55 from Amazon (normally priced at £12.99)

Sewing Machine Magic
By Steffani Lincecum

Sewing machines are complicated machines, but with the instruction you'll find in Sewing Machine Magic, you can make even an old sewing machine work wonders.
With just a little know-how and the right accessories, you can get the most out of your sewing machine and give all your sewing projects a professional look. In this book, author and sewing expert Steffani Lincecum shares 30+ years of experience on how to handle a sewing machine with greater ease and confidence, and explains how to easily find and use the right presser feet and other accessories for your machine, whether you’ve purchased it at retail or found it at a yard sale!
You'll learn the logistics of managing thread, how to achieve the proper stitch formation for every project, and how to troubleshoot a variety of common sewing problems. Learn to use more than 30 presser feet and other accessories, from the basics to more specialized tools designed to maximize efficiency, precision, and creativity. The 10 fashion and home decor projects show inventive ways to use some of the feet and accessories.
Where to buy
Published by Creative Publishing international, and available for
£32.99 from Amazon


Pattern Cutting: The Architecture of Fashion
By Pat Parish

Not available until the end of the year but well worth pre-ordering. Pattern cutting is an essential yet complex skill for every sewer/designer to master. Pattern Cutting: The Architecture of Fashion demystifies the pattern cutting process and clearly demonstrates pattern fundamentals, enabling you to construct in both 2D and 3D, and quickly get to grips with basic blocks, shape, sleeves, collars, trousers, pockets and finishes.
This popular and inspirational sourcebook has been updated to reflect new directions in construction design and techniques, and to include more advanced patterns, such as the Magyar sleeve and the jumpsuit. With handy tips, shortcuts and tricks of the trade, the second edition is a must-have sewing room resource.
Where to buy
Published by Bloomsbury Visual Arts, and available for £32.99 from Amazon

Sewing your Perfect Capsule Wardrobe
By Arianna Cadwaller & CathyMcKinnon

This book is both inspiring and practical and seamstress Arianna Cadwallader and designer Cathy McKinnon present a set of sewing patterns and instructions for the five key pieces that will make up a capsule wardrobe.
The patterns include a great shift dress, well-fitting trousers, simple yet stylish skirt, light blouse, and jersey vest. Their focus is on quality and fit, and all patterns can be adapted to fit and suit you perfectly, whether you prefer long, short or cap sleeves, high or low waistbands, and slim, straight or wide legged trousers.
Once you've created the garments, you can then mix and match them to create a variety of looks and styles. Aimed at advanced beginners, the book guides you through how to measure yourself and all the techniques you will need.
Where to buy
Published by Kyle Books, and available for £13.59 from Amazon.



The Savvy Seamstress
By Nicole Claire Mallalieu
Transform garment patterns, one small detail at a time with this book. Add or remove pockets, adjust the neckline, or swap a zipped back to a button front! With step-by-step instructions, clear illustrations and how-to photos, learn to make and sew endless variations on your favourite sewing patterns, which have a professional finish. Whether you have basic sewing skills or are a confident dressmaker, you can learn to how to make the most of your clothes.
Where to buy
Published by C&T Publishing – available for £22.49 from Amazon (normally priced at £24.99)

Sewing Supplies Handy Pocket Guide
By Carla Hegeman Crim

With tons of information in one tiny book, you’ll never be stumped by a sewing dilemma again. This mini book is packed with mega information on common sewing tools, supplies and materials. Carla Crim from the Scientific Seamstress shares 65 plus essential nuggets on everything from sewing machines and cutting tools to pins, elastic and thread.
Whether you're wondering how to use a particular interfacing or which sewing machine needle is best for each kind of fabric, you'll find yourself turning to these useful charts and infographics again and again.
Where to buy
Published by C&T Publishing, and available on Amazon for £4.46 (normally priced at £5.99)

A Maker’s Guide: Embroidery
In association with the V&A Museum

978 0 500 293270
Technically not dressmaking but a handy book to have if you love the embroidery trend. Thames & Hudson has a series of book in association with the Victoria & Albert Museum. The maker’s guides offer a fresh and contemporary approach to handmade traditions from around the world. A Maker’s Guide: Embroidery contains 15 beautiful step-by-step projects for sewers of all skill levels. Each one taking its cue from a tradition including Indian Kantha, English wholecloth quilting, Japanese boro patchwork, and the block- and strip- pieced quilts of North America, as well as appliqué traditions from Hawaii and Panama. The projects are both functional, and on-trend and include tips on how to create beyond the book, to develop individual and original designs. The book includes 15 projects based on sewing techniques such as English goldwork, Indian beetle-wing embellishment, Japanese Kogin, and Irish whitework, as well as contemporary machine embroidery. This modern maker’s handbook demonstrates decorative stitching traditions and will expand the readers’ sewing horizons and become an invaluable addition to every sewing shelf.
Where to buy
Published by Thames & Hudson, and available from Amazon for £11.30 (normally £16.95)

All New Fabric Savvy: How to Choose & Use Fabrics
By Sandra Betzina
The essential guide for every sewer just got better! All New Fabric Savvy is updated to include detailed information 107 different fabrics; must-know information on determining fabric content, working with knits, working with different types of interfacing, removing stains, and choosing lining material; recommended tools and notions; illustrated reference sections on seams, details, closures, and hems; 476 photographs and 110 illustrations. Organized alphabetically, the 107 fabrics include old favourites - like cotton, wool, knits and silks - to new options, some of which you might never have heard of or sewn with synthetics; those that resist water, sun, stains, and wrinkles; those made from animal hides (and, of course, their faux cousins); those regenerated from wood pulp; and many more.
Where to buy
Published by Taunton Press, and available from Amazon for £19.60 (normally £23.99)

Complete Dressmaking – Essential skills and techniques for beginners
By Jules Fallon
Complete Dressmaking has been written by Jules Fallon, who is the owner of the business Sew Me Something and well-known name in the dressmaking and sewing community. It’s a wonderful book for any sewer that loves dressmaking, and wants to familarise themselves with the terminology that’s associated with making your own clothes from learning about sewing patterns, understanding fabrics to sewing techniques such as inserting zips, creating the perfect pocket and decorative ideas including bias binding and topstitching.
The book is perfect for visual learners as each technique is explored with carefully curated step-by-step photographs and illustrated artworks. Jules addresses the most common problems that beginner dressmakers encounter and advises on how to tackle them in special ‘Help!’ panels throughout the book.
Where to buy
Published by Quarto Press and available on Amazon for £12.61 (normally £20)



The Gentleman's Wardrobe: Vintage-style projects to make for the modern man
By Vanessa Mooncie

For men who have ditched the denim in favour of tweed, this wonderfully illustrated book features an extensive range of stylish garments and accessories to sew, and includes beautiful garments such as pyjamas, shirts, trousers and jackets, plus indispensable accessories such as a cravat tie, flat cap and wallet.
Where to buy
Published by GMC Distribution and available on Amazon for £9.73 (normally £16.99)

Girl with a Sewing Machine
By Jenniffer Taylor
ISBN: 9781782214564

Written by The Great British Sewing Bee, season two contestant, Jenniffer Taylor, this stylish book shows the reader how to up-cycle and adapt items of clothing, as well as creating one-of-a-kind clothes that will fit the sewers personality and shape.
Using Jenniffer’s fun and imaginative ideas, learn how to customise clothes with doilies, tassels, tie-dyeing and block printing. Jenniffer also covers some of the basics on how to measure yourself, create patterns and make clothes from scratch such as dresses, skirts, tops, trousers and a coat. This stylish no-fuss guide to making and adapting your own clothes is ideal for beginners.
Where to buy
Published by Search Press and available on Amazon for £8.82 (normally £12.99)

girl with sewing machine 9781782214564


Make it, Own it, Love it – The Essential Guide to Sewing, Altering and Customising
By Matt Chapple

Matt Chapple was the first male winner of The Great British Sewing Bee in 2015 and brought out his first book in 2017. Make it, Own it, Love it shares his knowledge and takes sewers from the hand sewing techniques through to creating your own garments, as well as the all-important  repairs.
Where to buy
Published by Jacqui Small and available on Amazon for £16.89 (normally £20)

The Tunic Bible ­­– One Pattern, Interchangeable Pieces, Ready-to-Wear Results! 
By Sarah Gunn and Julie Starr

Well-known in the sewing industry for their pattern reviews and online garment challenges, Sarah Gunn and Julie Starr make the tunic top accessible to sewists of all levels. The Tunic Bible is an in-depth look at the tunic and how to sew the perfect one. The book features lots of ways to express your own tunic style from simple and modest to daring and chic. There are lots of style options with mix and match collars, neck plackets, sleeves variations. Stitch up a sharp bodice pattern, which has been designed to fit sizes XS to XXL in a wide range of lengths, styles, and trims.
Where to buy
Published by C&T Publishing and distributed by Search Press and available on Amazon for £14.14 (normally £21.99)

How to improve your sewing

Kim Collins, designer and owner Ann Normandy Design shares her tips on how to create a beautifully constructed investment garment from your sewing room

*  All fabrics used in the garments show here are made from reclaimed antique hand-woven French linen. The Maxi Dress fabric was a late 18th century French duvet. All fabrics are sturdy enough to be machine laundered.

* All fabrics used in the garments show here are made from reclaimed antique hand-woven French linen. The Maxi Dress fabric was a late 18th century French duvet. All fabrics are sturdy enough to be machine laundered.

Where are you at?
Consider your skill level, analyse the pattern details and the techniques needed to create the garment. If you’re a beginner sewist, pick one new technique to learn with each garment. Perfect your skills by creating a muslin/toile first.
Fabric quality
Select the best quality fabric that pairs well with the design and the construction techniques for the garment.
Fabric prep
Prewash and dry as per manufacturer’s recommendations and press. Eliminating the fabric sizing brings the fabric to its original drape and hand qualities.

Pattern prep
Cut just inside the edge of the pattern line. Once the pattern is traced and marked, carefully cut on inside edge of the tracing line.

Pressing matters!
The iron is as important as your sewing machine. Proper focus, heat, pressure and moisture and time taken to allow your pressed seam to cool are essential to achieve a crisp seam finish. Use a Ham for pressing curves and shaping curved seams and a wood Clapper puts pressure on a freshly pressed seam to help set the press. Carefully manipulate the fabric/seam with your fingers as you press. Blocking can add or eliminate shape. Press the fabric with steam until it’s damp, shape as desired, and let dry completely.

Elevate the quality and finish of your garment by encasing your seams into a flat, finished seam.
The seams aren’t only a beautiful couture technique, but they give the garment additional weight and stability to hold its shape.

Applying a strip of fabric to cover a raw edge seam gives a clean finish. A beautifully bound seam starts with precise and evenly cut seam allowances. When folding the binding over the seam allowance, keep the fabric taut over the fold.

Control your single needle stitching
Take it slow, especially when approaching corners, and pivot points. Each stitch matters.
Consider using a lightweight, fusible interfacing to help stabilise loosely woven fabric, as well as reinforce shape and create body.

Sneak peak of the Trouser and Shorts pattern that will be released early autumn this year showing the detail of flat felled seams and a welt pocket. 

Kim Collins.jpeg

A bit about…
Kim Collins, designer and owner Ann Normandy Design. Kim lives just outside of Detroit, MI, in the US with her husband, 13-year-old son and their St. Bernard, Bode. She also enjoys travelling, cooking, singing, playing the violin and snowshoeing.
It doesn’t get any better than to bring together constant lifetime passions to create a women’s apparel sewing pattern collection. Kim Collins’ journey in clothing design started early in life while being taught how to sew by her grandmother. From there, theatrical costume design was the natural next step continuing the creative thought process of ‘making do’ with limited budgets and resources. Period pieces between 18th and 20th century are her forte and passion, using studied design and observing time-honored techniques as her guide. Inspired from sewists and the linen textiles of those periods, she created a sewing pattern collection using careful consideration to construction details that surpass most high-end ready to wear garments on the market.



Julie Bonnar
How to embroider a shirt

Embroidery, see how it’s done by the professionals. The Janome team love to use the machines they sell.
To highlight just what can be done with an embroidery machine, they’ve transformed a simple classic white shirt

Appliqué flower embroidery by Ann White from Janome

Shirt 1
Appliqué flower embroidery by Ann White

The designs that Ann chose came from two different Janome machines. The appliqué flower design came from the Janome Memory Craft 14000. By using Digitizer MBX V5 software the size has been adjusted. On the machine itself, you can use the edit screen to adjust designs 20 per cent larger or smaller without altering the stitch count, by using the software it adjusts the stitch count in the design giving endless options for using the same design from a tiny flower to a huge bloom! While the leaf design was taken from the new MC500E embroidery-only machine, the size has again been altered in the Digitizer MBX V5 Software. Templates for the embroidery designs were created in the MBX software to help with the accurate positioning of designs these were printed onto vellum. The pocket was removed from the shirt for the embroidery to allow this to fit into the hoop. Ann placed Tearaway stabiliser in the hoop, and attached the pocket piece to the stabiliser using the basting stitch in the embroidery trace and baste function. The template was then used to make sure that the design was paced in the correct position.

Shirt 2 Parisian Style by Ruth Cox from Janome

Skirt 2
Parisian Style by Ruth Cox

The shirt provided a great blank canvas, Ruth wanted a design that was bold but with clean lines and not too heavy in terms of stitches and colours. Because the shirt is a classic tailored style in a crisp cotton fabric, she felt the overall look should be smart but also feminine. The Parisian Girl design was initially selected as it evokes images of fashion and travel. Ruth looked for designs in the machine that would work with this and selected the Redwork range by Y.Ganaha on the Janome MC15000. She loved the idea of swallows flying over the Eiffel Tower, and there was a good variety of shapes in the rest of the collection to create a pretty scalloped edge on the front band and embroidered cuffs. The designs are quite open and delicate to balance the Parisian Girl design, and the touch of red in the shoes and lipstick helped bring the whole look together. This Janome MC15000 embroidery/sewing machine was used to stitch the designs after editing them initially in Digitizer MBX software. Ruth also used the Janome AcuSetter app as this is the perfect tool for embroidery placement on a ready-made item. With AcuSetter, you can photograph the shirt using an iPad once it’s placed in the embroidery hoop, then you can manipulate the embroidery to ensure that it’s correctly aligned on each area of the shirt. Once you’re happy with the positioning of the design, it can be transferred wirelessly to the MC15000. You can stitch out with the confidence knowing that the finished result will be successful!

Shirt 3 Blue lace butterflies by Jayne Brogan from Janome

Shirt 3

Blue lace butterflies by Jayne Brogan
Jayne used the Janome MC15000 for all the embroidery and machine stitching of the Blue Lace butterflies. The inbuilt lace designs are beautiful and intricate although they’re not shown very often especially when demonstrating the machines as they take quite some time to stitch out. Jayne felt that the design could be altered or added to at a future time if required as the motifs are removable. The lace designs give a good opportunity to further embellish the motifs when they’re applied. In this case, she used some beads and a small crystal on each motif to add a little extra sparkle. Jayne enlarged the butterfly design by the maximum 20 per cent in the machine itself and then duplicated the design to fit as many designs as she could into the hoop - five individual butterfly patterns could then be stitched out at one time! A double layer of Janome Ultra Solvy was used as a stabiliser to ensure the design was stable throughout the stitching process. The motifs were then soaked to remove all the Solvy and pressed flat. By leaving some residue of Solvy in the motifs, they could be also be shaped into 3D designs if required. The motifs were placed on the shirt and stitched using a mono filament thread and a small zigzag stitch by stitching down each wing. The beading was attached by hand and the stitches down the centre of the bodies then held the butterfly flat against the shirt and added extra stability. The big plus when using presewn motifs is that you can easily rearrange them before finally stitching them onto the shirt to give the desired look and you can also remove them at a later date and re-use them!

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How to sew with knit fabrics

Stretch your knowledge of Knits

With a change of season just around the corner, the pattern makers are wowing us with knit dresses and tops to take us from summer into autumn. Well-made knit fabric garments
create a wonderful flattering drape and require much less fitting (which is good news)
but at the same time, they can be a little tricky to work with

What actually is knit fabric?

Knit fabrics are made up of rows of interlocking yarn loops providing the fabric with its stretch.

Top tips

Frankie Knit dress from Tessuti

Frankie Knit dress from Tessuti

1. Knit fabrics can suffer from pilling when worn and washed. You can test a fabric before buying by rubbing a swatch together to see what affect friction has on it. 

2. You’ll need to know how much stretch a fabric has and how it reacts when it’s stretched. Sewing patterns that have been designed for knits will have a stretch gauge to measure a 4in piece of fabric’s crosswise stretch to check for distortion. For Simplicity, this is called the Pick A Knit Rule.

3. Knit fabrics although don’t fray, the raw edges can roll up when cutting or washing. For knits that are more prone to this, finish raw edges with a top-stitched hem and twin needle. This will produce a neatening zigzag stitch on the reverse.

4. When buying a knit fabric, it’s important to feel the quality. Some knits can be quite rough on the skin, and usually the softer the feel, the better the drape.

Best needle - Ballpoint
Best presser foot - Walking foot
Best stitch – Narrow zigzag
Best seams – Use a stay tape or knit interfacing within the seam to keep the seams from stretching out of shape



Essential sewing tools for dressmakers
Esesential dressmaking tools from Prym

What you need for the 3 key areas of dressmaking: measuring, marking and cutting out. We've teamed up with WeaverDee and Prym to chat about the essential tools for making your own clothes at home including some items that you might not have heard of!

Tape Measures
"A good, quality tape measure is an essential item for your dressmaking tool kit."

Prym offer an excellent range; the top-seller is the Tailor's Tape measure. This has a metal strip at one end (approx 50mm). Very popular too is the Prym Ergonomic Tape. It's clever, award-winning design allows the tape to lay flat instead of twisting when rolled out, which makes the tape much easier to handle."

Sew & Knit Gauge
'This is a really handy and useful measuring aid that has an integral sliding piece which you position for equal spacing of buttonholes, buttons, and for accurate folding and marking of hems."

Advanced Level
Those among you that either create your own patterns or adapt existing patterns will no doubt be familiar with special tools available to aid the process.

Here, we list two very commonly used professional dressmaking rulers:
French Curve
"Used for marking out armholes, sleeve heads, shoulders, neck, hips, waist, etc."
Dressmaker's Rule
"For making uniform or recurring spacing such as seam/hem allowances, buttonholes and pleats, as well as on neckline and sleeve/armhole curves and hip, crotch and waist curve."

TOP TIP: Buy a long, heavy ruler
"Most haberdashery suppliers, whether on the high street or online don't sell extra long, heavyweight rulers so take a look in the ‘Man Shed’ or visit the building tools section of your local DIY store. A builder's or carpenter's metal ‘T’ Square is a fabulous aid for marking long, straight lines across or along a large piece of fabric. The extra weight will help prevent the ruler from slipping or the fabric from shifting. Also, invest in a metal metre rule, which has more weight than it's wooden counterpart."


Tailor's Chalk and sharpener
"Probably the most commonly used and cost effective method for marking lines on fabric. The marks can be easily removed by brushing with a soft-tooth brush but always test on a piece of scrap fabric. On the down side, the chalk piece will soon blunt, making the markings too thick for accurate, recurring marking. However, this can be rectified and sharpened using a sharpener.

Chalk Pencils
"The pencil lead is made from special chalk. Using an ordinary pencil sharpener will enable you to sharpen the tip down to a fine point allowing finer, more accurate marking. The pencil has a brush at the other end, which is used for removing markings."

Water Erasable Pencil
"This white pencil is ideal for marking on dark fabrics, and marks are easily removed with water or a damp cloth."

Chalk Wheel Markers
Fine lines give more accurate measurements. An ergonomic Chalk Wheel marker will produce fine, erasable chalk markings. The chalk is contained in a renewable cartridge that just clicks into place. The wheel action will prevent the fabric from puckering as the marker is being drawn along the ruler edge. You can choose either white or yellow interchangeable cartridge refills. The ergonomic parallel chalk wheel mouse is equipped with an adjustable edge tracing wheel for altering patterns, adding seam allowances, etc."

Free Standing Chalk Hem Marker

"This is ideal for marking garment hems. White chalk puffer deposits thin line of chalk around skirt at the desired hem height. Then you're ready to pin, baste or slip stitch to the hem level."

Marking Pens
"There's a huge choice available, some very good, some not so good. They mainly come under three categories: Vanishing Ink, Water Erasable and Permanent."

Vanishing Marker Pen
Useful in situations where you are unable to remove markings. The vanishing ink pen is perfect for sewing, quilting, dressmaking, embroidery and much more. The pen has a medium fibre tip, and purple ink which is suitable for use on medium or light coloured materials. After a few hours, the marking becomes invisible, so no unsightly markings will show once the project is complete.

Water Erasable Pen
"This marker penis perfect for marking out your project. It's water-erasable, so the markings are removed with a damp cloth or water."

Fine-line Vanishing Pen
"This works in the same way as the regular vanishing pen. This one gives a finer line for more accurate marking."

Fine-line Water Erasable Pen
This also works in the same way as the regular water-erasable pen but this one gives a finer line for more accurate marking."

Permanent Black Ballpoint Pen
This one permanently marks fabric and the markings won't wash out. It's ideal for name tabs, etc. 

Tracing Wheels and Carbon Tracing Paper
"These are generally used in conjunction with dressmaker's carbon paper to transfer lines and markings from the sewing pattern onto the fabric. There's two types: serrated to produce a dotted line and smooth for continuous lines."

Ergonomic Tracing Wheel (Serrated)
This a professional quality tracing wheel with recessed index finger rest and curved ergonomic design that helps reduce fatigue. Serration on wheel produces a dotted line. The ergonomic tracing wheel (smooth and blunt) is the same but makes continous lines. 

Prym ergonomic serrated tracing wheel

Dressmaker's Carbon Tracing Paper
Simply lay your fabric onto the carbon paper, then lay the sewing pattern onto fabric. Trace round pattern using a tracing wheel. Markings will then be transferred onto fabric.


It's well worth investing in good quality dressmaking scissors. Budget-priced scissors will only lead to fatigue and frustration during the cutting out process. Prym Kai scissors are by no means the cheapest available,  nor are they the most expensive. However they do provide exceptional quality, comfort and cutting power along with innovative design at an affordable price.

A dressmaker's tool kit is normally equipped with the following scissors: dressmaking and/ortailoring shears, general purpose and/or needlecraft scissors, fine point embroidery scissors or thread snips and pinking shears. The latter not being essential, but can sometimes be really useful.


Dressmaking/Tailoring Scissors
TOP TIP: The longer the blade - the straighter the cut!.
When stating a size, most scissor manufacturers are referring to the overall length of the scissor (not the blade) so 21cm for example is measured from the start of the handle to the point of the blade.

Most of dressmakers will buy dressmaking scissors with a length of around 21 to 25cm. As a general rule, it's easier keep a straight cut with a longer blade. This length is generally ideal for both long straight cuts and for cutting round curves, etc.

Here's the top sellers in the Prym range:
KAI 21cm Hobby Dressmaking - Smaller sized, good quality and very reasonably priced.
KAI 25cm Hobby Dressmaking - The extra long blade makes it easier to keep a straight line on long cuts.
KAI 21cm Professional Xact General Purpose Dressmaking Scissors - Micro serration on the edge of one blade - ultra sharp cutting edge on the other. This combination gives you tremendous cutting power. The blades are made from Vanadium steel for longer life.
KAI 25cm Professional Tailor's Shears - Larger version of the above. The longer blade will give better performance on long straight cuts.
KAI 23cm Professional Sidebent Tailor - Dressmaker Shears - The raised handle (sidebent) and straight lower blade allows you to rest your hand on the table whilst cutting. This makes it easier to achieve a straight cut as well as providing extra comfort.
KAI 21cm Professional Left-handed Tailor/Dressmaker Shears - As above, slightly shorter blade - reversed for left hand use. In addition, the ergonomic shape of the handles has been designed for holding in your left hand. Larger version of the above. The longer blade will give better performance on long straight cuts.


Small scissors
Popular ones include:

KAI 16cm Hobby Needlework scissors
KAI 11.5cm Hobby Embroidery
KAI 13cm Professional Embroidery/Needlecraft Scissors
KAI 12cm Professional Thread Snips
KAI 10cm Professional Embroidery Scissors

Other specialised scissors
KAI 13.5cm Professional Textile Curved Scissors - The unusual 'banana' bend blade with specially rounded tip allows you to cut between fabric layers without snagging.

Pinking Shears - Pinkers produce a zigzag cut to the fabric that prevents the edge from fraying. They're handy for finishing and trimming a fabric edge where you are unable to neaten with an overcast stitch. A common mistake is to buy cheap pinking shears because they won't be used very often. However, cheap pinkers are useless on fabric; they'll only work on card or paper.

All Prym sewing tools mentioned in this feature can be purchased from WeaverDee. We'd like to thank WeaverDee for helping put this blog post together.


What zip should I choose for my sewing project?

Zips are probably the most common fastening but also the one of the most feared to insert! Choosing the right zip can be tricky as zips come in variety of colours, lengths, types,  some have metal or plastic teeth so which one should you choose?

Main Zip Types

regular/conventional zip

conventional zip

Conventional (regular all-purpose) zip
Conventional zippers are the most commonly used, and only open at one end and are sewn into the seam. This type of zips comes in a wider range of colours, and come with both metal and plastic teeth. Centered insertion is the most common way to insert this sort of zip and used for front and back closings.

Concealed zip

concealed zip

Concealed (invisible) zip
This sort of zip provides a garment with a totally concealed closure, and on the right side, the teeth are invisible. These have to be used with an invisible zipper foot, which unrolls the coil as you stitch. The zip is stitched from the wrong side, and once it’s installed is hidden in the seam.

Brass jeans zip

metal (brass jean) zip

Metal (brass jean) zip
Patterns that require these sort of zips will specify its use on the pattern envelope as this zip needs a wider overlap to put in correctly. Brass jean zips have brass teeth, a closed bottom and are purposely designed for jeans and other medium to heavy fabrics like Denim.

trouser zip

trouser (front fly) zip

Trouser (front fly) zip
Always buy a zip that is longer than the opening it’s intended for. Inserting a fly front zipper is among one of the easier zips to sew where most of the sewing is done on the wrong or inside of the garment.

Open-ended (separating) zip
Metal separating zippers available in mid and heavy weight and these are as they sound – open at both ends and used for garments that need to be opened at both the top and bottom such as jackets and sportswear. These types of zips are available in standard black and white and not too many to other colours. It can be sewn so that the zipper teeth are on show.

Decorative zips
These are usually plastic and as such lightweight, durable and strong. Quite popular at the moment are the lacy edge zips that can be sewn on the outside of the garment to add to the garments style.

zip anatomy

Originally named the ‘Hookless Fastener’, Elias Howe invented the first zip in 1851, but it didn’t really become popular until 1930’s.

1. Stop (Top) – This is the small bracket at the top of the zip that stops the zip pull/slider from coming off the tape.

2. Zip slider or zip pull – This small pull operates the zip, and makes the teeth come together to close or come apart to open.

3. Tape – This is the woven fabric strip, which the teeth are secured to, and its this that is sewn to the garment.

4. Teeth – This is the part of the zip that locks together and can be made from nylon or polyester.

5. Stop (Bottom) – This is the bracket that the slider/pull rests on at the bottom of the zip.

Parts of a zip

Tips for choosing a zip

  • A pattern will specify which length of zip you should buy. If you can’t buy one the right size, always pick one slightly longer, which you can shorten

  • Choose a zip that matches your fabric.

  • Always close the zipper and press the creases out before inserting.

  • If using a cotton-tape zip, wash and pre shrink it first to avoid puckering.

  • Always consider the weight of the zip with the weight of your fabric – if the zip is too heavy for the fabric, it will cause the garment to sag and not hang right

  • Applying basting tape to the right side of the zip can help keep your zip from moving while stitching.

 Thanks to WeaverDee for the zip images.

How to shorten a zip

  • Measure the correct length from the top of the zip.

  • Mark with a pin.

  • While zip is closed and zip coil facing down, machine zigzag using a stitch width 5.0 and length 0.5 across the zip teeth several times to secure.

  • Cut off the unwanted zip part of the zip about 25mm below the stitching and use as normal.