Updated: Jul 20, 2020
BY MARIA KACHKO
To be honest, the process of making clothes might be a bit confusing in the beginning, and I personally still have a lot to learn, but it really pays off eventually and I am very happy I have developed this skill. Today I’ll share some things I’ve learned over the last two years that will help you with your journey. But, why should I make my own clothes? When one makes their clothes, they have control over everything! The materials, the fit, the environmental impact, price and the quality. It also pays off in the long-run, financially speaking. Where to start? In order to make clothes, there’s a need for (a) patterns, (b) sewing supplies, including a sewing machine, iron and more, (c) basic knowledge about garment construction and fabrics. Start by practicing working on your sewing with your sewing machine (don’t be afraid to take your time here, I recommend to practice sewing straight lines on woven fabrics, not knits as they are a bit more tricky to work with) and when you feel confident here, I would suggest making a simple tote bag. There are plenty of tutorials for a tote bag on YouTube (make one without a zipper), and use heavy weight woven fabric, like canvas or denim. What to do after I mastered making bags? Your first tote probably wasn’t perfect, mine certainly wasn’t, but after you practice this (maybe a few times), move on to making a bag with a zipper and lining, or a makeup bag. Then you can start making clothing (yay!). For your first garment, I would suggest making a top without sleeves (and with wide straps if you choose to add any) out of stretchy knit fabric. For this project you can translate a pattern of a top you already own; look for a pattern-translating tutorial on YouTube before doing it! Another garment that is beginner-friendly is a circle/half circle skirt. When looking for a tutorial, make sure to find one with elastic at the waistband and without a zipper (because inserting a zipper might be difficult). After practicing all of those sewing projects (no need to rush here, go slow but steady), you can explore further: pants, dresses, garments with darts, etc.
Image: a circle skirt and a tote bag I made. How do I make patterns? When it comes to more complex garments than a tote bag and a circle skirt, the pattern very is important. In order to make a pattern, you can use pergament paper, recycled paper or old newspapers, which are good sustainable options. There are pattern-making tutorials on YouTube, and I also recommend the book “Pattern Cutting” by Dennic Chunman Lo. You can look for patterns online; some good brands are Vouge and McCall. Things I learned over time: - You’d rather want to make something that is too big than something that is too small; adding fabric or ripping seams is much harder than tailoring something down. - Try the garment on again and again! It will save time in the long-run. If you try it on yourself and not on a dress form, baste-stitch in the place where you want sew and try it on. - If there’s any local design house in your area, try to reach out to them and ask if they would like to give you their deadstock fabrics (fabric leftovers), as it is a really good sustainable option. This is how I get most of my fabrics - highly recommended. - Wash your fabric in the washing machine according to the instructions before sewing, in case it shrinks. - Practice thrift and flip projects. They are beginner-friendly, sustainable and you can find several tutorials for this. Where can I get help? I started my journey by taking a sewing course for beginners at a fashion university near my hometown. I highly recommend doing it this way; there, I learned a lot about sewing, I was able to ask my instructor questions, and met a lot of great people. But if this option is not available, there a lot of great YouTube channels that will be of help! Here are some recommendations: - Patternmakimg: Kim Dave, withwendy - Information about fabrics and garment construction: Zoe Hong - Sewing, techniques, and sewing machine tips: Professor Pincushion, withwendy - Book recommendations about the subject: Zoe Hong And, of course, you can reach out to me on Instagram (@maria_kachko) and DM me questions about your sewing projects! To sum up, I want to remind you that this is a process that takes time, so be easy on yourself. It will become easier as you go, and will pay off in the long-run for you and for the environment.