If you feel familiar with a sewing machine, can sew straight and curved lines, know the basic sewing terminology (like what “right side”, “finish”, or “hem” means), and have an eagerness to progress beyond sewing simple projects; you’re ready to sew your first handmade garment! 

But how do you find a pattern that’s right for you? We get asked this question a lot, so we thought we’d share a few tips on what you should be looking for, and some examples we think fit the bill nicely.

How to tell whether a pattern is suitable for beginners

  • Fabric: all patterns will suggest what fabric you need, so have a look at that in the first instance. Good fabrics for beginners include: cotton, cotton blend (non stretch), lightweight to midweight denim, or linen. Fabrics to stay away from are things like silk, stretch, and georgette. If it looks slippery, maybe don’t try it for your first project!
  • Fastenings: If you’re quite new to sewing, when making your first ever garment the easiest is to aim for one without any fastenings (eg a t-shirt). Or you could choose something with a simple fastening like elastic or ties. Then for your next project you’ll be ready to take on something with a zip or buttons. For a beginner with more sewing machine experience, you’ll be fine taking on zips or buttons but bear in mind you may need to spend a little more time learning these techniques.
  • Linings: Tailored jackets, formal dresses tend to require lining. Read the pattern details before you buy. If it needs a lining, we’d suggest steering clear until you’ve practised making simpler items. If your heart is set on it then be prepared for the extra steps and time you’ll need to complete it.
  • Level: Most patterns nowadays will say what sewing level is required. Maybe have a google to see how you categorise your skill level, as some can be beginner or broken into two categories; like “easy” and “super easy”

Beginner-friendly pattern suggestions

All the below patterns would be suitable for a beginner sewist making their first ever garment

  1. Men’s Shirts and Shorts by Norris Danta Ford = S9758 
  1. Steele Pinafore – Downloadable pattern 
  1. Voile Blouse n° 03 | Burda Easy n°6/2022 
  1. Misses’ Dress and Jumpsuit by Mimi G = S9597 

Choosing your own pattern

Not seeing something you like in the list above? Here are some tips from our Garment Making Course tutor Sarah on the best pattern brands for beginners, including a rating out of 10 for beginner-friendliness.

Mainstream Pattern Companies

Burda (instruction ratings 7/10 beginner friendly but loses points for their downloadable pattern instructions so stick to the printed envelope patterns- the size chart can be in a weird place!)

Simplicity (instructions 9/10 beginner friendly, clear with the rare occasion of assumed knowledge)

New Look (8/10 beginner friendly clear with occasional assumed knowledge)

Independent Pattern Companies

(most modern pattern brands will be in the form of Downloadable PDF’s. If choosing to get a downloadable PDF for our Garment Making Workshop please print these of and piece them together before the first workshop to save yourself time – follow the printing instructions included in the general instructions)

Made My Wardrobe 7/10 beginner friendly with illustrated drawings of the steps

Merchant and Mills 6/10 clear instructions with illustrations but assumed knowledge of sewing terms, and the glossary can be found online

Elbe Patterns 6/10 very beginner friendly I just haven’t come across that many of their patterns in the workshops so can’t confirm for all patterns.

Free Patterns

There are a wide variety of free patterns available but note that some will come with minimal instructions. Here are a few free pattern sites with instruction ratings. A lot of the modern pattern brands offer free patterns which will include the same rating for instructions

  1. Peppermint Magazine 7/10 beginner friendly instructions across the various contributing pattern brands – some intermediate patterns available which will include assumed sewing knowledge)
  2. Mood Patterns 5/10 a very big selection of beginner and intermediate patterns with basic and limited instructions. All instructions are achievable but if you were looking for a more professional looking finish to your garment they might not provide those instructions as it is assumed you would know

Once you’ve picked your first pattern and fabric, you’re ready to start making your garment! Want more help from us? Check out our Garment Making Courses, where we give you expert guidance every step along the way to sewing your very own clothes.