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Clothes Sewing Tutorials | Learn How to Sew Clothing | Best Free Patterns & Dressmaking Websites
Learn The Satisfying Skill of Dressmaking
If you want to learn how to make your own clothes, you have come to the right place! If you don't already sew please have a look at my beginner's lessons and starter projects here to gain basic sewing techniques and knowledge before you try to make clothing. If you can sew already however, please carry on!
The best way to learn is to 'do', so get stuck in as soon as you can. Good practice ideas to start off with are to try to make doll's clothes, or perhaps refashion/revamp old t-shirts and dresses. To see how clothes are made, try disassembling some of your old clothes and then either sew them back up again or use the pieces you have separated to create a pattern (template) and try making a replica of the item out of other fabric from scratch.
On the page below I have gathered links to the best free clothes patterns and tutorials, useful tips and things you should know, plus where are the best places to buy patterns online. I hope you find the links useful, and...happy sewing!
Welcome to the World of Dressmaking!
Dressmaking used to be a very common skill, and the main reason people used to make their own clothes was that it saved a good amount of money compared to buying clothing from a store.
However, now that mass manufactured fashion is the norm, and you can buy garments very cheaply, it can be more expensive to buy the fabric to make the clothing than it is to buy the clothes pre-made (as crazy as that is!) So even though the main purpose is no longer to save money, there are very strong arguments for why I think people should preserve this skill:
- You can be unique; You can follow your own style completely and not be a slave to fashion. If you can think of a design, you can make it, and that's what is so great about making your own clothes. Once you get comfortable following sewing patterns, you can alter them to suit your style and then even make your own patterns from scratch.
- Custom fitted to you; all the clothes you make are made for you (or someone you know) and so you can use actual body measurements. This creates garments that are much more accurately fitted to your size and shape, which is especially useful for people who find it hard to find clothes in stores to fit them well.
- Valuable skill; Sewing is a skill that is growing rarer, and is therefore more valuable. You can sell your knowledge and/or your skill, and if are ever struggling to find work, you have a trade to fall back on. You can also pass the skill on to your children.
- Creativity; I think it's very exciting to be able to come up with your own clothing designs and then be able to make them at home with your own two hands. You can really get creative knowing that you don't need to follow the latest trends or the restrictions of mass-manufactured clothing. If you want to add beautiful hand embroidery all over your dress, then go for it! If you want to make a blazer with a comic book print lining, go for it!
- Satisfying; to be able to wear what you have made is very satisfying, and you can take much greater pride in your appearance. It's especially lovely when you get complimented on what you're wearing :)
- Money; I said above that a main reason for making clothes is no longer to save money, however this is when compared to second-hand clothes or clothes from cheaper stores. If you have more expensive taste in clothes usually, then savings are still there to be had. For instance, you could make clothes inspired by designer garments or items you have seen on the catwalk. Kid's clothes are also a good area to save in, as they can be expensive to buy and yet kids grow out of clothes so quickly.
Another point on the money subject is that if you achieve a good level of skill with sewing, you could sell the clothes you sew, teach sewing classes or even sell your own sewing patterns. So it can also be a money-making venture if you are entrepreneurial minded :)
- Fun; Of course, if you don't find it fun, then it's not going to be a good hobby for you. But if you are creative and enjoy crafts, then I'm sure you will love the freedom that sewing skills bring. There are so many more projects open to you when you can sew well!
Make a Toile
A toile is a mock-up/practice run of the item you are going to sew. Usually toiles are made if you are creating your own clothes pattern from scratch or are making adjustments to an existing pattern and would like to test if the finished result will look and fit as you would like it to.
A toile is normally made in muslin, or perhaps another cheap fabric. It is made by cutting out the pattern pieces and sewing them together as you would do for the 'real' thing, but obviously any mistakes, problems and errors aren't going to matter too much. They are a good idea too if you are nervous about making the 'real' clothing item out of more expensive fabric straight away.
Best Pattern Websites
If you want to buy your own patterns, try out these popular websites, some of which also offer a selection of patterns for free if you're lucky!
It's easy as a beginner to feel intimidated by sewing patterns because they look so complicated when you first look at them. But just remember that there are several different sizes represented on a single sheet, hence the many different lines, so try to focus on just the one outline/size you need and you'll be fine! If you wish to re-use the pattern, or want to try more than one size, trace the pattern size you want onto other pieces of paper before you begin. Click here for more information on how to do this.
- Burdastyle Patterns
Patterns for all kinds of clothes and accessories.
- McCall Patterns
Patterns to buy.
- Simplicity Creative Group
Patterns to buy.
Patterns to buy.
- Kwik Sew
Patterns to buy.
Good for cheaper or vintage patterns.
- Vogue Patterns
Patterns to buy.
- For UK/Europe
Free shipping to the UK.
- Mom's Patterns
Hard-to-find vintage patterns for sale.
- Colette Patterns
Patterns to buy.
Smart Child's Coat
Skirt and Dress Patterns
- A-Line Skirt Walkthrough
Process from pattern to finished skirt.
- Gathered Skirt
Fashionable skirt which is easy to make.
- Easy Full Skirt
Straightforward, pretty skirt.
- Skirt Pattern Drafting
Useful step-by-step stages.
- Raspberry Ripple Dress
Gorgeous layered lace dress - one of my favourites!
- Dress Heart Cut-Out
Video showing how to add a heart shape cut-out to a dress.
- Adding a Pleat
A back pleat for more ease of movement.
- Paper Bag Dress
Download the pattern for this paper bag ensemble dress.
- Easy & Elegant Dress
Very easy dress for beginners.
- Dragon Dress
Tutorial for a really gorgeous dress.
- Simple Paper Bag Skirt
Super easy paper bag (gathered) waist skirt.
- Elle Apparel Tutorials
Beautiful clothing how-tos including a pretty lace skirt.
- Pencil Skirt
With a walkthrough of pattern drafting.
- Pleated Skirt
Tutorial for a basic skirt with pleats all the way around.
- DIY Circle Skirt
Full circle skirts are probably the simplest of all skirts.
- Socialite Skirt
Lovely everyday skirt which is simple to make.
- Maxi Dress
Simple, long-length strapless dress.
- Candy Sundress
Sweet silk dress with a lovely scalloped neckline.
- Chalk Lines Skirt
Smart and professional skirt with white line design.
- The Peggy Skirt
Cute pleated skirt inspired by Mad Men.
- Scalloped Fabric
How to applique very pretty scallops on a skirt.
- Simple Gathered Maxi Skirt
Long casual jersey skirt with an elasticated waistband.
- Backgammon Skirt
Very pretty triangle themed skirt border.
- Colorblock Flared Skirt
Vintage style full skirt with a modern twist. Great color combinations used here.
- How to Make the Perfect Dress
A guide to getting the best dress, with links to free patterns.
More DIY Skirts & Dresses
- Fitted Maxi Skirt with Elasticated Waist
Plus instructions on how to make a lacy top.
- Cheat Pleated Skirt
Use a pre-pleated fabric so you don't have to make your own!
- Star Wars Sheet Dress
No free pattern but this is an awesome idea for recycling bed sheets.
- DIY Gathered Skirt
Easy lined skirt with an elastic waistband.
- High-Low Reversible Dress
Fashionable 20's style dress made in 2 layers of material.
- Bias Sundress
Cute dress with bias binding borders and a tie around the waist.
- Tiered Chevron Maxi Dress
With a flared tier at the bottom.
- Mystic Maxi Skirt
An unusual pleated style which I think looks really cool!
- Wear Everywhere Dress
A lovely midi dress which would be great for any occasion.
- Perfect Summer Swing Dress
Fashionable and casual dress with flair (and flare).
- Everyday Knit Dress
Casual stretchy dress with pretty accents.
Other Women's Clothing Tutorials
- Dressmaking Tutorials
Tips and tutorials for clothes making and altering.
- Floaty Tunic
Very simple design but looks lovely.
- Beginner's Blouse
Feminine floaty blouse with an easy how-to.
- Costume Corset
Made with recycled denim.
- Make a Corset Pattern
How to work out the measurements yourself.
- Maternity Sewing Roundup
Massive list of clothing how-tos for maternity wear.
- Swimsuits & Bikinis
7-part guide to making your own swimming costumes.
- Corset for the Business Professional
Smart and flattering corset for outerwear.
- Slouch Fit T-Shirt
A casual workout tee with cuff sleeves.
- Basic Fitted T-Shirt Pattern
Brilliantly detailed intro - then follow the link to a useful tutorial.
- Simple Peplum Top
Sweet and feminine top made from lovely eyelet fabric.
Pinning Your Pattern
There are a few different ways of temporarily securing the pattern pieces to your fabric, such as the popular pin option, or maybe you could use pattern weights, Scotch tape or the freezer paper technique.
Sewing Coats & Jackets
- Cropped Summer Jacket
With an interesting collar design.
- Women's Raincoat
With free printable patterns.
- Unlined Women's Jacket
I love the fabric and cut of this example.
- Men's Suit Jacket
Pattern pieces plus instructions.
- Raincoat Walkthrough
The stages of creating a coat from scratch.
- Reversible Coat
Draft and sew a custom fit coat.
- Coat Sewing Secrets
A couple of tips to make coat sewing easier.
- Kid's Raincoat
An impressive and useful project made with laminated cotton.
- Little Boy Suit Jacket
Free pattern for sewing a smart jacket from scratch or from a men's jacket.
Types of Neckline, Cuffs, Sleeves, Skirts & Fastenings
Important Notes & Mini Glossary
I'm just going to list the options you have for some important clothing parts here, plus information on different terms. I hope it's useful.
- Neckline options: Sweetheart, V-neck, square, scoop, U-neck, keyhole, bandeau, cowl, high-neck, halter, jewel, crew, asymmetrical, one-shouldered, off-the-shoulder or boat.
Necklines sometimes are created with thin straps such as spaghetti straps rather than solid areas of fabric, or the clothing can even be strapless. On the back of the top, you can cut out shapes like hearts, use a neckline listed above, use cross-over straps, a racer back design, add lace or other embellishments, or just have it plain.
Click here for a useful guide to necklines, dress shapes, collars and sleeves.
- Sleeve options: Cap, pleated, puff, butterfly, different lengths (1/2, long, short, 3/4), fluted, raglan, batwing, set-in, pleated, bell and kimono.
- Cuff options: Placket, buttoned, roll-up (often with a button-up strap to hold the cuff in place further up the arm), French, fluted, turnback, barrel and link cuffs (for using cufflinks with).
- Pockets can be on the inside of clothes with just the opening on the outside or they can be all on the outside of the garment. Examples of pocket types include: welted, patch, kangaroo, flap, gusset and in-seam. You can line them if you like, as well as putting them at different angles.
- Fastenings: Zippers, buttons, hook-and-eye, Velcro and snap fasteners.
- Types of zipper: Invisible, metal (e.g. for jeans), heavy-duty, plastic, regular (coil) zips which are most common, and separating zippers which allow the two sides of the zipper to be completely separated in use (e.g. in a jacket) rather than being fixed together at the bottom for zippers you use in skirts or trousers. Zippers are available in a range of colours and lengths.
- Skirt styles: Pleated, flared, full (with netted skirts underneath to give the skirt volume), A-line, asymmetrical, fishtail/mermaid, tulip, puffball, maxi, mini, full circle, pencil, boho/gypsy/tiered, bustle (ruffled Victorian style), wrap, tutu, high-waisted & gathered.
- Dresses are often made up of a skirt design as listed above, combined with a top design to create a single outfit. The top can be a use any style, neckline, sleeve etc. There are also classic and individual styles of dress such as: shift, wrap, 50s, tea, bodycon, tunic, drop-waist, ball gown, shirt, cocktail, little black dress, sari or sun/summer dresses.
Of course the best thing with making your own clothes is that you can choose any shape, length or size and mix 'n' match different styles...or you could invent a whole new type of clothing!
Useful Definitions & Info:
- Seam allowance: Sewing is the act of joining two fabrics together with stitches in order to create a seam. 'Seam allowance' means the distance between the edge of the fabric and the seam you've made. The distance is usually 5/8", but your pattern will tell you what it's supposed to be. A seam allowance is needed for a strong and clean seam - imagine if there wasn't one and you had to sew right on the edge of the fabric (not fun!)
- Hem: This is where you fold the edge of a piece of fabric under (usually towards the inside of the clothing to hide the folded fabric from view) and sew it in order to create a neat edge and to stop the fabric fraying e.g. at the bottom of a skirt.
- Importance of darts: A dart is shown as a triangular shape on a pattern and is necessary for creating a good shape and fit. Remember that you are trying to turn a flat piece of fabric into something that will fit the curves of the body so that your sewn garments don't look like shapeless sacks.....so darts are very important!
- Bias tape: Bias tape is very handy stuff which you can buy in standard colours ready-made or you can make yourself (you can buy a bias tape making gadget to make it easier). It is basically a long strip of fabric cut on the bias/cross-grain of a piece of fabric and folded and ironed length-ways 3 times. The fabric can't be cut along the grain of the fabric because this will make a stiffer tape which is much harder to shape around curves and will probably pucker and not look great.
The purpose of bias tape is to sew it onto the edges of fabric to cover any unattractive or raw edges and make them neat. It looks great if you add tape that is contrasting or complimentary to the garment. Click here for great advice on making bias tape.
Trouser / Pant Patterns
- Pajama Pants
How to sew your own PJ pants.
- More Pajama Pants
These look really cozy when made from fleece.
- 12 Tutorials
From yoga pants to boys cropped pants.
- Easy Breezy Pants
Wide-leg women's wrap pants.
- Drawstring Pants
Great for lazing around in.
- DIY Silk Trousers
How to turn a large silk scarf into trousers or shorts.
Sew a Unique Fancy Dress Costume!
Men's Clothing Tutorials
- Men's Fleece Hoodie
Using an existing t-shirt as a pattern reference.
- Making an XXL Shirt Fit a Medium
Shrink and fit an extra large shirt to a smaller size.
- How to Make a T-Shirt
By using an existing tee as a pattern.
- Boxer Briefs
A tutorial for making men's underwear.
- Boxer Shorts
A baggier type of underwear.
- Hooded Vest
Cool style of sleeveless top.
Classic tie design that you can make yourself.
- Adjustable Bow Tie
Fun tie style which you make in all different fabrics.
- Bike Chaps
A great DIY for keen bike riders.
The Devil's In The Detail
Sewing Kid's Clothing
- Clothing Tutorials
Lots of how-tos for cute kid's clothes, plus many other sewing projects.
- Tiered Skirt
A skirt any little girl would love.
- Ruffled Skirt
Beautiful girly skirts.
- Shirred Dress
Sweet girl's dress with elasticated top.
- Baby Leggings
Very comfortable unisex leggings.
- Skirt with Built-In Shorts
Very clever design and very cute.
- Sunshine Dress
No buttons or zips are needed on this one.
- The Ella Dress
Really pretty dress project with free pattern.
- Toddler Dresses and Tops
Scroll through the list to find the kid's clothing tutorials.
- Dishtowel Shorts
Can be for boys or girls.
- Bubble Skirt
Cute little puffball skirt.
- Last-Minute Frock
Lovely dress with a free pattern.
- Drawstring Pants
Great everyday pants design.
- Ruffle Sleeve Top
Sweet baggy style blouse.
- Lazy Days Skirt
Very handy tutorial for a casual skirt.
- Twirly Girly Skirt
Using fabric made up of many different colored strips.
How to make shorts from a shirt.
- Upcycled Capelet
A fancy little jacket for keeping kids warm in the colder months.
- Paperdoll Skirt
Sweet design idea. Also check out the rest of this website for more how-tos.
- Fisherboy Shorts
Fun and unusual boy shorts - and great fabric too!
- Free Tutorial List
I especially like the coveralls project.
- Flounced Hem Leggings
Adorable girl's leggings which remind me a bit of Abba!
- Suede Fringe Skirt
Fun little girl's suede skirt with layers of fringing.
- Tiny Harem Pants
Free pattern for baggy baby pants.
- Girl's One-Piece Swimsuit
Excellent photo step-by-step for sewing a swimming costume.
- Circle Knit Shirt
Floaty t-shirt top with a circle hem.
DIY Wedding Dress
Dress Making Tutorials plus a Pocket How-To
- DIY Bralette
How to make a delicate bra top from lace.
- Reverse Engineering a Bra
Make a bra pattern from a bra you already own.
- Bra Instructables
Full instructions for making your own bra.
- Briefs 'n' Boxers
Plenty of tutorials for cute undies.
- Madeleine Mini Bloomers
Super cute vintage-style knickers.
- Make Your Own Panties
How to turn a t-shirt into cute knickers.
- Pants Tutorial
Using an existing pair you own i.e. the easy way!
- 70 Free Lingerie Patterns
Amazing collection of how-tos for every type of lingerie.
- Silky Tap Pants
Pretty shorts for wearing at night or under your skirt.
Always Pre-Wash Fabrics!
This is very important because if you wash your fabrics for the first time after sewing, then your final garment could end up wrinkled, shrunken and puckered after the first wash, especially if you are using a mix of fabrics in one item of clothing.
Tips, Tricks & Very Useful Things to Know
- Burdastyle Techniques
A list of technique how-tos for helping in clothing construction.
- No-Waste Bias Tape
Which is then used to add neat borders to hems.
- Sewing in a Zipper
Very clear and essential how-to.
- Invisible Zippers
Hidden zips are ideal for use in clothes.
- Fashion Incubator Tutorials
Lots of expert info, especially about jacket making.
- Welted Pockets
More advanced pockets for a tailored look.
- Pocket Tutorials Galore!
The best place to learn how to do many types of pocket.
- The Role of Darts
What darts are for when used in fitted clothing.
- Useful Sewing Tools
Including dress forms and pattern weights.
- General Overview
Brief sewing instructions for different clothing areas.
- Smocking Detail
How to go about adding lovely smocking embroidery to a dress.
- Shirring How-To
How to sew with elastic.
- Different Types of Interfacing
A guide for which type to choose.
- Smooth Collar Curves
A tip for how to sew super smooth collars.
How Do I Know What Fabric To Choose?
A Mini Summary of Fabrics
Fabrics are available in mainly two types; woven and knit. Outside of these 2 categories there are a few fabrics which are referred to as 'non-woven', such as felt and some types of interfacing, which aren't made by knitting or weaving. Leather and suede are natural products made from animal hide and so these also aren't woven or knitted.
- Woven fabrics: Threads running horizontally and vertically are woven together to create a very subtle criss-cross effect, and most fabrics are made this way, with a good example being denim (jeans). Look carefully at your jeans and you will be able to see the crossed threads.
Woven fabrics can be either tightly woven (which often produces a heavier/thicker fabric), or loosely woven with narrow gaps between the threads (which is referred to as 'open weave' and is often thin and light).
Weaving stops a fabric from being stretchy unless a stretchy type of fiber is used such as spandex, or the fabric is pulled/stretched on the bias (i.e. diagonal to the woven 'grid'). Stretching on the bias however is not really stretch, it's just exploiting a bit of give within the fabric structure and only produces a very small amount of 'stretch'.
- Knit fabrics: Knitting is the process of joining threads/yarns together in a series of loops, and these loops mean that knit fabrics are always at least a little bit stretchy. This is because as you pull on the fabric, the loops can straighten out and therefore expand in size.
You will find that knit fabrics are generally softer than woven fabrics, and are used much more for tops than pants - for instance, t-shirt jersey is a knit fabric.
Another important thing (if not the most important thing) to look for when choosing fabric for your clothing projects is the weight. Fabric weight means how thick/heavy a fabric is, and the weight you choose depends on what you are making and the feel you want for your garment. It's a personal choice, but it also has to be practical. The different weights can be referred to as top-weight, bottom-weight, very light, light, medium and heavy.
For tops/blouses/shirts/dresses you will most likely use top-weight and light/very light fabrics, whereas for pants/jackets you are likely to use bottom-weight and medium/heavy fabrics. You can of course break from the usual choices though if you wish - for instance you could use a light fabric for a summer jacket, or a medium fabric for a winter dress - it's up to you! If you are following a sewing pattern, there should be suggestions of what fabrics to use and it is wise to follow this advice to ensure that the end result is what you intended it to be.
The best thing you can do when choosing the fabric for your next project is to first visualize how you want the garment to look and feel, and then go and browse fabrics. Most often, it's simply about which fabric you want to use rather than thinking about theories so don't overthink too much :) No-one is going to shout at you for breaking any rules! Once you get sewing you will gain experience anyway and will be able to tell what fabrics would suit different purposes.
For beginners I would suggest using fabrics which are non-stretchy, are light or medium weight and aren't too delicate (such as lace) or too slippery (such as satin). Cotton and polyester blends are inexpensive and are good choices for a lot of different clothing creations.
Examples of other fabrics that can be used in clothing are: linen, wool, chiffon, corduroy, fleece, taffeta, flannel, twill, tweed, velvet and tulle.
Besides the fabrics that make up the main (exterior) parts of the clothing, there are also fabrics used specifically for lining the clothes, plus there is an important sewing material called 'interfacing' you can make use of:
- Interfacing is a material that is either sewn onto the reverse of a piece of fabric or is fused onto it using an iron. Interfacing is available in different weights (light, medium etc.) and its job is to support another fabric and make it stiffer. This product is more often used for things like bag making, but it does come in handy for collars on clothing and anywhere else you need to reinforce a flimsy fabric. If you'd like more information on interfacing, click here. Interfacing can be woven, knitted or non-woven.
- A lining can make a garment more comfortable by adding a smooth interior finish, and can also give a more professional looking result. Linings are usually added to skirts, dresses and jackets, and linings in jackets especially make it much easier to slip them off and on. The usual (and more affordable) choices for lining fabrics are lightweight cottons and polyester blends or nylon. Silks and satins are also good options.
Skirts, Boxers, Darts & Harem Pants
More Useful Bits 'n' Bobs
- Women's Clothing Tips
Loads of great tips and patterns.
- Sewing How-Tos and Tips
Useful things to know including about altering garments.
- Sewing With Knits
Without distorting or stretching whilst sewing.
- Replacing the Lining
How to replace the lining in a coat.
- Re-lining a Coat
Another tutorial on replacing coat lining.
- Elbow Patches
How to add cool patches to the elbows of clothes.
- Double Pointed Darts
How to fit a shirt to the body.
- Easy Sleeves
How to attach sleeves to the main body.
- Shorten Sleeves
Making a long sleeved top into a short sleeved top.
- Adding Ruffles
How to sew frilly ruffles onto clothes.
- Cut-Out Embellishment
How to add a pretty cut-out effect to clothes.
- How to Add Seam Allowance
Use just pencils for this clever trick.
- Exposed Zippers
Perfect for more 'rough' and urban styles.
- French Seams
Completely hide the fabric edge from view and make a comfy seam.
- Adding Pockets to a Skirt
Tutorials for adding patch or side-seam pockets.
- Pleated Puff Sleeves for a Dress
I love these sleeves that have been added to a sleeveless dress.
Homemade Prom Dress
Clothes Making Blogs & Websites
- Petit Main Sauvage
Fab blog showing handmade clothing, with some tutorials.
- Free Patterns & Projects
Loads of brilliant dressmaking patterns for free.
- Stitch 'n' Thyme
Updates about the creation of clothes from bought patterns.
- Angela Kane Videos
Some very handy videos on clothes making.
- Craftster Clothing Forum
Tips on clothing and sewing plus completed projects and help.
- What The Craft
Very useful tutorials on sewing and on making clothes.
- Weekend Designer
Lots of sewing projects with templates.
- The Last Stitch
Posts on various sewing topics.
Collection of very clearly photographed step-by-steps.
- Tilly & The Buttons
Fab series of beginner's lessons on sewing basics on this blog.
Cutting With a Pattern
Help Making, Altering or Using Patterns
- Pattern Cutting Basics
Straightforward steps to cut out your pieces.
- Using Freezer Paper
To cut out patterns in an easier, non-destructive way.
- How to Make a Pattern
Using existing clothes you have.
- Sewing Videos
Different steps of clothes making including pattern cutting.
- Making Your Own Pattern
How to draw out your own pattern on wrapping paper.
- DIY Pattern Weights
Make your own easy weights to hold down your pattern pieces.
- Easy Pattern Grading
The 'quick and dirty' method!
Make Your Own Dress Form
Instead of buying a dress form, you can make one cheaply with the tutorials below. Dress forms (also called body forms) help a lot with fitting clothes for individual shapes.
Star Wars Dress
A big advantage of making your own clothes is that you can choose from some amazing (and novelty) fabrics - including ones which you can use to pay homage to your favourite movie/tv program/actor etc - in fact you'll find kid's duvet covers are a great source of weird and wonderful fabrics!