Edited: Jan 9, 2024

Making your own clothes is a superpower and you’ll learn all you need to know to start sewing in this post. Have you ever stood in awe of a friend in a handmade garment or wondered how to create a wardrobe that’s just your style? Or maybe you’ve scrolled through the design Marketplace on Spoonflower, dreaming about making a one-of-a-kind shirt with your favorite surface patterns? If so, this post is for you. Spoonflower’s Amy Hoppe shares what she’s learned from making her own clothes. Read on for helpful beginner advice that will get you sewing in no time flat!

Amy: Making your own clothing may seem like a distant dream, but if you take it slow and have a desire to learn, it can be quite easy! With a little bit of 7th-grade home ec class experience, a budget sewing machine, text exchanges with more sewing-savvy friends and so many internet searches, I dove into the exciting world of sewing a custom dress a few years ago in celebration of Me Made May.

My first project, the Stasia dress – If you make your own clothes you can ensure that every dress you make has pockets!
Featured design: Art Deco Puzzle on Navy by janetdrummond

I started this initial sewing experience super intimidated but quickly learned that every mistake could be undone or mended (sometimes quite literally!) My skills have leveled up with every project since and although there have been frustrating moments, I’ve found great joy in the process.

If you are interested in making some of your own wardrobe pieces but are finding it difficult to even know where to start, I’m here today to share some basics I’ve learned. I hope to demystify this practice and encourage you to take the exciting first steps towards sewing your own clothes!

Tips and Tools To Start Sewing Your Own Clothes

1. Find the Right Sewing Machine

Both Singer and Brother make entry-level machines that work well for sewing a variety of projects. The Singer 4423 Heavy Duty Sewing Machine is very popular amongst Spoonflower employees, especially those new to sewing.

Want to be sure you know the difference between your tension adjuster and stitch width adjustment dials? Or want to know more about what they do? Check out our Anatomy of a Sewing Machine Diagram within our Ultimate Sewing Guide post to get to know the lingo!

2. Find a Beginner-Friendly Sewing Pattern

Now that your machine is ready to go, what should you sew first? You could get a feel for your machine by hemming a pair of pants or refreshing a treasured t-shirt with our raglan tee tutorial. You can also jump right in and learn to make your own clothes from scratch with several beginner-friendly sewing tutorials on our blog.

Two of my favorite places to look for beginner-friendly sewing patterns are Peppermint Magazine and Seamwork. Our friends at Peppermint Magazine’s Sewing School offer pay-what-you-want patterns and release a new one every three months! Additionally, Seamwork’s Pattern Library has over 200+ patterns to choose from. You can start with a beginner-friendly and free pattern like the Sorbetto top and then become a monthly member to tackle more complex wardrobe additions as you grow and want. Seamwork also has a handy help section and clear instructions so it’s easy to learn as you go.

Here are four patterns from Peppermint Magazine and Seamwork perfect for a first project:

If you have access to a printer, you can easily print downloadable PDF patterns at home and assemble them together using scissors and tape. You can also research options like PDF Plotting to order a print of the entire pattern on one sheet.

Here’s a look at the Sorbetto Top pattern from Seamwork being cut and taped together.

3. Choose the Right Fabric For Your Clothing Project

Spoonflower has dozens of fabric types so our sample pack is a great place to start to get a feel for all the offerings.

Here are three substrates we suggest you start with:

The sewing pattern’s instructions will tell you exactly how much fabric you need for the version you plan to create in the fabric requirements section. Your sewing pattern will often recommend different substrates (types of fabric) that work best.

Here are some of our posts that will help you choose the perfect fabric for a wide variety of projects:

4. Gather Your Other Supplies You'll Need To Start Sewing

    • Needle and thread – This will vary depending on your fabric choice, but our help center will help you make your decision!

    • Seam ripper – We all make mistakes, especially when first starting out, but careful seam ripping will help you undo any wonky stitches.

    • Fabric scissors or rotary blade – A pair that is specifically designed for (and exclusively used for) fabric is an important addition to your tool kit.

    • Iron – Other than your sewing machine, an iron will be your best sewing friend! Pressing your seams will make sewing easier while ensuring accuracy and a polished final look.

    • Pins or sewing clips – To get the right fit and precision, pins are used to attach pieces of fabric together and keep them together for sewing. Sewing clips are a nice alternative.

    • Bonus: As your projects become more complex your sewing pattern may call for additional elements like bias tape, buttons, and elastic. YouTube is a great resource to see a play-by-play of how to best level up your sewing game with new-to-you additions and skills.

Useful Sewing Terms

After you’ve selected the sewing pattern you’d like to start with, it’s a good idea to take the time to read through all of the instructions. Google and YouTube are your friends as you research any terminology or techniques that are new to you. To start, here are the 10 terms I found helpful to know when I began my sewing journey. My top 10 list is only a start, but as you keep creating, your personal sewing dictionary will expand naturally as you learn.

    1. Backstitch – Every line you stitch with your machine should start and end with a backstitch! Begin with a couple of stitches and then secure those stitches by hitting the backstitch button to stitch over them.

    1. Baste – These are long stitches that can be done by hand just to hold pieces of fabric together temporarily and then they are removed.

    1. Cut-on-Fold – Wherever you see this on a pattern, the pattern piece is only half of the full piece you will cut out. If you fold your fabric and place the pattern piece on the fold where it indicates and cut the fabric together, you will get one full piece that is perfectly symmetrical.

    1. Hem – A hem is the finished edge of your garment like on the end of a sleeve or a pant leg. The most common kind is a double-fold hem, where the edges of the fabric are folded over each other twice to hide the raw edge.

    1. Mock-up, Muslin or Toile – All of these words could describe a kind of prototype for your garment and will help you test the pattern with scrap fabric first, so they can make any amendments the second time around.

    1. Notch – The notches on a sewing pattern are usually small marks like a line or a triangle shape that will help you match up the pattern pieces when assembling your garment. Notches can also be the wedges cut into the seam allowance of a curved seam to reduce bulk. Clipping is also an option depending on if the curve is concave or convex.

    1. Right & Wrong Side – The right side of your fabric is the printed side and the wrong is the other side that will be on the inside of your garment. This will be noted in your sewing pattern’s diagrams.

    1. Seam & Seam Allowance – A seam refers to the stitched line. The allowance is the space between the stitched line and the fabric edge. Sewing patterns will account for seam allowance and the standard allowance is typically 5/8″ (1.6 cm).

    1. Selvage – This refers to the tightly woven (often white) edge that runs along each side of a piece of fabric to prevent unraveling or fraying.

    1. Topstitch – This stitch was designed to be seen on the outside. Topstitching can be used decoratively to define and add detail, or functionally by providing an extra hold.

Yeehaw! Me Made May 2020 Zadie Jumpsuit
Featured design: Geometric Party Blocks by zesti

Aspiring Cheetah Girl – Me Made May 2021 Sorbetto Top
Featured design: Pink Cheetah by tinkillustration

I hope you feel empowered to start creating your own wardrobe after reading my tips! Having garments in your closet that were made especially for you and by you is such a great feeling. Whatever your reason for wanting to make your own clothes, it is something that with a little time and helpful tutorials anyone can do.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I start sewing my own clothes?

You can start sewing your own clothes by finding the right sewing machine, choosing a sewing pattern, finding the right fabric for your pattern and gathering your other needed supplies.

Is sewing your own clothes beginner-friendly?

It sure it! We have beginner-friendly sewing projects including clothing like a DIY Raglan T-shirt and Chiffon Robe jacket.

Are there other ways to make my own clothes besides using patterns?

You can make your own clothes by self-drafting patterns. Learn how to sew a sweatsuit and t-shirt by self-drafting—or tracing the pattern from something you own—to create something new!

Ready To Find Your Clothing Project?

Me Made May is a fun way to find patterns to create your own clothing. Here at Spoonflower, sewists of all levels give it a try and you can too! Check out some of the pieces we’ve made, find your favorite Spoonflower design and get started.

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Amy Hoppe
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16 comments

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  • Nice article.
    Can you add what fabrics you chose for each pattern project? The “Stasi” dress for instance, was it a knit and what fabric choice from Spoonflower? I have the box of samples from them and it would be helpful to see the drape for each project you made.
    Also, I would love to have each linked to the spoonflower graphic fabric designer too. I love those patterns they made!
    Thanks!

    Barb in Florida | May 5, 2022 at 4:56 pm
    • Hi Amy!I am still wondering what type of spoonflower fabric was chosen-a knit? A cotton woven? Fiber content? I have the Spoonflower sample box. Your fabulous creations can help me determine the drape of each project by the fabric you chose.
      Thanks!

      Barb in Florida | May 7, 2022 at 2:44 pm
    • OOPS! I found the fabric graphic design links! Thank you!

      Barb in Florida | May 5, 2022 at 5:06 pm
  • I love your article Amy! And the links in it. I bought a new basic machine a year ago and just took it out of the box (????) a few weeks ago. I used to make simple clothes but haven’t sewn anything fir 15 years. Eek – I forget EVERYTHING! I have so much beautiful fabric (some of the best from Spoonflower) and articles like yours will “hold my hand). ❤️

    Wendy | May 20, 2021 at 8:57 am
    • Wendy, I’m so happy to hear you found the article helpful! Best of luck with your upcoming projects on your new machine. You got this!

      -Amy
      Spoonflower

      Amy | May 20, 2021 at 9:41 am
  • Do you always make a “mock-up” when you do a pattern the first time??

    Deb | May 19, 2021 at 3:00 pm
    • I have made too many patterns that end up in the trash because they are ill fitting.
      So, I have collected a lot of “cheap” fabrics I’ve picked up here and there on super sales etc, that I stashed just for making a trial run of a new pattern and making adjustments until I get it perfect.
      Once I have the pattern adjusted, I can happily cut and sew my NICE fabrics with no reservations!
      I found Cashmerette patterns to be superior in adjustments and helping you alter to fit!
      Good luck!

      Barb in Florida | May 5, 2022 at 5:03 pm
    • Hi Deb,

      Making a mock-up or muslin before jumping into the final product can really help you get the best fit for your garment. It’s especially helpful if you measure yourself for the pattern and it’s not completely clear what size you should make. You may want to blend different sizes together and a mock-up would come in handy.

      That being said, whether you make a mock-up can really depend on your personality and your goals. I’m not a perfectionist and I am just enjoying the process of experimenting and learning as I go, so I don’t always make one myself. I didn’t make one for my Sorbetto top pictured above since it was a fairly simple pattern, but I might make another one using what I learned the first time around!

      Best of luck with your project!
      Amy

      Amy | May 20, 2021 at 8:44 am
      • Amy,
        Thanks for your response. The idea of it does not please me but I’ve ruined a few things by not being patient enough to try a muslin before making the actual garment. I will have to give it a try. Thanks again.

        Deb | May 20, 2021 at 12:57 pm
  • Thank you so much for the support in sewing. I’m a nervous beginner a Queen of the unpicker!
    Just starting to have a go at basic clothes, funny how they tend to be lounge pants. ie;easy!
    I recently bought cotton fabric Dalmatian pattern from you. Great fabric. I’m making a tea cosy with the whole body it’s proving a challenge with darts. We have 2 Dalmatians Milly and Poppy.

    Fiona Firth | May 19, 2021 at 12:16 pm
    • Hi Fiona! You are very welcome. As a beginner sewist, I’ve found it so helpful to hear and read about other folk’s experiences. I’m thrilled to hear you found reading about mine helpful.

      Your next project sounds amazing! And love that it is inspired by your pups. Have fun!

      Best,
      Amy
      Spoonflower

      Amy | May 19, 2021 at 12:58 pm
  • Super article, Amy! Your fun lassoing pic caught my eye! ???? I was wondering if you made your western jacket, too, and if so, what pattern you used. ????

    K | May 19, 2021 at 9:48 am
    • Thank you! I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed the article. I found the purple jacket at a thrift store and I added store-bought fringe and iron-on patches. Then I got out the bedazzler and added some small rhinestones.

      I highly recommend adding fringe and rhinestones to a future project!

      Take care,
      Amy
      Spoonflower

      Amy | May 19, 2021 at 10:05 am
  • Home ec. is still in schools it’s just called Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS or FCS) now. Some programs still teach sewing. People need to know we’re still here and teaching these skills just under a different name.

    Amy | May 19, 2021 at 8:22 am
    • That’s great to hear! Thanks for sharing.

      Best,
      Amy
      Spoonflower

      Amy | May 19, 2021 at 9:35 am