It can be intimidating when everyone around you already seems to be an expert sewist, and all we see on social media are beautiful finished garments. So I thought today it would be fun to look back at where we all started, using the hashtag #MySewingStartedHere!
Here’s mine! I learned to sew as a kid, but I got away from using patterns in my teens because I thought they were just too expensive. “Why pay for a pattern when I could just freehand pajamas pants with identical crotch seams front and back?” Fit, that’s why, dear 16-year-old Gillian! I have a picture of these somewhere but can’t find them, sadly.
In January 2012, at age 29, I decided to stop just reading blogs and actually give garment sewing a try. I remember getting help from my mom as I taped together the Colette Sorbetto, and feeling so excited! I chose a silk noil from my teenage stash, did exposed bias binding, covered three buttons in Japanese linen, and hacked the pattern by sewing down the front pleat. I only ever wore this twice because it was too boxy and cropped for the fashion at the time, but I still keep it to remember where I started!
In some ways, my sewing has continued as it began: I still ignore instructions and sew bright fabrics! But on the other hand, who the heck starts with silk? I’m glad rookie me didn’t know what the “rules” for beginners were, and I had fun along the way. It seems like I hacked my second project as well. I fell deeply in love with garment sewing and took part in my first Me-Made May just 3 months later!
Where did your garment sewing begin? Please share about your first project down in the comments, or find a picture and tag it #MySewingStartedHere on Instagram!
Love that you still have that top! My high school sewing teacher told us all to save our first projects. I’m so glad I did (a very business-y pencil skirt in a tiny black & white herringbone print). It is so cool to see, 30 years later, how far I’ve come since then. So new sewists out there – keep your first project! Even if it turns out awful.
That is such great advice!!!
I definitely got rid of my first projects, just don’t have the space to keep all that stuff, but they were pretty terrible! I started out by copying ready to wear things that I owned, with no idea about construction or anything. And I’m talking actual button front tops with yokes and stuff! There was no one around to say ‘that’s a bit too difficult to start with’ so I just dove straight in. It worked out in the end though 🙂
Fearless!!! Sometimes I think it’s best not to have read to much about “beginner projects” before starting – just jump in and try! 😉
My first garment was a light blue denim skirt I sewed in a Home Ec class about fifty four years ago! I don’t still have it, but I will never forget it.
Did you get to chose your fabric? I hope you loved that skirt!
My very first garment was a patchwork pair of pants using a pajama pattern. My sister and I made the entire pair by hand with hundreds of scissor cut squares. I took them to college with me in the 90’s and when they unraveled, I’d duct tape them back together. I didn’t finish any more clothes until January of this year when I decided I was going to make clothes to accommodate my chronic pain. I’m wearing my first make right now since I have a pain day. They are a pair of Ellie and Mac joggers refashioned from a pair of overly big pajama bottoms. Super comfortable and cute.
Oh my goodness, those pants sound AMAZING! I remember shortening the hem of a pair of flares in University (earl 2000s) and using the fabric to raise the waistband! They were brown cordurouy and I faced the waistband with yellow ducky flanelette! Who know what we were thinking, right? but we had fun!
My first garment was a smock top in grade 7 Home Ec. I wish I had saved it! I do remember that I did a pretty good job and I wore it quite a bit! Then as now, it was the fabric (Holly Hobby) that sucked me in!
When I came back to sewing in 2015 my first project was a tunic style dress from a Vogue pattern. It’s absolutely not perfect, I still love it and wear it.
I would have been so proud to have made a top like that in grade 7! Did everyone in your class make the same thing?
Yes, we all made bean bag frogs first, and then the smock tops. They were simple with a front and back yoke. We gave that poor teacher fits!
Thanks for sharing your experience. I love that you got silk for one of your first projects! My mom would never have sprung for that! hahaha I also love that you’re still sewing your own clothes 🙂 This is good encouragement for me as I’ve gotten away from garment sewing over the past years. cheers!
I bought the silk with my paycheck from working in a fast food restaurant in my teens… which still doesn’t explain how I got anything so nice!
I also learned to sew in Home Ec. It was a woven top with a collar and a split front neck to get it over my head. No way I have it now, but I remember getting a “B” for it. I’ve sewn off and on through life but got frustrated because nothing fit well. I thought alterations were too hard.
Started again in January because now nothing fits in RTW anymore, even in plus size. I made a Simplicity woven tank top because I needed one for summer. It wasn’t too bad but I’ve learned more about fitting and alterations since then. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.
Welcome back to sewing! Do you follow the Curvy Sewing Collective website? They’ve got great info about alterations etc. I was an editor there before I restarted sewcialists, and it’s a great community!
My first garment project was hand sewn bibbed shorts I made when I was 12. It was from a bright orange paisley printed caftan my auntie gave me to do with as I wished. I handmade buttonholes etc and wore it the whole summer. It was probably hideous but I loved it.
My second project I made at 14 and was my first machine made and pattern followed project. It was a swirl skirt, all curved inside/outside seams with 2 fabrics and and an invisible zipper. I won the grade 9 home economics prize.
It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t know you can’t do things LOL.
12 year old you was a super star! That’s an ambitious project and I’m so glad they made you feel great!
I made amazing things my first summer of sewing in 1967. My mother enrolled me in classes at a nearby Bernina dealer. I made an A-line skirt, two sheath dresses (one with bell sleeves) and a dress with a front yoke, a front inverted pleat below the yoke, and long sleeves. Boy do I wish I still had those.
That’s amazing! What a fantastic summer – back to school with a whole handmade wardrobe!
So, so fun!!!!! I love your Sorbetto! 😀
I started sewing January of 2013 and the first thing I completed was the dress from S2443. I wore it for a long time until I just couldn’t ignore how poorly made it was! LOL!
The earliest project made that I wear ALL THE TIME is a pair of jersey pants from S2061. I wear them as lounge pants but I wear them ALL THE TIME! 🙂
I didn’t know you started sewing so recently! (is 2013 still recent? That’s making me feel old!)
My mother didn’t sew so I didn’t sew. Can’t remember what we made in 7th grade but in 8th we had to make our graduation dress and actually wear it. Made me hate sewing. Fast forward nine years and my husband and I moved into an apartment with a row of windows, I couldn’t afford curtains but decided I could make a casing and hem, so we had curtains. The woman I borrowed the machine from had a new baby and wasn’t interested in getting her machine back soon. It was the 60’s when shifts were in style so I got a book on sewing and had fun. After a year we moved again to a very very small farming town. For Christmas my husband bought me a used machine and a woman who had a degree in clothing and textiles volunteered to `help me. I’ve been sewing clothes every since and loving it.
What a great history with sewing! Sound like you had a great teacher and were adventurous yourself!
My first sewing project was a vest, I think, that took way longer than I thought it would and is no longer in my possession. I sewed one or two things in high school, then I didn’t sew again for a decade and re-started with an apron (that I still have) and a Big 4 dress that I still have but never wear because of a bad fabric choice.
I no longer have my first project from 1976….I wore a uniform to school but on special days, like the first day of school, I could wear regular clothes and My mother, who had sewn most of her wardrobe in high school and college, suggested that since I didn’t like anything in the stores, I (not her) should sew my own so it could be just what I wanted.
Fortunately, she had the patience to guide me through because…
First project:Green and white uneven plaid overalls with 5 patch pockets…and the plaid matched….
Second project: Forest Green fitted corduroy jumper (back zip and inseam pockets)
Third project: Grey pinwhale corduroy fitted vest with front button skirt with shaped waistband
Fortunately, at some point I discovered Simplicity Jiffy patterns…
Oddly enough, we picked up more than one pattern that day back in 1976 (yes, I started a stash with my first project…) and we found an uncut backup pattern in a box at my parents just recently. I spent some time today sizing it down to fit my daughter and pulled out some quilting cotton for a muslin to test it…green plaid (gingham)
Simplicity 7329 https://vintagepatterns.fandom.com/wiki/Simplicity_7329
I am still amazed that I had the patience to sew like that way back then…I don’t now.
Textiles classes at school were horrible. I can remember that we made two garments (and hand-sewn sewing kit rolls, with worked Aida covers and pincushions): an apron I had to wear in cookery lessons and a pinafore dress (jumper) where I had no say in the fabric or pattern. This was about 1972. My mother presented me with both, if I remember correctly a Burda pattern (in the days when all their markings were holes and other patterns had moved to printing) and a 1cm black and blue checked tweed. Neither met the teacher’s requirements of patterns with printing and plain fabric, so I was yelled at, publicly. Unsurprisingly I don’t think I ever wore it. Even if I hadn’t been put off the garment by the experience, I hated the rough texture and bright blue colour of the tweed.
My mother made lots of our clothes, including shirts and pyjamas for my father, so I was making my own clothes on a hand cranked machine at home and had been for a while when the pinafore debacle happened. I can remember a party dress I made way back when, shirts and so many other clothes, but can’t remember what I made first, all using woven fabrics, not knits. At university I was wearing shirts I’d made and made while I was there, and I also had made skirts, dungarees, dresses and jackets.
The first big project I remember was a button up flanellette pj top with Peter Pan collar. I was aged about 10 years old. Mum was supervising the construction but I was doing it on my own. Mum had to go out with the baby and I was left at home with Dad. I got frustrated that I was so close to finished that I set in both sleeves and made seven (manual 4 step) buttonholes using just the machine manual and instructions from an old sewing magazine series.
I don’t have my first project but I still remember it. It was a pink polyester pants suit. Round neckline, short sleeve pullover top and matching hipster pull on pants. The pants kept creeping down in the back! 😂 But I looked really cool in junior high!
Who starts with silk? How funny! How about velour circa 1982 or so. My mom would not let me buy a velour top so I sewed one. The stuff shedded like mad and looked awful!
I don’t remember if this was my first sewing project (I suspect not) but it’s the first I remember. It was the ’63-’64 school year, and I was 13. The pattern was a sleeveless coat dress with cut-in shoulders, a notched collar, no waist seam, and a front button placket that ended at low hip and had a tricky little tab. I used a deeply textured white fabric that my mom thought looked like toweling.
I learned quite a few things from sewing that dress, but 2 made it especially memorable. The first was to follow your vision. I had a picture in my head – stylish white coatdress with 1″ matte, midnight blue buttons – and I didn’t let my mother or anyone else discourage me. The second lesson became incredibly important as I grew up and became a parent myself. When I finished that dress my mom apologized for doubting my vision and admitted the dress was beautiful. From that act I learned the power and strength embodied in the simple act of apologizing. I tend to be a little opinionated and stubborn (in case the above didn’t clue you in), so apology is a frequently used part of my behavioral repertoire. It’s especially powerful with children, but useful with adults too. So that’s why I remember one of the first sewing projects I made myself.
I certainly don’t still have that dress, but I did continue to wear it even to my first adult job.
[…] The Sewcialists are encouraging us to look back at where we all started on our sewing journeys by sharing the first garments we sewed using #MySewingStartedHere on Instagram. They want to encourage us to dig out some of those early garments so we can see how far we’ve come! Read the details here. […]
Reading through this I see how lucky those of us growing up in the mid-last-century were to have Home Ec classes. It was always my favorite part of the school day, whether we were doing cooking or sewing. Anyway, I started sewing long before I got to that point in school, probably around age 10, and with the help of classes at the local Singer shop, my first project was a sleeveless shift dress in a purple and brown mushroom print cotton. I can remember this because it’s such a perfectly 60’s look, both the dress and the fabric. Of course this was back before cameras were invented 😄 so I have no photos, but I think I wore it all summer and then my mom said it was too short for school so that was that.
The very first thing I made on my own (if you don’t count my 2 first circle skirts for which I got help) was a Simplicity 7275 dress (a 1950s repro pattern). It took me 4 months to complete it. It was indeed a very good idea for a beginner to choose a dress which is supposed to have gathers, an invisible zipper and a lining! On top of all this I made it in a horrible grey and red tartan fabric – and don’t ask me if I matched the checks, I would’nt be able to answer that question! No need to tell you that it was just horrible, even though I was brave enough to wear it a few times – but at least, compared to this, the dress I tried to make next seemed easy peasy!