Learning how to sew

I’ve been fed up clothes shopping lately - being a tall, thin man, finding clothes that fit is difficult enough to begin with. On top of that, most the clothes I find these days are uuuuuugly. I don’t know when this weird paint-splotch and faux-bad-stitching craze began but I wish it’d end.

Aaanyway, I figure one way around this problem of mine is to learn how to make my own clothes. It’s not like I entirely lack skills in this area - I used a sewing machine in high school for Textiles classes and my mother made clothes for me and my siblings until relatively recently. Plus, it’s also been my ambition this year to learn more practical skills. I also finished my degree in November and the sparse job market in my field means I’m not without spare time.

But how difficult would learning to make clothes be? I just want to make sure I’m not trying to jump in the deep end of a very deep pool (what an clunky metaphor).

Hey, I am currently learning how to sew! I was taught how to make Indian clothes, but haven’t tried anything American yet…I’m waiting to get the sewing table set up, which should be this weekend. Then I’m going to start on small things, and hopefully work my way up. I have high ambitions.

I don’t think it’s terribly hard, provided you pay attention, measure carefully, and did I say pay attention? Good luck!

Thanks for the encouragement. While I’m sure there’s a plethora (yes, a plethora) of sites online that have instructions and whatnot, could anyone recommend anything in particular?

I would strongly recommend you take a class (many local sewing shops offer these classes) in order to learn how to read, cut, and customize a pattern to your needs.

Making clothes is a more difficult thing to learn than the fairly basic sewing you seem to already have under your belt. There are various seams (straight, French, Flat felled, princess) with various uses, and lots of curves in the human body. Putting sleeves on a shirt is a fairly significant skill. Or at least, doing it well is. :smiley:

So, take a class. You’ll be the only man and the ladies will fawn over you. :slight_smile:

What Hello again said. I’m a great quilter, but I haven’t put a lot of effort into clothes and therefore can only sew a few simple clothing items. A class is a great idea and will teach you the basics in the most painless way possible. Having someone demonstrate a technique and then walk you through it is so much better than trying to figure out a diagram!

I find that shorts are a good way to start. Vests are fun too, although not very stylish just now.

Clothes from the store are now so cheap that it is no longer a real savings to make your own, as it once was. You’ll probably find that sewing your own clothes is not any less expensive than buying them; your motivation has to be having stuff you like that fits right. Enjoy!

As a fellow tall/thin person, shorts and vests are about the only thing I can buy off-the-shelf in any store and have it fit. For everything else I frequent Mark’s Work Wearhouse, who I just found out yesterday do stock large-tall and XLT in some shirts (though fashion still just ‘happens’ to me).

I’ve been wondering recently about making my own sweatpants, as it seems all makers think anyone with a 36 leg has butt-cheeks the size of beachballs. It seems to me there’s not much to screw up with them, provided you have a pattern from someplace.

Ah, good ideas. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for classes, although I have this mental image of me surrounded by retirees and housewives…

Actually handwork like knitting and sewing/quilting are quite the hipster pasttimes right now. You might be suprised as to who signs up for these sorts of classes.

I am not a fine seamstress by any means, but here are my thoughts:

Sewing non-stretchy material is INFINITELY easier than wrestling with anything stretchy. My personal thought is that simple slip dresses are amazingly simple to make, but I’m not sure that would really help you. (Although, I have this lovely chiffon that would look great on you. :D)

Anyhow, I’m mostly self-taught. I learned how to work a sewing machine from my mom as a child, and picked everything else up along the way. My suggestion for a first pattern would be a camp shirt or any type of shirt without a yoke and with short sleeves. You will learn how to attach sleeves and collars and how to make buttonholes. If you get a simple pattern, it isn’t too bad. Just make sure to not expect too much out of your first few attempts. Buy material on clearance so you don’t feel bad if the shirt is unwearable.

You can learn from books and patterns if going to a class seems unappealing. However, be ready to make LOTS of mistakes, and sew things together backwards and inside out a lot.

And a tiny pillow, like for a doll. All with my new sewing machine, of course. It’s fun!

Making clothes like sweatpants or other casual clothes for men are pretty easy. Lots of patterns out there for those and use minimal sewing skills, getting into clothes like pants for work or dress shirts is going to be alot harder. You have to learn to sew trickier things like plackets for zippers and set in sleeves and you will have to learn to fit/tailor. It would be a great thing for a man to learn to do. Of course since you are having problems getting clothes to fit already any you make could be an improvement.

Gerome, I’m a sewist and I strongly second Hello Again recommendation that you enrol in a sewing class. Sewing is something which can be self taught but nothing beats tuition by someone who knows what he/she is doing.

Having said that, you might like to take a look at this website: www.patternreview.com

The members there are exceptionally helpful, encouraging to new sewists and a mine of information.

Our community college has had sewing classes of various levels in the past. I haven’t seen one of their catalogs lately, so I can’t say that they still offer the classes, but last I heard, they held several different levels of classes. Taking a class didn’t earn any college credits, but it’s a useful skill. Just something to look into if the local sewing shops are all offering only quilting classes right now.

Generally, I find that I don’t save money when I sew my own clothes. The advantage is that I can get the right fit, in the right pattern, in the right fabric. So many, many things are available only in polyester, for instance, which I can’t stand, or in rayon, which looks lovely but is a PITA to take care of.

If you have an old sewing machine, get it serviced before you start sewing, and get it serviced every year or so.

I’ll start looking around for a class around my area. Shouldn’t be too hard, we’re not exactly shy of fabric shops and whatnot here.

I’m also aware that clothes made this way probably won’t be cheaper - cost isn’t really my motivation, it’s more a good fit and dissatisfaction with designers today that’s prompted it. Plus, I need a new hobby and sewing seemed kind of a neat thing to know how to do.

Also - sewist. Thanks - I was looking for a way to refer to myself without using the word ‘seamstress’.

My mom made a dress for me by hand (hand-stitched) when I was about a year old. My dad was so impressed that he bought her a sewing machine. They offered classes with the purchase, so she went and learned how to sew. She made nearly every single dress my sister and I wore until I got into high school. She made curtains, bedspreads, coats…even some shirts for my dad. This was long before “stretch ‘n’ sew” machines. The new machines enable you to make nearly any item you can buy in a store. Good luck and have fun!!

I think you will find that to get professional looking results you are going to need two sewing machines, a standard machine and an overlook (also called a serger) Here is the one my wife just got.
-whose wife believes that she who dies with the most fabric wins.

Well, for most things you can finish the edge with zig-zag stitch (found on all machines) or pseudoserging (a function on most midrange and up sewing machines). A serger is a convenience but not a necessary piece of equipment.

Once you learn to recognize it, you will see that most clothes are serged together these days. This is NOT a sign of fine workmanship, quite the opposite, the serger is a “shortcut” since it trims, joins, and finishes in one pass, but the resulting seams are much less durable. I am sure Rick’s wife wouldn’t dream of serging her clothes together, she probably just uses it for finishing. And, as I previously said, for this function it is more of a conenience tool.

On “Divine Design”, Candace Olsen refers to her sewist (who is a guy) as a their “seamster”.

I would agree with the idea of community college or fabric store classes. You will gets hands-on help and the vibe tends to be very pleasant among sewists/quilters.

I certainly wouldn’t worry about a serger just yet. Most of the sewists that I know covet a good serger, but get along just fine without one. That would include me.

If you’re going to buy a sewing machine, take your time and “test drive” several models before you decide. Take along bits of the kind of fabrics you think you’d like to sew with, and see how the machine feels. Don’t just let the salesperson do it - you need to know how it will work for you. Also make sure the controls make some degree of sense. Some people like the electronic models, others like buttons and dials that go click. You’ll know which kind of person you are.

I’ll join in the recommendations to take a class if possible. I think anyone who wants to learn to sew would benefit from a class - it’s a show-me skill more than a tell-me one.

I didn’t see anyone mention patterns yet - I’m a fan of KwikSew patterns in spite of their awful spelling. The directions are clear, particularly in their beginner line, and a good thing for you is that they have a respectable selection of men’s clothing. (I have two sons and have realized that some pattern companies think that only women sew, and only for themselves and their daughters. Phooey on them, I say.) In any event, any pattern company catalog should indicate how hard a particular pattern is. Something with few seams and no tailoring/fitting is your best bet for a first project.

Good luck and have fun - sewing is a great hobby!

Simplicity pattern 5271 has pants and shirts with those set in sleeves that were so popular on baseball shirts in the 80’s. Go to your local fabric store (or WalMart) and get fleece, and get sewing. I have made 4 pants and 5 shirts from it and I am not the worlds greatest sewer. The pattern tells you exactly where to lengthen if you are tall. I had some help with the first few. I have also reupholstered sofa pillows (which is easy as pie). All this with a sewing machine I paid about $100 for.