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Fashion Creation: The Ultimate Sewing Beginners Cheatsheet

December 7, 2016Eve Tokens

Sewing Basics - Fashion Creation - Sewing Beginners Ultimate Cheatsheet to getting started with Fashion Creation - The Creative Curator

Fashion Creation – Handmade not Homemade

If you are a sewing beginner looking to get started with fashion creation you have come to the right place. The Creative Curator covers EVERYTHING to do with fashion creation; Sewing, Patternmaking and (From Spring 2017) Fashion Design skills too. The emphasis here is on handmade NOT homemade!

What Do I Mean by Fashion Creation?

This site was not created for those who want to be fashion designers – though those peeps are very welcome here too, and would learn plenty, I am sure! The Creative Curator’s existence as a fashion creation blog came about due to the lack of any fashion based sewing blogs on the internet. Yes. That’s right. Shoot me now for being so forthright, but every blog I have found which is dedicated to sewing beginners appears to have no desire to teach anything ‘avant-garde’ or modern. I’m not sure why – it isn’t hard to get creative with your sewing – but heigh-ho, I’ll happily fill that gap! 😉

So, fashion creation then means just that. Creating handmade fashion pieces.

What About Regular Clothes?

Well, yes. Regular clothes do come into the idea of fashion creation. A t-shirt is a fashion item and a piece of everyday clothing. A pair of jeans is also considered a fashion item and an everyday item of clothing. The two ideas of ‘fashion’ and ‘everyday clothing’ are intertwined you see. The term ‘fashion’ actually means:

A popular or the latest style of clothing, hair, decoration, or behaviour.

And being that nothing ever seems to really go ‘out of fashion’…

Quite often though, it is how the item is designed that changes it from being ‘everyday’ to ‘fashion’.

Fashion vs Everyday

Imagine a simple dress. It has a slashed neckline. No sleeves. Fitted to the waist where it suddenly flares out into a beautifully full circle skirt. The Betty Dress from Sew Over It is a perfect example. Now. Imagine that dress made in a simple printed cotton. It would be an everyday dress much like all those that are made by people around the world. Now… Imagine it was created using hand perforated suede? With the holes graduating in size the closer to the hemline they get? Now you have a fashion item.

The ‘everyday’ dress can be attained and made by anyone with a bit of time to sew it and access to the internet to buy a couple of metres of a cotton fabric that they like the look of.

The ‘fashion’ dress is not so easily attained. Working with suede is tricky, so there is more time to be invested in making it well. Suede can be expensive, and with circle skirt, that is a lot of suede needed. BUT… You could of course up-cycle old suede jackets and skirts from charity shops to create something quite unique, beautiful AND good for the environment.

What Fashion Creation Really Boils Down To…

Is being experimental with your choices. Learn which styles of clothes look good on you. Does your body suit fitted or loose and drapey clothes? Does a slashed neck or a boatneck frame your face better? Are you more suited to trousers / pants or a skirt falling to just above the knee?

Learning what works for you, is half the battle in creating fashion pieces for yourself.

Then There Is Colour

Yep. Colour choice also has an important role in taking something from ‘nice’ to ‘wow’. I myself am rubbish – I can often be found wearing relaxed black trousers, black long sleeved top (thermal in the winter months), a dark coloured tee over the top (it’s cold here in the winter), a black 80s leather jacket or my dark purple wool coat, a black / grey / white / scarf and black boots – which I think will be sparkled up later in the month ready for the Christmas season. I’m not inspired by the goth look, I just suit black well. BUT… When I do go for colour, I know what to go for. Dark greens, dark wintry reds, charcoal greys, dark blues and pink. They all work well with my colouring – though a colour specialist may well disagree – and so those are the colours that I splash about when I feel like I need some colour in my outfit…

Throw In Texture

We also need to be aware of texture in our creations. That same dress we talked about before? The cotton version vs the suede version? Well, what if we made it in two parts? The bodice section is a fitted faux leather in cherry red and the skirt if a felted wool of the same colour? The two different textures will work well together and add another ‘designed’ element to our fashion creation.

Where There’s Print…

Now, this is where I am not so great. I’m not the biggest fan of printed fabrics. I used to LOVE them. Back when Alexander McQueen came out with the Atlantis collection in spring 2010 I LOVED print. And then there was Peter Pilotto. Who worked with print in a similar way to McQueen but in a different print style. And the Mary Katrantzou. Who’s collections were ALL ABOUT PRINT. It became that print was everywhere. All over the catwalks. In all the high street shops. In all the fabric stores. You couldn’t move for print.

And where the world goes, I don’t follow. There is nothing unique in being one of many. So, I haven’t worked with printed fabrics in some time. That said, this week there was a photo of stunning dress in a FB sewing group I am part of and the dress was made from a really heavy decorative print. Why did that one get my vote?

It Was Made Well

Seriously. If you can sew like a pro, really understand how to pattern match, how to construct a garment in the right order, cut the item on the correct grain line, you are 90% the way there to making a fashion creation rather than something just homemade.

So we’ve covered the different between everyday and fashion or homemade versus handmade. How is this then the Ultimate Sewing Beginners Cheatsheet?

‘Cos I will now talk you through the skills you will need to get started with sewing these amazing fashion creations.

Basic Sewing Skills Needed to Create Fashion Pieces

  1. Setting up your sewing machine
  2. Loading a bobbin
  3. Working with sewing machine tension
  4. Different hand stitches for different needs
  5. Understanding and using correct seam allowances
  6. How to sew seams

1: Setting Up Your Sewing Machine

It is important to set up your sewing machine properly before you get crackin’. This means threading your machine correctly. Incorrect threading is often the cause of your machine having a bit of a strop, which can make you feel rubbish and frustrated. We don’t want that to happen!

Things that can go wrong if your machine is not threaded correctly:

  • Tight stitches on the top of your fabric: Usually your tension is too high, or you have caught the thread on something which is increasing the thread tension.
  • The thread keeps popping out of your needle: easy fix is to pull more of the threads through the eye of the needle.
  • Very loose and snarled stitching underneath: again, this is possibly due to the tension being too low on the machine.

2: The Bobbin

The bobbin has a key role in sewing. Without the bobbin thread, we have no stitching, as machine sewing requires two threads. Here’s how the bobbin being wrong can be a bobbin-problem:

  • Uneven stitching where the thread is loopy on underside: this is usually due to the bobbin being inserted incorrectly.
  • Make sure to have the bobbin inserted into it’s case the right way. Usually it is with the thread unwinding anticlockwise but check your machine’s manual!
  • Bobbin tension can also affect the sewing quality. For this, look at the little screen on the bobbin case and tweak it if need be.

3: Sewing Machine Tension

When it comes to sewing machine tension, the lower the number on your tension dial, the lower the tension. This higher the number, the higher the tension. Tension is important because we need the tension in both the machine and the bobbin to match. BUT tension isn’t scary, and if you tweak it you WON’T kill your machine! 🙂

  • Tension is created by two discs being pushed closer together
  • Tension is released by moving the discs apart
  • Balanced tension is when the know between the main thread and the bobbin thread meets in the middle and so is hidden.
  • Low bobbin tension or high upper tension will make the knot show on the top of the sewing
  • High bobbin tension or low upper tension will show the knot on the underside of the sewing.

4: Hand Stitches

While sewing by machine is faster and results in a finished garment in less time, there is often a need for hand stitching when finishing your fashion creation.

  • Catch Stitch: worked from left to right and is used for hems where the edge will not be exposed.
  • Slip Stitch: stitches are usually about 1cm  / ⅜ inch apart and used to finish hems. Also used when invisibly attaching linings to facings.
  • Hemming Stitch: worked right to left .
  • Blind Stitch: Invisible hems really benefit from the blind stitch.

5: Seam Allowances

Different seams requite different seam allowance amounts.

  • ALWAYS check the pattern piece for the seam allowance amount. In fashion industry we use 1cmm for woven fabrics and 7mm for knitted fabrics sewn on the overlocker BUT patterns designer for the home sewer usually have 1.5cm seam allowance included.
  • Consider WHAT seam finish you will use. Maybe you don’t want a french seam to enclose your raw edge but would rather a flat felled seam instead. This will need more seam allowance to be added to your pattern pieces.

6: Seams

There are many seams available to snazzy up your fashion creation. Just because a pattern states you need to have an open seam with overlocked or pinked edges doesn’t mead you HAVE to. Let’s not conform to what’s expected but make our own unique fashion creation?

  • Basic seam
  • French seam
  • Welt seam
  • Lapped seam
  • Flat fell seam

I cover the seams in my Sewing Sucky Seams post here.


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