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Category: Sewing & Dressmaking Patterns

  1. How long does it take to learn to sew?

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    Beginner classes and courses at Sew In Brighton
    Sewing is a skill that can be both enjoyable and practical. The length of time it takes to learn the craft with confidence, is dependent on various factors, including your level of commitment, the complexity of the projects you intend to undertake, and the resources accessible to you.

    For beginners, in our experience it usually takes just 2.5-5 hours of a class or course to get acquainted with the basics of using a sewing machine. This includes sewing up an actual useable item, excitingly! The process would involve learning how to wind a bobbin, pull the threads correctly through the sewing machine, thread a needle, operate a sewing machine, adjust the tension between top and bottom thread and sew simple stitches. These basic sewing machine stitches will include:

    • sewing straight lines to a set seam allowance (i.e. a specific distance from the edge of the fabric, as determined by the instructions for the item being sewn)
    • turning corners
    • backstitching to secure your stitch (no need to tie knots once done!) zig-zag stitching to stop edges fraying.
    • You may look at a sewing machine and wonder how on earth you're ever going to learn what all those different stitches are and how to use them. The good news is - you don't need to! You could sew for years with just the stitches mentioned above, which you will learn in the first few hours
    • Part of the 'learn to sew' process should include cutting out and sewing simple item from start to finish e.g. a tote bag or an overlap back cushion (no zip yet!). It's a great idea for you to start your sewing journey with one these simple projects. It's much more interesting and satisfying to make a useful item than just practising stitches on scraps of fabric! Although you would do that first. Plus you get to see how a pattern is used - very useful for then going on to sew your own clothes. We particularly design our beginner projects so they have directly transferable skills to clothes making, such as hems, seams, zig-zagging edges and more. 

    To become proficient and confident in sewing, you would need to invest a small amount of regular time and effort into learning the skill. For instance, if you want to sew clothes or make more complex designs, you'll need to learn how to read and follow patterns. You can start with a very simple garment. Drawstring pyjama trousers (after the initial simple project as mentioned above) is ideal. The pattern constists of just two pieces - a front and back and you cut 2 of each. We actually teach you to make your own Pyjama trousers or shorts on day one of our Ultimate Complete Beginners Sewing Day! But first, we introduce you to your craft by sewing your own very simple drawstring sunglasses case. 

    pyjama trouser folded

    So really the answer to 'how long does it take to learn to sew', in our case at Sew In Brighton, would be 2.5-5 hours. That's the time it takes to learn the basics and sew up your first item. If you asked 'how long does it take to learn to sew clothing?' We could arguably say 'one day'! At the end of the Ultimate Beginners Sewing Day, you will have sewn your first garment, even though you were a complete beginner to machine sewing at the start of the day. There are many simple pyjama trousers or pyjama short patterns online if you're sewing at home. A simple gathered skirt with an elasticated waist is also a great starting clothes-sewing project due to the lack of fitting on the hips and waist and no zip.

    In our experience, if someone is attending weekly sewing classes, they would expect to have learned to sew after a class or two and made a simple garment after 8 or so hours of classes (e.g. the pyjama pants or an elastic waist skirt). Items with zips could be next - a zip purse or a zip A-line skirt. So within ten to twelve 2.5-hour long weekly sewing classes, you could easily have made a cushion or bag, a zip purse, pyjama trousers and a skirt! We have had students make a cushion and then go straight onto a dress, but it is hard work for them. We recommend a dress or short as a 4th or 5th project. If you have your own sewing machine at home, you could sew more items/garments - as you can be set homework by the teacher. Life often gets in the way, though, so many at first rely on the sewing classes to have the space to work on their new hobby, away from home distractions! 

    At Sew In Brighton, we have three types of learning session formats:

    1. Workshops or courses such as Learn to Use a Sewing Machine, the Ultimate Complete Beginners Sewing Day or Replicate Your Clothes where everyone makes the same thing or learns a set skill in a set number of hours/days. These are repeated every 1-6 months

    2. Mixed ability and mixed project classes for sewing and clothes making. You work at your own pace on your individual project over as many sessions as you need. Sew one of our free projects or bring your own along. These are held several times a week all year round with no breaks except for Christmas and New Year

    3. One-to-one lessons - your teacher is also your dedicated assistant with a keen eye on every step of your progress, so you can get through projects faster and with more accuracy. It is less social than the two options above, but really works for some people where group classes wouldn't so well. 

    Sewing and clothes-making skills and confidence are usually acquired gradually through consistent practice, experimentation, and guidance. You will make mistakes, especially as you attempt more advanced projects. But the great news is that making errors, having to unpick and re-sew is one of the best ways to learn - you're far more likely to do it the correct way next time!

    Sew Your own Alterations course. Brighton & Hove

    It is safe to say that the length of time it takes to learn to sew is pretty fast - just a few hours. To sew clothing with proficiency varies considerably from person to person. However, with patience, dedication, and access to the right resources, most people can become confident in their sewing abilities within a few months - or even a few weeks if they are sewing at home as well as taking regular sewing classes. Taking it step by step with the right choice of project progression is a huge help, to make sure you slowly grow in confidence and avoid overwhelm.

    Free sewing tips for beginners and beyond: If you would like to learn the basics of pinning, sewing hems, seam allowance, sewing jersey and more, head over to our sewing video tips page here.

    We can teach you to sew using a sewing machine in our sewing classroom by the sea in Brighton and Hove! Or help you take your current sewing skills to the next level. Head over to our sewing classes menu here for more details. Don't hesitate to get in touch with any questions or if you have a specific project in mind.

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    Thanks for reading! Kat - Sew In Brighton Sewing School

    Kat - Teacher Sew In Brighton

    Kat Neeser is the founder and owner of Sew In Brighton Sewing School. She has been sewing and making clothes for almost 40 years. Kat's early career from 1993- 2001 (after 4 years at fashion design school) was as a fashion designer and clothing manufacturer in Camden, then Islington in London. She was the founder of the fashion brand Wit & Wisdom (there was no internet then - only letters, phone and fax - so we can't link anything!). The label had a very successful shop in Hyper Hyper on Kensington High Street and a thriving worldwide boutique-store wholesale business. It later had concessions in Top Shop, Miss Selfridge and Debenhams. Kat was happy to leave the fashion industry and has been teaching sewing and pattern cutting joyfully in Brighton and Hove since 2008 

  2. Buying PDF sewing patterns - get them printed A0 size at a copyshop!

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    If you've been trawling through Instagram and searching online for patterns over the last few years you'll have spotted that there are some fantastic clothing patterns being produced all around the world. Not all are available to buy as paper copies in the UK, but you can often purchase a PDF download version instead. 

    PDF pattern search results online

    Traditionally, this meant printing off the pattern onto many sheets of A4 paper on your home printer and taping them all together - laborious! Plus printer paper is very stiff, which isn't ideal for pinning to fabric. For these reasons we wouldn't recommend using patterns made with printer paper to 'tissue fit' the pattern to your body to get the right fit prior to cutting in fabric. On top of the stiffness of the paper, parts can gape where taped, and getting your printer to print at the right scale can be tricky (TIP: choose 100% rather than fit to page). All over, not a fun process!

    The great news is that now copy shops will print your pattern onto one large A0 size sheet, hurrah! But what on earth is 'A0' (i.e. A-zero) size paper? Well, it's 16 x A4 (and measures 84.1cm x 118.9 cm) - so you get to avoid taping ALL these together:

    AO shown in A4 printer paper sheets

    A4 to A0-3

    The printer we love using to print PDF patterns, specialises solely in printing sewing patterns - they are Fabulosew - They use a lovely quality tissue paper, enabling you to tissue-fit your pattern before cutting in fabric. They will post it to your door neatly folded in an envelope in a couple of days. Best of all, it's not expensive. 

    Fabulosew tissue AO printed pdf pattern uk

    To find out how much your pattern will cost to print, you'll need to look at your PDF pattern notes to see whether it is 1x A0 sheet size or more. Our Coatigan PDF pattern is 2x A0, for example, as it's a knee length coat-cardi with a large shawl collar - so that takes up some paper. This is what the pattern will look like but on tissue paper (this is the original we created and had made into a PDF hence it being on thicker paper):

    2xAO pattern coatigan sew in brighton sewing school
    And here is the tissue version:

    Coatigan tissue pdf pattern from

    We recently ran a jacket making course and the patterns were 3xA0. A top might just be 1x A0. In the case of multiple A0 patterns, Fabulosew will print your patterns on several sheets. Sometimes the garment pattern pieces are longer than A0, like the 2xA0 size Dungaree pattern we use on our Dungarees Making Courses. In this case Fabulosew include joining marks, so you know where to stick the two tissue sheets together (just one edge to join rather than 16-32 edges or more when printing at home!). They also do 'oversize' printing, where patterns are wider than A0. For example VikiSews pdf patterns are 900mm wide. The pattern company will note that you need oversized printing. Vikisews say 'You will need a plotter printer that can print at least 900mm width' on the selling page of their patterns.

    So when you're ordering at, you put in the number of A0 sheets your pattern is first, then scroll down to enter the number of copies of the pattern you would like. You probably only want one unless you're running sewing workshops like us!

    Number of AO pattern pages - fabulosew

    Have a browse of PDF sewing patterns at fellow sewing school Guthrie Ghani here, or do a web search for PDF sewing patterns.

    When you're ready to have it printed head over to to print your pattern.

    Once you have your pattern, if you need help deciding which size to make and a hand fitting it to perfection before cutting your lovely fabric, we can help! Our Stitch! General Sewing & Clothes Making Classes are on most days and will help you get your garment fitted and sewn just right - more details of the classes here.

    Happy sewing all!

  3. Pattern testers needed!

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    Whether you're a complete beginner or an experienced sewer, sewing and knitting pattern designer Andrea Thomas of Experiemental Space needs your help with pattern testing!

    We 'met' Andrea on Instagram, and were curious to find out more about her business. In our interview with her below we asked about her background in sewing and what she is looking for in regard to pattern testers.

     Screen Shot 2020-10-12 at 09.44.51          Screen Shot 2020-10-12 at 09.44.13

    How did you get into making and selling patterns?

    I loved sewing but loved working out how to do new things & how the construction came together even more than just following a set pattern. Once I started planning my own designs, I wanted to make them available for others to sew as well. The thought of other people sewing up my designs was very exciting, and I was right! I’m always so happy to see someone’s Experimental Space make on Instagram. It’s even more rewarding when I hear the instructions taught them something new. I absolutely love that!

    How and when did you learn to sew clothes?

    I first learnt to sew when I was a kid but looking back at what I was able to do I’m not so sure that should count! I properly picked up a sewing machine and started to sew wearable things around 8 years ago. I started by reading books and watching YouTube. Quite a bit was just hands on learning while making a pattern, specifically indie patterns because the instructions were always so much more in-depth than the big pattern companies provided.

    The illustrations on the front of your envelopes are fantastic, who does the illustration and where did you get the idea to do this?

    Thank you! The idea originally came from my husband. At the time I was still working in software development with him and we mainly focused on the video games industry. Through that we knew lots of talented artists and he suggested I get in touch with one of them to see if she would be interested in working with me on this. She loved the idea and created the Evelyn and Casey artwork for me. The second artist, and one I still work with now, is also a character designer from the video games sector. She’s got this incredible ability to take my notes and pictures of the pattern and turn it into a beautiful scene for the covers.

    Screen Shot 2020-10-12 at 09.37.15 Screen Shot 2020-10-12 at 09.38.57 Screen Shot 2020-10-12 at 10.37.24

    Where do you work from to create your patterns?

    Well it’s changed quite a few times over the years! I started off at home, then moved into a little workshop, then back to home as of last year, and shortly I’ll have dedicated studio space in the garden. I’m very excited about that! The new space will let me have all of my materials more accessible and give me the room to do more video creation which is something I’ve been eager to get started on.

    What kind of patterns do you create?

    I create patterns for women’s clothing. Until now it has been focused on tops, but I do have lots of ideas for trousers and coats that I’d like to see come to life. I also have an interest in expanding into some home items and simple menswear but haven’t dedicated much time to those yet.

    What is your best-selling pattern?

    My best-selling pattern is the Evelyn Blouse. It does vary depending on the season (for example, Casey sales are increasing as we get into winter. People want a cosy sweater this time of year but overall, Evelyn sells through all the seasons. I think this is partially because of how easy it is to layer, so it can be worn any time of year!

    Screen Shot 2020-10-12 at 09.46.25


    Which patterns are you looking for testers for? Will you need tester for future patterns?

    I am always on the lookout for more testers. Upcoming tests will be for new designs as well as the new size range for Evelyn, Josie & Casey. People seem to think they won’t be ‘good enough’ to test, but I need sewists of all experience levels. The sewists with limited experience help me know if the pattern will be easy to understand and follow, especially with techniques that they are trying for the first time. The more experienced sewists provide assistance on the fine tuning of the pattern and advice on adjustments. Everyone is able to contribute something, and I think it’s important not just advanced sewists are able to follow the pattern.

    Click here to browse Sew in Brighton's range of courses and workshops for all levels of experience.

    Are your sewing patterns available to buy on paper in envelopes as well as PDF downloads?

    Yes, I’m very pleased to be able to say all of the sewing patterns are available in both PDF and Paper versions.

    Are the PDF patterns tile patterns for sewers to print at home or can they send it to a printer which will print on one sheet?

    Both options are included. When you buy a PDF pattern you can print it at home on A4 (US Letter for those in the states), or you can send the A0 file to a printer to receive it all on one sheet like you would in a paper pattern. I’ve recently bought a large format printer so you can now order your one sheet print straight from the Experimental Space website.

    Do you just sew clothes, or do you make anything else?

    One day I’m going to attempt quilting again, but until that day I pretty much stick to clothes when sewing.

                   Screen Shot 2020-10-12 at 09.42.53 Screen Shot 2020-10-12 at 09.43.18

    If you're also interested in learning to sew clothes, home furnishings or gifts, book onto our Learn to Use a Sewing Machine course or our 'Stitch' Sewing and Dressmaking Classes

    Are you looking to develop your skills further? We offer a great deal of courses and workshops, click here to book onto one that suits you

    What is your favourite type of garment to make?

    Favourite is a difficult one to narrow down! I think I’d have to say my favourite in regard to rewarding would be jeans. I wear jeans all of the time and love that I can make up a pair that will fit me perfectly. Really makes me wish I learned to sew jeans sooner so I could have skipped all those frustrating changing room moments!

    How would you sum up the type of clothing that your patterns are for?

    I try to design patterns that are easy to wear but with a bit of a detail or unique twist to them that adds interest. I want them to be real clothes that real people will want to wear on a daily basis.

    Do people need any special sewing machine functions, tools or an overlocker to make clothes from your patterns?

    No special tools are needed beyond a sewing machine. All of the steps in the instructions can be completed with a basic sewing machine. There are options to finish the seams with an overlocker if you have one, but it is never necessary. For example, a simple zig-zag stitch instead would be just fine. There are tools and machines that might make certain steps in your sewing easier or quicker, but as long as you have a basic sewing machine, you’ll be able to make any of my patterns without sacrificing quality.  


    If you'd like to be a pattern tester for Andrea, Sign up on her website here!


    Or view Andrea's instagram feed at @sewspace.

  4. Teacher Jo Launches Pattern Drafting Shop During Lockdown

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    Our lovely, super-skilled teacher Jo gives us all the details about her new pattern drafting and making shop on Etsy.  Such a fab idea!  (Plus there's a discount code for you below!)
    isla_280x280.41950025_1uqwxmt7-1   iusa_400x400.78831077_5yf1
    Work on your pattern at home or come to Jo's Tuesday Stitch Classes or one to one lessons to get help creating one of Jo's patterns
    How did you come to start your Etsy shop?
    Lockdown! For the first time in a long time, I found myself time-rich and I thought fellow sewers may appreciate something to occupy their time and minds during lockdown, so kept myself busy developing my Draft & Make idea.
    What inspired you?
    I've been teaching students pattern cutting for a number of years and all seem to enjoy the process of drafting pattern blocks and then creating sewing patterns from them. I decided to merge the two processes and give Intermediate and Experienced sewists the opportunity to go straight into drafting a sewing pattern.
    il_794xN.2479093565_h9m1    il_794xN.2479055197_idz9    il_794xN.2479075585_mm2c-1
    What's your background experience?
    I am a graduate of the London College of Fashion, and spent over a decade in industry learning my trade as a Designer/Pattern Cutter specialising in ladies tailoring: coats, suits, jackets. After some time out of the industry, I sort of returned in that I started teaching at the wonderful Sew in Brighton - my first course: tailored jackets! That was about 6 years ago now, and since then I have continued to teach everything from sewing cushion covers to bras, but I particularly enjoy fitting and alterations in one to one lessons and Stitch Classes as this keeps my pattern cutting skills active.
    Is there a benefit to learning to draft your pattern, rather than using a ready made pattern and if so, what is it?
    For me, I would say the advantage is in the learning and better understanding of the pattern cutting process and through this, improved sewing skills and knowledge.  Obviously it does take longer than just cutting out a finished pattern, but it becomes much more personal and so satisfying. 
    il_794xN.2431428262_6nb9    il_794xN.2479094233_r3na    il_794xN.2479085423_8urh
    What's your wish for the people who buy your patterns?
    Certainly to enjoy the whole process; from drafting the pattern to making the garment and wearing it with pride. But in doing so, for people to start better understanding and 'reading' sewing patterns  to enable them to be more creative and put a more personal stamp on a garment - because these skills are transferable to any sewing pattern!
    What sort of skill level or materials etc do people need?
    There are 3 levels of difficulty so far; from easy to challenging. It is best for people to have made a few garments using a commercial sewing pattern as this means they will be familiar with patterns and garment construction. Full instructions for the drafting are given,  but the making instructions are more of an overview, as it is assumed a certain level of sewing experience. 
    Essential materials would be paper, scissors, sharp pencil, ruler - and rubber!
    Does the download include how to make the garment once I've drafted the pattern?
    The instructions give you an 'Order of Make', that tells you the basic order of construction, together with some details of the how. I assume a certain level of existing knowledge, so basic terminology and techniques are not explained - experience has shown me most sewers are keen 'YouTubers' anyway!
    and enter code FRIENDS20 at checkout for 20% off!!
    Work on your pattern at home or come to Jo's Tuesday Stitch Classes or one to one lessons to get help creating one of Jo's patterns
  5. How I made my own dress from just a picture. Jacqui Rush - Student Blogger Series

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    Jacqui Rush dress project-06

    I wanted to recreate the style of the dress in the picture on the right but wasn't sure where to start.  I've done a bit of sewing before in the past but that was many years ago and I wanted to do something creative again. I love the 1940's style and it's hard to find vintage garments in my size, so making my own clothes was the perfect solution!

    I started my project in January 2018. I came to the first lesson with Kat in Sew In Brighton's Stitch! General Sewing & Clothes Making Classes in Hove. These are on several times a week so I could fit them round my personal schedule. I arrived with with just:

    • a picture of what I wanted to make - a 1940s style day dress. It had a side button detail (that you see in the illustration above on the right). I'd printed it from Pinterest
    • some calico
    • and lots of trepidation!  However I was made very welcome and first day nerves were soon dissipated in the friendly, cosy atmosphere of the Sewing Lounge.

  6. Why you need a favourite stretchy dress!

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    Everyone needs a fab pull on dress - I wear mine over jeans (which I also make btw, with minimal waistband bulk for just this purpose!). 

    We've run our stretch dress course quite a few times now and it's always gratifying to see my students enjoying creating multiple dresses after the course! Plus people have used the pattern to make tops too, and we can help adapt it into different styles if they want.

    See images below of regular student (who started as absolute beginner not long ago!) Rebecca in her various incarnations of the dress. 

    favourite stretch dress - rebecca red dress  favourite stretch dress rebecca print 

    I've a fab beige/black spot jersey I can't wait to get started with - and the butterfly one below is one I made for the original course but for some reason never quite got round to hemming, so thats a job for this week! The blue one is the original sample you may have seen on our wall at the Sewing Lounge. The fabric is from Fabric Land - most unusal, always worth a look to see what they have in store - otherwise Ditto fabrics on Kensington Gardens in Brighton (or online) usually have some great upmarket plain and printed jerseys you could use.

     fav stretch dress - butterly dress (copy 1)  favourite stretch dress kat  

    Make Your Own Stretch Dress
     in our weekly Stitch Classes

    More info and booking here

    Also check out my Pinterest board for inspiration on how to wear and which styles to make

    Follow Sew's board Simple stretch dress on Pinterest.