Hope you are well? You may think I’m being a bit over enthusiastic with two posts in a week, but the feedback we got from the original Peculiarities post has generated lots of ideas! The editors of the CSC are often asked for pattern recommendations for beginners, and as a relative beginner, I have had some experience with patterns that definitely weren’t ideal for me, but also plenty of successes. I thought it would be good to share some top tips here, and I’m also keen to hear of your recommendations for patterns that are both beginner friendly AND curvy friendly.
First up: Knits. As a beginner its important to know that knits are your friend. You may have heard that they are tricky, or that you need a serger to use them, but it is NOT TRUE. I started sewing with knits before I had heard these rumours of tricksiness and I am so glad I did. I hadn’t developed any fear and I didn’t need to. Knits are great for beginners because you don’t really need to worry about more complicated fit techniques such as darts, or full bust or bum adjustments. Quite frankly, knits will stretch over all your curves and look great. Just make sure that you choose the size you cut out by your high bust so it fits your shoulders and you will be dandy.
A great beginner knit pattern which I have just discovered is The Sewing Rabbit’s Trapeze dress pattern which is a very on trend silhouette, and even better, is absolutely FREE. If you want to try sewing with knits but don’t want to fork out on a pattern that you aren’t sure about, give this a go.
It goes up to size XXL, but as you can see there is a LOT of ease in this pattern, so as long as it fits your shoulders it should fit pretty much everyone. It’s a very simple construction so perfect for beginners (more experienced sewists would probably find this pattern far too easy) and lets you have a good go at sewing with knits and even creating your own knit binding which looks really smart but which is really easy. Here is mine:
So give it a go: there is really nothing to lose apart from your fear!
Next up: once you have realise that knits are nothing to be scared of, you might want to try creating something a bit more figure hugging. May I introduce you to the Greenstyle Laurel...
The Laurel has been popular in the curvy blogosphere for a while now, and rightly so. It goes up to a size 3XL and comes with a variety of sleeve lengths, as well as tunic or dress options. It is a really nice style that is both comfortable and stylish that will suit pretty much everyone in one of its variations. The instructions are really clear and well written and even the most nervous beginner can make this. My only word of caution is that the fuller busted among us may need to add a bit of length to the bodice, but there are instructions of how to do this. Here are two that I made a while ago, and I am just about to cut out a summer version minus the cowl neck
However, as a beginner, you certainly do not need to be restricted to sewing with knits. Oh no! there are many great simple patterns for wovens. The ‘Big Four’ companies (McCalls, Butterick, Simplicity and Vogue) all have ‘easy ranges’ and many of these go up to the larger sizes. The Kwik Sew range from McCalls is particularly good for beginners, but all the brands offer simple patterns. A favourite of mine is the New Look (Simplicity) pattern 6217 which has some absolutely great basics that are really simple to sew. Here you have a simple woven t-shirt, a basic skirt, some very simple side zipped trousers and a very on trend kimono jacket.
All of these are great wardrobe basics and ideal for practicing your skills on. The T-shirt does not have darts so may be a bit boxy on the larger busted of us, but on the other hand, it’s a very quick and simple sew, so if you just want to give dressmaking a try and get making, it’s ideal. My friend who has never sewed any clothes before cut the top out and sewed it up in a morning. Here she is!
This pattern goes up to a 22 (UK 26), though as is the case with most of the big four patterns, there is plenty of ease in them! I have made the top and the trousers so far, and am very keen to try the kimono: if you are worried about the t-shirt fitting your bust then maybe try this: it is loose enough to avoid most fit issues, and stylish enough to make you feel very proud of yourself indeed!
Finally, I need to mention Colette patterns. I started out with sewing Colette and was so grateful for them: the company’s tag line is ‘Sewing Patterns that Teach’ and the instructions are EXCELLENT. Colette holds your hands through pretty much everything, and for a nervous beginner they are wonderful. Their older patterns only go up to a size 18, but since the release of the excellent Moneta their size range has extended to a 26 or 3XL. Colette also release excellent sewalongs for their new makes which are full of photographs and tips (usually including how to do Full Bust Adjustments) which are so helpful for beginners.
You have probably heard of Colette before, but what you may not have heard of or considered is their subscription only range: Seamwork. Like their main pattern range these are released from sizes 0-26 and have the excellent standard of instructions that they are famed for. The difference with Seamwork patterns is they are designed to be very quick and simple sews with looser silhouettes with little focus on complicated tailoring techniques so are ideal for beginners. In fact they are so simple they are designed to be sewn up in between one and three hours! As a beginner it is highly unlikely you will finish them within the suggested time limit, but you will certainly be able to finish them and be very pleased with your efforts! The pictures above from top to bottom (photographed on smaller models, but I assure you, they do cater for us curvies!) are some of my recent favourites: the brand new Mojave dress/cover up, the Bristol skirt and Astoria jumper, the Adelaide shirt dress (with poppers instead of fiddly buttons) and the Oslo cardigan. As well as subscribing to Seamwork you can buy individual patterns for $7 or $5 if you subscribe. They really are great for beginners and I would heartily recommend them.
There are quite a few other patterns which warrant an honourable mention, but this post is already rather long, so I will save them for another day and pass the baton over to you guys: what is your favourite curvy-friendly beginner pattern? Have you made any of these ones?