Ericka and Jessica from Violette Field Threads have an extensive collection of sewing patterns for women and children. Here’s a free Baby Doll Twirl Top tutorial they shared with Sew Mama Sew readers too.

As part of our Teach a Friend to Sew series we asked Ericka and Jessica to share their Top 10 Skills + Tips for New Garment Sewists! This week in the series you can earn a Sewing Merit Badge when you make a garment. (Participate to win a Pfaff Sewing Machine!) Check out Ericka and Jessica’s skills and tips, and be sure to add your advice in the comments!

Series Posts:


We are garment sewing enthusiasts! There is nothing more satisfying than wearing, or seeing your child or friend wearing, your labor of love. Sewing garments allows you to create a customized wardrobe and now it is easier than ever to learn professional techniques quickly! The internet is exploding with tips, tricks and techniques and we have put together a list of our Top 10 Skills (and advice) for new garment sewists.

1. Choose projects that are on your level. This is more advice than a “tip” but it is really so important! We have all been there: You are browsing pattern sites and Pinterest boards and you fall in love with the most amazing, advanced garment. You think to yourself “I’ll just wing it,” but the end result is disappointing because it required advanced sewing skills. Not only have you now wasted fabric, resources and time but you are also lowered your “sewing self-esteem.”

While we are all for challenging ourselves, it might be best to start off with projects and patterns that will build up your sewing confidence while slowly adding new skills.

We always love to recommend our Matilda Dress, Joy Dress and Audrey Dress for new sewists! These can all be found in our girls’ dress patterns.

2. Learn how to choose the right fabric. The quickest way to ruin your sewing mojo is to work with the wrong fabric, so educate yourself! Read the backs of patterns and project lists and only choose fabrics that are recommended. Not sure what some fabrics are? Check out the Craftsy Blog as they have a fabulous rundown for choosing the right fabrics for clothes.

3. Press the seams. (That’s right, all of them.) We always tell newbies that the most important sewing tool you will buy, with the exception of your sewing machine, is your iron. Pressing while sewing is essential. After almost every step of sewing you need to press the seam flat. To press a seam, place the iron on the garment and hold it for second or two. Do you have especially stubborn fabric? Give it a blast or two of steam. Pressing can make all the difference in professional looking garments. Tilly and the Button has a wonderful post on Pressing your Sewing Projects.

4. Clip corners and notch curves. It “seams” like such a little thing, but clipping corners and notching curves can make all the difference in how your seams lay once turned and pressed. Here is a little tip: When you are trimming the seam allowance on a curve, use pinking shears, as it will cut notches at the same time.

5. Even your gathers. We have a love/hate relationship with ruffles. They are so cute but they can be so time consuming too! There are many different methods you can use to gather. The most basic one that can get you through most any project is to sew two rows of stitches approximately ¼” away from the top edge of the piece you are gathering. While sewing, lower you tension and lengthen your stitch. Back-stitch at one end but not the other. Hold the loose thread from the bobbin side in one hand and pull, while slowly gathering the fabric together with the other hand. Take your time and make sure the gathers are evenly distributed. Want to be very exact? Follow this awesome tutorial on Sew Mama Sew: How to Gather Fabric (Almost Perfectly, Almost Every-time).

6. Make your own bias tape. Bias tape is required quite often while sewing garments. We use it to bind the sleeveless look on our Allie Top. It can be purchased and is available in several different sizes, however a normal project can become very special with beautiful bias tape. There are some great tutorials on the web for creating bias tape, including this YouTube video tutorial from Dana at Made.

7. Learn to attach knit and woven fabrics. We adore the look of knit tops and woven skirts, but we do not love those often wonky and unsightly seams. However, with a few tips and the right supplies you can create a beautiful finish on these fast and fun dresses. The Phoebe knit dress pattern is a perfect beginner place to get started. Then check out the How to Attach a Knit Bodice to a Woven Skirt tutorial on our site for the full rundown.

8. Sew French seams. If you are new to sewing you may have not invested in a serger just yet. So how can you finish those seams in a more professional way? You can use French seams. French seams are very quick and easy once you get used to making them. They finish the garment in a beautiful way and provide a very durable seam, which is really great for children’s clothes. April Rhodes has a wonderful rundown for How to Sew French Seams.

9. Master the buttonhole feature on your sewing machine. Buttonholes can be intimidating and every machine is set up a bit differently. Let scrap fabric and the manual become your best friend for awhile. Practice making buttonholes on one, two, three and even four layers of fabric. Try different size buttons and do not stop until you feel like a buttonhole genius! There is nothing worse than completing a project only to ruin it during the last step of buttonholes. Your afternoon of practice will be well worth it.

10. Learn how to use PDF sewing patterns. Once you start sewing garments, you will be hooked! The indie pattern market is alive and well online with a wealth of gorgeous patterns for everyone in the family. It is important to know how to print, assemble and sew with PDF patterns. We love this tutorial by Sew Mama Sew on how to use PDF Patterns. We have patterns here for girls and women at Violette Field Threads and we are always happy to assist new sewists in any way!!

We are excited as you begin your journey in garment sewing and we hope these tips were helpful!