How to Make Your Own Clothes in 8 Easy Steps, According to Designers
Both 2020 and 2021 will go down in history for many things, and one of those should be the immense surge in creativity. While staying at home for a full year came along with many challenges, it also inspired many people to take on new projects and test out new skills in self-sufficiency. Along with all the people making sourdough loaves, doing home renovations, and learning TikTok dances, many people also started sewing. The vice president of Tacony Corporation—a prominent manufacturer of sewing machines—told CNN last April that the company experienced the largest spike in sewing machine demand ever, with sales jumping "five to eight times" that month.
While many of those initial sales went to people eager to make face masks to help stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), the surge in sewing machine demand also reflects a growing trend toward more people learning to make clothes at home. According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, this interest has been steadily increasing over the past 10 years out of response to the growing criticisms of the fast fashion industry and the desire to know where clothes comes from.
If you've made it to the DIY fashion corners of TikTok and Instagram, you've likely noticed this growing trend. There, you'll find videos of people making everything from a recreation of Ariana Grande's 2019 Grammys dress to Bridgerton-inspired corsets, to crop tops upcycled from oversized vintage shirts—and it's cool.
The best part of all of this is that most of the content creators in these spaces aren't people with fashion degrees or extensive sewing backgrounds—they're people with sewing machines. They're just like us, so we've been inspired to learn how to start making our own clothes, too. To find out how to get started, we tapped designer Ahyoung Kim Stobar, founder of the high-end loungewear line Joah Love, and Meredith Jurica, the founder, owner, and lead seamstress of Makeup Junkie Bags.
How to make your own clothes at home:
1. Start with the basics.
As much as we wish it were the case, you can't go from zero to DIY matching linen sets right away. "The most important tool for making clothes at home is having a quality understanding of the fundamentals," Stobar says. Before trying to jump into any big projects, start by learning or freshening up on your basic sewing skills.
Honing in on the basics will give you a better foundation for the long run. For easy, step-by-step sewing tutorials on sewing, check out the blog Tilly And The Buttons for simple, free guides on everything from how to mark and cut fabric to how to thread a sewing machine. Or, if you prefer hard copy instructions, you can shop the book First Time Sewing: The Absolute Beginner's Guide, which walks through everything from explaining basic sewing tools to sewing on buttons, below. One Amazon reviewer wrote, "this book made me feel confident enough to begin my first project."
2. Gather your supplies.
To start making your own clothes, you'll need to gather all the necessary tools. Aside from a sewing machine, you'll also need some high quality fabric shears, clear rulers for measuring patterns and fabric, and pins for holding your designs in place. While it can be a hefty investment to get started, it will pay off to be able to make, alter, or mend your own clothes at home instead of buying new ones or paying for a professional service.
Amazon reviewers say this is a "great machine for beginner to intermediate" sewers, so it can guide you through your early days of learning how to sew and help you complete more higher level projects as well.
Over 18,000 Amazon shoppers have given these fabric shears a five-star rating, with one reviewer writing that they "cut through fabric like warm butter"—so they're a trustworthy purchase.
At just over $10, this ruler set is a great deal for beginners. It comes with four different shaped rulers for cutting out patterns and fabric, as well as a tracing wheel for easy cutting along curved lines, a seam ripper, a small pair of scissors, and a measuring tape.
Whether you're sewing by hand or machine, sewing pins are a necessity for keeping your fabric and pattern pieces in place. This package is a steal with 500 pins for just under $6.
Once you're more experienced with sewing basic garments, you can try out different styles. Since finishing different garments requires different equipment, Jurica recommends having a variety of machines or attachments to make different garments. While purchasing several machines might not be financially feasible for everyone, shopping different attachment options, like the set above, will allow you to experiment with more projects.
3. Find your fabrics.
Since shopping for fabrics can get pricey, Stobar highly recommends scouring thrift stores and vintage shops for clothing that you can repurpose or use for pattern inspiration. She also says to look to sites like Craigslist or search for clearance sales at fabric stores to get a better deal. "If you want to be thrifty, you can even practice with old sheets if you are creating something on a larger scale," she says.
When choosing the fabric for a specific project, it's important to understand the basics of working with different textiles—like cotton, silk, wool—to ensure you're picking out the right fabric for the job. Find out more about sewing with different fabrics here.
4. Perfect your pattern.
Don't skimp on this step. "The best advice I can give is to perfect patterns before production," Jurica says, noting that she's had several finished projects that she didn't end up selling because she didn't spend enough time making sure the pattern was solid before creating them.
You can find free sewing patterns online from websites like MoodFabrics, or shop patterns from small creators on Etsy. You can also find out how to make your own sewing patterns, pulling from clothes you already own and enjoy.
When first starting, Stobar says, "I would just take a look at my closet and take apart pieces I didn't wear anymore to create something new. It is a great way to upcycle and not spend money when you are learning."
5. Give yourself space.
While it's totally possible to start making clothes in a smal space, it's best to have an area dedicated to your sewing so you can lay out your patterns and fabric without feeling overwhelmed by clutter. "Creativity flows best in a comfortable environment," Stobar explains.
This might mean you have to negotiate with your roommate or partner for a designated space for your crafting, but it's worth it. (Just tell them all the cool stuff you can make them if you're able to have a creative space!)
7. Get inspired by other creators.
The internet is here to help you. If you're not quite sure what to make or how to start a new project, take a deep dive into #SewingTikTok or search the #sewingtips hashtag on Instagram to connect with a community of creators online. It will be especially rewarding once you've learned enough to start sharing your advice right back.
No matter what your starting point or goal is with making clothes at home, "the most important thing is that there are no rules when it comes to fashion design and self-expression," Stobar says. "Don't worry about making your pieces perfect or if anyone else is going to like what you make. Being creative and designing for yourself is really where you start to develop your sense of style and taste."