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Articles > Top 10 Patterns for Beginners [Diane Egelston]

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Top 10 Patterns for Beginners  Free  (05/17/2007)

In this Article
  • Set yourself up for success!
  • Read about patterns which have been recommended highly for and by beginners
  • Get inspired!

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    About the Author
    Diane Egelston is a long-time PR contributor who has been playing with fiber since Sputnik went into space. While her stash began with a collection of potholder loops, weaving has taken a back seat to sewing, knitting, and playing the piano. Diane is a writer and runs a communications and performance consulting practice.
    Best Patterns of 2006
    by Diane Egelston
    Since getting this assignment, I've been thinking a lot about what makes a good beginner's sewing pattern. Simple question, right? Simple until you try to answer it. To come up with good recommendations, I started with a few assumptions about our beginners.

    Beginners come in all shapes and sizes and have a variety of sewing goals. I know a woman who began sewing because she wanted to make her wedding dress. In a weeklong couture sewing workshop with Susan Khalje, my friend turned out a beautiful hand-beaded silk gown with a boned bodice. Her project was very consistent with her personality and occupation; as a scientific PhD candidate, she was accustomed to digging deep into specific areas of study.

    I think it's safe to assume that my focused friend is not our "typical" beginner. However, what is typical is that each beginner comes to sewing with a unique goal in mind - some examples include sewing for a baby, creating pants that fit, whipping up a special gift for a friend, decorating the home with pretty pillows or curtains, or making use of a sewing machine that has been collecting dust. No matter what the project may be, the pattern is a critical tool - one which either makes the job easier or creates new problems.

    In our roundup of the top ten patterns for beginners, we selected a variety of pattern types, from garments for adults and children to accessories. The patterns represent many companies, were repeatedly well-reviewed at PR, and are all currently in print. I hope you find these patterns inspiring, whether you are a beginning or an advanced sewist, or somewhere in between.

    Number 1: Jalie 2005 "Choice of Tops"
    Easy-to-make t-shirt with short or 3/4 length sleeve, and choice of round, V or boat neckline. Pattern is multi-sized: Toddler through Women's 52" bust.


    Photo by purpleseamstress
    Although the varying stretch of knit fabrics can present some unforeseen challenges to beginning sewists, these fabrics can also be quite forgiving of a less than perfect fit. Jalie's beautifully crafted multi-size tee pattern has long remained a PR favorite, and its high armhole and close fit lend this basic high-street style.

    Number 2: Kwik Sew 3115 "Misses Pants and Tops"
    Misses' pants and tops. Very close fitting pull-on pants have flared legs in two lengths and wide waistband with narrow elastic. View A camisole has shelf bra lining and elastic at top edge and shoulder straps. View B top has V-neckline and armholes finished with self fabric bindings. Multi-sized XS (31.5" bust) through XL (45" bust).


    Kwik Sew produces some of the most comprehensive and well-illustrated pattern instructions on the planet. This fact alone makes this pattern a terrific choice for a new sewist. Many PR members of all skill levels enjoy making their own lounge- and exercise-wear.

    This pattern results in sleek comfortable yoga gear which can easily double as pajamas or casual wear, depending on the fabric selected. One need only scan through the popular women's sports catalogs, such as Athleta ( or Title Nine (, to get up-to-the minute RTW knock-off ideas that are a snap to sew at a fraction of a price.

    As a bonus, Kwik Sew patterns include sewing methods for conventional sewing machines, as well as for sergers, which comes in handy for new sewists who have basic equipment.

    Photo by Jill Giard

    Number 3: Kwik Sew Sewing for Toddlers Master Pattern Book

    This master pattern book has easy-to-follow sewing instructions with clear illustrations, time saving techniques and the most up-to-date sewing methods. All styles and creative ideas are shown throughout the book in full colour photographs.

    A master pattern is included to create entire wardrobes for girls and boys such as: T-shirts, sweatshirts, pants, shorts, jumpsuits, dresses, skirts and over 40 variations. Some of the pattern pieces included on the master pattern are interchangeable so you can make many variations of the garments. Also included are appliques, tips and ideas to add a personal touch. Multi-sized T1 (20" chest) through T4 (23" chest).


    Like many PR members, I began sewing seriously after my first baby was born. That baby is now fourteen years old, and the Kwik Sew master pattern books for babies and children still retain a special place in my sewing library. Sewing for Toddlers is a soft-cover sewing course chock full of patterns that can easily form the basis of any well-dressed toddler's wardrobe.

    The fun of sewing for toddlers can't be overstated, as both brick-and-mortar fabric stores and online retailers are brimming with cute fabrics that wear like iron. Sewing for young children provides a fantastic learning opportunity, and best of all, toddlers aren't yet too fussy to wear one-of-a-kind handmade clothing.

    Photo by Chimene

    Number 4: New Look 6160

    Misses pull-on woven pants and knit tops. Multisized, misses 8 (bust 31.5") through 18 (bust 40").


    New sewists can be shocked at the price of some patterns, and many are delighted to discover the fashion-forward wardrobes in New Look's bargain-priced envelopes.

    This loungewear pattern is no exception and offers two top styles and a pair of pull-on pants specifically drafted for woven fabrics. Our reviewers love this knit top, and they are also pleased to find a complete outfit, which includes fashionable wide-legged pants.

    Photo by pittwaitress

    Number 5: Cutting Line Designs 31371 "One Seam Pant"
    Loose-fitting pants, no side seams, cut-on waist with elasticized casing.

    View A: Leg falls straight from the hip.
    View B: Narrower leg and snugger fit.
    View C: Mock fly.
    View D: Sarong wrap.

    Optional pockets: cargo, invisible side, and patch with belt carrier. Multi-sized XS (hip 31") to XL (hip 51").


    Not only are Louise Cutting's patterns known for their specific and detailed instructions, but Louise herself is legendary for taking the time to answer questions about fit and construction.

    Originally based on the iconic and now out-of-print Burda One-Seam pants, Cutting Line Designs One-Seam pants pattern has yielded countless pairs of pants for satisfied sewists of all skill levels.

    This beautifully drafted pattern is a very satisfying project for a new garment sewist, given the detailed tips and customization options contained in the pattern envelope.

    Photo by Tigger

      Number 6: Textile Studio 1409 "Madison Avenue Dress"

    This sleek fitting stretch knit dress is as comfortable as it is stylish. It features a self-faced V-neck, form fitting side and hip shaping with a trumpet skirt in mid-calf or ankle length. Approx. sewing time: 1 1/2 hours. Multi-sized XXS (bust 33") to XXL (bust 45").


    There's nothing more fun for a budding do-it-yourself fashionista than to produce a pretty dress to wear on a special night out.

    What drives some women to begin sewing is the frustrating exercise of trying to find a special occasion dress in the right size, right color, right length, and right fabric.

    This Textile Studio dress is a great beginner's project, as long as time is taken to measure the pattern and compare it to measurements, making sure the waist curve hits at the right place and that there's enough ease over the hip. How much ease is "enough" will vary wit the sewist, but that's the beauty of sewing - you can have it exactly the way you want it!

    Photo by squilts

    Number 7: Amy Butler AB016NB "The Nappy Bag"

    Diaper bag with Changing Pad & Storage Case!

    For the Stylin' Mom and Baby on the go! This hip and functional diaper bag design helps to keep everything under control. Its easy access design even keeps your cell phone right where you can reach it (and hear it)!


    Accessories are great beginners' projects, since you don't have to worry about fit. With purses and totes, the biggest potential pitfall can be fabric stability and durability.

    This particular tote is a favorite of new sewists and new moms at PR, since they are longing for ways to express creativity while completing beautiful yet practical projects. A notable feature of this bag is its well-sized changing pad, which is particularly useful for the new mom who loves to take her baby out and about.

    The pad makes it stylishly possible to change the baby's diapers on virtually any available flat surface. One savvy reviewer offered a caution about taking extra care in cutting the fabric, recommending a quilting ruler and rotary cutter to speed the process.

    Photo by RobinE

    Number 8: Simplicity 4112 - Built by Wendy Shirt and Sash

    Button-front blouse with optional tie, long cuffed or short butterfly sleeves. Multi-sized misses' size 4 (30" bust) to 20 (42" bust).


    Check out the sewing section of your local bookstore, and you'll find a variety of how-to books aimed at young women who may never have sewn before. One such book is "Sew U," written by Wendy Mullin, who has also designed a line of "Built by Wendy" patterns for Simplicity.

    The idea behind the book and the pattern line is to take basic pattern shapes and allow the modern sewer to customize each design with his or her own style details. As pointed out by some of our reviewers, this shirt has a vintage feel, and can be made to look very dressy and formal, with the flutter sleeves and tie neckline.

    While this pattern is definitely intended to excite young women about sewing, reviewers have pointed out that the instructions, particularly related to interfacing and the button placket, may be a bit confusing. As with any pattern, it's be an excellent idea to read through available PR reviews, as well as to carefully read the pattern instructions before cutting into your fabric.

    Photo by AlisonF

    Number 9: Simplicity 4699 "Wardrobe Elements"

    Misses'/Women's Pants in Two Lengths, Coat or Jacket, Knit Top and Bag. Multi-sized misses 10 (32.5" bust) through women's 28 (50" bust).


    Putting a cohesive wardrobe together can be daunting for all of us, and a pattern that makes it easy to "sew with a plan" is a true gift. This pattern envelope contains a complete closet full of clothes and accessories, and it is easy enough for a beginning sewist. One can take the knit top and customize it to the max (as shown by our reviewer's photo here), and pair it with the dressier coat or jacket and simple pants. Making a coordinating bag gives the whole outfit polish and flair, which is what sewing is all about!
    Photo by the sewist

    Number 10: TimberLane Press First Choice Boxers

    Classic 5 panel boxers for adults. S-XXL


    Our top ten list of patterns for beginners cannot be complete without this fun unisex boxer pattern. Since some of our new sewists come to garment construction by way of quiltmaking, this Timberlane Press pattern is a perfect way to use the quilter's inevitable stash of vibrant cotton prints. One of the great things about this pattern is that it uses flat-fell seams in construction, so it provides a wonderful learning opportunity. All in all our reviewers have enjoyed making some very useful garments with relatively small amounts of fabric.
    Photo by Norma Hyman

    I hope you've liked our top ten beginners' pattern picks, which came from PR members who originally selected and reviewed them from the many thousands of available sewing patterns. I want to leave you with one last thought - a pattern is only worth anything if it is used by a sewist of any experience level, so sometime soon, pull one out of the drawer and try it, and then share your results with the rest of us. We'll all be the richer for it.


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