Easy fabrics to sew + easy garments to sew = happy days for sewing beginners!
That’s what this article is all about: linking the most beginner friendly textiles for clothes to sewing patterns that help new sewists gain confidence (and build a fab me-made wardrobe).
Newbies, believe it or not, garments CAN be easy things to sew with fabric. You don’t have to be stuck stitching tablecloths, pillows, and placemats if your heart races for FASHUN.
This post will explore:
- Why it’s important to opt for easy fabrics to sew (at least at first)
- What makes a fabric “easy” to sew
- What are the best fabrics for beginner sewists
- The easiest garments to sew for beginners
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Why Choose Fabrics that are Easy to Sew?
One of the coolest things about sewing your own clothes is being able to choose your fabric. And when you start sewing, you may be tempted to bypass “friendly” materials because you deserve garments made of the finest fabrics (and you do, because you’re a beautiful, clever, and crafty BB).
But — and this is a big but — when you punch above your weight in terms of fabric (i.e., choose fabric you’re not ready for skillswise), three sad things will happen:
1.) Your sewing experience will be poor.
Use my experience as an example. Silk is hard to sew. I learned this by making over a black silk slip dress. It demanded all my attention and patience. Other hard-to-sew fabrics also are demanding. If you’re a beginner: Don’t do that to yourself!
2.) You’ll waste money.
Pretty self-explanatory. You spend $40 per yard on a gorgeous Liberty of London Belgravia silk satin; you end up unpicking seams a bunch of times; the silk becomes marred and unusable, or you forge ahead and make the garment anyway… but never wear it because it looks tragic.
3.) Your garment will be subpar.
Sewing a garment that doesn’t turn out the way you want it to, especially when it takes a lot of time, SUCKS SO HARD. It erodes your sewjo and confidence. Ew, gross.
RELATED: How to Choose Fabric: A Crash Course in Fashion Textiles
What Makes a Fabric Easy to Work With?
If you’re on the hunt for a forgiving fabric, look for these qualities:
- Not Too Thick or Too Thin
Thin fabrics can get chewed up in your sewing machine throat plate or stretch out of shape. Thick fabrics often don’t feed smoothly under the presser foot and cause skipped stitches.
- Low or No Stretch
Stretch (primarily knit) fabrics are comfortable to wear, but they can be pulled out of shape while stitching (or unpicking stitches). Stability in fabric is your friend when you’re first starting a sewing practice.
- Doesn’t Require Extraordinary Presser Feet
Fancy presser feet can be a blast. But, it also takes trial and error to “calibrate” a presser foot for optimal performance with your desired fabric. For now, stick with the all-purpose guy.
- Easy to Press
In general, fabrics made of natural fibers — cotton, linen, wool — are easier to press vs. fabrics made of human-made fibers, chiefly polyester and its myriad blends. A poly fabric will almost never keep a crease the way a cotton fabric keeps a crease. (Good to remember when matching patterns + fabrics.)
RELATED: Is Rayon Better Than Cotton? Fabric Guide for Sewists
What are the Easiest Fabrics to Sew?
Keeping the aforementioned desirable fabric qualities in mind, following are my picks for easy fabrics to sew. This list is based on personal sewing experience over 15-ish years.
What Makes It Easy to Sew: It’s lightweight but doesn’t feel delicate under the needle. It presses beautifully.
What Makes It Easy to Sew: It’s easy to cut and has a little bit more texture than lawn, which makes it easier to handle.
What Makes It Easy to Sew: Usually made from cotton, so it’s easy to press. It gets softer with wear.
What Makes It Easy to Sew: Flannel sticks to itself (think flannel storyboards from when you were a kiddo). The grippiness makes it easy to handle.
What Makes It Easy to Sew: Similar to flannel, lots of linen also will stick to itself, which means less pinning for you. Plus it presses like a dream.
What Makes It Easy to Sew: Ponte is the knit that sews like a woven; it’s the easiest stretch fabric to sew. Doesn’t roll or fray.
What Makes It Easy to Sew: It’s drapey like rayon/viscose but heavier and easier to move under the needle and cut.
What Makes It Easy to Sew: Scuba IS stretchy, but usually only when you really yank on it. It looks good with raw hems, which saves you a sewing step.
RELATED: What Does Weight of Fabric Mean?
What is the Easiest Garment to Sew for Beginners?
Let’s take a look at the easiest garments to sew for each easy-to-sew fabric.
I focused on sewing patterns with minimal fitting, because fitting a pattern to a human body is an art beyond sewing. I also went for garments with simple/minimal closures to expedite your sewing process (because zippers can be fussy and let’s just enjoy being a novice for a while).
For the most streamlined experience, choose a woven T-shirt with grown-on (not separate pattern pieces) sleeves. Darts will help shape this fabric, which has a fair amount of body. I sewed this woven T-shirt in cotton lawn.
Shift Dress or Trapeze Dress
This type of dress may have darts for shaping the bosom. Choose a sleeveless pattern for maximum easiness. What I like about sewing these types of dresses is that there’s no fitting around the tum or bum.
You could wear a blue, denim-like chambray skirt with SO MANY TOPS in your closet. A new sewist may have to contend with a couple of darts at the back waist/hip, but beyond that, all the fitting comes from how you tie it around your waist. Do a web search for “DIY wrap skirt” and draft your own.
Similar to a wrap skirt, the fitting of a robe comes from how the belt circles the waist. Lots of robe patterns are no more than a bunch of rectangular pattern pieces, which are great for newbie sewists who may not be great at stitching curves.
The Stitch Sisters dungarees draft-it-yourself pattern is PER-FEK-SHUN for a sewist looking for an easy garment sewing project. It’s mostly straight-line sewing — like a robe — and free from fitting, because the bibs are drafted off your personal measurements and the fit is relaxed.
Body-Con Pencil Skirt
Ponte knit is stretchy but not thin, which makes it a perfect bottomweight fabric. The spandex in the fabric hugs your curves and is beefy enough so there’s no show-through. I sewed Colette/Seamwork’s Mabel skirt in navy ponte with great success. The Mabel has an invisible zipper, but you could easily do a self-drafted pull-on ponte skirt with an elasticated waistband.
Pull-On Relaxed-Fit Pants
Hello, secret pajamas! I’m thinking something in the vein of Seamwork Witt woven joggers but even easier — no pockets, no drawstring. Like maybe take a PJ pant pattern and sew it in this luxe-looking (and feeling) fabric. P.S. Here are some lyocell Esther pants I sewed.
Self-Drafted Circle Skirt of Any Size
In case you’re not familiar, a circle skirt is the twirliest swirliest of all skirts. It’s literally a circle with a hole cut in the middle. Indie pattern company By Hand London has a MATH-FREE (!!!) circle skirt pattern calculator so you can draft your own circle skirt pattern pieces. This is another garment that’s ideal for an elastic waistband.
Over to you, my sewing friends: What are your favorite easy-fabric-easy-pattern-combos? Please share in the comment section. Thanks for reading.
I would love to read your blog but the pale color of the font you use makes it nearly impossible. Please consider using a font that is more readable.
Thanks for letting me know, Carol. What kind of device are you using to view the site?
An easy win for me has always been cotton interlock pull-on shorts with inseam pockets made with a pattern with some fullness to wear as pajama shorts in the summer with a t-shirt – a combination that sometimes extends into daytime wearing. Sizing and fit is easy, they’re comfortable and useful.
Ooh, interlock is a good suggestion! Nice and stable with a little heft.