When I decided to learn to sew last summer, all I had to do was search the sewing hashtag on IG, and before I knew it I had fallen down the rabbit hole of amazing sewing content available across various forms of social media. Interestingly, as my own sewing-related posts have increased, I have received lots of messages from male friends asking to chat about how to get started on their own crafting journey.
Anyone who has searched sewing hashtags on IG will recognise very quickly that the online sewing community is a female-dominated space, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but it does mean that any men looking to learn how to sew may find it more difficult to find the resources they need to get started. So, if you are a man who would like to learn how to sew, or anyone who would like to sew ‘menswear’, these are some resources that I have picked up over the past few weeks which will hopefully guide you in the right direction (and then the algorithm can do the rest!). Many of the beginner tips are genderless as you probably won’t be going to wearable garments straight away and I wanted to contain all of the basic tips you may need to take those first steps on the way to finding your own sewing rhythm. Let’s get started.
- Getting a sewing machine. Your basic kit will be more or less the same whoever you are. Obviously the first thing you will need is a sewing machine. When I was looking for a machine, I asked a couple of sewing friends what they recommended and for the most part they said ‘don’t spend too much’. Really when you get going you only need a straight stitch and a zigzag or two. Button hole settings are also a plus! I was planning on getting a John Lewis brand model as they are reasonably priced and simple to use, but due to the whole world seemingly picking up sewing at the same time, there were none in stock. I ended up with a Singer Tradition which I really like. There are lots of Youtube videos available for troubleshooting and other tips, and also extra parts are widely available. You can look at some different models available at John Lewis here. You can also get perfectly good sewing machines second hand, just make sure you have checked out the model and made sure that it works! You can always upgrade your machine if you really get the bug and need more cool little gadgets. Once you have a machine the first step is learning how to thread it. There are Youtube videos for different models – you can find the one for my machine here. After that, grab a scrap of fabric – woven is best, think cotton, linen or chambray, and play around with sewing a few lines.
- Getting the rest of your kit together. The beginner kit I started with was as follows: Dressmaking shears, thread snippers, pins, tailors chalk/washable pen, tape measure, bobbins, threads, spare machine needles, needles for hand sewing. I have added all sorts to the collection since then, but this is a good place to start!
- First projects. The best beginner projects are fairly unisex. I learned using the Sew Over It Stitch School Introduction to Sewing Course, and the first two projects were cushion covers and a zip up toiletry bag. The third project on that course is pyjama trousers, although the pattern for this is to fit a female body, so I would recommend forgoing the course and finding some separate resources online to begin with. Cushion covers are the best way to start as they require no tricky fastenings and you only have to sew in a straight line. You can find the Sew Over It cushion cover sewalong here. There are loads of amazing Indie sewing pattern companies out there, but the bigger indie companies do tend to have the best online resources for absolute beginners I have found. Once you have filled your house with lovely cushions, have a go at at tote bag. There are loads of tutorials available, but this one is aimed at beginner sewists, Make sure that you start off with stable fabrics. I went a bit off piste at the start and it was a mess – stick to the fabrics mentioned above, or similar, until your most basic sewing is in check.
- Moving on to Garment-making. Time to make some wearable items! You may need some help with reading a sewing pattern before you do this. The best place to start is with picking your size. Patterns will have a chart for body measurements and one for finished garment measurements. You want to measure yourself (a tutorial for that can be found here) and find which size best fits you from the body measurements chart. The finished garment measurement chart will tell you what the measurements will be on the actual garment. Depending on the intended cut and fit of the garment, this might be quite different from your own measurements – i.e. if it is a loose fitting item, the finished garment measurements will come up as bigger than your own. You can grade between sizes (meaning you use one size for a certain part of your body, and a different size for another), but you will want to avoid this to begin with. You will then want to cut out the corresponding line on your pattern. Other key markings you may come across are notches, either drawn as a tiny line coming in from where you are cutting, or sometimes a triangle. You will make tiny little snips in to the fabric at these points and they will eventually help you to line up your fabric pieces when you are pinning them together. Also there will always be a line marked ‘grainline’ which you need to make sure is parallel to the selvedge (i.e. the non-raw edge of the fabric) when you are cutting out your pattern pieces. The best first wearable garment for any sewist (in my opinion) is pyjama trousers or shorts. No tricky fitting or fixtures and they work beautifully in a nice, stable cotton. Tilly and the Buttons are one of the best beginner sewing companies around – they have user friendly patterns and loads of excellent online resources, and they released their first menswear pattern, the Joe pyjama bottoms last year. You can purchase the pattern here and also access their blog post with links to lots of tips and tricks for making and fitting the garment, as well as a free sewalong video.
- Exploring stretch fabric. Some people hate sewing with stretch fabric, but it makes fitting much easier, and with the right tools is not too bad. I recommend buying ballpoint needles (which cause less damage to knit fabrics) and a walking presser foot (this stops the fabric from stretching out as it goes through the machine). The Crafty Gentleman is a really great resource, and their guide to sewing a t shirt for beginners is particularly good, and includes lots of tips along the way.
- Other Sewing Projects for Men. There is still a lot of catching up to do, but pattern companies are increasingly adding menswear or unisex patterns to their collections. Here are some other patterns I have come across recently: Friday Pattern Company Arlo Track Jacket, Sew Over It Hebden Raglan Top, Make a basic Bow Tie with Rob, Fibre Mood Owen Trousers, Fibre Mood Calvin Jumper, Tilly and the Buttons Sleep Mask, CocoWawa Crafts Hazelnut Backpack, Mimi G for Simplicity Vintage Jumpsuit, Charm Patterns Presley Shirt, Simplicity 8649 Vintage shirt and swim shorts, Vogue Patterns 1670 Shirt.
- My biggest motivation to learn how to sew came from the amazing garments I was seeing across various accounts on IG. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are some sewists who I have come across in the past few months who you might like to follow for inspiration.
Now, enjoy the journey! Hopefully these resources will set you off in the right direction, and you can find your own fun projects along the way. Happy sewing!
Have I missed any of your favourite sewists or patterns for men? Let me know in the comments.