Getting a sewing machine

Before you begin sewing you could do with a sewing machine. All DIYcouture clothing can be made using only straight and zig-zag stitch, the most basic settings on a machine, so you don't need a fancy machine with a lot of stitches. When you start out, there's no need to worry about what machine you buy, they will all do the job. Get down to your local sewing machine shop and ask for a bit of advice. People tend to go for computerised machines these days, but there is nothing wrong with a good old second hand mechanical machine, which will often be cheaper. Zigzaggers reviews second hand sewing machines and will help you get an idea of what to look for in a machine. Its sister site, New Zigzaggers reviews new machines.

If you are new to sewing and need advice on how to set up and use your machine, StartSewing is a brilliant website with video tutorials and helpful visual advice, including a clip that demonstrates how to thread your machine. Threadbanger also has a thorough video showing you how to thread your machine and wind your bobbin.

Online sewing support

There are some forums that provide support for the 21st century seamster. At The Sewing Forum there are hundreds of kind and reliable sewers on hand to virtually assist you with any problems you might have. Threadbanger is an American mega project that makes regular videos on how to rip-up, re-do, adjust and make clothing. They are a super bunch - knowledgeable, practical and funny - and their forums are full of DIY sewers offering encouragement and support.

The Sewing Directory is an online sewing mega-resource aiming to list every single sewing centre, fabric shop and dress making event in the UK. An invaluable resource.


There's nothing quite like feeling fabric with your fingers. Get to know your local fabric merchant and don't be afraid to ask questions. Have a look at our very rough guide to fabric shops in London.

There are some great online fabric shops including The Fabric Godmother and SewBox. Offset Warehouse is a fabric shop with a difference. They sell fabric that allows you to create 100% ethical clothing. They sell reclaimed and end-of-roll fabric as well as fair trade fabrics. They are a social enterprise and it is worth taking the time to read about what they do.

When you make clothes you can take pride in wearing bespoke garments. To take that one step further, there are two online businesse offering fabric printing services. You can upload designs to American based website Spoonflower and they will print them up using eco-friendly print processes. BeFab are a printing bureau that have recently opened in Edinburgh and they aim to make digitally printed fabric accessible to all. For help designing repeat patterns for fabric, check out The People's Print, who create inspirational tutorials explaining in layman's terms how to design for fabrics.

Sewing classes

There are sewing centres popping up all over Britain, offering classes and support to the beginner. We are almost spoiled for choice in London. South of the River Thames we have the elegant Papered Parlourin Clapham as well as Sew Over It just down the road.

In Hackney we have a recently re-fitted sewing space at Fabrications and the amazingly well equipped sewing studio The Thrifty Stitcher run by Claire-Louise Hardie, who probably knows more about dressmaking than anyone else in the world.

In Islington we have The Make Lounge who run workshops on all sorts of crafty things as well as sewing, and Ray Stitch, who are a fabric shop and cafe as well as a sewing school. They run a great range of sewing classes.

Up in North London lies Little Hands Design, a humungous, purpose-built sewing studio run by a team with a serious passion for the practicalities of clothes-making. They have a particular interest in helping teenagers to learn to sew, but run adult courses too.

Looking outside London there is The Makery in central Bath, with its finger on the DIY pulse, running workshops and making parties. In Brighton, The Brighton Sewing Centre help humans of any age take to their sewing machines like seagulls to the sky.

Winchester is blessed with Bobbin Sewing School and heading further north, York School Of Sewing has a great range of sewing courses for both beginners and more experienced sewers.

In the far North we have Materialise, a fairly new sewing school that runs a great range of workshops. They teach a number of classes based on the very popular Colette patterns as well as a workshop where you can make the DIYcouture cloak.


When you're making clothes, looking at clothes can help you have ideas. Vogue always publish a comprehensive visual dictionary of catwalk deisgners seasonal collections. The website is clunky, but worth exploring for serious inspiration. publish a 'trend report' every season, which can be a great way to explore high end fashion if you aren't particularly obsessed with learning names of designers and feel overwhelemed with the sheer number of shows.

There are a lot of bloggers out there writing about clothes and feeding, like stylish vultures, on the sparkling carcass of fashion. Susie Bubble is into clothes and has the fashion world at her fingertips. She posts pictures of stuff she likes from catwalks, films and her own back yard at Style Bubble.

If you're sick of it all and just want a giggle, get involved in some couture calculations at

Sewing bloggers

The internet is bursting with wonderful sewing bloggers who post pictures of the clothing they create and share their experience of the making process. The online sewing community is heart warmingly positive and supportive and generally a great digital place in which to hang out. Some of the most productive and dedicated UK based sewing bloggers are:

Rachel Pinheiro, a sewing-obssessed Brazilian babe now based in the UK, posting pictures of gorgeous, grown-up handmade outfits as well as other DIY projects.

Melissa Fehr, a boat-dwelling American ex-pat who should be crowned Queen Of Stretch Fabrics for her extensive exploration of DIY leggings and other sports wear. She has also makes her own underwear and has published a free, downloadable knicker pattern.

Tilly Walnes, a film-afficionado who has turned her hand to sewing in a big way and has created a colourful, unique wardrobe of handmade clothing. Tilly's adventures in sewing are always entertaining to read and she also creates simple tutorials and sewing patterns.

Karen Ball, a writer and extremely ambitious yet modest seamstress and knitter. Karen experiments in making impressively proffessional-looking clothing, yet writes with a humble tone that is very encouraging to all those starting out in sewing.

Zoe, a brighton based re-fashioning and construction expert who is both a proffessional and a hobbiest when it comes to sewing. Zoe blogs about clothes she makes for herself - including her own wedding dress - and is also a positively unstoppable inventive force in the world of sewing blogging, launching campaigns that go global, including Stash Bustin' which encourages sewing enthusiasts to use their inevitable hoard of fabric rather than purchasing it new.

Fairtrade and ethics

Sewing your own clothes is a great way of avoiding having to buy high street clothing from brands that have questionable ethics. However, buying clothing is part of modern life, and as it must be done it is helpful to be informed about exactly who you are buying from.

Let's Clean Up Fashion reviews high street fashion outlets in the UK re workers rights, grading each company's position on paying workers a living wages. Know More is something similar - a huge database of information on all sorts of companies, aiming to help people become aware of the processes and practice behind what they are buying.

Labour Behind The Label is a campaigning organisation that raises awareness of working conditions in the global garment industry.

The Environmental Justice Foundation aims to empower people who suffer from environmental destruction to find peaceful solutions. They have a team based in London making films, including an informative film about cotton pickers in Uzbekistan.