The first thing I ever sewed for myself was the Dana top from Sis Boom, because not long after I discovered the world of PDF sewing patterns, I came across a sew along for this pattern in the designer’s Facebook group. I was new to both sewing and Facebook, and had no idea what a sew along was, but the people involved seemed friendly, welcoming and enthusiastic, and I decided to jump in. It was one of the best things i ever did – not because the top i made was particularly great – but it was wearable, and it gave me the confidence i needed to get started.
Sew alongs can be done in different ways, depending on whether they are held in a Facebook group, or via website/blog posts, but the idea is basically the same – the host will create a schedule that guides you through making the pattern over the course of a few days or a week. You’ll still need to buy the pattern (and sew alongs sometimes come with a discount offer for the pattern at the start of the week), and although the pattern gives you all the instructions you need, the sew along will often give you some extra tips and guidance. And then it’s just like a virtual version of getting together with some friends every day for a week and sewing the same thing.
The sew alongs are usually done as written tutorials or Facebook posts (rather than videos or anything live), so you get the schedule at the start, and then just visit the site or page each day to follow along with the instructions or tips. There are usually lots of photos and very detailed steps (more than the designer could fit in the pattern itself), or the sew along might be hosted or written by someone other than the designer, giving you a different take on understanding and following the instructions.
Sew alongs can help you get started with a pattern you would otherwise find daunting, because the host or designer starts by breaking down the steps into smaller sections for you – if you’ve never sewn for yourself before, or you aren’t great at reading all the instructions for a pattern before getting started (always recommended!), then this is a great help. Often day 1 will be about fabric choice, printing the pattern, and getting yourself set up, day 2 will be about getting the right fit and making a muslin, and then subsequent days take you through a few steps of the pattern at a time.
I also find that I work well with a deadline, and sewing along with a schedule and a group is great for my motivation – seeing the progress of what others have done each day, joining in the chat, and wanting to be part of sharing a finished garment at the end can be a great way to help you squeeze in that extra little bit of time at the end of the day to do something for yourself. This is also really helpful if you don’t have a lot of time each day to sew – generally the steps are broken down so that you can take just half an hour or so (depending on how complex the pattern is) each day, and have a finished garment at the end of the week. (And if you miss a day, you can always catch up the next day!)
My favourite thing about being in a sew along is being part of a (virtual) community of other women all sewing the same pattern. This is similar to being in a tester group, but on a much larger scale (plus you can just enjoy the ride and know all the issues with the pattern and instructions have been sorted out by those before you!). As the sew along is getting started, people will post fabric ideas, or ask each other for opinions, and generally get excited about sewing for themselves. This is a great way to get inspired – you get to see all the ways others interpret the pattern, with their own creativity and taste, and get new ideas about what you might like to try yourself. As the sew along progresses, you’ll get more tips about getting the right fit, and learn more about this yourself from the questions and solutions that other women in the group share (and realise that no matter what your body size or shape, we all have challenges with fit!). Sew alongs are a great way to meet others who share your hobby, and to be part of this amazing international online community of women encouraging each other and having fun together.
It’s a great way to get started sewing for yourself, if you need that extra boost of support or confidence (or a deadline!).