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Make Your Own Costume: A Beginner’s Guide to Sewing

Sewing can seem overwhelmingly difficult to a beginner. Even though many of us learn how to sew in the classroom, few continue the activity into adulthood. When interest arises again, the world of sewing seems so much more in-depth and complex. Where does one begin? Here, we will cover some key sewing tips and provide some free patterns for creating costumes on your own.

Sewing Basics and Safety

To begin, it's important to know that there are two types of sewing: hand sewing and machine sewing. Usually, you'll need a combination of both to successfully complete a project. Before you even begin sewing with a machine, you should review its manual. There are a few rule-of-thumb tips, though. For example, you should always use the right needle for the right fabric, and never use a bent or broken needle. Also, you should not look away from the machine while you're sewing, and not put your fingers within an inch of where the footer is. While both machine sewing and hand sewing, you'll want to make sure you're using good posture to prevent long-term injuries. All-in-all, you'll need a well-lit safe space where you have plenty of room to work.

Sewing Tools and Equipment

Beyond the right space, you'll need the right tools. For some, that includes a sewing machine. New sewers or those looking to complete smaller projects may want to stick to hand sewing. Either way, you'll need a few other things: pins, a pin cushion, hand sewing needles, a pair of sharp scissors (shears), a seam ripper, a tape measure, thread, a thimble, a seam gauge, and fabric-safe pens or pencils. For machine sewing, you'll also want some maintenance pieces, like a lint brush, screwdriver, and an assortment of sewing machine needles. Of course, there are plenty of other materials that experts use, from beeswax to a tailor board to sergers, but these are the essentials. You also may want to purchase a container of some sort to keep these sharp objects away from children, pets, or anyone who can inadvertently harm themselves.

Basic Stitches

After obtaining these items along with some fabric, the next step is to cut, measure, and sew. If you're experienced enough, you can probably get started with that next step. If you're not, you might want to practice hand sewing or machine sewing on a few spare pieces of fabric (or swatches), just to get a feel for it. With a machine, you can use the swatch to check out some of the interesting machine stitches that are available (which often includes straight, zigzag, and decorative options). You'll also be able to try out the machine and see how the fabric feeds, and get a feel for how quickly or slowly it can go. While hand sewing, you can practice some of the major styles of stitching: the running stitch (which is the simplest), the back stitch (which is another straight stitch), the blanket stitch (which is used to finish off the end of a piece), and the chain stitch (which is comprised of loops).

Costume Patterns

The next step is to measure and cut your fabric. Unless you're creating something very simple like a pillowcase or a set of cloth napkins, it's highly recommended that beginners follow a simple pattern or set of instructions. Patterns can be found and bought online and offline. We've listed a few easy, free costume patterns here, but many more are available on the Web. These ideas will liven up your Halloween party and get you started with sewing:

Other Resources

You can find many more tips and tricks for your costume-making efforts online. Luckily, sewers generally make up a tight-knit community of people who are ready to help. Feel free to reach out to a local 4H or sewing group to learn more about how to sew. Who knows? You might be completing your first costume in no time.