How to Tell When a Sewing Pattern Is NOT for Beginners (Part 2: Know Your Fabrics) #LearningToSew #Fabrics


The image shows Simplicity 18" doll clothes pattern #4654 which includes patterns for making a lined hooded raincoat or coverup, a tank top and skort, a short-sleeved everyday dress, a sunny sleeveless top with capri pants, a T-shirt with cargo pants, and a crop top with skort or shorts. There's also an 18-inch doll pictured on the pattern wearing a denim jumper with overall straps. The doll wears a striped tee shirt under the overall-style jumper. (This is "jumper" in the US sense of the word -- not a "sweater" as we'd say in the US, but more of a dress with the style of overalls). The watermark on this photo reminds us to visit for free, printable sewing patterns for making doll clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes. This image also has a header that says, "Today's topic of discussion: what makes a pattern difficult for beginners?" And in fact, if you navigate to the link to the article that accompanies this image, doll clothing designer, YouTuber, and writer Chelly Wood discusses all the features that make this particular pattern difficult for a beginner who is just learning to sew. This article is designed to help anyone who teaches sewing classes, is teaching another person how to sew, or people who are, themselves, just learning to sew, what to avoid when purchasing store-bought patterns.
Visit for free printable sewing patterns for making doll clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

Last week we took a look at this pattern from Simplicity (doll clothes pattern #4654) which is a fantastic pattern for those of us who have been sewing for a while. However, in the image below, I’ve underlined some key terms that tell us this isn’t the ideal pattern for the absolute beginner.

This image is the back of Simplicity doll clothes sewing pattern #4654 with key words underlined. These key words coordinate with an article found on which describes what to watch out for when you're shopping for patterns, especially if you're new to sewing and consider yourself something of a beginner in the sewing world.

I’ve underlined some of the recommended fabrics on the pattern, and I want to talk about why these fabrics aren’t ideal for beginners.

First let’s talk about denim.

Now denim can come in many thicknesses and different styles, including stretch denim, faded denim, print denim, and more. Most of us think of denim as “jeans” or “dungarees” fabric.

Please visit for ideas on how to make money sewing and selling crafts. Today's topic is about how to save money by using second-hand clothing as a fabric source for sell-able fabric crafts.
Image: iClipart

If you’re working with lightweight denim, it should be fine for a beginner, but if you’re using an old pair of jeans which have been turned into scrap denim, you’re going to need a denim needle for your sewing machine.

Maybe you’re familiar with using a denim needle. That’s fine, but I can tell you that most beginners struggle to use a denim needle correctly. My daughter, who is a senior in high school and has some sewing experience, recently tried sewing her jeans with a denim needle. How did that go?

She broke the needle.

I mean, she didn’t ruin the machine at all, but it was frustrating for her when the needle broke. It takes a lot of practice to get used to sewing with denim, and I would recommend starting with lightweight denim and working your way up the scale of fabric thickness gradually, while you learn.

Furthermore, on the cover image of the Simplicity pattern, we see the overalls-style jumper has top stitching, which is tricky to do, even on a fairly lightweight denim.

This image of a denim overalls dress with top stitching comes from Simplicity pattern #4654 and is not associated with the free doll clothes pattern website,
Visit for free printable PDF sewing patterns and tutorial videos for making doll clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

On my patterns, I’d definitely give that overalls-dress four flowers because it strikes me as a somewhat challenging project.

If you’d like to learn more about my system of labeling patterns with difficulty levels, please click here.

The other fabrics that were recommended on this Simplicity doll clothes pattern included knits / jersey / 2-way stretch / stretch terry. These are all stretchy fabrics.

Any way you look at it, stretchy fabrics are going to be challenging for a beginner. Yes, it helps a lot if your sewing machine has a walking foot and you know how to use it, but again, I’ve learned by watching my two daughters as they went through the stages of learning to sew. Stretchy fabric is not something you want to start with.

Now some of my three-flower patterns use stretch fabrics, like the T-shirt patterns that I gave you last week and the week before, but you’ll notice that in my tutorials for T-shirt projects, I suggest sewing your stretch fabrics by hand.

When you hand stitch a stretchy fabric, you have a lot more control of where the fabric goes. You can prevent the fabric from rolling in places you don’t want it to roll, when you sew it by hand.

But most beginners want to get done with their projects lickety-split, so I recommend starting with 100% cotton for your first doll clothes projects. It is, by far, one of the easiest fabrics to work with. Felt is the only fabric I can think of that’s easier.

Here’s a list of other fabrics that I do not recommend for absolute beginners:

  • Satin
  • Crinoline
  • Terrycloth
  • Velvet
  • Corduroy
  • Silk
  • Leather
  • Chiffon
  • Organdy
  • Georgette
  • Voile
  • Organza

A lot of polyesters can be tricky too, so if the material feels slippery in your hands or if it frays easily, I’d pass that one by. With some polyesters, you have to adjust your stitch length, and even then, you may end up with bobbin issues due to the fabric’s ability to easily fray. (Fray can get stuck down in your bobbin.)

There’s a product called Fray Check that can help, but polyester is still not the best fabric for beginners, due to its often slippery texture.

But on the flip side, you’ll never learn how to sew those difficult fabrics unless you give them a try. If you’d like some tips and pointers for working with these, there’s an article over at Wunderlabel that might help called, “3 Most Difficult Materials to Sew With and Tips to Make It Work.” Click there for a link to the article.

Image comes from Simplicity doll clothes pattern 4654.

Now I took another look at the specs on today’s Simplicity pattern, and if I were a beginner trying to tackle this pattern, I’d use cotton fabric without a nap (see last week’s post for what that means) to make Dress F, which looks to be pretty do-able if you were using cotton to make it.

This Simplicity doll clothes pattern #4654 has a copyright of 2005, so it’s probably not in production anymore. But if you wanted to purchase one, I bet you could find it on eBay.

If you’re not sure how to buy used patterns on eBay, you might want to check out this blog post, in which I offered my advice for purchasing used patterns online.

Join me again next week for yet another blog post offering tips for beginners!

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