Home / Blog / Dressmaking for Beginners – Sourcing cheap fabric for practising your sewing skills

Dressmaking for Beginners – Sourcing cheap fabric for practising your sewing skills

sourcing cheap material to practise dressmaking

Do you want to practice your sewing skills but you’re nervous about cutting into the lovely fabric! In our new series Dressmaking for Beginners we’re going to be looking at basic skills you need to begin making your own well fitting clothes.   In this post we’re looking at a few ideas for sourcing inexpensive or free fabric you can use to get started.

skill builder sewing magazine

Sew Now Magazine has been created especially for beginners through to intermediate sewers and dressmakers.  We try and keep everything simple with step by step photos for all the projects we feature and we always have ‘Skill-Builder’ articles by sewing experts, which help you develop your skills each month alongside a project to try it out on.

It comes with free patterns each month on the cover so you can start building up your pattern collection as well as all the projects to sew inside. You can find all of our back issues here – Sew Now Beginner Dressmaking Magazine (some of our old issues are a real bargain!)

sourcing cheap dressmaking fabric

Finding Cheap fabric to Practice Dressmaking

Sourcing fabric can be one of the most fun parts of making clothes, everyone loves a trip to the fabric shop! (ok well maybe just crafty types like us!) Dressmaking fabric can be very expensive, which is one of the reasons we believe people are so reluctant to have a go.  Here are a few ideas for where you can find cheap fabric to practice your dressmaking –

Bedding – sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers – either old (clean) ones that you no longer use or cheap bargain offer duvets from supermarkets.  You can sometimes buy double duvets for under £10 when they have been reduced.  Don’t think about whether you ‘adore’ the pattern just see it as test material for trying out your new techniques.

Table Cloths – one stain and a tablecloth is rejected, so much fabric you can use for your practicing!

Old clothes – we’d recommend giving in tact clothing to charity shops but if they’re no longer fit for purpose, then they are ideal for transorming into something new.  See below for a couple of great ideas for transforming large shirts.

Curtains – not every curtain will be ideal for turning into wearable garments, but some lightweight curtain fabric will work.

Charity Shops – worth a regular root around your local charity shops to see if there’s any fabric, or items that you can upcycle.

Friends and Relatives – if you’ve found slim pickings in your own house, put a call out to friends and family, they may be delighted to get rid of the stash of fabric they have left from an elderly relative or the piles of old clothes they haven’t had time to take to the recycling yet.

Freecycle – Post an ad on freecycle saying you’re after some fabric…  you’ll be inundated!

Remember, this is just for getting started, if the fabric isn’t exactly the kind of thing you’d buy don’t reject it, it’s so much better to make mistakes on cheap fabric that won’t make you cry when something doesn’t go quite right! You’re biggest problem is not finding fabric to practice your dressmaking, it’s finding somewhere to store it all!

easy kids clothes to sew

Fun kids clothes to make using found fabric

We love the internet and all the fabulous sewing bloggers who post free tutorials, be sure to visit the links and explore their blogs, they have so much you can learn. These little projects are perfect for getting the sewing machine out and just having a go without spending any more than the cost of some thread and a little elastic.  If it doesn’t look perfect, don’t worry – you’re a beginner dressmaker, not a fully fledged sewing bee!

Starting your journey to sewing your own clothes with some simple kids garments is a great place to begin practising new techniques and getting that buzz of having made something that will actually get worn! (maybe!!!) If you don’t have a ready-made mini-me to dress, we’re sure there are friends and family that would be delighted to have a few handmade kids clothes for their little ones – especially if they come without a price tag!

sew a simple nightdress girl

We love this super quick T-shirt hack to make a lovely little nightdress, there’s a full tutorial to make this by sewing and craft blogger Autumn of ‘It’s always Autumn’ 

t shirt sewing tutorial to make into jogging bottoms

T-shirts can also be transformed into cute little trousers or PJ bottoms – there’s a great sewing tutorial from Bec who blogs at Mellebug and Me

kids skirt sewing tutorial from pillowcase

If you’re nervous to start with sewing patterns then following simple tutorials like this post from sewing blogger Justine of Sew Country Chick is ideal to get you started.  It’s made from a pillowcase.  The beauty of using the pillowcase is that the hem is all done for you, so it only takes minutes to transform it into a cute little skirt. If like many of us you don’t have piles of unused vintage pillowcases around the house, you can find these in charity shops, on ebay or perhaps pick up a cheapy one from a supermarket.


jeans into skirt tutorial

Ashley of Make It – Love It shares this brilliant tutorial for turning a pair of old battered jeans into a really cute little skirt.  It’s a brilliant idea rather than chucking jeans with holey knees away, even if your child has outgrown the waist, you can still then add them to the hand-me down pile instead of leaving them for the landfill pile and those extra bits of denim are always handy to keep in your fabric stash!

kids dress from mans shirt tutorial

This is such a great idea as you get to sew a button up dress without having to worry about button holes! the free sewing tutorial is by Candice Ayala who has loads of great upcycling inspiration on her blog.

mens shirt into girls dress tutorial

Another fab before and after! This time a mans shirt transformed into a beautiful dress complete with sleeves.  This would be great for summer or teamed with tights, boots and a cardi for winter.  The free sewing tutorial is from sewing blogger Sarah, of Our Life is Beautiful blog.

We’d love to hear where you find cheap dressmaking fabric to practise your sewing skills!  let us know in a comment or post a pic of your upcycled make on our Facebook wall.


About Hilary Pullen

Check Also

Sew Now issue 26

Issue 26 is here! Let’s take a look at some of the festive projects you’ll …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.