Ask Charlotte: Your sewing and dressmaking questions answered by the winner of The Great British Sewing Bee

This week, winner of series four of the BBC’s The Great British Sewing Bee, Charlotte Newland is answering your questions about sewing projects for kids, tacking and invisible zips!

Question: I really want to get my daughter into sewing, she is 8. What is a good first project to start her off with? I am looking for something to challenge her to keep her interest but not so difficult she is put off.

Answer: A great first machine sewing project for a child is a pair of elasticated waist pyjama bottoms. They can be made from a knit fabric so there is no need to finish any seams, and are so quick and easy. There are loads of online tutorials – I really like this one from

Kids Sewing

Question: Back at school we were taught to pin then tack then sew but I find this too time consuming and makes me not want to sew! Are all these steps totally necessary?

Answer: That is a lot of steps, and I’m not surprised you’re put off! The good news is that there is usually no need to tack unless you are using a fabric that shifts about, like satin or velvet. When sewing with stable fabrics like cotton, pins are definitely all you need!

Pins and tomato pin cushion

Question: I have just mastered putting a standard zip into a dress but my latest pattern is for an invisible zip and I am finding it very stressful! Do you have any advice to help make inserting an invisible zip a breeze?

Answer: Invisible zips are wonderful things once you get the hang of them. My top tip would be to press the zip teeth flat with a hot iron and steam before sewing. Patterns often warn against pressing the zip with an iron that is too hot in case you melt the nylon teeth, but in all my years of sewing I have never melted a zip. As long as you keep the iron moving, you should be just fine. I also recommend investing in an invisible zip foot to make the sewing process less fraught, and moving the needle position across if necessary so you can sew right up against the zip teeth.

Invisible Zipper Foot

To have your questions answered in our next edition of Ask Charlotte, send them to or tag them on Instagram with the hashtag #askcharlottegbsb. If you want to ask Charlotte your questions in person, why not take one of her classes at our West Hampstead shop? You can find them here!

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