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

This week, the super talented Charlotte, winner of series four of the BBC’s The Great British Sewing Bee, fields questions about making a first sewing machine purchase, easy patterns for getting started with dressmaking and patterns for tackling knit fabrics!

Ask Charlotte
Q: Hey Charlotte! What are the easiest ladies patterns and fabrics to use in order to start learning how to sew? I mistakenly started by making a jacket but gave up because it was just too difficult to be rewarding, now scared to try again!
– Asked by @svetlanadelrey

A: Hi svetlanadelrey! Don’t be scared – dressmaking can be so rewarding! I recommend starting with a simple skirt. There are lots of suitable beginner’s patterns – anything that flares out from the waist is perfect, because then you don’t need to worry about the fit on the hips. Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes has some wonderful patterns, and is designed for complete beginners. You can work your way through the book and end up with a whole wardrobe of gorgeous handmade clothes. Good luck!

Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes

Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes is a wonderful resource for new dressmakers!

Q: Hi!!! What do you recommend to look for in a sewing machine. Im going to buy my first so i can start learning
– Asked by

A: Hello! That’s a really good question – it’s so easy to get overwhelmed by all the options. It’s useful to remember that all those fancy stitches are a relatively new addition to home sewing machines, and that people managed perfectly well without them for many years. For dressmaking you really only need a straight stitch, zigzag, and a buttonhole. Once you get more experienced then you might want to invest in a machine with more stitches, or even an automatic thread cutter. Although I warn you, once you get used to not having to cut the threads you won’t want to go back!

Janome CXL301

The Janome CXL301 is great entry-level computerised machine!

Q: What would you recommend for a beginner’s first project with stretchy fabric?? I’m a teenager teaching myself to sew and have managed a few simple sleeveless dresses and some cushions, but would love to start trying harder projects thanks!!
– Asked by @little_wool_cart

A: Hi little_wool_cart. It’s so great to hear you’re sewing with knits – some people avoid them because they think they are scary. There are loads of lovely patterns for all sorts of garments, including the Agnes top, Axel skirt, and Moneta dress. I recommend using pattern weights and a rotary cutter to cut out knit fabrics, because it’s more accurate than using scissors. Have fun, and good luck!

Colette Moneta Dress

The Moneta Dress by Colette Patterns is a lovely choice for your first knit garment project!

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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