A Beginner Sews / Inspiration

A Beginner Sews: Sudley

A Beginner Sews Sudley

Take it slow, they said. Don’t rush into sewing without learning the basics they said. Well, they may have said it but I chose to ignore it all and instead dive headfirst into making a Sudley blouse (View B, to be precise). And whilst the entire exercise left me stressed out about lines of stitching not staying straight, sewing bias facing correctly, and attaching sleeves, I have to admit—it was really fun! I’m that person who wants to be amazing at everything they try on the first go. I’m a serial hobbyist—I pick something up wanting to give it a try, and when I’m not immediately good at it I get discouraged and decide it’s just not for me. So I’m putting a lot of my frustrations with sewing Sudley down to the fact that I’m just not as skilled as I thought I was—and that’s okay! Because I still loved making it, I have a gorgeous blouse to show for my efforts, and I’ve begun my sewing journey.

Belle makes Sudley for A Beginner SewsThe next thing I did after I chose Sudley was pick fabric. This is one of the parts of the sewing process that gets me so excited about making. I could imagine myself doing a movie-montage style run through the aisles of a fabric store, with a bad eighties song blaring out over the speakers. It’s also the part where you can get bogged down with all of your options and overwhelmed with fabric compositions. Thankfully Sudley is a versatile pattern when it comes to choosing fabrics, and I found this gorgeous cotton sateen from Potter & Co in North Perth. This is a gorgeous fabric, and I’ll definitely be picking up some more in the future (perhaps for a Sudley View C?)

One of the most nerve-wracking parts of sewing for me is just cutting the fabric. I think because I was so in love with Suki (the fabric I have personified), I couldn’t bear the thought of wasting any part of her! And I didn’t trust myself to cut the pieces correctly. And guess what? I didn’t. Cut the pieces correctly, I mean. The front, back and sleeves were all good, but the bias facing and ties…when I tell you those pieces had it out for me. I ended up having to cut a third tie piece after wrecking one, and after a period of struggle with the bias facing I ended up completely recutting all four pieces using my mum’s rotary cutter (a lifesaver when you’re working with stretchy fabrics or cutting on the bias!). The end result was worth it: the bias facing came together nicely, with all of the edges straight. But the initial cut of those pieces was…rough. I think the slippery nature of cotton sateen on the bias just combined with my lack of confidence and made for some pretty jagged edges. If you’re like me and psyching yourself out about cutting your fabric, I’d recommend a read of some of these tips for cutting fabric. It breaks down different methods of cutting fabric and has some great quick tips and hints to make the whole process so much less stressful.

Belle's Sudley BlouseNext came the sewing. I loosened the tension of my thread to a more comfortable setting of 3, instead of the ultra-tight setting my mum had the machine originally set to (fine for quilting, not so much for making a wearable garment). I’d recommend checking your thread tension before sewing and doing some research to make sure you’re using the appropriate tension for your fabric. Other than that, it’s just a matter of choosing an appropriate colour and texture thread! I used a greige Gütermann thread which worked nicely against the cream and black fabric.

I think I triple-read the instructions before I even sewed the first stitch. One of the ways you can help yourself ease sewing anxiety is just by realising you have a seam ripper for a reason—before I started this project, I read an awesome quote which said: “half of sewing is un-sewing”. Too true. I just made sure to follow the instructions and sewalong and sewed the shoulder seams of the front and back pieces together. Easy! But then there was the bias facing on the neckline.

Now, a more experienced maker may see several issues with my neckline’s keyhole. Personally, I think she has character. If I had my time again, I’d slow way down and sew this part with a clear head and the sewalong keyhole post next to me. At the time I sewed the neckline and the keyhole, it was roughly midnight and I’d been making for a good few hours. I was on a roll! But with that momentum came a lot of impatience. If I take anything away from making my Sudley, it would be that the make isn’t going anywhere—you can put it down, take a breather, get a good night’s rest and come back to it in the morning.

Belle's Sudley blouseOne huge part of sewing is following the instructions, even if you don’t understand what the instructions are there for. When I sewed the loose stitches onto the sleeve pieces to gather and ease the sleeve into the armscye (lil’ bit of sewing terminology there for ya), I almost felt like it was a completely unnecessary step. That was until I realised that excess fabric from the sleeve head was very easily stitched over by my machine, creating gathers where no gathers should be. Having those loose stitches means that your easing in can be even, and reduces the possibility of awkward tucks and pleats. But it’s fine! That’s why we have a seam ripper.

To finish my Sudley I used French seams and hemmed according to the instructions. Once our resident design assistant Naomi explained to me what a French seam was, it was a pretty straightforward process. For all my beginners out there: you sew the fabric WRONG sides together (I know, it feels illegal) and sew 3/8” (or 9.5mm) from the raw edge of the fabric. Trim that seam allowance down to 1/8”. Then You flip the fabric so the RIGHT sides are together. Making sure the seam allowance currently folded under is nice and flat (I’d recommend pressing with your iron) and sew ¼” from the edge of the fabric. Et Voilà! A professional-looking French seam which is deceptively simple to sew. For a much more comprehensive explanation (with photographs!), check out Meg’s blog post which gives an in-depth tutorial on creating the perfect French seams.

There was plenty of pressing, pinning and a little bit of swearing (sorry mum). But then she was done! I was so excited to try her on I got changed right there at the kitchen table and proudly wore my first ever Megan Nielsen Patterns make with loose threads still hanging. I didn’t care—I was in love with this blouse.

Belle's Sudley BlouseSo there it is! My first make and I couldn’t be prouder. She’s comfortable, cool, stylish and a little wonky, but she’s all mine. Stay tuned for more beginner sewing adventures and don’t forget to tag us at @megannielsenpatterns so we can see your beginner (or advanced!) makes.

Happy making!

Belle xx


We have a bunch of posts and tutorials to help you make your very own Sudley!


Here’s the full list of the series posts:

About Author

Isabelle has many titles—student, writer, movie buff, Capricorn—but here at Megan Nielsen Patterns she’s our wonderful admin assistant and fit model! Isabelle works hard shipping orders, keeping the studio organised, and supporting the rest of the team with keeping things running smoothly. Isabelle is learning to sew and is documenting her handmade wardrobe journey in our blog series A Beginner Sews.

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1 year ago

Hi Belle, well done on your creation. I’m also new to sewing and started with the usual cushions and TATB pyjamas. I’m now attempting to butcher a pinafore in corduroy!!

You’re very brave for using Cotton Sateen `Suki’ for your first creation did you have to use a walking foot? Suki behaved very well for you. I must admit I haven’t tried any patterns from. Megan’s range now I know they are beginner-friendly I will take a look. ???

Megan Oot
Megan Oot
1 year ago

A great start to this series. I’m going to recommend that friends and family who tell me they’d like to sew give it a read.

1 year ago

Love the pictures of you wearing the top. Would have appreciated seeing pictures of the process, mistakes and all.

1 year ago

Nicely done. We learn more from our mistakes than when we do something right the first time. I look forward to reading more about your progress. Congrats!

Allison Lucas
Allison Lucas
1 year ago

I love this! You sound exactly like me – serial hobbyist and too scared to cut fabric. ?? But … if you can do it, so can I! Can’t wait to follow your adventures.

1 year ago

Great post Belle. Your Sudley turned out beautiful ! I’m excited to follow along your sewing journey (& hoping you might use me as a model one day ….)

1 year ago
Reply to  Isabelle

Its a date !