Simple sewing projects for beginners

Interested in taking up sewing but not sure where to start? Just got a sewing machine and looking for inspiration? In this article, we’ll run through some simple sewing projects to help inspire you and develop a passion for all things sewing. So without further ado, let’s look at some sewing projects that anyone can tackle, regardless of skill or equipment.

Fabric pillow cover

One of the easiest projects around the humble pillow or cushion cover makes a great starting point for anyone just beginning. There are many types of pillow and cushion covers to choose from with some of the easiest designs using the envelope style which requires no closures such as buttons or zippers. Common skills you’ll learn include basic straight stitching, seam finishing and hemming, and all skills that you’ll use on more advanced projects.

Tote bag

Another beginner-friendly project is a tote bag. Not only are they incredibly versatile and useful, now that the majority of people are eschewing plastics, but they also make a fantastic gift item. Using similar skills to that of a cushion cover, a tote bag is the next natural progression and will help teach you about different shapes.

Pyjama Bottoms

Everyone loves a comfy pair of pyjama bottoms and if you’ve mastered the first two projects then these should be well within your comfort zone. One of the great things about pyjamas is that they are designed to be a forgiving fit, which means that you don’t have to be overly worried about the sizing of your garment. Elastic waistbands or drawstrings are a great way to add an element of flexibility and help create a nice comfortable fit.

Zipper purse/pouch

Zippers are one of the things that most people get hung up on the most and seem to have trouble with when it comes to sewing. One of the easiest projects to tackle is a zipper pouch or purse as it involves attaching the zipper to a seam that is open on each end. Unlike a skirt or a dress, an open pouch lets you practice working with zips without needing to sew the ends into a seam.

Like anything the more you sew, the better you will get and the more comfortable with different techniques. All of the projects above can be completed without any special equipment other than a good pair of sewing scissors, needles, material and threads. Of course, a sewing machine will help speed things up, but it is not necessary for the majority of beginner projects.

Making your own cosplay armour using thermoplastic

A growing number of people are getting into cosplay and while shop bought outfits can be appealing a lot of people are choosing to make their own costumes. Using thermoplastics can help anyone who is looking to take their outfit creation to the next level and lets cosplayers create complex armour, weaponry and detailing. In this article, we’ll take you through some tips for making your own armour with the help of thermoplastic such as Wonderflex and Worbla.

Tools you’ll need

We’re going to assume that you already have common items such as marker pens, rulers and a craft cutting board. Some of the essential tools you’ll need to make your own cosplay armour include heat gun, craft scissors, hand punch, roller, sanding sponges, soldering iron, safety glasses and gloves.

Pattern making

In a similar way to how you need a pattern when sewing a costume the same is true when it comes to making your own armour. Luckily there is a simple way to make sure that your armour fits perfectly. Cover the part of your body in cling film and then wrap this in a couple of layers of masking tape. You can now draw the armour shape on the tape and then cut this out to make your pattern. Once you’ve cut out your patterns make sure you test them before tracing these onto your thermoplastic sheets.

Sculpting your armour

Wonderflex and Worbla are both for sculpting but in order to form armour, you’ll probably want to add two sheets together to help add more structure to your creation. Craft foam can also be used as a base to help give even more rigidity where needed. Most thermoplastics can be bonded together by simply heating and rolling together to form a stronger sheet.

To make curves you’ll need to heat your thermoplastic sheet and mould over a form, this is where having a mannequin can really help for creating a chest or back plate for your armour. For arms and legs, you can use different sized pipe or bottles to make the curves that you want. Once you’re happy with the shape and curve you can now cut out the shape of the armour. It is best to cut once the armour has been shaped as this stops the shape from distorting when being stretched and moulded.



 Add details

The great thing about working with thermoplastics is that it is easy to add new pieces to your armour including additional detailing. Spikes, borders and layers can all be created using thermoplastic and then bonded to your armour by heating and putting in place.

Priming and painting

When you are happy with the look of your armour it’s time to start priming and painting it to get the look that you want. A primer will help you create a nice smooth surface and make the finished paint job that much better. If you’ve already put the time and effort in so far then it is well worth taking the time to properly prime your armour.

When painting start off with a base paint that is darker than the end armour as you’ll also be adding highlights and shadows to create contrast. Don’t be afraid to go bold with your highlights and shadows as this will help your finished armour stand out.

Armour fixing

There are many ways to fix your armour but the most important thing is to make sure that it is comfortable to wear. It doesn’t matter how great it looks if it is uncomfortable then you won’t enjoy the experience. Test different fixings including magnets, buckles, belts, and Velcro until you find something that works for you.

Satin dressmaking – steps for sewing success

Whether you are an experienced dressmaker or are relatively new to the world of dressmaking we’ll talk you through how to sew with satin. The shiny and slippery surface of satin makes it one of the most difficult fabrics to manipulate, but in this article, we talk you through how you can tame satin and use it to create the perfect dress.

Duchess satin – this is a versatile, heavyweight and low-lustre fabric that is popular for creating evening wear, bridal and bridesmaid dresses and prom dresses.

Step 1 – Cutting

The first step when using satin for dressmaking is to cut out your pattern. Because of the slippery and shiny nature of satin, this can be extremely difficult to do accurately. There are however some simple tips that will help make your job easier.

  • When using lightweight satin such as charmeuse starching the fabric will help to make it stiffer and sturdier and ready to cut. This technique should only be used for polyester satin and make sure you test a piece of fabric first
  • Where possible use a rotary cutter for satin as this means that you will not need to move the fabric around during cutting
  • When cutting satin with scissors make sure you sharpen them first and use long cutting strokes to help avoid snagging the fabric
  • Make sure that all satin pieces are the same way up as the shine will vary based on the direction

Step 2 – Ironing and pressing

Satin and ironing don’t mix particularly well, that’s why it’s important to make sure you use a pressing cloth. A pressing cloth is placed over the satin and acts as a barrier to ensure that the sheen of the satin below is not ruined. Make sure that you don’t press too hard on seam allowances as these could show through the fabric.

Keep your iron on a very low setting as, even when using a pressing cloth, polyester satin will melt if overheated and you don’t want to ruin your fabric. This is why you should always use a scrap piece as a test and check for damage while pressing before working on your main fabric.

Step 3 – Sewing

With your fabric perfectly cut and ironed it’s now time to sew the pieces together. Make sure that you have the right pins and needles for the job with silk pins and needles recommended as they will help to keep your satin snag and run free. Thread quality is also important when it comes to working with satin. You want the best quality thread you can find, so something along the lines of Gutterman.

sewing thread

Step 4 – Finishing

Neatly finished hems and seams are the sign of good dressmaking and will help to ensure that your finished garment is the best it can be. Here are some tips to help you neatly finish your hems and seams off:

  • With its tendency to fray easily finishing seam allowances can be tricky when using satin. For reasonably heavy weight fabrics such as Duchess satin serging, pinking and zigzag stitch can all be used. Lighter weight fabrics should either use fray check or pinking.
  • French seams are the perfect way to finish satin seams because of the risk of fraying. They may be a little more time consuming but offer beautiful results.
  • Narrow rolled hems are the ideal choice for satin as they provide a nice clean finish. Whether done by hand with a narrow hem foot or using various methods on a sewing machine.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to sewing with satin.

Curtain headings explained

Do you know your double pleat from your pencil pleat? Or your tab top from your eyelet? In this guide, we’ll talk you through the different types of curtain headings and how they can be used to create curtains that match the style of your home. So whether you’re looking to craft your own set of curtains or just looking to buy them online, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about curtain headings.

Pencil pleat

Perhaps one of the most popular styles of curtain heading available and certainly one that you’ll see in a lot of homes is the simple pencil pleat. This curtain style is a great choice for contemporary or period homes and thanks to its versatility it can be used with both curtain rails and curtain poles and offers some hanging flexibility with three hook positions on the heading.

As the name suggests the pencil pleat heading style looks like a neat row of pencils and the heading size can vary in length from around 2” to 6” or more. For full-length curtains choose a longer heading such as 6”.

Pencil Pleat Curtains

Pinch pleat

A super stylish curtain heading that gives a permanent pleat to your curtains. The pinch pleat is normally found in double pinch or triple pinch pleats which give a tailored finish that looks stunning in traditional or modern homes. Pinch pleat curtains can be hung on curtain rails or poles but tend to look best on curtain poles. Pinch pleat curtains are normally made to measure so it’s important to carefully measure your curtain pole to choose the right length.

Cottage pleat

For curtains with a short drop and an informal look, a cottage pleat is a popular choice, particularly in cottages. Bedroom and kitchen windows are perfect applications for cottage pleat curtains and they provide a great informal look for use with lightweight curtain materials. Cottage pleat curtains are normally available to buy in shops as they can be gathered to suit the width of the window and therefore don’t need to be made to measure.

Wave curtains

Wave curtains use a special, slim profile curtain track that can be fitted to the ceiling or top of the window frame where there is not enough room for a traditional pole or curtain track. They are the perfect choice for homes that have large glazed walls and create a laid-back look that is tailor-made for modern living. The curtain fabric is gathered in soft folds and thanks to the unstructured style curtains are able to neatly fold back when fully open.

Wave Pleat Curtains

Tab top

A very contemporary heading, tab top curtains are used with curtain poles where the curtain is hung by tabs which form soft folds in the curtain fabric. They are a great choice for living and dining rooms but generally not suitable for bedrooms as they do let light in through the tab tops. These curtain headings are a popular choice in contemporary homes.


For flats and modern homes, eyelet curtains are the perfect choice. The curtain pole is threaded through the metal eyelets which are normally available in a range of decorative finishes to suit the style of your home including chrome, silver or brass. Eyelet curtains are only suitable for use with curtain poles and can’t be used in bay windows or with valences or pelmets.

The curtains fall in soft even pleats and give a very contemporary look and feel to your home. It’s important to measure the length of your curtain pole and you should choose curtains with a width that is double that of your curtain pole.

50 Years of Buckram – It’s much more than just a curtain heading

From shaping and moulding to adding stiffness to your creations, Buckram is a versatile fabric that has many applications from millinery and costume making to dresses and curtain making. There are many types of Buckram available but at Parkin Fabrics we’ve been setting the standard for 50 years.

Stiffened versus coated

These terms are often confused especially in the world of Buckram with a lot of people thinking they mean the same thing. Single and double stiffened are used to describe when the fabric has been stiffened using a stiffening agent. As the name implies single means that fabric is stiffened once and double means the fabric has been stiffened twice.

Single and double coated refers to the use of adhesive to coat either a single side of the material or both sides of the material. When looking to combine sheets of Buckram together or bond them to other materials you’ll want to choose a fabric that is single or double coated.

From ultra-lightweight Buckram to double stiffened heavyweight Buckram there are a range of different types of Buckram available to suit a wide range of applications. Listed below are the weights of Buckram that we sell and some example usages:

Ultra-lightweight –
Available in white, ultra-lightweight Buckram is a very malleable fabric with a fine pattern. This offers some support and stiffness but won’t provide a hard wearing formed shape. It can be used for creating intricate details and like all other Buckram it becomes workable when heated by steam.

Lightweight – This double stiffened Buckram fabric is extremely popular with milliners and cosplayers due to its flexibility, it can even be used for furnishing. It helps add stiffness and shape to fabrics such as velvet, wool, fine leather, chiffon and silk.

Single stiffened Mediumweight – The industry standard Buckram which is also known as Elastic Net, Blocking Net or 321 and was developed by Parkin Fabrics in the 1980’s. For fabric covered hats and headpieces as well as adding general stiffness to cosplay outfits, this is the fabric of choice.

Our single stiffened medium-weight Buckram is available without adhesive or can be single or double coated with adhesive depending on your needs.

Double stiffened Heavyweight – For theatrical costumes and cosplay, double-stiffened heavyweight Buckram provides the perfect shaping to mould a costume. Also known as Millinery Canvas, the material is available with or without adhesive and can either be bonded or sewn to your fabric. Like all our Buckram fabric it becomes workable when steam heated using a household steam iron.

Our double-stiffened heavyweight Buckram is woven using medium-weight fibres and is stiffened twice, hence the name. The material is available without adhesive or can come with adhesive on one side or both sides which is known as single or double coated.

Paris / Dior Net – Based on the classic fabric originally manufactured in Paris, this modern alternative has been redeveloped by Parkin using a knitted cotton fabric that is then stiffened. It is ideal for French millinery applications, restoring vintage headpieces and softer millinery and cosplay creations. And because it is knitted rather than woven it’s a lot easier to block than traditional woven buckram.

Usage tips

Buckram can also be layered to produce a stiffer material and is usually as simple as just ironing together using a common household steam iron. It is also advisable to baste the layers to help keep the pieces properly aligned.

Our millinery Buckram can be dampened or lightly wet for blocking or shaping, just be careful not to over wet the material. Completely wetting Buckram should be avoided as this could remove the stiffener in the material.

You can use Buckram for providing a solid form to purses, clutch bags, tote bags and all other types of bags. For simple bags you don’t even need to line the inside of the bag.

Use Domet to create a soft lining and finish to your Buckram, perfect for lining the inside of costumes, dresses and skirts.

Buckram is perhaps one of the most versatile fabrics that you can use and can be used to add shape and stiffness to a whole host of projects. From creating pleats in curtains to adding structure to a cosplay outfit, Buckram is the ideal material to choose.