Thursday, May 10, 2012

SEWING 101: Patterns are your Friends

I think many people are intimidated by patterns and somehow feel it is easier to sew w/ out them.  I am here today to try and convince you that it is actually way easier to sew with a pattern.  Pattern makers already figured out all the quirks and did the hard part.  Patterns are not scary-they are your friends, and they are super cheap friends.  You can usually by them for $.99-$1.99 at the fabric store.
For this post, I'm going to pretend that I am making view B. Here's a couple of hints:

Choosing a Pattern:
1. If you are a newbie, choose those patterns that say "easy" somewhere on the pattern.  There is even a "sewing for dummies" series that is also great. Typically, Project Runway and Vogue patterns are a little more tricky. 
2.  Chose a pattern w/ a photograph instead of a drawing.  (I think they are a truer representation of the final garment and I've just had better luck)
3.  Those marked "1-Hour" are all big fat liars and it always takes me at least twice as long.
4.  Unless you are free from body image issues, start something for a kid in your life for your first sewing project.  Kids are little and so they look cute in everything anyways. Babies are the best to sew for, b/c it's not like anyone can tell if the hem's crocked.

 Reading the Back of the Pattern:
There's a lot of good stuff back here so don't skip it
1. Pictures of the back of the garments
2. Suggested fabrics  If you sew something out of denim that is made for knit it is simple not going to work.
3. Notions  It's a pain to get home from the fabric store and to realize that you need buttons or zippers.  This will tell you exactly what you need for each view.
4.  Body Measurements  Ok, it's time to put on your big girl panties and realize that your size is just a number.  If I buy clothes at the store, I usually buy a size 8, however, when I sew I'm a size 12-14.  My daughter is a 0, but I sew her a size 4-6.  

Even when you are sewing for children, take their measurements and don't just just assume that they will be the same size as they are at the store.

5.  How much fabric to buy  If I was making view B for a size 14, I would need 1 /78 yard of fabric for your standard 45 inch wide fabric.

6. Finished lengths  Check this before you cut out your pattern, in case you want to lengthen or shorten your garment.   In the drawing, all the skirts look about the same length, however view A would be 31 inches long and view D is only 17 inches long. You wouldn't want to think your making a nice knee length skirt for church and end up w/ a mini.

Cutting Layouts:
Are you still w/ me? I know this is  a lot of info.

Inside the pattern envelope there will be pages of step-by-step directions.  We are making skirt B and it tells us that we need to find pieces 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,and 9.  It even gives a diagram of a good way to layout all your pieces.  Please note those pieces that need to be placed on the fold and which pattern pieces should be placed upside down.
HINT: I always iron all my pieces and all my fabric.  It makes for a better fit.
Other Info:  
There will be lots of other info included w/ your patterns-sewing terms, special directions etc. Most patterns are only 2-4 pages long, so it won't take you long to skim over them.

Cutting Out Pattern Pieces:
1. Pattern pieces will have markings that you will need later when you sew.  Use a water soluble marker to mark them.
2. Unless it is placed on the fold, pieces will come w/ a little arrow. This will help you line up your pieces properly so they don't hang all wonky. You will need to measure the edge of the arrow to either the fold of the selvage edge.  Both arrow tips need to be the same distance from the edge.  
3.  Tells you the pattern piece number
4. Tells you how many pieces to cut from each pattern piece.
5. The pattern number (In case it gets separated from it's family, you can return it to the proper envelope).

Once you've got everything cut-out, you should be ready to sew.

Store bought patterns are your friend, so don't be scared and give them a shot.

Here's some easy ones, that I've made in the last year:
 McCalls pattern 5920
McCalls pattern 5920

Butterick 3140

 Craft room Curtains 


If this was helpful, then you might enjoy my entire Sewing 101 series
Any suggestions for next week?

To see where I link up or to add your party, please click here.
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  1. Great info. I am a beginner sewer and I could not imagine doing this without a pattern. I love it when they are on sale for 99 cents and often find them at the thrift store for 25 to 50 cents.

  2. Great info. I am a beginner sewer and I could not imagine doing this without a pattern. I love it when they are on sale for 99 cents and often find them at the thrift store for 25 to 50 cents.

  3. If only we could buy patterns for $2!!! A Simplicity pattern for us cost about $17. Cheapest way for me to buy is online from the US and buy a few at at time. Even with postage, it's still way cheaper, but can take a while. I want a pattern for sports pants next week and will just have to pay my $17 as I can't wait for one from overseas.

    1. Pam, this stinks! If I were you, I'd buy some thrifted sports pants and make my own pattern. Pants are pretty easy to copy. Do you have many thrift stores where you live? We in America are crazy for thrift stores!

  4. I love your Sewing 101 tutorials! They are so easy to understand, and I have learned so many things! The info about patterns is so helpful...they don't seem so scary anymore.

    I hope you do one about elastic because I really need help with it. I can never figure out how much I need so that it bunches instead of hanging loose, or it doesn't come out way too tight (too loose is usually my end result). I also don't know the right way to sew it in place. Basically, I am completely clueless about elastic!

  5. You don't know how perfect this is for me!! I am trying to teach my self to sew, I bought a pattern to make a dress and have been to scared to start on it.ha,ha,ha!! Hopeful with this I will be able to make it work. Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. Great information and the scary pictures made me laugh! I usually make my own patterns since that fiddle pattern paper drives me crazy but I've got some patterns I want to stockpile before we move. We're moving to Hawaii and they don't have a Joann's.

  7. This is great post. But, I'll never get it! :/

  8. That is so true, kids can get away with anything they wear... But after reading your previous post, I did buy that mccalls 5430 pattern! I have nto tried yet, but I hope I can make a lovely skirt like yours :)

  9. You are a SAINT for doing this! Thanks for sharing on Sweet Sharing Monday- you were featured this week!

  10. This is awesome! I seriously suck at sewing (excuse my language here.. but true).. and yes patterns look scary to me. This is great... I am going to dig out some old patterns and try again.. thanks for the confidence boost and for sharing with the Pink hippo party.. can't wait to see what you share next!
    Amie @ Pinkapotamus
    p.s. Your skirts and curtains rock!

  11. Great tutorial. I've been sewing blankets, rag quilts and small "home" projects for a few years now. Just started sewing clothing recently. So far I'm finding that I don't like Simplicity patterns. I always end up reading the directions and thinking "You want me to do what with what?" My brain just doesn't work the same way their technical writers' brains work. But I keep plugging along and so far haven't messed up anything beyond repair.

  12. I loved your tips for choosing a pattern! Funny but true! I just made my first dress from a pattern and while it worked out fine (see it here:, I wish I had discovered your post earlier. However, it will make my next project easier.