Saturday, 21 April 2012

Sewing 101 - How to Use a Pattern - The Preparation

I wrote at the beginning of the year that we would go back to basics over the year and it came home to me this week, that some people may not have been taught to do some of the techniques that I take for granted.  This is what happens when Mrs Logan got you through your Needlecraft & Dress O level at the Convent!  So I thought we might take a look at how to make clothes and use patterns together with the weird and wonderful language and terms used, so with this in mind I am going to make some baby clothes.
Right, let's get started, first find your pattern.  The packet that it comes in is full of helpful information to get you started, from the picture of the finished garment on the front, the sizes and level of difficulty, to information about the type, amount of fabric as well as the notions you will need to buy.  Notions is a wonderful, old fashioned word for the extras you will need to make up your items, eg the number of buttons, zips, embellishments, hooks, poppers, thread etc.
The pattern will also tell you how much fabric you will need in varying widths in imperial 36", 45" and 60" and in metric 90cm, 115 cm and 150 cm... do not think that you will save money by buying less fabric because someone has spent a lot of time ensuring that the pattern pieces will fit.  When you choose a fabric, make sure it is appropriate for the job... if you are making a pair of play trousers for a toddler then heavily embroidered brocade is not going to cut it... especially after a few turns in the washing machine!
Open the packet, inside you will find more reading, now I know that like me you will want to get started but don't!  Set aside the paper pattern pieces and read the instructions, not once but at least twice... yes, it is a pain but it will save you so much wasted time... I promise and I would never lie to you!

You will notice that your pattern pieces have multiple lines for each different size, make sure that you have true measurements of your victim/lucky owner to be, don't be silly and lie if this is for you... no-one cares what size you are, the whole point of making something for yourself is to make clothes that really fit you properly.
The next piece we are going to tackle is the pinning out.  Cut out around all the pattern pieces that you need to use, not to the actual line but just around the pattern pieces.  Let's get cracking with the iron, I know I bang on about this but you will find that the iron is one of your very best friends and now here come the really mad bit, you need to iron the tissue pieces as they will be very creased... so whatever you do turn off the steam element of your iron, otherwise you will end up with a mushy pile on your ironing board.  Next you may iron the fabric that you want to use.
Next look at the layout for your pattern, it is likely that your fabric will need to be folded in half with selvedge to selvedge (selvedge is the side edges of your fabric, sometimes it is a raw edge but often it is bound with little pin prick perforations).  Now to stop your fabric shifting when you pin the pattern pieces to it, pin your selvedges together.  I know you think this is a pain but it will repay you and make sure that your garments sit and hang properly and if you don't do it I will tell you all about a pair of Trevira trousers I had for Christmas 1973 which were even worse than wearing a pair of twisted tights and all because the cutter in the factory did not keep grain lines straight and it must have been bad if I still remember them nearly 40 years later!

Circle the layout that you need to use on your instructions, gather together your pressed pattern pieces and tick them off.  Now if you need to make any adjustments to the pattern pieces do it now... I am very short, which means I can take a good couple of inches off the hem and I have a short body (so that is Ros the Munchkin!).  On adult patterns you will see a line marked for adjustment on the body to make it larger or smaller, if you need to make it smaller by say 2", remember you will only need to pin it half the amount you need ie an inch above and an inch below the fold line.

Use the biggest table you can find to pin out, do not use the carpet, it will not give you a good result and I will come over to your house and walk over your fabric and make you iron it again, this is a promise.  Start pinning your pattern pieces to the fabric as shown on your diagram.  I usually start with the pieces to be pinned to the fold.  
Next look at the pattern piece, look for the arrow, this will need to lie on the warp or grainline (ie the threads that run up and down), with your trusty tape measure, place it in the corner of the arrow and measure to the selvedge or the fold and stick a pin in to hold it... now go to the other corner of the arrow and measure to the edge again, fiddle with it until it is the same distance as the other side of the arrow, only then can you continue to pin the rest of that piece to the fabric.  When pinning your pieces, pin on the diagonal on the straight lines and in the corners just like the example below, you  do this so that if your scissors try to cut through the pin, the pin will slide back and do no damage to your precious scissors.
Fold your fabric up as you go along so that it does not pull and distort your grain line.  Now comes the fun, cutting out.  Stand up when you do it, it gives you more control, put your non-cutting hand flat on the fabric to keep it still, and I have been known to put books on the table to keep it still whilst cutting, remember you can move round too, to ensure you cut precisely.  On your pattern pieces you will see triangles, you need to cut round these carefully as they will help you place the pieces precisely together when you come to sew them together.
Collect all your pieces together, chuck away the scrap tissue paper, and put your fabric scraps into the applique bag.  Now I want you to get your bobbins out, find one with thread which is a totally different colour to your fabric, in truth you should not over fill bobbins with a new thread but who wants to waste cotton, so we are going to use it to do our tailor's tacking and marking.
We will use tailor's tacking for the pleats at the front - so what is tailor's marking, it is a method of marking fabric temporarily to show where we need to sew.  I am assuming you know that tacking is just a line of running stitches, well we are doing sloppy stitches with a double thread which means we will not pull the stitches taut to the fabric but leave enough thread on top that you could slip your finger under it.  I have done this for the four lines shown on my pattern. Now cut each loop.
Tailors marking is used for darts and placement points for zips, you will see on your patterns small circles, in these, use your double thread, sew twice around your finger, cut through the middle of the loop.
Lift the pattern piece off the fabric, fold it and put it back into the packet.  Gently tease the pattern pieces apart and cut the threads to leave marks on both sides of the fabric.

When you have done this on all pattern pieces you are ready for the next session... but in the meantime go and have a coffee and we will do the sewing up in the next blog post!


Erin said...

Great tutorial. Thanks!

Wendy said...

You've taken me back Ros! My needlework teacher must have been related to yours! Must admit, I hated tailor's tacks and haven't used them since about 1978 *hangs head in shame*

KC'sCourt! said...

You took me back a bit! I was taught dressmaking by Miss Maul at King John School Thundersly between 1967 and 1972 - we didn't get on, but I did learn a little bit!
Julie xxxxxxxxx

mcrafts said...

what a great tutorial Ros - Perfect for the likes of me! Mich x

Tickled Pink said...

Brilliant tutorial - took me back to the days of watching Mum sewing. Thank you.

Nicola Ellen said...

Ooo excellent tutorial Ros! This is good for future reference as I want to make clothes for myself but actually didn't know where to start! Thank you :) xx

butterflyblossom said...

This is perfect for me Ros thank you so much for this!

Helen said...

Another great tutorial Ros, thank you :)

Anonymous said...

I haven't made my own clothes since I was a teenager. You have brought it all back to me! Thanks.

Susie said...

I'm saving this because I have asked my Dad to track down if he still has all of my Mom's old patterns, I'm ready to tackle trying to sew with a pattern. Thank you.