Steps for Success with a Sewing Pattern

I have been teaching sewing at the middle school. I feel like every lesson they learn is a valid adult lesson too. So I will try to share some of those lessons here too.

In order to be successful with a commercial sewing pattern, there are so many steps that are not written out or that are implied. Let’s look over all the things that you will do to really have success!

Before you go to the store, grab a tape measure and get your measurements. This will help you pick the right size when you get to the store.

  1. Pick out a pattern you like. (Probably in a pattern book at the fabric store or on-line)
  2. Find your size. First take a guess, like, “I have always been a size 10”. Then look at the pattern envelope and see if there is a size 10 that corresponds. The pattern envelope will have the actual measurements that correspond to each size. The pattern sizes often bear no relation to ready-to-wear sizes, sadly. (Here I want to link to a great article on how to sew a better fitting garment.)
  3. Figure out how much fabric you need. There are generally two lengths given, one for 45″ wide fabric and one for 60″ wide fabric. (funny thing, a lot of fabric is 58″ wide. Go figure)
  4. Check your shopping list now. Do you need interfacing? Lining? Contrast? A zipper? Thread? Go get ALL of that.
  5. Buy your fabric. (Go home for the rest of these steps)
  6. Open up the pattern envelope, inside there will be paper instructions and tissue paper patterns.
  7. Identify which version of the pattern you are doing. (A, B, C… that will be “the short sleeve one” or whatever.)
  8. Find the written instructions for your desired version, that will tell you which pieces you need. (“for version B you will be using 4,5,6,8,and 9”)
  9. Find those pattern tissues.
  10. Roughly cut those out. By roughly, I mean just release them from the rest of the pattern pieces on the tissue sheet, but do not take the time now to cut precisely around your size.
  11. Compare the measurements on the tissue pieces to your measurements and make sure that the garment is likely to fit. For instance, measure the waist of the tissue and see if that works with your measurements. THIS is the time when you can make adjustments.   This is the most important step to insure your success. You will spend time and money making something that you have never tried on. I find it helpful to find something similar in my closet, and measure the key points on THAT garment for comparison. Take the tissue pieces and lay them out on your “similar top” at home, and see if the shape and size are close. That will help you determine if you are likely to be happy with it.
  12. Find the layout for your fabric width.
  13. Layout your pattern tissues the way the schematic suggests. If everything is going smoothly, the pieces will fit easily.
  14. Pin the tissue down.
  15. CAREFULLY cut the pieces out.
  16. Transfer the pattern marks from the tissue to the fabric. (in Stitch Lab, we do this with a disappearing marker).

From here, you will follow the instructions for the pattern as they are written. But WOW ZOW, there are 16 things on this list before you even get to “follow the directions from here”. I hope you find this helpful. I made up a quiz for the “Stitch Labbers”. It was a group event, “put these steps in order.” I started with “who thinks they have the first index card?” and many of them wanted to start with “Buy the fabric”. Oh, be still my heart. I smiled a big smile. We have found the future fabric stashers of America!!!

Happy Successful Sewing to you all!!


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8 years ago by in Needlecraft , Sewing | You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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