I agree everything in life we do first begins with an idea. But, we usually have an idea when we are considering sewing our garment instead of buying. Truth is, I grew up as a seamstress daughter, so I knew what to do when I found myself wanting to make those crazy flower pants with pleats in the 80s made out of decorator fabric. Yes, I made a pair of pleated baggy pants like MC hammer out of flowery couch (sofa, decorator) fabric my mother had on hand! One of the advantages of being a seamstress daughter is you have everything at your fingertips to make just about anything, except the most important thing to making a garment: a pattern!
I never needed anything except the pattern. I automatically knew I would need to spend a few extra on a pattern close to my garment idea. I do not ever recall finding a pattern that was exactly what I had in mind, just know you will probably find something close to what you want in a pattern. Of course, you sewn for a while so you know what pieces of a pattern to swap out to get really close to what you want, but hey we are not all designers although with experience we learn how to adjust patterns. The main thing about buying a pattern is you will need to know your measurements before you ever leave home! Most of the time, patterns across vendors (Butterick, Simplicity, McCalls) will use close to the same size gauge, but you should make sure, just in case. by measuring yourself before leaving home. Do not let the size difference comment confuse you. If you have your measurements that pattern will be pretty darn accurate! Years ago my mother would complain that some patterns would be slightly larger than the next. You will learn what vendor pattern you prefer, but do not isolate vendors because each one has something worthwhile in their patterns!
How to Read The Pattern You Choose
Now, you decide on a pattern you feel will fit the bill for the garment you want. Do you know what type of fabric you want to make the garment? This would be the next thing to consider especially if you are making a sweatshirt that needs to be made out of stretchy fabric! While this post will not discuss the finer things about different fabrics, I will tell you if you look at the back of the pattern you find, you will certainly start off in the right direction for the type of fabric that works for your prize pattern!
Fabrics, Notions, and Naps
With any pattern comes the recommended fabrics. Unless you are familiar with sewing garments, stay true to this area on the back of any pattern you buy! If you do not know what the fabric is that the pattern list for the recommended fabric, you can then ask someone where you buy the pattern to show you where these types of fabrics are located in the store. If no one can show you then just look on the top label on any bolt of fabric and you will find the type of fabric that is on the bolt. Nine times out of ten, a person at the cutting counter will be able to direct you in the general direction of where your fabric rests in the store.
Most fashion fabrics come in 45″ wide, but you can often find fabric 60″ wide. Make sure you buy the recommended notions, and if you are not sure what these notions are just look on the back of the pattern under “Notions.” I suggest you make sure if the pattern calls for interfacing and also a zipper which I consider notions as well. The example pattern does not require a zipper to complete the garment, but you will notice there is a different area listing “interfacing” outside the notion area.
The back of the pattern holds all the information you need to make the entire garment from beginning to end. Once you find your fabric, and know you will not find the same exact fabric the model in the picture on the pattern is wearing, you will need to locate your size scroll down to the width of the fabric on the bolt come across to your size to know how much fabric to tell the cutting counter person to cut for you. I suggest if you are new to cutting out fabric from a pattern to add a yard. If you make sure to get your straight of grain in place, you will be alright. With our example pattern, the pattern allows for the nap for both 45″ and 60″ which means more than likely if you get your straight of the grain when placing your pattern pieces on your fabric to cut, your design will probably line up.
Place your largest pieces down first with the straight of grain in the right direction, and then place your smaller pieces between the larger pieces. Make sure to watch on each piece how many of that piece to cut. Most times the yardage allows for you to cut both pieces at the same time which means to double the fabric or just keep the fold the fabric as it comes when laying out the pattern pieces. Sometimes, you may have to cut pieces separately depending on the amount of fabric you have on hand. If it is your first time at least buy an extra half yard and even better as I said a full yard extra. You can use the extra if you do not use it for something else; like a scarf to match!
Also, make sure to read any area of the pattern that has astericks (*, **) because usually this is pretty important information you need to know about the pattern for your garment. Sometimes, just as the case of the example, the pattern manufacturer will list notes with the word “note.” For our example, the note suggests “fabric requirement allows for nap, one-way design or shading,. Extra fabric may be needed to match design or for shrinkage.” Nap just means if you buy fabric that piles different. In other words, some fabric you can move your hand over and the fabric slightly changes color, such as velour or corduroy.
For the example, the extra yardage would be more for matching the design in the pattern. Notice near her shoulder the leaves seem to flow onto the sleeve? If you want to make the blouse or garment seamlessly flow with the design, the “note” lets you know to buy extra fabric. How much extra would you need depends on your level of experience. Don’t sweat this on your first garment, go with a solid fabric first then work you way up to using design fabric, if it matters to you. Luckily, the example pattern lets you know they did not include the pattern engineering for diagonal prints! This lets you know you will need to know how much extra to buy to make those diagonals line up, and while most people at a sewing shop might be able to help you, you might need to take a class, study this area of sewing a bit, or experiment a little so you get a hang of working with diagonals. While I am not telling you working with diagonals is difficult per say, it does take a considerable amount of more time.
Finally, some patterns will give you the finished measurement size of the garment to give you a better idea of the fit. Why this might be important is if you want to make a garment longer than the pattern. For example, tall sizes may need to adjust for length while petite sizes may want to adjust for shorter lengths.
I hope this helps in your adventure to sewing for yourself. Let me know if you have any questions I can help.