Six Tips For Beginners Using Sewing Patterns
The big moment has arrived – you selected your sewing pattern, found your fabric, bought your notions and have arrived back home, ready to sew. For beginners, just a little forethought and carefulness can avoid some very basic mistakes.
1. Before you pick out your fabric, circle the size and yardage you will need on the back of the pattern envelope
The first suggestion requires us to travel back in time to the point where you buy your fabric, but it will save you from what could be a costly mistake – buying too little fabric to finish the garment. Most patterns have a chart on the back that lists the sizes of garments the sewing pattern makes. Underneath the sizes, the pattern back indicates the length of fabric you need to get. Most clothing fabric comes in two widths – 45” and 60”. The pattern back shows you the length of fabric you need for the width of fabric you have selected based upon the size of the garment you want to make. Circling the correct part of the envelope back will help you to request the correct length.
2. When you get home, pull out the sewing pattern instructions, and circle the layout you will need to use
Almost every sewing pattern comes complete with instructions. On the front page of the instructions will be several different diagrams showing you many different ways to place the pattern on the fabric. However, these diagrams are not designed randomly; each diagram is specifically designed for a specific size and a specific fabric width. Circling the diagram that has the correct layout for the garment you want to make will help you avoid another early and costly mistake. If you use the wrong diagram, there is a good chance that you will not have enough fabric for your garment – and a lot of times, when you return to the store, there isn’t any of the original fabric left.
This time-worn maxim, a favorite of woodworkers, applies to seamstresses also. Before you start to cut, double check the way you have laid your pattern pieces on your fabric. Be certain that the layout you are about to start cutting on matches the correct layout on the pattern instructions. Make sure those pattern pieces that are supposed to be face up are face up, and those that are supposed to be laid face down are face down. Once you have double-checked everything, then you are ready to cut.
Every sewing pattern has pieces that have marks on them indicating where different pattern pieces join together. Those marks have to be transferred onto the fabric. If you forget, it is much harder to match the pieces up when the time comes. My favorite method of transfer is to use a piece of tracing paper with a tracing wheel; other people prefer to make marks with chalk. You may find a different method you prefer. The important point to remember is to transfer the marks, regardless of the method.
5. Check off each separate step as you complete it
Another technique that helps avoid mistakes along the way is to check off each step on the pattern instructions as you complete it. That way, when you have to stop sewing for the day, you know exactly where to pick back up again. Marking each step also ensures that you don’t miss a step along the way.
I have managed to lose quite a few garments this way, usually after spending a great deal of time on them. Many sewing patterns require you to “trim” a seam as one of the steps. Trimming a seam means to cut the seam allowance to make it smaller. Trimming a seam is useful for those areas where excessive bulk will be a problem, such is in tight, small seam areas or in curved seams. However, if you don’t cut with great care, you can easily catch the garment fabric in with the seam allowance as you trim it, ruining all of your hard work in just a minute. Sewing is exciting, fun and imminently satisfying. It is well worth taking the time as a beginner to follow these few simple tips to help avoid making basic mistakes. The payoff comes when you have made a unique garment that you can wear with pride. Happy sewing!