A Beginner’s Guide to Sewing Patterns
This is a guest blog post written by Emilie from Maison Fauve.
Emilie has patterns available mostly focused on easy-going and feminine clothes, just like the ones she prefers to wear.
The patterns vary from some which are accessible for apprentices to more detailed patterns to capture the interest of more experienced dressmakers.
At Maison Fauve, you can find photo tutorials to help you sew your garment, which will help you to deal with the difficulties of the pattern. It’s also a nice addition to the instructions below.
The sewing pattern, or where the magic happens! Your first steps in sewing are often done in the manufacturing of small accessories or the customisation of ready-made clothing.
Now you’d like to go further and make your first fully handmade clothes, and this is where the sewing pattern comes into place!
A sewing pattern includes all the pieces that will shape your future garment. Each piece is indicated with several lines or gradations that you can identify with a legend: these are the different pattern sizes.
The pattern comes with a measurement chart, which you can use on the pattern board to determine the size of the garment you wish to create. The pattern also comes with a detailed notice giving you the main information (possible fabric choices, which supplies to provide, …) but more importantly all the steps of assembling your garment from start to finish.
How to read a pattern
There area few important indications on each piece of the pattern, guiding you through both the initial steps and the more advanced later on.
How to position the piece on the fabric:
The main thing to know is the meaning of the straight grain. For warp and weft fabrics, the warp is parallel to the strap (edge of your fabric) and the weft is perpendicular to the selvedge. The straight grain corresponds to the warp thread, which is parallel to the selvedge.
Not respecting the direction of the straight grain will affect your work, the fabric is slightly elastic in the direction of the weft, while it is not in the direction of the warp. For this reason your garment will fall badly and will most likely deform if the direction of the straight grain isn’t respected.
In how many separate pieces you should cut your fabric:
Unless indicated, otherwise fold your fabric bolt in 2 (right sides together of the fabric) the selvedges overlap. The fold of the fabric follows the direction of the straight grain.
A couple of examples are as follows:
– If your piece says “x1 folded fabric” position the piece edge on the fabric fold.
– If your piece says “x2 fabric” put the piece on the fabric, cut and get 2 pieces of mirrored fabric (eg for the sleeve piece).
– If your piece says “x4 fabric”, it will be necessary to carry over the piece twice on the fabric and you will get x2 2 mirror pieces (i.e. 4 pieces of fabric).
Rest assured, the instructions contain a cutting layout that shows the pattern position pieces on your fabric.
Your piece will often include additional indications, such as notches and marks:
– Notches give the location of a zip, a slot, a mounting limit of a collar
– Marks to position a pocket, buttonhole, a button
– Mounting notches: these notches are superimposed when you assemble 2 pieces together
– Clips, folds etc …
You must put all these indications on your fabric, either by a small nick of a few mm, a tailor’s chalk, or an erasable pen (you can draw a path or a location by making large points to the hand with a contrasting coloured thread).
A few tips.
- Sewing a garment may require some adjustments. Do not immediately cut your board in the chosen size, but copy it instead (I use tissue paper, you can easily use pattern paper). Copy all indications: pattern name, chosen size and, of course, all the landmarks. If you cut the piece you won’t be able to use this pattern in the available other sizes.
- Sewing allowance: some brand patterns offer included sewing margins (The sewing distance is included and indicated in the instructions, which means this will be even less work for you.), while others give the dimensions of the piece without adding the margins. In this case, transfer the seam margin all around the copied piece before cutting it. Usually this is 1 cm (0.4”) but it depends on the end result you are aiming for.
- A sewing pattern can be offered in different formats: the pattern cover that includes a layout and all the instructions in the same packaging. You can put the pattern directly in the cover and the PDF template: you have to download and print the template, then assemble the “puzzle” pages and tape it. In this case, I usually put my patterns in labelled A4 folders.
- Make a canvas. This consists of firstly sewing a pattern in an ordinary fabric (which respects the indications for the fabric choice), without dwelling on the finishes, in order to check the size, the fall, the position of the clips etc. … Draw any modifications on your canvas, and write them down on a sheet that you will store with your pattern so when you start sewing your beautiful fabric, everything will be on point!
Well … you are now ready to handle your first sewing pattern.
Don’t forget to check the required sewing level (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and choose to start with a pattern that requires an easy fabric (cotton, twill).