Wise up Wednesdays: Matching fabric to your pattern

Many patterns give suggestions of the types of fabric which might be suitable.  But how do you know if you could substitute something else (perhaps something special from your stash) if it isn’t listed in the suggestions.  There may be times when you can deviate from the pattern suggestions and end up with an even more special garment, personalised to you.

If this is something you are thinking about, here are my thoughts and process for deciding if a fabric will be suitable for the project I have in mind.

  • How similar is your chosen fabric to the suggestions?

If you are substituting one fabric for another similar one then you will probably be fine without making any modifications.  For example, using an upholstery weight cotton for a skirt pattern which suggests denim, cotton twill or corduroy.  Here all the fabrics are all woven and of similar weight and drape, so there will not be any real change to how the pattern fits or is constructed.

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However, if you wanted to make the same skirt in a lightweight cotton lawn, this is significantly lighter than the pattern suggestions.  To get the same effect, you may need to line or interline your fabric, and consider adding interfacing to keep the structure of your garment.

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In making my K4015 coat (which will be revealed on Sunday) the fabric recommendations include double-sided pre-quilted fabrics, laminated fabrics, or water repellent fabrics. I chose to ignore them and made my coat in a wool/acrylic blend with no changes to the pattern, because I was ok with my coat being a little sloucher than the pattern samples.

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What if you want to make bigger changes though?  Keep reading on for my thoughts!

  • Woven or Knit?

What qualities does you pattern require.  One of the first decisions might be about stretch- how much do you need to make the pattern work and how will you get the item on and off if previously it relied on stretch rather than fastenings.  My Rowan bodysuit needed fabric with stretch in both directions to help get it on, off and to fit.  Many jersey or knit patterns need stretch to fit the neckline over your head.  Substituting for something with less stretch may mean you can’t even get your new outfit on, let alone move in it!

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Modifying a jersey pattern to a woven is not terribly common, partially because many jersey or knit patterns rely on negative ease to fit, meaning that the finished measurements are actually smaller than the body measurements.  This is fine when your fabric has stretch, but patterns for woven fabrics need to include ‘ease’ or a bit of extra space for you to move, breathe and take it on and off.  Melly at Melly Sews has a good set of questions and considerations that you may need to think through when changing your fabric from the pattern suggestions.

If you are planning on making a woven pattern in a knit fabric you may need to make a few pattern modifications, such as sizing down, removing fastenings/zips and switching out facings for bands at the neck or sleeves.  It does depend though on what type of knit fabric you use.  A Ponte de Roma or scuba doesn’t usually have a huge amount of stretch, nd is pretty stable so may not need huge modifications. Tilly at Tilly and the Buttons does have two blog posts talking about adapting woven patterns for knits.  One is all about using Ponte and the other talks about modifying a pattern for a lighter weight jersey.  I would say, that for both of these options, the key to success is actually looking at qualities of the pattern you are going to sew, which brings me neatly onto my next consideration.

  • Drape or Structure?

Another consideration is how should the fabric move? Should it be fluid and drapey, or does it need structure and weight to hold the shape of the pattern?  This is something which I do struggle with from time to time.  My basics pocket skirt was made with a linen, but unlike the light linens in the samples, mine was a bit stiff and heavy.  This means that my finished skirt is a bit more structured than it should be. I’m still hoping that as it keeps getting washed it will soften up, but this is an example of not quite matching the requirements to the desired end resultIMG_1787

I now try to think through what is the shape of the garment? Will it be close fitting or will it need to skim over my body? This has helped my more recent projects to meet their intended purpose.  There is no point in dreaming up a flowing evening gown if the fabric that it is constructed in is too stiff to move and drape.

  • Print or Plain?

The other major consideration in my mind is about balancing the desire for lovely printed fabric, with the practicality of solid colours.  When I first stated sewing I was enticed by every cute print going, but they were hard to pair into my wardrobe because they didn’t go with anything.  In the last year, I have been more disciplined in thinking about what do I need.  Do I need another printed skirt, or is a plain t-shirt actually what is missing from my wardrobe.  If you are struggling t=with style considerations like these then perhaps the Colette Wardrobe Architect project posts might be useful in defining your style and what you want to wear and sew.  I am contemplating going through these posts for myself on the blog, so let me know if that is something you would be interested in reading.

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So I hope that has been helpful in considering what fabric to use for your next project.  Feel free to break the ‘rules’ though. Sewing is also about creativity and problem solving so go your own way if that is what you like.  Look back in next week for some thoughts on prewashing fabric ready for sewing.

 

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Simple skirt in the sunshine! Meet Clemence.

I love wearing skirts in the summer, so this simple gathered cotton skirt seemed perfect for visiting the bluebells for an evening picnic.  The skirt is another from Tilly and the Buttons’ first book, Love at first Stitch and is a very beginner friendly gathered rectangle skirt called Clemence.  The book guides you though drafting this basic pattern for yourself, which is a good place to start with pattern drafting and alterations, because Tilly’s instructions are as always excellent.

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This is actually the second of these skirts that I made, and is actually another early make.  For this second skirt I got a little more ambitious and drafted an un-gathered lining, made from an old sheet because the main fabric is a little transparent!

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As always, I also needed pockets.  The book talks you through making changes to the all the patterns, like including pockets in the or restyling the patterns to get a couple of different looks.

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I also decided to experiment with some of the decorative stitches on my machine to create an attractive pattern at the hem.

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It even has an concealed zip.  I keep returning to Tilly’s instructions for reassurance when I need to insert one still!  This one is actually pretty invisible and well matched.

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While this skirt has been in my wardrobe for over two years now, and my skills have undoubtedly improved, I still enjoy wearing these earlier makes.  I enjoy seeing how much I have learned and developed, but also it is satisfying to know that I am contributing to a clothing ethic that doesn’t view an item of clothing as something to wear once and discard.  For every year that I keep wearing these simple early makes I can sit happy knowing that I am reducing my impact on the planet and the disposable fast fashion culture.

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As a little bonus, I did also manage to find a picture of my first Clemence skirt from Me Made May Last year!  It is made in a mint green chambray from Calico Laine I think.  This one did have a couple of issues including being a bit big at the waist.  Fortunately/unfortunately the zip broke pretty quickly, so when I replaced it, I also sorted out the waist sizing, so this one is also in spring/summer wardrobe rotation.

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Grainline Moss- An Everyday Skirt

Yay for clothes that get worn everyday!  This skirt got hemmed then put on immediately and has hardly been taken back off since.  This is the Grainline Studio Moss Skirt, and I made the mini length in size 4 with no pattern changes.  The fabric is a larger scale corduroy from an eBay seller and can be found here.  I bought the zip, jeans buttons and lining cotton locally at Trago.

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I decided to make this skirt for two main reasons: One, it reminds me of a ready to wear skirt that I have had forever and wear all the time, and two, I am hoping to make a pair of jeans this year (having signed up the Closet Case Patterns online jeans making workshop) and wanted to have a first attempt at a front fly zip insertion.

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I feel like it has been a great success in both counts.  My zip went in really well, and the instructions in the pattern and the Grainline tutorial were fantastic.  Each step was explained simply and added up to a new skill mastered.  You would never know that this was my first attempt!

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The little details in the pattern are great too.  You may already have noticed that I like patterns with pockets and the pockets on the Moss Skirt are especially good.  They have a little extra space included to make them perfect for sticking your hands into, and have a clever facing that allows you to use a pretty lining fabric with no chance for it to peek out.

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The only changes that I made to the pattern were fairly minor.  I didn’t cut my fabric very well and ended up without enough to cut the waistband facing so I decided to cut it from my lining instead.  I also changed the construction order of the waistband because I was feeling too lazy to hand stitch down the facing so I switched to the instructions for adding a waistband from Tilly and the Buttons book Love at First Stitch.  This just meant that it was easy to ‘stitch in the ditch’ on my machine instead of pesky hand sewing.

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In a slight quirk, I set my jeans button in using the marks on the pattern without checking that it lined up properly.  This meant that it didn’t sit very well and the waistband was a little loose.  As a quick fix, rather than trying to remove it, I just added another button in the right place. Now you would never know once I am wearing it!

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This skirt is a little shorter than I would usually wear, but I love it’s casual vibes.  I’m sure I will make another at some point and perhaps lengthen it a couple of inches.  The pattern does include a knee length version with a hem band, but I think I prefer the clean look of the skirt as it and will probably just lengthen the pattern piece instead.

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Back to the beginning- Delphine Skirt

Today I thought I would go back to the beginning of my journey sewing clothes to the first item of clothing I made- a Tilly and the Buttons Delphine Skirt.  I made this skirt about 2 years ago and it is amazing to think of all the things I have learned since then!

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This skirt is so many firsts for me- a first concealed zip, first use of a paper pattern, first following of pattern instructions, and I’m so glad that this is the project I chose to try these things out on!  Tilly gives such clear instructions, and Love at First Stitch is an amazing book for a new dressmaker- it explains why you should do something, not just how.

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So then, back to the pattern.  Delphine is a simple A-line skirt, with a waistband and centre back zip.  I added belt loops though I never use them, and the fabric is a corduroy from Trago.

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This is such a beginner friendly pattern.  There are not too many pattern pieces, and the fit is very forgiving.  Provided your waist fits, the rest should be fine. As you can tell from these pictures, it is a lovely skirt for being active in- not too restrictive!

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I have made another Delphine since and that one I lined, but even that did not really add too much complexity because Tilly has a lovely tutorial on how to do it on her blog too.

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It was just so lovely to be out in the springlike sunshine to take these pictures!

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So, if you have been reading, please let me know what sorts of posts you would like to see in the future.  I have some more recent makes that I am planning to finish up and photograph soon, and also have a few thoughts on non-finished garment posts that I might share.  There are also lots of things in my wardrobe already that could be written up.  What would you like to see?  Pretty spring dresses? Some of my early makes (some more successful than others). Comment below, and I will look forward to seeing what you think.