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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Wise up Wednesdays: Collecting fabric and notions

Following on from my post last week, I am planning to elaborate on each of the parts of sewing preparation.  Here is part 1, and the process that I follow.

Have a look through the first part of the pattern.  Usually early on in the instructions there will be a list of notions and fabric required for your project.  Have a read through, and make sure you know what everything is.  Google can be your friend here if you need help!

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Have a look at the sizing too, and check that when you go fabric shopping you buy enough for the size you plan to make.  Many patterns give fabric recommendations, and while you don’t have to follow these, think about the qualities that you want you finished garment to have and try to match this to your fabric choice.  I will cover this in more detail next week.  If you have one, don’t forget to check in your fabric stash too.  You might find that you have the perfect fabric already there for ‘free’.

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If you need to, make sure that your fabric is prewashed, and pressed and we will talk a little more about how to decide and how to prewash fabric in future weeks too.

As mentioned in my pattern storage blog post, I like to store any notions (and fabric which is small enough) with my pattern in plastic popper wallets.  You know then that when you come to sew, everything will be there ready for you with no rummaging around in other boxes or pots.

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On more complicated patterns, I like to tick everything off as I get it together.  There is nothing more frustrating than getting halfway through the sewing and then discovering that you have missed something essential.  Running out to buy extra elastic or thread halfway through does not make for a relaxing sew.

They say that prior preparation prevents poor performance, and setting up right helps the sewing process to be more fun!

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Wise up Wednesdays: How do I start a sewing project?

Have you ever sat down to start a sewing project, turned on your machine, and then discovered that there is no way this is going to work?  You’ve failed to cut out one of the pattern pieces, and there is no more of that fabric? You didn’t check your collection of zips and now you don’t have one of the right length? Or the thread that you thought was sat waiting for you ran out on your last project?

Sound familiar?  The time you spend preparing for a project can save you so much time in the long run.  These are my top tips for preparing to sew.  I’m going to be putting together more in depth posts on each of them in the next few weeks.

  1. Prewash your stash (and your new purchases too)
  2. Read through the fabric and notion requirements (and tick them off when you have them assembled)
  3. Match your fabric choice to your pattern.  Does the pattern need drape or structure, woven or knit?
  4. Cut out your pattern pieces, leave them labelled and tick them off the pattern guide.
  5. Skim through the pattern instructions and make sure you understand any new techniques. Practice if required!

Wise Up Wednesdays- Your most important tool?

I think for most of us, one of the most important tools in our collection is the trusty seam ripper.  No matter how experienced or careful you are, mistakes happen!

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How many is too many though? The humble seam ripper is one of those tools which in my experience anyway seems to roll under you machine, get put down somewhere funny and disappear!  This is why I believe there can never be too many in your arsenal!  I usually have one in my sewing machine, one with my pins, another in my tray of tools and one floating around somewhere on the desk!

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You might be surprised to learn however, that not all seam rippers are created equal, nor do they last indefinitely.  Over time, the little cutting surface does blunt and if you have had yours for a while, it might be time to start thinking about replacing it.

 

 

I am particularly liking this clover unpicker at the moment.  Being blue, it does seem easier to find, and the slightly larger size also seems to help with that too!

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How often do you replace your tools?  Do you have any tricks to keep your most used tools where you can find them?

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As an aside, this is the last Wednesday post that I have planned for a little while. I thought that I would give myself a break over the summer, especially as I am off on holiday to Italy at the weekend.  Don’t worry though, my regular Sunday posts will continue, and I have a couple of things written and scheduled for while I am away too.  Hope you all have lovely holidays planned- I’m certainly looking forward to mine!

Wise up Wednesdays- Why might you want a seam gauge?

This is one tool that I really cannot live without.  It is always close at hand when I am sewing and pressing because accuracy really does matter!

IMG_2065So why is this tool so much more convenient than a ruler, or tape measure?

 

The key is in that little red wedge.  This is able to slide up and down the gauge to a selected measurement. It is easy to move, but it does stay in position by itself.  This makes this such a handy tool for measuring seam allowances, needle position, and marking buttonholes.

Where it really comes into it’s own though is in pressing up hems.

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Because the little wedge stays in position, it is really easy to use to measure a section of hem as you press it into place.  You get a consistent measurement, and can just roll the hem into place.  The wedge marker just butts up against the folded edge of your fabric.  Perfect!

There are a couple of bonus useful features too.  The one I use most often is the point turner.

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This is a little rounded point, designed tor turning out corners without puncturing back through yous stitching.  I know there are lots of improvised alternatives such as knitting needles, or chopsticks, but I have found this little point great because it is already near at hand and it does turn out collar points beautifully.

Do you use a seam gauge in your sewing or do you measure another way?  Are there other tools that you couldn’t sew without?

How do I store my patterns?

Today is a slightly different type of post.  Life is busy and it can be tricky to make and photograph things every week.  This week I thought I would share my pattern storage and a couple that I am looking forward to making up in the near future.

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I have collected quite a range of patterns over the last couple of years, including books, magazines and paper or pdf patterns.  I still refer back to Love at First Stitch which was my first introduction to dressmaking, but I have also gathered a few other books as inspiration including From Stitch to Style and Gerties Ultimate Dress Book.

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These folders contain most of my patterns.  They are just A4 popper wallets in various colours.  As my pattern collection has grown, I have definitely needed to get more organised to make it easy to find what I want.  The colour coding is the first part of that.  Different types of clothing are in different coloured wallets and then they are divided up even further into box files.

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The box files were just plain brown cardboard files, but I have used decoupage in pretty coloured papers to make them unique and more attractive.  The labels are just letter stickers.

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Each envelope just has an ordinary address label stuck on so that I can see which is which without pulling them all out.  Inside is usually the pattern illustration, sizing chart and the pattern pieces themselves.  I don’t usually print the instructions.  They are just kept in a folder on my computer and I use the digital copy as needed to save paper.

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The great thing about the folders is that I can also use them to start collecting notions for a project in, such as zips, buttons or threads.  For smaller patterns like tops, I can even put the cut out fabric in the envelope with the pattern until I am ready to sew with it.

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I do have a couple of other places that patterns get stored.  A few smaller patterns or templates like baby booties, bibs and an eye mask are kept in this ring binder in ordinary plastic wallets.  The patterns in here are mostly single pieces or so small that they don’t need a whole popper wallet to themselves!

Finally, these wicker hampers contain most of my printed patterns, particularly any that come free with magazines.  I think this is one place that I do need to do a bit of a sort out soon, because I think I have some patterns here that I have no intention of using.  Maybe I can find a pattern swap so that they can be of use to someone else.

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I hope you enjoyed that glimpse into my sewing room and perhaps some of the things that are on my to sew list!  Let me know in the comments if you would like more posts about things like this.  How do you store your patterns?

 

Wise up Wednesdays- Fabric Marking Tools

Whatever it is that you sew, from time to time you will need to make measurements or markings on your fabric, but you almost certainly don’t want them to stay there once you are finished sewing!  I have used a whole range of different tools for this job, and I have a selection to share with you today.

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A common and simple option is some form of chalk pencil.  These can be rubbed out and removed by using the little plastic ‘comb’ on the back of the pencil.

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They come in a few different colours- I have white for marking on dark colours, and blue for lights.  The advantage of these is that it is just like writing with a pencil.  You can keep it sharp, it doesn’t stain, and doesn’t rub off too quickly either.  The disadvantage is that the marking line may not be as clear as you might like when sewing.  You can also use a tailors chalk triangle in a very similar way.

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Another similar option is a powder chalk or Chaco liner.  Again, I keep a couple of colours to make marking on a variety of fabrics and colours easy.

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These have a little metal ‘wheel’ instead of a nib which transfers a small amount of the powdered chalk as you draw with it.  It can be easier to use than a pencil because the wheel helps the liner to move over the surface of the fabric without bunching and pulling it.  Again, the chalk line can be brushed off when you are finished.  I have found that sometimes the line does need to be transferred a couple of times because sometimes sections get skipped which might mean a less accurate marking.  You can buy chalk refills for these in loads of colours though!

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Next up, is the water erasable pen.  This does tend to be my tool of choice.  It is easy to use and the marking is nicely pigmented and long-lasting while you are using it.IMG_2078

Then, when you are finished you just wash it out.  I know that some people will use these pens with caution on pale coloured fabrics in case they stain, but I have never had any issues with trying to get the colour back out when I am done.

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The final option is an air erasable pen.  This has many of the same properties as a water-erasable pen, but it removes itself over time with contact with the air.IMG_2082

I don’t use mine all that often because the colour does tend to fade quite quickly, meaning that if you mark you fabric one day, and then come to sew another, the markings will all be gone!  It can be useful though if you just need a short term mark, when aligning buttonholes for example at the end of a project.

Hopefully it is helpful to see what the markings from these tools actually look like.  What is your preferred method of marking onto fabric?

 

Head to Head- dipped hem t-shirts

Introducing the Patterns:

Molly Top & Dress by Sew Over Ita staple  kimono sleeved top with an option to add full length sleeves.  It has just 4 pattern pieces (3 if you choose not to add the longer sleeves) and is billed as “The perfect pattern to try sewing jersey for the first time, a hit with anyone who likes a quick, satisfying sew.” It also has an option for a jersey dress.

Briar Sweater and T-shirt by Megan Nielsona simple and stylish t-shirt or sweater.  Comes with a scooped front hem and dipped back to create a hi-lo profile.  Both cropped and full lengths, and a range of pocket, sleeve and neckline options.

Sizing and Fit:

Both are loose fitting drapey tops and I cut the smallest size in each.

 

 

Ease of Construction and Instructions:

Both patterns have clear instructions and illustrations.  I think the Molly top is probably slightly simpler to construct and understand, but that is partially due to having fewer pattern pieces and options.  I did learn how to do a neckline binding in the Briar instructions, but I did also have to check the Megan Nielson tutorial for some extra photographs just to be sure what was going on.

 

Value for Money:

This is a little tricky to compare because the Molly Top only comes as part of the Sew Over It eBook- My Capsule Wardrobe.  The Briar top is £13.49 on the Megan Nielson website, but has two lengths and a variety of styling options.  I think if you would be interested in some of the other items in the eBook such as the Alex shirtdress or Mia jeans then at £20 it is pretty good value for 5 patterns, most of which also have pattern variations included.

 

Features:

Hem:

Both have dipped hems at the back.  Molly has a dipped hem at the front, while Briar has a slightly cropped front for full hi-lo effect.  My personal preference is that I prefer the Molly front hem for tucking into skirts and I think the length at the back is also more flattering.  The Briar does look great though with jeans or a pair of shorts.

Neckline:

Briar does give options for a regular neckline band and for a clean finished neckline binding.  Molly just includes a simple jersey neckband.  Both necklines are scooped, with Briar being a little deeper.  Both seem to lie flat and even.

Sleeves:

I chose to keep both sleeves short, so the cut on sleeves of the Molly top to save a step.  That said, the Briar tee sleeve did ease in neatly without an gathering or puckering, so as sleeves go, this was easy to insert.

Overall Impressions:

I think my overall preference is for the Molly top.  The length of the dipped hem seems particularly flattering, and not having to insert sleeves for the short sleeved t-shirt does make this a very quick summer make.  If I make the Briar again, I will be shortening the dipped back hem a little.

However, I will add that it is very simple to alter the hemline of a jersey t-shirt, so if you already have one of these (or something similar) this is a very easy way to change up a pattern.  Katie from the Creative Counselor has just been doing a series on modifying a basic t-shirt pattern, so check it out if you want some ideas or techniques.

Wise up Wednesdays- Scissors

Today’s tips come about scissors.  I’m sure all of you have a whole range of different cutting tools.  These are the ones that I use.

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Paper scissors:  Even before I get to my fabric, I use these paper scissors to prepare PDF patterns and cut them to the right size.  I’m sure you all know to keep you fabric scissors for fabric only, so it is essential to have some paper scissors conveniently located so that you aren’t tempted!

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Thread snips:  I keep these nearby when sewing to tidy up loose ends and threads.

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Small scissors: of the tools here, I think these are used the most.  They are so versatile. They can be used to tidy up threads, trim down seams and generally just trim or notch anything that needs it.

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Fabric Shears: I think every dressmaker deserve a decent pair of fabric shears.  They need to cut smoothly through several layers of fabric and have a long enough blade to make long clean cuts.  Comfortable handles are also useful if you are doing a lot of cutting, or cutting anything particularly heavy.  Make sure everyone in your house knows that using them for paper is banned!

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Pinking shears:  I love these to quickly trim back seams, particularly on curves seams where you will need to clip curves.  On a shallow curve, pinking the seam  might be enough without having to clip in close to your stitching.  They can also be a speedy seam finish because the cutting on the bias helps discourage fraying.

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Which scissors or tools can you not live without?