Trials and Tribulations of Pattern Making

As I embark on another lofty sewing project, I wanted to share with you some things I've learned along the way. Being a bit of a novice sewer, and one who is trying to be somewhat conservative with her money, I find myself skimping on things like patterns. Why spend money on tissue paper when I have a creative mind?

This has both the potential to turn out great, and to be extremely frustrating. Thus far, I've been lucky enough that my pattern-less designs have turned out ok in the end. However, I've shelved a couple projects for weeks at a time because, as someone who lacks a ton of experience, I am at a loss of how to fix the problems at hand.

I always start with a drawing. These can be extremely primitive, and mostly I draw them so I can then write down measurements, and plan how to cut my fabric. Typically, they're not to scale. Measurements are taken by holding up a tape measure to myself, or to my dress form.

Sometimes I use a piece of clothing I already have to base a new garment on. This is nice because I can measure (and stretch) the existing piece, rather than guess what part of my body is the right part to measure.

Once I have decided what I need to cut out, I start measuring my fabric, marking where I'm going to cut it. This is the part where I really wish I had a craft room with a sewing table, because my current choices for cutting my fabric are on my wood floor, on my kitchen table or on the carpet, with or without a cutting mat. (Can't WAIT until we own a house!). Once it's cut out, I pin and sew.

Sounds pretty simple, right? It can be, but here are just a few of the issues I've run into:

1) Straps of dress are too long, due to stretchy fabric being heavy.


This is made of a stretchy jersey fabric, which succumbs to gravity. I had to shorten the straps (and may do it some more, still)


2) Dress/top is lower-cut than anticipated, because I forgot the seam-allowance.


This dress is one of my favorite creations, but it is definitely low cut. I try not to bend over too much when I wear it.


3) There is a TON of fabric gathered on the elastic waistband of a circle skirt.


This purple skirt is a simple circle skirt with an encased elastic waist. I tend to cover the top of the skirt with a shirt, though, because the fabric gathers so much.


4) Knit fabrics pucker when hemmed without a serger or binding.


I ironed out the neckline right before I took this picture, but as the night wore on, and the next time I wore the shirt, it was quite ruffled. I ended up binding the neckline with bias tape.


5) Fabric does not stretch as much as anticipated - have to let garment out.


Layering these fabrics caused them to stretch a lot less than they did by themselves, so I had to improvise and put in some extra fabric. I guess I could have measured, wrong, too ;)


6) Fabric stretches more than anticipated (or I left to much of a seam allowance) - have to take garment in.


I made this skirt for Valentine's Day this year, and I left WAY too much fabric for the waistband. Here, I actually have the skirt safety pinned, because we had to get to dinner, and the bow is hiding my mistake.


7) The front of a garment requires more fabric than the back (due to female anatomy), leaving extra fabric in the back, and making me look frumpy.


Originally, the top part of the dress was just a tube that was the same height the whole way around my body, but I ended up taking the sides and back in quite a bit.


8) Skirt is too long, have to shorten it.


This was the first skirt I ever made. It's a simple circle skirt, and it ended up being way too big everywhere. I had to take in the waist (by shortening the elastic inside the casing), and I took it up several inches.


9) Sewed the wrong side of the fabric. Either have to take it apart, or find creative way to cover the mistake.


Underneath these colorful Mickey heads is actually a seam I sewed the wrong way.


For problems 1, 6 and 7, figuring out the right way to take in the garment was the hardest thing for me. No one wants random, unsightly seams. However, I'm proud to say that I've successfully altered these projects, and they don't look too bad on. Lucky for me, problem 5 has only happened once, and somehow I managed to take it out alright.

The good thing about making my own patterns and having to overcome these obstacles, is that I am learning a LOT from my mistakes, and I have to come up with creative solutions (unless I want to throw something out, which I NEVER want to do). I have no one to blame but myself for the pickles I get into, and overcoming them feels amazing.

Now to get back to my big project... ;)