Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sew a pattern without instructions

If there were no written instructions, would you be able to put a sewing pattern together? This question isn't meant as a quiz for the highly intelligent or for only the practiced seamstress. If you know what all the lines and markings on your pattern are for, your answer should be a resounding YES.These lines and symbols are a pattern makers way of telling you how to assemble the pattern with as few words as possible.  You've seen them many times; they lie upon the edges of the cutting line, seam lines, and inside the pattern itself.

Notches are marks found on the cutting line. What they look like will depend upon the program that is making the pattern. They can be triangles, filled or not, or look like clip marks. We use notches ONLY when the shape of a pattern pieces look like another, or if a piece could be easily turned around, or on long seams where stretching or easing could use some guidance.

Symbols come in various types (circles, squares, triangles, lines) and are for interior construction, such as pleats, gathers, ease, and so forth. A symbol usually has a matching partner, and that's why there are so many types. This way we can put circles to circles and squares to squares. Everything should match up perfectly, and sometimes we will add words to the pattern to tell you what that line is for!

I'll use the hip sash section of the Myrtlewood pattern to show you what I mean. Here are two pattern pieces that go together, Piece A and Piece B. One is laid on top of the other. You can't tell that right away, as they are both very different shapes. Pattern Piece A actually has a back piece to it, but we are working with the front half for this example.
On this piece A, you should see darts, notches, symbols, a slash line, and a bent arrow grain line which means you need to cut it out on the fold line, with the grain.

On piece B, you should see pleat fold and match lines, as well as the direction to fold the pleat, symbols, notches, and a diagonal arrow which means that this pattern piece should be cut on the true bias. Bias has the most stretch in the fabric, and if it isn't cut out with the right grain, the pattern piece will not stretch or lay properly.

Because these pieces are sewn together on top of each other, the trick is to identify what goes to where. It would be easy to get them mixed up, or one upside down perhaps.  It's like putting together a puzzle, and a good idea to figure out how it goes together before you start sewing. If something doesn't match up, it's your cue that you may not have it right.

Here is a view of the front of that pattern a bit larger.

Can you tell what goes to what?

In the next diagram, I've identified what goes to where. Center Front and Center Back notes let you know where the pattern matches in front and back.

Clearly paying close attention to your pattern pieces is essential but you also want the item to fit exactly. If you are working with a pattern that doesn't quite match your proportions, explore my Pattern Resizing Tutorials, Part 1: Small to Large or Part 2: Large to Small.

I challenge you to sew your next pattern together without written instructions. Did you get the messages that the pattern maker was sending you?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

What is a Facing? Know your terms.

My sister asked me that question not long ago. Having a correct understanding of terms is pretty important, because these groups of words  that have a special designation are essential shortcuts for us. We can explain with one word what could take many sentences to say. If one or both people use or understand the word differently or don't know the meaning, then you can guess what might come next.

Sewing Cartoon: Death By Unfinished Object

Is the cartoonist saying that a Burda pattern - which is German made- is her means of death!? I hope not.

As a for instance, do you know the difference between rouching and shirring? How about interlining and interfacing? Pleats and gathers? A facing and a lining?

The internet has much good and useful information, but having a good quality book ready at hand is a good solution for understanding terms and technique and the proper way to execute them. Here is the book I recommend to my students: 
Yes, it's even the 1976 version. See how I save you money?? This book has everything about sewing that you'll ever need to know. If a pattern has you confused, this book can get you through it, step by tiny step, and get you sewing better than anything you'll find on the internet.

I was going to do terms quiz for you, but haven't the time today. Maybe next week. But here's an 8th grade quiz that will be a good start and could be kind of fun. Are you "smarter than an 8th grader"?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sew Chic Pattern Review in Threads Magazine

This week at the end of a phone order for the Phantom pattern, the caller says "You know Threads Magazine had a review of your pattern in this months issue." My voice brightens "You don't think I would MISS that do you?"  I knew the review was coming, but I didn't know what the review would say, or if it would be......left unprinted. The truth is I could very easy miss a review of another sort, if someone didn't mention it, so thank you to that customer who took the time to call in her order so she could tell me. How could she have known that inside my  mailbox last weekend was a huge manila envelope with this really spiffy folder:

Inside the folder was a letter congratulating me on the upcoming review, and along with two other sewing magazines published by Taunton, was the current Threads Magazine with a marker for a quick turn to the review: 

What? You say you'd like a closer look? Well, okay if you insist...

Not all reviews gets a photo of the outfit, so that was special too. I love to see the pattern come to life, and this ensemble is definitely modern chic. I love the wool they used for the pants. The review gives it a "challenging techniques" icon, probably because the jacket/shirt assembly is compatible with sheer fabrics. All but the center back, side, and armscye seams are enclosed. I used a serge on mine, but a french seam  would be top notch quality.
In this magazine was another bonus: Threads did an article on independent pattern companies. The caller hadn't read the article yet, but had noticed the Spin Skirt in the cover photo. It was truly an honor to be numbered among so many talented and skillful pattern makers.
 What did my family think? My son noticed his sister's face, barely visible in the corner, and exclaimed "Elise is famous!"

Ahhhh, trumped again. 

Please, if you write or see a review of one of  my patterns, do tell me about it. I wouldn't want to miss that!