Monday, January 15, 2018

Sewing with Sew Chic - Preparing to Sew

Welcome to the Sew Along for Simplicity #8439

Though this is officially a "sew along" this first post is also written for the general audience who wants to successfully plan out their sewing projects.  For some of my readers, this may be their first introduction to my style, so let me introduce myself! I am the owner, designer, and pattern maker at Sew Chic Patterns where we make “Modern Patterns with Vintage Style”  at and for several years now, I am very excited to also have been designing exclusive styles for Simplicity as well. Because of the work I do, I have plenty of experience in planning, and let me tell you, the preparatory work before sewing is among the most critical decisions you will make. Take a wrong turn with fabric, size, alteration (or lack thereof) and you can get yourself into a heap 'o trouble down the road. 

 Gather Supplies
Before we begin, you’ll need to buy you pattern and gather supplies.  Besides your basic sewing supplies, here is a list of other supplies that I find useful and will be using:

  • pattern paper
  • tape (magic tape is transparent and can also be written on)
  • highlighter
  • Dritz Superboard cardboard cutting mat (can be pinned into)
  • Hemmer (or yard stick) - not shown
  • Chakoner chalk
  • plastic see thru gridded ruler
  • Seam gauge
  • Double stick removable tape
  • Tracing wheel
  • Dressmakers Carbon
  • Reader’s Digest Complete guide to sewing (1970’s version)

The RD book is the best sewing reference book, and in my opinion, it’s the only sewing book you’ll ever need.  It covers just about everything to do with garment sewing and any technique you will want to know is in there with great step by step instruction and illustrations. This book is always available on Amazon for just a few dollars.

Everyone has their preferred method of marking, and mine is usually the “wax” type dressmakers carbon. It makes a better line I can see, it doesn’t rub off all over your fabric, and the line doesn’t disappear before I need it. It's difficult to find. I buy mine in vintage shops and at Richard the Thread online store. (The wax type is  pictured on the left and the dusty “no wax” style is on the right.) Do place a little mark of the wax type on your selvage edge of your fabric before you prewash your materials to make sure it will remove sufficiently.
 If I can’t mark on my fabric for any reason (the weave or fabric type won’t tolerate it) my next “go to” is chalkoner style chalk marker. Sometimes pencil can also do an adequate job as runner up for marks inside the seam allowance or on a dark fabric.
My third favorite method is tailor tacks, or marking with needle and thread because it's time consuming, however, some projects require it. If your mark needs to show on the right side of the fabric then this will likely be the best solution. This blog post should get you started:

The back of your pattern lists the suggested fabric weaves and fibers. These are the safest choices because the designer had these in mind when deciding on both the design and the construction. Choose a soft fabrics and the garment will hang limp with a soft close-to-the-body hang. Firm fabrics with body will provide more structure and shape to the garment. A word of caution: The pattern of your choice will be designed and sized for either KNITS or WOVENS. These two are not interchangeable. Similarly, going outside of the recommended list does not necessarily mean your project is doomed, but just be prepared for challenges.  Be sure to check the “Notions” section on the pattern for more supply requirements. How much fabric to buy is listed on the back of the pattern for your size.  

Do a pre-cleaning, pre-shrinking test

What is the recommended care of your fabric? Check the end of the bolt, or the online seller listing to be sure you know the recommended cleaning method for your fabrics and trims.  Do a pre-wash with your fabrics, linings, and trims with that recommended method before starting any work on your garment.  If you will be dry cleaning, it is wise to take your fabric to give it a once through.  It your fabric is an unknown, make a decision and try it! This is the only way to pre-shrink the fibers, ensure compatibility, and avoid surprises. Should you pre-shrink interfacings? This is a dilemma even for me. Wovens are a definite yes. Pellon, the maker of non-woven interfacings swear they don’t shrink, but I’m not sure I believe it. I don’t pre-shrink pellon (wetting with warm water under the tap and drip dry) but rather I do a fuse test with my fabric to ensure compatibility before I cut. This fuse test then goes into the washer for the final up match test.  The point is to do everything you can to ensure your materials are well-suited. Once the garment is made, it’s so very disappointing to find out the materials are unsatisfactory, spoiling an otherwise beautiful project.

Measuring for Size 

Sew Chic patterns contain all sizes from 2-18, and Simplicity patterns have divided their sizing into at least two size ranges which vary from misses to women’s sizing. Not too many of us fit one size only, so multi-sizing is really handy, and it’s expected that you will need and use more than one size. Both Sew Chic and Simplicity patterns are made for a “B” cup, which is to say that the pattern is drafted for a person whose full bust is 2” more than the chest measurement- and this may or may not match the bra you are wearing.  The chest (sometimes called the high bust) gives us an indication of the shoulder width, so with garment making, the cup size in garment making is really a comparison of shoulder width to full bust width.  

Except for the chest (which is measured under the arm and above the bust),  all horizontal measurements should be parallel to the floor. Using two yard sticks taped together, measure from the floor to your bust point and place a pin. Measure the back from the floor up to that same point and place a pin horizontally. You may need a friend....or a mirror and tape your stick to a wall. I’ve placed a cross pin so my measuring tape can slip in there and keep my measuring tape parallel to the floor.
Write your measurements as you go.

step 1: measure the chest

1. Measure above the bust for a chest measurement. 

Step 2: measure the bust

2. With the tape in the same location at the back, measure across the bust point.

Step 3: measure the waist

3.The waist is located between the hip bone and the rib cage. Wearing a thin belt can help. Measure above or below, not over the belt.

Step 4: measure the hip

4. This dress won’t need a hip measurement, but we’ll take it anyway. Measure the hip across the widest, most protruding span of the buttocks.
Step 5: measure the backwaist

5. I’ve put a necklace on my mannequin to locate the base of the neck and you can do the same if you  have a hard time finding that one special bone. Measure your torso length from the base of the neck to the waist. This is your back waist length measurement.

Now check your measurement against the pattern size chart. The chest measurement for this pattern is 2” less than the bust chart measurement. I’ve added this pattern measurement to my chart in red pictured below.   Compare your CHEST and BUST measurements:

Pattern will require a SMALL bust adjustment
No adjustment is needed
Pattern will require a FULL bust adjustment

Circle your size based on your bust or chest measurement as recommended on the above chart. Circle your waist, hip, and backwaist too. Buy the size category that most closely spans your group of measurements. 

If your measurement runs between both categories, buy your pattern based on your chest.  A good fit in the shoulder is the most important, and adjusting the waist and hip is easy. 
ONE WORD OF CAUTION: All of my patterns, both Sew Chic and Simplicity are drafted to be TRUE TO SIZE. If you make a size smaller “because that’s what I usually make” it will be too small.  This pattern was designed to have a fitted look with a minimum ease in bust waist and hip. 

Buy your pattern at any of your usual Simplicity retailers and get your other supplies together. Wash your fabrics. Next I will go over prepping your pattern to cut, covering the full and small bust adjustment, along with length and width alterations and transitioning between sizes.

See you then!