OVERVIEW AND FAQs
This section is for you courageous stitchers out there who like to jump right in and sort it out as you go. Here are some basic facts you really should read over:
PATTERN MATTERS - Look at the pattern you have and check out the way the pattern company shows the markings listed below. A good explanation is usually on the instruction sheet somewhere in the beginning.
Grainline: Look really closely at your fabric and see how the threads go up and down and sideways. Match this arrow to the threads that go up and down, parallel to the selvage.
Fold line: Place this line on the fold in your fabric and cut around the other lines. Automatically you get the whole piece cut with half the work.
Cutting line: Cut on these lines.
Seam Line: For stitching!
Seam Allowance: The distance between the ragged edge and where you're supposed to stitch. Usually with clothes it's 5/8". If you have a pattern with a bunch of lines showing different sizes, the stitch lines aren't printed on the tissue. All those lines would drive you nuts. The lines are for cutting only but the extra seam allowance was already added. Trust me!
Notches and circles: For matching pattern pieces while you sew. Don't hack these off - they are very handy and keep you from messing something up.
Finished garment measurements: These help you figure out what size you wear. There's a measurement for around the bust and/or the hips on the Front pattern pieces and sometimes on the back of the pattern jacket. The measurement includes the distance around the body, plus extra "ease" so you can move, breathe and eat the day you wear this.
THE PERFECT FIT
A pattern is made to fit your body with extra ease for comfort and style. Hold the pattern up to your body to make sure it goes around. Also check if the sleeves, back or whatever is long enough. Once it's cut, it's too late to add it back! It's easy to change the length of something to fit better. Make sure to check your fit and make any pattern changes before cutting it out of fabric. Most patterns you'd buy in the store give you altering lines on pieces that you'd be likely to change such as sleeves, backs, fronts, etc. Check out the "General Instructions" on your pattern for the how-to.
To Shorten: Fold up the pattern piece taking out the right amount. Tape in place.
To Lengthen: Cut on the lines. Tape top half onto a spare piece of paper. Line up bottom half to the top and spread it apart the necessary amount. Tape the bottom half. Trim away excess paper and treat as a normal pattern piece. When there are no lines, just make the lower edge shorter or longer.
Pin and Fit: Pin or baste seams with right sides together, matching notches. Carefully try on the garment and make any changes before stitching final seams.
CUTTING AND MARKING
Pre-shrink fabric - Before you cut out your pieces, you should wash and iron the fabric in case it would shrink.
Layout - Find the chart on your pattern instructions with your fabric width and the item you plan to make. Circle it! Remember that if your fabric has a nap, a print that is up in one direction or a knit, use the "with nap" layout. For Double Thickness (with fold) fold fabric with the right sides together.
Stitch using a 5/8" seam allowance unless I tell you differently. Sometimes sewing machines have little guidelines scratched into the metal plate to the right of the needle area. Watch out for European machines that may only have metric markings. To be sure, get out your tape measure or ruler and find the line that matches your pattern. Line up the raw edge of your fabric with the correct line and stitch away!
Spread seam allowances apart and iron right down the middle. Occasionally you'll need to push both seam allowances to one side and press, but don't worry - I'll be sure to tell you.
LIFE WITH AN OVERLOCK (SERGER) MACHINE
Serge seam on the stitch line. Depending on your serger, it may automatically cut away any extra seam allowance.
Press the seam allowances to one side.
Overedge to finish a raw edge without cutting away any fabric.
Lay the interfacing with the nubby side up. The little nubs are the glue on one side of the interfacing. With wrong sides against the glue, pin each cut piece to the interfacing without overlapping any edges. Cut out each piece. Now you'll have to read the directions that come with the interfacing. You'll probably need a press cloth and definitely an iron.
Stretchy fabrics need to be stitched differently than woven fabrics. Otherwise, the fabric will stretch and the thread won't. Broken stitches are a real pain.
Method 1: Using a regular sewing machine, stitch with a straight stitch, stretching fabric evenly in front and behind the needle. Press seams open - or - stitch again 1/8" to ¼" from first stitching, stretching as you stitch. Second stitch may be a narrow zigzag stitch. Cut away extra seam allowances outside the zigzag and press to one side.
Method 2: Use special knit stitch on zigzag machine for sewing stretch knits. Check your sewing machine manual for suggestions.
Method 3: Serge seam on the stitch line. Depending on your serger, it may automatically cut away any extra seam allowance. Press the seam allowances to one side.
Finishing edges: Don't bother to finish the raw edges since most knits won't unravel. If you're a real neatnick finish raw edges with a zigzag or serging stitch. Lightweight knits like t-shirt fabric can be finished by folding under ¼" to one side and stitched next to the fold.