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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Tackling your first garment project (sewing for your darlings)

My longtime friend is tackling some dresses for her DDs and needs a little guide to her pattern readying - I thought recording it here might help her have a reference to return to - and, it might work for others too!

Either on your pattern envelope, on the website where you downloaded the pattern, or sometimes inside with the instructions you will find a size chart that correlates body measurements with the pattern's sizing.  Note that these might not (in fact, rarely) lineup with RTW sizing.  I have captured an image of sizing from a Simplicity pattern close to what my friend is starting with - you should definitely use the sizing chart for your particular pattern.

HOT TIP:  it would be a really great idea if you had the following measurements BEFORE you buy your pattern - that way you make sure you buy the correct pattern size group.

Pattern Sample:

I used an image of the words above to eliminate those creepy crawlers from zoning in on some keywords....  I hope you can see the words.  The key trick is the waist marker: tie a piece of elastic or a ribbon snugly  around the waist and get your darling to wiggle around until it settles - this will be the narrowest spot - the waist.  Leave the string in place, and measure.

Once you have made the measurements, use a pencil, or on a copy, circle the measurements that you have recorded.  Note - your babies will change measurements constantly (my twelve year old grew 6 inches this school year) so try not to permanently mark the pattern: that will complicate future recording of markings.
This is a little ahead of the game, but: if you are able, trace your pattern rather than just cutting it out of the printed paper. This will allow you to return to the pattern again later when your child's measurements change, or when the tracing has become tattered from use. Before you get started, take a minute to lightly iron/press your pattern paper. Tracing is easily done using some sort of transparent paper, and I find it easiest if the table top I am using is light coloured. If you can't trace, start with a highlighter to mark your pattern size, take note of the method for blending a pattern size below.
It will make tracing your pattern very easy if your child's measurements all fall into one size, but that's somewhat unusual.  Does your darling's measurement look like this on the chart? Let's start with the red circles:

Children are often little cylinders or pears - and this is NORMAL.  The size chart is a nicely averaged series of measurements (and the model the company uses changes from region to region and over time) -  always measure and never take offence - aren't we all unique little snowflakes?
Now, take a look at the blue line above - The garment measurements indicate the ease in the pattern is 2 inches at the chest - there's room to breathe, and a little room to grow. Over time you will develop a sense of how much ease you need for different pattern/fabric/fashions but my experience has been that I can usually start with what the Big 4 suggest (McCall's/Vogue/Butterick/Simplicity... Kwik Sew and Burda get included in there - these pattern companies have a standard that (for each one) is consistent, and usually tried). I always check to see if there is any head's up from another sewer/sewist - an opinion that the sizing is generous might have me make a trial garment before I cut into my precious fabric.

So my example snowflake is clearly about to grow - the belly is lovely and full - knowing that my darling is going to need a little extra room in the belly is going to help me greatly.
I am going to blend my pattern to allow me to make room for the belly and booty.  

The chest is a 7 in this pattern - and then the darling needs a jump of room for the belly to a 12 (just to be sure I will go back and remeasure.... it's easy to make an error, and that's a big jump but this snowflake IS just 2 and 1/2 inches bigger in the belly than the pattern's model.)

So what's blending?  It means that when you lay out your pattern pieces you are going to take note of where the waistline indicator is, and you will start by tracing the size seven line at the chest and above, but as you approach the waist you will gradually shift you pen to tracing the 12 - the grade should be consistent on each piece.
Now - where is the waistline?  You took a measurement above for the back-neck to waist - and the pattern indicates (by my 4th red circle) that my darling snowflake's waist falls at the size 8 waistline marker.  The pattern should show a mark at the waistline.

On the sample Simplicity gored skirt pattern above, you may have 8 pieces to make the skirt:
  1.  1 piece for the 4 side panels (cut 4 of the same piece, 2 at a time with fabric right sides together),
  2.  1 piece for the front (cut 1 on the fold), and,
  3.  1 piece for the back (cut 2 at once, right sides together).  
To ensure consistency, on all three pattern pieces,  use a ruler, starting at least 3cm from the top edge mark a line to start the blending on the size 7 line and then 4cm above the waistline (see above) mark a line to complete the blending then below the waistline you will continue following the size 12 .  If this were a fitted skirt (or pants) you would blend back a size at the hips, but this skirt is loose and won't suffer from the volume at the bottom, and you might lose the desired shape. I find it easiest to draw a straight line from one mark to the other and then if necessary go back and imitate the curve of the pattern's cutting line if there is a curve.

On this dress, the cap sleeve is snug at the arm - take a minute to measure your darling's bicep - the pattern might have this measurement indicated - usually on the pattern piece itself (the bust, waist, hip and bicep are usually indicated with a circle with a cross through it).  If the pattern is too small you may want to  expand the sleeve a little - this can be done without altering the sleeve head (the part of the sleeve that attaches at the shoulder).This is a good set of instructions for altering a sleeve from In House Patterns.
The bust, bicep, waist and hip might be marked on the pattern with this symbol, usually accompanied by the garment's measurement at this location.

When you trace, carefully copy the location of the pattern markings, taking care to mark the notches especially. On the sample Simplicity pattern there should be notches to match the skirt to the bodice.  Always take a minute when you are cutting to notch the fabric accordingly, and to add notches at centre front, centre back, and at the foldlines of pieces cut on the fold (often centre front/back).

There we have a start on getting ready to cut the fabric - make sure you wash your fabrics ahead of time, and have your cutting tools ready. I'll make another entry in this blog for cutting tips and tricks, later.

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