There are many things that I wish I had known when I first decided to make my own clothing, so I hope that this post will help any one who has just started or is even just thinking about the possibility of building their own wardrobe.
- Plan your project
Mood Board : A great way to plan a project. use images and fabric swatches to help visualize the style ,fit ,color and overall feel of your garment. You can create a physical board by cutting and pasting or create one in an image editing program on your computer.
Sketch : My personal favorite way to get all of my ideas out. My first love was art and I still enjoy drawing and using watercolors and colored pencils to illustrate my designs.
2. Choose the right fabric
when you have your design all planned out it is important that you choose the appropriate fabric. I could do a whole post just on this subject and I most likely will, but for starters pick an inexpensive fabric that is going to best suit your garment. A skater skirt or dress like these… calls for a knit fabric with lots of drape .
If you want to tackle a classic dress like these
then a cotton or cotton blend woven fabric works best. These fabrics have little to no stretch so a zipper or buttons will be necessary. You will learn by looking at many fabrics what each one is right for. Also, If you are using a pattern the fabric suggestions in the instructions will help point you in the right direction.
3. Use the right needle
These are some of the needles I own and have learned to use for the right materials. To start it is great to have these in your sewing kit.
Ball point needle: use for knit fabrics
11/75 : Light weight fabrics such as chiffon, organza or voile
90/14 : Medium weight fabrics. cotton, jersey knit
100/16: Heavy weight fabrics like denim ,corduroy and wool
4. Have all your supplies ready
When you are ready to sew it’s important to have everything you might need all ready to go. Your pattern ,fabric, needles, thread, Scissors, a marking tool like tailors chalk, a seam ripper to fix those inevitable mistakes,( I still cannot live without a seam ripper!) pins ,pin cushion. measuring tape, ruler. These basics come with a decent sewing kit so that should be all you need to get started.
5. Know Your Measurements
This step is so important to making sure your garments fit correctly. Your height is the first measurement that you can record, There are 3 basic measurements that you need to know to choose your size whether you are sewing an existing pattern or drafting your own.
Bust– measure around the fullest part of the chest
Waist– measure around the natural waist just above the bellybutton
Hips– measure around the fullest part.
more measurements will need to be taken if you plan to make intermediate projects like pants or a button down blouse, but for a beginner these four measurements will work fine. As an example my measurements at the moment are 35-29-39 and my height in 5 ‘7 . always remeasure yourself if you think they’ve changed over time.
6. Test fit or muslin
A muslin is a name for a test garment that is usually sewn using a fabric called muslin, however a muslin can be sewn out of any fabric as long as you are OK with it being ripped and resewn to perfect fit or possibly thrown away if it ends up unwearable. Believe me when I tell you, I have done this many times over the years. Its a good idea to make sure everything fits and looks the way you want before you cut into some gorgeous (and maybe expensive) fabric.
7. Pay attention to pattern markings
I am ashamed to say that when I first began sewing with patterns I would ignore the patterns notches and sometimes other markings. It took me making a more advanced pattern to realize how important they are!
There are many different markings that you will see on sewing patterns that will give you instructions on how to cut, sew, and alter your project.
Notches ∇∇∇ – in the seam allowance notches are used to match seams and make sure everything lines up correctly. I would leave these markings out when I first started tracing patterns.
Lengthen and shorten lines -will help you alter the pattern depending on your height.
Grain line – helps you lay the pattern the right way on the fabric
Fold line- cut this pattern piece on a folded piece of fabric. There are also markings for gathering,darts, and button holes. so pay attention and remember to transfer your markings to your fabric with tailors chalk.
8. Seam Allowance
This may seem like a simple thing but sewing the correct seam allowance will insure your garment fits and will leave you room to let it out if necessary. The standard seam allowance for most sewing patterns is 5/8 inch. Others may be 3/8 inch or 1/2 inch. Make sure you are sewing the seam allowance according to your pattern. When you get more advanced and start drafting your own patterns you will need to add your own seam allowance .
Once I started using an iron to press my fabric as I sewed I noticed how much easier it was to sew a hem, pleats or a collar when everything is pressed into place already. Making my Sutton blouse, button down shirts and kimono jacket would have been a disaster if I had skipped this step. I cannot live without my iron!
10. Just Do It!
Yes I know this isn’t really much of a tip but if you are thinking about starting a project and don’t because it seems out of your comfort zone, just try! . You won’t become better if you keep doing easy projects. I challenged myself and ended up sewing things I never thought I could like jeans, buttons down shirts, and even a fully lined coat. So no more excuses get that machine out and start sewing!