What Sewing Pattern Do I Buy?
Even when you have been sewing a while, choosing and buying a pattern can either be a bit daunting; or you may randomly buy any pattern that takes your fancy and have a huge collection most of which you have never used but like the look of. When it comes to choosing a pattern to make up there are several questions you should ask yourself.
What skill level have I reached?
Would I consider myself to be a beginner?
Have I developed into a competent sewer?
Am I now an expert sewer who could tackle just about anything?
A lot of published patterns state on them that they are easy or beginner patterns these generally have a lot less pieces, rely on a relaxed fit and quite often don't have a zip. At the other end of the scale you are moving into territory where zips, invisible zips, darts, collars and plackets begin to appear. There is a whole other language to sewing and on a mainstream pattern such as Simplicity, New Look, Burda, Butterick or McCall's you will come across this. To learn what these terms mean you could either go on a course, buy a book of comprehensive sewing terms and techniques or go on YouTube where there is a wealth of free tuition available.
What do I want to wear this for?
What do I see myself making this for?
A smart outfit for work, or maybe something special for an event, or do I just want to have a go at something I can relax in?
Something smart or special doesn't have to be a complicated and elaborate pattern, sometimes the simplest style in a quality fabric can make a bold statement. For leisurewear, you can get some great patterns that have multiple garments in them so look for value for money and lots of choice.
So you've decided what you want to make and what it is going to be worn for, but what actual style do you go for?
When I first started sewing the bottom of my wardrobe soon filled up with things that although well made didn't look the same on me as they did on the model on the front of the envelope. I wasn't being realistic with my expectations, the models are immensely tall and skinny and I was a slightly chubby teenager. To find styles that suit you look in your wardrobe, what do you love to wear, what gets complimented whenever you wear it. This is a good starting point. Another great thing to do is to go clothes shopping but instead of buying try loads on. Take a trustworthy friend with you and explain that you are trying to work out what styles suit you the best.
There can be confusion with pattern sizes, before you commit to buying check whether the sizing on the pattern is UK sizing USA sizing or European sizing. Then check that the pattern covers your size some come in multiple sizes but they are split into groups e.g. 8-14 then 16-20 then 22-26 so you need to be sure your size is there. Also look out for petite versions of patterns and plus size versions. Once you have bought the pattern you may need to make adjustments to it for a good fit, this is a whole other area we will cover in a post dedicated to pattern adjustments.
Your pattern will have a lot of suggestions on it regarding fabric and notions. Notions are all the bits and bobs that you need in addition to the fabric, such as buttons or a zip, thread, elastic, fasteners and such like. The fabric suggestions are very important because the designer will have designed with the characteristics of the fabric in mind.
A woven fabric is the most stable fabric to use it doesn't stretch or give and the pattern will have allowed for this.
A knit fabric is softer and more relaxed it generally drapes well and is often used for 'easy' patterns.
Stretch fabrics as the description suggests contain lycra or elastine that allow it to stretch. You can have a two way stretch fabric which will stretch either up and down or across the fabric but not both. A four way stretch will stretch up and down and across. For the best results stick to the fabric suggested on the pattern.
Do I really need to buy a sewing pattern?
So do you really need a pattern? Patterns can cost anything up to £12 or £13 if money is tight that might be the fabric money and there are ways around this. You could make your own pattern from an old favourite you loved but has had its day. Cut along all the seams and draw around the pieces, add a seam allowance and hey presto you have a pattern that fits in a style you like. Another way is to venture into the world of indie patterns makers. Indie pattern makers publish their patterns independently of the big pattern companies and sometimes they are free. To find indie patterns the best platforms are Etsy and Craftsy. The patterns are PDF patterns that you download and print off yourself. One word of warning Indie pattern makers are not regulated in any way, anyone can publish a pattern, so quality is not guaranteed so check reviews before you commit to fabric and start sewing.
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