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Topic: tips for following a dress pattern  (Read 3315 times)
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« on: June 02, 2006 05:09:57 PM »

so this is my first time making an actual clothing piece by myself, and i really would appreciate some help. seeing as this is my first one, i don't know exactly what i'm supposed to do... normally i would ask my mom and have her help me but i can't talk to her anymore.

so i guess my first question is about cutting. do i just use scissors? pin the template on the fabric? i have a rotary cutter and a cutting board.. are they useful?

gosh. i have a lot of questions and know of no one around here who can help. i guess what i really want is someone who can answer my questions for me when they come up.

anyways. this is probably too random and all-inclusive for anyone to reply.

btw, this is what i'm using. (i'm doing dress C first, the black halter top.)

« Last Edit: June 02, 2006 05:12:08 PM by ktgotskills » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2006 05:21:47 PM »

Admittedly-I wouldn't count my advice as the absolutely truth but here's my two cents.

1. Cutting-First, my momma irons out the paper, as its sorta rinkled (but shes a perfectionist). Then she irons the fabric, lays them both out on the floor and pins them together, smoothing them out between each step. I buy the spray adhesive, and lightly spray the back of the pattern-so that I feel better about the two not shifting. My momma also has fabric sheers esspecially for the purpose of cutting, but a good sharp pair will do. Look up knife sharpening on google, and you can sharpen your own. A few snip snips later, and your good to sew.

2. As for the sewing part-I always have trouble with seam allowances-making them consistant and even.

Whats your next question? Feel free to mail me personally-I have a horrible habit of forgetting posts.
Good luck!
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2006 05:42:39 PM »

Ok.  Locate your pattern guide sheet.  Find view C on the sheet and look for your fabric width and size.  Often there are different lay outs for different sizes.  Also, check to make sure that you have the one that corresponds with the nap you have...you probably don't have nap this time of year but often there is more than one view.  Find your lay out and CIRCLE IT.  Now lay your fabric so that it looks JUST LIKE THE GUIDE SHEET.   If the fold is at the top, lay it at the far side of the table.  If it is at the bottom, lay it near you.  Make sure that the edges of your fabric are even and there is no buckle in the foldline indicating that it might be folded a little "off" grain.  

The guide sheet will tell you which pattern numbers you will need.  The pattern will have sizes and cutting lines for each size, the pattern number in case you are using several or it gets lost, the name of the pattern company, markings for special instructions, dots, squares, may have arrows in some areas like up the skirt telling you which direction to cut...you cut up the skirt not down to keep from stretching your fabric.  These arrows often are in the seam allowance.  It will have notches.  CUT THESE OUT so that you will be easily able to assemble the pattern.  The marks are made while the pattern is together and mark critical matching areas of your pattern.  Carefully remove the pattern pieces you will need from the "big sheet" cutting them loose.  It is often easier for a new person to cut around the pattern so that they only have the pattern pieces, no extra tissue, that is up to you.  

Along with all the other pattern markings there the mfgs now add true measurments of the garment when made up.  You will find these bigger than your measurments.  THey are supposed to be.  You will need to look for a key to give you an idea how much ease is needed for each type of fit.  Often McCalls is a little generous with some of their measurments.  DO NOT MAKE IT TO YOUR BODY MEASURMENTS exactly that will be skin tight.  

Once you are comfortable with your pattern size you can either trace it onto paper or you can cut around it on the pattern...this may destroy other pattern sizes...it is solely up to you.

Pinning the pattern..Lay the pattern on the fabric according to the guide sheet.  The first piece is often on the fold and it is a large piece...doesn't have to be..just watch.  THe fold pieces will have a arrow near the edge that will say "center.....place on fold".  Pieces that are not to be laid on the fold will have arrows.  They will be numbered on the guide sheet to help you know which ones to place.  When laying the pattern on the fold, it needs to be laid so that the foldline of the pattern and the foldline of the material is a PERFECT match..not one hanging over the other.  When laying other pieces, you will find an arrow more or less in the center.  You place a pin in one end of the arrow of that pattern piece and measure to the fold or the selvage.  Then, at the other end, measure the same EXACT distance from the fold or selvage to the other end and place a pin.  Check both ends of the pattern to make sure that it did not shift.  Then, start pinning.  You pin from the inside of the pattern, near the edge toward the outside edge. This helps pull the pattern flat.  If you pin from the edge or up and down the edge, you shift the pattern and often subtract from its size and may shift the grainline.  Start in a line near the straight of grain arrow and place one pin, then  pin across from that.  If you are pinning on the fold, pin a couple at the fold and then divide the difference and pin one across.  Work from the center, pinning in a wide pattern all the way around the pattern, placing first on one side then the other.  Once you have a wide framework of pins, go back and fill in.  I usually pin about every 6-8 inches but you may want more.  If YOu decide to use a rotary cutter to cut, you may need less, if you use scissors, maybe more.  

I prefer scissors for cutting because I like the control.  I like dressmaker scissors because they are bent handled with a sloped point. The scissors should fit your dominent hand.  THey will range in size from 6 1/2 inches to 10 inches.  I really like the 6 1/2 and the 8 1/2 scissors.  They should fit your hand.  The smaller round part of the scissors should open up so that they are larger toward your hand. Your fingers go in the larger hole and if the thumb slope is right (if you have one), the hand slope should be right too.  I like Gingher, Mundall and Marks scissors but Fiskars makes a nice scissor also and it is economical enough that you can afford to replace them if you have a problem with them.  Fiskars are also light weight.  DO NOT let anyone cut paper with your scissors, except for the little bit of pattern paper you'll cut...even that will eventually dull your scissors.  When you cut your scissors should rest on the table (that's why the bend).  If you come to tight turns or cuts, rock the scissors toward the point and leave the scissors on the table.  You should NEVER lift the pattern and fabric to cut.  If you lift, you shift the fabric and it can misshapen and present all kinds of bad problems.  I like rotary cutters but I have a control problem with them unless I have a straight edge.  You'll just have to decide if it works for you.  

If possible, lay out your entire pattern before you cut.  This gives you the advantage of making sure that there is enough fabric.  YOu can just loosly pin the large pieces and check it before you start laying to make sure too.  It is better that once your "really" start laying out your fabric you don't move anything until it is cut.  When I have a long piece and need to cut and unfold the fabric to lay again, I often pin in the remaining fabric to make sure that I keep the same grainline as I go (doesn't hurt).  

Ok, so I think this will get you through basic cutting and laying out your pattern.  You still may have some fitting issues...we'll await your next post.

Oh, a lot of people do iron their patterns, it is up to you.  If the pattern is old, you almost need to do so, but the paper is somewhat effected by the heat and does shrink just a tiny bit. 
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2006 06:25:08 PM »

Wow paroper, I don't know about anyone else, but I've learned alot from your post.  Thanks.

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« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2006 09:16:23 PM »

These arrows often are in the seam allowance.  It will have notches.  CUT THESE OUT so that you will be easily able to assemble the pattern.  
By cut these out she means don't cut them in. I put a pin on each one perpendicular to the way I am cutting so I remember to cut them out and don't accidentally cut through one.
A good, sharp pair of scissors is your friend. I was cutting fabric earlier and my scissors were getting dull and my had was starting to hurt, my mom found the scissor sharpener and it was a dream to cut with sharpened scissors, it was like butter. I don't have experience with a rotary cutter, so I can't say anything there.

I preshrunk my cotton and then Ironed it, putting a new middle fold in it, matching up the slevedges. Did you remember to buy the fusible interfacing? With mine it said to use a damp cloth. It helped to also keep a bowl of water by to redampen it and cool it off. *goes off topic on how water has a high specific heat* also a measuring cup to refill your iron when it gets low.
good luck
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2006 03:06:08 AM »

I spent a lot of time explaining how to find/use the straight of grain in cutting the garment but I didn't really explain why it was important.  Have you ever had a pair of pants or a skirt that twisted when you wore it, a dress that sagged in odd places in the hemline?  Chances are great that those items were cut off grain.  Grainline has to do with gravity's effect on the garment.  When patterns/dresses are drafted they are drafted with a specific idea of how they will flow.  Grainline is what they use to do that.  Measuring the straight of grain means that when the garment is assembled, the weight of the fabric will support the weight of the garment in the manner it was designed.  Most garments are designed so that the lengthwise straight of grain is at a right angle to the floor, bearing most of the weight of the garment straight down the length of the body.  A garment cut slightly off center will gravitate so that the weight is born on the straight of grain, causeing a twist in the fabric.

When fabric is woven, threads are taken across, then long fibres are woven in and out in and out the whole length of yard and yards of fabric.  Often you can see hook marks where the cross fibers are held as the long fibers are woven.  Most fibers are woven so that they are "square", each fiber cross the next above, below.  However, there are fabrics, like pique where several fibres will be skipped to give a pattern.  The most stable portion of woven fabrics is the length of the fabric, then the cross grain, and the least stable is at a 45 degree angle, where the fabric will stretch when pulled.

The right angle straight of grain is used in a lot of ways.  When the angle is in the front of the garment, the garment will seem to flow to the front.  The side seams will be straight and hang differently.  When the garment is cut with the straight of grain in the front, the front will be flatter and the sides fuller.  When, as in a gored skirt, the straight of grain is up and down but the seams are on the angle, they will wave at the seamlines.  Because of the weight on the grainline when making a circular skirt, any garment made with bias cuts needs to hang at least 24 hours after assembly and the hemline should be measured on the wearer before it is hemmed.  The hems will be irregular.

This is a great example of a pattern where the skirt is cut with the bias in front.  It is not a full circle but you can see how it hangs in waves.  The black skirt's hang is easier to see but you can easily see the grainline on the print dress.


This is a full circle skirt.  The garment is probably cut so that the center front is on the cross grain and the side seams are cut on the straight of grain.  That lends the fullness to the side fronts and back.


This dress was my daughter's drum major dress last year.  The whole garment front and back is cut on the bias...notice how it flows.  In this case, the neckline is on a perfect straight of grain and it is rolled back into the garment (so are the sleeves).  There are no facings on this garment.  This is the first time in all my years of sewing I have seen this.  the inset in the side is also bias cut but it is cut in a bias just oposite to the garment.  That lends it to "draping a little differently from the dress".  Notice how the garment flows?


This is a gored skirt.  Notice that in B the garment is all straight of grain cut.  Views A and B utilize the bias of the skirt.  Most of these skirt, including this one (I think) are cut so that the straight of grain is down the middle of each gore of the skirt.  That gives a wave to the seamline.  Sometimes they are cut so that the wave is to one side or the other.  This is what makes gored skirts so flatterning.  In contrast, view B seems to have the crisp  look of an a-line.


These examples may help explain how important the grainline can be in design.

Now a short word about knits.  They also have/use a grainline.  The difference is that they are made a row at a time.  Just as in knitting a sweater, the thread goes across and loops so that the next row can loop into the thread.  There are two way stretch knits and one way stretch.  For the sake of simplicity I'll try to explain one way knits.  The stretch in a one way knit is across.  You still have bias and straight of grain and straight of grain is the most stable portion of the knit. The weight of the knit will cause the SOG to seem narrower when a lot of weight is applied.  Knits are nearly always made so that the stretch is across the body.  This is for comfort and for maximum utilization of the fabric's properties.  A knit that were cut incorrectly would probably not even go on over your head...that produces the tight fit that can be found in something like this and it also gives the comfort that you find in exercise garments (and others)


« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2006 06:58:59 AM »

Actually, I gave you misleading information about the nap layout too  I don't often do prints so I wan't thinking.  There is a type of nap besides that of cordoroy and velvets where the light and show of the fabric is different.  There is a directional design that is used in a fabric layout for nap.  Many patterns have with or without layouts and if your does it is not a problem BUT if your pattern has a nap layout (can take a lot more fabric) and a without layout, you need to consider your fabric.  If there is a print or a stripe or a plaid to your fabric.  Follow each part of your design.    Does it repeat itself so that if the piece were turned the other direction on the fabric the designs would look the same?  Quit often on a floral it will either be all facing one direction or there will be a crazy flower that is going the wrong direction when the patern repeats so that it can't be flipped.  Stripes, esp. multicolored strips often cannot be reversed.  The colors may be red, green, yellow, green, red, green yellow,green red (would reverse) where if the colors are red, green, yellow, red green yellow they cannot be. 
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« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2006 07:23:39 AM »

there are lots of ways to sew, and each is good, you just have to choose which works best for you and that will probably change over time and with different projects.

i cut exclusively with rotary cutters, because they give me exceptional accuracy.  but you have to have a cutting board that is big enough to lay out your largest pattern piece, and it has to be on a surface big enough to keep the fabric from hanging off the side.

i don't use pins, i use river rocks to hold the pattern down.

i don't cut any notches.  i prepare patterns by cutting out the notches and then when i cut the pattern, i mark the notches on the seam allowances with an ordinary #2 pencil.  i pre-punch holes along the lines of darts, pocket placement, etc, and mark them on the fabric with pencil too (or tailors tacks for fabric that i don't want to mark).

i use much smaller seam allowances than are printed on commercial patterns, i like no more than 3/8" for seams and 1/4" for hard curves.  on the occassions when i sew with commercial patterns, i trim down the seam allowances on the pattern before cutting.

i don't use fusible interfacing, i use muslin, organdy, or other appropriate fabric and i glue baste them in place on the fashion fabric BEFORE cutting.

other tips:  hand basting is your friend.  press every single seam before crossing it with another seam.  learn what easing is and how to do it properly.

work with natural fibers as often as possible until you gain more confidence.  synthetic fabrics are just not as cooperative.

get a good reference book and refer to it any time you have a question.

learn to use different presser feet because they will save you endless time.

practice any technique before using it on your garment.  to this day i still make sample buttonholes on scrap fabric before making them on the real thing, and i've been sewing for almost 35 years.

if something doesn't come out right, fix it RIGHT THEN.  don't wait until the garment is complete before you decide that you hate something like the zipper.  the energy and time you spend fixing it when it is still fixable is much less than the energy and time you will spend hating the dang thing every time you look at it.

wear whatever you make for at least 2 hours before deciding it doesn't fit/isn't flattering/should be turned into a dust rag.  if at the end of those 2 hours you still don't like it, put it in the back of the closet for a week and try again.  if you still don't like it after the second wearing, give it away--consider it a cheap sewing lesson and move on.

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« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2006 12:26:35 PM »

wow, thanks for all the help. i have a little more idea as to what i'm doing i suppose.. i've cut out the paper pattern now and i'm preparing to pin it down and possibly cut it.

so.. what is selvage? is it the edge of fabric with the white bar and writing on it? i'm thinking so, but i'm not sure.

i'm just using a plain cotton fabric with a pattern on it.. i don't have to worry about nap, right?

and i don't fit the specified sizes very exactly.. i'm mostly size 12, except apparently my waist.. can i just let that out a little or leave some extra fabric on it and fix it later?

is it alright that i don't have a serger?

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« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2006 01:52:30 PM »

It depends on how much your waist is off and how large the pattern waist is.  There should be a finished waist measurment on the pattern that will tell you how big the waist is.  You'll need at least 1/2 inch for ease for a fitted waist.  If you have that much you'll probably be fine.  If not, cheat the pattern just a bit when you cut.  Add it to the side seamlines on the skirt AND the top and you should be fine.  It sounds like you checked your measurments against the patterns recommended instead of going with a RTW measurment?  Good.

Just check your fabric to see if your pattern is only repeating one direction.  I made a particularly busy floral pattern for my nieces' weddind (for my own kids).  I was very surprised to find that all the patterns repeated both directions except for one huge snap dragon...so I had to use a nap cutting layout.  Sometimes it is one stupid boat or all your boats might be going the same direction...just take a good look at it.  If it is there, you should see it.

Yes, the selvage is the side where the cut edge is.  It is in almost all fabrics except those that have been made in a tube (usually knits) or those that have been made in a tube and cut. 
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