Getting the best from fabric

How often do we buy a new pattern and fabric and, full of excitement about our new venture, rush to cut it out and sew it together? Often this happens with only a cursory glance at the pattern envelope to see how much fabric is needed (and sometimes a quick look at the cutting layout suggested in the guide sheet) with no thought at all about the actual details of the print on the fabric.
Before starting a new project, it is a great to think about where we will wear it and how great we will feel , however, having a close look at the fabric and giving some consideration to how to use the print to its best effect will greatly improve the result and our satisfaction with the end result.
Taking this considered approach can greatly affect the finished outcome and take a “simple” garment to a higher level entirely.
What do I mean about the details of the print?
When the print is small and with no obvious directional pattern (Figure 1 below), the layout in the guidesheet is usually fine. However, some fabrics have an obvious repeat (Figure 2 below) or one way pattern (not always obvious at first glance) and the finished garment would look a little strange with the pattern running up the front and down the back. One of the best ways to check for a one way pattern is to stand a few metres away from the fabric and have a look – this will often highlight what we can miss when looking up close.

No obvious pattern to match

No obvious pattern to match

Obvious pattern needs to be matched

Obvious pattern needs to be matched

When a print is very distinct, for example the plaid below, it needs to be matched horizontally and vertically as much as possible so the balance of the plaid is not disturbed.

Definite pattern which needs to be matched horizontally and vertically.

Definite pattern which needs to be matched horizontally and vertically.

There are lots of readymade garments where this has not been done and the whole effect can be spoiled.
This is where the benefit of careful observation comes into play. By measuring the length of the pattern repeat (in the example from the top of the tan colour bar to the top of the next tan colour bar) you can calculate how much extra fabric will be needed to allow a perfect match at the side seams. The usual amount of extra fabric is the length of the pattern repeat for each major pattern piece.

Another example of where pattern matching is important is at the centre front and centre back where there is a zipper inserted.

Medallion pattern centred at front

Medallion pattern centred at front

Matched at centre back seam with invisible zipper.

Matched at centre back seam with invisible zipper.

I hope this helps next time you are buying fabric.

Next week I will be starting a tutorial series covering zippers.

See you then.

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Why sew your own clothes?

“Do people still sew?”

“When clothing is plentiful and cheap, why do people bother sewing?”

These are questions I have often been asked when I mention that my business is teaching people to sew their own clothes and I expect such comments are made to many of my students too.

While sewing your own clothing in 2015 is not strictly necessary and will not always save money – as it was and did for our grandmothers – there is much to be said for all the other benefits of  “making your own”.

In a world of mass produced, cheap and often poorly made garments which do not fit properly and do not last beyond a season, there is most certainly a place for a garment which has been made to measure for its wearer and finished to a high standard.  Not only will the wearer have a unique, custom made garment to be proud of, this new favourite for which the style and fabric were chosen especially to flatter, will last well beyond the next season – and when it does reach the end of its life, it can be copied to make another!

For me, the main benefit of making my own clothes is that I know they will fit and flatter and be one of a kind.  I can choose exactly what I want in terms of style and colour.  I can go shopping and look at all the new styles, especially details like collars, pockets, trims, etc. knowing that, with a little ingenuity and technique, I can put my personality into the details I choose to wear.

I really love the creative outlet; trying new techniques and the wonderful sense of achievement when a project comes together.  I love the feel of fabric and the possibilities in each piece I buy.  Every piece of fabric is unique and with the on-going developments in textile manufacturing we always have something different to try and new handling techniques to learn.  Sewing is NEVER boring.

Helping my students discover a passion for sewing is such a joy.   Many new students are surprised at how much they can accomplish after a couple of sessions and that sewing is much more intricate and fascinating than they had expected. Sewing can become a haven of peace where we can control our level of achievement – an opportunity which is often hard to find in a world where our lives are busy, noisy and stressful,

My intention is to post a blog each week, sometimes about my own projects and sometimes a tutorial on a particular technique.

I look forward to your feedback.