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Sewing for Complete Beginners (A series pt 2)

Hey! So if you’ve got all of your tools under control. (Or at least have a solid shopping list) it is time to talk about WHAT you are going to sew.

We live in a glorious time of instant gratification and that includes sewing patterns. We have way more choices than our grandmothers did, that’s for sure. When shopping for sewing patterns, you have multiple choices. You can shop for tissue paper patterns at your local fabric store, you can support independent designers by buying their patterns online and printing them yourself, or you can make your own. I am sure there are more options, but these are the most popular. (I can help you with the first 2, for the making them on your own thing, well, you’re on your own.)

First, let’s talk about Ready to wear sizing and shopping for patterns. FORGET WHAT SIZE YOU BUY IN STORES. It has absolutely no bearing on sewing sizes, whatsoever. The sewing industry hasn’t been subjected to vanity sizing. Example: I wear a size 14-16 pants, depending on the company… in Butterick patterns, I am beyond a size 20. I have two awesome patterns that I can’t make for myself, because I didn’t measure myself before ordering. Don’t be me. Measure yourself. Go by your measurements and forget whatever size it says you are, because it doesn’t matter. The measurements matter. Measure yourself correctly. Mood does a great breakdown of it here .

Okay. So you have your measurements. You are ready to go. BUT where do you go? Well, I assume you know how to get to your local fabric store to look for tissue patterns, so let’s talk about my personal favorites: PDFs. There are hundreds of choices, but I will share my favorites with you. These are the ones that have survived many a facebook dramas fest over BLM and LGBTQ rights, and even size inclusivity. Yep, I thoroughly vet even my pattern stores as much as I can.

  • Radpatterns.com Amazing designer who until just recently was a designer for ADIDAS. She makes size inclusive patterns and even made a line for people with disabilities. Her patterns are well drafted, well written, and the FB community is vibrant and supportive. Join the FB group for access to free patterns as well.
  • Ellieandmac.com Super cute and wearable patterns for kids and adults. They have Wacky Wednesday sales where certain patterns will be listed for $1. I have an affiliate link for them as well. If you want to use it and push me a few bucks, I’d appreciate it, but I just want you to check them out and support them, regardless. It is free for you. 🙂 Bucks for Juli
  • Georgeandgingerpatterns.com Another pattern designer who is working hard at size inclusion and representation. Her designs are a bit more runway, but sometimes you need a bit of fashion flair.

I know there are more, and I am forgetting someone, but these are the ones I check in with whenever I have an itch to sew. I do own some patterns from companies that I no longer support because of how they have handled certain things. You may see me make the items, but I will never lead traffic to their site… (unless it is a free pattern, and I will do so telling you that they are a garbage company, but go and get your free shit.)

After buying the PDF pattern, it is on you to print it. You can print it from home, and tape or glue together the pages to make a big sheet. I do this when I am feeling impatient. Or you can get the A0 file (big ass sheet) printed. A0 printing at staples and the like is very expensive. However, at PDF plotting it is affordable. (Not an affiliate link. I just like them) I JUST ordered 2 large patterns (one was 5 pages) and with shipping it was $17.24. They are local to me, so I could’ve gone to pick it up, but covid, so I just paid the $7 to have it shipped.

Once you have your pattern printed and assembled (Or just printed) you will need to trace the size that you need. Measure yourself, determine your size, and use the key to figure out which line to follow. I trace my patterns onto freezer paper. It is cheap, available locally, and durable enough. Make sure you transfer all important markings! Cut out your traced pattern, and TA-DA! You are ready to sew. Well, ready to cut out fabric.

FABRIC. So, just to clear the air, here, collecting fabric and sewing are two separate hobbies. Okay? They just are. Accept that now. Buying fabric is a hard thing to teach someone. Basically, you are going to make bad fabric choices, and you will learn from it. Especially with covid putting a big fat damper on all fun in person shopping.

Your pattern will give you advice on what fabrics to consider for your project. For some patterns it will say things like “Stable knit” or “Knit with 4 way stretch” or “light woven” which isn’t very helpful if you don’t have the fabric in hand, and/or you don’t know fabric types. This is when it is helpful to be a member of an online sewing community. I have a few FB groups I can recommend. Just ask me. Usually, though, the pattern will give you fabric names like “double brushed poly” or “satin”. You can use those to find your fabric of choice.

There are a MILLION and one places to buy fabric online. You have your big names like Joanns. There is also Mood Fabrics and fabric.com. There are smaller outfits like So Sew English and Surge. And custom printers like Zenith and Quasar and Wanderlust. I tend to support the smaller guys as much as I can. But they focus on what is hot right now, and for most of them, that means knits. If I need a woven, I need to go the big stores.

(ASIDE) I keep using the terms knit and woven, and assuming you know what I mean. I am a shitty teacher. A knit fabric is one that is made by knitting the fabric. It often has stretch. Think tshirts and leggings. Woven is fabric that is woven together. It is usually stable (doesn’t stretch) think button up shirts and sheets.

Beginner friendly fabrics are fabrics that are not slippery. Do not try to start your adventure with satin or swim. You will hate yourself and me. I would also avoid any fabrics that have a severe roll on the cut edge. (Thinner knits will do this)

If you want a cheap fabric, just to test out fitting on a pattern, then walmart has their precut fabrics. They are usually thin and crappy, but they can work for testing fit and technique without investing in cutting your favorite fabric. I highly recommend making a muslin (tester) any time you make a pattern for the first time. This robe, for example is Rad’s Grab and Go robe (free on the FB group) made in walmart precut fabric. But always remember, like anything, quality matters. The quality of your fabric will dictate the quality of your finished item, and it’s longevity. I will wear this muslin, and love it. But it is not as nice as my finished robe is going to be!

Alright. So, if you’ve made it this far, the rest of this series will be a SEW ALONG! YAY! If you’ve never taken part in a sew along before, it works like this: We all sew things together. Well, in truth, I will be a step ahead of you, so I can show you how to do it. We will all be on the same step, so it will make it easier to trouble shoot. We are waiting for some people to get their tools in order still, but, I would like to kick off this party on 08/10/2020!

We will be sewing the Walk the Plank Pajama pants from Patterns for Pirates. THIS IS A GARBAGE COMPANY. But this pattern is free, easy, and my favorite pajama pants pattern. Damn it. (Why are the garbage? IIRC, they dressed a man up in a feminine shirt as an April fool’s day joke. BAD TASTE. Men can wear floral tops if they want to P4P. They also aren’t size inclusive, and have no interest in being so and they are also not interested in representation of sew-eras of color) But go get your free shit, and then erase them from your memory.

SO before 08/10, I need you to: Compile your tools. Learn your sewing machine enough to sew a seam. Download and print your pattern. Buy your fabric and elastic. Prewash your fabric (ALWAYS PREWASH FABRIC).

The WTPs use a woven fabric. I tend to make them out of flannel for Christmas pants, but you could use a woven with some drape as well, if you want some classier pants or shorts. Make sure the fabric isn’t slippery. Buy the appropriate amount for the size and length you are making (they have a chart). You can also use a knit fabric, but the pants will be super baggy.

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