Understanding Patterns and Fabric

When you begin to dip your toes into the world of dressmaking and sewing there are mountains of choice. Beautiful fabrics, oodles of patterns to choose from and it all gets a little overwhelming. It’s easy to just grab something that appeals and then try to work out how it all fits together. I’m here to, hopefully, help you with that process and give you an understanding of patterns and fabrics.

So where do we start?

Understanding where to begin is the biggest chicken and egg question within the sewing system. When you’re starting out, I’d always advise finding a pattern first. This way you have something to work with. Some sort of idea of the type fabrics to look for even if you don’t really know which fabric your looking at. It’s also easier to ask for help if you have a pattern to hand over as explanation. Obviously, on your way to look at patterns, you’ll have come across a fabric you love the look of but just bare with me. You can go wild soon.

Start simple

Look for a pattern that doesn’t appear to have too many pieces. How? I hear you ask. Ok, once you’ve found something you fancy, look at the line drawing. All patterns will give you the project in line form, without the distraction of fabric. This will show you where the seams are, if it has pockets or a zip/buttons. It might very well be a fine line on the drawing but use this along with the description to help you understand it. Most pattern companies have a simple or easy range. Some independent pattern companies also gear their patterns towards the beginner sewist too. Just don’t get too hung up on the quote that says ‘Done in an hour’ It’s unlikely. It will however be simple to put together. Generally.

In the video below I go through the things to look for in a pattern, how to choose one that’s right for you and where to go from here. Grap a cuppa.

To Fabric!

This has to be the best part of starting a new project. Well, it’s my favourite bit. Once you have the pattern, you can rifle through umpteen rolls of fabric. It can get confusing though. A little overwhelming. I like to take a look at the back of the pattern to gauge the type of fabric it’s built for. Look for the type of flow / drape of fabric that’s needed. This will give you some idea of the type of fabric the pattern company intend it to be made up in.

What to look for…

  • Is the project structured or soft.
  • Does the fabric need to hold it’s shape or waft across the body.
  • There are A LOT of different types of fabric out there and it can feel like a mine field. The one thing that I can’t do is feel the fabrics for you. I would always suggest going out and having a feel of different fabrics. If you’re buying online, ask for a sample and watch how the fabric moves if the vendor has a video.
  • Have a look at what’s in your wardrobe. What sort of fabrics are your clothes made from. The label can tell you a lot. What’s it made from?
  • Do you go for colour? Plain or Pattern?
  • Are you a lover of texture. I lean towards sequins or a fluffy jumper.

Now, that’s not all we think about when we shop for fabric. I go through things in a bit more detail in the next video. The best thing you can do when looking at fabric is to look at the end of the roll. There’s generally a ticket telling you the fabric content and price along with any shrinkage that you may need to allow for. Most of all start to take notice of how a fabric feels and falls. This will help you choose the fabric to your project.

Remember, this is not a quick fix, it’s a journey into fabric. It will evolve with you as you discover the types of fabric you enjoy working with. Also those you decide you’re not that keen on. So grab a snack and lets dive into fabric.

So now we’ve had a look into patterns and fabrics it would be a good idea to take a moment. Grab a cuppa and think about the sort of project you want to make. look into your wardrobe again and see just what you wear. What gets a regular rotation or sits like a grumpy teenager in the dark corner at the back of the wardrobe.