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About to embark on first attempt at dressmaking - top tips please?

(27 Posts)
RachelLynde Sat 02-Jul-16 16:19:49

I have the material, the pattern, and a fair bit of sewing experience of basic items i.e. Cushions, a quilt, a couple of bags, and recently a huge pair of fully lined curtains. Tracing paper, a seam gauge and a tracing wheel are on order.

I've never sewn from a pattern before though or done things like darts (whatever they are), and words like grain and selvedge are scaring me.

Can I have top tips, big no-no's, and friendly advice please? smile

Scrowy Sat 02-Jul-16 16:25:50

Honestly.... Go on a course. Helped me no end to avoid basic mistakes and ruining expensive material.

I don't have a tracing wheel or a seam gauge

What I have found invaluable though is a pattern marking ruler, lots of decent glass headed pins, a good pair of fabric scissors and a good iron.

Scrowy Sat 02-Jul-16 16:28:34

Oh and always make a mock up using very cheap fabric/ old bed covers to check the fit/ pattern first before using your good fabric

CatherineDeB Sat 02-Jul-16 17:34:55

The most important thing is to measure yourself accurately. Depends on who made your pattern but the traditional pattern houses still use the old British Standard sizes, so a size 10 is a 34 inch bust and bears little resemblance to ready to wear clothes.

Make sure your fabric is the right way up, sounds daft but I once made a cord dress with the fabric the wrong way up.

Just go slowly and pin everything to death is my tip. I reckon we can all sew if we follow the instructions. You can google anything you don't know or ask here.

CatherineDeB Sat 02-Jul-16 17:36:49

Oh and iron your fabric/pre wash it if it could possibly shrink and iron your pattern - must confess I don't always do it but I do with a new pattern.

RachelLynde Sat 02-Jul-16 18:45:09

Iron pattern - right, got it.

Material is super cheap just to practice on, I'm not going to lash out on expensive stuff until I'm more proficient she says

I would love to go on a course actually, I think it would be so helpful, though money doesn't really allow right now, so maybe for my birthday in a couple of months time.

elephantoverthehill Sat 02-Jul-16 18:52:49

Can take you show us the pattern envelope please so we can see the complexity please?

imsorryiasked Sat 02-Jul-16 18:59:52

Big seams so you have room for adjustment!
Selvedge is the edge of the fabric which has a non-fray bit.
If your fabric has a pattern with a "right way up" remember not to turn the pattern piece to fit it on the material.

Helenluvsrob Sat 02-Jul-16 19:06:36

Roller cutter and the biggest cutting board you can get.

Other than that follow the instructions - don't spend £££ on fabric for a 1st try and just get on with following the instructions.

I've just taken it up and I'm aiming for wearable not perfect. It's working so far smile

So sorry school lied to me. It doesn't take a year of lessons to make a bloody skirt ! Put me off for 40yrs nearly !

padkin Sat 02-Jul-16 19:18:42

Be prepared for the fact that despite the pattern being 'easy/beginner' and it stating that sewing time is, say, 'one hour', that actually it will take you three hours to cut out the pattern correctly, another 3 to cut the material, and then a whole day to actually do the sewing.... Well, for me, anyway.

And build in lots of time for Google and YouTube searches to find out about tricky bits/vocabulary and terms you aren't sure of, and videos that show you how to sew darts/use interfacing/sew in sleeves etc etc. And good luck!! (From a fellow sewing pattern novice)

Allalonenow Sat 02-Jul-16 19:31:01

Follow the instructions as to lie of the fabric, especially for anything cut on the cross such as collars.
Pin the pattern carefully to the fabric.
Measure twice, as you only have one chance at cutting smile
Number the pattern pieces as you cut them with tailor's chalk on the wrong side.
Tailor tack to mark darts.
Tack sections together before machine sewing.
If gathering, use two rows of fine tacking before pulling up.

shazzarooney999 Sat 02-Jul-16 19:35:30

I would love to be able to use a sewing machine properly.

jellyrolly Sat 02-Jul-16 19:38:57

My top tip would be, if you think you are starting to make a mistake - stop. Retrace, have a break, re-read. Don't carry on regardless as the mistake will come back and bite you on the wonky bum. Think of it as building a house, nothing works if there's a mistake way back at the beginning.

80Kgirl Sat 02-Jul-16 19:52:09

Can you share with us the pattern you are using and type of fabric? I probably have more advice than you can digest at one time! LOL
So, if I know what you are tackling, I can spare you the irrelevant stuff.

RachelLynde Sat 02-Jul-16 20:03:10

Wow, so many tips! Thank you! Here's the pattern, and have bought some cotton lawn material in a sale.

RachelLynde Sat 02-Jul-16 20:04:43

Planning to make pattern B - the yellow one - and the long sleeved version at a later date. Kind of a lightweight summer tunic to go with leggings.

RatherBeIndoors Sat 02-Jul-16 20:13:12

Grain is the way the threads run through the fabric, parallel to the finished edge (as PP said, that's the selvedge). So on each piece of the pattern there's likely to be a double-ended arrow showing you need to line that up with the direction of the grain.

Your pattern has sleeves. You will need extra biscuits for that stage grin more seriously, you will need lots and lots of pins, and I often tack the sleeves in place before tackling them with the machine.

Read all the instructions and go slowly - you'll be OK!

SomeDaysIDontGiveAMonkeys Sat 02-Jul-16 20:18:34

Rather. Extra biscuits 😂😂😂

Margrethe Sat 02-Jul-16 20:36:07

Great pattern choice and fabric choice for a beginner RachelLynde. You should be able to sew a very wearable blouse, even as a beginner. I agree with the previous advice. I would say:
1. Prewash your fabric
2. Read the measuring instructions carefully; with cup sizes you usually measure your "high bust" to get your bust measure and then measure your "full bust" to work out your cup size.
3. Iron the pattern pieces after cutting them out
4. The best way to cut out the pattern is on the flat with a rotary cutter and a "self healing" cutting mat (you get less distortion than pins)
5. When cutting out the bias binding, make sure it is on the bias, do not be tempted to cut it out on the "straight grain" to save fabric. It must be on the bias to have the "bend" that you will need around the neck line.
6. When sewing darts, start at the edge and sew towards the dart point, leave enough thread to tie a knot at the end of the dart point. Always iron bust darts up.
7. Use French Seams for the side and shoulder seams
8. Here is a tutorial on bias binding on a neck line, that you might find helpful:
9. Before you start, I recommend you watch this free video with Nancy Zieman on Wisconsin PBS (it's the USA's underfunded BBC), I think you would find it useful and confidence building. The site has a whole archive of her shows, if you like this one:

If you get stuck on something, come back and ask us!

elephantoverthehill Sat 02-Jul-16 20:53:53

Thanks for the pic. My advice is to pin all the pattern pieces onto the fabric as per the instructions on the paper insert inside the envelope, then call it a day and look at it with fresh eyes in the morning. If you take a pic we can advise, but just take your time. The only thing I can see that may cause some angst is the zip, at least I think it is a zip. It is a little difficult to see on the pattern envelope but I would be surprised for an 'easy' pattern if the neckline and armholes use bias binding, I am sure they will be facings. Just do flat seams imo so if you need to unpick it is easier. Best of luck.

Margrethe Sat 02-Jul-16 21:01:00

It's definitely bias binding rather than facings:

Loose-fitting, pullover tops and tunics have bias neck facings, French darts, back keyhole closure, button/thread loop and narrow hem.

I have to admit, I am not sure what French darts are. They just look like plain old bust darts to me!

elephantoverthehill Sat 02-Jul-16 21:11:43

Yes you are right about the bias binding. It seems a bit mean in an 'easy' pattern. Isn't the seam badly puckered on the back view in blue? And now I can see it isn't a zip either. Still keep going OP. I agree about the darts.

elephantoverthehill Sun 03-Jul-16 00:45:45

Loose-fitting, pullover tops and tunics have bias neck facings, both of us right and wrong smile

Allalonenow Sun 03-Jul-16 01:12:47

With the style that you have chosen, I'd get someone to measure you across the shoulders at your back, then measure the pattern to make sure it's not too big.
If it is, the shoulder straps will slip off too easily.
To counteract this if you have a narrow back, put a small pleat down the whole length at the centre of the back pattern piece.

ZippyNeedsFeeding Sun 03-Jul-16 10:56:22

The sizing on McCall's patterns is very generous, and will be more so on a pattern described as loose-fitting. I usually choose the size from my measurements then go down one. Measure the pattern tissue to give you an accurate idea, remembering to allow for seam allowances.
Most American patterns are generous on the sizing, except for Kwik Sew, where I normally need to go up at least one size.
My top tip is to tack and try on (before seaming) at every opportunity. that way, if the fit needs adjustment you can see it and you have less chance of feeling disappointed with the finished result.
Well done for choosing a pattern with no buttonholes! I've been sewing for 30 years and i sell sewing patterns and haberdashery for a living and i still hate making buttonholes!

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