We’ve already deciphered the pattern envelope and prepared our pattern pieces. Today, let’s finally get to the actual sewing part.
After all the drama of the first two parts of this series, this final installment is a bit anti-climatic, because we, umm… follow the directions. Not that “just follow the directions” is always easy for a beginner. So, I am here with some tips to guide you along the way.
Read over all of the directions – start to finish before you begin. Start with the “Sewing” section of the “General Directions”, which gives the seam allowance for the project.
Then, read through each step for the “view” being sewn. In this case, the section labeled “Pants G, Shorts H”. Understanding how the pieces come together before starting to sew reduces construction error.
The key is your key! The “fabric key” clarifies the sewing diagrams. Are they showing the right side of the garment? Wrong sides? Interfacing? Lining? The key makes it clear.
Stuck on sewing terminology? Quite often unfamiliar sewing terms are defined in the pattern’s “Sewing Directions” section. If not, try my “Fearless Sewist’s Toolbelt” or the estimable Burdastyle’s Sewing Dictionary.
When pinning seams, match up pattern markings first. I am always so glad that I took the time to transfer my markings when I match the pieces together.
Interesting tidbit… Notches not only aid in lining up seams, but they also give hints as to where the piece belongs on the garment. Single notches for the front with the number of notches increasing towards the back. Crazy, eh? For example, the front crotch seam is designated with a double notch, and the back a triple notch.
Practice good sewing habits. Press and finish the seams as you go. The lazy reason is that it is easier to do it as-you-go than come back to it later.
Even without a serger, there are a number of ways to finish the seams. See Sew, Mama, Sew! for a handy collection of seam finishes. I opted to kept it super simple for these pants. After checking the fit, I sewed a zig zag stitch in the seam allowance close-ish to the seam. Then, I trimmed off the seam allowance up to, but not through, the zig-zag stitches.
Hemming is always the last step of the directions. The vague “fold up the hem” directions gets me every time, because it doesn’t say by how much. The assumption is that you are to fold up the hem to whatever length fits, but the standard hem length is given on the pattern piece. I have to hunt down that hem amount almost every single time. Annoying.
some words of encouragement
All of this information is more than overwhelming in the beginning, but, trust me on this, it will get easier with practice. Construction order becomes familiar, pattern conventions become apparent. Don’t let those overwhelmed feelings stop you from even trying. If something confuses you, ask for help or search google. Or just wing it. What is the worst that could happen? “Wasting” money or time on a project? Even the worst failure is never a waste because you will learn from it, and be better prepared for your next sewing adventure.
Do you have any more questions about pattern directions? Leave a comment and I will answer to the best of my ability!
Thanks for the post! Cute pjs 🙂
Something I wondered – is there a convention for what direction to press the seem? If you do the zigzag like above, is it pressed back?
Good question! I think the convention is to press exposed seams downward and back, but really, whatever looks the nicest from the outside. 🙂
Just had to put in my two cents here and tell you that i think you did a really great job with this series. I have been sewing since I was about 8 so I take all that I know for granted and make the mistake of assuming everyone else knows what I know! But after teaching a good friend the basicw while she made her daughter a simple wrap around skirt, I realized just how important a good tutuorial such as this series can be for a beginner.
The section on reding the pattern alone – very important. My friend had purchased a pattern with a “big name: on it and I could not believe it – no pattern included. Only the directions for creating a pattern. And the instructions were so badly written that even this seasoned seamstress found them challenging.
So – all this to say – Bravo YOU! Well done!
Thankful I found the ending.
Me too. 🙂
Thank you thank you. This is the least intimidating tutorial on reading patterns…ever..question-this is probably silly…how does one preserve patterns for reuse? What if I cut it out to make small size now and later want to make a larger size for someone else..same as the dilemma above…first I want to make shorts, then a regular pj?
Bella B says
Yay! Thank you for sharing! I will reference this post often!
LOyn O says
I no longer cut my original tissue pattern pieces. Instead, I trace them onto a pattern tracing material–(I.E. – Pattern Ease, or Pellon 830–usually one of these is available at your local fabric/craft store). You can see through the Pattern Ease to easily transfer ALL of your pattern markings using a permanent marker–I usually use a sharpie marker but it should be something that won’t transfer over/bleed onto your fabric.
If you know you are going to be making multiple sizes, you would duplicate the tracing for each size. Make sure you transfer all pertinent information–like piece A, B, C,; size you are making, grain markings and number of cuts needed to each tracing–and pattern name and number.
Store your Pattern Ease pieces with the original pattern or whatever storage method you prefer for each use there after. Eliminates the need for repurchasing a pattern, if it is even still available, and preserves your original pattern for repeated tracings..
Love your easy to follow tutorial, too! Clear and concise and included all pertinent and valuable learning points
I really have a hard time justifying all the tracing for a $1-$2 pattern. I only trace my more expensive indie ones these days. 🙂
I have a purse pattern called the messenger bag that I don’t understand one of the pattern pieces. The pattern piece is for the flap on the bag iand it is laying on the material then to the right of the pattern is the exact opposite drawing of that pattern but in dashed marks. Kind of hard to explain so I hope you understand what I’m trying to say? What does the dashed (-) marks mean?
Thanks for any help
The dashed marks mean you are given only half the piece you need to cut. Open the fabric up to a single layer, cut around three sides of it, then flip the pattern over, printed side down, and continue cutting the other half of that fabric piece. Just be sure you don’t cut down the middle line! Or you can place that piece on a fold with the edge of the pattern at the edge that’s folded and cut once, opening the fabric after cutting to reveal the whole piece.