Sewing Journal #6: Pattern Joys and Discoveries

Spring is well underway, although chillier than normal. I have been spending quite a few weekday evenings and weekend mornings figuring patterns out and playing around with my sewing machine settings. As I get more comfortable with my sewing machine, I want to expand the types of projects I want to attempt. There are only so many elastic waistband and button skirts I need and want! 😛

Sewing without a pattern is fun to a point

When I started sewing, I started off making a lot of shirts, skirts, and dresses using simple measurements and square panels; this is probably the case for almost everyone. I ended up with some beautiful projects that I still love to wear. I created other clothes by tracing older clothes onto fabric and sewing the traced pieces together.

However, as I began planning how I want to design my first wardrobe, I realized the importance of using actual sewing patterns because the fit of traced patterns and square panels can be a hit or miss as a beginner. My traced t-shirts, for example, are a bit lopsided and have wonky collars and sleeves. The square panels are easy to set up, but they can create shaping issues….

Sewing with patterns is teaching me how to shape my clothes

Sewing with patterns has been teaching me how to get unique shapes in my clothing. The first pattern I successfully sewed into a wearable piece is McCall’s 7131. It took me two tries; the first time I made this, I was making shorts from Pattern A. I did not overlock/zigzag stitch the seams and I did a patchy job sewing the pieces together, which resulted in a ton of fraying.

Also, the measurements ended up way too big. According to the measurements presented on the package, I had decided to make the size 16, but I really should have made the size 8 (which is more accurate to what I typically wear).

I tried to rip out the seams and start over, but there was so much fraying in key parts that I decided to start from scratch. I bought more of the same fabric, adjusted my pattern to a size 8, and got to work.

The second time I made these, the pants came out so much better. The seams are not perfect, but they’re more crisp. The sizing is spot on, and there is no fraying!

My only complaint is that I sewed a little too far into the crotch area, sometimes creating a wedgie, 😅 but a simple adjustment here are there makes it go away.

The good news is that I now feel more confident in pattern reading and I have a better idea of how pleats are made. I love these pants to much that I will be making more in other colors. They’re very airy, comfortable, and surprisingly go with almost every pair of shoes I own.

Patterns have multiple variations

Patterns can be pricy, however, I believe the prices are fair. People use their time and creativity to design patterns and they come with variations, meaning you can make dozens of different types of clothes using one design.

I can sew FIVE shape variations with my McCall’s 7131 pattern. I could get endless variations of the pants by adjusting the fit and length of the pants and using nearly any type or color of fabric. I love that I can sew a completely different pair of pants using the same exact pattern.

Patterns are teaching me patience

Another pattern I completed is New Look’s 6096. I made the version with the spaghetti straps, which took several retries because some of the instructions were a little confusing.

There was a part that added a facing to the bodice, which , according to The Spruce Crafts, is “the area of a garment or sewn item that turns to the inside, giving a finished appearance to what would otherwise be a raw edge.”

I was mega confused. The picture instructions weren’t helping me, so I ended up creating a lining for the bodice.

It worked, but then I decided to do some more meddling and created a lining for the dress because I thought the fabric would feel too thin.

Whelp, when I sewed the elastic to the waist, I ended up with this strange gathering that made the waist too chunky and the back really baggy. Ugh…

I had already seam ripped this piece three other times, and then I had to seam rip again… in more places.

I had been trying to avoid it, but after also making the palazzo pants, reality set in that seam ripping is part of the process of sewing with patterns. You will waste thread. You will waste time. You will spend more money for thread. You have to seam rip in order to adjust the fit of the garment.

I was really worried about the final fit because I really loved the fabric and style of the dress. I also felt overwhelmed by all of the seam ripping I had to do. Seam ripping is time consuming! I’d rather unravel my own knitting!

In the end, it turned out okay! The back of the bodice is baggy at times, but manageable. I absolutely love the fabric! Just look at all of the sassy kitties!

Patterns taught me to dive into new skills

For the longest, I avoided knit fabrics because other sewists did. But, I decided to get over the hump of learning how to replace and exchange the needles of the sewing machine so that I could make the next set of items on my list: stretchy dresses, t-shirts, and sweatpants.

I bought the McCall’s M7313 pattern on Etsy because it advertised itself as easy and perfect for newbies. Turned out to not only be super easy, but the measurements were on point and the knit fabric I bought was very forgiving.

I did cave in and purchase polyester fabric to make this, but fortunately it is very comfortable. There was supposed to be an elastic band to go around the waistline, but the skirt looked and felt so much better without it.

Sewing patterns don’t have to be expensive

Etsy is my best friend for sewing patterns. I love thrifting there for vintage and/or second hand patterns that normally cost $14 to $25. Gems and PDF patterns can be found for $6 or less. PDF patterns are a pain in the neck to assemble, but you can’t beat a $5 pattern!


The Spruce Crafts:

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  1. You have made some wonderful designs and I love the fabrics too… I used to make my own dresses, years ago, and my daughters when a child…. I only ever made a pattern from scratch one time… It was an A line skirt…. I literally cut the pattern by laying my skirt folded in the panels on newspaper and made my pattern from newspaper. I had a good working knowledge of how the waist band went and zip.. Having worked in textiles when leaving school… and I later returned into textiles after my children started school..

    Patience is needed especially with elastic and knowing the right length stitches and whether to Overlock or Lockstitch garments…. If you have an overlock machine, and fraying fabric…. those machines are a God-send lol…

    You look fabulous too…. Loved this post….. 🙂
    Happy Sewing… <3 🙂

    1. Thank you so much! I envy you for your extensive experience. I never thought to use newspaper; that’s a great idea! My machine doesn’t have an overlock stitch setting, but I’ll invest in one at some point. 😀

      1. The Lockstitch machines are different than the Overlock machines… And they are quite expensive to buy…. I used to take my projects to work and overlock the edges … 🙂
        And yes Newspaper a great temp pattern maker. 🙂

  2. You have had quite a journey. You must have a lot of patience. My mother sewed most of my clothes because it was cheap. She was also very talented and started as a child sewing her own school clothes from flour sacks. Now it is more an expensive hobby than a money saving venture.

    1. I think the patience comes from loving to work with my hands and the high with seeing the final outcome. I’ve heard of people sewing clothes from flour sacks (especially during WW2), and apparently some companies sold attractive flour sacks for that purpose! I wouldn’t mind making a dress out of that. It’s a shame that this is definitely not money saving like it used to be. I find consolation in the artistic aspect.

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