3 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Sewing Garments

Monday, March 14, 2016

1. Selecting a size isn't always a no-brainer

We know that garment patterns provide the appropriate bust, waist, and hip measurements for you to select your size, but you may be overlooking some key measurements listed further down: finished garment measurements. I consider these measurements just as important when selecting my size.

For example, lets look at the Cambie Dress. My measurements are 35" bust, 29" waist, 39" hips. According to those measurements, I would fall between an 8 and 10 for bust and waist measurements. (Since I made View B with full skirt, hip measurements don't really matter here.) But look at the finished measurements. A finished size 8  has a 37.5" bust and 30.25" waist. I'm a super petite 5' tall, so even a little too much pattern ease (that extra room in a garment that allows for movement) can ruin a garment's fit for me. I usually aim for a 36" bust and 30" waist for a fitted bodice, so I ended up tracing a size 6 for the bust and blending it into a size 8 at the waist on the bodice pieces. I cut size 6 sleeves and a size 8 skirt.

If I had gone with my initial measurements, my finished garment would have been much too big!

2. It will take you a few garments before you understand your body.

Sewing clothing for myself has opening my eyes to my body's quirks. Nowadays, when I trace a pattern, I know I will automatically need to shorten the bodice by about 1", blend in a larger waist and hip size to fit my pear shape, and maybe even take off some extra length at the hem. But I didn't learn these things overnight. It was only after making muslins for several different garments that I noticed I was making similar alterations each time. Now that I'm aware of my quirks, I can usually alter my pattern in the tracing stages and get a pretty great fit without a muslin.

3. Save your pretty Aurifil, and use polyester thread.

I usually have 50wt Aurifil Mako Cotton in my machine for quilt piecing, so early on, I just used it for sewing my clothes. The problem is that cotton thread does not provide any stretch in the way that polyester thread does. That means when I quickly pulled my Fancy Sailor Top over my head, I got a quick rip in the sleeve seam. After 3+ armpit seam rips in various garments, I made the effort to rethread my machine with some all purpose polyester thread for garment seams. If I have the perfect Aurifil shade, I might use it on hems since those don't get as much abuse. But for seams, save yourself the mending time and use poly thread.

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