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Clothing Sew Along: Week 2

Welcome to week 2 of theSew Along 

If you missed week 1 go ahead and catch up!

I've decided to combine the original plan for week 2 and 3 so get ready to start cutting!

Selecting a pattern

There are many different brands of U.S. pattern makers. Some of the most used ones are Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick and Vogue. You can also buy Burda patterns and other smaller company patterns. For those of you who don't have a pattern yet, JoAnn Fabrics is having a sale on their Simplicity patterns this Friday through Sunday for $1. That's a good deal. 

A few tips for selecting a pattern:

Stay with your level of sewing. If you are new to sewing, pick an easier pattern. Some patterns will say "easy to sew" or something similar on them. 

Stay with your body shape (if this is for you). We won't be going into tailoring so you want this to fit you without alteration. You'll also want to measure yourself before buying a pattern. Pattern sizes differ a bit from clothes you buy in the store.

Do not buy a pattern for knit fabric unless you have experience sewing knit. Or read Sew U Home Stretch: The Built by Wendy Guide to Sewing Knit Fabrics.

Collect your supplies

The back of the pattern will give you all the information you need about what type of fabric and notions to buy. Notions are the additional items like zippers, buttons, etc. 

Choose which "view" you are going to make. Many patterns will have multiple options and each option requires different amounts of fabric and notions.  

So, take a look at your pattern.

Stick to the types of fabric it tells you to buy. Avoid any fabric that is stretchy. Avoid stripes and plaids if this is your first pattern because it can be difficult to get them to line up at the seams (unless you don't care). Read the end of the fabric bolt to see if it is washable! Buy the amount of fabric it tells you to buy. If it mentions lining fabric, buy cotton or lining fabric in the amount specified. Other things you might need are a water soluble fabric marker or tailor's chalk, pins, and a seam ripper. You'll want to get thread that matches with your fabric as well.

Prepare your fabric

Wash, dry and iron your fabric before cutting into it. Some people wash and dry cotton fabric several times but maybe I'm lazy, I just wash once. 

Most fabrics are woven in two directions. These lines in the weave are important. 

Fabric info
The selvage is the "finished" edge of the fabric.

Lengthwise grain is the up and down direction of the fabric. This is the strongest part of the weave. This runs parallel to the selvage edge.

The crosswise grain runs from selvage to selvage.

Find the crosswise grain by ripping. This works for most light and midweight fabrics. Lay the fabric flat. Clip a notch at the selvage edge and tear gently. This will rip across the crosswise grainline. 

Once you've located the grain, fold the fabric with the selvage (finished) edges together. The edges should align, forming squared corners. If they don't, then the grain is off. Unfold the fabric and pull diagonally at the corners to fix it up. I don't find this necessary for children's clothes.

Prepare your pattern

Your pattern will come out of the envelope a bit wrinkled.

I find it helpful to iron them on low. Then avoid this…

Your pattern instructions will tell you which pieces you need.

You have 2 options for using the pattern pieces. You can cut them all out in the size you need, or you can trace them onto another piece of paper in order to preserve the original pattern. I sometimes do so that I'll be able to use the pattern in different sizes in the future.

When I do this, I use freezer paper. You can find freezer paper next to the foil and wax paper in the grocery store. (you could also use tissue paper or pattern paper) The reason I use it is two fold. First, it irons onto fabric, eliminating the need to pin the pattern to the fabric. Second, it can be re-ironed on, making cutting multiple pieces easy peasy. 

 I always put all original markings onto the paper I've traced the pattern onto. Now pin your pattern onto the fabric (or iron it on if you are using freezer paper) the way shown in the pattern.

It can be confusing but if you follow the drawing in the instructions you'll fit the pattern on the fabric in the correct direction, saving headaches later. Of course, I rarely follow my own advice and often end up with headaches when I accidentally cut a piece out facing the wrong direction, etc.

One way fabrics (like the robot fabric I'm using) require that all pieces be put in the same direction. Pay attention so some of your robots don't end up upside down. Some fabrics are directional and you may have no idea. If a fabric has a "nap" then are directional. To find out if your fabric has a "nap" rub your hand in one direction on the fabric. If it changes the color slightly the fabric has a nap. Common fabric with naps are velvet, twill and corduroy. 

The grainline arrow on the pattern pieces should follow very closely to the actual grainline. Use a ruler if you need to. The grainline arrow on the pattern piece should be exactly parallel to the selvage.

Once you have all the pieces pinned/ironed to the fabric, cut them out slowly. Transfer all markings to the fabric using your water soluble fabric marker or tailor's chalk.  

Follow the same steps for cutting linings and interfacing, etc.

Commercial patterns mark notches with a V shape cut out on the seam allowances. Use scissors to clip a shallow notch through all layers of fabric.

You did it! You are now ready to sew it together! See you next week!

Are you joining along?

sew along button

Let me know and I'll add your blog to the blog list on my side bar! Questions? send me an email or leave a comment! Most importantly, have fun!


  1. says

    You video last week was helpful. I got a friend to come over & introduce me to my machine as well. It was difficult to learn how to set-up my machine with kids & babies around distracting us :( I still am having tension problems with my machine but am working on it. Will pick up a simple pattern today. On a happier note – I’m soo glad you’re taking the time to teach me :) Thank you!

  2. El says

    Why must you always do things that look like so much fun? I am talking myself out of borrowing my mother in law’s machine right now because I have so many other things to do…aaah. Your little fabric diagram took me back to the time I had to take a Fabric Science class. I wish I still had my book of swatches to send you. It talked about what kind of fabrics to use for what and how they are made, etc… I wonder why I still didn’t learn how to sew after that.

  3. says

    I love your sewing tutorial!!! I hope the people who say “salvage” saw it written correctly!! Makes me crazy!!!
    Thanks for coming by.

  4. says

    To bad I don’t know how to sew… My mom does all the sewing for me.. My mom’s great!
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment.

  5. says

    Ok, this is where it gets scary for me. I’ve only ever sewed things that are easy enough to do without a pattern (or making a very rough one myself out of newspaper) – like very simple skits, Christmas stockings, tote bags… But thanks to you, I’m headed to JoAnns in the next couple of days to pick out a “very easy” pattern! I will let you know how it goes.

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