Time for another patterning tutorial! I know drafting patterns is not exactly the most exciting topic, but if you really want to learn to how to design and make your own clothing, it is an essential tool in dressmaking. Learning some basic pattern drafting concepts is not only beneficial for those that want to construct the entire style from scratch, but also in the process of adjusting and altering store-bought, commercial patterns. As you become a more experienced sewist, you'll find yourself needing to do the latter a lot more than you may think.
In this tutorial I'll walk you through an easy technique for drafting a non-stretch skirt waistband pattern. The same technique is applicable to other bottoms like trousers, shorts, and various other skirt styles. In this case, I'm working with a basic skirt pattern which has two darts at the front and two at the back. Due to the fact that both right and left sides of this basic skirt are symmetrical, the pattern in this tutorial is a cut on fold style. This means that I'll be working with only one side of the front skirt pattern (left) with the center front line serving as the cut on fold edge (the same applies to the back pattern piece). The center front and center back lines are the straight vertical lines that go down the very center of the front and respectively the back of a sewing pattern, dividing each (front and back) into two symmetrical sides.
If you are working with a full pattern, you can still follow the steps described below to draft the waistband. Regardless of whether it is a cut on fold pattern or a full pattern, the center front and center back lines are an essential element to use in the process as it provides a guide to help you draft a perfectly symmetrical waistband (as you'll see below).
Ever since I started sewing years and year ago, the notion of cutting a pattern on fold has consistently presented itself. Cutting sewing patterns on fold is a technique very commonly used by beginner sewists and advanced dressmakers alike. Discussed in a previous introductory tutorial, utilizing the cut on fold technique, both in pattern drafting and cutting, can save space, pattern paper and make the cutting and patterning process more efficient and easy to handle. While this previous tutorial was more of a general introduction of these basic concepts, today's post will focus on two other equally important factors: How to correctly fold the fabric in preparation for pattern cutting, and how to transfer darts and other markings evenly to a cut on fold fabric piece. The latter can prove to be a bit more difficult to grasp as a beginner.
Folding The Fabric In Preparation For Cutting A Pattern On Fold
The process of cutting a sewing pattern on fold starts with folding the fabric correctly. This entails paying attention to grain line and using the fabric's selvage edge to fold the fabric correctly on grain. If you need a refresher on fabric grain and how to position sewing patterns against the fabric, check out this tutorial: 4 Ways To Lay Out A Sewing Pattern For Cutting: Understanding Fabric Grain And The Selvage Edge.
To start with, find the selvage edge closest to you and fold it over the fabric such that the wrong side of the fabric (if there is one) is facing out and the right side is sandwiched in between. The reason for this very specific placement is so that the markings which will later need to be transferred from pattern onto fabric end up on the wrong side of the fabric. This not only preserves the fabric's face side but having the markings on the wrong side correspond more comfortably to the way the fabric pieces are handled in the sewing process. In this instance, my fabric has no right or wrong side so I just folded it over evenly.
Now for the big question, how much to fold the fabric? The way I estimate how much to fold the fabric is by positioning the sewing pattern next to the selvage edge and try to capture an approximate fold line. I always try to stay as close to the selvage edges as possible with just a bit of extra room (1/2-1"). Doing so will preserve fabric as well as help you work a lot more efficiently.
Brainstorming: The Design Idea
This week marks the beginning of a new project... something I’ve been mulling over for a while now and finally found the right fabric (and the time!) to bring to life. Unlike the functional oriented work I usually focus on, this project involves a dressier design. I’ve always been a fan of two piece cocktail/evening dresses but never actually made one for myself, partly because I never came across the right fabric with the appropriate structure and color scheme for the very specific design I had in mind. That being said, I may be a little out of practice but let’s see how the process unfolds. Recently, the perfect material fell into my lap as I was browsing the fabric store for something completely unrelated. In a number of tutorials to follow, I’ll be going back to basics and retracing my steps from the beginning of a design idea to the eclectic construction process in between. Hopefully, you can find some inspiration in the process, or maybe just entertain yourself on the journey as I’ll take a fashion design concept from paper to finished product.
First thing’s first, the design process for me usually starts one of two ways. I get an idea (or a partial idea) in my head which is then followed by a search for the right fabrics and trims. Vice versa, I may be inspired by a unique fabric, texture, color combination or simple trim first before jumping into the design process. Regardless of which it is, my mind then goes on an analytical roller coaster of working out all the details, from fit to sewing patterns to how the garment will function and all the little details in between.
In this instance, I fell in love with the fabric first, including both the print and its medium weight, structured quality. I’ve always loved those 50’s inspired silhouettes and thought this particular fabric was perfect for a vintage inspired look with a modern twist. Relying on the fabric’s unique drape, a high waist skirt with deep box pleats would hold its fullness and structure, creating the perfect look for a two piece cocktail dress.
So you've gathered all supplies, trims, and fabrics for your garment-to-be but there is just one thing missing… You’ve scoured fabric store after fabric store and still can’t find that perfect length zipper in the right color. Let’s face it, if your garment calls for a zipper, it is most likely essential to its functionality. Needless to say, you won’t be able to skip this one.
What if the opposite happens- you found the right color in the right style but not the right length? Should you forgo color for length and just get the next best thing in a mismatched color? While you may think that’s your best option, the good news is, there’s a better way. If the style and color of the longer zipper matches the clothing item you are sewing, buy it and shorten it at home using the simple technique described below. After all, if you are striving for a professional finish, a mismatched zipper color can be a dead giveaway that things didn’t go quite well in the construction process (unless done intentionally, of course).
Do you remember the very first clothing item you made? I vividly remember mine: an A-line blouse with long sleeves that extended into an exaggerated bell silhouette (oh early 2000's fashion...). Here I am, years later, thinking about some of the sewing elements that still intimidate me to this day. Regardless of how much you love this craft, there are always things you love to sew more than others. That's just a very natural aspect of dressmaking, regardless of your skill level. One of the things I used to dread, but have actually come to enjoy, is sewing lining and facings to the zipper area.
I used to be terrified of anything remotely related to zippers. From sewing them evenly to navigating around the zipper coils during machine stitching, needless to say, all were highly dreaded. Along the way, I've learned that the key to getting past the fear is not only to keep practicing, but also to embrace the possibility of making mistakes. In the process, it is also a good idea to adhere to some basic sewing rules. I know, nobody likes rules, and quite frankly, they can overwhelm a sewing beginner to the point of giving up way too early in the game. Nonetheless, they are designed to be helpful in the long run and save you time in the sewing process. This concept is especially applicable to sewing zippers and clean finishing lining. If you follow some basic techniques correctly, you'll minimize stress and make the process a lot more enjoyable.
That being said, when it comes to finishing lining edges against that dreaded zipper, there are a few main sewing factors (or basic sewing rules) that come into play:
1. Fabric pieces should be sewn face to face, with their right sides touching (in most cases).
2. Sewing clean finished corners at the top of the zipper opening should be done correctly, at a 90 degree angle.
3. Learning how to use a regular zipper presser foot for different sewing applications (you'll fall in love with the convenience of this one!)
Today's Sewing Tip: When Making A Garment Smaller At The Seams, Cut The Old Seam AFTER The New Seam Has Been Stitched.
If you are taking in a clothing item at the seams, use the existing stitch line as a guide to sew the new seam. Cut the old seam and excess fabric after the new seam stitch has been applied.
Taking in certain areas of a garment to make it smaller is a one of the most common alterations that can be performed by just about anyone who owns a sewing machine, regardless of sewing skill level. It is easy to do, without the need for complex sewing techniques, or tools, for that matter. To make things even easier, there are some tricks you can use to maintain the balance of the garment while also simplifying the measuring and sewing process. Today's sewing tip covers a simple seam alteration method that should hopefully take the headache out of some of your future projects!
A journey into our design process, sewing tutorials, fashion tips, and all the inspiring people and things we love.
Today, allow yourself a few moments to explore and feel inspired and don't forget that everyday is an opportunity to learn something new. Never stop searching for what makes you truly happy.
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