Congratulations on deciding to learn how to sew! You’ll finally be able to make and even design your own clothing, not to mention fixing some older ones waiting in the back of your closet! We always hear from newcomers to the sewing-game how difficult it is to get started… For a sewing beginner, patterns are confusing and fabrics are difficult to align and cut. Worst of all, beginners get so overwhelmed by the supplies they need to get for both drafting their sewing patterns and putting the garment together, that they give up right from the start. It is true that sewing requires patience and practice and if you don’t have the correct initial guidance, it is quite difficult to get started. As you’ll learn from our Learn To Sew Box, our goal is to teach you how to sew by keeping it extremely simple! If you’re a newcomer this is a great way you can feel inspired to stick to learning in the long run. We apply the same concept when recommending sewing and patterning supplies: There is absolutely no need to start with complicated measuring tools, complicated presser feet and unnecessary marking tools.
Below is a complete, comprehensive list of the tools you will need to draft and cut your own patterns and sew your garment together:
Dotted/Numbered Pattern Paper
We recommend using marked pattern paper because it makes it easier and faster to draw straight lines on it work with 1" increments without having to measure constantly. You can always work on tracing paper or just regular white paper from a roll, but make sure it is not too thick as you will need to pin it and transfer the sewing pattern’s markings onto fabric easily (Check out these pattern paper subsitutes for more options). Numbered/dotted pattern paper is used in the fashion industry and once you get used to it, it makes a huge difference in the speed and convenience it provides. You can find some good deals on numbered pattern paper rolls on Ebay or Amazon
A mechanical Pencil
Why mechanical? Well because precision is necessary for good pattern making. A mechanical pencil maintains a fine point and does not need to be sharpened every few minutes. If you plan on drafting your own patterns often, invest in a good quality mechanical pencil with a durable tip.
Simple, Unmarked French Curve
As we mentioned above, if you’re a beginner you shouldn’t overwhelm yourself with a variety of different types of marked french curves. There is a common misconception that you need french curves of different sizes and shapes in order to draft a sewing pattern. In reality, those complicated french curve kits you come across at the craft stores are usually more for graphic design, architectural and interior design. All you need as a beginner is just a simple unmarked french curve (image bellow) which you can buy at a very reasonable cost either at your local sewing supply store or an art store. This will be used to draft the very curved lines of the armhole, neckline, hips (sometimes), and other curved seams on your pattern.
Clear Marked Plastic Ruler
Once you start drafting your own patterns, you will not be able to survive without this ruler (pictured bellow). It is 2” wide and 18” in length and marked down to 1/16th of an inch. You can gently bend it to measure around curves with it and easily slide it across the paper from one line to the other. You can use this ruler not just for your sewing projects, but for all your crafting needs that require measuring. Once you buy it, you will never want to use another ruler! You can find it at your local fabric and art stores.
Although you want need to use this constantly, it will be a necessity for transferring pattern marking like darts, tucks, notches and more complicated style lines. A tracing wheel is also used to transfer darts to your fabric using tracing paper (although our Learn to Sew Box provides an easy way to do this without the need for these tools!).
Supplies For Transferring Pattern Markings To Fabric
Tracing Paper (used with tracing wheel):
Tracing paper and tracing wheels are most commonly used together to transfer darts from pattern to fabric. To let you in on a little secret, we teach you how to transfer your markings to fabric without the use of these two supplies in our Learn To Sew Box. However, it never hurts to have some tracing paper for more complicated style-lines you’ll occasionally need to transfer. You can find it at your local fabric or art store.
Water Soluble Fabric Pencil:
We highly recommend getting a water soluble fabric pencil. It allows you to mark your fabric in a more clean, precise way without having to handle messy tracing paper and a tracing wheel.
Optional Supplies: For the advanced pattern maker.
If you’re just learning how to sew, you will most likely purchase already-made patterns before learning how to draft your own. The good news is that there aren’t too many supplies you need to worry about when it comes to putting a garment together, especially if you already own a sewing machine and a good pair of scissors.
Sewing machine/ Matching Thread: This big purchase serves as a first step for anyone who wants to learn to make his/her own clothing. Your first sewing machine doesn’t have to be too complicated and expensive. On the contrary, we recommend buying a sewing machine that doesn’t have too many complex stitch options. As long as it has a straight stitch, zig-zag stitch and a buttonhole option, you’ll be just fine. It is also highly recommended that you learn how to thread it and feel comfortable with its speed and how it stitches before diving into more complicated projects. The more comfortable and familiar you are with your sewing machine, the smoother and straighter your final stitches will be!
An Iron (Important!): When you’re at the beginning of the road, nobody ever mentions how important a simple iron is in the sewing process. In fact, the number one rule in sewing (that you’ll learn as you train with us!) is iron every seam as you go- Do not wait to sew the whole garment before ironing the seams down. An iron that has good steam options is the best!
Fabric Scissors (Or a pair of sharp all-purpose scissors): Yes, it is a good idea to invest in a good pair of fabric scissors. You can now find some affordable options that work just as well for a sewing beginner. Although we do recommend buying scissors that cut well through fabric layers, any sharp pair of scissors that will do the job well works. The end result of cutting your sewing patterns out should be a very consistently smooth edge, so keep that in mind when using your scissors of choice. If you go to your local fabric store, you’ll have a very large range of prices to pick from so make your selection wisely!
Ball Head Pins: There used to be a misconception about the professionalism of ball head pins. A lot of older methods required professionals and designers in the fashion industry to use traditional dressmaker pins that don’t have the plastic bead on one end. Ball head pins are normally reffered to as quilter’s pins thus traditionally used for quilting and crafts. However, things have changed. Fashion design schools and professional brands now like to use ball headed pins, unless they are draping or working on a complicated couture piece. Why? Simple- They are so much more comfortable to handle and don’t hurt your fingers. They usually come in a longer length which adds to their comfort. For a sewing beginner, we recommend all-purpose 2” long ball head pins form your local fabric store.
Hand Sewing Needles: You’re probably asking yourself: Why do I need hand sewing needles if I’ll be using a sewing machine? Even if you use your sewing machine on all seams and finishes, you should always have hand-sewing needles available for when you need to baste, blindstitch or transfer loose threads from the face to the back side of your garment. A hand sewing needle can also come in handy when you need to do a quick fix weather its something you made or purchased. The good news is that you probably already have some so you wont need to make any additional purchases.
Now that you have a simple checklist of all the supplies you need, it’s time to get started on the really fun part- actually sewing clothing item from start to finish. If you don’t know how to get started try the Learn To Sew Box, the easy, more efficient way to learn how to sew by making your first A-line dress!
Just as important as knowing how to cut your pattern and stitching the seams together is the need to clean finish all the raw edges of a garment. Why do we need to do this? Well because most fabric weave edges fray, which causes threads to come undone at the edge affecting the durability of a seam, as well as the “cleanliness” of a clothing item. Nobody wants to walk around with small pieces of thread hanging everywhere, right? Luckily, there is a variety of different ways you can finish the raw edges of your seams, and some of the most common ones are done directly with your sewing machine. Bellow, we are going to walk you through 4 most common methods to clean-finish seams on the inside of the garment step by step with picture demonstrations. Let’s get started:
1. Serging or Zig Zag on home sewing machine:
This is the most common seam finishing and is done directly on the machine. For the serging stitch, you will need a serger (or overlock machine). If you are a more seasoned dressmaker, we highly recommend a serger, because it will become your go-to for finishing all raw fabric edges in a professional, clean manner. If you are just beginning to learn how to sew, you can substitute the serging stitch for a Zig Zag stitch on your home sewing machine.
Step 1: Once your seam is stitched together, run a serging or zig zag stitch along the edge of the raw fabric.
Step 2: Iron excess seam allowance towards the back of the clothing item you are sewing. The easiest way is to iron the seam on the face of the garment.
2. French Seam
This is a more expensive seam finish and is most commonly found on higher priced silk blouses and dresses, and a variety of different chiffon fabrics. It is not a seam you will find in outerwear or heavier pieces- it is a very dainty finish that requires a thin, delicate fabric. While you should learn how to do the french seam on a regular sewing machine, there are new sewing machines on the industrial level that can sew a french seam in a single step, but you don’t have to worry about that unless you are an apparel manufacturer! So why should you use this as opposed to a regular serged seam? Well, it will be a more durable, clean finish that doesn’t run the risk of bunching up under the rough stitch of the serger. If you are working with 100% silk fabrics that are delicate, a serging or zig zag finish can risk catching some of the threads in the weave and bulking up the seam on the outside (if the needle is not sharp and thin enough). A french seam is also a more durable, high quality option for thinner fabrics.
Assuming your seam allowance is ½”
Step 1: Align the edges of the fabric at the corresponding seam with the back side of the fabric touching. The face of the fabric should be on the outside. Sew at ¼” seam allowance.
Note: In the fabric sample bellow, the darker side of the print is the back of the fabric.
Step 2: Iron excess to one side, then fold and iron seam to enclose the raw edges of the fabric as shown in the image bellow. Pin to reinforce this fold.
Step 3: Sew along the fold at ¼" seam allowance again. You will notice that the fold will remain on the inside and the outside will be a clean finished seam. This finish will ensure raw edges are enclosed and a clean finish, both on the inside and outside of the garment, is achieved.
Step 4: Iron the fold towards the back of the garment. Iron on the face side of the seam as shown bellow.
3. Flat Fell
A very common finish used with denim fabric. You will see the flat fell seam used on jeans, denim jackets, casual jackets and blazers that have a lot of top stitching. This is also a seam that requires enclosure of the raw edges, but as opposed to the french seam, it is a lot more heavy-duty and used with thicker wovens that are easy. So how do you sew a flat fell seam? We’ll show you!
Our edges have ½” seam allowance.
Step 1: Stitch the seams together at ½” seam allowance making sure the face of both fabric pieces are touching. (The back-side of the fabric should be on the outside). Once done stitching, iron the seam allowance open as shown below- This will facilitate the next few steps.
Step 2: Trim one side of the seam allowance excess at a ¼” (or in half).
Step 3: Fold the larger, untrimmed seam allowance at a ¼” in, and iron down this fold. Overlap to enclose the trimmed raw edge. Iron again and pin to secure the overlapped fold in place.
Step 4: Stitch close to the edge of the fold, using it as a guide. Iron the seam on the face of the garment for a clean, professional look.
4. Using Binding: Bound Seam
You will find this seam finish on outerwear styles like unlined jackets, trench coats and heavier cardigans and vests. Back in the day, bound seam finishes were very commonly seen in dress skirts/pants and business suits. Today unfortunately, this is a more costly finish so it is only used when necessary on heavier pieces. You can purchase a presser foot to sew a bound seam using a pre-cut strip of fabric in a single step on your sewing machine, but we won't recommend that until you feel comfortable sewing one the long way- using a regular straight stitch presser foot. You can make your own binding by cutting a strip of fabric on bias and triple folding it. As a sewing beginner however, we recommend buying pre-cut, pre-folded binding from your local fabric store. It comes in a variety of different widths from ¼” to ¾”. For light to medium fabrics with ½” seam allowances we recommend using ¼” binding as a finish. For thicker, bulkier fabrics you a 1/2" wide double folded binding works best.
In the demo bellow, we are working with a ½” seam allowance again.
Step 1: Stitch the seam together with the face of the fabric touching at ½” seam allowance.
Step 2: Unfold the binding and align one of its edges exactly to the raw edge of the fabric. Pin it horizontally to keep the fabric and binding together. Stitch at ¼” on top of the binding’s fold line as shown below.
Step 3: Close the binding’s fold over the raw edges to enclose it. You can iron this fold down to make it more stable for sewing. Put a few pins through to makes sure the fold doesn’t move.
Step 4: On the side where the binding’s fold is open and not yet stitched to the fabric, sew a straight stitch on top of the binding as close to the edge of the fold-line as you can. Use the fold's edge as a guide while sewing.
Step 5: Iron down the seam with the seam allowance pointing towards the back. Iron on the face side of the seam.
If you’re in the beginning stages of learning how to sew, even stitching together a simple seam can be confusing. Sewing is overwhelming for many people mainly because they don’t start the right way. There is too much overwhelming information out there and without some serious sewing courses, it is difficult to know where to start. For that reason, we put together the Learn To Sew Box, which includes full size patterns in your choice of size, your choice of fabric, and the main sewing supplies you need to sew a dress from start to finish- The box will not only teach you how to sew, it will also give you the satisfaction of wearing a dress you made in your perfect size!
Giving you a sneak peek into the Learn to Sew Box, we put together a step by step guide to sewing a seam properly following three important rules! Once you know these rules you can apply them to any kind of seams, garment details, pockets etc.- anything you wish to sew!
Rule #1: When stitching a seam together the face of both fabric pieces should be touching.
This is a simple rule that will ensure you don’t have to worry about sewing on the wrong side of the fabric. When you’re pinning together the seams getting it ready for stitching, make sure the face of the fabric on both pieces is touching. When your seam is stitched, the clean side of the seam will correspond to the face of the fabric and the excess seam allowance will remain on the inside of the garment, corresponding to the back side of your fabric. If you get used to following this rule, you will never need to redo any seams just because of a simple error in sewing on the wrong side. How do you know what is traditionally considered the face side of the fabric? You can figure it out visually by comparing what side has the more detailed weaving or vibrant color. However, it is actually up to you what side of the fabric you want to use for the garment you’re sewing- Don’t be intimidated by what is “supposed” to be the face of the fabric. If you really like a fabric’s look on the back better than the front, feel free to use that as the face of your garment. Additionally, for many solid and print fabrics that look the same on both sides, this rule doesn’t apply.
Rule #2: Pins should be placed horizontally along the seam before stitching.
When you put two pieces of fabric together to create a seam they must be matched and briefly stabilized in place with pins. This keeps the seam perfectly aligned and connected before receiving a final machine stitch at a specific seam allowance (distance from the edge). Many self-taught sewing enthusiast and beginners, don’t pay attention to the direction of the pins when putting a seam together, but it is actually quite important. The direction of your pins is not only a factor that influences how efficiently you sew, but it also affects the safety and correct alignment of the fabric. For that reason, pins should be placed horizontally along a seam and not vertically. Why is this such a big deal? Well first and foremost, when you’re running a stitch on your machine, you should be able to comfortably (and conveniently) remove each pin one by one right before the needle approaches it. When the pins are aligned horizontally this is very easy and safe to do! Speaking of safety, if your pins are aligned vertically you will most likely prick your fingers occasionally as you hold and move the fabric under the presser-foot. A horizontal positioning of pins is less likely to hurt you due to the way they are placed in relation to your hands. In addition, placing the pins horizontally maintains a much stronger seam alignment and stability, stopping the two pieces of fabric from bulking and sliding up and down (which often happens when the pins are inserted vertically).
Rule #3: Back-stitch the beginning and end of your each seam, unless your sewing machine has tension issues.
The phrase above probably sounds very confusing to the sewing beginner so we’ll try to break it down for you.
Back-stitching is when you reverse a stitch on your sewing machine or by hand in order to lock it in place, thus stopping it from coming apart. This is necessary for most stitches in order to maintain durability. It might seem like an extra step, but once you get into the habit of starting and finishing your regular machine stitches with a back-stitch it becomes very natural. There are some stitches that don’t necessarily require back-stitching. For example, sewing a hem can be finished by overlapping the end portion of the stitch with the beginning. However, for good measure and because you should develop good-quality habits from the start, we recommend that you back-stitch all your seams. Read our tutorial on back-stitching to learn more about how to back-stitch by hand and using a sewing machine.
There is nonetheless a factor that could influence whether you back-stitch both at the beginning and end of the stitch. If you notice that your sewing machine is pulling and wrinkling the stitch even slightly, it might have some tension issues or need to be readjusted. You can look into fixing this either in your manual or by finding some information online. What happens with a straight stitch when your machine has tension problems and you back-stitch both at the beginning AND end of the stitch is that there’s no way to release the stitch wrinkles so the seam itself ends up looking bulky and wrinkled. A way to prevent this issue is to back-stitch only at the beginning or only at the end of your stitch, and then iron the wrinkles out towards the end that’s not back-stitched.
What does cutting on fold mean?
If you’re just starting to learn the logistics and techniques of sewing, you’ll soon come across the term “Cut On fold”. A sewing pattern that has two symmetric sides can be slashed in half and cut on the fold of your fabric. This method is most commonly used for simple front or back patterns and facings where the Center Front or the Center Back corresponds to the fabric’s fold. On your pattern, you can spot a line that needs to be placed on the fold by the fact that it has no seam allowance, appearing as the actual edge of the pattern. This line is marked with one of the symbols shown below, sometimes even having the words “cut on fold” printed along the edge. Once you fold your fabric properly (we’ll go over this below) and align the edge of your pattern perfectly with the fabric’s fold, the double layer is then cut according to the sewing pattern, leaving the fold intact! Once the fabric is cut and all necessary marking are transferred from the pattern, you’ll notice that when you open the fabric’s fold you have a full piece with two identical sides. This not only saves you money, but it also saves you lots of space and time.
Why do we need to cut on fold?
There are a few main reasons why many seamstresses choose to draft and cut their patterns on fold. Although this isn’t a common practice in the apparel manufacturing industry mainly because the machines used cut dozens of single layers that require full patterns and not cut-on-fold.
So what are the pros of making and cutting your patterns on fold? Here are 3 main reasons bellow:
1. Limited space: If you’re limited on space, which is true for many home sewers, having a pattern that requires to be cut on fold will need a smaller working space and give you more room for comfort. Not everyone has a big cutting table or a studio in their home, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn't be able to sew just as well as the pros. When your sewing pattern is laid on the fabric’s fold it allows you to comfortably extend your arms while cutting the more difficult, curved lines. This space-efficiency also allows you to handle the pattern and fabric more comfortably in a confined space- it really makes a huge difference with your working conditions so you can really start enjoying it!
2. Saving pattern paper: Sewing supplies are not cheap, especially the ones that need to be periodically replenished like pattern paper. If you’re going to make a lot of your own patterns, we recommend that you invest in some marked pattern paper (or check out some of these pattern paper substitutes)- you can find some good deals on Ebay and Amazon. If you draft your patterns to be cut on fold, a roll of pattern paper will last you a very long time. If you’re a home sewer, you should cut down on cost and space as much as you can. Patterns that are symmetric on both sides should be cut in half and marked as cut-on-fold. For example, if you have a simple A-line dress that has no asymmetric elements, the front and back patterns should be drafted so that the center lines of both back and front patterns are aligned with the fabric’s fold. These center lines, also known as Center Front (for front pattern) and Center Back (for back patterns), represent the cut-on-fold line. Because of their shape, A-line dress patterns can use up a lot of pattern paper (and space) when drafted in full so your best bet is to cut them on fold.
There is however an exception: If you are just starting to learn how to sew and are still in the process of understanding the basic concepts of sewing, it is a good idea to work with full patterns first before you try your hand at cut-on-fold ones. It just gives you a better understanding on how to use your fabric’s width efficiently and the symmetry of patterns. For that reason, The Learn To Sew Box includes full A-line dress patterns. Once you start feeling comfortable with your fabric and the cutting process, you can always fold or cut the patterns in half down center front and center back to minimize space.
3. Easier to work with and faster to cut: Using cut-on-fold sewing patterns makes the pinned-together pattern and fabric more flexible to move around and turn for a more convenient cutting angle. Once you get some practice, you will find the fabric cutting angles that are most comfortable for you to work with and working with on-fold patterns are easier to maneuver when it comes to achieving your optimal comfort. In addition, cutting through multiple layers, allows for more stability in your fabric, thus helping you achieve a more precise cut. This is especially true if you are working with thinner, more flimsy fabrics.
How to align and cut your patterns on fold
As is true for everything we do, there is always a right and a wrong way to lay out your fabric and cut an on-fold pattern. Don’t worry, it’s really not too difficult but it should be done correctly if you want to avoid fit and comfort issues in your final product.
1. Folding the Fabric Correctly:
To make sure you use your fabric efficiently, line up your pattern on your fabric as close to the selvage edge as possible. This will give you an idea of how much to fold the fabric in. Once you have an idea of the average width that needs to be folded in, put the pattern aside and fold the edge of the fabric over at the measured length, so that the selvage edge is perfectly parallel to the fold created. The easiest way to do this is by folding the fabric as close to parallel as possible using the naked eye and then measuring at the top, middle and bottom from fold to selvage edge and moving the fabric to correct measurement differences- you want the length from fold to selvage to be equal along the fabric.
Tip: Always fold with the back-side of the fabric facing the outside. This way, when you cut your pattern out and are ready to transfer the markings to fabric, they end up on the inside of the garment as they should.
2. Pinning and Cutting a cut-on-fold Sewing Pattern:
So now that you have your fabric all folded and prepped, it’s time to pin your sewing pattern for cutting. First, you should be able to read your sewing pattern and what each of it’s markings represents. Find the edge that is marked with any of the cut-on-fold symbols or that has the words “cut on fold” marked along. You will also recognize this edge by the fact that it lacks seam allowance, notches and any other marking you might find along regular seams- It is a simple, straight line.
Take your sewing pattern and align this edge perfectly to the fabric’s fold as shown above. Place a few pins along the fold to hold the pattern in place. Make sure you place the edge right on top of the fold with no excess fabric showing. Once you’ve secured this edge in place, pin the rest of your fabric at the seam allowance.
Easy huh? Now all that’s left to do is cut your fabric along the patterns edge carefully and mark it accordingly. If you have darts that need to be transferred on both sides of the fold follow the instructions in our How to transfer darts onto multiple layers of fabric correctly.
Once you have a good understanding of your pattern, the next step is to cut it out of your chosen fabric. It sounds simple right? Although it follows very simple rules, cutting out your sewing pattern requires some specific steps to be followed in order to be done correctly. Making sure you are cutting with a steady hand and in a really clean line, especially around curves, will take some extra getting used to. If you want to learn how to sew properly, cutting your sewing patterns and marking them correctly will make it much easier as you dive deeper into various sewing techniques.
So let’s begin with the correct layout of your sewing pattern on fabric:
Selvage edge of fabric: It shows the direction of the fabric grain. The selvage edge displays the direction of the warp threads which run vertically in a fabric weave. Weft threads run perpendicular to the warp threads and are perpendicular to the selvage edge. The reason why most sewing patterns are cut parallel to the selvage edge is the fact that this direction offers the most strength and durability. If you want to convince yourself, take your fabric and stretch along the selvage edge, you will notice that it is almost impossible to stretch. Now, try pulling perpendicular to the selvage edge- you will find that the fabric offers somewhat of a stretch.
All sewing patterns have a double pointed arrow located either vertically, horizontally or diagonally across the pattern. This is called the Grain Line. The grain line will tell you how to place your sewing pattern on fabric for cutting, and it works in relationship with the selvage edge.
A vertical grain line, or Lengthwise grain, is aligned parallel to the salvage edge.
A horizontal grain line also called Crosswise grain, is aligned perpendicular to selvage edge.
A diagonal grain line means the sewing pattern is aligned diagonally in relation to the selvage edge and is also called bias cut. This cut is more expensive because it uses more fabric, but it offers a beautiful drape and slight stretch thus increasing comfort.
For the purpose of this training we will work with a vertical grain line also called Lengthwise grain.
Step 1: Take your pattern and align it so that the grain line on the paper is parallel to the selvage edge of the fabric. To do this, use a ruler to measure from upper portion of the arrow to the selvage edge, note the measurement and put a pin through both paper and fabric on the grain line. Now, measure from a lower portion of the grain line on the paper pattern to the selvage edge moving the pattern around to make sure the measurement matches to the one above. Put a pin (through the paper and fabric) on the grain line at the lower point as well. Now you have your pattern perfectly aligned with the grain of the fabric (or selvage edge).
Step 2: Pin the sewing pattern to the fabric on top of the seam allowance (between outer edge and stitch line). The reason you pin the pattern to the fabric along the seam allowance is so that the pins don’t leave a mark on the finished garment and so that the patterns stay flat against the fabric when it is cut along the edge. Distribute pins evenly along the edge of the pattern so that both sewing pattern and fabric remain evenly flat.
Step 3: Using a sharp pair of scissors (preferably fabric scissors), begin cutting out the fabric following the edges of the sewing pattern very carefully. Cut in even, clean strokes. Your goal for the final fabric cut-out is to create an exact replica of your paper pattern. Take your time around the roundest parts of the sewing pattern such as the armholes and neckline, making sure the end result is a smooth curve.
This is a universal pining and cutting method for all your patterns. Whether it’s the sewing pattern for a dress or a pair of pants, always pay attention to the direction of the grain line, pin evenly along the edge within the seam allowance, and cut carefully!
Practice makes perfect! If you want to learn how to sew but are feeling overwhelmed by your choice in fabrics and buying supplies on your own, you can try the Learn to Sew Box and learn how to make a dress from start to finish using the patterns, fabric and supplies provided in the box. All you have to do is choose your size and your fabric. All supplies and most importantly the patterns are re-usable!
This Christmas has been hectic in the best kind of way! As is true for any Christmas-obsessed fanatic, I got all my Christmas shopping done early. In true form, I tried to keep it as unique and personal as possible which left me with some Christmas presents that were a bit more challenging to wrap... or maybe the word "awkward" describes it better. Needless to say, I was up for the challenge. You're probably thinking "what is she talking about? How difficult can it be to wrap a Christmas present?" Well, let me explain
For the plant/nature lovers in my life (and there are lots of them) I thought it would only be appropriate to get them something that is naturally, "a plant". Instead of opting out for a boring old indoor plant, I thought why not get some whimsical air plant terrariums (I kind of have an obsession with them..). Glass terrariums come in all shapes and sizes but I opted for the classic spherical glass bowl at about 5x5 inches in size. Since I finished my Christmas shopping a bit earlier, I knew I had to assemble the terrarium and keep the air plants happy in their habitat. Naturally, that means I couldn't just throw the terrarium in a box, wrap it and toss it under the tree (Ouch!). Our family Christmas tradition (just like everyone else's) entails that every present should be wrapped (somehow), randomly picked from under the tree, and opened in front of everyone. Needless to say, this was probably one of the most awkward things I've ever had to wrap.
The solution? A handmade Christmas-printed cotton fabric pouch with draw-string ribbon that is gentle on the terrarium and still maintains the element of surprise. Cotton is a natural fiber that is also one of the most breathable making it perfect for not distorting the air flow in the terrarium. Most air plants do require light as long as it's not direct, so when I went shopping for Christmas-themed cotton fabrics I opted for a white or very light color. A very light colored fabric will allow the terrarium to maintain a decent amount of natural light coming through without disturbing it's living conditions.
So let's get started! I'll show you the easiest way to make the pouch and hopefully this little training will come in handy next time you find yourself limited on wrapping options. You can use this method for any size pouch and make a perfect little enclosure for many of your Christmas gift this holiday season.
1. Find the horizontal and vertical measurements you'll need for the pouch.
Use a measuring tape around the terrarium and note the circumference. Ours is about 19".
Next, use a ruler to measure the approximate height of the terrarium (or whatever object you're working with) and give yourself about 2" in excess at the top and 2" at the bottom to cover the top and bottom surface of the terrarium when the pouch is closed. Remember, the terrarium is a spherical, 3-dimensional object so you have to give yourself enough ease on both top and bottom in order to enclose it properly. In our case, the height of the terrarium is 6" plus 4" in ease so the total comes to 10"
2. Use the measurements above to mark and cut the fabric for the pouch. This step will require a little bit of basic math, but nothing too complicated.
So we know that the circumference of our terrarium is 19". Since we'll have two seams on both sides you will need to divide this measurement by 2 and add 1" total for seam allowance (1/2" of seam allowance on each side). So 19" divided by 2 is 9.5" plus 1" (seam allwance) is 10.5". You will also need to allow yourself additional half an inch excess fabric on each side sides (also called ease) in order to comfortably insert and remove the terrarium from the pouch- since we're adding 1/2" of ease on each side, total excess fabric will be an 1". Thus, 10.5" from above plus 1" of ease is 11.5", which will be the total horizontal measurement for the pouch's initial fabric cut.
Now, for the vertical measurement: We know that the terraium plus the 4" we left as excess is 10". Multiply this number by 2, since you will need to cover the terrarioum on both sides (10" x 2= 20"). You will also need to add extra fabric at the top to accomodate the draw-string ribbon and have some extra for design purposes. You will need 1/2" seam allowance to clean finish the raw edge, and 6" total that will be folded to create the extra fabric gathering at the top. So the total vertical measurement will be 26.5" (20" + 6" + 1/2"). If it sounds confusing, don't worry! You'll get a better understanding in the steps that follow.
This model for taking measurements works best on more difficult shapes like larger spherical or cube objects. You can use it as a general idea for how you can get rough estimate measurements for making a gift pouch.
3. Draw and cut the rectangular shape for the pouch using the measurements described above.
In our tutorial, the vertical measurement is 26.5" and horizontal measurement ended up being 11.5". Draw a rectangle on your fabric using these measurements (11.5" x 26.5")
4. Cut out the rectangular shape. This is the piece you will use to sew your fabric pouch.
5. Fold the rectangle vertically making sure the face side of the fabric is touching. Pin both edges horizontally as shown bellow- These two edges will be your side seams.
6. Stitch both edges on your sewing machine at 1/2" seam allowance.
7. You now have a rough draft of your pouch! Turn it on the face side and iron both seams flat with the excess pointing to one side.
8. After ironing, turn the pouch inside out again so that the inside of the pouch is facing you. Fold each corner so that the side seam is aligned vertically down the middle as shown below. Pin this fold horizontally. Using a ruler and a pen or pencil, draw a straight horizontal line intersecting perpendicularly to the seam (forming a triangular shape). This will be your sew line. It is up to you where you want to place this horizontal sew line. Keep in mind that the lower you place it the more 3-dimensional the pouch will be at the bottom.
9. Use your sewing machine to stitch along this pen/pencil line. Don't forget to back-stitch on both ends for a durable finish.
Now, if you turn the pouch back on its face side you will notice that due to the horizontal stitches we placed at both edges, the bottom of the pouch has a more 3-dimensional look. This works great with larger objects like the terrarium by giving it enough room at the bottom.
10. At the opening of the pouch, fold the raw edge in towards the inside at 1/2". Iron down to secure.
11. Fold in once more along the edge, but this time at 3". Use a ruler for precision. Place a few pins along the fold to keep it in place.
13. The ribbon used for this tutorial is about 5/8" in width. This means that when sewing the tunnel that it will be inserted into it has to be 5/8" in width and have at least 1/4" excess so that the ribbon can be inserted smoothly and easily. To make sure we have enough space to accommodate the ribbon, we're going to do a 3/4" wide tunnel for it. Measure from the stitch line you just made along the fold up 3/4" and mark along with a pencil/pen. Once marked, stitch along this second line to create the tunnel for the draw string ribbon. This will be your final stitch.
14. Lay the pouch flat on the table and find the approximate middle point between the two side seams Draw a vertical dash between the two stitch lines.
15. Cut only through the TOP LAYER OF FABRIC along the vertical dash making sure you don't go past the stitch lines at the top and bottom. This will be the opening for the draw-string ribbon.
16. Last but not least, inserting the ribbon into the little tunnel you've created is actually quite fun! If you've ever sewn elastic waistbands before, this is very similar to how you would insert elastic into the waistband tunnel.
Attach the edge of the ribbon to a medium sized safety pin as shown below.
Insert the safety pin with the ribbon attached through the opening of the slit and pull through gradually until the safety pin comes out on the other side of the slit.
Pull both ends of the ribbon until they are aligned equally in length at the front.
There are a few ways to finish the raw edges of the ribbon- You can use a match to melt the ends slightly until the weave is sealed; or the easiest, simply tie knots to stop the edges from fraying.
Here it is! This 100% breathable cotton Christmas pouch will be the best addition to the collection of presents you have waiting under the Christmas tree. Best of all, the air plants will get enough air and light to survive the day in the pouch until finally being opened.
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