Sunday, 21 April 2013

Patterns, Measurements and Maths

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen...

Let me firstly apologies for not blogging sooner... it's been two weeks since I shared with you my adventures but I do have a genuine was my birthday! I had a super weekend and birthday day thanks to my husbandy and friends. I was spoilt rotten which can't be a bad thing. I'm now back and spreading the love.

Since my last sewing blog, I have made a few other bits and pieces - primarily involving squares! But my skills were well and truly put to the test when I attended an all day sewing course that involved making an 'A' line skirt. In a previous blog on sewing, I mentioned a great website called 'The Thrifty Stitcher' which has lots of hints and tips to help with sewing projects. The Thrifty Stitcher is an friendly sewing school ran by Claire-Louise Hardie who was a consultant to the BBC2 programme 'The Great British Sewing Bee'. She runs evening, half days and day courses for all levels to try and de-mystify the art of sewing. So with all these exciting courses to chose from I selected the 'An Introduction to Dress Making - Making a Skirt' (link below). 

Fabric Made in UK
Once booked, an email came through of what to expect from the day and what to bring. The key items to bring were fabric, an invisible zip and thread to match the fabric. With these instructions I jumped straight onto the 'Ray Stitch' website where I clicked and examined all the glorious fabrics they had on offer. When it came to the actual selection I remembered the first episode of the GBSB and decided not to get a complex pattern or anything too lightweight! So I selected a truly stunning shade of royal blue in a medium weight cotton (made in the UK) with matching zip and thread.

Thrifty Stitcher HQ
Soon the time passed and the day arrived to head over to Thrifty Stitcher HQ in Stoke Newington. Travel links are simple and they are very, very clear on the website with great photos to help you locate landmarks. I traveled to Highbury and Islington station, hopped on a local bus and after 2 minute walk from the bus I was there.  I entered the building and was greeted by Claire-Louise aka 'The Thrifty Stitcher'. The room had a lovely set up with a big sewing table, sewing machines, over-lockers, samples, fabric, toiles - everything you would expect to see in a sewing room!  I was soon settled down with a cup of tea and chatting away. Some other sewing bees arrived (four in total and the maximum size class) and soon we were all examining each others fabrics. With the creative juices flowing the class began....

Now the plan is to split the day over a series blog. I had to take in a great deal of tips, hints and skills and to get the full benefit from it and not to lose you by reading streams of text, I will break them down into smaller chunks. So, this blog starts at the beginning by focusing on patterns and pattern cutting...

'A' line skirt pattern
The stitching aim of the day was to make an 'A' line skirt. This being my first pattern I have ever cut I was both a little excited and nervous. The skirt pattern is by Butterick (B4461). However before the pattern was released from the packet we needed to be measured. With Claire-Louise armed with a tape measure I had my waist and hips measured. Top tip: If taking measurements, take the measurements from the side of the person and not the front - it will save a lot of embarrassment when you have your face in a strangers crotch! 

Size guide

To select the size of the pattern look at the waist and hip measurements closest to your size (normally located on the back of the packet). If you like a snug fit, go for a size down or if you like a loose fit go for a size up. Top tip: Check the waistline on the pattern itself as it actually tells you how much 'give' it will have once made. A great blog that goes into more detail is by 'Tilly and the Buttons' called 'How to select your sewing  pattern size' (link below). Top tip: Don't worry of you make it larger - it is generally easier to take fabric away than add in. My measurements were a 30" waist and a 41"hip. After checking the guidelines we decided to follow a size 14 pattern (as I like a snug fit) and add an extra 2" to the waist.  To add the 2" to the pattern add 0.5" the front and back piece. (NB: this calculation is based on 2"/4 as you work on four pieces of fabric). 

Adding width
With the packet now in my hands, I opened it and started to make the personal adjustments to the pattern. I added a half of an inch to the front and back piece. To ensure it blended nicely back into the pattern I used a dress making curved ruler and a pencil. Once this was done I cut out the pattern - slowly and accurately. Once cut out it was now time to look at the length. As I wear 1950s/ vintage style clothes I wanted an on-the knee length. To achieve this 5" were added to the pattern. Now I thought this would just be added to the bottom of the pattern - WRONG! On the pattern there is a line that says
Adding length
'lengthen or shorten here' - this is where the additional 5" will be added. Tracing paper can be used but we used a dressmakers square patterned paper. The pattern was cut along the line and pinned to a sewing board that had inches clearly marked on it. The extra pattern paper was inserted and taped (using scotch tape). To ensure continuity a small side piece had to be added and again I used the dressmakers ruler to smooth the curve. The extra paper was cut off and ta-dah I had my finished pattern.

Being my first item made from a pattern I was surprised at the amount of preparation it took even to make the pattern the correct size. I took for granted that a pattern was taken out of the packet, attached to fabric and that was it - boy, was I wrong. Even making sure the pattern fits correctly by adding extra inches to the waist and length takes time but I suppose it's like all things - make sure the preparation is correct and the rest should be easy (well, you will have to wait for the next bit!). Next time I'll look at the fabric and starting to make the skirt!

Top tips:
  • Equipment: Pattern, dress makers ruler (or a long ruler), hemming ruler, tape measure pencil, scissors, calculator and a cutting mat. You may also need additional dressmakers paper and scotch tape depending if any alterations are required
  • Take body measurements from the side and not the front - it will save a lot of embarrassment when you have your face in a strangers crotch!
  •  Don't worry of you make it larger - it is generally easier to take fabric away than add in.
  • Check the waistline on the pattern as it actually tells you how much 'give' it will have once made
Useful websites/ blogs:

I'd would like to say a massive thank you to Claire-Louise and to all at The Thrifty Stitcher for a wonderful creative day - I will definitely be back for the dress making day! 

Happy Pattern Cutting x

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