Basic Sewing Facts
Here are some basic facts you should know:
Look at the pattern you have and check out the way the pattern company shows the markings listed below. A good explanation is usually on the first page of the instruction sheet.
Grainline: Look really closely at your fabric and see how the threads go up and down and sideways. Match this arrow to the threads that go up and down, parallel to the selvage.
Fold line: Place this line on the fold in your fabric and cut around the other lines. Automatically you get the whole piece cut with half the work. DO NOT cut on the fold line.
Cutting line: Cut on these lines.
Seam Line: For stitching!
Seam Allowance: The distance between the ragged (raw) edge and where you're supposed to stitch. Usually with clothes it's 5/8" (1.5 cm). Make sure to read all of your instructions before starting to cut your pattern out. There are some pattern companies that DO NOT allow for the seam allowance on the pattern. If you have instructions that say 'no seam allowance has been added to this pattern' you must ADD 5/8" (1.5 cm) to the edge of all pattern pieces except those that lie on a fold before you start cutting. If you don't, your finished garment will be much to small and even taking out your sewing will not add enough room. If you have a pattern with a bunch of lines showing different sizes, the stitch lines aren't printed on the tissue. All those lines would drive you nuts. The lines are for cutting only but the extra seam allowance was already added. Trust me!
Notches and circles: For matching pattern pieces while you sew. Don't cut these off - they are very handy and keep you from messing something up.
Finished garment measurements: These help you figure out what size you wear. There's a measurement for around the bust and/or the hips on the Front pattern pieces and sometimes on the back of the pattern jacket. The measurement includes the distance around the body, plus extra "ease" so you can move, breathe and eat the day you wear it.
THE PERFECT FIT
A pattern is made to fit your body with extra ease for comfort and style. Hold the pattern up to your body to make sure it goes around. Also check if the sleeves, back or whatever is long enough. Once it's cut, it's too late to add it back! It's easy to change the length of something to fit better. Make sure to check your fit and make any pattern changes before cutting it out of fabric. Most patterns you'll buy in the store give you altering lines on pieces that you'd be likely to change such as sleeves, backs, fronts, etc. Check out the "General Instructions" on your pattern for the how-to.
To Shorten: Fold up the pattern piece taking out the right amount. Tape in place.
To Lengthen: Cut on the lines. Tape top half onto a spare piece of paper. Line up bottom half to the top and spread it apart the necessary amount. Tape the bottom half. Trim away excess paper and treat as a normal pattern piece. When there are no altering lines, just make the lower edge shorter or longer.
Pin and Fit: Pin or baste seams with right sides together, matching notches. Carefully try on the garment and make any changes before stitching final seams.
CUTTING AND MARKING
Pre-shrink fabric: Before you cut out your pieces, you should wash and iron the fabric in case it shrinks. Treat the fabric just like you would when it is actually sewn up. ie: wash and dry in machines etc.
Layout: Find the chart on your pattern instructions with your fabric width and the item you plan to make. Circle it! Remember that if your fabric has a nap, a print that is in one direction or a knit, use the "with nap" layout. For Double Thickness (with fold) fold fabric with the right sides together before cutting.
Stitch using a 5/8" (1.5 cm) seam allowance unless the instructions tell you differently. Sometimes sewing machines have little guidelines scratched into the metal plate to the right of the needle area. If there are no marking on the metal plate, get out your tape measure or ruler, line up the needle with the 5/8" (1.5 cm) mark, then put a piece of tape where the tape or ruler ends. Most times you will sew with the majority of your garment to your left of the machine.
Spread seam allowances apart and iron right down the middle.