Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Sewing Tip #1 - Using all pattern sizes

While I like being able to get multiple sizes in one pattern purchase, it is not always easy to actually use all the sizes you get. Since I have large family with lots of first, second, and third cousins (may be some fourth cousins in there too), I need all the sizes. I also prefer to use paper patterns over tissue ones since they last longer - for me anyway.

My solution is to trace the different sizes on to sew-in interfacing or butcher paper. The interfacing can be purchased in yards off the bolt and in a fairly thick version. Make sure you get enough to trace off all sizes of all pattern pieces. Some places, like Clotilde's, have pattern tracing cloth you can purchase but they tend to cost more. You can also use craft or butcher paper but you will also need tracing paper and a non-serrated tracing wheel since you can't see through the paper.

  • Medium weight sew-in interfacing, or
  • Craft or butcher paper with the following:
    • Tracing paper
    • Non-serrated tracing wheel or embossing stylus with 1.5 mm tip
  • Scissors (don't use your good fabric scissors!)
  • Straight pins
  • Ink pen (Bic or Pilot pens work great) or permanent fabric marker
  • Straight edge (ruler) if needed
  • Gallon sized plastic zip-lock bags (for pattern storage)

If using sew-in interfacing or tracing cloth:
  1. Cut out the patterns from the sheet they came on. You don't have to cut them out on the lines, just close enough to get them as individual pieces.
  2. If using the sew in interfacing or pattern tracing cloth, lay it out on your work table. Make sure it is supported on any end that hangs off the edge of the table, either by placing it on a chair or folding it up on to the table and placing a book on it (or a cat if one is convenient and willing).
  3. Place your first pattern piece under the cloth and pin the cloth and pattern together. Don't pin it as much as you would when actually cutting out the fabric. Pins at each "corner" and one or two along longer edges should be sufficient.
  4. Begin tracing the first size. If you want to save the original patterns, start with the largest size, otherwise, start with the next size in.
  5. Trace the outer lines first, including any notches.
  6. Move the cat as needed.
  7. Trace all other lines, including grain arrow, shorten or lengthen line, center back, fold lines, etc.
  8. By this time, you may need to move the cat again. If needed, place a pillow where you want him to stay but that's no guarantee he'll stay there.
  9. Mark text for pattern company, pattern number, piece number, number to cut, etc. Add size somewhere where it is easily visible, i.e., Size S, Size 12, etc.
  10. Mark text for locations, i.e., Center Front, Back Seam, Neckline, etc. (optional but might as well). Don't move or look away or the cat will move on top of the piece you are working on. He may also call in the dog (or dogs as the case may be) for reinforcement.
  11. Check over the pattern to make sure you got everything. Remove pins.
  12. Move pattern piece over to a blank area, pin in place, and repeat until all sizes have been traced for the piece.
  13. Shut the cat into the master bedroom with a treat and a toy or two. Ignore his complaints. Be strong.
  14. Continue with each pattern piece until all are completed.
  15. Cut all pieces out. Again, you don't have to be perfect since they'll be cut that way once you use them to make a garment.
  16. Pin all sizes of each pattern piece together and place all pieces, along with the instructions and pattern envelope into the plastic bag for storage. Make sure the front of the pattern envelope is on the outside so you can see what pattern it is.
If using craft or butcher paper (see steps above for specifics):
  1. Lay out the paper on your work table, supporting it as needed.
  2. Lay the first pattern piece on the paper with tracing paper under it. Pin as needed.
  3. Use the non-serrated tracing wheel or embossing stylus to trace over all lines.
  4. Remove tracing paper and pattern piece.
  5. Trace over all lines with a pen, add in text as noted above (steps 5-11).
  6. Repeat until all sizes and pieces have been traced, cut out, and stored (steps 12-16).
Not all pieces will need to be traced. If the size lines are straight, the pattern piece is easily folded over while cutting out the fabric for the size you need. Of course, you can still trace off each size if that's what you prefer. Large pieces, such as for skirts can often just be folded back, or the entire piece traced off with all sizes on one piece, then cut lines intermittently on any curved edges so you can easily fold them back to the size you need. This saves the original piece for later use or re-tracing as needed.

While this seems to be a lot of work, it is well worth it and will save you time and frustration later when you realize you need a size that you cut out when making a different size.

If you have any sewing questions or have an idea for a tip, please feel free to mention them in the comments.

P.S. Using an embossing stylus is a good excuse for getting a stencil and some note cards and making some sweet embossed cards.

P.P.S. Can you tell I have a cat?

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