I was compiling this collection of thoughts to take with me to the first Creative Social in Hertford and I thought it might be a useful list to publish on here. It isn’t a definitive list by any means but it’s a starting point which you might find helpful particularly if you’re a novice.
One of the jobs I’ve had over the years was as a sample cutter, first for bridal and evening wear designer David Fielden and then later at bridal company Miranda McGowan Designs. This meant I was responsible for cutting the first samples of new designs for the collections, often cutting dresses from very expensive fabrics as economically as possible, along with accompanying linings, trims, notions etc. What this means is that I think taking your time to cut carefully is a job well worth doing and rushing this stage could already set you up for disappointment. You’ve spent good money on your lovely fabric and I know you’re keen to get on but slow it down.
Top Tips for Sewing Success!
By following a few simple rules before you start your dressmaking project you’re much more likely to have an outcome you’re pleased with. These are some of my suggestions…
- Measure yourself accurately and truthfully (or get someone to help you) and cut the size closest to your body measurements-bust and hips primarily. These are often very different to shop sizes (which are smaller) just because you’re a 10 in the shops does NOT mean you’re a 10 in a dress pattern so ignore them at your peril!
- Prewash your fabric if appropriate, especially if it could shrink or lose dye all over everything. You could always pop a ‘colour-catcher’ in the wash with it to see how much dye comes and out and wash again if necessary.
- When laying up your fabric on the table, if it’s folded, keep the selvedges closest to you when possible, that way you can see they are both together and not wobbling about.
- The table edge gives you a helpful visual guide of whether your fabric is laying flat and and the grain running parallel, use it.
- Take your time laying up your fabric and then use a tape measure to ensure the grainline of the pattern pieces is placed parallel to the selvedge. If the pieces are cut badly off-grain your garment just won’t go together well.
- Pin the pattern to the fabric about 1cm away from the edges and parallel to it, if it’s at an angle you could cut over the end of the pin accidentally and that’s VERY bad news for your scissors! I start by putting a pin in each ‘corner’ of the pattern first and then infill the longer edges. Using too many pins can cause the fabric to become overly wrinkled but not enough means it can move about! This will come with practice…
- Try to avoid very cheap pins, these are usually awful, often blunt and scratchy, and can damage your lovely fabric.
- I always use scissors to cut out because I think, with practice, they are better for cutting tricky shapes. They don’t need to be expensive but they do need to be sharp. Rotary blades are better for cutting patchwork and quilting, things that are mostly straight lines.
- Try not to move your fabric about while you’re cutting it out, you should move to the piece you’re cutting rather than drag your carefully laid out fabric towards you. With stable fabrics this isn’t such a problem but more drapey fabrics like viscose, chiffon or lightweight satins for example will end up very misshapen and could spoil your final garment.
- Transfer all markings before you remove the pattern, notches, balance marks etc. Use tailor’s tacks or purpose-designed marker pens/pencils.
- Before you start sewing, if you’re using an unfamiliar pattern brand, check what the seam allowance is, it could be less than you’re used to and that could result in your garment coming up too small.
- Once you know what the SA is stick to it! If you wobble about between amounts the fit will be compromised.
- Press as you go but don’t over-press. A fine line I know as it helps ‘set’ the stitches, although too much pressing causes the fabric to get a bit…meh. If a fabric creases a lot then don’t waste your time pressing too often, every now and again will have to surfice.
- There’s no shame in tacking tricky bits together, better that than just pinning but getting it wrong several times…too much unpicking!
- Check the fit as you go. Don’t get too far along to be able to fix any fitting issues.
- Why not cut several items at once then store each one, including pattern, interfacings, trims, zips etc, in ziplock bags so they’re ready to use when you have time to start a new project. I tend to sew one thing at a time rather than have lots on the go at once.
One other thing, if you go to a sewing class and have to take your project with you each time, pop it on a hanger as soon as practical so that it isn’t creased up in a bag, I hate to see my student’s hard work all crumpled up for want of a hanger!
Feel free to add any tips of your own,