Friday, May 29, 2015

How to read a Simplicity Pattern

Forewarning this post is very picture heavy

So you’ve learned how to do basic sewing, you may have done a few easy beginner projects, and now you’re ready to try something more advanced. Well…..
I introduce to you a Simplicity pattern
Simplicity 1558

This pattern is more advanced than what I would choose for a beginner but for example purposes it works. I’m going to have other examples of simplicity patterns in this post, but we will keep coming back to this one.

A pattern, in my own words anyway, is the instructions on how to make the item, or items, it pictures. It contains shaped templates that you cut out of fabric and the instruction on how to piece the shapes together to make the item or items pictured.

When you look at pattern you’ll notice right away that there is tons of information written on the envelope alone, not to mention all the information inside the envelope.

First thing’s first, on the front of the envelope.
Brand and Number.jpg
The Brand and Pattern Number
These two bits of information are the pattern brand and number. It’s kind of like make and model on a car. It tells you what pattern you have and also how you find the pattern in a store.

Next on the front is
Size Square.jpg
The pattern size. This tells you what size or sizes the pattern, you grabbed, can make. Some patterns are “One Size” like this one
A One Size Pattern, Simplicity 1392
Which means that whatever the pattern makes only comes in one size, like patterns for bags, curtains, accessories, dolls, etc., things that don’t normally need to have a different size.

Most clothing patterns are multi-sized, meaning the envelope contains the templates to make more than one size, to fit a wide range of people. Each multi-sized pattern will have  a range of sizes it was designed to make. You always want to pay attention to the range of sizes a specific pattern can make.
Why you ask, look at these two patterns.
Can you spot the difference
They look identical don’t they. They are, except for one thing, if you look where the pattern size is one says “6, 8, 10, 12” while the other says “14, 16, 18, 20, 22”. These are the same pattern in two different size ranges. This pattern was designed in sizes 6 to 22 but instead of putting all of the available sizes in one envelope they split the range in half. Why? I don’t truly know. It could be so that you’re not having to buy a huge envelope, of 10 different sizes, to make one size. It also could make using the pattern pieces, and cutting out the right size easier, especially on smaller pieces. Anyway, you want to make sure pattern you are buying is the size you want to make, nothing like getting home with all the fabric and notions, only to realize your pattern is in the wrong size.
What size do you need? We will get to that when get to the back of the envelope but first there’s one last thing on the front.
The different views
The lovely pictures on the show what the pattern will make, different items made with the same pattern are called views. Views are indicated by letters (circled in blue). This pattern has two views. The outfit with the shorter skirt and jacket is View A, while the longer skirt and corset is View B.
Some patterns will have lots of views like this one.
Many views
This one goes all the way to view O.
And some patterns only have one view like this one
One view, Simplicity 9871
It only makes one item.
And then theres this type.
Simplicity 2172 Don't freak out about the price I got it during a $1 sale
This is technically one view, both dresses are the same design and use the exact same pattern pieces the same way, the only difference is the fabric chosen. What makes this different than the pants pattern is that this dress is made up of three different parts, the skirt the, the bustier, and the jacket.

I like the call the pictures on the front inspirational views because they really are just a quick look at what the pattern could possibly make they don’t really go into detail as to what’s involved or even the differences between views. You will have to look on the back for that and that is exactly where we’re going now.

The back of 1558's envelope
This is the back of the envelope.
It has lots of information, a lot more than the front. This is only half the back because the other half is the same information only in a different language. Don’t freak out we’re going to talk about each area of the back and what they are for.
Back Views.jpg
The back views
This spot right here is a reiteration of the different views, mainly the back of each view. This is  always a great way to figure out what is actually included in the pattern, some patterns will be shirts pictured with pants but the pants are not included in the pattern, so you will see the pants on the front but not the back.
This view is also more detailed about what skills will be involved, like zippers at the tops of the skirts, and gathering at the tops of the sleeves.

Next on the back
Suggested Fabrics

This area is the suggested fabrics. It’s a list of fabric types that this pattern was designed to use. Note I said suggested fabrics, you can use other fabrics the biggest thing you want to pay attention to is that you do not use a stretch or knit fabric for a pattern that was designed for a woven fabric, and do not use a woven fabric for a pattern that was designed for a stretch or knit fabric.

Next up:
Notions required

The notions required. This is where you’ll find information on all the extra items you will need besides fabric. It will list thread, buttons, zippers, closures, and anything else you might need besides your fabric.

And then the all important:
Size Chart.jpg
Size Chart

Size chart. This is how you figure out what size you need to make. You have to take your measurements to figure out what size of pattern you need to cut out. Always double check your measurements from pattern to pattern and especially when crossing from different pattern companies, and it’s a good idea to keep your measurements updated regularly (like every few months or so), you’d be surprised how much an inch can change your pattern size. Different sizes can drastically change the amount of fabric needed, also.

How do you find out how much fabric you need?
Yardage information

This area is where you will find out how much you would need of By-the-Yard items you would need. Anything that can be sold by the yard, like ribbon, elastic, boning, interfacing, aaaand…… FABRIC!!!
This part lists the views separated by a line, and then lists each fabric needed for that view. On  the left side of this chart, underneath the words “A Jacket”, is the number 60 with an asterisk. This number is the fabric width that the pattern is referring to, some patterns will list it in both 45 inch and 60 inch, this one only lists the 60 inch because it was designed with a 60 inch in mind. This does not mean that you have to use a 60 inch you can use a 45 inch but will need more fabric and you will have to arrange pattern pieces differently.
Now lets say you took your measurements and figured out you’re a size 14.
follow the columns.jpg
The yardage for size 14
Just follow that column down to the view you want and it will tell you how much fabric you need for your size. It’s as easy as that.

One final thing on the back
Finished garment Measurements.jpg
Finished garment measurements
These are the finished garment measurements. These are the maximum measurements a certain size will fit after it has been made. This is something you want to check in case you aren’t sure what size you need. If you look at the finished garment measurements it can tell you that maybe you can go down a size or maybe you need to go up a size. This is a fairly loose fitting garment so the finished garment measurements are fairly large.
This area also gives you length if you are working with skirts or pants patterns. A way to measure and tell that maybe you need to get extra fabric to lengthen the skirt, or maybe you need to shorten it.

As you may have realized this is for a multi sized pattern and the back will look different on a “One Size” pattern.
One size pattern.jpg
Back of a one size pattern

As you may have noticed on this one there is not size chart. Since this pattern only comes in one size, there is no change in the amount of fabric needed, so there is no need for a size chart. The many views are still separated by a line, and also notice that since there are so many different views on this one, the notions are listed with the particular view they go with.

Next the one view patterns
one view.jpg
Back of a one view pattern

This one has the lettered sizes instead of numbers so the measurements are in a size range instead of set numbers. Like extra small is 31-32. Since it only has one view it only lists the fabric needed once. It still has the finished garment measurements and still follows the column but there’s not other information to get in the way.

And the other one
2172 front and back.jpg
Back of the other one view one

Since this is one view it lists all the notions needed in one place. Even though it’s one view all the three items that make up the view are listed separately. It also has different yardage listed for 45 inch versus 60 inch. It still has the finished garment measurements at the end and included for the skirt is not only the length but the circumference of the bottom, which is 216 inches (that's 18 feet). It's good to know in case you want to add a structured garment underneath, like a hoop skirt, crinoline, or bustle.

And that’s the back of the envelope now let’s go back to 1558 and delve inside the envelope.
What's inside the envelope?
Inside the envelope you will find tissue paper and newspaper like paper. The tissue paper has the pattern pieces on it and the newspaper paper has the instructions on it.

First a look at the instructions
Another picture of the views front and back
Again there is another detailed look at the different views, front and back views.
Beside that
Pattern piece list
This is the list of pattern pieces contained in this envelope. It gives you a picture of each pattern piece, a number for the piece, and the piece’s name. In the written instructions the pattern is referred to by name not really by its number. If you’re ever confused about  what number goes with what name just refer to this list.

Next up
General Sewing Directions
These are the general sewing instructions they are typically the same in all patterns. They give you basic instructions and definition of certain terms, like layering a seam and what seam allowance is and stuff.
It also gives you a legend to what the pattern symbols mean. If you are confused you can refer to these directions to find out what to do.

The next three pictures are……
Cutting layouts

These are cutting layouts. They show you the most economical way to cut your pattern pieces out of fabric. The cutting layouts are designed to use the amount of fabric called for on the back of the envelope. Unless you bought extra fabric it would be a good idea to follow these.
This pattern only uses 60 inch fabric, but if you were using a pattern that used both 45 inch and 60 inch it would have separate cutting layouts for the different widths. They not only show how to layout the pattern pieces on the fabric but also how to layout your fabric, such as standard fold or crosswise fold.

And finally
The actual instructions
These are the actual instructions for this specific garment. There are written instructions and pictured instructions, and they tell you how to put your pattern pieces together to make the garment.

Next up is the tissue paper.
The fragile tissue paper
This is going to have all of your pattern pieces on it. It’s very fragile so be very careful with it.
Unfold it and find the piece you need.
Pattern pieces 3 and 6
We’re going to say we need these two pieces. I know there is a lot written on these pieces  but I’m going to break it down.
PP Brand and pattern.jpg
Brand and pattern number
This  is the brand and pattern number gain, this is put on each piece so once you cut it out you’re not hunting for what pattern it goes with.
PP Number.jpg
Pattern piece number
These are the pattern piece numbers. They label the piece for cutting and sewing so you’re never wondering which piece is which.
PP Name.jpg
Pattern piece name
These are these are the names of the pattern pieces, it’s usually how they are referred to in the written instructions and it will help you figure out which piece is fo what.
PP What to Cut.jpg
Cutting instructions
This is what to cut, even though it tells you what to cut and how many in the cutting layout, the pattern piece itself will tell you what needs to be cut out.
PP Multisize Pattern.jpg
Notice all these numbers on the different lines. These are the sizes, all the sizes are on one pattern piece. You have to cut along the lines that match your size. Be careful cutting out the size you need, sometimes you may be the outermost line sometimes you’ll be the innermost line.

Once you cut out the pieces you need and then follow the cutting layout, follow the instructions you will have a finished garment.

Don’t freak out about all this information just yet. It all starts to come together and make sense when you start doing your first pattern projects

Next we will discuss a Mccall’s Pattern.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Teaching my Four Year Old to Sew: Getting started

Before I even let Claire touch the sewing machine I had to set the machine up for her and establish rules that she must obey or she loses her sewing privileges for the day.

  1. She can’t use the sewing machine without Mommy there. I wanted her to be able to sew with Daddy or Grandma there but neither of them know how to use a sewing machine. I want to make sure everything works out so she cannot sew without me there just incase something goes wrong with the machine itself I can take care of it immediately.
  2. She has to ask before using the machine. Just in case she wants to disobey this rule, I keep the machine unplugged and the cord out of her reach.
  3. She has to do her chores and her schoolwork before she’s allowed to sew. Have to give her incentive to actually do her chores and schoolwork quickly.

I had to set the machine up to where she could reach both the machine and pedal. It was hard for me because we don’t have a child size desk that would be strong enough for a sewing machine. I have had to put her machine on a adult size desk, put her in a tall chair, and put the pedal on a smaller chair tall enough to reach her.

Even though I took the needle out of her machine I still make her follow some safety rules.
  • Long hair is pulled back
  • Long sleeves rolled up
  • Machine is turned off while not using it and unplugged if it’s getting cleaned
  • And biggest of all no fingers in the “danger zone”

I showed her the different parts of the machine and what the different dials do. She had fun learning how to turn the machine on and off and using the pedal. I gave her a piece of fabric to send through the machine. She has gotten good at lifting the presser foot, sliding the fabric under, and lowering the presser foot before she presses the pedal. She’s been good about not putting her fingers in the danger zone. I’ve tried to encourage her to start using the needle but she, herself, has told me she’s not ready for the needle. I don’t think she understands that the machine doesn’t actually sew without a needle, but she’s enjoying herself and getting familiar with the machine. She’ll be ready when she’s ready.

Happy Sewing

Friday, May 15, 2015

So You're in the Market for a Sewing Machine

Whether you’re just getting interested in sewing or have been doing it for 40 years, whether you’re a home hobbyist or a professional seamstress, there comes a time when you start looking at getting a machine or getting a new machine. Before you delve into the wonderful and confusing world of sewing machine shopping you should ask yourself a few questions:

  • What is the Budget?

Yep, hitting this one the head first your answer to this question will be the biggest deciding factor in how you proceed. I’m not going to sugar coat it, a good home sewing machine will cost anywhere from $100 to $15,000. Decide your budget first, because if you don’t want to spend more than $1000, you don’t even want to look a Bernina, they’re cheapest is $1,500 (awesome but expensive machines).

Sewing machines are priced like everything else, the simple, basic machines are going to be cheaper and the more features the more expensive. So if you’re a beginner you can probably get away with a cheap $100 machine but if you’re a seasoned sewist looking for more out of your machine, expect to pay more.

You may also notice that different brands have different price ranges. Brother and Singer tend to be on the low side of the price spectrum and you can get them at any walmart or craft store. Janome tends to be middle of the road on price while Viking and Bernina are at the high end. You tend to have to go to a dealer to buy the latter three, which gas is another thing to think about but that’s something you worry about after you’ve answered the rest of the questions.

  • What is it for?
This question is just as important the “what is the budget question”. Do you just want it for simple mending projects, do you want to make clothes, do you want to quilt, or do you want to embroider? You have to answer this question because you don’t want to waste your time and money on a machine that’s not going to do what you want it to do.
If you want to do mending projects, or simple projects like curtains, a simple or basic starter machine will work wonderfully.
If you are going into garment sewing a machine will a few more options may be necessary, like the zig zag stitch, an automatic buttonhole, and a free arm. Also think about adding a serger along with your sewing machine.
If you are going into quilting, think about a large sewing space, also consider one with a table attachment. For large quilts you could also think about a long arm machine instead of a regular sewing machine.
If you are going into embroidery, you will need one that has the hoop attachments and most likely a way to connect to a computer.
Another thing to consider is the type of materials you are going to be using with it, if you are going to be working with heavier fabrics like canvas or upholstery fabrics a heavy duty machine will last longer and work better than a standard machine.

  • Who is it For?

Is this sewing machine going to be for a child or an adult. Is it for someone with really large hands or fairly petite hands. Your answer to this question can help you decide on some of the features you’re looking for.

  • If you are getting a machine for a child, you may want to consider a smaller lightweight machine. Also a machine with a speed control might be something to think about.
  • If you are getting a machine for an adult or someone with larger hands you want to consider a larger machine.
  • If you are getting a machine for someone who doesn’t have good foot control or can’t use the pedal you may want to consider a machine with a “cruise control” or start and stop option.
  • If you are getting a machine for someone who doesn’t work well with computers you probably want to concentrate on simpler models. Without complex touchscreens.

Also think about how quickly someone could outgrow their machine. Basic machines, like the Singer Start or the Brother LS 2000 are generally only good to get started and do basic projects like curtains. For someone who wants to do more they will eventually outgrow a simple machine, and how quickly they will outgrow their machine will be different with different people. An adult will need a more advanced machine sooner, while a child could probably stay with a basic machine for a while.

The answer to this question will lead into the next question.
  • What is the Skill Level or Experience of the User?
Is the machine for a beginner who’s never touched a sewing machine, or for a seasoned sewist with 40 years experience. For someone who has never touched a sewing machine you should stick with a simpler model, the fewer confusing features the better.
If you are looking for a more advanced machine you probably already know what features you want and features cost extra. It may be hard to find a machine that has all the features you want and at the price you want. You can save money on a more advanced machine by prioritizing which features are the most important for you and your personal situation and which features you can get by without.
I always suggest for beginners to start learning on a mechanized machine, then move into a simpler computerized machine before trying a more advanced computerized or embroidery machine.

Once you answer these questions you will be ready to look into the sewing machine that will be right for you and your situation.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Teaching My Four Year Old to Sew: Research

After asking me multiple times I’ve decided to teach my four-year-old to sew. On a sewing machine.
I know she’s only four and a sewing machine is a dangerous piece of equipment. She’s asked me to teach her how to use the sewing machine so many times, and I’ve said no so many times, that I feel if I keep saying no I’m going to destroy her interest. So I started scouring the internet for  information on the best way to go about teaching her.
I’ve read quite a few blogs on teaching young children how to sew. Most focus around 6 or 7 but two that I’ve read specifically mention 4 year olds. There are different views on where to start and how to teach young children but there are two opinions that I saw repeated on all the blogs no matter how you start teaching.

  1. It’s not about age specifically but about maturity level and the ability to follow basic instructions. It doesn’t matter if they’re 4 or 14 if they can’t follow basic instructions or obey basic rules they don’t need to touch a sewing machine.
  2. Use a real sewing machine. Share my own machine, buy a cheap one, borrow one for a little while, just do not get her one of the machines targeted towards children (like the Pixie, or E-Z sew). They are more of a headache than they are worth. She is going to be using my old machine the Brother LS2000.

As for methods there are differing opinions:

Hand sewing
Whether or not to begin with hand sewing. Some articles and blogs say to start simple with hand sewing while others say hit the ground running with the machine. I'm in the latter view. She has specifically asked to learn how to use the sewing machine and I personally feel that if I force her to hand sew first she may lose interest so to keep her interest alive we're going to hit the ground running. Learn to use the machine first and then learn hand sewing as the need arises. My plan anyway.

Methods of Introducing the Machine

First there is the hit the ground running with the whole machine as is. Teach her proper hand placement without a crutch so she can learn how to use the machine as a machine truly is. I don't personally like this idea because I feel it's going to be a lot of stress on me. Constantly reminding her of hand placement when she's focused on the pedal is also going to cause some frustration and fear about the needle.

I could have her practice hand placement while I controlled the pedal or have her control the pedal while I guided the fabric. So she can focus on one or the other for a little while. I personally don't like the idea of a disconnect between hands and feet I keep thinking on a delay between action and reaction time. This would probably mean a lot of yelling from her and me.

Finally the method of introduction that I think is the best and the one I’m going with is the one from A Jennuine Life’s "Tiny Sewists" series. She taught her four year old by letting her use the machine without a needle in it. I like this idea because she learns both pedal control and hand placement at the same time without the disconnect and without fear of getting a needle through the finger, hers or mine.

This is a good starting point for my four year old and I’m so proud to be able to share my love of sewing with her.
This isn’t going to be a steady series I will just post to it as updates happen.