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Today′s Hours

Sewing, patterns and the importance of mock-ups….

Kay headshot
A large pile of fabric from the 4H Sale

A partial haul of fabric from last year’s 4H sale…none of which I have sewn yet. *sigh*

True confessions time. Yes, I have sewed for 27 years….but most of it was not using patterns. I have made the occasional garment from a pattern but, mostly, I’ve sewn historical garments-which are made for you specifically and thus don’t really use a pattern-or I’ve altered pre-made garments.

However last year in August, I took the advice of our sewing group, The Fabriholics, and visited the amazing 4H Fabric sale.  (The next one starts this August 9th at 4 pm!) When I was on my second trip to my car with armloads of hawaiian fabric, I realized I was in Serious Trouble. If I was every to see the floor of my poor husband’s office again, it was time to really start sewing modern clothing, requiring that most dreaded of things…a pattern.

I’ll admit it, patterns are intimidating! It doesn’t matter that I can put together a 1400s Greenland women’s dress with my eyes closed, modern patterns have all these pieces that don’t obviously go together to my historical mind. I had already amused the Fabriholics last fall by trying to put together the Sorbetto by Colette print out pattern…badly. It took me two hours to realize I had seriously screwed it up, even when Jackie and Sara, two of our Fabriholics, took pity on me and tried to help. (Even if it’s 50 pieces of 8.5 x 11 paper, it only has three pattern pieces. How could I mess it up so much!?)

Simplicity 1461, a tunic pattern

Second try for the pattern love…

When it came time to try again…I dithered and dithered and dithered and finally decided to try again in May-this time with Simplicity 1461, which has the major advantage that it didn’t require me to put the pattern together first. Plus, it’s got instructions for decorating it with pom pom trim and ric rac.  How can you say no to anything with pom poms on it?

(One thing I have learned-and let me pass it on to you-is that modern patterns almost never fit on the first go-round. It’s amazing how a “basic” pattern supposed to fit as many people as possible generally succeeds in fitting no one. Having learned this on my good fabric far too many times, I made a mock-up (or muslin) out of old sheets first.)

Once again, the Fabriholics were treated to me flipping pieces around and muttering things to myself like, “Cut two of pattern piece A on the fold….Uh, so they’re mirror images? Wait, no. It’s just one piece on the fold. Did I already cut a pattern piece from that? Wow, I think I cut this pattern piece in half…Oh god, I just wrote on the wrong side of this mock-up piece. Oh well. I’ll just write a note on it that it’s backwards.” Most of the Fabriholics sew quilts, which is a fairly precise art. I’m sure they were bemused.

Needless to say, after that try, I crammed this project lovingly into a bag, stomped on it in disgust and dumped in my foyer for another month. There it sat until, driven by a lack of projects in process, I picked it up again and finally finished the mock-up. So, how did I do?

Lesse… the sleeves are in the wrong place and I can’t raise my arms. The bust is somewhere around my navel and so is the neckline and, why oh why, does this pattern have a collar that’s supposed to actually stick an inch out of your collarbone?

Fortunately for my sanity, Sara and Jackie both took one look and determined that all I needed to fix everything was to take two inches out of the top of the shirt. Then Jackie marked it and now it fits beautifully.

The moral of this story? Well, it should be Don’t buy fabric if you don’t have something you will use it on immediately but I don’t think I’ll ever learn that one.  So we’ll go with: 1. Friends make everything better and 2. Don’t underestimate the value of moral support.

Do you have a sewing project that’s driving you crazy? The Fabriholics meets every Thursday morning 10 am-noon in the Steam Lab (Teen Room). Come on in!