Five Secrets for Pattern Success

Last week we told you Why Your Pattern Doesn't Work and I'm afraid we blamed it all on you.  In my IT days we used to call that "Operator Error".  But there are some ways you can increase your chance of success with a pattern.  Here are our top five.

Always Make a Mockup

No matter how close you are to the measurements on the pattern size chart, always make a mockup.  The simple fact of the matter is that pattern sizes only list bust, waist, and hip measurements, and maybe back waist for each size.  But even if you are a 40" bust, the size for a 40" bust may not fit you well.  Two very differently shaped women could have a 40" bust.  I once made a gown for a woman who had a 40" bust but a 32" underbust.  That's a very different shape than someone who has a 40" bust and a 38" underbust.  Similarly some people are hippy and other people are "all back". People come in all different shapes, even when they have the same measurements. Making a mockup allows you to make adjustments for all these variables. Sometimes we think we have done this enough that we don't have to make a mockup.  We're experienced!  We don't have to add this extra step!  Nobody got time for that!  But the reality is that the more experienced you are, the more you will see that making a mockup every time is an absolute necessity.  The amount of time (and fabric... and frustration!) it saves you in the long run is never not worth it.

Fit Again in the Fabric

Wait a second! You made a mockup, right? Doesn't that mean the garment is already fit properly? Yes and no. As I mentioned in the previous article on this subject, not all fabric acts the same.  I repeat my anecdote about the 14th century cotehardie that fit perfectly in linen but I had to cut away four inches from the same size pattern pieces in wool to get the same fit.  Some fabrics have a lot of give.  Some fabrics are completely intractable.  Some sneaky buggers stretch when they warm up to body temperature and your nicely-fit bodice suddenly hangs like a bag. It may seem like an extra step, but it is never a bad idea to fit again in the fabric.  Matter of fact, this is the one step I would never skip.

Take Your Time

We all have gotten that crazy idea to make a new garment the night before the event at which we want to wear it.  But this is never a good impulse.  Good things take time.  And mistakes increase when you're in a rush.  Buying a pattern, running up your size, and expecting it to fit in the morning is a recipe for disaster.  Don't set yourself up like this.

Don't Throw Out the Instructions

I know.  I know.  You're a very experienced seamstress.  You've made everything.  Nothing is new to you.  You know everything there is to know about every type of garment.  But there's more than one way to skin a cat.  The pattern you bought might use a technique with which you aren't familiar.  Or it might assemble the garment in a different order than that to which you are used.  Pattern makers don't do this to mess with you.  They do it for a reason. Before you get out your fabric and your cutting shears, sit down on your couch and read the pattern instructions, top to bottom.  Digest what they say.  Make sure you understand everything.  If there's a bit that doesn't make sense, read it again.

Sleep On It

Sometimes, you just have to give your brain a rest.