Needlework-It!

Moving along from the culinary and beverage arts, we’re heading back into the artsy-craftsy bits for a little while and I couldn’t be happier. Next on the list?

25 Needlework

This comprises sewing together, weaving, manufacturing clothes, bodices, and costumes, and darning.

This art comes at a particularly good time for me, as I’ve got a not-so-minor sewing project in mind to kick it off. Todd and I are planning to have some engagement photos done in the near future and I have a very specific sort of outfit in mind for one of the locations. So specific that it’s easier just to make the dress, myself, than keep hunting for something “close enough”

I found the pattern I was looking for about a month ago (thank you, eBay!), so that means the next step is adjusting the pattern while making a muslin. (A muslin is a test garment, usually made out of inexpensive cotton muslin fabric, that allows you to check fit and proportion before moving on to the more expensive fashion fabric. Almost any fabric can be used for a muslin, though, as long as it’s reasonably similar to the type of fabric you’ll be using for the finished garment. For instance, you can use cotton broadcloth for a test garment, but if you’re finished item is going to be faux fur, you might need to build in a little more ease to account for the bulk in the fabric.)

Butterick B4790 pattern, fabric and pins
The pattern and a possible test-fabric.

If you’ve never made clothing for yourself, I’d suggest you work from a pattern before getting all Pretty in Pink and cutting up a couple of old prom dresses. The great thing about working from patterns is that you learn new techniques from each one. I remember one dress taught me about over-stitching neckline linings, another one taught me French seams. Gradually I progressed to the point where I didn’t need a pattern for basic garments, but it’s still nice to have one.

A few things to keep in mind when selecting a pattern to make:

1. Know your measurements before you shop.

Yes, patterns are sized and they resemble the sizes you would find on the tags of your store-bought clothes. The thing is, manufacturers have a nasty habit of sizing-down over time (today’s size 6 might have been a size 8 or 10 in the past, something you’ve found out if you’ve ever shopped vintage), a practice that pattern-sizing doesn’t quite keep up with. You may need to go up a size or two in order to get the right fit and patterns usually have a range of 4 sizes in a package. Make sure you’re buying the right range.

The measurements you’ll need are usually your waist, hip and chest (that’s over the boobs, ladies, not your band size). Depending on the garment and the fit, it may help to know your inseam for pants, the width of your shoulders, the length of your arm from shoulder to wrist and the circumference of your neck–but those are fairly specialized and more important for tailoring, truthfully. Still, while you’ve got the tape measure out, it won’t hurt to jot those down.

2. Choose the size that corresponds to your largest measurements.

Or, if you are uniquely-shaped (another excellent reason to make your own clothes), purchase 2 patterns–one that matches your top measurements, the other that matches the bottom–and piece them together in the best way for the garment. While it’s easy to take things in, a dress that needs severe alterations on the top to accommodate very curvy hips is better started with two halves of a whole.

3. Make sure you’ve purchased enough fabric and notions for the job.

Sometimes you have a fabric that you’re trying to match a pattern to. This happens a lot when a fabric is on sale and you buy 3 yards of this or 5 yards of that without a specific project in mind. 5 yards will make a fairly full-skirted dress in most cases, but if the fabric has a stripe or a very obvious directional print, you won’t be able to arrange your pattern pieces so tightly, meaning you might need more fabric. Each pattern envelope will tell you how much to purchase for each size, and I usually add an extra yard, if possible, just to be on the safe side.

(Extra fabric is great for smaller projects like quilt piecing, stuffed animals, Christmas ornaments, etc.)

Next week we’ll go over the reasons why it’s good to make a muslin, first, and how to adjust a pattern to get a better fit.

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