Whether you are an old hand at sewing or someone taking their first steps in sewing, you will probably need a sewing pattern at some time. Many people new to sewing worry that a pattern will just give them the shapes to cut out of fabric with no additional instructions. These days that is not the case, patterns not only guide you through every step of the sewing process but often explain certain sewing techniques to you. When choosing your pattern here are a few things to think about.
1) Which company's pattern-book to look in ?
At Fabric8 we stock all the leading brands in patterns. A few years Back I would say that McCall's was the easiest pattern to follow, and that Vogue was very hard but stylish. However Vogue now have a range of "Very Easy Vogue" patterns in their book. So it's safe to say all pattern companies now support all ability ranges. However Vogue tend to not to produce costume patterns. All pattern books now have patterns for younger sewers, high fashion pieces and retro outfits.
2) Which size do I need ?
Every time someone buys a pattern I urge them to check they have the right size. Patterns normally come as "Multi sized" patterns. These patterns offer several sizes on the pattern paper. Each size has a different length of dot or dashed line. Before you cut the lines out, or indeed before you buy the pattern you need to know what size you are. Pattern sizes are very different from the sizes in High Street shops. For example, if you are a size 12 in TopShop you will be a size 14 in Simplicity patterns. To avoid confusion measure your bust, waist and hips at home. When you find a pattern you like check the sizing guide, either in the pattern book or on the envelop of the pattern to ensure you buy the correct size. if one of your three measurements is a different size to the others (or if all are different) go for the larger sized pattern. It's much easier to take a pattern in than it is to let the pattern out.
3) Which patterns will flatter me?
Some pattern companies such as Vogue even offer a guide to which body shape the pattern will flatter.
Inverted Triangle-Large bust or wide shoulders and narrow hips
Triangle- Narrow shoulders or smaller bust with fuller hips
Rectangle- equal shoulders and hips with little waist definition
and Hour Glass- Full bust and hips with narrow waist.
4) Lined or unlined ?
Many people avoid lined garments when they begin sewing, believing them to be harder to construct that unlined. This simply isn't true.Using lining fabric in a garment not only makes it more durable but also makes it easier to finish a garment off. Without lining you will often have to use French seams, flat fell seams or bound seams to make a garment look neat and tidy. Either way the pattern will guide you through the process though.
5) Stretchy or non stretchy ?
I often hear it said that stretchy fabrics are hard to sew. I have no idea where this comes from. Provided you read the instructions and use the correct stitch then sewing stretchy fabrics is easy The envelope of your pattern will have a stretch guide for you to test the fabric against. Jersey and Lycra are actually very easy to sew.
When you get home open your pattern up and read through the instructions carefully (I recommend a large mug of tea). If you come across a term you don't recognise, simply do a quick Google search. Just take your time and remember to enjoy the process and your local fabric shop will always be willing to help you out.