One of the most rewarding parts of my job has to be teaching. I teach "How to use a sewing machine" and "How to follow a sewing pattern" whilst my friend Michelle teaches "Patchwork and Quilting for Beginners" as well as an excellent "Machine Applique" class. Our little sewing room in Colchester is always a fun and friendly environment.
Many people show up not knowing a thing about sewing, after all they are at a beginners course. So here are a few terms you may have heard or seen on a sewing pattern that you may not know yet;
Selvedge - This is the finished (neatened) edge of the fabric. If a fabric is sold on the roll then the selvedge is at either end of the tube. Sewing patterns will often say "fold fabric in half, right sides together selvedge to selvedge. If they said to fold in half along the length or width things could get mixed up, after all not everyone things of the length as the longer measurement and the width the shorter. Also what if you are using 1 meter of fabric that is 1.5 meters wide? By saying Selvedge to selvedge or "So the selvedges meet" they are removing that area of doubt.
Grain - The grain line TENDS to be an imaginary line that runs along your fabric parallel to the selvedges (see how the selvedge makes an awesome reference point). When placing pattern pieces on your fabric you need to keep all of the grain lines in the same direction (imagine a striped fabric, if you put one side of the dress at a different angle on the fabric then the stripes will run in a different direction. EVEN if you're using a plain fabric try to follow the grain line. All fabrics have a little "Give" which is different at different angles, so you may find some of your panels stretching slightly.
Nap - Some fabrics have a texture, such as velvet or fun fur. When this texture only runs in one direction we call this the nap. Run your hand over some velvet, then run it the other way, see how different it feels and how it makes the fabric look different. The back of a sewing pattern will tell you if you need extra fabric to accommodate a nap. You will need this as sometimes the pattern will lay out a pattern piece "upside down" in normal fabrics this makes no different, but in a velvet for example it will make your garment look very odd if one side runs one way and their side has the velvet brushed the other way.
The Bias - When the pattern pieces are laid out on a fabric at 45 degrees to the grain line we call it Bias Cut. This will often give the garment a little stretch. Many people seem afraid of sewing on the bias but it's just like regular sewing, you just have to take it easy and take your time.
If you have trouble with "Interfacing and facing" or" Lining and interlining" just check out our blog.
Happy Sewing all.