21 May 2012 12 Comments
Since two months ago when I first started talking about this experimental sewing course I’ve been reading and taking notes and thinking of a good way to organize it.
How do you start teaching pattern making when you are learning yourself?
From my own experience, and I am very curious to see if you’d agree with me, the easiest way to learn something new is to have a specific goal in mind. If you’re taking swimming classes, you should know what you want from your swimming. Are you just trying to learn how to look comfortable in a shallow pool and get rid of your fear for water? Are you trying to swim a marathon? Or maybe you just want to learn to swim in a more elegant way?
Uhm… what does swimming have to do with sewing, you will probably ask.
The amount of sewing resources, sewing blogs, how to books, sewing patterns out there is huge. You could probably learn all there is to learn about sewing if you’d read all of them, but the truth is nobody has so much free time and patience.
You could very easily get bored with reading about pattern making if you’re not motivated to learn it. Reading about button plackets and types of pockets can be a lot of fun. For a while. Until you get lost in all that info.
You think you’re not made for swimming… er sewing and stick to what you know.
At least that’s what happened to me when trying to follow a pattern making or sewing book. All that was nice and interesting, but it didn’t inspire me to sew anything new. I didn’t even have enough time to think about that as I would have to turn the page, read the next chapter and try to understand and store as much info as I could.
Thing is, sewing is a thing you remember with your hands. To really understand the construction of a new complex garment I have to make it. Then, I have to remember to make a few notes for my future self or take photos of the process so in a few months or a years’ time I can construct that garment again.
But I have to make it.
So, I am proposing a new approach to learning pattern making. Instead of learning the basics about all types of garment and simple things firsts, I am suggesting learning what interests you. If you want to make a complicated evening dress, then go for it.
There is no such thing as “it can’t be done”. If you have a bit of patience and you enjoy learning from your own mistakes, everything is possible.
With this meta in mind, I invite you to Lesson 1: Mapping your wardrobe and your sewing “wants”.
Mapping your wardrobe and your sewing “wants”
In this lesson we are going to
- map all items in our current wardrobe
- revise our fabric stash and select fabrics you are interested in using this season
- draw the items you are interested in sewing in the (near future)
In this chapter I am making a few assumptions: that 1) it is easier to learn pattern making if you know what you want to make, that 2) your are interested in sewing garments for yourself , 3) that you intend on wearing the garments you are sewing and that 4) you want the garments that you sew to “work” with the other garments you own.
1. Go through your fabric stash
and choose the ones you’d like to make something of this summer (in the next 3-4 months). Cut a small fabric square, iron it and put it aside.
2. Map your current wardrobe
Get a pack of index cards or any type of small (A6) cards and start drawing on each one an item of clothing you own. If there are seasons where you live just prepare for the next season. (A good moment to store your extra-season clothes away).
In my case it will be spring/summer, so I will not include thick jackets or capes or any cold weather accessories. I will draw (sketch – it really doesn’t matter if you think it doesn’t look good, just draw something recognizable) all my skirts, shorts, shirts, dresses, shoes, bags. Each on a separate card. If you can add colour or fabric pattern details, even better.
Now you’ll see how much clothes you really own! If there’s anything you haven’t worn in a year, needs fixing or refashioning put it aside.
If you hate drawing you can photograph and print your clothes on to note cards, but the reason why I insist on drawing is because it will help you when you’ll draw the garments you want to sew. And when making sewing patterns you need be ready to draw, erase and redraw a few lines :>
I also drew my accessories, because it will help me later when I create outfits, but that’s up to you.
3. Assess your current wardrobe.
Is there something you are missing? Are there more than three very similar items in your wardrobe? Do you need all of them? Do you see a colour/ cut/ style pattern?
Think about this before you draw the items you’d like to sew.
For example, I was sure I wanted to make a shirt, but I realized I already own a lot of them. Two of them were even very similar, so I moved one of them to the “to be refashioned” pile.
There was even a shirt that I really like and never wear. Why don’t I wear it?, I dared asking myself :) It’s too short at the waist and to boxy on the top and it emphasizes my lower part too much. Off to the “remaking” pile with it (I might turn it into a dress by attaching a skirt to it).
4. Draw your future projects onto the index cards.
I drew sketches of the item with a front and back view. In the case of a blouse with a painted motif on it, I drew the motif to paint in a larger scale, so I can see it better.
I drew everything I would want to sew. Much more than I will actually sew, but this way I mapped all the sewing ideas that have been going through my head lately.
5. Match your fabric swatches to your future sewing projects
Get all the fabric squares you’ve cut in step no 1 and see if there’s anything you can use for this season’s sewing. If you want to make a white tshirt and you have white knit fabric, stick the fabric square onto the card. Now, it you’re making a dress and you only have half a meter in the fabric you stuck to your card – that will not work for obvious reasons, so keep it wise :)
You don’t have to decide what fabric you’re going to use for all your projects. If you’re not sure yet, just leave them as they are. The same with the fabric squares, stick them on separate index cards so you don’t forget about the fabric you own.
6. Play outfits
This may seem a bit childish, but It really helps visualize what you have, what you’re planning to sew and what kind of fabric you should shop for.
If you’re like me you’ll buy fabric because it’s beautiful, you’ll make something from it and then you’ll realize it doesn’t work with anything in your wardrobe except that one orange t-shirt.
Last summer I bought a very bright colour splash style silk that I thought was brilliant at the time, then proceeded to make a rather revealing dress from it. After the fitting and celebrating how awesome it turned out I’ve realized there is no one occasion I can think of in the near future where I can wear this dress.
Because it’s so colourful and silky and the pattern is so artsy it’s very difficult to wear with a jacket or top. I know what kind of shoes this would look good with, but I do not own them.
Ok, enough with the silk dress, the point is: a bit of planning in advance goes a long way. Don’t just buy fabric and sew things if you’re never going to wear them. That’s just sad.
Another example of how the outfits mix and max worked for me: I recently bought a cute fabric that I plan to use for a blouse. When I started mix-matching I realized it didn’t go with much in my wardrobe. But it did contain bits of green and purple, so I realized 1) I could wear it with the purple shorts I made last year 2) instead of making the blue kite dress blue I will make it green (I even had the fabric for it) Woot!
So that’s the end of Lesson 1, hope you could get yourself to finish reading (or at least look at the pics) and I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts about it and seeing your future sewing drawings.
Don’t forget that you can subscribe to this course here.
(It means I’ll email you with a short summary of the updates on the course, every time I post something new).