How to Read a Sewing Pattern Part 4: Reading the Instructions

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I'm back with part 4 of a series on how to read sewing patterns and today we're going to learn to decipher the instructions! If you haven't read the rest of the series yet, here are some links: 

Part 1: Choosing your pattern and reading the envelope

Part 2: Making sense of sizing

Part 3: Cutting out your pieces

 How to sew with patterns

Did you ever take those quizzes in school, where the first instructions was to read all the instructions and the last instruction was to ignore every instruction after the first one? So you looked like a total idiot if you skipped reading the instructions? Yeah, well, when reading sewing patterns, I'm going to tell you NOT to read all the instructions before you start. If you're a beginner at using patterns, reading all that stuff with all those drawings is just going to overwhelm you. Thus, today's Pro Tip: Just take it one step at a time! 

We talked about the first page of instructions already when we learned to use the cutting diagrams in part 3, but there's some more important information on that sheet. In time, you won't need to refer to this page at all, but for starting out, if you're having a hard time knowing what the instructions mean by certain terms, go back to your "General Instructions" and chances are you'll find your answer. See below the glossary of terms on a pattern I cut out to make today. 

 How to read sewing patterns 

I know, those are very short descriptions, but it's okay because we have the Internet, ha! I promise you'll find plenty of videos or more thorough explanations of any of these terms with a quick google search. 

Also on this page, you'll find your "seam allowance", which is how far from the raw edges you're going to be sewing unless otherwise instructed on certain steps. For garment sewing, seam allowances are almost always 5/8" (in the U.S., at least). If you have trouble knowing where that is on your machine, use your gauge to measure from the needle and stick a piece of washi tape there as a guide. I do this for my sewing students quite a bit to help them stay on their seam allowance! 

 How to use a sewing pattern

You can also see in the above photo, along with the seam allowance, there's a fabric key. In the drawings throughout the instructions, you'll come across these textures to help you see which parts in the drawings are the right or wrong side of the fabric, for example. 

The last bit of good info on this sheet is about pattern markings. You may have noticed when you cut out your pieces, there are notches, circles, squares and/or triangles all over them. These markings are important! You'll find your own favorite methods of marking, but I'll share some of what I do after this next photo. 

 How to sew with patterns

Most of your markings will be notches and these help you line up your pieces correctly when sewing them together. I cut a small snip (not too big, maybe 1/4" so it's well inside my seam allowance). For the circles, squares and triangles, different people have different preferred methods. A collection of marking pens and tailors chalk is a good thing to have on hand. I don't like marking with these things, so I almost always just mark with pins by picking up a couple threads with a pin in just the right spot. This works for me, but experiment with the tools available to you and decide what you like best. Megan Nielsen has written an excellent article on five ways to make your pattern markings. To make these markings, simply stick a pin through the circle on the pattern piece and then mark each fabric layer right on the pin. 

 See that pin in my dart circle? 

See that pin in my dart circle? 

You're officially ready to start sewing! And remember, just take it one step at a time! 

Trying to write a post covering every new thing you'll encounter as you sew various patterns would be impossible, but here are my three pieces of advice as you work through the instructions: 

  1. Trust the process. Some steps may not make sense at first, but they're in there for a reason, so don't skip them. 
  2. Us the Internet! One of the best things about people who sew is that they love to help others learn to sew too and there is so much content online to help you with those steps you don't understand. 
  3. Press as you go. You can always tell when a handmade garment has not been properly pressed! Make friends with your iron, because it is an essential tool in sewing. When the instructions say press, you'd better press! I use Shark irons in my studio  and I love them. And remember, pressing is different that ironing

I hope this series has helped you feel prepared to tackle sewing with patterns! Part 5 will be about fitting garments as you go, so stay tuned for that next week. Cheers! 

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The things we made in May

This post contains affiliate links, which mean that while I am not paid to promote certain items, I will earn a small commission should you purchase items through these links.  For more info, see my disclosure policy. 

The best part of sewing blogs is seeing what people have made, right!? I compiled all the things we made at Pin, Cut, Sew studio in May and boy, it's a lot. 

 Monthly Makes, www.pincutsewstudio.com

I'll start with what my sewing students made over the last month. 

We made colored pencil rolls using the tutorial at Create in the Chaos. These were a hit with my students and they were all able to do the sewing with little help since it's just a lot of straight lines.

 Kids sewing class, www.pincutsewstudio.com

My other class made their own pajama shorts using Simplicity #8401. You can visit my post about teaching kids to sew clothing right here

 Teaching kids to sew at www.pincutsewstudio.com

That same class also wanted to make pineapple plushies on the last day of classes for the school year, so I came up with these cute little guys! They got to practice some embroidery and got creative with the faces. 

 Kids sewing classes at www.pincutsewstudio.com

My other class, for the last day, chose to have a free sewing day, where they could come up with their own ideas and I could help bring them to life! These two siblings came up with some super cool ideas! John made a golden snitch with a zipper case for it and Alex made a pillow to give her parents on their anniversary.

 Kids can sew, www.pincutsewstudio.com

My third student in that class made a doll skirt and shirt and a doll tote bag, but I forgot to get a photo (bad sewing teacher!) I do have a tutorial for that doll tote bag right here, though and tips for sewing doll clothes right here. Stay tuned for a tutorial on making skirts for any size doll! 

I think that's it for my classes for May, so now let me show you some personal makes! I don't always sew this many garments in a month, but there were some holes in my Summer wardrobe so I got busy. I definitely sew more of my Summer Wardrobe than I do my Winter wardrobe. I guess I have no desire to make jeans or sweaters, ha! 

I'll start with the most recent make because it's a new favorite. I made yet another Blackwood Cardigan and it's my best one yet. Actually the next three photos include makes from this pattern, so you could say I'm obssessed. I don't buy a lot of indie sewing patterns, but it's safe to say I've gotten my money's worth from this one! 

 Blackwood Cardigan made by Nikki at www.pincutsewstudio.com

This next one I made awhile back. I didn't have enough fabric to make sleeves, so I made it a vest instead. Both this fabric and the stripe above are from GirlCharlee.com, a great resource for knits of all kinds. I made this gray tank too, from a pattern I drafted from a ready-to-wear tank. Fabric is from Hobby Lobby. 

 Blackwood Cardigan, www.pincutsewstudio.com

I liked that one so much, I pulled out another knit I didn't have a whole lot of (I actually bought it from a thrift store) and made another Blackwood vest. This knit is thicker and it turned out with kind of a utility vest vibe, which I dig! 

 Blackwood cardigan vest by www.pincutsewstudio.com

Next up, this is my favorite top! This organic cotton double knit has been on the clearance table at Joann literally since I moved here a year ago, but it was still super pricey. It finally went down in price another notch and I bought a yard. I used a tried and true pattern, Very Easy Vogue 9109      and I love it so much. 

 Vogue 9109 by Nikki of www.pincutsewstudio.com

My next outift includes two handmade pieces. I wanted a higher waisted crisp denim skirt. I grabbed the perfect denim at a Joann sale and used a Cynthia Rowley pattern, Simplicity 1783. I almost always Cynthia Rowley's designs and this one turned out great! The yellow lace tie top was made with a mustard lace I'd had in my stash for a couple years and I used the new pattern, Simplicity 8601, eliminating the sleeves and lowering the neckline. I like this look and my fashionista daughter said it's her favorite, so I think it's a good one! 

 Simplicity 1783 & 8601 by Nikki of www.pincutsewstudio.com

I really needed some basic tanks, so I snatched one yard of this rayon jersey at Joann and used the free pattern by Hey June called the Durango Tank. I highly recommend, the cut is great and you can't beat free! Be sure and check out her other patterns too. 

 Durango Tank pattern

This is another outfit with two handmade pieces. The skirt is a very basic pattern, New Look 6436, and I love the pockets! The top is McCall's 7603 and while this is not my first attempt at it, but it is the first version I've loved. It just took some time to get the fit right, because it runs large and I don't like the pleat in the back, so I'll now eliminate that altogether in the future. Now that I have it how I want it, I can see a few more versions! Both these fabrics are from Hobby Lobby's Spring Fashion fabric line. 

 New Look 6436 and McCall's 7603 by Nikki of www.pincutsewstudio.com

Lastly, I made a couple pair of rayon shorts using Kwik Sew 4181, which is really an activewear pattern. The shorts are super cute and comfy, but they're a bit too short for me to be comfortable wearing out. But the pattern is great and I'll definitely give it another try and lengthen it! For now, these shorts were awesome for the two days we spent outside building a chicken run for the ladies (by ladies, I mean hens. It occurs to me you wouldn't know that if you don't follow me on Instagram). This pair is a rayon denim from Joann (such dreamy fabric!) and the pair I didn't get a photo of is out of a textured black rayon also from Joann. 

 Shorts from Kiwik Sew 4181 by Nikki of www.pincutsewstudio.com

Whew! I feel accomplished! Please don't start thinking I have this kind of output from the sewing room every month! We finished our homeschool year in April, so that probably explains my productivity in May, ha! Come September, I'll probably have one or two things to share if I'm lucky ;) 

One last thing, I remembered, we did make these cute unicorn headbands in May! Find our easy tutorial here. 

Cheers and happy sewing!! 

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Weekday Sewing & Why I Love Jalie Patterns!

I've been parenting solo for about three weeks and have about the same left to go. My mother-in-law visited us this past week, which was an awesome break up of the time Casey's gone. It was nice to have some adult company and we even took a break from school and homeschool co op while she was here, which was also nice. My sewing machine was happy to see me back yesterday, though! 

I was being a little short on patience with my kids and knew I was craving time alone in my own head and that it would help to put my ear buds in and sew and nicely ask them to not ask any questions of me unless someone was dying, for at least two hours. It worked, I felt a ton better after that and have this AWESOME shirt to show for it! 

 Jalie hooded tee

Jalie hooded tee

I had the girls snap some pics for me during Kelby's golf lesson today. Sorry to my winter friends who hate me for my palm trees. 

The pattern is the Jalie hooded tunics and tees. As usual with Jalie patterns, I absolutely love this and will get a ton of use out of it! I bought the pdf and taped. I don't mind the taping process, I think it's kinda fun. The fabric is an amazing French terry from Girl Charlee. After making a dress and a skirt from French Terry recently (which I just realized I haven't blogged about!), I had to get my hands on some more French terry and I really loved this print. It's actually darker gray than it looks in these photos, more on the charcoal side.

 Jalie hooded tee

Jalie hooded tee

 Jalie hooded tee

Jalie hooded tee

This is my second completed project that is on my  2017 Make Nine to-sew list! I do like having that list made, because when I'm looking at what to sew next, it's a good reminder that there are things I really need in my wardrobe and patterns I've been wanting to try. 

Let me just rave about Jalie's sizing real quick! You cannot beat the accuracy, my measurements fell right into one size AND it's the size that corresponds to my ready to wear size according to their chart! And this top fits me absolutely perfectly. ALSO, their pattern include the sizing for children up to adult, so I can use the same pattern to make my girls some tops without having to purchase another pattern in their size. Awesome. 

I have plans for another version of this, but long sleeved. Maybe out of this sweatshirt fleece? I also think the tunic length will be cool in colder climates after we move, with leggings!

Can't wait! Before I go, Layla snapped this photo of a cardinal at golf today! So pretty. 

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Soft Headband Tutorial

Our newest video tutorial is up! Layla and I are going to show you how to make soft headbands in any size.

 How to Sew a Soft Headband

We hope you're enjoying these tutorials and if so, that you'll subscribe to our channel and share with your sewing friends. Part of the reason we started the Pin, Cut, Sew YouTube channel is because there just isn't a whole lot out there specifically directed at kids who want to sew. I know many of my local sewing students have been watching our videos and trying the ideas, so that alone makes the effort worth it! But these tutorials are also good for adults, I really try to span the ages :) 

Enjoy! 

My girls are really loving these and they're sooo easy. I hope if you make some, you'll show me by commenting here or on YouTube or tagging me on Instagram! I would truly love to see. 

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Archer Shirt and thoughts on Indie Patterns

I don't buy indie sewing patterns very often, not on principle, but mostly because I tend towards getting more for my money and the Big 4 pattern companies are so, so cheap. However, my wardrobe has become quite small, as I gravitate towards items that are lasting, timeless and that I will wear over and over. Something has shifted in my style and my closet and I have less these days, but wear what I have more often. And I love it ALL. I don't keep things I don't love (I let the kids cut them up, ha!) 

Anyway, I committed to the 2017 Make Nine challenge and purposefully chose nine indie patterns that are basics and hopefully that I can sew over and over again. I started with the Grainline Archer. Before I launch into my thoughts on the pattern (I had issues!), here is my end result, which I really do love. 

DSC_0020.jpg

I've had this great plaid fabric for over a year, knowing I wanted to make a long sleeved button down, but not really needing one here in Hawaii. Now that we're moving back to the mainland soon, I thought it was a perfect time to make it happen. I also love that I can use this here in place of a cardigan or sweater (because, you know humid states and their air conditioning). 

You can read my entire review of this on pattern review, but let me just tell you that I had some issues. First, the sizing chart is not accurate. My measurements fell right into the size 10, but I ended up taking a full inch out of the shoulders AND a full inch out of both side/sleeve seams! It was huge. Also, the instructions on this pattern are severely lacking. I had to look up the sewalong on the Grainline blog to figure out the placket application, only to find out it's the same application I've always used with other button down patterns, just horribly explained. The instructions have very few pictures and the wording is just confusing. I have made many button down shirts, but if I hadn't, or if I were a beginner, these instructions would have been seriously frustrating. I didn't even use the instructions after that, I just did it how I know to do it and it looks great. But somehow I doubt they got better. I'm not sure why no one is talking about these poorly written instructions. 

So, my question for you is: Do you think we give indie designers more of a pass because they have faces and are real people who might see what we have to say and be hurt? What are you thoughts on this? I feel bad even asking this and posting these semi-negative points, so I think I've answered my own question. 

That said, in the end, now that I have the fit right, I will make more.  I already have another one planned. But first, I have eight other patterns I'm committed to making this year! Here is my Make Nine list:

  1. The Kelly Anorak Jacket. Moving to Utah will mean I really need to beef up my outerwear collection and I really love this pattern! I intend to hunt for the perfect fabric soon. 
  2. Style Arc Rae Tunic. Looking at this again, I think it might get replaced. Haha. Not sure what I was thinking that day.
  3. Style Arc Josie Hoodie. I'm seeing this in a French Terry! 
  4. Wonder Unders. I need some good slips in my life and this pattern is versatile so I think I'll get a lot of mileage out of it. Looking for a good silk and a silk jersey for slips! 
  5. Archer Shirt. Check! 
  6. Morris Blazer
  7. Knotmaste yoga set. Love those pants! 
  8. Jalie Hooded Tunic. I've had great luck with Jalie Patterns. I'd do this in a French Terry.
  9. Sew Over It Heather Dress. This dress will fit my lifestyle nicely, I think. I enjoy her Youtube channel and I'm eager to try one of her patterns. 

You can find many, many other lists like this by searching the #2017MakeNine hashtag on Instagram! It's fun to take on a challenge like this. I don't usually plan my sewing, but now that sewing is also my business in many ways, I'm finding it's neccessary to schedule in my personal projects, which are really what I love sewing the most! 

Cheers and Happy Sewing! 

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A parade of handmade gifts

I was so honored to receive several handmade Christmas gifts this year! I took some photos of them today so I could show you (and just to show them off because they're pretty darn cool!) 

My friend Jenn made me this absolutely adorable mini quilt. Isn't is GREAT!? 

She said it should serve to remind us as we move over and over again, that "home" is wherever we're together. The house is pretty irrelevant, I have learned! 

Next up, my friend Felicia took the time to make me such a thoughtful gift! She made a little cork board for us to use as a prayer board: 

And then added these prayer cards from notconsumed.com, which she couldn't have known I've been wanting to order myself! I would really love to focus on prayer this coming year, it's the only New Year's goal I've come up with so far and I think these will be a great asset as we incorporate more prayer into our homeschool and our family life. 

Lastly, my very talented sister sent me a gift that I LOVE. She is a super talented water color painter and she created a beautiful set of Scriptures to be clipped to a clip board AND several smaller verses to stick around my house (anyone else have Bible verse index cards plastered all over their walls? These are so much prettier). 

So beautiful!! I know how special it is to receive handmade gifts and I feel so honored to have received such beautifully and carefully crafted things. 

Did you get any handmade things for Christmas? 

Cheers and Happy Sewing! :)

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