How to read a sewing pattern part 1: Choosing your pattern and reading the envelope

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I have had no fewer than three people lament to me that they wish they could read a sewing pattern in the last week! Two of them were mothers of my students, who can thread a machine, but are lost when it comes to helping their children sew, and the third was one of my older students. 

Clearly the world of patterns is confusing to beginner sewists, so I am taking it upon myself to try and clear up the confusion! This is part one of what will be a five or six part series over the next few weeks. 

How to read a sewing pattern: a beginner friendly series by Pin, Cut, Sew Studio

Today's topic starts at the very beginning. There are so many sewing patterns, how do you even choose? 

Let me state up front that the patterns I'm referring to in this series are the kind you'll find at the fabric stores by companies known in the sewing world as "The Big 4" (also the title of an Agatha Christie book I'm currently reading, incidentally, ha!). McCall's, Butterick, Simplicity/New Look and Vogue. There is an entire industry of "Indie patterns" out there, but these are quite different and much more expensive than you can find at your local craft store, although there are many great things about those patterns too.  

Speaking of expense: 

Pro Tip #1: Do not ever pay full price for Big 4 sewing patterns!! The sticker prices are something crazy like $18 or even $25, and then most places have their everyday sale prices of 40% off. But don't pay that either!! JoAnn and Hobby Lobby continually put these patterns on sale for ONE OR TWO DOLLARS!! And if you live somewhere without those stores, the pattern websites themselves often have $3.99 sales, which I would wait for when I lived in Hawaii. When I made this shorts pattern with my sewing students, I snagged the patterns for $.99 each, meaning I was able to purchase one for each girl to use and take home to keep. (This intel is for people in the U.S., I really don't know the best way to get good deals on patterns in other countries, I'm so sorry!)

If you're brand new to patterns, keep it super simple. For our purposes in this series, I'll be using Simplicity pattern # 8401. I've recently sewn this pattern with my students and know that it only has two pattern pieces to make a pair of cute shorts! There are another two pieces for a pair of doll shorts. If you're wanting to start with clothing, choose something basic and take note of fancy elements, such as zippers, button holes, pleats, godets, etc ... I'm not saying steer clear of those elements, but I may be saying, choose a pattern with one new-to-you concept and not five. If you add one new skill per project, you'll be a pro in no time! 

How to use a sewing pattern by Pin, Cut, Sew Studio

Pro Tip #2: Just because a pattern says "Sew Easy" or something similar, doesn't necessarily mean it's true! Look at the line drawings on the back of the envelope to give you a better idea of what's involved than the photo on the front of the envelope will, and then decide what you're willing to tackle. 

How to read sewing patterns by Pin, Cut, Sew studio

So, once you've chosen your pattern, spend some time on the back of that envelope. Other than those helpful line drawings, there is lots of important info back there. The top box should tell you which kinds of fabrics the pattern is suitable for. Don't obsess too much over this, but for sure don't choose a knit (stretchy) if the pattern is made for woven fabrics (non-stretchy). Also, if you're making a flowy skirt, don't choose a stiff quilting cotton unless you want your skirt to stand out like a tent around your body. This part is somewhat intuitive and comes with experience and trial and error. 

How to use a sewing pattern, by pincutsewstudio.com

The next box is the sizing chart. I cannot overemphasize that pattern sizing is very different from ready-to-wear sizing! If I wear a 6 or 8 at Target, I'll probably sew a 12 in patterns. This topic requires a post by itself, so stay tuned for part 2 of the series, coming in a few days! 

How to sew with a pattern by pincutsewstudio.com

Next, there is a box that tells you how much yardage to buy based on your size. If your pattern is say, for a lined skirt, the box will tell you how much you need of both your skirt fabric and your lining. If you're making a garment with two fabrics like a top with a lace inset, the pattern will usually refer to the accent fabric as the "contrast". This section also tells you which notions are needed for each view, although sometimes the notions get their own little box. Our shorts pattern says that the girls' shorts need 1" elastic and the doll pair requires 1/4" elastic. It also tells me how much trim we need. You may want to buy a smidge more fabric than required to accommodate for either shrinkage or cutting mistakes. 

How to read sewing patterns, by pincutsewstudio.com

One more thing about the fabric requirement. You can see my pattern says different amount of fabrics for either 45" or 60". This is referring to the width of your fabric. If you choose a quilting cotton for example, the width will be 45" wide, but most linens and denims and also many knits and other types of fabrics come wider. The end of the bolt of fabric will give you this information, along with the fabric content, the washing instructions and the price. Actually, those wider fabrics tend to say 58", not 60" like we always say they are, but at any rate, they will still work for those 60" fabric requirements. Just thought I'd mention that in case someone is standing in the sewing store with a bolt in their hands wondering why they can't find anything that says 60" wide!

Pro Tip #3: You can find fabric or even sheets at thrift stores to try out your pattern with if you want to do a practice run. We can this "making a muslin". This way you can figure out the fit without worrying about messing up your good fabric. 

I think that sums up the pattern as far as the outside of the envelope! Be sure and come back for part 2, (Part 2 is here!) in which I'll attempt to unscramble pattern sizing for you! 

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3 New Sewing Books to Check Out

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. 

Last week I moved some new sewing books from my Amazon wish list into my cart and then I tossed a third one in there because it was on super sale and that ended up being the one I'm most excited about! 

Three new sewing books to check out! 

Since that super sale may not last long, I'll tell you first about Superhero Sewing, by Lane Huerta. You guys, this book is SO FUN and super cute and it's on sale on Amazon right now for $8.88!! It's regularly $24.99, so this is a great deal. 

If you have little people in your life, (or heck, big kids like my 13-year-old who just said she wants the rabbit hat out of this book), or if you are looking for fun ideas to sew for or with your kids, this book is so adorable and all the projects are super easy. It looks like many of them are made out of felt, which simplifies things even more. No fraying edges! 

Excerpt from Superhero Sewing

Some of my favorite dress up items in the book are the pirate set, complete with hats, eye patches and a pirate ship's flag, the magician hat (with bunny and never-ending flag trick!), and the woodland creatures. The rabbit is just to die for. 

Excerpt from Superhero Sewing
Excerpt from Superhero Sewing

Another way I can see this book being useful is to use the base patterns to create other costumes. I made multiple Narnia creature costumes for a play our homeschool co-op put on this year and I used the same hat pattern to make all the animals, just changing up the fur and ears. This book includes great patterns that can easily be adapted to make other things. 

The best part is, my youngest students can handle these projects and they would be so excited to make dress up things. I can't wait to show it to them next class! 

Next up, Making Faces in Fabric by Melissa Averinos probably wouldn't have been on my radar as something I'd like to try if I hadn't stumbled on Kristin Shields' example and this photo on Instagram of Thread Sewing School's students' finished faces. These are amazing! I've since started following the author, Melissa Averinos on Instagram and am so inspired by her work.

While sitting outside with my hens today, I was able to skim through the steps and I am truly excited, not only to try this myself, but to teach it to my students. How fun would it be for them to make their own self portraits in fabric!? 

Making Faces in Fabric by Melissa Averino

Making Faces in Fabric by Melissa Averino

The thing I like best is that she includes thorough, but not overwhelming instructions for drawing faces and where all the parts go and how to make noses that don't look dumb (ha!) so this book is not just for those who consider themselves artistic, it's a way to grow as a fabric artist and get really creative. 

Last but not least, I have long been a fan of the Sewing School series by (not to mention, we absolutely love Baking class and have Cooking Class on our wish list!) so when I found out there was one I didn't have, I ordered it right up. Sewing School Quilts, like the others in the series, is written for kids, not for grown-ups, in words and pictures that make it easy for them to complete projects with minimal help. However, there are tips in the front for quilting with kids in a group setting and I love the idea of hosting a quilting club for my kids to invite their friends! 

Because this is a kids' book, the projects in the book are made by kids with all their glorious imperfections! The book offers ideas for projects that kids can make on their own or in a class or at a sewing party. Super fun. 

Excerpt from Sewing School Quilts

That's it for now, I can confidently recommend each of these books. I have several more on my radar that are coming out in the next few months, so I'll keep you updated as I add to my collection! 

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How to Make a Unicorn Headband

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. 

Unicorn Headbands DIY

Unicorns are all the rage right now! I have an 11-year-old daughter who's a tad obsessed. I thought a unicorn headband would be a fun DIY project to post a tutorial for. My 13-year-old got to work a couple days ago and made one together, the Layla whipped one up today. Super fun! 

Unicorn Headband tutorial by Pin, Cut, Sew Studio

Before you get started, you'll need to grab this free pattern. Just click on this photo to make it big, then right click to save it to your desktop. From there, you should be able to print it (make sure you click "fill page"). 

Unicorn Headband Pattern

As for fabrics, anything goes! We used small scraps of some sparkly costume fabrics, some fleece and novelty fleece we like to call "Flur", and felt for the flowers. You'll also need a headband. Ours was the wrong color, so we wrapped it in ribbon, but that's optional. This project can easily be sewn by hand (there are only a couple small sewing parts) if you don't use a sewing machine. A glue gun is also a must. 

Start by cutting out one horn and four ear pieces total, two from your ear back fabric and two from your inner ear fabric. You can cut two at a time, but make sure your ear face the opposite direction from each other, if that makes sense (see photo). 

Unicorn headband tutorial

To make the horn, just fold the piece right sides together and sew from point to bottom edge in a 1/4" seam. Clip the corner to eliminate bulk and turn right side out, using your handy dandy chop stick to gently poke the point out. Stuff the horn. Nest, thread a needle and use a long running stitch to hand gather the opening edge: 

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Then pull it tight, creating a flat-ish bottom. Knot and trim your thread. 

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To make the ears, place your outer and inner ear pieces right sides together and sew the sides, leaving the bottom open. Clip your corner and turn right side out.

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Now, to shape the ears, for our first version, we sewed a pleat, but ended up shaping them further later on by folding the outer edge in toward the middle. So when Layla made hers, she folded both sides in toward the middle and sewed across the bottom and we liked that better. Just do what you think looks best. 

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At this point, if you want to wrap your headband in ribbon, start by gluing the end of the ribbon to the bottom of the headband and then wrap it diagonally around until you get to the other end. It's fiddly to get started, but just do your best. 

Then we glued the pieces on, first the horn to get it centered (be sure and put the seam facing the back!), then the ears. The glue alone isn't secure enough, so next, thread a needle and sew the pieces, as shown in the photo. 

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Next, the flowers! These are so much fun to make, my girls have been making them just for fun now for two days. There are plenty of felt flower tutorials out there, but we think these are the easiest kind and perfect for this project. Find a couple circles to trace onto felt. Ours ranged from 2" to 5" in diameter. Cut out your circle and then cut it into a spiral, about 3/8"-1/2" wide. 

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Then, just start wrapping it around its center, ending with a dot of hot glue. That's it! I takes a little practice, but it's pretty simple. Cut some leaf shapes and arrange your flowers and leaves over your horn and ears before hot gluing them down. 

DIY Unicorn Headband free pattern and tutorial

I hope you enjoyed this simple tutorial! If you made some unicorn headbands, I'd love to see them! And for the unicorn lover in your family, we recommend this cool book. Layla has really enjoyed it and has read some parts to us during our home school. 

DIY Unicorn headband free pattern and tutorial
How to make a unicorn headband
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Sewing Star Wars

This post may contain affiliate links, which means 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.

I live in a household of Star Wars fanatics. I grew up a Trekkie, but am a Star Wars person by marriage and my kids insist that no other space story could ever be better than Star Wars. My husband reads the books, refers to the "canon" and eye rolls at the movies that mess up the story. 

Over the years, I have gifted him many Star Wars things, and I've even made a few (well, more than just a few, I realized after typing this out!) For example, I bought Star Wars fabric and made him a couple pillow cases. This is the method I use for pillow cases. And, I made some ornaments out of the ships on a certain fabric. Maybe when I dig the Christmas stuff out, I'll write a tutorial on that! I've even made my husband and son Obi Wan and Yoda costumes for Halloween! I used this pattern. I made Layla a Rey costume too and my son a Kylo Ren cloak, but today is one of those days when I just can't wade through photos to find all these old pictures, ha! Sorry. 

But there are so many good ideas out there for sewing Star Wars that I just had to write a post and link you to the best ones! These are all FREE and include tutorials and/or patterns. See below that photo collage for the links!

Star Wars free sewing tutorial roundup || Pin, Cut, Sew Studio
  1. Storm Trooper doll on crafting-news.com. Ridiculously cute.

  2. Bugaboo Studio's DIY Star Wars pillows.

  3. Quiet Play's Star Wars quilt is so amazing. She has lots of free paper piecing patterns for Star Wars on Craftsy. I'm currently working on the At-At! So much fun, I can't wait to show you.

  4. Free patterns for felt Star Wars ornaments on diygeekery.

  5. Oh my goodness, Wild Olive's Chewbaca and Maz Kanata plushies are too cute.

  6. R2-D2 apron by so-sew-easy.

  7. Pattern for a fleece Yoda costume on fleecefun.com.

Those are the best free Star Wars sewing patterns I've found on the web so far. Have I missed any?? Feel free to link us in the comments! 

Recently I checked out this book from the library and we all got a huge kick out of it. Especially the Jabba the Hut body pillow, soooooo funny. I actually made that crochet R2 hat for my nephew last year! 

Have you sewn anything Star Wars related? I want to hear about it! 

Cheers :) 

 

 

 

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Sew Inspo: Inaugural edition!

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Welcome to the first edition of Sew Inspo, where I link you to fab sewing inspiration/ideas/tutorials/resources that I've spotted around the web on any given week. (I'd love to tell you I'll be doing a new edition every week, but we'll see ... because, life is so time consuming, ha! 

I won't waste time yakking. Let's get started! 

If you've seen any other cool ideas around the web this week, be sure and let me know! 

Cheers :) 

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Mason Jar Pin Cushion Tutorial

I have sewing classes coming up so I needed a fast way to make extra pin cushions! I was at WalMart of all places and they had some cute jar pin cushions that I thought I could copy pretty easily. While I was at it, I made a tutorial for you! I've tried to make this very beginner friendly, but if you have questions, don't hesitate to ask :)

Learn to make DIY mason jar pin cushions with some fabric, trim, a jar and a glue gun! || Pin Cut Sew Studio #pincushion #tutorial #howtosew #easysewing

This post may contain affiliate links, which means 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.

These are super easy, free to make (if you already have jars lying around, that is) and don't even require any machine sewing! 

Let's get started. You'll need a mason jar with a lid, a scrap of fabric, a hot glue gun, stuffing and some fun trim. Plus a needle and thread. My favorite is this short, wide style of jar!

The first step is to hot glue the flat lid piece into the lid rim. Don't burn yourself like I did! I got this glue gun from a thrift store, still in its 90's packaging and it gets waaaaay hotter than the newer glue guns. The thing is dangerous, haha. I wonder if someone lobbied to get the temperature of glue guns regulated, hahahaha! 

Next, cut a circle from your fabric. I made my circle about 1.25 inches larger on all sides than my lid. For the small size lid, my circle measured 5 1/2 inches in diameter if that helps you, but it's not rocket science. 

Next, take your needle and thread, (thread your needle and knot the end together) and add long basting stitches all the way around the circle, about 1/4" from the raw edge. These long stitches allow you to gather the fabric up by pulling on the thread. Like so:

Do this all the way around!

Do this all the way around!

When you get back around to where you started, don't knot or cut your thread, just leave the needle attached! Then pull up the gathering stitches until your pouf is about the size it needs to be to fit over your jar lid. Adjust the gathers so they're generally even all the way around. 

Begin hot gluing the fabric onto the lid, starting where the knotted end of your thread is and working around to where your needle is hanging. You want to leave that end loose until the end so you can pull the needle to adjust the fit as needed. Stop gluing once you have about a 2 inch space to fill with stuffing. 

Next, add the stuffing, small pieces at a time. You want to fill it pretty full so it's nice and firm! 

Once it's filled, pull on the end of your thread to make the gathers fit snug and then knot your thread and snip. 

Then, finish gluing the opening to the lid. 

Almost done! All you have to do is glue your trim around to hide the thread and raw edges. 

That's all! Screw the lid onto your jar, where you can store extra pins, quilting pins or other little sewing gadgets. 

Mason Jar Pin Cushion tutorial

Mason Jar Pin Cushion tutorial

I've made two, but think I'll need to make a couple more. I think using the tiny jars would be super cute! If you make this tutorial, be sure and let me know, I'd love to see!

Cheers and happy sewing :) 

Mason Jar PIn Cushion tutorial|| Pin Cut Sew Studio #masonjar #crafts #diy #pincushion
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