The other day my friend, Emma, over at short, easy words asked me about a dress she had made for her daughter. She was a bit unhappy with her fabric choice.
She said the fabric she chose was too stiff; so, what was going to be a summer dress for her daughter turned into a swimsuit cover up.
Emma made the most common sewing mistake: Choosing the wrong fabric for a pattern.
In Emma’s case, it wasn’t terminal. Even after making the dress/cover up, she knew something was off, but was still confused about choosing the right fabric for the pattern.
So, how does someone avoid making costly fabric selection mistakes? The answer is simple: You must know a little something about fabric weight.
Fortunately, the folks over at Colette Patterns have created a wonderful chart that helps with understanding fabric weights for wovens.
While understanding the chart is helpful, you still must adhere to the fabric suggestions for the pattern you’ve chosen.
For my example, I’m using the information from a Kwiksew pattern.
Somewhere on every pattern will be a blurb about suggested fabrics.
On this pattern it starts with:
FABRICS: Designed for lightweight woven fabrics.
If you scroll back up to the Colette chart, you will see in the chart’s top right a variety of lightweight woven fabrics.
The pattern then suggests fabric choices: Cotton, cotton types, broadcloth, handkerchief linen, gauze, lawn, seersucker.
This pattern suggest using either broadcloth or lawn, two very different fabric weights.
If you scroll back up to the chart, you will see that broadcloth falls to the bottom left and is stiff and heavyweight.
If you look to the top right on the chart, you will see that the lawn is lightweight and drapey.
So, if you want your dress to be stiffer, you would go with the broadcloth; if you want your dress to be drapey, you would choose the lawn.
Pattern choice also comes into play here. My friend went with a pattern from this pattern book.
I rarely recommend these types of pattern books for new sewists. They are pretty pricey and usually only have one or two patterns you may want to use.
The real drawback, though, is in the instructions themselves. Most of the pattern books out there are written by fabric designers. Generally speaking, fabric designers are more artist and less technical writer.
What I mean is the design is usually fabulous, while the instructions are usually dreadful.
For the new sewist, I recommend sewing with something from one of the ‘big three’ pattern companies, like Simplicity, McCall’s, or Butterick. You can usually get these patterns for $1 if you watch the sales.
If you don’t mind paying a bit more for a pattern, I think Kwiksew patterns are fabulous. Keep in mind, you will need to trace the pattern onto tissue paper, but then you have this perfect hard copy pattern in a variety of sizes. All you have to do is retrace the next size up! Very economical.
The last thing I want to say here is something I learned while studying landscape design. One of the teacher’s said, “You are no gardener until you’ve killed at least 1,000 plants.”
I think the same thing can be applied to sewing, “You are no sewist until you’ve ruined at least 1,000 garments.”
So, go out there and start on your 1,000! I guarantee, you will have the hang of it long before you hit 1,000!