Choosing the Right Sewing Pattern: The Make or Break Moment - Sew My Place
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Choosing the Right Sewing Pattern: The Make or Break Moment

After doing a few simple projects, and developing some basic sewing skills, you’re ready to make something using a sewing pattern. You’ve been looking over sewing patterns for months now, dreaming of all of the outfits you will make. Now, you’re ready to dive in.

But hold on a minute. You have to choose your first sewing pattern carefully. Choosing the wrong pattern will lead to a poor finished project. It can also cause you hours of frustration that will do serious damage to your enthusiasm for sewing.

So how do you choose the right sewing pattern? Here are some tips.


Pay Attention to the Simplicity Level on a Sewing Pattern, But…

Here’s the good news. Most sewing patterns will tell you what skill level that pattern is made for. Just read the packaging. If a pattern says that it’s “advanced,” it’s made for someone with a lot of sewing experience. If you’ve just started sewing, this is a pattern you should definitely avoid.

On the other hand, many sewing patterns are labeled “easy.” And you’d think such a pattern would be perfect for a beginner. But here’s the thing. Just because a sewing pattern says it will be “easy” doesn’t really mean it really will. Ask anyone you know who sews, and they will tell you horror stories about buying patterns “easy” patterns that turned out to be complex and complicated sewing nightmares that no beginner could handle.

So you should only use the skill level stated on a sewing pattern as a guideline. On the one hand, it’s a good idea to stick with sewing patterns that claim to be “easy.” But you still have to use care when choosing among those “easy” sewing patterns. And, below, you’ll find a few tips that will help you out in that department.


Avoid Sewing Patterns that Have Lots of “Extras”

Choosing notions can be a lot of fun. As you become a more experienced sewer, you will be proud of your collection of buttons, zippers, snaps and clasps. However, as a beginner, choosing a sewing pattern that requires any of the above can be a bad idea for a beginner.

Simplicity is the key, especially when choosing your first sewing pattern. Actually, it’s not a bad rule to follow when choosing your 10th or 12th pattern either. For now, avoid patterns that require closures like buttons, zippers, snaps, hooks, and so on. If you want to make a shirt, go for a simple pullover instead of a button-down. If you want to make a skirt, don’t make one with a zipper. Instead, make a pull-up skirt with an elastic waistband. You might be itching to make those pants with the button fly. But it won’t hurt to start with pants that use a drawstring instead.

Also avoid sewing patterns with too many details and components. For example, it’s probably best to stay away from patterns that use pleats, lace trim, or fabric linings. And the fewer pattern pieces a sewing pattern has, the better.


Choose Sewing Patterns That Use the Right Fabrics

Avoid sewing patterns that call for fabrics that are hard to work with. Any fabric that is either stretchy or slippery (or, heaven forbid, both) isn’t a good choice for a new sewer.

Using knit fabric, which falls into the “stretchy” category, is a no-no for beginners. These fabrics can be hard to resist, especially during winter-garment season. But as tempting as they can be, knit fabrics are also notoriously hard to work with. Jersey is another stretchy fabric you should avoid. The slippery fabrics you should stay away from include silk and satin.

If you want a fabric that’s easy to work with, it’s hard to go wrong with 100% cotton. You can also use a cotton-blend fabric that doesn’t have much stretch to it. Linen is another good fabric for beginning sewers.

The bottom line is to choose a sewing pattern that will work with a fabric that is tightly-woven, has little or no stretch, and isn’t at all slippery.


Read everything on the Sewing Pattern’s Package

It’s really amazing how many people don’t do this. When they see a sewing pattern that they really like, they’ll look at example pictures on the package, maybe give the simplicity level a quick glance, and then head for the checkout. But there are two reasons why you shouldn’t buy a sewing pattern before reading the packaging in its entirety.

First, the packaging will tell you what you need to make the garment. You might think you have plenty of sewing supplies. But this pattern might need the one thing you don’t have. It’s best to know about this required item when you’re still in the store, and can pick it up while you’re there.

Secondly, the packaging will tell you whether or not a sewing pattern that claims to be “easy” really is something you can handle at your current skill level.


Choosing the right sewing pattern isn’t hard. At least it isn’t when you know what to look for and what to avoid.

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