The clothes that you’ve been buying ready-made all your life was available to you, with little insight into what goes on behind making it.
But now you are thinking to take on a new skill.
The skill of being able to sew your clothes, and so you’re wondering:
“is it hard to learn to sew clothes?”
Because, you realize that compared to let’s say (a pillow cover- you’ve made back in the school days) “a human body is rather complex, right?”
“So surely making clothes is difficult, right?”
-Of course, it is! (“if you were taught to not only make clothes by drafting from scratch- also rather, doing it directly on the final fashion fabric, as to how I was shown to”).
Anyway, more about that later in the article where it’ll all make sense.
But for now, that is not the answer to your question.
The answer: It’s not at all difficult to learn to sew clothes!
The reason: With the aid of Patterns.
For the reason that it’s a template that comes all equipped with the necessary elements required for constructing a somewhat decent garment; whether that’s with the addition of adequate ease, to the seam allowance and not to mention design details.
It truly is a shortcut approach for a beginner who is keen
to start making their own clothes.
Although, this is good news it’s also where my problem is.
Because I feel like it doesn’t grab the appreciation that it truly deserves.
So, that is what this article is about, by shedding some light on the concept of sewing patterns: I want to emphasize the real advantage a beginner has available to them.
I want to show you this by Comparing it with what I had back when I was a beginner.
So here’s what you’ll get in this article, basically in 3 parts:
- Firstly, an overview of how a garment making process is like to give you a general understanding of what it takes to make a garment.
- Then I will go into the method I was taught so that you can see how it differed from the standard method. Thus how it made it difficult for me as a beginner.
- And lastly, How making clothes with sewing patterns changed the game that any beginner must appreciate.
…be warned though, it’s going to be a long one. So grab a cuppa right-about-now.
And let us begin!
What it takes to be able to make clothes
[a general overview]
The real way of making clothes, the way they teach in the industry looks something like what you see on the infographic illustrated over on the right-hand side. (The column on the left)
And here’s a breakdown of each of the steps:
1. The Sloper
Always begins with the sloper. The sloper is the bare template or the shell of the body shape made from all the correct body measurements without adding any seam allowances.
The purpose of the Sloper?
To be able to achieve the true shape of the figure.
2. Toile: Fitting to perfect the sloper
After creating a sloper, you then make a mock-up known as the toile, made out of muslin/calico fabric, this time adding seam allowances so that it can be joined together for the fitting.
Why the toile fitting?
To refine the shape. From that, any identified amendments will be transferred back to the sloper; to improve the shape.
3. Pattern drafting
You then take the refined sloper and use it as a base template for creating many design silhouettes, by manipulating the outline taken from the sloper.
The purpose of the pattern?
To create the final template that carries all essential: adequate ease, seam allowance, and design details. It also contains crucial constructional information through the use of “pattern markings” to allow for correct construction.
4. Toile: Fitting and perfecting the patterns
Again a mock-up is made, but this time it is to see the fit and design of details like for example, to see if the button placket is centered or if the princess seam is falling correctly in the right place.
5. Cutting the fabric
The final/fashion fabric is cut out using the pattern. All the pattern markings are transferred onto the fabric, for example, notches and darts and more.
6. Sewing [end]
As you can see, making clothes from scratch is “pretty much a lengthy process”.
It takes a few rounds of back-and-forth until you can perfect the pattern (template) itself.
But the point to pay attention to is the importance of pattern making.
And I have found the perfect line for this, and I quote,
“It is important for a pattern to be created well because the way a completed piece fits is the reason it will either be worn or not.” source
And that’s precisely why it is a lengthy process of back and forth before you can achieve a decent pattern.
Now that you have a better idea of what goes on behind making clothes from scratch read on to find out the method I was shown to make clothes.
To understand how it differed from the standard.
The way I was taught to make clothes: what YOU can learn from my experience
You see, back when I was 13, the way I was shown to make clothes was by drafting directly onto the fashion fabric.
It’s the way my sister-in-law (who taught me to sew) was also shown, as that’s how they do it back home in the South Asian counties.
What typically happened when I made clothes was this:
It involved me taking my body measurements then, laying out the fabric.
Next, I had to mark out the outline but also adding the ease and seam allowance as I go along drafting.
(If you didn’t know: it’s vital to add ease for comfort. Seam allowance is also crucial to add for joining the pieces together.)
Then say, for example, I want to make an A-line dress. I would draw out the shape of that by tweaking the outline that’s already marked out (all on the fabric itself).
Then once-again make sure that I add seam allowance and hem allowance- again, as I go along.
Lastly, cut out the fabric along with the marks I just created. Time to sew it up.
Just like that, I used to go through a lot of effort designing and cutting those fabrics to make clothes to my desired intent.
But, you see?
This method doesn’t include the other important steps to create a pattern.
That is why not everything I made used to come outright. Forget that, the process of sewing the design would get so complicated that it used to get frustrating for me to figure how I could solve an issue I was experiencing while constructing the garment; all for the reason that I took my measurements and just went for it directly onto the final fabric itself.
And so, many of the times what happened was that I would quit finishing the project as frustration rose to its peak.
Those unfinished projects often ended up in the bin.
Then I wouldn’t dare attempt that again.
Because of this, when I used to cut out another fabric for a new project, I would approach it with fear and uncertainty that “what if the project turned out to be another disaster!”
This method is what I now call the “one shot one kill method” was unlike the standard method, you don’t have room for play to perfect the silhouette before you go off to make your final garment.
And so usually for me as a beginner, I experienced the following:
- Waste of goods: fabric, thread, etc. Because if the final garment didn’t fit or look right then, unfortunately, it would end up in the bin.
- Frustration. Because I didn’t give myself the chance to experiment with the design and fit beforehand.
- Uncertainty. Because I didn’t have a way to be sure that the final result will come out the way I desire.
- Weakens Confidence because it allows room for more and more errors.
- Ultimately result in giving up= failure.
As you can see, I had a HARD time. My method proves only one thing. Pattern making is crucial!
But what if you want to start making your own clothes and you’re not sure if you can take on the challenge of pattern making just yet?
Enter Sewing patterns: How the game changes for any beginner
I’m sure you’ve worked out my point by now. (as you also see from the picture above. The column on the right-hand side.)
The work is cut short with the supply of sewing patterns!
This is what a beginner to sewing clothes has to realize
Going back to the image on the right, whether you make clothes from scratch or via commercial patterns, one thing stays consistent:
“You HAVE to have a pattern!”
And that is where I fell short I wasn’t exposed to the concept of patterns.
Patterns allow you to have a start point. A predefined template that can help you to dip your feet’s into the world of making your clothes.
Does that mean that sewing patterns are the end all be all for us?
I don’t think so. Here’s the thing, once you take a pattern out from the envelope, it doesn’t matter if you cut out the size that’s recommended for you. At some point, you will get the issue of fit no matter what. Because the truth is, we all have unique bodies.
It means that at some point, you will have to understand fit to be able to tweak and adjust the pattern.
Because this is why it is often advised to a beginner to start with patterns that are of a loose fit like, for example, a skirt.
So that you can ease yourself into the idea of being able to sew clothes, and then later when you feel ready enough to tackle more fitted patterns then you will have built the courage to take on the next part of the challenge.
So, for now as a beginner how can YOU start building your skills in making your own clothes?
Here’s a true beginner formula you can follow to advance your skills each time while learning to sew clothes with patterns: in 5 steps
- In the beginning, start off choosing a pattern that has a simple loose silhouette with no pockets, zips, or buttons.
- This time try a pattern that has a facing.
- Move on to patterns that have darts.
- Now you can experiment patterns that have one of these elements: pockets, zips, or buttons.
- Try out a pattern that has all the above plus also has a go at princess seams.
How long does it take to learn to sew your own clothes?
It will take you 1 month to polish your sewing if you get started sewing your first garment using a pattern and then continually practice sewing that same garment as many times as possible during that first month. (So for example, if you choose a pajama pants pattern, make the first pair then another. Then another. Then another which means by the end of the month you’ll have about 3+ pairs of ‘me-made’ pajamas in your wardrobe.)
This will build your sewing skills and boost your confidence you need, to move onto sewing other styles of clothes. Then, challenge yourself to move up a level each month by sewing other styles of clothes.
Within 6 months you will become competent in the field and a wardrobe to prove it. Win-win! Get started with my free beginners guide here.
Learning to sew isn’t hard with the concept of patterns and a beginner sequence in place: you genuinely don’t have any fear. So chill out and dive in.
If you are thinking to start sewing your own clothes then there’s not a better article to read than this one of mine about “How to start sewing clothes!”
Let me know if you have any questions about this topic by leaving a comment below. I’d be glad to help!
Otherwise, you can get crackin’ with beginning to sew. Read these articles:
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