Saturday, June 7, 2008

Sew What You See- Part 1- Think in Shapes

We've all been in the store and seen that perfectly fabulous article of clothing, looked at the price, then looked at the design and thought- you've got to be kidding. It seems as if the simplest designs are always my favorite and since I sew a little I hate to spend money for something I possibly could make myself. Over the years I've had some successes and some flops. Here are somethings I've learned:

Think in Shapes- when you look at lets say a skirt imagine in your mind the pieces laid out flat before they are sewed. Look at where the seam lines fall. If you have had experience in using a pattern you've become familiar with the "before" and "after" view. I was amazed to pull out a skirt pattern only to discover all the pieces were rectangles. How did that happen? The design on the pattern envelope didn't look like rectangles, but after all the gathers are removed you are left with basically rectangles. O.K. - this being the case I began to look at my favorite skirts in my closet that fit me the best and tried imaging what the pattern must have looked like. Measure the bottom of a gathered panel from seam to seam to figure out the width of the rectangle and the length is easy- just measure how long it is. Be sure to allow for your seam allowances. For simplicity's sake I use 1/2 inch seam allowances.

Here's one of my favorite skirts. I just love to wear this skirt because it's so comfortable.

Look closely - what shapes do you see?

The front is divided into three panels (rectangles) and they each have a ruffle (another rectangle) on the bottom. The ruffles have varying lengths with the center ruffle being shorter than the side ruffles and visa versa on the panels.

I measured the panels and the ruffles on my skirt and drew out a simple diagram. The panel width is measured at the seam that connects to the ruffle while the ruffle width is measured along the hem line from seam to seam. I cut six panels- three for the front and three for the back (the rotary cuter made this a breeze). Next I cut the ruffles- three for the front and three for the back all the time calculating in a 1/2 inch seam allowance. I allowed an extra inch at the top of the panels for the casing and an 1/2 inch at the bottom of each ruffle for the hem allowance.

Here's how the pieces look laid out- In the first picture they are unfolded and in the next they are pushed together and the ruffles that will be gathered are folded to match the size of the panel.

The original-

The duplicate-


  • Analyze your garment- what do you see? rectangles, slants, triangles
  • Draw a diagram
  • Make allowances for seams, casings, hems etc.

Note -I only try this when the design is simple. For more complicated designs and fitted garments it's worth it to buy a pattern. Needless to say there are many really cute really easy things you can make errrrrrrr copy:)

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