Before I say anything else…….CHECK YOUR MEASUREMENTS AGAINST THE PATTERN SIZE CHARTS!!!!!!!!!! The current retail market sizing does not coincide with the sizing the pattern companies use. The major American pattern companies got together in 1971 to agree on a standard for sizing their garments. They not only agreed on the standard measurements for each size but that they would not change them in the future. This means that, for the most part, those measurements matched the retail industry at that time, 1971. Over the last 37 years, the retail industry has been “deflating” sizes. Why? This is because most of us females will choose a smaller size number when offered 2 garments that are exactly the same. (Vanity is hard to admit!) Designers have been doing this for decades. Now all of the retail market has done it. And, the sizing has gotten to be very inconsistent from brand to brand and store to store. Sometimes, you don’t even know what size you will wear until you try it on.
One of the most basic things you must not get stuck on when you make your own clothing, is the number of your size. If you currently wear a size 4 in women’s, you may end up making a size 12 or 14 Misses in the patterns. The fit is what is important, not the number. Also, no matter what the style of the garment, your measurements are taken in the same place on your body as indicated on the size charts. Currently, the common placement for a “waistband” on clothing for young people (tweens, teens and young adults) is below one’s natural waistline and belly button. It can vary widely depending on the style. When the size chart refers to your waist measurement, it is referring to your natural waistline, which is above your hip bone and below your ribs. Usually, it is the smallest measurement of your torso. Please click on the following link to find the instructions to measure your body and size charts for McCall’s patterns. Each company has size charts listed on their websites.
All of the patterns have multiple sizes in each envelope. There will be at least 3 sizes, possibly more in each pattern. If your measurements span more than one size, that is OK. Several sizes are included with each pattern. If you bridge the gap between size groups (you straddle sizes 12 and 14 and the pattern you want comes in sizes (8-10-12) and (14-16-18), purchase the size that most closely matches the measurements you need for the garment you want to make. For example, if you are making pants and you are bigger on the bottom than the top, buy the larger size.
When you purchase your pattern, MAKE SURE YOUR SIZE IS INCLUDED IN THE ENVELOPE YOU PICK UP. STORES DO NOT TAKE RETURNS ON PATTERNS. The envelopes for different size groups all look the same, except in the small area designated to label what sizes are included in the package. Make sure you check for that. It will be along the top or side edge of the front of the pattern envelope.
I am including many pictures and links for patterns from the Big 3 American Pattern companies below: McCall’s, Simplicity and Butterick. Also, I found some interesting patterns from New Look and Hot Patterns. All of these are meant as suggestions for learning sewers. Usually, the less pieces and details, the easier the clothing is to make. Also, the less tailored, the easier it will be to fit you.
I strongly urge you to stick with woven cottons or linens/linen blends for your first clothing project. A nice stable fabric will be much easier to work with than something flowing or sheer or slippery. Please follow this advice. There is nothing more frustrating than to have to work with a fabric which is hard to control, especially without the experience to back you. Also, no knits! We wear knits all the time. They are so inexpensive to buy in ready-made clothing. But, for sewing, they are not easy to handle if you haven’t sewn clothing before.
When I mention cottons or linens, here are some examples. Many cottons designed for quilting are wonderful for pajama bottoms, skirts and tops. Flannel is great for pajamas. Linen and blends can work very well for any of these items depending on the weight, or thickness, of them. Cotton eyelet can work nicely. Also, for a closer fitting skirt or pant, you can find some nice bottom weights, like a stretch twill cotton, which includes a little lycra. Or a lightweight denim.
Please wash & dry your fabric ahead of class time. This will preshrink the fabric and remove any sizing (starch) and residual pesticides that have been added to the material to keep it well in transit and storage and on display. Do not use fabric softener in the wash or softener sheets in the dryer. If you will be using a fusible interfacing, the softener will keep it from adhering to the fabric. After the garment is made, it is fine to use fabric softener when it is laundered.
Make sure to check the back of the pattern envelope. It has a lot of information. Here are the items to take note of: a list of required “notions.” These are the items you need such as thread (which they may or may not list), a zipper, buttons, hooks and eyes, elastic, cording, etc.; you may need “interfacing.” This is material which goes between the layers of fabric to give you more strength and stability in certain areas or the gament like, the collar, cuffs and button band, the waistband, the neck and armhole area of sleeveless, collarless shirts, etc.; the patterns below may suggest lining, Bemberg/Ambiance rayon lining is wonderful or you may want a cotton batiste, but, I hope that there is no lining in your first project.
As far as thread goes, buy a good quality 100% polyester thread such as Gutermann or Mettler. Both are made in Germany. One spool is usually enough for a basic project. Do not buy discount, cheap thread. As with fabric, you will be spending a lot of time and effort sewing, don’t scrimp when it comes to thread. If it is low quality, your garment may fall apart at the seams. Purchase a color which blends with your fabric. If you cannot find the exact color, use one that comes close in the same shade (lightness or darkness.) If you must choose a color which is a slightly different shade, see which one blends better. Usually, go darker for a dark fabric and lighter for a light fabric. It is hard to judge how well a thread will match by holding the spool to the fabric. If you have ever tried choosing a paint color, you may have had the experience that the sample chip from the store looks a whole lot different when the color is intensified by being painted on a wall. The spool is like the wall, what we want is the “paint chip.” The color of the spool is too intense. Separate a tail of the thread, lay it across the fabric and see how that looks. It comes across a lot different. Perception of color is subjective. It is influenced buy the colors it surrounds.
When you first work with clothing patterns, there are so many things to learn. Your first pattern will be the hardest because of this. Patterns contain a lot of information, but they also assume a certain amount of understanding in order to work with them. Once you have gone through one pattern, with help, you will find that following projects are much easier to do on your own.
I mentioned some pattern makers above. There are many other companies which produce patterns for clothing. Burda is a German based company. They have many great designs, but for beginners, I find that their instructions and illustrations lacking. Kwik Sew is based in Minneapolis, MN. They offer patterns for clothing items you may not find in the big companies. The one thing that I don’t like for beginners is that many of their patterns include a very small “seam allowance” of 1/4.” The major companies usually use a 5/8″ seam allowance. It is much easier to work with when you are learning. Vogue produces many beautiful patterns. But, they lean toward designs which require more advanced sewing skills. So, keep them in mind for later projects.
There are small pattern makers. They can have very innovative designs. Often, the instructions are geared toward a more experienced sewing enthusiast, so I recommend that you gain some skill before endeavoring to use their patterns.
I say all this because I wish you success in your first clothing project. The best way for you to finish and have pride in your work is to keep things as simple as possible. Usually, simple pants and skirts are easier to start with than tops. Some of the patterns I link below include tops and dresses. Some are very easy, like a peasant blouse. Some are a little more involved, especially if it involves setting in a sleeve or collar. I tried to only list ones which I thought would be good for a novice. Some of the tops, included in pajama patterns & separates, may be for knits and I do not recommend that you make them at this time.
The links for the patterns will lead you to the online stores the their respective companies. There are many places to buy these patterns. The companies which produce them, local fabric stores, like Fabric Place in Woburn and Framingham, or JoAnn Fabrics in Burlington, Natick, Saugus and elsewhere in the Boston Metro Area. I have links in the right hand column of this page for many resources, including a company called Sewing Patterns.com. They carry all of the pattern companies from big to small and offer good discounts and many sales.
I am happy to answer questions for you. If you want to know if a pattern no listed here would be appropriate for your project, please send me a link for it so that I can give you my feedback.
Butterick Pattern company is now part of McCall’s and Vogue. They do not have very many Kids/Teens patterns. So, go further down to Simplicity and McCall’s Listings to see more for youth.
Simplicity has some nice styles and some very up-to-date looks for young people. They have patterns inspired by the show “Project Runway.” I do not link any of those here because the patterns are more complicated to follow. But, they could be in your future if you gain the skills to make them. The Simplicity web site also lists the New Look patterns.
McCall’s has a large selection of patterns. They have been around for awhile. There are some nice styles for kids and teens, as well as women and plus sizes. The McCall’s web site also lists the Hot Patterns.