I love the feeling when someone asks me where did I get my dress from and I reply ‘I made it!’. Even more when they then reply ‘You wouldn’t know that you’ve made it!’. That to me makes me feel that I have passed the test. My garments have moved from homemade to handmade. It’s a very subtle difference but I feel that its been a bumpy journey. So i’m sharing my tips how to to get your handmade garments looking amazing and fooling everyone.
- Pressing seam allowances – Press, press, press. This is my number 1 tip and I think it has the greatest impact. Ironing seams as you go can be really annoying as you have to keep getting up and down. I have skipped this a few times and then regretted it when I put on the final garment.
- Using the wrong fabric for the garment – When you begin the range of different fabrics on offer can be scary. To help you get your head around all the different types I’ve made a fabric cheat sheet. It also contains suggested patterns for each type of fabric. When choosing your fabric do follow the suggested fabrics in the instructions. These ensure that the drape/weight of the fabric matches the design of the garment. I’ve made a few tops early on in a stiff cotton which just didn’t sit right on my body and was actually really uncomfortable to wear.
- Not following the grainline – Cutting a pattern sometimes requires your gameboy tetris skills. But it’s always important to match the grainline of the fabric with the indications on the pattern. Not matching this can cause you to have pattern pieces that actually look a different colour due to the pile of the fabric or even to have a pattern design appear upside down!
- Not transferring the pattern markings – This follows on from my previous point. All those markings on the pattern pieces are tips to help you with the construction. The notches help you to match up the pieces and also help when knowing the front from the back. Pleats and gathers have to be in certain places or they can completely spoil the overall design. I cut a small slit for my notches and then transfer darts with tailors tacks or tailors chalk. There are disappearing ink pens available too but I haven;t used these.
- Not using facings or bias binding on necklines – Inserting facings can sometimes be tricky and to save time just you turn over the hem and stitch. In my opinion this really spoils the garment and screams ‘homemade’. Take the time to insert the patterns facings or if you do want a quick sew use bias binding to finish your openings.
- Leaving the edge unfinshed – Try to make the inside of your garments as pretty as the front. This means finishing the seams so that when it goes through the wash the fabric doesn’t fray or unravel. You can zig-zag the edges or overlock them. Some independent patterns are helpful in that they tell you when to finish the seams during the construction. If it doesn’t I like to finish the seams on all the pattern pieces before I start to sew but I have to be careful not to clip into the seam allowance.
- Not making adjustments to the pattern – The beauty of sewing your own wardrobe is that you can make your garments to fit your body shape. I used to get hung up on what pattern size I would make, now I look at the body measurements and see what fits me best. Also if my top half and bottom half don’t match one pattern size have the confidence to grade between the sizes. Tilly and the Buttons has a brilliant blog post as an introduction to adjusting patterns. Making a muslin/toile practise run of a new pattern is also a great way to figure out fitting issues.
- Try basting pieces – I always hand baste my zips before I use the machine. This helps to keep it in place and gives me one less thing to hold together as I’m trying to concentrate. Iv’e also begun to baste neckbands with my machine before overlocking. This gives me chance to see the fit before I go in for the big stitch and is also easier to adjust. Unpicking overlocking thread is a nightmare and then to contend with smaller seam allowances because the overlocker cut it off.
- Skipping the interfacing – I know the feeling you are ready to go but then remember that you haven’t got enough interfacing. Don’t skip this. The interfacing gives the pattern structure in the right places and without it, the garment will roll and stretch. Keep a stash together of the type you most often use. I use iron on and buy it 5m at a time from eBay for cheap prices.
- Not colour matching your threads – I am guilty of just using white thread as that’s all I have in and I do regret it after. Do try to colour match your thread so that it disappears into your fabric. If you want to make the stitching a feature then go for the contrast colour, just make sure your stitching is neat.
All of these are just tips to help. The fact that you are making your own clothes is amazing and you should feel proud everytime you wear them.