This is not the first time Mallory and Zede have discussed the importance of pattern envelopes and it probably won’t be the last!
In earlier podcast episodes they released a 5 episode series on garment sewing which included a discussion about pattern envelope labels. This was in response to a listeners request. Mal gushes that to no surprise the request was from a Canadian sewporter. And for all of you that don’t know Mallory has a huge crush on Canada and all things Canadian including it’s people!
Fear not Americans, or Domestics as Zede calls us (and everyone else non-Canadian) she has our backs and loves all of us. So much in fact that Mallory and her are giving us another review of what to expect from a pattern envelope.
Image of Pattern
This is the first/foremost thing on the front cover of a pattern envelope or PDF pattern. This image may be an actual person wearing a garment or a sketch of just the garment. It may be a single view pattern or have multiple views/styles.
Zede suggests really looking at the pattern image because that is what the pattern inside will make. This may seem obvious but it is important. Zede says it would be unlikely that she purchase a maxi skirt or maxi dress pattern because with her height (or lack there of) she does not find that style of garment appealing on her no matter how it looks in the image.
So if she did purchase such a pattern she would never expect it to make something different. She does note that with her years of experience and expertise she is comfortable enough to purchase such a pattern knowing she will be able to cut it shorter to her liking. If you are not comfortable enough to make that change or decision about a pattern it’s as simple as finding a new one that works for you.
Pattern Name and Number
All patterns will have a name or identifier which usually describes what type of garment will be made. “Ginger Jeans” and “Morris Blazer” for example, are names of patterns given by the designers.
Some pattern envelope front covers may also include a pattern number. This may be denoted with only numerals or also include letter(s). PDF patterns typically don’t include pattern numbers. Zede says sometimes you can find garment sizing information on the front cover as well, so give it a good glance before turning it over.
This is a very important part of a pattern label. Mallory explains, if a pattern states it makes a top that is close fitting and you don’t enjoy snug fitting clothes maybe that pattern isn’t for you. Patterns are drafted a certain way to account for style, fabric choice, and construction techniques. You can’t make a knit pattern work with a woven fabric (and vice versa) and not expect it to change the end result of the garment.
Mallory has a pattern and in it’s description it reads “for moderate knits only”. Included on the back of the envelope is a stretch guide. You align the edge of the fabric next to it and give it a stretch. If the fabric stretches to the end of the guide that fabric will work great. If the fabric has too little or too much stretch you may pay for that later on.
Zede recommends explicitly following the pattern directions if you are a beginner or have never made that specific pattern before, that’s your best chance for success.
Another great tip Zede and Mallory offer up is to check pattern reviews. The age of technology makes this easier than ever. You can see what a pattern looks like in a variety of fabrics and find out how successful others were in making a specific pattern. Did they follow directions, did they change anything, how did it fit etc…
Designers make patterns with specific fabrics in mind! Mallory is very passionate about emphasizing this. Fabrics play a huge role in garment making. Mallory suggests always making a muslin or test garment before making assumptions about a pattern or how a finished garment will be.
For example, if you were making a pair of stretch denim skinny jeans for yourself and you cut out the size that corresponded to your exact measurements you could be in trouble. Typically stretch denim pants are constructed with negative ease and require the denim to have a certain percentage of stretch. Mallory says she frequently has people cut out a size smaller than their measurements to account for this.
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Mallory can not say enough about choosing the right fabric! Zede says it’s because this is such a reoccurring question they get, um, or more of a mistake has been made and there is total disappointment type thing.
Zede is a big advocate of her “know the rules before you break the rules” saying. She says those rules exist for a reason and should be fully understood before you try and mess with them.
Mallory states this is precisely why the directions for her Easy T class say to take your body measurements and then add ease. This pattern was designed with a lightweight woven fabric in mind. She also has you draft a rather large neckline opening, again this top is made out of a woven and you can’t wear a shirt if it won’t go over your head.
Zede emphasizes that the Easy T’s fabric recommendation is for a drapey lightweight woven. She says if you were to use a quilting cotton the shirt might look more tent like than body silhouette like, being more rigid and boxy than flowy.
In this section of the back envelope you will find information about linings, interfacings, and facing fabrics that are required to complete the garment.
Notice that says requirements, not suggestion or best estimate. This information is there for your success. Zede says to pay special attention to fabric widths too. Patterns will usually list a yardage/meter amount for both 45″and 60″wide fabric. Pattern pieces like sleeves take more fabric than you think. Think about all that fabric that has to go around your upper arm.
There will usually be an asterisk below the quantity of fabric needed that says more fabric will be required if making the garment with stripe, plaid, directional print and fabric with a nap (can be brushed one way or the other-like velvet).
Mallory and Zede usually err on the side of caution and will get 1/2 to 1 yard more cut. It’s always better to have a little extra than not enough.
Thread, zippers, stay tape, hook and eye, elastic, velcro, and other small odds and ends needed to finish your garment.
Pattern Envelopes Are Important
So why was this topic worth discussing again? We want you to be successful! We want to take away the chance for you to have an after-the-fact moment of “why didn’t this work”. We want to help people avoid scenarios where they make garments out of quilting cotton and then their top won’t fit over their heads or arms.
Mal and Zede aren’t trying to vilify quilting cotton. It just happens to be a very accessible fabric. The fact that it comes in many cute and fun novelty prints makes it even more exciting to sew with. Mallory too is swayed by such cool prints and doesn’t blame anyone for wanting to wear those crazy cool Tula Pink octopuses instead of making a quilt with them.
Mallory and Zede want you to keep in mind the fabric choice for a pattern was not an afterthought for the designer. They use their fabric choice and information about the fabric- like contents and stretch percentage or lack of to draft their pattern.
Zede also says don’t get caught up on pattern photos. Sometimes these are just sketches or concept art made by the designer or artist. Sometimes these finished looks require some extra pieces to make them reality.
Mallory gives a great example of this with her mention of Gertie from Gertie’s Blog for Better Sewing. Gertie likes to make vintage super fitted wiggle dress bombshell style inspired garments and she says she has to have the right undergarments to achieve the full effect. She will wear corsets, body shapers, bustiers, and petticoats and sometimes a few of those at the same time to imitate those pattern pictures. You can’t just sew a dress that looks like that.
Sometimes the structured garments are new and unfamiliar territory as we live in an era of relaxed and loose fitted clothes that don’t require these. Zede and Mallory both agree that this type of clothing is really nice but we also need to keep appropriate undergarments in mind when making patterns that utilize them.
Have you ever strayed from pattern recommendations? What was the end result?