My Sewing Method

When I first started sewing apparel, I had a “go for it” kind of attitude. My mother had given me the foundations of sewing throughout my childhood, including knowing how to operate a sewing machine, serger, and rotary cutter. But she had never taught me how to make apparel. To get started, I found a vintage sewing pattern that was in my grandmother’s stash, a polyester from my mom’s stash, and just went at it. It was a simple trapeze dress, and I’m not sure that I even followed all the directions. I still have that pattern, and really wish that I had traced the pattern rather than cutting it out because now, I’m stuck with one size and one to two versions of the dress.

Choose the fabric and/or pattern

Starting with fabric: I know how it is at the fabric store. You fall in love with a fabric and you have nothing in mind for what to make with it. Soon you’ll accumulate a stash and months later come back to the fabric and ask, what was I thinking? This is when you assess the fabric. What is the drape and thickness good for? If it’s a thick twill, it might be best off for bottoms (skirts, pants, shorts), structured dresses, or accessories (purses). If it’s a lightweight fluid fabric, you’re likely looking at blouses or dresses with a lot of give. Dig into the patterns you own, the patterns available through the Big 4, and the indie patterns throughout the world. Find something that speaks to both you, and the fabric. Because if there is one thing to learn from this, is that it’s difficult to force a fabric onto a pattern.

Starting with a pattern: This is a bit easier to manage, as the pattern gives you general guidelines on what fabric to be on the lookout for and a vision in mind. Again, the fabric recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt, but do not force a fabric onto a pattern. If it calls for a woven and you want to use a knit, there are tutorials online for how to do that conversion. If you’re making a blouse and it calls for a lightweight woven, do not use a super heavyweight fabric because it will not have enough give. Keep in mind the work that will go into matching patterns, plaids, and stripes when buying fabric, and the laundering requirements for the fabric. I try to take a picture of the end bolt when I buy it so I know the fiber content and the laundry instructions for later on.

Size yourself

This took the longest for me to understand and accept. You are your own size, and the patterns aren’t always going to fit you right out of the envelope. I trusted the recommended sizes for a lot of patterns, and often it works out. But when it doesn’t, it’s incredibly disappointing. BE SKEPTICAL OF THE SIZING. If you want it fitted, take the pattern pieces out, measure the width or length, do some math calculating in seam allowances, and calculate how much ease there is. If there’s 3 inches of ease around the bodice that is supposed to be fitted, make adjustments or select a different size. If your hips are a size 12 and your bodice a size 10, grade the sizes together. It’ll make for a much better fitted garment and a happier seamstress. There’s tons of tutorials online to do this, give it a try and you’ll be much more satisfied with what you make.

Trace pattern onto tracing paper

Once you’ve chosen your fabric and have your pattern size determined, I trace my pattern. This is so that I can make adjustments to the pattern for sizing such as a full bust adjustment, hacks to the design, or simply to keep the paper pattern intact to use a different size or version in the future. Pellon sells tracing pattern which is wonderful for this, but there are others you can use and even directly sew up and make adjustments to. Once my patterns are traced, I simply keep them in a gallon sized bag labeled with the pattern enclosed.

Organize which are interfaced, interface yardage first

I find block interfacing helpful in maintaining the integrity of the cut, interfaced pattern pieces. If I don’t block interface, I end up with either the fabric or interfacing too large and it affects the piece. To do this, organize which pattern pieces need interfacing. Lay them over the fashion fabric, and decide how much yardage needs to be interfaced for these pieces. Interface the whole piece, then cut out the individual pieces. The exception to this is collars, where the collar seam allowance is left uninterfaced to reduce bulk.

Lay, cut, mark

Finally, you can lay out your pattern pieces on the fashion fabric and cut them out. I use a rotary cutter for a majority of my cutting, and mark darts and pleats with a combination of chalk and tailor’s tacks. To make with chalk, I insert a pin into the point of the pattern piece and rub my chalk along the point of the pin on the fashion fabric. Then, follow your pattern directions and sew to your heart’s content!

Moneta Frenzy

Moneta Frenzy

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Before I started consistently sewing for myself, my wardrobe of dresses was largely composed of knit dresses. They’re easy to throw on, comfortable, and have ease in the fabric for when you eat too much at the summer BBQ. Not to mention they wash up super easily and there’s so many different design directions you can go with them.

After a few years of dabbling with the big four patterns, I fell in love with indie sewing pattern companies. One of my favorite companies is Colette, who not only produce wonderful sewing patterns but also release tutorials, sew alongs, and one of my favorite things ever, Seamwork Magazine. The Moneta pattern was released with Seamwork Magazine, and has since become a standby for many seamstresses. It is a beautiful knit dress with a fitted top and gathered skirt at the natural waist. It even has pockets! The dress comes with three sleeve length variations and a free kit with a variety of necklines. It’s an all around winner. 

I had a lovely time sewing up my first Moneta. I used a purple, floral knit from the Joann Fabrics red tag clearance section. I used size S on the top, and size M on the bottom, grading between the sizes for the bodice. The instructions were very clear, and there’s even a sew along online if you have any questions about the construction! The neckline, armband, and hem were all finished with a twin needle. I had some issues of it not laying flat, despite lowering the bobbin tension. I thought that a steamy ironing would fix it but after it went through the wash, it bubbled up again. I eventually fixed this on my next Moneta, by decreasing the bobbin tension all the way down to 1. It might have also been a fabric issue.

Sewing the clear elastic in the waist can be a challenge. My machine is pretty strong and can handle the tension needed to stretch the elastic while feeding it into the machine, but I pined it twice as much as the pattern recommends (1/8ths rather than 1/4ths) which definitely helped the even gathering.

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My second Moneta was made up with a rayon blend from Joanns, with the three quarter sleeve and tie neck variations. I found this fabric to be a challenge because despite being so thin, it has a heavy drape. Also it didn’t take ironing the knit interfacing very well and has some iron marks on the neckline now (noo!). Because of the thinness of the fabric, I’ll likely wear a slip or shapewear underneath to cover all my lovely lumps and bumps.

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I really like this version for fall, and can see it being worn with a variety of tights and boots already in my closet. I have fabric in my stash for one more Moneta, this time it’ll have a peter pan collar though. So look forward to more variations of this pattern!

Soma Swimsuit

Soma Swimsuit

Last summer, I struggled to find a supportive swimsuit that didn’t have multiple inches of bust padding. I wasted so much time in dressing rooms, looking at myself falling out of shrunken breast cups. Around this time, I came across Lladybird’s beautiful make of the Soma Swimsuit and was inspired to muster up the time and confidence to try my own version.

Version 1: Floral fabric from Etsy vendor BigFabricDeals

I was definitely intimidated by using swimsuit fabric, but it is truly no worse than sewing with knits. It’s a bit slippery and stretchy and requires the use of a zig zag stitch, but it is relatively stable compared to some rayons. My recommendation would be to cut out the pieces using a rotary cutter and make sewing indications with shallow notches.

Version 2: Stormy fabric from The Fabric Fairy

For both of the versions, I extended the top of the high waisted bikini by approximately 2 inches so that it fell on my natural waist. Since this pattern is a New Zealand pattern, seam allowances are in centimeters. In the floral swimsuit, I used 1/2 in seam allowances but found that they were too big. I was much happier with the 3/8 seam allowances in the storm swimsuit. Additionally, I changed elastic from a 1/2 in swimsuit elastic to a 1/4 in swimsuit elastic. This made it fit better, and the elastic roll over looks much nicer with thinner elastic.

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In my first version, I fully followed the instructions and left the front bodice seams exposed around the triangle, finishing with a normal serged edge. After wearing it, I found that it bothered me that those seams were the only ones not enclosed. Why should they be out and about?! In my stormy swimsuit, I followed Lladybird’s recommendation to burrito the triangle like a yoke and enclose them. To do this, I attached the right side of the triangle together with right sides of the lining and patterned fabric together. To attach the left side of the triangle to the other bust cup, you have to roll/fold the bust cups within the middle of the triangle and move them out of the way of the seam line. Then, pin the right sides together again carefully stitch, ensuring not to catch the bust cups in the seam. The top of the triangle was a little fiddly and I had to unpick a few stitches and redo a small section, but I’m really happy with the end result and found it to be entirely worth it.

These swimsuits came together much more quickly than I had expected. Even though the bodice has many parts, they are relatively straight forward and the assembly order simplifies the process immensely. I truly enjoyed making these! And it feels so great to have a swimsuit that holds me up and makes me feel fully confident. I can see myself making more swimsuits in the future as the need arises.

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Bonus photo of Rosie helping me take pictures, always such a helper.