Sew? I’m clueless!

No, I didn’t join the sew-along, but I’m sure you’ve heard of it – Sew? I knit!. A fabulous idea conceived by Mari, Steph, and yaiAnn.

These girls have publicly declared that sewing is a perfectly acceptable art form even for knitters (the horror!), and they, along with one hundred other participants, have all committed to sewing a skirt by March 20th.

I was so tempted to join, but decided against it for several reasons, the main one being time, and not being certain that I can even make it to the fabric store by March 20th. The second reason is that while I can pretend to know how to use a sewing machine (You hear that? That’s my sewing machine laughing at me for saying that out loud), I have never in my life even laid eyes on a sewing pattern. What would it contain? Would I be able to figure it out?

So I decided to buy a pattern first, and then decide if I could decipher it, and then decide if I could make it out to the fabric store by March 20th, and then decide if I could join the knitalong.

And not just any ol’ pattern. You think I’d be satisfied with a simple A-line skirt made out of two pieces?!? Bwahahaha! Mwahahaha!

Yeah, right!

I’m not much of a skirt wearer. Period. But I do have two skirts that I absolutely love, and when I do wear a skirt, it’s one of these two. So, if I were to sew any skirt at all, it would have to be similar in construction to one of these. Otherwise, I’d probably never wear it.

Not surprisingly, the two skirts are very similar to each other and fit me in a similar way. And you know what? You’ve seen them both ;). One I wore when I modeled the Picovoli, and the other, when I modeled the Jaywalker!

    

I looked through a few sewing pattern websites, and finally found Simplicity 5914, version B of which (on model) looks similar to my denim skirt (the black one tapers in more right before the knees).

I bought it. I received it in the mail. I’d like to let you know that the whole thing came in a most precious little envelope, with instructions and pattern stuffed inside – very cute.

It was time for stage 1 – will I or won’t I be able to decipher the pattern?

Oh man, it was hysterical. I wish you were there with me. Do you know how many hours it took me to figure out that the skirt is constructed from 6 pieces?

Do you know how many hours it took me to figure out that the 45″ and 60″ throughout the instructions refer to the width of the bolt of fabric, not the length of the skirt? Do you know how many hours it took me to figure out that the patternmakers provide a diagram for laying out the pieces depending on whether you get the 45″ or 60″ type of fabric? 45″ or 60″. Because I was like, damn, how are there 12 pieces making up that skirt? I lay 6 this way on the fabric, and 6 this way, and what is going on?!?

Do you know how many hours it took me to figure out what “nap” means? Oh wait, I haven’t figured it out. What is nap?!? And why do I have to make notches in the pieces even where there isn’t a zipper? And is there a nifty way to transfer the pattern onto the fabric other than cutting it out and tracing it with chalk? Because what if one day I want to make a bigger size? And what the hell is stay-stitching?!?

You see – there is a damn good reason I didn’t join the sew-along. Talk about skill level differences, some of those girls already finished their skirts and I’m still standing here in the corner, mumbling to myself about notches, popping anti-anxiety meds, and applying a second layer of anti-perspirant.

One good thing, though – there’s a size provided in the pattern that will work for me. Not only are the finished dimensions very close to those of my black skirt, but the European sizes of the pattern and my skirt match. And that’s encouraging.

As soon as I figure out those nagging questions, I will move to stage 2 – will I or won’t I be able to make it the fabric store before March 20th? Buying online is unfortunately not an option this time, because I’m so terribly picky about the way fabric feels, you have no idea. Plus I also need thread, a matching zipper, hook and eye (I may have some, I need to check), fusable interfacing, and cotton twill tape… I’m blanking on that last bit… I don’t even remember needing cotton twill tape from the pattern.

Sigh. I will never get to stage 2. Talk about clueless.

72 thoughts on “Sew? I’m clueless!

Comments are closed.


  1. Nicole

    I am right there with ya as far as my sewing abilities. But I can tell you this much (and therefore put to use that time I spent in 7th grade home ex). Nap refers to a quality of the fabric, its plushiness and stretchiness I believe. The notches on the pattern are useful when piecing it together. You match them up to notches on the other pieces to get a perfect fit. And finally, I think stay-stitching is basting, but that is a bit of a guess. Good luck. The pattern is really cute!

  2. TracyKM

    I am going to follow you VERY closely on this one! I did the requisit sewing class in grades 7/8. I have stitched a few simple things without patterns in the past year, like you. I really want to be able to sew nice things to fit me. But the thought of picking a pattern (even just finding one for my odd shape..) finding a suitable fabric, making sure any pattern/nap matches the right way and the grain is straight, and then choosing thread from the big display when the saleslady says “They are all good threads. Pick one that matches–but don’t bother with these ones for embrodery”….and then spreading it all out, and CUTTING the fabric….OMG. I did however buy proper seamstress scissors after chopping some fabric with my kitchen scissors, and then I got a cutting mat and rotary cutter.

    But girl, I am totally going to cheer you on!! I’ve learn somethings through sewing to improve my knitting/designing/fitting, and I’ve learned that there are MANY things done differently when you sew, LOL!

    If you get this skirt made, I will definately go buy a pattern. For anything :)

  3. Carole

    I wish you had brought the pattern yesterday. I could have helped you. I’m not fantastic but I can sew. And read a pattern! Let me know if you need help.

  4. Rosa

    Transfer patterns onto wax or parchment paper by using a black marker, and a ruler. Copy by following the specific sized lines (dashes, etc) on your pattern and all the directions on the pattern. I always prep my pattern first by cutting them out and tracing onto other paper; that way I am ready to cut the fabric later on without having to spend the whole day preparing the pattern, then cutting, then wanting to get started on sewing. Good luck.

  5. Melissa

    While I love the concept of sewing my own clothes, I’ve never been what you call “skilled” with a sewing machine. I know how it all works in theory and can do simple things like sew squares to each other, but it hasn’t gone past that.

    I do love the skirt pattern you’ve picked out; it’s everything I love about skirts and I have resolved to wear more skirts this year (excuse to knit knee-high stockings). Lots of luck to you on this one.

  6. Elizabeth

    Nap is the fuzz on corduroy or velvet. Fabrics with nap look different in each of the four directions, so with a fabric with nap, you can’t use a layout where one skirt panel lies like this in the layout:

    Or they’ll look odd in the final skirt.

    I like to trace my patterns on to non-fusible interfacing. That way, they’re more durable, and I can use multiple sizes on the same pattern. The tissue paper rips too easily anyway. I pin the pattern to the fabric, and then cut around it. I use chalk or a fabric marker if there are crucial markings on the pattern.

    Notches help you line up pattern pieces when you sew them, as someone else mentioned.

    Stay-stitching is stitching on a single pattern piece, rather than sewing two together. It can help the fabric fold the way you want it to, or it can help keep the edges from fraying.

    I love gored skirts like this!

    Too bad I’m not still living in Boston. Otherwise I’d be happy to help you figure this out.

    elizabeth

  7. Elizabeth

    My little arrows got interpreted as html code.

    If one skirt panel is cut out on the fabric left to right, and the other right to left, they’ll look different when the whole thing is put together. It can be subtle enough that I once made a pair of corduroys with the nap on one leg running one way, and the nap on the other leg running the other way, and I didn’t realize it until I’d tried them on.

  8. Elizabeth

    Ok. Nap is whether the fabric looks and feels different from one direction than the other. Think velvet or corduroy – it feels and looks different if you stroke your hand from top to bottom (or sideways). If you have a fabric with nap, you want it to “run” the same way on all sides of your garment. Or maybe you don’t, but you need to know ahead of time what you want or it will be disappointing. 2nd: The notches show you where pieces are to fit together. This may seem obvious on the hip section of a front and back, but isn’t quite as obvious when fitting together a princess seam over the bust where one piece will be curved in and the other curved out. You can mark these notches with chalk or pins if you don’t want to cut around them (I use pins). 3rd: I almost never make a pattern twice so I just pin the pattern to the fabric and cut around it. If you buy some non-iron-on interfacing (at the fabric store, in bolts, usually near the cutting station, ask if you can’t find it, almost always white, looks like pressed matted fiber which it is, has no grain and won’t ravel) you can put your pattern down, put the interfacing on it and trace the pattern. Transfer all marks, including labeling pattern number and piece. Then cut this out and use as your pattern, leaving your original tissue intact. 4: Stay stitching is long stitches (my machine gives me a 2.5 for “normal stitch length”, 1 for short stitches and 5 or 6 for long stitches) run along the inside of the seam line on curves. Their purpose is to make the curve stay put, i.e. not stretch out of shape as you work with the piece. They are not removed even after finishing and are often hidden inside other seams or facings. Any other questions?

  9. eliza

    Last year, I made a skirt similar to the one you are planning (six pleated panels rather than a tulip shape). The cotton twill tape is used with the fusible interfacing to stabilize the waistband and maintain the clean line. Just like knitting, the little details can make or break a project. Good luck!

  10. Stephanie

    Hi, I’m delurking! My mom is great at sewing, and when making something from a pattern she folds down the tissue paper pattern edges to the size she wants, then pins it to the fabric and cuts. The tissue paper patterns aren’t exactly durable, but it will save you some time over the tracing methods.

  11. dana

    “Nap” is the grain of the fabric. It can be based on print, texture, or both. So, for example, imagine some velvet. If you pet the velvet one way, it feels rough. If you pet it the other way, it feels smooth. So imagine that you laid your pattern pieces on your velvet all willy-nilly – now you have a skirt with one piece rough, one piece smooth.. not good. This is why the pattern pieces (probably) have an arrow on them running up-down.

    You want to identify the nap direction of your fabric, figure out which way you want to be “up”, and then lay your pattern pieces on the fabric with the arrows pointing parallel to the nap and with the “up” at the top of the skirt.

    You need notches to help you line up the pattern pieces when you’re sewing long seams. Imagine sewing up the sides of a sweater. If you just started sewing at the bottom, chances are by the time you got to the armholes they wouldn’t be lined up anymore. The notches help with this – you can pin the start, finish, and any notches along the seam, then pin between each of those points, and then as you sew you’re certain that the whole mess lines up across the seam.

    Feel free to email me if you have questions.. I’ve sewn a lot of stuff!

    And don’t forget – you can always buy cheap fabric to experiment with. Low stress method of learning, instead of messing with expensive fabric that you love!

  12. Laura

    Looks like the others have answered your questions. Good for me.

    I never transferred my patterns to the fabric. I just pinned the patterns on carefully, and cut the patterns with the fabric. It works and it saves time. If you cut crooked, all of that is hidden in the seam allowance. But sucks for you if you later decide to make a larger size of the same pattern.

  13. Stephanie

    Thank you for posting the fact that there is something fiber related you don’t know how to do. Because if you just whipped up that skirt in less time than it took you to figure out that dang shawl, I would have to hunt you down and poke you with a knitting needle.

    With your demonstrated infinite patience, I have every confidence you can figure this one out. I’m looking forward to see how you do (and how you like it)!

    Good Luck!

  14. lanea

    Good luck! I’m another one who feels very confident sewing clothes, so feel free to ask me for help. You can do it, and you can do it well–I’ve seen your knitting, and this will be much easier than most of what you make once you get comfortable.

  15. Angela

    How funny–I just stayed in a hotel room with “art” consisting of collages of sewing pattern pieces with watercolor abstractions layered over them, which reminded me of all the sewing I use to do as a teenager–and you’ve now reminded me again. All those little notches and triangles and arrows! Anyway, I’m sure you’ll conquer any difficulties.

  16. Peg

    Funny! When I was in high school, I tried to buy 1/4 yard of nap, ’cause the pattern envelope said 1/4 yard more with nap!! Now fitting everything back into that ‘cute’ little envelope is more fun – I iron the pieces when they are all folded into a bundle with a dry iron and then give it a try! My suggestion to you would be to offer to knit something like “Odessa” in exchange for a sewer making the skirt!! Currently I am knitting “Odessa” with a soft blue Lily Chin 100% merino wool and pearly beads! It is beautiful!

  17. Colleen

    Can I just tell you how much you cheered me up today? I am in awe of the wonder created by other knitters, and I frequently feel out of my depth when you’re talking knitting.

    I looked at the pattern you bought today, and sort of mentally nodded my head. Yeah, that looks like a good *simple* skirt, let’s see how she did with it?

    Ah, me. Well, you can continue mystifying me with what you can do with string, and I’ll mystify you with what I can do with fabric.

  18. Stephanie

    I bought a second skirt pattern almost like that and hope that it will be better than the first (grrr.) Sounds like all those talented ladies gave you answers, but I just bought a great book on sewing if you’re interested. Lots of techniques and pictures with explanations! It’s fabulous.

  19. Mary

    I think all of your questions were answered but someone might have brought up a new one…you didn’t mention it before…seam allowance. Read your pattern carefully, does it take into account seam allowance or do you have to add 1/2″-3/4″ or so around all the edges?

    I learned how to sew when I was 9 years old. I didn’t use patterns, my aunts in Mexico taught me and “we don’t need no stinkin’ patterns…” In HS I took a required sewing class and used a pattern for the first time in my life…I am still really bad at reading them…but that first time…yeah, the seam allowance got me and got me good. My best friend, however, got a great birthday present that year :).

  20. Stephanie C

    Thank GOODNESS! Just began knitting, after figuring out why it didn’t work all these years, so I am completely freaked by the whole yarn choice/needle choice interaction since I don’t want to use anything larger than a 7 and worsteds are HUGE yarns to me. HOWEVER – I’ve been sewing since I was 8. Everything from aprons to ballet tutus; so, even though I can only tell you to “just breathe,” I feel really badly knowing that you feel about sewing the way I do about knitting. Twill tape? Sounds like they’re giving it to you the hard way. There’s more than one way to skin that cat. The pattern IS just a guide.

  21. B.

    My method for preparing the tissue pattern is to cut it out along the lines for the size I want. (If you want to make it again in another size, buy another pattern. And really, what are the chances?) Now you can pin the tissue together and carefully try it on to get an idea of how it will fit. It’s much easier to lay out and cut the pieces when they are already trimmed to the right size.

    I love the rustly, crinkly feel of all the pieces of fabric cut out but still pinned to their tissue, and all folded in a pile, ready to sew.

    The quick and easy way to deal with notches is to cut out the pieces first, then with the tip of your scissors snip a tiny “v” into the seam allowance to mark each notch. To mark the point where the zipper starts, make a 1/8″ snip into the seam allowance.

    Important! — pay attention to the arrows on the pieces that indicate “straight grain”, and make sure they run parallel to the fold and selvedges of the fabric.

  22. Margo

    Hi, I’m delurking as well. I made a skirt from that pattern last spring and I found it pretty straight-forward. My only difficulty was that I was between sizes so I had to fudge the seam allowances to make it fit. But if one of the sizes matches the measurements of a skirt that fits you well, that’s great! I also had some problems keeping all of the separate pieces organized. I didn’t want to mistake front pieces for the back. This particular pattern does include 5/8″ seam allowances, so you won’t have to add those. And as for the notches. I don’t cut them out, but I cut them off flush with the pattern piece, and then cut little notches into the seam allowances to match up later. I find this method faster and easier to match up. I hope that explanation makes sense….

    I found the resulting skirt to be quite flattering, and this post reminds me that I should wear the skirt again!

    Good luck!

  23. yahaira

    well everyone answered the whole nap and notch situation (why does that sound so funny?) so at least I can tell you how I used to trace my patterns onto the fabric. I have tracing paper you can get at the fabric store and I think it came with a little wheel (looks like a pizza cutter). I would pin the pattern and the tracing paper to the fabric and just follow the pattern with the wheel. I had all the marks I wanted and I still had the pattern in one piece in case I wanted to make another size.

    I would also suggest getting some muslin to practice the pattern on before you start working on your fave fabric. If you need any muslin let me know, I have a ton over here.

  24. Marisa

    It looks like your questions have been answered. Being a ‘skirt-sewer’ myself – I would be more than happy to help you remotely if you need it.

    I do have a couple of recommendations that may make your sewing experience a bit easier: Try ironing (on the lowest setting) your pattern pieces after you’ve cut them out, and prior to pinning then to your fabric. As a beginner, it will really make a big difference. Also, if you get a fabric that is either hand or machine washable, wash it first! Shrinkage may occur, and you want to make sure that happens before the garment is made perfectly to fit you – otherwise it might shrink after you’ve made it (bad, bad, bad). It also might make it easier to cut the fabric if you iron it as well.

    As someone else stated, with the pattern you’ve picked, try your best at getting the grain-lines on the pattern to match up with the fabric… don’t want the “sway” of the skirt to be wonky.

    You can “sew” do this!!!

  25. Martha

    Just like I was saying yesterday, for your first skirt you didn’t pick the easiest pattern in the store! You went straight to the one with gores and zippers. I’d offer to help but I’ve never done gores or zippers myself (except in Rogue). My guess is that bias probably figures pretty heavily in that skirt’s construction, to get that trumpet hem to flutter properly, so you want to pay attention to the nap arrows. (usually I ignore them, but for the things I sew they don’t matter).

    I do have a couple of sewing books (including, I believe, “Vogue Sewing”–it’s not patterns, it’s how-to)–let me know if you want me to bring/send them up. I’m not using them!

  26. Kris

    As I am not a sew-er myself, I can’t add any advice. However, I can’t even imagine joining a sew-along. I dread even looking at my sewing machine – which is why it usually stays in the closet in it’s pretty tapestry case.

    Good luck!

  27. Christie

    Looks like most of your questions were answered. Seems like everyone wishes they lived closer to you so they could help you. I’ll just say that I wish my mom was smaller, I’d mail her to you on a loaner basis. Good luck getting to the fabric store!

    Last thing…ask the ladies who work at the store for help with choosing fabric or with anything that doesn’t make sense. And when sewing follow this rule my sister always told me: “When in doubt, follow the pictures.”

  28. Sue

    A few tips:

    The information on the outside of the envelope should tell you everything you need to know about purchasing the fabric and notions. The back of the envelope should list suggested fabric types, how much fabric to buy and whether you need to buy other stuff.

    The first thing to understand that almost all fabrics can fall into two catagories: knit or woven. A knit is fabric with more stretch like lycra, T- shirt fabric, sweat shirt fabric, fleece etc. Your skirt pattern is probably intended for a woven fabric. If you cut the fabric and it ‘ravels’ then it is a woven. Don’t buy knit fabric to use for a woven pattern.

    My recommendation is to try to go to a fabric store when it isn’t very busy, bring your pattern and find a clerk who can make some fabric-type recommendations. For a first project I would not buy fabric on-line. If you get stuck on a particular instruction you need to be able to go back to the fabric store with fabric and instructions and get help.

    Make sure you read the general directions in the beginning of the instructions that came in the envelope. Make sure you know what the seam allowance is suppose to be. Simplicity usually has seam allowances built into the pattern pieces (some pattern companies don’t include seam allowances in the pattern pieces). Don’t worry if some of the specific instructions don’t make much sense at first. Lots of times the instructions don’t make sense to me until my sewing project is at that point. I really like the tip about making a trial skirt with inexpensive fabric. Ripping out can be hard on a fabric just like it is hard on some yarns. It’s also great to play with the fit on the trial skirt after it is made. Use a larger stitch length on the trial skirt: it makes ripping out much easier.

    Also, make sure you understand the concept of grain and cross-grain before cutting pattern pieces out. Grain is the direction the selveges go. Cross-grain is the perpindicular direction and the fabric has more ‘give’ in the cross-grain direction. So follow the little layout diagram in the instructions when laying out pattern pieces on the fabric. The pattern pieces themselves tell you whether you need to cut 2 or to cut 1 or if one side of the pattern piece is to be placed along folded fabric. Good luck

  29. Sylvia

    A recommendation: buy two chalk pencils, one white and one blue. You can write on the fabric and it will wash out (or rub out in many cases). You can draw those little notches and any other markings, label the pattern pieces, write notes to yourself, etc. Easy-peasy.

    If you can, check your local library for Vogue Sewing or some other sewing encyclopedia. Sewing is great fun and will make you a better knitter.

    Wash and dry the fabric before cutting. Give it the same treatment it will get once it is a skirt. It is customary to trim/remove the selvages before washing since they don’t shrink at the same rate as the rest of the fabric. Don’t bother with that this time around.

    Fabric comes in a variety of widths. Picture the looms used to weave the fabric. Fine blousing will often be 36″ wide since it has a higher thread count. And 45″ is an approximate number, often closer to 44″ and less than that once you remove the selvages. Not all looms are the same, and different fibers and weave structures draw in differently, so if your pattern pieces REALLY need a full 45″ and can’t be squished into a 42″ width (cotton shrinks when washed!), beware.

    Staystitching is done *just* after cutting and usually just on curved edges to prevent stretching. Staystitch in the direction of the grain (or as close as you can get), 1/8″ toward the cut edge from the seamline. So, if you have a typical 5/8″ seam allowance, staystitch 1/2″ from the cut edge. Do it with the same color thread as the fabric in case your seam wavers and a bit of the staystitching shows in the final garment. Use the SAME length stitch you will sew the garment’s seams with, or SMALLER. If the fabric is inclined to fray, I use a very short stitch to stabilize it. Especially around sleeve openings, one often clips the seam allowance to give the ease needed, and a short stitch in the staystitching will keep those clips from fraying into the seamline. For zipper openings, staystitch 1/4″ from the cut edge.

    Nap usually refers to the direction of cut pile, like corduroy, and most people prefer to arrange the pattern pieces so you pet the cat from top to bottom. This means that when you sit down, you are smoothing the nap. When you put two pieces of fabric with nap right sides together, they will interact and travel and be pesky.

    I once sewed a wool skirt with no apparent tactile nap but a definite visual nap — I had skimped on fabric and cut one piece in the opposite direction, and it looked many shades darker than the three other panels in the skirt…

    I would avoid fabrics with plaids (need matching!), nap (shifty), stretch (it WANTS to stretch!), crinkles/crepe (changes size under tension), gauze (the technical term for this fabric is “sleazy” for a reason) or anything else tricky at this stage in your sewing career… Go for an obedient crisp cotton!

    Older patterns were printed on heavier, more durable tissue, and could be re-used dozens of times if treated with respect and folded carefully. The newer paper is flimsy. I use draftsman’s tracing paper (big roll, cheap, buff color, try an art supply store?) and copy the pattern pieces with all their markings, then use my copies.

    A couple more things. Insert the bobbin in the bobbin holder so it unwinds in the correct direction for your machine. Let the feed dogs draw the fabric through — your job is to keep it moving freely and aligned with the guide lines. When you start sewing each piece, pull the thread tails to the back, making sure the upper thread goes through and under the presser foot.

    Good luck! It’s a lot of details at first, but not rocket science. I sewed my first dress (turquoise mini sleeveless with big daisies on it) when I was 5.

  30. The Feminist Mafia

    Wow. I’m impressed that you were able to figure out all those bits of jargon from the pattern instructions. Well done.

    Everyone has answered your questions, so I won’t add my 2 cents on nap, notches, etc. But I have one alternate pattern cutting idea. I never take the time to trace my patterns onto another piece of paper, because it takes SO long and I just want to get to the sewing. I pin the ironed pattern onto the washed and ironed fabric and cut. After I’m completely finished with the pattern pieces, I tape them back together before I forget which pieces belongs where. It serves the dual purpose of strengthening the tissue paper and rejoining the pieces so they can be used for a different size.

    Enjoy! I can’t wait to see your progress.

  31. Teresa C

    I didn’t read all of your comments, but I did stop at one that mentioned seam allowance. Most pattern pieces include a 5/8″ seam allowance. You do not have to add it to the patterns. Simplicity definitely includes the seam allowance.

    I am a seamstress. A pretty good one at that. I’d be happy to spend time helping you (it would give me a reason to come buy chocolate), or email me at will.

  32. Purly Whites

    You know, I’ve actually been sewing since I was six years old. While I contend that I suck and don’t sew much currently, many people have praised my abilities, i.e. I’ve worn things in public that I’ve sewn and people have told me they liked it. But I know a lot of lingo and how patterns work, so if you need any deciphering or help, give a holler.

    The skirt is cute though, you should give it a go if you can manage it. I bet you’d really take to sewing. It can be a fun puzzle. The only sucky thing about it is once you cut the fabric, it’s cut. You can’t just rip it out like you can with knitting.

  33. anne

    Yup, I’m about at your skill level. Well, actually, lower – my machine and I don’t talk yet. But a friend who is actually a really good sewer is going to teach me the basics. I was at a great little fabric store (T-accessible!) in Chinatown this weekend called Winmil Fabrics, on Chauncy Street. Great prices, pretty good selection, I thought (again, I’m not an expert). I didn’t join Sew? I knit because I’m sooooooo not at a skirt stage – I’m attempting a pillow or two instead.

  34. Nicole

    Although I totally understand how it should be done, doing it is completely different. Usually I ask my Mom instead. Like the dress for my sister’s wedding. In turn, I’ll knit something for her – like the Lady Eleanor stole. Maybe your mom or grandma might have some pointers…?

  35. Jen

    Ok, I have absolutely no sewing advice, I’m wowed by your attempt at this project, and all I can think is “Grumperina’s Project Runway.”

    YOU GO GIRL!!!

  36. Emily

    WHile I’m not patient and exact enough to sew anything that I would want to wear, I do know how it’s supposed to work in theory. I’m happy to help you out if you need it.

  37. Marlena

    I decided to delurk just to answer your questions, but I see others have already done so. So, instead I am delurking to say that I have that exact same pattern AND fabric and notions to make it. Perhaps we will end up making it at the same time.

  38. Susan

    I’m think I’m going to learn more here from you about sewing than I ever did in my ‘beginning sewing’ class last year (and certainly never did in Home Ec decades -cough- years ago). Eagerly awaiting the next installments.

  39. Lucia

    standing here in the corner, mumbling to myself about notches, popping anti-anxiety meds, and applying a second layer of anti-perspirant

    Except for the part about notches, this is me seaming a sweater. As you saw yesterday. Since I am also sewing-impaired I too will be following your sewing adventure with great interest.

  40. Robyn

    don’t feel bad. I took a comm. college class in sewing 2 yrs ago to learn how to read a pattern…it’s not as inherent as one might think…much jargon and codes. the class was well worth the $ as I can now stumble through a pattern.

  41. Kathy

    Get thee to a Vogue pattern book. Simplicity patterns are truly notorious for being very, very wrong, and as a beginning sewer you won’t know that it’s the *pattern* that is wonky, not you. Seriously, Vogue patterns practically take you by the hand and explain everything, the patterns themselves are well planned out, and the instructions actually make sense and lead to a good finished product. Simplicity patterns *can* be decent, but many of them resemble your last lace pattern in far too many ways for me to stay quiet.

  42. Angela

    Girl, I am NO WHERE near an expert and I have no idea where to start with all those pieces of paper that came with the pattern! This is the exact reason why we started the sew-along, cuz we needed some help too!

  43. Esther

    I am STILL laughing out loud over your post!! This is classic – it’s almost as if you were posting “MY” experiences!! My grandmother is an expert seamstress and you’d think something – ANYTHING would have rubbed off on me?? Uh, NO. I bought a machine, I learned how to thread it, I bought a simple pattern and some fabric and about 10 “how to sew” dvds…still haven’t done anything more than cut the pattern pieces out..lol

  44. Connie

    When the Vogue sewing book doesn’t make sense, give the Reader’s Digest New Complete Guide to Sewing or the DK Complete Boof of Sewing a look (ibraries tend to have these). Both have good pictures and description but sometimes one makes more sense to your brain than another.

    I’ve been sewing for years and still get my RD book out to sew zippers in. Forget the pattern instructions and use the book’s idea of basting the seam shut first. Then you know the seam wil cover the zipper.

    But the most important rule is one I learned from my grandmother: “Don’t sew when it’s dark under the table.” Knitting by feel is easy; sewing by feel is not. Good light is essential especially if you’re using dark fabric.

  45. gigi

    in my younger day i used to think sewing was really low-rent. knitting was for the pure of heart who devoted weeks to a project while sew-ers were cretins after a quick fix that could be thrown together in a mere day. then in my 20′s i realized there’s nothing wrong with a little instant satisfaction. you will love sewing – so fast (relatively speaking) and so easy to do. not portable as knitting, though and that’s a drag.

    as for pattern pieces my vote is cut out the pieces, press with a dry iron and pin to fabric. if you need to make a bigger size, just buy another pattern…and really how likely is it that you’ll want to make it again only bigger? not very likely, i suspect

    have fun with your sew along…i may just dust off my machine

  46. Angelia

    LOL! Good luck with that skirt. I have NO IDEA what all that pattern talk was. Have no clue how to sew something from a pattern. In fact, I’m not even sure I know how to OPERATE a sewing machine!

    Good luck!

  47. Tara

    oh girl, I feel your pain. I actually took a beginner’s sewing class at Joann’s and I’m still pretty afraid to tackle a pattern other than the pj bottoms we made! good luck!

  48. freecia

    Good luck. And get some extra fabric in case you cut, sew, and still decide it is wrong. This would be akin to getting an extra ball of yarn because you expect to tink one ball into unuseable fuziness.

  49. marie in florida

    well. it’s going to be fun watching you learn this. i could have answered most of your questions with a couple of the pattern pieces and a towel but i’m quite sure you’ll be designing sewing patterns for us really soon. and / or you will be gathering old patterns from the thrift store and making some from this and some from that and this will be a great adventure for you , which you will share with us.

  50. Heather

    I’m right there with you, sewing is a pain! I actually just bought my first pattern for a tank top and I got this stretchy fabric which was a major pain to work with! I’m still not finished but it’s turning out very pretty (it looks nice enough I think I’ll actually be able to wear it!).

    Make sure you pay attention to the right and wrong sides of both the fabric and the pattern when you lay it out, I messed up that part. And I forgot to cut the notches. And I have no idea what nap means, is that when you pass out from confusion?

  51. June

    *ghostly voice*: Beware Simplicity patterns! Beware!

    In my ltd experience, they run VERY large and are often unflattering. Try Burda instead, and Marfy when you get more experience.

  52. Elizabeth

    I went and checked and this is exactly the pattern we just made up for my daughter. The pattern is too big for her – same size, same measurements we just made a different skirt from Simplicity for her. Instead of sitting just below the belly button, it falls about 2 inches lower than that. I would mock up a muslin with the size you think you want using basting stitches and no finishing, pinning the side where the zipper would go. This will give a good idea how it fits before you use good material and sit looking at something that doesn’t fit well.

  53. Kate

    Okay first of all forget the whole tracing patterns on to something else, etc. Unless you are planning on making an entire wardrobe of the same skirt, you don’t need to do this. I sew quite a bit or at least I did before I became a hopeless knitting addict!

    I use (in lieu of expensive pattern weights) tuna cans and cat food cans to hold the pattern down while I cut. Make sure the big arrow is running along the lengthwise grain and just don’t use a fabric with nap.

  54. Carolyn

    Oh, I so wish I were there to help you. I hate sewing and protest everytime I do it, but I do make stuff for myself and even curtains and placemats and napkins and the list goes on. And really, I do hate it, but I know how to do it and I could so show you. Sigh…I live in damp old Oregon and can’t…and I have to work to make money to fund my yarn habit which I adore…..sigh…

  55. Beth

    I skimmed the comments and didn’t see an answer to the nap question. Think of microsuede fabric – if you run your hand one way, it looks darker than the other way. That’s the nap. When you make your skirt you want it to run in the same direction on all six pieces. If it’s going different directions, it might look like it’s from a couple of different fabrics.

  56. Liz (the crazed weasel)

    Lovely meeting you at Team Boston yesterday, and oh, dear! Looks like you’re in good hands here already. I’ll just mention that Kaffe Fasset designs fabric, too, and there are a couple of internet sources…just sort of, you know, throwing that information out there. On the off chance it may be helpful.

    Or evil. I’m not picky.

  57. Martha (another one)

    I second the Readers Digest book tip. It walks through techniques well.

    Iron! Iron early, iron often. Keep the ironing board next to the sewing machine. Iron! Did I say iron yet? It’ll make everything look better and sew more precisely.

    I keep meaning to make a knit item by holding it up to a sewing pattern as I knit, but I haven’t made it there yet.

  58. April

    Yeah, you can totally do it! Just leave the paper on the pieces of cut out material until it’s time to sew them (so you keep them straight as to which is which) and if you have two that are identical, just pin them together.

    I used to sew all my own skirts, (when I was in high school) they’re pretty easy. =)

  59. Jen

    To trace a pattern, one of the best and most fun items I own is a “pokey wheel” and some “transfer paper”, both of which you can get for a few dollars at the fabric store. If you sew more than one thing, you won’t be sorry you got them.

    Selvage is the finished edge of your fabric (vs. the cut edges). The little arrows on your pattern are measured in parallel with the selvage when you are pinning the pattern down.

    I can tell by your postings you are a perfectionist. Save yourself grief by not buying a patterened or nappy skirt material. Matching the pattern across a skirt like this will just drive you insane, and back to the fabric store for more fabric. Buy fabric from your local fabric store, not online for your first project.

    Get a seam ripper, and don’t be afraid to use it.

    Cut fabric with more than generous 5/8″ seam allowances. Baste, which means sew with gigantic stitches per inch, and try skirt on inside out. Have a friend pin where to take in – or mark where to loosen – so you can adjust the final seam for a perfect fit.

  60. blossom

    i am 100% new to sewing but i joined.. stephanie and yaiann are very persuasive. but mainly because i have always wanted to sew and skirts are too lovely. it’s really not so difficult. a book can easily answer most of the basic questions! i have now cute the fabric, ready to sew. sewing machines are only mysterious if you are not using them. i have no clue how to thread but the manual was a great help! if you can already decipher knitting, sewing in my mind so far is a bit simpler. however to be finally master sewing would probably require more time. please join! you’ll look fabulous in that skirt!!

  61. weeza

    I bought that exact same pattern on Saturday to make a skirt for my mother’s wedding! So I will be following your progress with interest. Looks like I’m going to have to dig my iron out, judging by the advice above! I’ve bought satin-backed crepe, so I’m guessing a practice run may be necessary, hmmm… it does say ‘easy’, right? Right?

  62. Loretta

    Lotsa great advice above. Beware the fold line. Do not cut there. I did on my first skirt. Had a hole where there shoulda been none. Dead in the front middle. But, one does learn from that experience. Buy plenty of pins. I like the ones with the colored heads cause one is less likely to leave them in a seam. Basting means use only one thread not two. Use contrasting color cause you are not really sewing the item together. Single thread means long stitches are easy to sew in – get needles with large eyes for basting. Some fabrics are easier to sew for a first time project – something that is woven not silky like charmuse cause it slips and slides. Also a fabirc that is easy to see the right and wrong sides is also good – solid versus pattern cause with 6 panels its lotsa matching and then you have to buy more fabric when matching.

    Also, iron the pattern on low heat cause it will lie flat on the fabric. Thread – buy based on the type of fabric you select. If cotton buy cotton, polyester is good for most. Hope this helps.

  63. Julie

    Oh my goodness! I HAVE that pattern! ….not that I can sew all that well myself. But it was one of those $1-a-pattern sales and I could get up to 10 patterns and it was so pretty… someday I will make it. I will very happily watch your progress! I’m sure you will do wonderfully seeing as you’re very technically minded.

  64. Janet

    Just a few tips from a sewer & knitter:

    1. Figure it’s better to just buy another pattern than trace it. I can nearly always buy some brand pattern at the local sewing for $1, and never more than $3, so it’s worth just using it once at a given size, rather than tracing and saving it. If I need a different size, I’ll just get another one. If it’s an expensive reproduction pattern, I am a little more obsessive. For Simplicity or McCalls or Butterick, though, no way.

    2. If you do like the pattern, and it’s not too trashed, and you’re going to make another in the same size, or you’re just a collector, DO NOT attempt to get it back in that cunning little envelope. It is not worth your time. Just stick it in a zip lock bag and pop the envelope with the picture towards the outside so you can see what it is.

    3. People at the fabric store are always an inexahustible source of help. Remember to use them. Six gore skirts are a challange, but look fabulous.

    4. If this project intrigued you enough to try again, at some point, a plastic cutting board and a rotary cutter (both in the quilting section of the store) and as somebody mentioned, tuna cans for weights—can save you a lot of time and agony with scissors and pinning.

    5. I do grab a colored pencil and make a mark on the seam allowance on the wrong side of the fabric where the notches are. No need to sit there making all sorts of obnoxious v shaped things. They’re for your own reference, after all.

  65. Marianne

    You can’t even imagine how much I laughed at this post!! I’ve got you on the sewing …….well, reading the pattern at least! I feel so much better after my Jaywalker experience…..I wanted to rip them to shreds!! I really want those darn socks….I can just picture them on my feet…luckly I have a good imagination!

  66. Natasha

    That pattern is a little funky for a beginner as it consists of only 2 main pieces with no front or back but one piece is cut out 4x the other 2x. Other than that it does come out fantastic and is one of my favorite patterns that I crank out on a regular basis

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