using sewing patterns

Near the end of last year, we introduced the first of our huge range of designs from the McCall's sewing pattern company here on Ajanta Studios. Since then we've been happily sending out plenty of fantastic dress designs and blueprints for other great looking items to clothes makers of all ability levels. We understand though that there may be many of you who have the spied odd pattern that strikes you as particularly fashionable, but with limited textiles experience the idea of making a set of clothes seems completely preposterous! Thus, we've put this little guide to using Butterick sewing patterns together, explaining what each one contains and what you'll need to master them.

What Are McCall's Sewing Patterns?

First, a little intro into the company and to the actual patterns themselves. Founded in 1770, the McCall's sewing pattern company today designs, manufactures, markets, distributes and sells sewing patterns for men, women and children  (not to mention dolls and crafts!) under various brand names. There's the well known Butterick sewing pattern range, named after Ebenezer Butterick (who invented the world's first graded sewing machine),  the eponymous and fashionable McCall's collection, and the Vogue line, which features the design work of top designers from around the world.

Each sewing pattern comes with a step-by-step set of instructions printed onto a handy user's guide, and a pattern template sheet (known as a pattern tissue). The beauty of McCall's sewing patterns is they walk you carefully through each step of the process, with advice on how to cut out the template, to piece together the actual garment and the best way to select the best size for the wearer or model. All the patterns are divided up into various difficulty levels that require different levels of knowledge and ability, but all are ultimately designed to be learning experiences that impart new skills to take along to future patterns!

What You Need When Using a Sewing Pattern

We previously covered the basics of sewing your own clothes, including how to pick the right sewing machine, or to know if you even need one. With the specific instructions and templates provided in McCall, Vogue or Butterick sewing patterns, you need a specific set of tools to make the job all the more easier:
  • Straight pins - A sewing essential that can never be too in abundance!
  • Pincushion and container - A magnetic one of these can be a real life saver.
  • Chalk or tracing wheel - Used to mark the fabric for darts.
  • Tape measure - Very necessary for getting the sizes right and to ensure everything is still in proportion.
  • Paper Scissors, fabric shears - Don't use any pair of household scissors you use for other tasks. Make sure they're made and used only for this purpose.
  • Easily Visible Pen - Used to make alterations on the paper pattern

How McCall's Sewing Patterns Work

The aforementioned pattern tissue has numerous marking and denotations that allow you to 'tailor' (pun intended) the garment to your specific requirements. These include seam allowances, grain lines which tell you which direction the grain of the fabric needs to go, notches that let you perfectly match the panels to arms and other limbs plus further marks for buttons, zips, pockets, and lines for shortening, lengthening, cutting and folding.

By following the instructions included in each pattern, you'll essentially be cutting out each separate pattern piece using guiding lines on the template sheet. A layout guide will tell you exactly how each piece needs to be arranged (much like a jigsaw), after which they are pinned together according to their seam allowances. After that, all that's needed before you start sewing is to add any extra markings to your imminent outfit.

 Image of Butterick pattern B6106 Image of Butterick pattern B6110

For First Time Users of Sewing Patterns

We've got a couple of final, extra hints for those who are totally new to McCall's, Vogue and Butterick sewing patterns. We mentioned before that there were various difficulty levels, and it's very advised that you give a 'Very Easy' pattern a try first;  as these require limited knowledge and experience, and don't take that long if you're even a little accomplished. There are even specific ranges made just for beginner's, such as McCall's 'Learn to Sew for Fun' range.

Likewise we also mentioned sizing; there are plenty of online guides to help you choose the correct size before you start including this standard body measurement chart, and McCall's guide to measuring and basic alterations.

For future sewing and crafting guide blogs, keep an eye on the Ajanta Studios Facebook page, through Twitter or over at Google+.

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