So a few days ago we talked about my favorite free clothing patterns (ten of them to be exact) for women. It is by no means an exhaustive list but it truly sums up some of my favorite clothing patterns. If you missed it, I highly recommend you check it out! But the question remaining after that post is where is the best places to buy fabric for all of those amazing fabrics?
There are a lot of places to buy fabric. and I do mean A Lot of places. Some of them are pretty big, some are small, some have brick and mortar store, some are primarily online. I buy from all of these places and tend to buy different fabrics from different types of shops on the regular but its hard not to play favorites. And in that spirit I want to talk about my favorite online fabric shops today.
Whether you are a new to sewing or an experienced sewist, there is something incredibly tempting about free patterns, especially for clothing. If you have taken the leap to try any of them however you will have learnt very quickly that not all free patterns are made the same. In fact some of them are just awful int he quality of their instructions and grading. And then there are some that call themselves free patterns but in fact are actually more like tutorials, just a general guideline of what you should be doing to make the finished item. And then there are my absolute least favorite, the ones that dont even have a pattern, or they only have it in one size and if you need a different size you are plain out of luck unless you can figure out how to grade it yourself.
It’s a scary world out there folks. A world I have ventured into many times, more often than not with less than ideal results (and usually a few cuss words too if were being totally honest).
But not all free PDF sewing patterns are bad, in fact some are amazing! One of my most used patterns ever is actually a free pdf sewing pattern!
The new year is here and with it the new years resolutions! I made quite a few for myself. As per usual, some of which are more realistic than others if I am being completely honest but one of the biggest challenges I have given myself for this year is avoiding purchasing nay new clothing items for myself. Instead I will be attempting to sew all of the clothing items I need throughout the year (and probably a couple of more).
As of the beginning of December, I will have been successfully sewing my own clothing for a whole year!
To put it nicely my sewing skills (and my photography skills!) have increased drastically in the past 52 weeks and I have learned so much along the way. I have also had so many amazing opportunities to push myself farther than I ever thought possible and found a vibrant and strong online community of people who are frantically sewing their clothing as well that I have been able to lean on for support and encouragement along the way. It hasn’t all been a super fun ride, however.
I have had some major set backs, some major fails, and some major learning opportunities, all of which I am grateful for looking back, but they were all major low points in my sewing journey at the time. But in an effort to help you avoid the same disasters I had, I want to share the 10 biggest sewing lessons I learned over the last year.
- Buy the right needles! – “universal” needles is the biggest lie the sewing industry has ever told me. Sewing knits? buy a stretch needle. Sewing quilting cottons? Buy a woven needle. trust me it makes all of the difference and is worth the couple extra dollars
- Speaking of needles, you need to change them! – I cannot tell you how many nights i sat cursing at my sewing machine for acting up, checking every setting and re-threading a dozen times, only to realize a half hour alter than it had been weeks since I had changed my needle. The moment I changed the machine was back to working just fine. I get about 30 hours of sewing time per needle but that is probably a personal thing and will very from person to person.
- Stretch requirements are not a suggestion – Seriously. They’re not. They’re important to making sure you can get your beautiful new creation over your booty.
- “Suggested Fabrics” is also so not a suggestion – Do yourself a favor and us what type of fabric the pattern you are following recommends, at least until you are a world-class seamstress and know every fabric and every possible alteration ever (which if you manage to accomplish, kuddos!). This is especially important when it comes to knit vs woven fabrics because knit fabrics stretch, and the patterns that call for need that stretch, wovens dont. Mix those two up and, once again, it’s not going over your booty.
- Indie patterns are easier to learn from than “big 4” – My first clothing projects were patterns from “Big 4” companies (Simplicity, Butterick, Vogue, McCalls) and to say they didn’t end well would be an understatement. The ease was all wrong,t he patterns were hard to follow and the instructions were rubbish. I became discouraged with sewing clothes really quickly. Then I found online PDF indie patterns and literally all of those things were changed. PDF patterns usually come with the support of a large Facebook group dedicated specifically to those designers patterns and that truly makes all of the difference. You can ask for pattern advice, fitting help, pattern suggestions, literally anything related to your project and it is a really huge confidence booster.
- Your measurement change daily – This was one of the hardest lessons for me. When sewing clothing it is really important to go by the size chart of a pattern, especially the first time you make it, but your measurements are going to change almost daily. When I first started out measuring myself every other made me acutely aware of my body and not always in a good way. Over time, however, I have been able to “average” my measurements and now I really only check once a month or so but I still make a point to check regularly.
- Make the freakin’ muslin – Just do it. Especially when you are new to sewing clothing. Do not make your first make from any pattern in “good fabric”. Make it in a fabric that you arent going to cry over when its the wrong size. I know it takes more time, I know it can feel wasteful but if you dont want to be disappointed later, just DO IT! Trust me its heartbreaking when the garment doesn’t fit right and you dont have enough fabric to remake it. Personally I get a lot of my muslin fabric from Walmart and have never regretted it.
- Fabric quality is important– You’ll find your favorite places to buy fabric in time but there is quite a learning process in reality. While I do get quite a bit of fabric at JoAnn’s I have found much better quality fabrics from many online boutiques (Knitpop is still my forever favorite, but So Sew English, Sly Fox Fabrics, and Bow Button fabrics are also all amazing) and it takes time to learn what “quality” really means. Until then don’t be surprised if you order something and it ends up being completely different quality or feel wise than you expected, those descriptions can be deceiving!
- Take care of your machines – Through my years of sewing with quilting cottons almost exclusively on my machine I never had to do any maintenance on it, I never even lifted the lower plate to clean dust out from around my drop in bobbin! A few months of sewing with knits, suedes, and velvets and that all changed. Apparel fabrics create so much more lint than thinner cotton fabrics and therefore are much harder on your machine. Learn to care for your machines, and take the time to do it, and all of your sewing will be so much easier!
- You really can do it, it just takes practice! – Sewing clothing is scary, and it’s not always easy, but it is so worth it and I promise that you really can do it. Sewing my own swimsuit was terrifying but the challenge pushed me way out of my comfort zone and I learned so many new techniques and so many things about my machines that I have been able to use to make every other sewing project that much easier. so take a chance, and sew something out of your comfort zone!Phew, that was a lot! But hopefully something I shared can keep you all from making the same mistakes I made over the last year. Feel free to add any of your first clothing sewing lessons in the comments below!
I am so excited to share another new Made for Mermaids pattern with you all, Mama Catherine! This one really pushed me out of my comfort zone in the best possible way with its gathered, drapey silhouette and square yoke bodice, both things I have never sought out in the past, but that I quickly fell in love with.
October has been quite the month for new patterns! First we had Chelsea, then Kourtney, and now Darcey! and Darcey is here just in time for sweater weather! It has been fall here in Minnesota for a while now but honestly sweater weather lasts a good nine months out of the year for me, and I can never get enough sweaters. Ever. Especially neutral ones that will go with everything. They’re my weakness… well neutral cardigans and cheese ravioli but we all have our faults right?
I have been testing away on a new pair of pants lately that I have fallen in love with! The GreenStyle Chelsea Pants have just released and I am so excited to share my favorite pair with you! These pants are designed for a stable knit (something with little stretch) fabric making them perfect for all of the refined ponte and jegging fabric I have been hoarding in my stash the last couple of months as I not so patiently waited to fall to get here. I have been especially loving this new pattern because of the extra flared leg and front style lines which make this short girl look ten feet tall, something I will never get enough of!
Ready for another new pattern release!?
This is the pattern I didn’t even know I needed until I had it but boy, oh boy was I in need of it! What pattern am I talking about, you ask? Well the new Patterns for Pirates Brunch Blouse of course!
In case you missed it, I had a pretty adventurous time sewing a dress made out of a beautiful woven fabric a few months ago that made me a bit nervous to take on this project, but the style was so cute and I already had the fabric (a silky print from JoAnn’s) in my stash so I took the leap and made another dress, this time with much better results!
Now don’t get me wrong, I still love me some good knits but sometimes I have a hard time getting a good “dressy” or “professional” look from my beloved and oh so comfy Double Brushed Polyester or Cotton Spandex blends. Wovens, however, lend themselves much better to a dressy and professional look but of course can be totally casual too (it’s all about that styling!).
Made For Mermaids newest pattern just released, the Cora Culottes! These super adorable shorts come with a variety of inseams from 4 inches (which are the ones I made up during testing) up to seventeen inches and give you the look of a full skirt with the comfort (and anti-chafing amazingness) of a pair of shorts. They are also super comfy, breezy, and endlessly versatile!
One of the things you learn very quickly when sewing clothing is how many different types of “apparel fabrics” there are and how many different fabrics fit into the categories of wovens, knits, linens, etc. The next thing you learn is how incredibly important it is to stick with the “right” fabric for any given project or you can easily end up with a bunch of wasted time, energy, fabric, and money, crying on your closet floor wishing you would have just followed the instructions. in the first place.. (Please tell me that’s happened to someone else too so I feel a little less embarrassed right now.. No? Ok then… )
Knowing all of this though, I broke all the rules last week when I made a knit cardigan pattern, the Patterns for Pirates Grandpa Cardi, out of a woven apparel fabric with absolutely ZERO stretch. It was a lot of work and quite the process but the end results made it so worth it!