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Batik Jacket - Cutting [Jul. 19th, 2009|07:16 pm]
Still stringing lights in Malygos. So far, it looks absolutely awesome. However, it's not quite done yet, as I need to figure out exactly where to put them in so that they look best, then figure out how to permanently attach them to the fabric. (Or maybe I'll just keep them safety pinned in. Eh, what's the worst that will happen? Why do I ask these questions? I always find that the answer is horrible...)

Anyway, as I ponder the horrible fates of lights in Malygos, I have been working on a very simple sewing project. Essentially the back story is this:

My mother found a gorgeous batik (or English wax) fabric a while back at a market. She wanted something made out of it. She settled on a very simple jacket pattern, then begged me to make it for her. As my current sewing machine is a present from her, I kind of owe her...

So, a very simple, unlined cloth jacket is my current project. I'm going to turn it into a very simple sewing tutorial which means:

1) I will take pictures of virtually everything I do

2) If you're a beginner at sewing, this should be helpful as I will go in extraordinary detail and point out what is seen as so obvious to advanced sewers that they rarely note it on patterns (but that you need to know to actually make an outfit work - note, some of these "seem obvious but aren't" observations come from watching friends who are learning to sew try to make garments. They often miss things that to me seem like no-brainers because they've never sewn before. This has led to garments that fall apart or just look shoddy. Then when I ask them "but why didn't you do...?" they note that the pattern said nothing about it.)

3) If you are not a beginner sewer, this will all feel painfully obvious, and thus this will probably be boring to read, so I'd recommend against it. Unless, of course, you just adore my writing style or are having an even more boring day at work.

This part I am assuming feels obvious...buy the materials. But which materials? Ah, the first trick of sewing!

I'll give you a nice little hint. Start with a pattern that you like that says "easy" or preferably "very easy" on it (such as the unlined jacket that we will be making here), then find a fabric that you love (in this case, an orange batik).

I tend to go for "out there" patterns when making my own clothing (as, apparently, does my mother) as why make a boring outfit? I mean, there's so much awesome cloth out there.

This, incidentally, is a batik, or English Wax, type cloth. This is a fairly interesting dye technique that involves using wax over the white parts, then vat dyeing or tie dyeing the other parts. I've never tried it, and likely never will as I lack patience. You can read about how to do it, if interested, at www.dharmatrading.com

So we know that we need fabric, we know we need a pattern, but surely that's not all...

No, it's not. You need a quantity of fabric, and usually a few other items. But how much do you need?

This is a huge challenge, and you don't want to screw up, as if you do, you may over spend (by buying too much fabric) or run out of fabric half way through. Now running out isn't the end of the world, but you do waste time and gas buying more. And fabric is dyed in lots, so if you don't find the same bolt that you started with, you may not get the exact same color. Bummer. So you want enough. But how much is enough?

Conveniently, on the back of most patterns is the answer to your question! If you look at the back of a pattern, you find your size, and it will state how much cloth you need.

Cloth is usually sold in either 45" or 60" width. This width is marked on the bolt of cloth, and you will need more if you are using a 45" width than a 60" width. Luckily, the pattern will tell you how much in either case. If you're using an odd cloth that comes in a different width, you need to guestimate. I usually overdo it a bit, just to be safe.

One comment on sizing. The sizing used in sewing patterns is that devised in the 1940s for military women's clothing. Since then, women have gotten larger and sizes have shifted. So what used to be a 12 is now a 4 or 6. I made this mistake once. Don't. You'll end up making a 6 because, you know, you wear a six just to find that you have a 00. Eeek! The best way to figure out what size you are is to measure yourself (or have yourself measured) and match your measurements to those on the pattern that correspond to a certain number. Or you can make it a bit too big for what you think you are (judging that a modern 6 is now a 12) and figure that you can always take it in. Luckily, my mother is a fairly "normal" size 8, which makes her a size 14 on a dress pattern. Also, I don't care if this fits incredibly snugly, so a 14 should be adequate.

You will also likely need some kind of notion to make your pattern. At the very least, you will need thread to sew it. (Pick whatever you can find that is closest in color to the main pattern on the pattern.) You may also need zippers, ribbon, buttons, interfacing, etc. Check out what it says on the back of the pattern, and buy it. For ribbon or buttons, you can get really creative and have fun. If unsure, ask someone at the sewing store! In this case, Mom decided that she did not want buttons, so all that I had to buy in addition to the pattern and cloth was interfacing and thread.

Now that your goodies are at home, you want to start sewing right away, right?

Sadly, the best thing to do is not to race around with your machine, but rather to read the instructions that come with the pattern. (See above.) These will include the pattern pieces that you need to cut out (note them), how to position the pattern pieces on the cloth, and then basic sewing instructions that range from very detailed to advanced. Always read it from beginning to end at least once before starting to familiarize yourself with what you want to make.

Now that you have read the pattern, and seen the first part that tells you what pieces you need for your garment, cut out the pieces that you need. You can throw the rest away or save them for later. (I throw them away as otherwise I have too much junk in my house, but a lot of people save them. They're useful if you want to make something else from the pattern later.) You don't need to cut these out exactly. Just get a rough cut so that you can pin them to the fabric.

Another note.  If you do not have a perfectly "normal" body, you may want to adjust the pattern.  Most patterns will have lines that say "lengthen here" or "fold for petite".  There are a number of ways to approach this. You can:

1) Just make it a bit big, then cut or dart or hem later. This has the problem that if it's your thighs, not your calves, that are long, that your knee and the pattern's knee may not end in the same place.

2) Cut the pattern there and add about the amount of cloth you think you need.  Or cut and rearrange to make it smaller.

3) Fold the pattern to make it smaller (for petites).

I'd recommend against any pattern alteration on the first thing you make. But after a while, you really want to start adding or subtracting at the lines and darts to make the outfit fit you perfectly!

Iron your fabric (so that it lies flat), then fold it in half lengthwise and lie it on a long, smooth surface. I often just use my carpet (and sometimes pin the ends down to the carpet to hold it still). Others use a cutting board (a bit piece of cardboard with lines.)

You can use the cutting instructions provided with the pattern to position the pieces on the fabric, but I personally prefer to do it by a different method (provided here!). I first start by finding all the pieces that have "cut on fold" (usually anything that you want symmetrical on two sides, but big, like the back and front of the garment) and pin it at the fold of the fabric.

I next pin all of the other pieces around it as closely as possible, so as to conserve fabric. Usually I do try, though, to keep all the pieces running in the same direction. Otherwise, you can end up with some of the pattern running horizontally, some vertically. If you're really ambitious and working with a pattern, you can try to make it match on the lines. This is pretty tricky, but looks amazing if you do it correctly. (Although it does take more fabric.)  Note that if you're making a smaller than maximum size pattern, you can overlap on the outer lines.  Patterns will have a series of lines marked, for instance, 12-14-18-20, and you will need to cut on the line for the size that you are making. But if you're making a 14, and the outer most lines of two pattern pieces cross, not a biggie, as you'll be cutting at the 14 line, anyway.

Some pieces may say "cut two". I cut these out first, so that I can re-pin them on the fabric before cutting more out. (I cut them first so that I don't accidentally run out. Remember that you can always pin it a second time if it doesn't fit the first!)

You may have noticed that I mentioned this odd thing called "interfacing" in the paragraph above. What is this?

Interfacing is a material that adds stiffness and thickness to fabric. It is most often used on collars and cuffs to make them stand a bit straighter. Some patterns will require it, and on the pattern it will usually say something like "cut two of fabric, one of interfacing". If it says this, cut the interfacing.

There are many types of interfacing, some heavier than others. One important term that differentiates them is "fusable" vs. "non-fusable" interfacing. Fusable means that you can iron it on. Non-fusable is a type that has to be sewn in. I'd recommend fusable for ease of use to any novice tailor.

So, cut out the interfacing as required the same as you would the fabric.

In this case, I didn't have enough interfacing to cut it lengthwise and widthwise, so I cut one widthwise, then turned it the other direction, and cut lengthwise.

Once I have everything cut out, I like to figure out how it all fits together. This is a particularly good exercise if you haven't sewn before, but is helpful even if you have. Line up the side back to back, the side front to front, the front to back, and just see how it looks. Figure out where the sleeve fits in.

In this pattern, there is a collar, which is hard to match flat as it is curved, and some little front flaps, that essentially are used to quasi line the front so that when you see the inside of the jacket, it looks nice. Note these. Note where they fit and how they line up. It makes sewing so much easier! There is also a little tiny strip that helps hold any buttons you sew into place. I'm not going to add this, as I'm not going to sew on buttons, but it helps to figure out what these sections are for as well.

Enough for now! I'll show sewing in a later post.