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  • Writer's pictureSew Retro

Beginner's guide to buying and tracing patterns

sew retro guide to sewing patterns

Maybe you have been given a sewing book or you would like to buy a beginners sewing book? I bought my copy of Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes from amazon.

sew retro guide to sewing patterns

For beginners I would also recommend the three books from the Great British Sewing Bee.

If you have had a look in any of the sewing book you will see that you need to trace off the pattern in your size.

You will need

A pencil, ruler , paper scissors, spot and cross paper and a tape measure.

sew retro guide to sewing patterns

You may be planning to use the sewing books that come with the full size patterns regularly, and then I would recommend investing in the pattern master, and a tracing wheel.

The pattern master will make adding seam allowances and alterations to a pattern much easier and more accurate.

N.B. (not required if you are tracing patterns from the Great British Sewing Bee, or Love at First Stitch) but if you use the hugely popular Japanese books you do NEED to add a seam allowance of 1cm to the seams and 3cm to the hems, of each pattern piece.

Quick Tip

Never use you fabric cutting scissors to cut paper you will ruin your scissors making them very blunt and hard to cut fabric with.

sew retro guide to sewing patterns

Using your tape measure, measure your bust, waist and hips. Check your measurements against the measurements in the book, and select your size from 1 to 8 (if you are using Love at First Stitch)

sew retro guide to sewing patterns

You will see that you have a line to follow, solid, dash, dot etc. Using your spot and cross

pattern lay it over the pattern pieces you want to trace, and follow the line in your size.

sew retro guide to sewing patterns

I find you get the best results if you can trace the pattern using a ruler or the pattern master.

sew retro guide to sewing patterns

The book will tell you how many pieces you require for the item you want to make, you can check you have traced off all the pieces you need before you lay the pattern on the fabric. It's also a good idea to transfer ALL the markings and information from the master copy onto your copy, straight of grain, darts, notches, etc.

sew retro guide to sewing patterns

The book will also give you a fabric layout, which will assist with cut out and placing your pattern pieces on the correct grain line.

sew retro guide to sewing patterns

When you have small sections or information (darts) that you want to copy or record I find the tracing wheel is very useful. You press down on the wheel and it leaves a line on pin pricks which you can join together with a pencil line or use as a cutting guide.

sew retro guide to sewing patterns

The books offer good value for money as you will get several full size patterns in the book, BUT you do have to trace the pattern in your size before you can cut out in fabric and start sewing. You may also love one or two items in the book but be unsure that you may make any more.

If that is the case it maybe cheaper and easier to look for a beginners, dress making pattern. These pyjamas, are easy to make, come in lots of sizes, you just cut out your size and you ready to go. They also offer a short version, in the same packet.

I never buy the patterns at the full price. At the time of writing this blog NEW LOOK are on offer with most patterns selling at half price. I have found that there is always a company with the patterns selling for half price. You can buy these patterns online or from your local fabric shop.

sew retro guide to sewing patterns

In the pattern books the patterns will be marked 'SEW EASY', or 'sewing for dummies', these are good patterns to start with.

If you can not make it to a beginners sewing class, a simple sewing project from a book or pattern is a great place to start.


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