Sewing From a Pattern: If I Can Do It, You Can, Too!

I have no fear of power tools. Bring on the horsepower. Sewing machines on the other hand . . . really kind of scare me. I like stitching things by hand. I love to stitch. I know how to use my simple Singer—can thread it by myself and everything—but I wouldn’t say we’ve ever bonded or anything. And patterns?? As a foodie, I usually see recipes as more of a guideline than something you strictly adhere to (I am a cook, not a baker). But I sense that a sewing pattern is more than a guideline and that there’s little opportunity for creative license. I suspect pattern sewing is much more like baking. What’s odd about my fear of patterns is that I love to measure things. It just doesn’t add up, so I intend to get over this fear and prove to myself I can successfully complete a project with a pattern.

I stumbled upon this bag pattern on Heather Bailey’s Web site and thought it would be a great first project for me to tackle. The project was square—plenty of straight lines—fewer chances for me to mess things up. I ordered it. It arrived. I stared at it in its clear cellophane envelope for couple days until I felt brave enough to open it. As I slid the actual black-and-white pattern info from its glossy, photo-covered slip-sheet, I tried not to panic as I glanced upon phrases such as “seam allowance” “cut list” and “vertical grain.”

I saw in bold type, “Read through the entire pattern before beginning.” This is always a good idea with a recipe, so I took the warning to heart. I was encouraged that they noted this project was “perfect for beginning and advanced sewers alike.”

After reading over the entire pattern (and even absorbing some of what I read) I put it aside and went to bed. No sense rushing into anything.

The next afternoon when I was brave enough to start, I looked over the first step, which was getting all of the fabric pieces cut. Made sense; when I cook something I like to start by getting everything diced up, sliced, shredded, etc. before actually putting ingredients together. But I started getting a little dizzy when I saw how many pieces there were. If I was going to make something that resembled the photo on the pattern package, I was going to need at least five different fabrics—more if I wanted a sixth different one for the lining. Like many of you, I am a visual person, so I needed to translate the dimensions into the pieces listed into something I could keep track of visually, so I jotted down the list on a steno pad. This was very helpful because I could better see how many pieces of each fabric I’d need and could better visualize the amount needed.

With all of that figured out, it was time to start cutting. I’ll admit: It was a little hard for me to start chopping up my painted canvas piece—the fabric I wanted as the primary one for the body of the bag. But I closed my eyes—well, ok, I didn’t close my eyes because I may have lost a finger that way but I did grit my teeth—and went for it. Measuring out and cutting eleven pieces of fabric was tedious. (Please don’t tell the people I work with—a.k.a., real sewers—that I didn’t cut/use any interfacing.) I decided to rest up and start the actual sewing part the next day. (It’s true: I was stalling.)

Just as you are getting tired of reading this post, the following day I decided I was tired of  putting it off any longer and I just did it. It didn’t even take me that long except for the ruffle. Ruffles are hard; I’m just saying. But I survived. I made ruffles, I accomplished edge-stitching, I learned that I really can make something from a pattern.

I’m pretty happy with the finished product and I think I will use this as my new knitting bag. If you have had a fear of using a pattern, take heart. If I can do this, I bet you can as well. Did I do it perfectly? No. Truth be told, I did one part completely wrong, but I bet you can’t even tell. The point is: Even mistakes are good because you get to practice creative problem solving. I bet I could correct other mistakes I make in the future when working with patterns, too, if I just force a little self-confidence into the room.  In fact, I’m going to attempt a second pattern. Stay tuned . . . .

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3 Responses to Sewing From a Pattern: If I Can Do It, You Can, Too!

  1. Tonia Davenport says:

    Thanks, Margaret! 🙂 Very nice of you to comment. You should try making one, too!

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