One of the classes I teach at my local sewing store is an Intro to Sew Class
that's geared for the beginner or novice sew-er. One of the questions that I get a lot is how to choose a do-able pattern. I think it is really important for the student and the teacher to work with a pattern that helps to encourage the sewing bug. It's no fun and discouraging to sew with a pattern that is too difficult or complex. Because sewing should be fun - it should be lowering your blood pressure, not raising it!
The first step is to find out your body measurements. I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing your measurements before you begin to look at patterns. The size of a sewing pattern does NOT correspond with ready-to-wear sizing. Usually you will require a couple sizes larger in a sewing pattern. I tell my classes, that it is simply a number and not to worry about it. Since you are the one making the garment, you won't be putting a size label in it anyway!
How to take your body measurements
Having your basic body measurements is an important part of learning to construct a garment. Learning how to correctly measure your body to obtain your measurements is a must! For all measurements, you will need a flexible measuring tape; these are inexpensive and widely available at all sewing and discount stores, and even sometimes at the grocery/drug store. Wearing light-weight clothing, hold the measure tape close to your body, but do not pull too tight. Do not measure over thick clothing such as a jacket or sweatshirt. A full-length mirror, and a friend, can be helpful when taking your measurements. The major body measurements are as follows,
Bust: Measure around your upper body at the fullest point of your bust.
Waist: Measure around your waist where you feel a natural “dip” in your waistline. Due to the popularity of low-rise pants, your natural waist is usually much higher than the waistband on your clothing. If in question, tie a piece of yarn, string, or elastic around your middle and sit down. As you sit, the string should naturally “roll” up or down to your waistline.
Hips: Measure around the fullest part of your hips, as you did when measuring your bust.
Back-Waist-Length: Tilting your head forward, "feel" for a protruding bone at the base of your neck. Using this bone as a starting point, measure from there down to your natural waistline.
Over time, as your skills grow, you will encounter other measurements, but the ones listed above are your solid foundation. A good sewing book is always a helpful reference, and will include charts and illustrations for measuring your body.
Now that you have your measurements, record them on your phone, write them down, tuck them in your purse - you will need them when you go shopping at the fabric store!
Stay tuned for Part Two - Getting to Know the Pattern Envelope!