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Before You Sew

To avoi d d i sasters, sol ve

er rors at t he ti ss ue stage


eve a made at east one garment that |ust

didnt turn out guite right. Vhat Was to

bame: Ierhaps it Was the pattern. Beieve

' ,_ itor not, a patterns arent perectsome contain
. `
drat|ing gitches, both minor and ma|or. \nortu-
, . nutey, you rarey discover these errors unti youve
begun seWing, When its too ate to athe probem.
Jo hep you avoid this sort o disaster, shoW
\Ou hoW to proohead patterns so you can catch
, ipconsistencies in drahing, marKing, and printing
. ` beore they ruin your pro|ect. Jhe proohng pro-
t' ,' Css outined here can be used on commercia and

omputergenerated patterns as We as on patterns

` d)ahed by hand. youre going to invest time and

.in seWing, its Wor|hWhie to ensure that your

patterns are accurate.

:'.: ;

Judy Barlup shares her tailoring and pattermaking

xpertise at UniqueTechniques,com,

To accurately assess a pattern's drafting,
you need to work from the stitching lines,
not the cutting lines. It's al so essential to
maintain the proper grain orientation of
each pattern piece.
Study the patter. Lay out al l the pieces
of your pattern, and vi sual i ze how they go
together. Compare them to the l i ne draw
ings on the gui de sheet to be sure you have
al l the pieces.
Press the patter. You can use the pattern
tissue right out of the envelope or trace a
dupl icate copy. Press the pattern pieces flat
with a dry iron (steam can shri nk the tissue).
Extend the grainlines along the length of
the patter piece. Add stitchi ng l i nes, fol
lowing the seam al lowance provided i n the
pattern. Make your normal fit adjustments
now (e.g., lengthen, shorten, move darts,
etc.). If you make further adjustments later,
proof and edit the pattern again.
c o n t i n u e d

Use a transparent ruler (6 inches long
by inch wide) as a guide for drawing
seam lines. When working around tight
curves, try using the short end. The 6-inch
side is perfect for long, straight seams.
J U N E / J U L Y 2 006 41
Seamlines that are stitched together in
a one-to-one ratio (that is, without gath
ers or easing) must be the same length.
Here's how to check that they match so
that you're not left with extra fabric on
one side at the end of a seam.
Gather a few tools. You' l l need a sheet of
foam-core board large enough to support an
entire pattern piece, push pi ns, and a penci l .
Pair patter pieces. Layer two pi eces that
wi l l be sewn together, as if to stitch the
seam. If one piece attaches to two joined
sections, pi n those sections together first
and treat them as one unit.
Work from bottom to top. For vertica I
seams, match the bottom ends of the seam
l i nes perfectly, and anchor them temporarily
with the pencil point. Shift the uppermost
pattern piece so that the first few i nches
of i ts seaml i ne are al igned di rectly on top
of the corresponding seaml i ne (1). Hol di ng
the pattern pieces i n pl ace, move the pencil
point to the top of thi s segment and anchor
the pi eces agai n. Repeat unti l you reach the
top of the seam, wal ki ng shorter segments
for more sharply curved seam l i nes (2,.
Mark notches. If existing notches don't meet
when you're wal ki ng the seams, correct them.
Add notches as desired to aid i n construction.
Skip over darts and pleats. When you reach
the first l eg of a dart or pl eat, l ift the pattern
and match the seam l i ne to the other l eg.
Check whether the tops ofthe seams meet
perfectly. At the top of the seam (3), pi n
the pieces i n pl ace, wi th the last seam seg
ment properly al igned. If the upper ends of
the seaml i nes don't meet, redraw them as
shown i n step 3 on the faci ng page.
Coresponding seam lines should be the same
shape. I they're not, as in this photo, redraw
one to match the other
Walking a seam is like test-stitching a seam. Start from the bottom
ofvertical seams (7) and work upward (2). At the top (3), the red waist
seamlines don't meet properl
Once a seam is sewn, the two fabric
sections should work as one for the rest
of the construction of the garment. If
seam ends are uneven or i ll-shaped,
you'll have trouble joi ni ng additional
pieces at that edge.
Make unequal seamlines even. If, afer
wal ki ng a seaml i ne, you discover that one
seaml i ne i s longer than the other, correct
the diference. To do so, lay both pattern
pieces right sides up, abutting the vertical
seaml i nes at the upper, mi smatched end.
The seam corners wi l l form a "step" from
one pattern piece to the other (at far right,
the red line on the underl apped pattern tis
sue). Using a curved ruler as a guide, blend
the horizontal, intersecting seam l i nes, as
though drawing a curved ramp over the
step (dotted purpl e l i ne). You might have to
shorten one seam, l engthen the other, or
split the diference, as shown at right.
Refine the shape ofseam ends. If the
seam doesn't intersect a perpendi cul ar
edge at an exact ri ght angl e, that edge wi l l
have ei ther an obtuse poi nt or a shal low,
V-shaped i ndentation (shown at right) at
the point of intersection. To correct this, lay
the pattern pieces right sides up and abut
the joi ni ng seaml ines. Reshape them on
both sides of the joi ni ng seaml i ne, usi ng the
curved rul er as a gui de. Treat center-front
and back foldl ines as seams, and check
them as wel l .
Transfer seam adjustments. Afer drawing
the new seaml ine or edge on the upper
most layer of pattern tissue, prick al ong the
l ength of the l i ne with a pushpi n to transfer
its contour to the pattern piece that's under
l apped. Remove the top layer of pattern
tissue, and trace over the pricked l i ne with a
pen on the underl ayer.
c o n t i n u e d H



Correct uneven seams
before they end up like this.
Edges should be smooth. Where a
seam meets a garment edge, the seam
should be perfectly perpendicular to the
edge for at least! inch on each side.
Use a curved ruler to redraw uneven
seamlines (the purple dotted line
shows the correction).
I it's not, the seam end will form an angle
rther than a smooth line or curve.
J U E / J U L Y 2 0 0 6 43
If facings and collars
don't fit the garment
exactly, no amount
of fussing wi l l
get them to lie
flat, roll properly,
or mai ntain the
shape of the edge
where they are
Make sure a facing matches its corre
sponding garment section. lay the faci ng
pattern on top of the garment pattern to
check whether they are identical al ong the
seam of attachment. Redraw the faci ng i f
necessary. ,Some faci ngs, such as l apel s, are
drafted sl ightly l arge to account for rol l i ng
or turn-of-cloth.,
Locate match pointsfor eollars. Begi nni ng
at center back, wal k the col l ar seaml i ne
toward the shoul der seam, and mark a notch
on the col l ar at that point. Wal k the col l ar
on the bodice-front pattern, starting with
the col l ar notch at the shoul der seam and
proceed toward center front. Mark the col l ar
termi nation point with a notch on the
bodice neckl i ne.
Compare upper and under collars. If sepa
rate pattern pi eces are provided for upper
and under col l ars, the under col l ar shoul d be
smal ler than the upper col l ar. Thi s ensures
that the col l ar's outer seaml i ne rolls sl ightly
to the undersi de.
Oops! Find
out how the
co I/a r fits
the neckline
or cal/ar
stand before
you sew.
The neckfacing's seamline must duplicate the
garment's neckline in both length and shape.
Walk the col/or
seamline on the back
patter piece first
(above), then on the
front (ef), marking
key intersections such
as the shoulder seam
(shown in purple).
When you're walking seaml i nes,
mismatched seam ends can represent
a drafting error or they can signal
built-in ease. Look for ease i n waistlines,
sleeve caps, two-piece sleeve seams,
princess lines, the back shoulder, and
inseams of pants.
Lengthen or shorten the waistline. A
garment's waistline shoul d be i nch to
i nch l arger than the waistband. Start with
the desired waistband length, and adjust the
garment waistl i ne at the darts or side seams
so that i t is i nch l onger. You can make mi nor
adjustments duri ng the construction process.
Measure sleeve-cap seamlines. They
shoul d be no more than inches longer
than the armscye seam (unless your fabric
i s extremel y easabl e).
Assess ease on two-piece sleeves. Two-piece
sl eeves often contai n ease i n both seams. To
determine the ease, place notches .i nches
above the heml i ne and below the armscye
seaml i ne on both pieces. Wal k the seam l i nes
between these notches, looking for these
di fferences:
Outer seam: The upper-sl eeve seaml i ne
shoul d be ! to i nch longer, with the extra
l ength eased to the under sl eeve.
Inner seam: The under-sl eeve seaml i ne
shoul d be ! to i nch l onger and the upper
sl eeve stretched to fit.
Examine the curves on princess seams.
Some princess seams have bui lt-in ease;
others have none. To determine how much
ease your pattern has, mark notches on the
si de-panel seaml i nes, .to ,i nches above
and below the bust point. Mark correspond
i ng notches on the center panel . Walk the
seaml ines between the notches to find out
how much ease, if any, is i ncl uded i n the
side-panel seaml i ne.
Measure the seamline ofthe sleeve cap and compare it with
that ofthe armscye. Too much ease in the sleeve can result
in a puckered armscye seam.
Two seams ft better than one. On a two-piece sleeve, the
ease in both outer and inner seams provides excellent ft
and shaping through the elbow.

It's hard to tell at a glance whether princess seams contain
ease. Tofnd out, mark notches (shown in red) above and
below the bust point. Then walk the seamlines between
the notches.
J U N E /J U L Y 2 0 0 6 45