March 2020
March 2020
29 Jun
5 Tips For Combating Puzzling Patterns

Even for the most experienced stitchers dressmaking can be a tricky business, as we’ve seen on The Great British Sewing Bee. This week contestants had to contend with a Japanese asymmetric yoked skirt, a self-drafted pattern and an upcycling challenge that had all of the sewers scratching their heads. But while difficult techniques may test our patience, overcoming the seemingly insurmountable is one of the many reasons we love stitching!

Here, pattern house Simplicity share some of the best ways to keep calm and overcome those puzzling patterns with ease…

1 Measure twice, cut once
While it’s tempting to rush into making your new pattern, it’s so important to take time to read through the envelope and prepare beforehand. This includes taking your body measurements before you start to cut out your pattern pieces; for hard-to-reach bits, why not get a friend to help you? This will help solve any problems with fit right at the very beginning.

2 Take your time
While our lovely ‘bees’ don’t always have the luxury of time, you certainly do! If you’re trying out a new technique or pattern, make sure that you schedule in an extra hour or two so you don’t have to whip up your outfit in a hurry. Use this extra time to test out your needle and stitch type on a scrap piece of fabric and research any techniques you’ve not come across before – you may also want to create a toile before tackling the real thing.

3 Tools of the trade
Each pattern and fabric type brings with it a whole new set of challenges so it’s essential you choose the right tools. When cutting out your pattern pieces, use paper scissors instead of your dressmaking scissors – even if the latter are in reaching distance! This will ensure your fabric scissors stay sharp so you can achieve a crisp finish when cutting out your material. You should also research and select the right needle for your machine and fabric, for example, you will need to use a ballpoint or stretch needle when sewing with knits. These have a slightly rounded tip which parts the fibres rather than piercing them, so you shouldn’t get the skipped stitches that may result when knits are sewn with a universal sharps needle.

4 Wash and go
Select the best quality fabric you can afford to buy and pre-shrink before starting your project, allowing for a 10% shrinkage. Take care when pinning to avoid pulling any threads on your fabric and for the best results, use a coordinating thread to sew. To prevent the fabric from fraying, zig zag or overlock the raw edges and to finish, wash the garment and hang to dry immediately. If required, press using steam to release any creases. This will all help to ensure a professional finish.

5 Make it yours
While the GBSB sewers delved in at the deep end by self-drafting a pattern from scratch, why not start small with a pocket instead? Choose a simple shift, such as Simplicity 1586, and draft on your own custom-made pocket for a personal touch. They needn’t be square – curved ones look very stylish or opt for a quirky shape such as a heart. Remember to clip into the corners so that curves will lay flat and press your pocket at every stage. To achieve straight edges, cut the pocket template from thin card, minus the seam allowance, and iron the fabric around it to get a perfectly neat shape. This will work on curved edges too.

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Discover a fantastic range of dressmaking patterns at

Sew is here for all of your Sewing Bee news! Catch our weekly round-up with Sew columnist and series one contestant, Stuart Hillard, as well as upcoming guest blog posts!

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