First lesson at sewing from pattern -messed up?

2ajsmamaApril 4, 2014

I took my first sewing lesson with a pro today, a Simplicity pattern for a knit tunic. She measured my high bust (I'm a D cup) and put back my larger (20W+) pattern, told me to use the 18. But even though we were discussing how to alter it to fit my large bust and narrow shoulders, we never adjusted the pattern, I went happily along and cut the back and front to the size 18. Have I now wasted all this fabric? I don't see how we're going to make a pattern with a finished bust size 1" larger than my high bust fit my D cups!

This was handmedown fabric in a heavy knit, a nice print I had been saving for a skirt but since I didn't have much time to shop (DD and I had the stomach bug last week) I had to use it.

I do have a bit extra but I don't think it's enough to recut these pieces larger - if so, it's not long enough for a tunic.

It looks like the front is too small (and there was plenty of fabric in the middle b/c it was folded in 3rds to do front and back on folds of the same piece) but before I left she hacked them apart for me to cut with my rotary cutter at home. So back has some room but front needs to be recut - if I have to make it wider at the bottom too? Might barely have enough if just have to make the point under the armhole wider?

Edited to add picture

Is there any hope?

This post was edited by ajsmama on Sat, Apr 5, 14 at 7:17

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ajsmama - Are you concerned that this tunic will not fit based on how the cut pieces appear or have you done any actual sewing of these pieces, yet?

Knit fabrics have some stretch and I would not be too concerned with the bust area. For the length, if you prefer a longer tunic, you can sew the hem shorter than the pattern instructions suggests. Or, you can add some extra fabric or trim at the bottom?

When do you meet , again, with the sewing instructor? She will help you if any thing needs to be done with altering.

I have made several items of clothing and home decor projects. On many of them, I have made mistakes but most have been able to be salvaged in one way or another. Think of this as a learning process and when you are all done, you will have gained experience that will help you with the next. Your next tunic will be soooooooo much easier than this one because of the process you are working through at the moment.

Hang in there and don't get discouraged!


    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 1:03PM
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I would STOP right there. Do not cut anything!

Take the pattern and fabric back to this so-called "professional", point out that although SHE discussed the need for alterations, she never showed you how to do it, and SHE hacked the fabric apart.

Tell her to fix the problem.

TIP: Always sow on fabric you don't care about until you have a pattern adjusted.

Once you know how to make the alterations, you can make them on all the patterns.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 1:24PM
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Thanks Laurie - I'm worried that these pieces can't be salvaged to fit ME since I have to add 4" to the pattern bust measurement to fit my full bust, and I don't think I have 1" to the side opposite the fold on the front piece. Maybe the back piece - I don't know if the side seams will be all wonky if we try to take it all from there. Not to mention that the size 18 bust measurement is 40" with 1.5" of ease, but I think my high bust measurement is 41" - maybe adding some to the full bust will add a little there too, I just don't want it pulling.

LG - I just went to grand opening of this fabric store (chain) last weekend, once I got materials list I didn't go back (long line) to buy there, I bought the pattern at Walmart later that day and they didn't have any knit. Then DD and I got sick (her Sunday me Tuesday) and I didn't have time to shop so just washed the only knit I had.

I was very surprised that she did not alter the pattern, even though I understand it's best to go with the high bust measurement so the shoulders fit (I hope). I asked about whether we needed to trace the extra width from the 20W (actually I think it would have been 22W) pattern and blend them in, she said no, you don't have to buy 2 patterns and she put back the larger one (I didn't say I'd bought it elsewhere) and got the smaller one.

As I was leaving I asked about making adjustments before cutting and if she really thought the 18 would be big enough, she said she would fit it to me next Friday but I think at that point I think we were both thinking shoulders, sleeves, and length and completely forgot about the bust.

I did cut the sleeves before I left, so only am going to cut the neckband (lining) which she had placed between the front and the back (uh-oh) b/c there was so much extra width, so she just zipped up each side of that with her dull rotary cutter and ended up separating the pieces that way. I was the one who suggested a rotary cutter would be easier for cutting around the armholes and I have a new one at home, I only brought my scissors to class.

Lesson learned, I do have extra fabric and will ask her about tailoring the pattern instead of tailoring each garment I make from it, so that once the front and back are adjusted hopefully I can cut the back from the piece it's pinned to now, and just have to use a new piece for the front.

We only have 2.5 hours planned but with the re-work I will tell her she just has to stay with me until we finish. It did take me a while to learn about the sizing, and laying pieces out and grainline and such, hopefully altering the pattern (even if we do have to go with the larger pattern, I'm not buying it again and hope I can use the sleeves) and recutting those pieces won't take more than an hour.

I've sewn plenty of blankets, potholders, stockings, and "cheat" sewing (T shirts into nightgowns, etc.), piped custom cushions for my porch furniture (though that took a lot of trial and error and "muslins") before, though I haven't worked much with knits (other than T shirts).. This fabric is a bit like stretchy suede with a nap, so stretchy the underside snapped back after she cut the neckband out so I had to refold the piece with the front pinned on to get the selvedge and the cut edge to meet. Still, I don't think it will take long for me to put it all together (front, back, 2 sleeves and a neckband) once everything is tailored and basted together, even if I have to finish it at home.

I'm just disappointed that I took this class to learn how to fit a pattern to my body (and also for DD, I think I will be making her clothes for the next 10 years and also be teaching her, she is extremely petite but already getting curvy), and we just skipped that part! At least I was the only person registered and they forgot to cancel so were nice enough to go through with it, and so I have 1-on-1 instruction. So should have time to fix everything. She was busy cutting her own, so wasn't watching me every second as I tried folding and pinning, but I will have her help me every step of the way and she can get her display sample for the class (in case it's offered again) done on her own.

I did find this Youtube video on how to alter a pattern for larger bust, I might try making a pattern (since it doesn't involve cutting the original one) and laying it out, see if it fits on the pieces, and bring it along to have her look at.

Here is a link that might be useful: Video on how to enlarge bust area on pattern

This post was edited by ajsmama on Sat, Apr 5, 14 at 15:59

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 3:50PM
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It's great that you have one on one instruction! Hopefully, your instructor will have some helpful ideas and guide you carefully on each step.

Have you tried to pin the front piece of the cut fabric to the back piece of the cut fabric while it's on you? It can be tricky, but maybe someone can help you do it.

If you feel it's going to be too tight, using a smaller seam allowance (1/4") instead of the usual 5/8" will give you a little more room...not a lot, but it may help.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 7:09PM
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This pattern only has 3/8" SA. Not that the extra 1/4" would help much when I need to add 2" to each side to make the full bust measurement, but you're right, it may help in the upper bust since my measurement is so close to the finished size, at least it would give me 3/4" ease if not the 1.5" it's designed for. I think I really should have used the pattern size (20W - 26W I think it was?) that I had originally bought. We'll see, maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised, ready-to-wear I always buy to fit my bust and everywhere else is huge. 10 years ago I was slightly smaller but still a D, needed a size 16 to fit my bust (matron of honor dress for my sister's wedding, it was like a camisole with wide straps and separate long skirt, I chose to coordinate with bridesmaid's strapless dresses), even with pro alterations the straps and neckline on bodice gaped b/c of my shoulders and upper bust being so much smaller. I spent more on that dress than my own wedding dress and I hated it, finally gave it to Goodwill 3 years later.

But as I said, I think I have the 1" or more on the back piece, so should be able to adjust and cut, just may have to use a new piece for the front (in photo) b/c it's close, though I didn't measure after I refolded.

I think the instructor planned on pinning it on me before sewing, so she could adjust shoulders, sleeve length etc., it just wasn't going to help if I had cut the bust to the size on the pattern.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 8:17PM
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I will keep my fingers crossed that this will all work out and that you will be pleasantly surprised!

When is your next sewing class?

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 8:33PM
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First thing Friday. I was still really out of it yesterday after being sick, was a little lightheaded and hadn't had caffeine since Tuesday AM so withdrawal headache on top of the dizziness (if that makes sense). I did clear my head a little during class but started out and was threading my bobbin from the bottom instead of the top! Still wasn't thinking clearly at end of class though I guess, I don't know how I could have forgotten to ask about making bust larger as I was pinning the pattern on!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 8:44PM
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It's hard to work on projects when feeling sick & having headache : (
Try not to worry about your tunic. Get lots of rest & fluids & let your body recover from whatever was attacking your system.

Next Friday, make sure to give us an update on your sewing progress : )

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 9:03PM
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Thanks - the worst of the bug was over for each of us in 12 hours, but I spent all day Wed and Thurs in bed (except for doing laundry and cleaning bathroom Thurs, I warned everyone not to use the powder room since that's what I used Tues night) and even on Friday I wished I could take a nap, just fell asleep after reading DD her bedtime story 9pm last night. I don't know how she managed to go to school Wed - Fri after being sick Sun-Tues (and I dragged her to grocery store Tues, didn't let her stay in bed all day)!

At least the guys haven't gotten sick (knock on wood).

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 9:24PM
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I used the pivot method in the Youtube video I linked to modify the front pattern piece - I don't think it's going to fit on the fabric, going to have to cut a new piece. The edge of the new armhole ends up right in the selvedge, and with only 3/8" SA I think the little holes are going to show. Plus since the narrowest point is 25" from the selvedge and I refolded to 12.5", the edge of the hem is right AT the edge of the selvedge, which is 1/2" deep so I know some holes are going to show there, unless we make it shorter. Well, then again, the hem is 1.25" deep (double the 3/8") so maybe that will be folded up into the hem and the part that actually shows will be OK.

I don't know, I've got other things to worry about now. DH decided to help me this weekend by getting the deer/rabbit netting up around the garden (permanently installed T posts with ENT conduit extensions to 7ft). But he trenched 3 sides and filled in with bark mulch, I think to try to keep weeds from creeping in (he just didn't do the side where my strawberries are creeping in, so I can move them). Now the plastic pegs that hold the bottom of the netting don't have anything solid to hold onto, we're going to have to lower the netting and lay it out farther from the posts onto solid ground. I'm afraid that trench is also going to fill with water and become a breeding ground for mosquitos (maybe they won't like the bark mulch?). We'll see tomorrow - supposed to get 1" of rain tonight. But I think he's going to have to extend the trench to the lowest point and let it all drain into the (already swampy) low point in the back yard. But I can't say anything until after my fears are proven correct, b/c any time I question something he's done and suggest a modification, he "undoes" what he did (sometimes making the matter worse) and then ignores my requests for other projects.

He built a 3ft high stone circle around our wellhead a few years ago for Mothers Day, it was lovely, but when I expressed concern that our (then) young child and cousins could get hurt climbing on it b/c it wasn't mortared, he tore it apart, never rebuilt it, and has ignored my requests to build a 1ft tall stone wall under our porch, while proceeding to build a 50-ft long retaining wall in the back yard to the south of the vegetable garden.

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 1:12PM
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I don't think this is right - she said OK to my adjusting the pattern on the front piece to add an inch (so 2" across), she measured my full bust at 43" not 44" and said I didn't need to add anything to the back. Had a little trouble with tension on my machine (we did adjust it, part was human error I was pulling the fabric a little) and seams are a little puckered, got both side seams done, she suggested we meet again in 2 weeks to finish it (nice of her, it was only supposed to be 2 classes). But I still think I could use some extra room, I had also asked her about my sagging bust and if I had added width in the right spot, then also about darts, she said this was a very forgiving pattern and it's a (heavy) stretch knit. But you be the judge.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 3:57PM
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I can try to rip out the seams and take a little from the seam allowance (though it's only 3/8"), but you think I need darts too? And wouldn't they be easier to put in before setting sleeves? She said all that will straighten out when I put the sleeves in. Sorry I don't know how to put in multiple pix w/o Photobucket and I've got to meet the bus.

I guess some of that extra fabric at the top of the armhole could come out by making the shoulder seams deeper - I also think the neckline is too wide, not too deep just too wide for my narrow shoulders (see previous photo). I don't know what to do with all the puckers on the side - some are due to the side seam, others I think are due to bust.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 4:03PM
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ajsmama - from the pictures you posted it's looks very good!

Its nice that your instructor suggested she meet you for a third class when it was supposed to be only 2 classes.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 11:10PM
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You don't think it's pulling a little across the front (though I do hope to lose some weight/inches before fall when it will be cool enough to wear this heavy fabric)? And what to do about the extra fold on coming down from about the shoulder area/top of armhole to the top of the bust? Just below the orange marker threads (if you can see them).

I told DH and DD that with the brown fabric, no sleeves and unfinished armholes and necklines I felt like I was modeling a cave(wo)man outfit for them!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 7:46AM
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Cave woman outfit...that's funny : ) Once the sleeves and neck are finished, it will look great.

I'm not an expert but I think a tunic top made from a stretch fabric should have some natural folds/drape in certain areas when worn by a person with curves. The t-shirt I'm wearing now has some slight folds in places.

I view this type of tunic top as being something that should look and feel comfortable with some natural give.
This top with this type of fabric may not be suited for a more structured/tailored fit.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 12:24PM
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And what to do about the extra fold on coming down from about the shoulder area/top of armhole to the top of the bust?

You can add a dart there if the teacher doesn't have another way to correct the problem. (Darts from the armhole to the bust are used in patterns, though only rarely.) And that's all I can tell you, as I haven't done any major sewing for 10 or 15 years.

You might also want to visit your public library and see if they have (or can order for you through their Interlibrary Loan service) a book about pattern design and alteration. (They may or may not charge a small fee for obtaining books through Interlibrary Loan.)

Reader's Digest has a comprehensive book about sewing which might deal with such issues, and in any case would teach you a lot about all sorts of aspects of sewing. (They used to issue a new edition every 10? years or so.) Here you go:
Disclaimer: I have no idea if this is the most recent edition or not.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 1:02PM
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Personally I would let it out as much as possible: I agree with you that it looks a little tight across the bust. If I was trying on a top in a shop and it was that fitting, I would be putting it back on the rack.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 12:06AM
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We'll see how much I can take from the SA. I hate to think how tight this could get after multiple washings/dry even though I prewashed the fabric.

I do have Simplicity's "Simply the Best Sewing Book", the slash and spread method of adding to the bust in that wasn't as easy as pivot but I will look for adding darts, and since there were some Youtube videos for that, maybe there are good ones for adding darts too (imagine you pinch a fold up - working on wrong side of course - sew a seam, then cut the fold, press, zigzag, and trim the seam to get the dart to lay flat?).

I got an email asking me to fill out survey on the class, I haven't filled it out since class isn't really over yet since she offered to meet again, but so far other than using thread to mark the circles rather than chalk/pen I don't think I really learned anything I wouldn't have figured out on my own. Oh, and after I cut the front and back pieces out using rotary cutter (I had used scissors for sleeves and thought RC would be easier to go around curves) she told me that she preferred to use scissors on knits, and thought RCs were only good for long straight cuts on cottons. Could have told me before, esp. since I was struggling to get enough pressure to cut through 2 layers!

We'll see what she comes up with for darts/sleeves and fitting in the upper bust and shoulders. Next week when the kids are back in school I'll rip out the side seams and try to get a little room in the bust, but I'm not going to do anything else so that if we have to make adjustments to neckline at least I won't have the neckband on. Heck, I'm thinking of trying to modify the neckline to give a little more room - cut a plunge and add a piece of solid (white?) to give it a layered look? Piece in the same fabric but trim the slash with brown velvet or grosgrain ribbon?

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 9:40AM
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Well, I did meet her at the store, she had me start pinning the neckband onto the shirt since she said we couldn't do anything until that and the sleeves were on (I did open the seams from a couple inches down from the armhole to a couple inches up from the bottom just so we might be able to make adjustments). But I spent 2 hours trying to fit the neckband onto the shirt, kept stretching and repinning until I finally gave up. She said this heavy jersey doesn't have much stretch (and at first she told me not to gather the shirt) so I finally cut it at the seam and cut a 6" piece to piece in but as I was sewing the 2nd end onto it the fabric got jammed really good in my feeddogs so I cut it out, will have to take the top plate off and try to get the fabric out of it.

Maybe in 5-6 months I'll have time to pick this up again - and lose weight so maybe it will fit. The fabric's too heavy to wear until then anyway. But I decided I hate working with knits, and I still don't really know how to sew from a pattern (though I can cut it out), and definitely don't know how to alter a pattern. So the course was a waste.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 5:34PM
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