I always dreamed of having my own line of sewing patterns. I wanted to sew from patterns I knew inside and out which were simple to sew and easy to wear. And, I wanted these sewing patterns to work as a curriculum to teach others how to sew garments. I met Tasa Gleason, an Oakland-based pattern drafter, and the two of us began to brainstorm about shape, drape, and style.
The Endless Summer Tunic was the first sewing pattern we created. It instantly became our best-selling pattern because it is easy to sew, easy to wear, and can be sewn out of a wide variety of fabrics! We had so much fun creating our first pattern, we decided to keep going and create a few more: Tendril Dress, Prism Dress, Uptown Top, and the Nelle Shirt.
Each pattern has a little something different to offer. The Tendril Dress is cut and sewn on the bias and is a great choice for learning to work with linen. The Prism Dress has sleeves, another building block in the progress of making clothing. The Uptown Top is based upon a vintage piece of clothing from Tasa's closet. It's simple boxy shape is modern. And finally, the Nelle Shirt, are most complex pattern, is a great piece to challenge your skill set. It is a classic tuxedo-style shirt, easily worn with jeans, and a nice pair of boots. My favorite part of the shirt is the small dip in the back collar. Just a small detail to set it apart.
Here are a few basic guidelines when preparing to sew with our patterns.
DETERMINING YOUR SIZE
If you look along the back of the pattern, you can see the range of sizes and the finished measurements of the dress.
In order to determine your size, you will need your bust, waist, and hip measurement.
+ Take a tape measure and measure the largest part of your bust and hip, and the narrowest part of your waist.
+ Be kind to your future self: Write down these measurements, keep them in your bag, as they will be helpful to have at your fingertips when purchasing new sewing patterns and planning for new garments.
Now that you have written down your measurements, the next step is to consider ease. Ease is a word you will see a lot when sewing garments. Ease is the amount of give in your clothing.
Here is an example of how ease works: let’s say you have a t-shirt which fits you tightly. If you take this t-shirt, lay it flat on a table, and measure it, most likely the t-shirt is going to measure smaller than your bust size. This is called negative ease. If the t-shirt is two inches smaller than your bust size, than it has 2” of negative ease. Or, you might have a baggy t-shirt, when laid flat and measured, it is 2” larger than your actual bust measurement, then, your t-shirt has 2” of positive ease.
Each pattern has its own recommended ease based upon style and fit. We think the Endless Summer Tunic fits best when there is about 1-2” of positive ease. To determine your size, take your measurements and add an inch or two, and then, looking at the back of the pattern, choose which size comes matches most closely. If you are in between sizes, it is best to choose the measurement closest to your bust measurement as it is easier to grade the pattern in the hip area than in the bust area.
Tip: If you happen to live in the Bay Area (Verb is located in Oakland), we have sewn every size of our patterns into a collection of samples. You are most welcome to come in and try them on so you can see which styles you like best and can get an idea of what size you would first like to sew. Taking this step is especially encouraged if you are enrolled in one of our garment sewing classes.
SEWING A WEARABLE MUSLIN
Before choosing fabric, first, you will need to consider your approach to sewing our patterns.
Option 1: Sewing a Muslin
Sewing a muslin is a way to test drive a pattern. Experienced sewists first sew a muslin when approaching a new pattern, especially if they have never tried on the dress before. Sewing a muslin is the act of doing a quick sew-through of a pattern, using inexpensive fabric, to see if you like the pattern stylistically, and to see if there are any modifications you would like to make to the pattern before spending more time sewing / using more expensive fabric.
If we stayed true to formal dressmaking, the muslin (aka fit muslin) would be sewn out of muslin fabric. The seams would be hand-sewn and all facings are skipped (making it easy to take out, and re-do if adjustments are necessary). Alterations are made to the muslin and then transferred to the flat (paper) pattern. This is great process to keep in mind if you intend to get really into sewing, would like a methodical approach, and also when you are sewing complicated patterns.
Option 2: Sewing a Wearable Muslin
When I am feeling particularly confident that I will like a pattern once sewn (if for instance, I already own a garment similar to the one I am making), then I make a wearable muslin. This means I go through the entire process of sewing the garment, using a machine to sew the seams, apply all facings and finish the hem, though I use fabric which is less precious than I normally would – in the case that the garment does not turn out exactly as I would like.
Then, once I have sewn the wearable muslin (and have the instant gratification of having a new garment to wear – yay!), I review the garment, and get a sense if there are any modifications I would like to make to the pattern. If so, then, I make these modifications and create another wearable muslin. If everything looks good on the first try, then, I confidently choose new fabric and make another dress.
In the case of all of our sewing patterns (with the exception of nelle), we purposely created them with positive ease and few pattern pieces so that they would be easy to sew and wear, and would not require extensive fitting and sewing techniques. Therefore, making a wearable muslin (as opposed to a muslin) will most likely be very rewarding.
In the case of the Nelle Shirt, we do recommend making a muslin as it is slightly more fitted and complex than our other patterns.
When choosing fabric for my wearable muslin, I make sure it is similar to the fabric called for in the pattern and is similar to fabric I intend to use for my “fancy” garment. For instance, the Endless Summer Tunic calls for a light to medium weight woven fabric such as lawn, voile, batiste, double-gauze, khadi, shirting, silk habotai, wool crepe, or linen. So, if I dream of making an Endless Summer Tunic out of Merchant & Mills linen, I will first use a less expensive linen.
In general, woven fabric made of 100% cotton is the easiest fabric to sew. Examples of this are khadi, double-gauze, shirting, and lawn. Linen is a bit more wiggly (though beautiful!) so may be best to use once you have sewn an Endless Summer Tunic or two.
The yoke facing on the inside of the Endless Summer Tunic and the pockets are two great places to add a contrasting fabric. I always like using fabric in these areas that I like a lot – but that I might not want to make an entire dress out of – since I like to wear more neutral, toned down colors, this is where I may choose to add a pop of color or use a precious piece of Liberty of London Tana Lawn.
To sew our patterns, you will need your run-of-the-mill sewing tools:
Marking pen or chalk
Hand sewing needle
There is one exception, where we do things a little bit different than most sewing pattern companies: we print our sewing patterns on heavy paper rather than tissue paper because it creates a more durable pattern. You can cut out the pattern pieces – though I would recommend tracing your size onto tracing paper. This way, you do not destroy your paper pattern and in the case you would like to make another size, you will be able to. Please note that because we practice and encourage tracing off our patterns onto tracing paper, some of our pattern pieces are stacked within one another, so it is always a good idea to have tracing paper on hand.
To do this step you will need:
Pattern paper for tracing pattern in your size (We have a kit which you can order).
Brightly colored marker*
*Tip: outline your size with a brightly colored marker, so it is easier to see and to trace.
TRANSFERRING YOUR PATTERN TO TRACING PAPER
When transferring your pattern to the tracing paper, make sure to include the pattern name, the size you have just traced, the date, any special markings, and the large arrow running along the pattern pieces.
PRE-SHRINKING YOUR FABRIC
Once you have chosen your fabric, wash it before beginning to cut and sew. Wash it according to how you plan to wash and dry it once it is sewn. If you tend to wash your clothing on hot and dry it on hot, you will want to do just that with this fabric, as you will want all shrinkage to occur before cutting out your pattern pieces. It can be helpful to take the fabric out of the drier a few minutes early, when it is slightly damp, and smooth out any wrinkles. Then, take an iron and ironing board and press the fabric so it is smooth.
CUTTING OUT YOUR FABRIC
Now that you have cut out your paper pattern pieces, it is time to cut out your fabric pattern pieces.
Inside your pattern booklet, on the inside of the cover, are the Cutting Instructions, showing you a list of how many fabric pattern pieces to cut.
Also, there is a diagram, called the cutting layout, showing you where to place your pattern pieces along the fabric. Make sure to follow this exactly.
When looking at fabric, the edge of the fabric is called the selvage. Often times there is writing along the selvage. Typically patterns indicate when and how to fold the fabric before beginning to cut.
Tip: Always lie the pattern pieces next to the selvage, never over the selvage, as the selvage is a different texture than the fabric, with less give, and will respond strangely in the sewn garment.
If you look very closely at fabric, most likely you can make out little squares. These squares are made from fabric running lengthwise (referred to as the grainline as well as the warp of the fabric), and width-wise (referred to as the weft).
The long arrow found on the pattern pieces indicates the orientation of the pattern piece to the grainline of the fabric.
The grainline runs parallel to the selvage. The arrow on the pattern must run parallel to the grainline and the selvage.
It is very important to have the arrow on the fabric to correspond with the grain of the fabric so the fabric falls nicely once sewn.
Once you have laid your paper pattern pieces on the fabric, there are two ways to cut out your fabric pattern pieces:
OPTION 1: Add fabric weights (or books or cans of soup), take your marking tool, and draw an outline of the paper pattern pieces onto the fabric. Making sure to transfer all special markings to the fabric. Remove the fabric weights and paper pattern pieces, and cut out the fabric pattern pieces.
OPTION 2: Pin the paper pattern pieces onto the fabric and cut around the paper pattern pieces. Keep the paper pattern pieces pinned to the fabric pattern pieces until the sewing pattern calls for them. Add special marks to the fabric pattern pieces at that time by either cutting notches or by using a fabric marking tool.
When cutting diagonally across the grainline, the fabric has more stretch and drape. This is referred to as the bias. The Tendril Dress is cut and sewn on the bias so it fits you exactly as it is named – like a tendril – curling around your body. The Endless Summer Tunic’s round armhole edges are finished with bias tape.
MAKING BIAS TAPE for the Endless Summer Tunic
Once you have cut out your fabric pattern pieces, you will have a rectangular shaped piece of fabric left. Cut your bias tape from this piece of fabric. Here is a great tutorial on making bias tape.
Now you are ready to begin sewing your garment! Yay! Refer to your sewing pattern for full instructions.
Thank you for choosing A Verb for Keeping Warm sewing patterns.
P.S. Want to see all of the above instructions (and more) via an online class? Great! Watch our sewing video on Creativebug.