Sewing 101: Measuring, fitting, and patternmaking

If you’re using the tutorials on this site, please keep in mind that almost all of them are intended to be used with stretch fabric (t-shirts, knit, jersey, interlock, etc.). Why? Because the fabric stretches, you can be a lot less accurate with fit, and you don’t need to mess with darts!

If you’re a decent seamstress, you can probably adapt some of them to non-stretch fabrics pretty easily by adding an inch or two here and there, and by planning for some sort of closing/opening device (zippers, buttons, etc.).

If you’re making clothing for yourself, make sure you’ve got accurate measurements for yourself. If you don’t know how to measure yourself, it’s pretty simple:

measurementsYour bust is the widest part of your chest.
Your natural waist is the slimmest part of your torso, generally a few inches above your belly button.
Your low waist is where you wear the waistband of your pants/skirts.
Your hips are the widest part of your lower body.

Note: Your bra size is not an accurate bust measurement.

If you are not confident in your ability to correctly measure yourself, find a garment that fits you well (it’s best if it’s made of a similar fabric to whatever you’re going to be using), and measure that.

And finally: Any tutorial here will probably need a bit of tweaking to fit your unique bod.

I get a lot of questions about making patterns from scratch. If it were as easy as writing up a tutorial, I’d do it, but it’s not.

My first tip is to forget the “from scratch” part, at least for now. Most, if not all of us, at least started with a store bought pattern of some sort. Don’t believe me? My first hoodie pattern was made from a long sleeve t-shirt pattern that I’d bought and modified. I made up a hood pattern by tracing a hoodie I already had, and bam!

So if you’re interested in making your own patterns, I’d suggest to get comfortable with the basic shape of some simple pattern pieces first: sleeves, pant legs, etc.

The best way to get a good pattern, in my opinion, is to cut up something with a shape and fit you already like. It’s cheap, and you get to see what it looks like before you cut it up and make another one.

The second best way is to buy some actual patterns. A lot of people really hate patterns, but you get the added bonus of instructions for how to put it all together. Check out this link for really good instructions for resizing patterns:

My last piece of advice is to get comfortable sewing before you try to make your own patterns. You’re taking a 2D shape and making it fit a 3D body… it’s not the kind of thing everyone is good at. Some people will get it faster than others, but with practice, you’ll figure out what goes where.

Finally, for a very basic, made-to-fit top pattern, check out this tutorial.

6 thoughts on “Sewing 101: Measuring, fitting, and patternmaking

  1. Hey Lex,

    Its a nice thing u got going here.
    I quite like your blog and wanna follow it.
    I cant locate the follow/ newsletter tab.
    Would be nice if you could help me with how to go about following you.


  2. Hi, just wanted to know how to make a hood and there you are on the web…thank you. Plus info about interesting other things…so will be looking back at this website for sure. I like you comment about using stretch fabrics. Any comments about how to sew them? I have avoided stretch because I did not know if it requires a special technique. Thanks

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