November 1, 2015 by New Capel Street: Fabric Division
I was going to get a ton of knitting and kitmaking done today, but my old pal Tommy Tendonitis dropped by for a visit. So here’s a tutorial instead. We’re going to make a basic pattern block with which to start our Generic Kit.
-A flat surface, like a table or floor
-A t-shirt. Loose enough to be comfortable, but no more than a size or two too big.
-Pencil and markers. I like to use Sharpies.
Lay your shirt out on a flat surface. Give it a bit of a go over with an iron if you need to – it needs to be fairly wrinkle free, but doesn’t need to be hospital-bed perfect. Take a good look, and make sure that the seams aren’t all twisted strangely – old, cheap shirts can twist sometimes if they weren’t cut properly when being made, and this can make using them for our purposes difficult.
Once you’ve checked that the shirt is in good enough condition to use, get your paper. You can use anything from paper shopping bags opened up and flattened, newspapers, baking parchment taped together, art paper, butchers paper, the list is endless. Personally, I like to use Burda’s Seidenpapier tracing paper. The sheets are a similar size to the sheets commercial sewing patterns are printed on. It’s helpful to have paper this size to hand, especially where making your bigger patterns is concerned.
Anyway, get one sheet of paper, spread it out on your flat surface, and put your t-shirt down. Spread it out, make sure the seams are straight and not twisted. If it helps, weigh it down with small things like scissors, glasses cases, actual pattern weights if you have them.
Crack out your pencil. Using light lines at first, trace around the body of your t-shirt, following the side seams, shoulder seams, back neckline and bottom hems. The sleeve insets will be a little trickier, and the weights come in very handy for this part. Weigh down along the seam, then simply lift the sleeve out of the way or fold it back. Lightly trace down along the sleeve seam closest to the paper, then repeat for the other sleeve. Once you have a complete outline, take up the shirt and go back over your lines more heavily.
Next step is to add your seam allowance. Seam allowance is the extra space you need to stitch the seams, and at the ends to fold up for your hems. Commercial sewing patterns provide a seam allowance of 5/8ths of an inch. You don’t need to be this exact, but taking your marker draw an extra line outside your original line, quickly sketch in your seam allowance. If it helps you remember, mark in a little note on your pattern piece to remind yourself which line is your stitching line, and which is the seam allowance. Knowing the difference will be important later when you come to cut and sew!
Finally, labelling. Write a reminder on your pattern piece as to what the thing is. Cut it out, put it somewhere safe, and remember, don’t use the same scissors for cutting paper as you plan to use for cutting fabric. Paper blunts scissors quickly, and blunt scissors are no good for cutting cloth. You need your fabric scissors to be sharp and good.