Half scale dress and pants

Half-scale muslins for sewing technique practice

The first phase of seriously improving my sewing abilities — completing the projects in the School of Sewing book — was a success. I feel much more confident about basic sewing skills like choosing threads and needles, sewing straight lines, installing zippers, hand-stitching, and the general construction process.

The next phase in my custom-designed curriculum is to work on basic garment sewing skills. For this, I’m primarily referring to The Sewing Book: An Encyclopedic Resource of Step-by-Step Techniques by Alison Smith, which came highly recommended by other sewers. It’s great for techniques, but instead of practicing techniques on plain blocks of fabric, I wanted to do some test-runs of garments.

In this spirit, I did some experimenting with the quarter-scale dress pattern from clothingpatterns101.com and the small pants pattern that came in the materials from the One Pattern, Many Looks: Pants class on Craftsy.com. After making them both half-scale and adding seam allowances, I constructed little muslin samples of the long sleeve dress and pants with side zipper.

Half scale dress and pants
Smalled down big ones: half-scale dress and pants for practice
Half scale dress and pants
The invisible zipper and facing in the pants

They’re both creepy and cute at the same time. And making them was a good exercise for learning more about garment construction. Some things I learned:

  • For seam allowances that aren’t going to get trimmed down, such as with side seams, it’s easier to finish the edges before sewing the seams.
  • I need to remember to true up patterns before cutting — on the pants pattern the front and back legs were different heights and one of the legs twisted when I tried to align the pieces.
  • When sewing the facing for the waist of the pants, I didn’t pay attention to the front and the back in relation to the side zipper, and ended up with the front facing in the back side of the pants which made the facing a little imbalanced.
  • On the dress I pressed the darts to the sides, but after finishing that piece I read that they are better pressed to the middle instead.
  • When attaching the binding to the facing edge, I tried both the edge joining foot and the overedge guide foot, but because it had a slightly concave curve to it the foot couldn’t get up into the ditch. It was nice and even, but the guide pushed the ditch away from the needle too far.
  • The set-in sleeves are way to gathered at the top, so I have work to do there to learn how to make them fit better.
  • Neither pattern came with facing pieces, so I made my own, but my curves were off and they ended up as a large scalloped shape rather than a nice, smooth curve. That would have been improved if I had used perpendicular cuts off of the fold edge rather than curved ones.

It was great getting experience with darts and a real-world application of an invisible zipper. It was also good to do the facing pieces because it took some of the mystery out of how those pieces work. Reading about these things can be very different from actually doing them! I tend to get hung up on learning something intellectually, delaying the actual hands-on experience that digging in and making provides. My goal is to get cracking on more garments (of the normal-human-size variety) to get up to speed on fitting and construction over the next few weeks.