As promised, a thread for clothe making.Meteor wrote: ↑Sun Jul 04, 2021 12:53 pmThis is a bit off-topic, but recently I've been interested in making my own clothes, as well as clothes for my partner. We're both unusually tall, so it can be a bit difficult to find nice clothes that also happen to fit well. If I learned how to make them myself, then I could make them to fit our measurements perfectly and also design them just the way I want, which seems nice. But I'm not really sure how to start learning or what kind of tools I might need. Since jrvan said you know a lot about sewing, I was wondering if maybe you have some tips? I'll try looking it up online too but I figured I might as well ask you too.tabby wrote:
I’ll write as much as I can here without making this too long. It’s my belief that “we are what we wear”, and no body wants to walk around with ill fitting clothes that make them feel and look more like a slave than a healthy wonderful person.
The best projects to start with are the simplest ones. They will help you get use to how different fabrics behave, sewing methods and little tips and tricks, and also keep your motivation up since they’ll be finished in a shorter amount of time than something complex.
Most of my knowledge stems from older clothe making, so this will be based on that but the steps can easily apply to modern clothe making. It’s mostly the same, just the patterns, styles, and methods are a little different.
- Drafting paper (for patterns)
- Grey lead pencils, eraser
- Rulers (some are specific for pattern drafting)
- Calculator (for pattern drafting and measurements)
- Fabric/s of choice
- Needle and thread (there are different sized needles meant for different purposes. I’d recommend a needle that’s shorter in length so it’s easier to manoeuvre with if you’re hand sewing, and not too thick in diameter if your fabric is something like cotton, linen or silk. For wool you’ll probably want a different needle since it’s thicker).
- Fabric scissors
- Normal paper scissors (do not use fabric scissors to cut paper and vice versa. Fabric scissors need to stay sharp to properly cut the fabric)
- Seam ripper tool (or some small pointed fabric scissors)
- Tailors chalk
- Lots and lots of pins (the more the better) and pin cushion
- Tailors tape measure
- A pattern to work with
Anything else you need will be dependent on what clothes you’re making, and the methods you use.
So when it comes to making your own clothes there’s a few things to consider:
1) What kind of clothes you’re wanting to make (this one will determine a lot of the steps and fabrics you choose)
2) How much you’re willing to spend.
Fabric can be and is at times expensive. Fabric is sold by the yard, which can be tricky to determine the amount of fabric you need. If you’re not sure, buy more than what you think you need just in case. Any left over fabric can be used for other projects.
3) Materials and the fabrics you want your clothes to be made of.
4) Hand sewing vs machine sewing
Machine sewing will of course require buying a sewing machine if you don’t already have one.
The typical steps go something like this:
1) Decide what you’re wanting to make. Shirt, skirt, pants, dress, coat, cloak/cape, underwear, hat, etc.
Let's use the example of a shirt here.
2) Decide on your end product fabrics.
If it’s an undershirt go with something breathable and will help keep your skin clean (like linen or cotton). With an over shirt you can get a little fancier with things like silk/satin and wool as long as there’s an undershirt worn with it since, especially fabrics like silk, are harder to wash. Any clothes you want to wear that makes direct contact with your skin should be easy to wash, durable, breathable, and light weight.
Some materials e.g. cotton, like to stretch and so you need to pre-wash the whole thing (however many yards of fabric you have) if it isn’t already.
In the modern age we are very use to having basic underwear, a shirt and jacket, and whatever you’re wearing for bottoms (pants, shorts, skirts, dress, etc). Back before most of the later 1900’s, people wore much better layers to their clothes. You had the undergarments which covered all the way from the shoulders to the legs. This was so that the outer garments would be kept cleaner through the lack of direct contact with the skin. The outer garments were usually made from much more expensive and/or delicate fabrics, so being able to wash them regularly wasn’t an option.
You’ve got people wearing polyester against their skin these days, which is just not breathable. So avoid those kind of fabrics for such clothes. Polyester does have a use for outer garments in the winter, but I would stay away from it for summer clothes.
(Kinda makes me a little mad on the inside that linen is never used anymore for basic clothing worn against the skin unless you want to pay between $50-100+ for it but *sighs* ... anyway).
3) Make a drawing of how you want the end product to look.
Make a design essentially of a figure wearing your chosen item of clothing. It can be a simple sketch or really detailed. This is just to help wrap your head around what you’re aiming for.
4) Find a pattern that you can work with and is to your liking for what you want your item of clothing to look like in the end.
There’s a lot out there, and each one should give instructions on how to properly draft the pattern. If you choose to work from a pattern book, I’d suggest reading through the whole book first because some are written in a way that has you start with a basic pattern and you work through the chapters to turn that basic pattern into say, a coat or something. So just take your time. Sometimes you can buy a pre-drafted pattern where you just adjust it to your size then do a mock up. The following is if you have to draft the pattern yourself from a set of pattern instructions.
Measure the parts of your body that you need for the pattern you’ve chosen with a tailors tape measure (it’s just one of those floppy tape measures) and record the measurements down. Start drafting your pattern.
Take however long to draft the pattern and relax with it. This is your foundation for the whole clothing item. It can be tedious and mind numbing trying to draft a pattern, but it’s worth spending the time on. Trust me. Badly drafted pattern = funky things happen.
(Butcher’s paper is good stuff for drafting a pattern on. Use rulers, a “french curve” to help draw any curves, and grey lead pencil. You can use a marker to label your pattern pieces (always label pattern pieces so you know what’s what)).
[Now, I’ve seen people make clothes for themselves by just wrapping their body or a part of their body in plastic wrap then masking tape, and using a sharpie to draw out a pattern of what they want to make. Then they just cut it off their body and - ta-da! - they have a pattern.
Apparently that can work too and it skips a lot of the mind numbing side of drafting. Never tried it myself but it’s a thing *shrugs*. I wouldn’t recommend it for something more complex than a shirt as this seems a bit more limiting as to what you can do with it.
Then from there they just go straight into making the clothes. It’s an interesting way of doing things, but it takes more knowledge about sewing because you don’t have instructions to work off.]
5) Make a “mock up”.
This is where you play around a little bit to test if your pattern works and fits you correctly. Cut out your pattern and use a very cheap plain coloured fabric for this part. If you’ve ever heard of muslin (or calico I think is another name for it), that’s the fabric you’ll want for this step. It’s basically throw away material used for testing patterns.
Iron the fabric flat, then lay your patterns pieces on the fabric and use pins to hold the pattern pieces in place on the fabric. Trace the pattern onto the fabric with tailors chalk or a pen that won’t bleed through the fabric and smudge. Remove pattern pieces and keep them somewhere safe.
Be mindful of the “grain” of the fabric, the direction the weave of the fabric goes. It’s hard to explain but when you try to cut fabric pieces on the bias it’ll cause it to stretch funny. Sometimes this is a good thing depending on what you’re making but this is where research about how different fabrics behave and what happens when pattern pieces are cut in certain ways comes into play. The more you know about the fabric itself the better you’ll be able to work with it. Learn how it drapes, how much stretch it has, the thickness or stiffness, etc.
6) Sew up your mock up pieces with a very basic stitch.
Doesn’t need to be tight and secure just something simple to hold it together so that you can easily pick the stitching apart later. If you have a dress manikin that’s soft (not made of plastic) and you can put pins into that’ll really help for things like dresses and stuff.
7) Test fit.
Try on your mock up to see how it fits you, use a full length mirror, move around, lift your arms above your head etc etc. If somethings tight or uncomfortable, then it’s back to the drawing board to make those adjustments.
Once you have a mock up that fits you and you’re happy with how it fits, pick apart the stitching (you can use an actual seam ripping tool, or some small fabric scissors with pointed tips). This is one of those steps where you just need to take your time, and not get frustrated (when things don’t turn out quite as planned) and settle for “it kinda fits”. Because if it only “kinda fits” here then it’s not going to magically fit any better when you use the real fabrics. Do as many mock ups as you need, make sure it fits and it's comfortable, then proceed.
8) Cut out and piece together the final garment, then try it on.
Lay out the fabrics you’re using for your end product and basically repeat step 3 but this time with the mock up patterns that fit you, and you want your stitching to be strong. Follow your pattern instructions to cut out and piece the different pieces of fabric together correctly with the right stitching method.
This is where hand sewing vs machine sewing comes in. Hand sewing will be more precise and you have better control over what’s going on with the needle, thread, and fabric. You can also better control how strong your stitching is and what method of stitching you use. Down side: it takes longer and is very tedious, and well... getting pricked by your own needle every now and then is not fun.
As for machine stitching, personally I hate machine stitching (but that’s just me) and I’m not too familiar with the pros and cons. It’s faster, like a LOT faster, than hand sewing. As long as you know how to set up one you’re good to go to sew your pattern pieces together. You have to be a bit more careful to make sure you sew where you want to sew, and keep your stitching straight. Last I remember sewing machines do have different types of stitching options but I’m not familiar with them. Take your time, don’t rush it.
I don’t know if you can do it with a machine but if you go with hand sewing you can use beeswax to wax your thread. This will make the thread stronger and protect it from wear and breakage, especially for everyday clothes like shirts. This is something they use to do way-back-when for undergarments.
Another thing about hand sewing, if you choose that option get yourself a thimble of the right size for one of your fingers to protect it when you push the needle through the fabric. It’s a life saver. Find a size that doesn’t just fall off your finger when you dangle your fingers downward, it should stay in place without hurting you.
A little trick I learned. You can determine a well made garment from a poorly made garment by just looking at the stitching alone. Where the seams are placed is also a good indicator.
The average Target shirt will have a wide arms eye (the area your arm slips through where the sleeve attaches to the body of the shirt), the shoulder seam won’t even be on the shoulder, and the stitching is your classic china machine stitching where if you break one section of the thread the whole thing unravels.
For a well fitting shirt, this will sound counterintuitive to what we are commonly use to but you want that arms eye to be sitting right underneath the arm pit. This will maximise the movement of the arm when wearing the shirt since there is less gaping fabric sitting between the sleeve and the body of the shirt. Make sure the shoulder seam sits right on the shoulder because again better movement of the arm and overall better look to the clothes when you wear it. The stitching should be strong and close together (even with using a machine). If you’re hand sewing I’d recommend a back stitch method for any garments that need to be washed regularly, and as you work don’t use a ridiculously long line of thread (about a wing span length - finger tip to finger tip - is what I can handle) and just tie off and re-string your needle when needed. This will ensure that if the thread breaks the whole thing doesn’t unravel.
A huge part of making nice fitting clothes is in the pattern itself. Nowadays most people just work off a basic shape and don’t really understand how to make an item of clothing look flattering on a body. The way the different pieces of fabric is cut and sewn together will determine how it sits on the body without anything else being done to “shape it” so to speak.
If you compare dresses and coats from like 1800-1900’s and modern everyday Target wear from China, the shape of the clothes follows the shape of the body often fitting like a glove rather than being baggy. This is all to do with the pattern of the clothes and supporting undergarments.
Now, even without supporting undergarments you can still make a nice flattering shape for the clothes you make by having a good pattern to work with in the first place.
Some links from one of my favourite sewing channels and a couple others for sewing that helped me a lot with hand sewing and understanding patterns etc:
Hand sewing methods:
Modern walking skirt:
1895 wool walking skirt:
Basic mens shirt - “pirate style” - but shows how even a basic pattern can still look good. Sometimes things don’t need to be complicated. For a first project, I’d start with something like this:
Inverness coat (can be made for both men and women). This video shows a good example of what I was talking about with patterns in the last couple paragraphs:
Tailoring tips for already made clothes that don’t quite fit:
A video for sewing motivation when things get a bit hard:
Here’s where I saw that plastic wrap/masking tape technique thing. The girl also uses some of her own current clothes to get the shape she wants for the costume she’s making, which is another way to make a pattern without all the crazy math of pattern drafting:
These are methods I know but people do different things and that works for them. So play around and let yourself experiment to see what works best for you.
When I first started sewing I was just a kid wanting to make my own toys. Then my sewing knowledge grew through high school as I made larger projects in my fabrics class, and then learning more online from sources like the ones above.
The steps applied to making plushie toys are almost the same as making clothes just different end product. So another way to get familiar with patterns is making a simple plushie for yourself or someone you know who would like that, and then apply that to larger scale projects like clothes. It’s really fun imo, and a great way to get familiar with sewing techniques before hitting the larger projects.