Sunday, April 7, 2013

When I'm not conquering the world

This post is especially for The Dame who is bitterly jealous of my most fabulous skills because she wishes she was half as awesome as I am asked for it.

When I'm not out conquering the weak and pathetic minions of the surrounding kingdoms, I put my creative mind to good use.  NOT THAT WAY PERVERT!!  Okay, that way too... but I don't blog about that.


This is Part 1 of my Sewing Tutorial 101 for anyone who is a cheap miserly bitch like myself wants to learn how to fashion some cheap and easy like most of the hookers around here clothes for the kiddos (because we may be a bunch of hookers, but that doesn't mean we want to dress our kids in department store skankism!)

Sewing Tutorial Part 1: Creating a Pattern - Tshirt/Dress

I don't do store bough patterns.  Actually, I do, but they never seem to leave their original packaging because... well, let's face it... they know what the hell they are doing and they expect you to do it correctly.  Let me first say, "I'm not a professional seamstress!"  My fashion audience is composed of a five-year-old and those who see her.  No one is inspecting my seam allowance or whether my seams are straight.  Basically, if I can attach the two pieces of fabric together in a reasonable fashion without sewing my fingers into the seam, I consider it a win!  You do NOT want to be in the palace when my sew machine it's always the machines fault has an aneurysm that results in me having to actually rip out the mistake!

For the sake of my sanity basically because I'm lazy I make my own simple patterns.

The quickest way is to grab something that fits the child, find the seams and trace the pieces onto newsprint.  This quick and imperfect method will suffice for a five-year-old who doesn't have $20 to buy a crappy shirt at Wal*Mart that will shrink into a Polly Pocket accessory in the first wash!

Lately, I've been looking for a more 'tailored' look, so I've started making patterns the 'correct' way... at least the most correct way I know.

Step 1:  Measure the Monster

You'll need a measuring tape.  If you don't have one, use a string, belt, or rope you'd planned on hanging yourself with.  Draw yourself a simple diagram (it's okay if you draw like Picaso).

Start with vertical measurements -
Beginning at the top of the shoulder measure the following:

  • Shoulder to bottom of collar
  • Shoulder to bust (armpits)
  • Shoulder to waist (wherever you want your top to start flaring)
  • Shoulder to hip
  • Shoulder to desired shirt/dress length

Next, at the location of each previous measurement, you will measure the child's girth.  When measuring, keep the tape loose.  Do not try to squeeze the child down into a smaller size unless they are being a mega-monster, in which case I suggest starting at the neck and seeing how small you can make the tape.

You will need to know how big around the child is at the bust, waist, and hip in order to make a top.
As you can see in the image, the OC is about 24" wide all the way down.  This is your baseline for designing the top.

Step 2: Pencil it out

Next you will break out last week's newspaper (thankful that you weren't listed in the obituaries) and start penciling in the measurements you just took.  Label the vertical measurements along the fold of the newspaper (Did I mention you should use a folded piece?  Use a folded piece for this!)

Now I didn't get a picture of this next step so I hope you can bear with me.  To put in your horizontal measurements you will have to do a little math!

DON'T RUN AWAY!!  You can use a calculator!

Because we are making a pattern for HALF (front and back) of a top, and we've folded that in HALF also, you'll need to know what 1/4 of your measurement is.  Simply divide by 4!  The OC was an easy 24 divided by 4 is 6, but not all kids are as cooperative.  Don't panic... just round.  If the decimal is .1 to .5 add a half inch.  If it's .6 to .9 go to the next inch.

Once you've found 1/4 of each measurement use them.  Starting at the fold where you marked your vertical measurements, mark out each 1/4 width on the newspaper.  Now, if you wanted to make a skin-tight skankalicious outfit you could probably stop here (most designers do).  However, since most of us do not like having to melt our child into clothes that are too small, I suggest adding 3/4 of a inch to each measurement.  This will provide your child with 1/2 inch of breathing room and account for 1/4 inch seams.

Step 3: Adding 'Flair'

To add 'flair' to the bottom of the shirt/dress, simply decide how much flair you want and where you want it to start.  The tops I've been making for OC start to flair at the waist.  Therefor, the waist measurement stays the same (6" + 3/4").  At the hips I added an extra 3/4" flair (6" + 3/4" + 3/4") and since I like her shirts to be mid-theigh length, I add an extra inch to the bottom measurement (6" + 3/4" + 1")

Are you with me so far?

Keep in mind that this is 1/4 of the pattern.  So every inch you add actually adds 4" to the finished product.

Once you've marked out all your measurements (base, breath/seam allowance, and flair/extra) you can connect all your dots.  You should have something that roughly resembles a shirt/dress folded in half.

Congratulations!  The hardest part is over!!  (Well, until you actually start sewing!)

Step 4: Neck and Arms

Unless your child is a headless amputee, you'll need to put holes for the head and arms.  Now if you're super lazy, you could cut a slit here and there and gunnysack it!  If that works for you, be my guest, but if you'd prefer a more 'fashion friendly' effect, it's not too hard.

Grab your child and the measuring tape again.  Measure from the top of one shoulder to the top of the other shoulder.  You can use the shirt they are wearing (provided they aren't playing make-believe topless bar at the time).  Try to get a straight across measurement.  The curve of the collar will be created in the next step and measuring the curve will make the collar too big.

However you do it... divide it by 2 (our top is folded in half).

At the top of your pattern, measure from the fold and mark the half-collar width.

Now draw a gentle curve from the 'neck/collar' measurement you marked on the vertical around to the collar width you just marked.

It should look something like this.

Note:  This will make a simple symmetrical collar that is the same in the front and back.  You can make the collar higher in the back by marking the same width, but raising the vertical mark up.  Drawing a straight line from the fold to the width will create a v-neck collar.  I do not recommend  trying this unless you fully understand hemming corners.

IF you intend to hem the collar you will need to add seam allowance.

If you are making this top from a knit or fleece that does not fray (i.e. an old t-shirt), you do not NEED to hem.

If you want to trim this collar with bias tape (I will not teach you to do that in the near future) you do not NEED to hem.

However, if your fabric will fray or you simply want a neater edge to the collar, you will need to add some extra to your curve to allow for this.

I generally do a rolled hem because it's quick and easy, so I added 1/2 inch to my curve.

Again, no picture for the arm hole, but if you've made it this far you'll be okay.  I always start with the same sleeveless shell so it's simple.  From the edge of the collar (the solid line in my image) measure away from the fold about 2" and make a mark.  Now draw a gentle curve from that mark down to the outside (away from the fold) of the top, just below your bust measurement (about 1/2").

If you will be adding a sleeve (not today unless you're savy) or your fabric won't fray, you can stop here.  If you are going to hem this edge, add your seam allowance just as you did on the neckline.

Step 5:  TADA!!!

Once you've drawn out your pattern and added all your seam allowances and such, it's just a matter of cutting it out and unfolding it.

It should look something like this!

If it looks more like a child's cut out snowflake, you did something wrong.

If this seems too overwhelming, I suggest starting with the "trace and cut" method of pattern making.  That is where I started and it will suffice for a child.

If it's still baffling to you, go to your local thrift store and grab a top similar to what you want.  Take it home and cut along the seams so you can see how it was pieced together.  Trace the cut up pieces onto newsprint, adding at least 1/4" to anything that will be sewn to another piece and about 1/2" to anything you will need to hem.  It may seem like a waste cutting up a perfectly good item, but by cutting it up you will be giving yourself the resources to make many more items just like it.  And having just recently done my first pattern enlargement, I can say your base pattern will last you quite some time because making things bigger is easy peasy!

And if all else fails, slip some of The Dutchess's brownies to The Queen... wait an hour... then take a "Plastic is a Girl's Best Friend" spree on her credit card, cut out the tags and tell everyone you made it yourself out of bedsheets and duct tape!


  1. Such talent. Remind me the next time I am visiting your castle and I will bring my fancy ass sewing machine to you. I'm never sober enough to keep my fingers out of the way. You might as well be putting it to use.

    It has an awesome speed control for the days you get into the wine before you decide to sew!

    I'm so proud of you. Deep down I always wanted you to learn my love of sewing but being awesome like I am, I never wanted to nag or push.

    Got my way on this one!

  2. And you lost me at measurements in step one. Of course it could be the wine and brownies I have sitting next to me. What is funny is I can remember my Grandmother making each of us grandkids stand for a bit while she took measurements and create paper patterns for us. TY for doing this for me! Gonna have to give it a go!

  3. Math???!!!! aaaaaaaaaaaakkkkkkkkkk!