How to check a pattern after drafting or alterations

by Stephanie on 26 March 2010

in How to...,Making clothes,Sewing

equipment needed for checking patterns

If you’ve made lots of alterations to a commercial sewing pattern, or have just finished drafting a pattern from scratch, you should check it over before cutting out your fabric.

You’ll need all the pattern pieces, a ruler or tape measure, a pencil, and a set square or something else with a right angle.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Iron the pattern pieces if they are very badly creased.
  2. Cut out the pieces outside of but fairly close to the edge – it’s hard to check the pattern if the pieces are too roughly cut out.
  3. Check that all the pieces are labelled and marked correctly – they should say what they are (eg, back, sleeve etc), how many to cut, grain line, and fold line (if any). If you can be bothered, it’s a good idea to label pattern pieces with the garment name (eg, simple A-line skirt) so that if one piece somehow gets separated you know what it belongs to.
  4. Check that darts are marked using pencil markings, holes or notches.
  5. Check that corners are right angles at bottom and top edges of pattern pieces – waistbands, hems and that sort of thing. If your corners are not 90 degrees, you can get an interesting scalloped effect when you sew the front and back pieces together. Guess how I know this…
  6. Check the side seam length is the same on front and back pieces. Place the front and back on top of each other, right sides together, and check that the side seams are the same length and that notches (or diamonds) line up.
  7. If you’re making a skirt or trousers, the waistband should line up. You do not want it to be at different heights at the front and back!
  8. Check that lines that are supposed to be straight are straight and that they don’t bow out or curve inwards. It’s easy to cut off any extra but if you need to add to the pattern you can stick an extra piece of paper on with tape.
  9. Write the seam allowance and hem allowance on the pattern pieces – I really recommend you do this straight after drafting a pattern rather than trying to remember whether it was 1cm or 2cm when you come back to it two years later.

Fixing problems

If, horror of horrors, you find that things don’t match up when you are checking the pattern, what you need to do depends on how bad the mismatch is.

For example, if your side seam is a few millimetres longer on the front piece than it is on the back piece, you can just sort of fudge it and make them the same (as long as you keep your corners as right angles) by altering the pattern pieces. Add a bit to one, and take a bit off the other. If the pieces are more than a few millimetres out, you’ll need to go back to your drafting and work out what’s gone wrong.

A quick version

If all this seems like a bit too much trouble, the most important things to do are to:

  • Hold the pieces up to your body to check that they are roughly the right size
  • Check that your corners are right angles
  • Put the pieces on top of each other and run your fingers down all the seams to check that there are not large differences in seam lengths where you’ll be sewing pieces together.

Anything else?

If there’s anything I’ve missed out, please leave a comment.

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