What's your sewing method?

Following an interesting discussion with @Magpie and @madebyBeaG I figured I would take progress pictures of my latest project, just to show what I’m doing & compare notes with others.

First, I draft the pattern on printer paper:

I only know the basics of pattern drafting really, but most garments meant for daily wear are quite similar. If you can draft a basic bodice with and without darts, a few different skirts (skirts are easy!) pants, a few types of sleeves and a few collars, you can basically draft most regularly worn garments. All the details are just minor tweaks. My mum is a seriously good pattern drafter and took professional courses when I was a kid, I’m self-taught and never progressed beyond her first coursebook. The method I use doesn’t require complicated maths (if you can pay with cash money, you can do this) but I know some do.

This is going to be a T-shirt dress from a knit fabric and it’s the first time I’ve drafted a pattern without darts. I was gifted a dress like that a few years back and it’s wearing out. It looks surprisingly nice on me even though I’m quite curvy. So I found a nice fabric in my stash to make a similar dress.

Next I draft the full-sized pattern onto translucent patternmaking paper, cut it out, pin it on the fabric and cut it out. I use a hand gauge (by Prym) to make sure I cut the right seam allowance. I know American ready-made patterns come with built-in seam allowances and it just makes my head hurt. I’ve never managed to finish a garment made from a pattern like that.

Next step will be tailor’s tacks! I always stitch them around the neckline, top of the sleeves, around the armhole etc, but I get the best results when I stitch around the sides too (I don’t do the hems).


What do you allow for seam allowances? They look huge compared to what I’m used to. How do you finished your edges?

Is this going to be an ongoing post? I sure hope so, I’d like to follow through the entire dress.

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Yes, that’s the plan! And if people use other techniques that work well I’d love for them to share that, too.

I was always taught to allow 2cm on the sides and shoulders, 1 cm for the neckline/armholes and 4cm for the hem, so that’s what I did here. If I don’t have enough fabric or I already know how the pattern will fit, I will sometimes make them a bit smaller. I like to have a big seam allowance at the hemline so I have some flexibility, I like to try out different lengths during fitting. I thought everyone did that until I saw a friend hem a dress that she hadn’t even tried on yet!


I LOVE this discussion! I still need to see more about those tailors tacks to understand that part…
I will draft & sew something when home to show the technique I’m used to. It’s similar in places, very different in others.


I grew up with US printed patterns, so 5/8" aseam allowance everywhere. I have ro really concentrate when I cut out patterns with no built in allance or old habits kick in and oops.

My mother tells about her grandma who never used a pattern and would just start cutting. Mom grew up during the depression and her grandma made most of her dresses. She always had two to wear for school.


Wow, no pattern at all??! That’s impressive! I think if you get used to using one type of pattern, with or without seam allowance, it’s very difficult to switch back and forth! 5/8" is just such a weird measurement to me (someone who thinks in centimeter) that I never manage to get it right.

My grandma also had stories about depression / WWII-era clothing. She was the only girl in her generation and her aunt was a talented seamstress. My great-grandma had always kept a silk embroidered blouse from before her marriage (so early 20s) and her sister eventually turned it into a blouse or dress for my teenage grandma. She always remembered how oldfashioned it was! It was probably gorgeous, but as a kid, who wants to wear fashion from 15 years ago?


I didn’t get around to sewing a lot over the last couple of months, but I finished the dress last night. I can’t upload pictures yet but I will as soon as that’s fixed again.

It’s a quick stitch, it’s just the front, the back, two sleeves and a small collar. Actual sewing cost me maybe half an hour. Then I hemmed the dress and the sleeves with a twin needle for a fast, neat result.

I also cut out the pattern again, but with short sleeves, in a lightweight floral knit fabric. I’ve tailor tacked (is that a verb?) most of the pattern pieces, hopefully I can sew it together tonight.

So, here are the pictures!!

So, for making tailor’s tacks you basically tack around the pattern piece, through both layers of fabric, except you leave a loop on each side. That’s why in Dutch it’s called looping (lussen). When you’re done, you take off the pattern, and gently pull apart the two pieces of fabric. In the middle, between the two layers of fabrics, the tacking thread will appear. Cut through them. Now you have two unattached pieces of fabric and the edges of the fabric are marked.

Then, you can just line up the tailor’s tacks and stitch.

When you’re finished you do have to pull out all of those threads. They’re loose so they should come right out when you pull on them. The dress looks a bit like a bin liner here, it’s a straight dress from a stretchy fabric. It looks nice enough when I wear it, but the shape comes from me, not the dress.

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Still completely baffled as to the point of them. Seems like lots of unnecessary work, I just don’t get it. I will ask the ladies at the fabric shop and see if any of them do it, maybe if I saw it in action.

But your dress looks great! Nice colour on that leopard print.

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The point is that you can transfer the edges of the pattern, so you can line up the pattern pieces exactly and sew very precisely. If you are very good and precise with cutting and you cut an even seam allowance everywhere, they’re not necessary. But very few people can cut that precisely and I’m certainly not one of them!

Although I really thought I had managed to cut the same seam allowance everywhere, when I lined up the tailor’s tacks on the front and back piece of the dress I could see they were still a bit off (maybe 5mm on a 2cm seam allowance, so say one was actually cut at 1,75 and the other at 2,25cm).

Apart from very precise cutting I’m not aware of any way to mark the edge of the pattern pieces on both sides of the fabric. This is a bit time consuming, so if anyone knows a better method I’m up for it!

When I draft a pattern, I add the seam allowance. Then the cutting edge is exactly correct. I really do need to see this in action so I can understand it. I’m absolutely fascinated.

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I’ve used tailor tacks to mark things like the point of a dart, or pocket placement; have never used them all along seams. They’re great on textured or stretchy fabrics, where chalk marks don’t work.

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I’m with @Magpie … I add seam allowances to any pattern I draft, then cut along the edge of the pattern. I don’t think I would have made clothes for myself or my family if tailor tacks were necessary.

I was taught to make tacks for darts and pockets when I learned to sew 40ish years ago but now I use a marker that either washes or irons off.

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What I find annoying when usig markers is that the marks are only visible on one side of the fabirc. It’s confusing to me.

No one here ever adds seam allowances to a paper pattern, to the point that I know people who buy American patterns with seam allowance added on, but cut them off before using the pattern.

I’m not actually sure why though. I don’t know if there’s a rational reason or just plain old “we don’t do things the American way”. I got some Dutch language quilting magazines from the thrift shop the other day, and they refuse to give any measurement in inches. Which in itself isn’t a problem, but most patterns are translated, and they just add 7mm seams instead of 1/4 inch (which is not exactly the same) and all the rulers and templates they use are in inches, too. If you want to make a quilt pattern in centimeter it makes much more sense to design in cm.

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Thanks for sharing your method! You seem very adept and skilled at making your own clothes this way!

I also use tailor tacks…but I was taught by my Japanese cousin. I use them wherever I need to see on both sides as well…mostly darts, sleeve top, etc. I usually to not use them for seam allowances as I am just used to adding about an inch to the entire pattern so I can adjust on the go. I don’t make a lot of fitted things so many times, I don’t even use a pattern at all–just measurements. The main problem with that is I usually have to repeat the process each time I make the same thing…a pattern for basics is a good idea!

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I’m honesty not a fantastic pattern drafter, but I can make the kind of clothing that I like, that’s enough for me. I’m not a natural fashion designer. When I was in highschool, a girl joined our sewing class and within a year she was better than all of us, she eventually designed her own prom dress and she looked like a Hollywood actress - laced bodice and petticoats and everything, all her own design and patterns.

I can draft a basic bodice and I know how to adapt it, and I can draft all sorts of skirts. What I often do is measure up a favourite article of clothing and draw those measurements into the pattern, or maybe change something simple like a neckline or adding a collar. It’s amazing how different a garment can look with simple changes.

I’ve been thinking about it and the the main reason why I use tailor tacks for seam allowances is that I like to use a wider seam allowance (about an inch) so it’s hard to keep track while sewing. The marks on the throat plate of my sewing machine don’t go up that much. I think the widest is 1,5 cm. Maybe I could sew much faster if I made my seam allowances a bit less wide! I like to have a bit of wiggle room for adjustments but I don’t really need that for tried and tested patterns like this one.

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I put tape on my sewing machine for seams I do the most. I know there are all sorts of gadgets out there you can use but I don’t like to stop and adjust everything. I mostly leave on my 1/4 foot and switch to zipper or my walking foot.

I use a hank of silk thread for the tacks since they leave no marks, have some texture so they don’t fall our, but easy to remove.

You have inspired me to go back to making some simple clothing! I just saw a dress I liked that is rather simple to make but costs $695 to buy!!! No way am I paying for that! It is not even a formal dress…a simple cotton dress!


$695? :open_mouth: That’s insane. It would be a nice challenge to see if you can make that dress for a fraction of the cost!

For some expensive clothing I totally understand the price tag (expensive materials, clothes that aren’t mass produced or are not made in a developing country) but I really don’t get why people would pay that kind of money for a simple cotton dress, or those designer logo print T-shirts that all the teenage boys seem to wear these days.

I already had the fabric so I am going to make one that is similar…I am so glad I sew…lol…


I need pictures!

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