In today’s world of inexpensive, off-the-rack clothing, the art of tailoring seems to be lost sometimes. But for those of us adventurous enough to make our own clothes, there are a few simple tips that can help us get the right fit every time.
One of the first things a tailor does is to prepare the fabric. So before you get the sewing machine, here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Will the fabric shrink after it is washed? If so, it needs to be pre-shrunk before you cut it out. If you don’t, you run the risk of the item being too small after the first washing.
2. Be sure the fabric hangs right. Hold it up at the corners of the selvages, with the fold hanging parallel to the selvages. Does it hang smoothly? If not, then adjust the corners until it hangs nicely. Now you know where the straight the grain is.
With the corners matched, the skew in the fold is obvious. You can see how far I had to pull it over to make sure the fabric hangs properly.
3. Sometimes you need to press out the fold line so it doesn’t mess you up later. The way it is folded on the bolt is not necessarily in two equal halves, and that fold may cause you to pin on the pattern piece incorrectly. Check this before you depend on it. If regular pressing does not remove it, then use a slightly damp press cloth.
With regular pressing, this line would not come out. But with steam and a pressing cloth, it did.
Once you’ve got the fabric ready to go, it’s time to check the pattern and get sewing!
4. A tailor checks the measurements of the person who will be wearing the garment and adjusts the pattern if necessary. A size 6 of one pattern company is not always the same as a size 6 of another. Or, just because you wear a size 12 when you buy clothes off the rack, you will not necessarily fit into a size 12 of a particular pattern. You should always check the wearer’s measurements with those on the back of the pattern.
5. Related to this is the fact that there is some ease built into most patterns. The garment is designed to be bigger than the body measurements in some places. This helps the garment fit properly. Some seamstresses use up this ease instead of adjusting to a bigger size. Decide before you start to sew what approach you want to take.
6. Be accurate on the width of seams. Follow the pattern instructions.
7. Tailors press. Often, seamstresses say, “Oh, it won’t really matter.” But it does. From the book, How to Tailor (by Phyllis W. Schwebke) “Pressing is one of the most important procedures used in tailoring, and it requires time, patience, and practice.” (p. 38) Remember to press as you sew – not just at the end.
8. Use interfacing if the instructions tell you to. Interfacing is the material used between the outer cloth and its facing. Some people prefer to omit it as an unnecessary step, but it helps the garment retain its shape – collars, cuffs, front openings, buttonholes, etc.
9. The most important thing tailors are trained to do is to take their time to do a good job. Often, seamstresses are in a hurry and skip steps in the name of speed. But particularly for those who don’t have a lot of experience, taking a little more time up front can save you from having to redo a lot of work.
10. Part of taking your time is to make sure you stop when the main pieces of the item are assembled, for a trial fit. Having the person try it on at this stage helps you make any necessary adjustments before you go to the work of finishing it, when alterations can be a lot more time-consuming.
Sewing is a fun, challenging skill, and there are a lot more things to pay attention to as you work on your projects. But following some of these simple tips can help make sure you get the right fit every time.
Need some ideas for your next project? Check out our Sewing Patterns section for hundreds of great patterns!