From idea to finished product, here are the steps one takes. This is the production procedure used in industrial designing departments, adapted for personal use. These professional steps will help you make beautiful, high-end clothing that fits.
Decide what to make.
Making a shell and straight skirt in a matching blue completed this jacket. The fabric for the jacket was found under a table in a fabric shop in Paris.
Take a look in your closet. Maybe you have a purchased jacket and pants set that could use a skirt and blouse. Or you have a skirt you never wear because you have nothing to go with it.
Fati has her colors analyzed. She is a dark winter. Colors in the winter palette that are also in the autumn palette look especially good on her.





What you wear tells people who you are. Knowing your best colors and wardrobe style reduces the clothing you need and, because the colors blend, gives you unlimited wardrobe options. Color Me Beautiful’s method of the seasonal color palettes and wardrobing styles is easy to understand and use. For additional information on the use of color, Secrets of Style presents how to determine your best second seasonal color palette, and how to use that knowledge to chose the best colors in your primary color palette.

Color is especially important, as it is the single MOST IMPORTANT aspect of your wardrobe.


Check the fabrics you already have. Making a small notebook with swatches, yardages, and the locations of your fabrics speeds finding what you have at home. It saves money in the store, preventing the buying of fabrics similar to what you already have. Buying is easier as you are now able to match what you already have with what you are buying.

Choose the pattern

Do you have a pattern that you can use? If you have made something from it before and it fits well, changing it a little can give you something that seems new without the effort involved in fitting and correcting a new pattern. This is done all the time in industry. What sold well last year is changed a little, retaining the style feature that previously caused good sales.

If you need a new pattern, consider buying it, correcting its fit, and determining the amount of yardage needed before buying the fabric.

If you buy a new pattern, make sure you are buying the correct size.
  1. Trace the pattern. This saves the intact original pattern, plus provides a copy of the pattern that you can alter. Lay 36 inch wide yellow canary tracing paper bought at a local art supply store over the patterns. (Yellow tracing paper is more transparent than white tracing paper. )  First trace the straight and cross-grain lines. Then trace the patterns, reducing the seam allowances as you do so.  Industry Seam Allowances | PDF Download How and why patternmakers apply varied widths to designs. published in Threads Magazine’s current 199 issue, is now offered on Threads Magazine’s website. The article shows how to reduce the pattern’s seam allowances which reduces the amount of fabric needed to make the garment. Reducing seam allowances also speeds the sewing as now the seams do not need to be trimmed as they are sewn. And it gives a more professional look to the inside of the garment.
  2. Tip: In the industry the seams are prepped (finished) before the seams are sewn. It is usually better to first sew the seam, then overcast the seam allowance. If using an overlock (home sewers call them sergers) one can accidentally cut some of the seam allowance away. 
  3. Note: The overlock’s knife is intended for trimming away loose threads, NOT for trimming seams. 
  4. Correct the bust fit. Then correct the rest of the pattern’s fit. Because home sewing patterns are drafted to the pattern company’s grade rule, if you know how your body’s fit differs from the pattern company’s fit, the same fit corrections need to be made to every pattern that you buy in your size from that pattern company. If using any of the four pattern company’s patterns, Butterick, McCalls, Symplicity, or Vogue, their grade rules are so similar that the corrections that work with one of those pattern companies, work with the other companies’ patterns as well.
    Shira is being fitted for her prom gown. The bodice was drafted by correcting a home sewing bodice shell pattern. In the industry most pattern makers use a combination of drafting and drape (fitting) to perfect a pattern’s fit.
  5. Check the fit and style with a muslin. Use new muslin. Don’t wash it first as the sizing is in the muslin to help with the fitting. Cut just the shell patterns. Sew the seams together with the longest stitch on your sewing machine, making sure to sew on gauge.
    Shira’s finished bodice, checked for fit before the skirt is added. the bodice is also a bra. It has five layers: 2 plies of netting on the surface, lining, canvas stiffening, and lining against the skin. The bodice is fastened in the back with ties laced through grommets. The sleeves are separate, decorated with ribbons and beaded lace flowers.









Be very cautious if working with knit fabric. The muslin should be cut from the knit fabric that will also be used to make the garment. In the industry muslin may refer to a garment that has been made in the self (primary fabric used in the garment) instead of muslin fabric, but for the same purpose. Knits are difficult to fit as their primary stretch is on the cross grain, not on the bias. Some knits have considerable stretch, others have very little. A pattern that works with one knit may create a disaster if used with another knit. 

Try on the muslin. Correct the fit. Most people need help with this as it is difficult to fit one self.
Bodice patterns that have been marked, then corrected to fit. In this diagram the waistline is being corrected. If many corrections are needed it is advisable to make a second muslin.
Mark the corrections on the muslin with pencil. Lay the traced patterns over the corrected muslin. Trace the corrections onto the traced patterns. Check all seams to make sure that every seam line sews correctly to its companion seam. If done correctly, the garment can now be cut and sewn without any fittings whatsoever.

Setting up the pattern in this way prevents the need to fit as the garment is sewn. Garments that are fitted as they are sewn tend to have a worked-over, worn-out look.

Do a layout for each fabric needed to determine how much fabric to buy.
Making a layout BEFORE buying the fabric saves money, especially if using expensive fabric. It also prevents wasting fabric.
Make a sketch of the layout on the largest front pattern. That way the layout can be easily repeated after the fabric is purchased.
Make a sketch of the layout on the largest front pattern. Write the yardage above the sketch.

Make a list of all materials needed to make the garment. Include the yardages. If matching a garment, take the garment, or attach swatches from the garment to the list so as to make sure you are buying matching fabric and notions.

Sew all seams on gauge.
Cut and sew the garment. There should be no need for fittings. for best sewing reference books on the market
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 © Laurel Hoffmann, 2018


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