Cosplay Curious: Pattern Reading

This week, Hilary walked us through the basics of reading a pattern and a bit about combining patterns. I can tell you from experience that Hilary has made some mind-blowing costumes, including my wedding dress, so I trust her expertise in this wholeheartedly.


Onto the details… this is sort of a broad overview- we didn’t get into a lot of the more advanced stuff- gathering, stitch types, pleats… another time 😉


Some products that we talked about include: Fray Stop, a great little product that can help keep the edges on fabrics that are wont to fray from, well, not. Which makes the fabric easier to work with.


And what would any good fabric crafter be without a seam ripper? They have been my best friend in the past! I’m sure we’ll get close again once I dig out my sewing machine after the holidays. I’ve had projects where I’m sure I spent more time ripping out seams than actually making progress on the actual item.

seam ripper

Chalk! So simple, inexpensive, but can save so much time! I had never considered using it to chalk notches instead of cutting them out (cause it’s so much fun, you know? Not!). 1st lesson learned of the night! And for colored fabric, consider colored chalk! Crayola has a great selection!


And of course, pins. There are lots of pins to choose from, some have plastic heads, some don’t. I guess it depends on what you’re doing, and how likely you are to forget to pull them out. If you forget to pull out the ones with the plastic you chance sewing through their heads and having to cut through the plastic without cutting your stitches.



Sides of the fabric

So, there is a RIGHT side and a WRONG side to your fabric. The RIGHT side is the side that has your design on it, or the side that is going to show up to everyone. The WRONG side or RAW side is the side that goes on the inside and that no one else sees. Unless you wear your clothes inside out…



I have seen French seams done in the past, but I have never had any idea how they are done, or really what the purpose of them are. So, the reason one would do a French seam to is to make it sturdier- if it’s something you’re going to wear a lot, or going to be washing a lot, a French seam will help make sure your piece doesn’t fall apart. However, when creating a French seam, be sure to leave more for your seam allowance. If the standard is 3/8”, then ½” should give you enough room for a French seam- this is an estimate, not exact measurements.


To do a French seam, put your wrong sides together and sew em up. Trim the excess pretty close to your seam. Now, flip it over to the right side and pin it. Sew it up again. Now, on the inside you’ll have a nicely wrapped seam, and on the outside a nice normal seam. Pretty sweet, huh?




There may be some disagreements, but this is pretty much the most important thing you can do before sewing anything. If you don’t know your measurements, now is the time! And the old adage of measure twice, cut once totally applies!


To take your measurements, grab a friend/family member/spouse- someone you don’t mind in your personal space. You’ll also need a tape measure.


Most patterns will need measurements for your bust, waist and hips.


To take your bust measurement, measure the thickest part around your chest. Depending on your pattern you can afford a bit of room in this. Record your number.


Your waist is found at the natural bend in your body, normally about 1 inch above your bellybutton (if you have one- sympathies to any poor pod people out there).


And your hips are basically the widest part around your rear end.


We talked about two stitch types:  the stay stitch and the zig zag stitch.


Stay stitching is a simple row of stitches to help hold the shape of a piece of fabric. Stay stitching is useful on diagonal cutting lines or curved areas such as necklines, as cutting on the bias makes them susceptible to stretching.



And the zig zag stitch is your best friend when using stretch fabrics if you want them to remain stretchy. A straight stich will work, but not nearly as well.



Also for beginner’s consider using McCall’s, Simplicity or Burda brand patterns. Vogue assumes you are more advanced and may not be as friendly for early projects as other brands. Vogue has some gorgeous patterns, but maybe save them for down the road.


Well, that’s it for now! I know I learned a lot and I will be dragging my sewing machine out first thing in the new year! I have a desire to learn to make corsets. Wish me luck!

If you missed Part 1, you can start here


Our next meet will be in January- topic TBD! Keep your eye on our Facebook event for updates!


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