Garment Lecture Notes

Garment Lecture Notes

A few weeks ago we hosted a Garment Lecture from Jean Sando in our shop. We had an amazing group of people join us, but we know even more of you wished you could be there! We thought we would share some highlights from the evening with you here.

All Bodies are different

Jean started the evening talking about her background in Victorian literature. In the Victorian era clothes were being made for people, it wasn't possible to purchase them "off the rack" and there weren't standard sizes like we have today. You don't find women in the Victorian era complaining about their bodies because they weren't trying to fit into a mold set for them. Their bodies were their bodies and there was nothing wrong with them - and there still isn't!

Pick the right fabric

There are two broad fabric categories that you should get to know as you begin garment sewing. 1. Woven - fabric is woven with a warp and a weft. It stretches only on the bias. Is a great place to start because of it's stability. Pay attention to the weight of the fabric and choose your pattern accordingly (lighter weight woven will have more drape, etc.) 2. Knit - fabric is stretchy, which makes it comfortable to wear, but more challenging to sew. When choosing fabric for your project, think about the design of the print. Is there a large repeat that will make matching seams challenging? Do you need to worry about strategically placing the print over different parts of your body? Pick a fabric that you are comfortable with. Always prewash and dry your fabric on the highest setting that it may be washed in later. Even if you don't dry your clothing, just washing fabric can shrink it. If you are taking the time to make a garment that fits, then be sure to take the time to pre-shrink your fabric.

What's Cheaper?

In the past, clothing was homemade because it was cheaper. Today this is rare unless you are being true to yourself about quality. If you honestly compare quality then you absolutely can sew cheaper.

Does size matter?

When choosing a pattern to sew you may find that the pattern numbers don't match ready to wear sizes you are used to. This is especially true from the 4 main pattern companies available in big box fabric stores. Grading in pattern sizes is smaller than in ready to wear clothes in order to help you get a good fit on your handmade garment. Ready to wear garments have a bigger difference between sizes to fit more people without make more options in order to cut down on costs. Pattern sizing is meant to give you a better fit, but may mean that your measurements fall in a larger size than you are used to.

Adjust it

Think about what shapes work well on your body when choosing a pattern. No matter how much fitting you do, if you are making a shape of clothing that doesn't work for your body it will never look good. Also check that the pattern fits your skill level. It's great to challenge yourself, but don't set yourself up for disaster. Tips for adjusting patterns:
  • You need someone to help you measure yourself. It's not possible to stand normal when you are trying to see the measuring tape! Stand up normally and breathe! Accurate measurements are important. And remember they are just numbers!
  • Measure yourself overtime you make something new. Our bodies change!
  • All patterns are made for a B cup. If your bust size is larger than a B cup you will need to do a Full Bust Adjustment or FBA (YouTube is full of great videos on this). Without an FBA you'll have to go up in size to make the garment fit which will make the shoulders too big.
  • Smaller than a B cup? You'll need to do a Small Bust Adjustment or SBA.
  • If you have a hollow back or deep curve with a smaller waist and larger rear then you've no doubt experienced a gap in the back waist of your pants and skirts. Your shape is perfect for A-line skirts. Add pleats in the back to fix a gap waist.
  • Lengthen and shorten patterns where the pattern instructs you to retain the shape of the garment.
  • Most people don't fit into one size from top to bottom. Grade patterns by gradually shifting to the larger or smaller size.


Some folks can be paralyzed by the need for perfection. Every project doesn't have to be your crowning achievements! Remember to have fun. When something doesn't work out, learn from your mistakes and try to enjoy the process. Throw a sweater over it or stuff it in a floor pouf!

Learn from the expert

Jean's classes typically have two part sessions. The goal of the class is to leave with a pattern that will fit so that you can make it multiple times and know that it will work. It's possible the first attempt at the garment won't be a perfect fit, but you'll learn to adjust the pattern for the next round. Preparing to make a great garment can sometimes take longer than sewing the actual garment. Jean's upcoming classes: Esme Tunic - February 11 & 18, 2:30 - 5:30 pm Garment Sew In - February 23, 6-9pm & March 28, 6-9pm Piviot Jacket - March 14 & 21, 6-9pm

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