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How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Preparing the Pattern


Okay, so you have your pattern and your fabric. Now what?


I imagine that most people reading along with this men's shirt sewing project have experience using patterns, but in case there are some readers new to making clothing, I am going to go over the basics of pattern preparation. Taking a few extra minutes in the beginning can make things simpler later on.

The first step when working with patterns is to pull out the instruction sheets (sometimes I even do this in the store before purchasing the pattern to get an idea of the complexity of the pattern) and find page one. The first page will show the design options, needed pattern pieces and pattern layout recommendations. If your pattern has different designs, this usually means that a different assortment of pattern pieces will be used. In my case, there is a view A and view B (I am making view B). Find your design option and note what pieces you need to locate on your pattern tissue sheets. I always think I will remember which ones I will need and then invariably, I will forget to cut out one piece, so I like to write the numbers down on a sticky note and put it somewhere in view so I can keep track of the pieces as I go along.

Now that you know which pattern pieces you need, you can unfold the tissue pattern sheets and go hunting for the pieces that you need to cut out. I am sure that the patterns are arranged and printed on the tissue to save space, but it seems like they are placed willy-nilly so that you have to unfold and examine each and every sheet. Do make sure that you verify that your pattern pieces are the size that you need. Most pattern pieces are multi-sized with lines for each size, but sometimes certain pieces are specifically sized and need to be cut to match the size you plan to make. If you see pieces that do not have multiple, graded lines on the pattern piece, they are probably individually sized. Other times, pieces will be for a portion of the included sizes, not all of them, so it is important to always verify as you go along.

Roughly cut out the pieces that you need and put them aside to be trimmed down later. Trying to cut patterns along the lines from a whole sheet is an exercise in frustration and greatly increases your chances of tearing the paper. Re-fold the tissue sheets with the un-needed pattern pieces and return them to the pattern envelope. If you get frustrated trying to cram the tissue sheets back into the pattern envelope (which, of course never fold up so nicely again), you can use a larger size (9" x 12") envelope for storing your patterns. This is especially helpful if you trace your patterns and end up with multiple size sets.

Take your roughly cut out pattern pieces and cut them along the pattern lines, removing the excess paper. This may seem like a tedious and useless step, but you don't want to leave paper hanging over the edge to cut through when cutting your fabric. When you cut the tissue and fabric together, the tissue has a tendency to split and tear, making the edges of the pattern ragged. I like to do this part with my rotary cutter. It is much faster and more accurate if you take your time. I use a ruler to cut all of the straight edges first and then come back and clean up the curves. For areas where the graded lines overlap each other, just cut as closely as you can around the entire area. After the pieces are all cut out, it is nice to quickly press out the creases with a dry iron. I also like to do this because it seems to give them some sort of static charge which makes them stick slightly to the fabric when you lay them down.
cutting out pattern pieces

Tracing Patterns

Another option is to trace your pattern pieces to the size that you need on another sheet of paper. This is a way of protecting the original pattern while being able to cut exactly the size you need. Also, if you use multiple lines to customize your pattern sizing (cutting a size 10 waist and a size 12 hips, for example) it is best to trace your pattern. There are a variety of tracing papers that can be used, but my favorite pattern tracing paper is Swedish tracing paper. It is durable enough that you can baste it together to check the fit of the garment. To trace patterns, you can either cut the tissue pattern pieces out and trace them individually, or unfold the pattern sheet and trace the patterns from there. If you have a large table to do your tracing on, this is the easiest way to go. When tracing patterns, be sure to copy ALL of the pattern markings onto the traced copy.

Next time we will start working on laying the patterns out on the fashion fabric!

Happy cutting!

How to Sew a Men's Shirt Lesson Index

How to Sew a Men's Shirt - First Steps
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Preparing the Pattern
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Reading the Pattern
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Cutting the Fabric
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Matching the Fabric
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Pocket
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Sewing the Yoke
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Sewing Shoulder Seams
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Sewing the Collar
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - the Collar Stand
How to Sew a Men's Shirt - Sewing the Sleeves


Here are some great resources for more information on sewing basics and sewing clothing!


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How to Sew a Men's Shirt - First Steps
Essential Sewing Tools and Notions
Seam Finishes - Bound, Clean and French Seam
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Content copyright © 2014 by Tamara Bostwick. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Tamara Bostwick. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Tamara Bostwick for details.

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