Sewing with Jersey - overcoming my fear of paper patterns

June 17, 2018
written by:
Samantha Cooley

My husband is usually very tolerant of the chaos I create when I’m sewing. The half finished projects left out ready for me to pick up again when I have a few minutes, the piles of fabric scraps waiting to be turned into a quilt, the hastily scribbled notes of an idea I had for a new make are all thing he’s learned to turn a blind eye to over the twenty plus years we’ve been together, but today he looked at me over breakfast and said “Is that going to sit on the dinner table much longer?" I knew that there was no putting it off any longer - today was going to have to be the day to tackle 2 of my biggest sewing fears.. patterns and stretch fabrics.

I still shudder at memories of paper patterns from my teens, the ridiculous tissue paper that was impossible to pin to the fabric without tearing, the reams of instructions that you’d need a masters degree to even attempt to understand and then trying to refold the pattern to put it back into its envelope to use again another time - an impossible task! I decided to try a new pattern from the Little Miss Shop that looked modern and perfect to overcome my fear of patterns and jersey! It's called The Iris Tee and from a pattern company called Two Stitches Patterns. It was available as a pattern and fabric bundle so had everything I needed to make the finished product - perfect! This pattern was different from the ones I remember, the tiny book style instructions gave me real hope that things had moved on from the last time I had attempted a pattern and I wasn’t disappointed. There are only 8 steps to making this Iris top - only 8! But to make things even better the instructions are so simple to follow, they tell you everything, and I mean everything, in plain English - what stitch to use when, what direction to press your seams, they even show you a little picture of what the different stretch stitches look like on your sewing machine stitch guide, I realised that things have really moved on in the pattern department. I bravely took the pattern pieces out of their slot and was relieved to see that they were no longer made out of tissue - rather something akin to a giant piece of photocopy paper.. things were looking up!

Now I’ve been reading a lot about how to do things for the home dressmaker and I’ve discovered that so many things are now readily available to make life easier as we go along our sewing journey, with this in mind I’d bought some dressmakers tracing carbon paper ( and a tracing wheel ( and I loved using them, they made my life so easy and meant that my pattern stayed intact for if I want to make a different size. I laid out my fabric and pattern - carbon paper facing up, folded fabric then pattern and it was at that point I realised that I hadn’t bought any pattern weights but being a mother and used to improvising I quickly grabbed some cans from the pantry and used them instead and they worked just fine! After that cutting out was easy, I just traced the size I wanted with my tracing wheel, took away my pattern and tracing paper and cut out, no pins to use again another time.

Now to sewing jersey. Jersey is scary stuff if you ask me, it stretches as you sew if your aren’t careful doesn’t it? Surely you need an overlocker to get a good finish to it? But after reading up on things and getting it cut out I wasn’t going to stop now. First I read my sewing machine instruction manual - seems like a simple thing right? But if you don’t sew stretch fabrics often it’s well worth taking the time to go over what your machine manufacturer recommends you do when sewing stretch fabrics.. I discovered that my machine has 7 different stitches for sewing stretch fabrics, something I’d never have guessed from looking at the stitch patterns on my machine and there is even a special foot for using one of them! I also found a useful product for when I was doing the neck and sleeve binding (it also made hemming the tunic easier for me too). I used soft stretch iron on fusible web to ensure the bindings and hem folded over nicely whist I sewed them into place and it meant I wasn’t worried about layers shifting as I sewed. ( )

The end result of my first foray back into using a pattern came together really fast.. less than 3 hours from start to finish, including breaks to walk the dog, answer the phone a few times and put laundry on. If all patterns are as easy as these Two Stitches ones then I’m definitely going to be doing a lot more dressmaking in the future. As to jersey - it’s nowhere near as scary to work with as I’d thought and in my opinion the Iris Tee pattern is a fantastic way to get you started.

I guess the best thing about this little adventure was the reaction of the little girl I made it for.. She put it on the second she got it!

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