sewing 101: About Patterns

Posted by & filed under Sewing 101.

Welcome to week four! Who’s still with me? I’m sure the non-sewists and elite-sewists among us have probably grown bored of the month of April and I apologize for focusing so singly on one subject for so long. Only three lessons left!

This week we are going to make Portobello Pixie’s Straight Market Bag. Here’s the plan:

Monday: I talk about buying and reading pattern packaging, we cut out the pattern for our bag, I tell you about how to read pattern pieces and symbols, and I hand over a few great tips for pattern storage and longevity. Good stuff!

Wednesday: We cut our fabric! There are a few bits of errata that I’m afraid might exist in this pattern, so I clarify cutting numbers and instructions. We also use our newfound marking skills like real champions!

Friday: The big day! Whether you want to make the pattern on your own using the directions provided or you want to follow along with me in my videos, there are lots of good tips and tricks to learn as we work through our little project. Should this be graduation day, too? Caps and gowns and pomp and circumstance? Certificates perhaps?

I was just watching through today’s videos one last time to make sure they’re all set to go (and yes, please pardon my non-professional videography skills), and it reminded me so much of the sewing portion of the Homemaking class I taught a couple of years ago. These videos today feel like they are pulled straight out of my lectures, and hopefully in a really good way.

And the best part? They’re free! No tuition, no course fees – I’m just passing on this great info because I’m passionate about sewing and I want y’all to love it, too. You don’t even have to do any work today. Just carve out 23 minutes to watch two videos in your jammies while sipping tea and growing wiser!

In this first video I’ll show you about the differences between “designer” and “common” (for lack of a better term) patterns and how they can both turn out some gorgeous projects (though the former provides a much more pleasant instructional experience than the latter). I want you to be able to feel comfortable buying and reading common (and way less pricey!) patterns and I think this little walk-through will help with that.

And your assignment? Leave a comment telling me the first thing I want you to look for when you open up your pattern. Okay? Okay.

Do you feel like you’re in my classroom? I know, I have a lot of information to impart – thanks for sticking with me. I hope it’s helping!

In the second video you finally get the cue to cut out your three pattern pieces. I also teach you how to read pattern pieces (they have really helpful symbols and info on them!) and clear up some confusion about exactly how many pocket pieces you need to cut out. And I wrap the day up with pattern storage tips and a great way to make a pattern last through every size as your babies grow.

Your assignment: tell me how many canvas and how many fabric pocket pieces you will need to have when you cut your fabric.

**edited to add: I messed up. I’m so ashamed. I called the selvage the bias over and over and over again without batting an eyelash. I’m so sorry! The bias of your fabric actually runs at a 45-degree angle across it (which is why you make bias tape by cutting through your fabric at that nasty fabric-wasting angle. It’s the very stretchiest, giviest angle of all. The edges of your fabric (like the side where all the designer and fabric information is printed) is called the selvage.**

And, we’re done for the day. Class dismissed.

I’d love to hear from me if you plan to follow along with the project this week. I imaging we’ve lost a few people along the way, but it will be good to know who’s still with us!

See you Wednesday! If you don’t already have your fabric for the project (or the pattern), get them now!

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34 Responses

  1. tiffany kraght 23 April 2012 at 10:26 am

    oh raechel,

    i have loved your sewing class! even though i feel like i “know” the basics, i have actually learned some super helpful information from you. your videos have been great and i think you have done such a good job. i ordered the pattern late, so i won’t be sewing with you, but i’m excited to get started!

    thanks again for all your hard work! ~tiffany

  2. A.J. Dub (Amy) 23 April 2012 at 10:57 am

    I’m still here, though way behind. Breaking my spool pin, then losing use of my printer put a kink in doing my homework. I got my pattern for the bag in the mail yesterday!
    Thanks for taking time to do this! You rock!

  3. Teresa 23 April 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Still here and looking forward to making the bag this week! My mom was so excited to see my book this weekend. She lives an hour away and doesn’t have time to teach me all her skills right now but said that with what I’ve learned from you, I will be able to make a lot of things for my 4 month old baby girl :) I guess I’m the first to respond with our homework you assigned..You want us to look for the seam allowance, right? Also, thanks for the tip on patterns with multiple sizes, my mom bought me several patterns for my baby girl that have different sizes and I was wondering about cutting them out and not having them for latter on. Thank you so much for dedicating April to sewing 101. I’ve really enjoyed this during ‘nap time’ :)

    • Raechel Myers 23 April 2012 at 3:25 pm

      Thanks for the words of encouragement, Teresa! So glad to hear this class is/has been helpful for you! Here’s to lots of projects for your little gal in the future!

  4. Sarah H 23 April 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Hi there! I’ve been enjoying the series so far! I’ve not kept up with all the assignments, but I just bought some elastic thread, so I’m going to give shirring a go. Just a note about the second video (About Patterns – Part 2): you mentioned that the white edge of the fabric was the bias, but I think what you meant to call it was the selvedge. The bias is actually at a 45 degree to the selvedge (think bias tape and circle/bias skirts). The bias ensures the most amount of stretch in a woven fabric.
    I’ve recommended this series to a few friends who wanted some information about sewing basics – videos are ALWAYS a huge help! Thanks so much!

    • Raechel Myers 23 April 2012 at 3:22 pm

      You’re so totally right. As I was editing the video I realized I was wrong and then didn’t remember to make a not in the post about it. Thanks for the reminder!! Shame on me for drilling home the *wrong* term! :)


  5. Sarah M. 23 April 2012 at 2:16 pm

    1. First thing you want us to look for is the seam allowance for the pattern :).

    2. We need 6 total pocket pieces (2 from each fabric, and 2 from the canvas interfacing).

    And yes, still following along! Have a bunch of notes and stuff to catch up on and put in my book tonight so that I will be ready to roll on Wednesday and not have any stuff left to do! :)

  6. Micaela 23 April 2012 at 7:52 pm

    I also wanted to say thanks! I’ve been following along (just a couple days behind – I’m on zippers right now) and have learned worlds of information that I otherwise would have definitely learned the hard way otherwise. Thanks for giving me the kick start I needed. The videos are so helpful!

    I can’t wait to make the bag! The company had some technical difficulties with my order so I’m really hoping my pattern gets here in the next couple of days.

  7. Sarah 23 April 2012 at 8:50 pm

    I’m following but also way behind! I just ordered the pattern this weekend…like I said.”..way behind! But I’ve been following and hoping to do some sewing this weekend. Turns out all sorts of projects start to pile up when you’re 8 months pregnant :) thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  8. Kelly 23 April 2012 at 11:45 pm

    StilL following!! Loving this class!! One question… what is the pattern name for the Oliver + S that you showed?


  9. Sonia 24 April 2012 at 4:24 pm

    I love your tutorials, they are very helpful and thoroughly explained. I had been using my sisters sewing machine, but its at the end of its life so I am saving up for one of my own.

    The answers to your questions are: 1) seam allowance, 2) six pockets (four fabric and two canvas)

    Would you maybe add a short lesson about fabric? To talk about where to find good deals and types of fabric to use?

    Thanks and I am looking forward to this week!

  10. Erin Humm 24 April 2012 at 8:02 pm

    I am still following…way behind tho too!! I just went to try and get the pattern for the bag and the link is not working. And when I search for it the website keeps popping up with an error. Any ideas?? Thanks for all you work doing these lessons!! I am loving them! THANKS!!

  11. Beth 25 April 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Hi! When I click on the link for the pattern I am getting an error message. Is there something I am doing wrong?

  12. Alina 10 May 2012 at 5:11 pm

    I was “Pinteresting” (my new version of googling) sewing tips and found this. I am SO glad that I did and grateful that you took the time to make this series. I felt like I had my basics pretty well covered, but there were still bits and pieces in every lesson that were new to me. I’m not making the bag, but only because I have another (several) patterns waiting on me to begin. Thank you again!!

  13. Sophie 20 July 2012 at 11:20 pm

    Hello Raechel,
    Just wanted to say thank you! I’m 32 and trying to teach myself to sew. I have absolutely zero experience and don’t really know anyone that sews to give me any tips or lessons in person. If I hadn’t come across your AMAZING tutorials I’m pretty sure I would have given up already. Thank you so much for teaching me every single tiny detail and for inspiring me along the way. I’m hooked!

  14. Heather 24 April 2013 at 1:29 pm

    Hi Raechel! I have watched your blog all the way through. All though I’m not “new” to sewing you did show me some easier ways to do a few things! You have by far the best zipper tutorial I’ve ever watched. Thank you! I can do zippers but it makes my blood pressure rise. Anyway, I wanted to ask what are your favorite “designer” pattern stores/websites? I found Oliver + S! Any others?? I have a 6 year old little girl that is the recipient of most of my sewing projects.


  15. Christine 24 August 2013 at 11:13 am

    Hello Raechel!
    Thank you for putting this course up online, and for leaving it for people like myself to find after! I have been wanting to sew for years and kept putting it off, but after receiving a new sewing machine and finding this course, I decided to go for it!
    I am ready to start cutting my fabric for the market bag, and I had a question. The heavy canvas interfacing – I saw you had addressed it in comments and in the final lesson for assembling but of course, I bought my fabric before i saw that. The very nice people at JoAnn’s directed me to natural duck cloth, which I purchased and promptly brought it home and prewashed it. Now, it appears that it is a dry clean only fabric and it wrinkled up quite horribly and I can’t seem to press the wrinkles back out. My question to you – should I continue with this fabric or save it for something else and buy a new interfacing?

    Thank you again for the course – I have learned so much already! I made super hero capes for my son and nephew last week and am very proud of them!

    • raechelm 24 August 2013 at 4:05 pm

      Hi Christine! So glad you’re enjoying the course and learning to sew!

      I think, even though you’ve already got some sunk cost involved, i’d go back and get canvas. Up to you – especially since you don’t necessarily HAVE to ever wash your bag. But if you can’t press it flat, I’d be concerned about cutting the pattern well and matching it up with the other fabrics for assembly.

      Hope this helps!

  16. HungryHolly 13 March 2014 at 2:04 pm

    Anybody know where to find the Portobello Pixie’s Straight Market Bag? I’ve searched high and low on the internet with no luck.

    • HungryHolly 13 March 2014 at 2:11 pm

      Never mind, I read all the comments in the main Sewing 101 page and see that someone went as far as contacting them and no luck. Guess I will follow the lead of others and just watch your videos and try something easy on my own.

      Your videos are the best! Hope you decide to make more “project” vlogs!

  17. Melissa 14 November 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Hi Raechel!

    I bookmarked your site almost 2 years ago – before getting pregnant with our first little one. He is now 15 months old and i have FINALLY been able to get back to your class and my poor neglected sewing machine! Your tutorials have been amazing and i’ve really enjoyed following along…however, it seems as though the market bag pattern is no longer available. Any suggestions or substitions you can relay?

    A million thanks in advance…I hear a fussy baby, apologies for the rushed note!



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