Thursday, July 19, 2012

Top Tips for Tutorials and Patterns

This week I completed one of Amy Butler's free patterns - the Sweet Greetings portfolio and I'm raffling them off to help gain more followers for my 52 Weeks : 52 Crafts project. All you have to do is share, follow, tweet and post to collect more entries into the competition.

In the meantime, while writing up my tutorial review I thought it might also be useful for me to share my 'Top 5 Tips' for following and making patterns.

1. Read through every step first!

I know this seems obvious, but its really easy to just skim over everything, diagrams, etc before buying your fabric and other supplies, but it really helps to read through every single step first, so that when you are buying, cutting, preparing, and sewing you understand what you are doing, and why you are doing things in the instructed order.  Pattern writers aren't perfect, and sometimes little steps or bits of knowledge you don't have, get left out and/or aren't included because they are pieces of assumed knowledge, so its really important to read so you can make sure everything make sense in your mind before you start. There is nothing worse than having to stop halfway through because you don't know how to do a particular stitch or seam.

Note: Reading ahead also means you have knowledge of the entire project from the start so you can identify places where you might want to adapt the pattern to suit your own style.

2. Print out a copy (on scrap paper)

Use some scrap paper and print out a copy of your pattern or if you are reading from a book, photocopy it so you can write on it. This isn't the most environmentally friendly choice, but what you might waste in paper you may save on fabric, time, and other resources. Cross out every sentence, step and substep as you complete them.  Sometimes steps include several tasks and sub-steps, and it really does help to tick or cross out every step as you go - this is so you keep track of exactly where you are and so you don't get ahead of yourself by accident. Sometimes steps aren't where you expect them to be, and this way you don't get ahead of yourself... or for example, if you choose to do all your pressing/preparing tasks at once, but they are all listed in various steps throughout the pattern you can mark them off where they appear, and still keep track of what you have and haven't done.

3. Be realistic

Accept your level of sewing skill and remember that sewing should be enjoyable. So don't start by making a zippered purse and then move on to designing and assembling your own wedding dress! Choose patterns carefully and slowly add skills to your portfolio: think - envelope back cushion, zippered cushion, cushion with piped edges, frilled edges, patchwork cushion, etc... build up your skills one by one, not all at once. Believe me the work will be much more fun if every step isn't a brand new skill you have to learn.

Remember that there is a difference between a tutorial and a pattern. Patterns usually assume more knowledge and don't necessarily take you through every minor step. Free online tutorials will help get you started and then you can move on to buying patterns and templates for more advanced projects.

4. Take your time.

I know this isn't always possible as we are all guilty of making last-minute gifts in a time crunch, but even if you have to rush - try to pace yourself.  I always tend to make mistakes when I'm in the homestretch; that part of the making process when I feel like I'm almost finished and I'm so excited to be finished that I make silly mistakes.  There are lots of statistics saying that most of our car accidents happen within 10 miles of home... I think its the same for sewing... most 'accidents' or mistakes happen within the last few steps of a project (or also the last 15 minutes before we go to bed, when we really should have stopped earlier but wait until we make a mistake to get frustrated and give up for the night!).

5. Keep track of your progress/make notes.

It may not be your cup of tea to keep a craft diary, but if you blog, keep pattern pieces, or have a notebook your keep your thoughts in, take a few minutes to debrief once you are finished showing off your project.  We often need to stop halfway through projects and don't get back to projects as quickly as we'd like (I currently have have one of a pair of cathedral window pillowcases finished, and its been so long I can't for the life of me remember how I made the first one!).

Don't just keep a note of your progress as you work, but keep a note of what you found tricky, what solutions you found, and write some notes that will jog your memory - this will save frustration and time as you won't have to re-learn as many of the steps the second time around.  This is especially important if you are making multiple items from the same pattern.

Do you have any tips to share? Please comment and share your tips, and check out the rafflecopter widget below... a comment on the blog post can earn you an entry into the raffle, so why not share your wisdom as well?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

for more information on the above giveaway, please see my last post


  1. My tip is to get someone else to read through the tutorial too to see if it makes complete sense to them. Just because you understand what you have written does not mean that someones else will see it in the same way. I recently made a bag following instructions in a book and it took 3 of us to figure out what the lining instructions meant.

  2. Oh I'm terrible for number 4! Once the end is in sight I just want to keep going, even if I should stop for a break or to go to bed. Then I might make a mistake, which takes longer to correct, yet I still don't stop! My enthusiasm gets in the way sometimes!

  3. What a very good addition - having someone else read it over means that if you have any problems, you'll also have someone to ask advice for along the way.

    It took me a really long time to learn when it was time to stop for the night. Much better to wake up to a project ready to go then loads of unpicking!