Saturday, October 26, 2013

My First Pattern Ever

The other day I was doing some cyber window shopping and I came across this:

This is Simplicity 7876, the first pattern I ever sewed, the one that started it all.

There was a little shop in our town that sold sewing machines and fabric, and the proprietress held sewing classes in the back of the shop.  I think I was about 11 or 12, so it must have been around 1979 or '80 that my mom signed me up.  I was so excited and couldn't wait to get started!

Our first project was actually a tote bag made of plain cotton.  The pattern was cut all in one piece and was a hand-drawn pattern provided by the instructor.  It was basically just a simple project designed to teach us to pin the pattern to the fabric, cut it out, and then how to use the machine to sew straight seams, and gentle curves.  After it was complete we moved on to the pattern above.

Simplicity 7876 is a very simple wrap skirt.  It has a very generous A-line silhouette and wraps in front.  There are no closures, the only "challenging" detail was marking the left side seam of the waistband to leave an opening for the tie band to go through so you could wrap it and have a smooth waist.

The class instructor taught us to read the back of the envelope to determine what fabric to use and how much to buy.  We learned how to read the measurements and figure out what size to make.  Once we opened it up, she showed us how to find the pattern pieces, cut them out and press them.  Then we learned how to follow the pattern layout to fit the pattern onto the fabric and cut it all out.

And then it was on to the sewing.  I loved every minute of that class and I whizzed right through the construction of that skirt.  I remember how excited I was to pull it from the machine and try it on...

...And that was when I had my first experience with the mysteries of fitting.  My skirt was too big!  With the waist band cinched up as tight as it would go, it was too loose.  I didn't understand why- I had measured carefully and followed the chart on the back of the envelope.  Why didn't it fit?

I don't even remember asking the teacher about it.  I guess as a child, I didn't think to investigate too far.  It didn't fit like I wanted it to, so I just tried to think of a way to make it work.  ( I was years ahead of Tim Gunn!)

My amateur fix was to simply fold under the vertical edge of the skirt front under layer an inch or so and stitch it down.  I didn't trim, I just folded the already finished edge under and added a couple of rows of stitching to hold it all down.  It added bulk and looked odd, but I figured it was going to be under the front wrap- who was going to see it?  When I showed it to my mom and explained, she praised me for being clever and solving a problem.

I had so much fun in that class and I was so excited to have made a wearable garment that my mom turned right around a let me pick out fabric for a second skirt!  The first one was a quilting weight, plain, purple cotton.  If I remember correctly, I had picked it from my mom's stash.  My second skirt was made out of a glorious pale pink cotton that was much lighter weight and had the perfect drape for this skirt.  It had gorgeous fuchsia strawberries as big as my whole hand scattered all over it.  I didn't know anything about the concept of muslins at the time, but I did know that my first skirt had had a problem, so for the second one, I knew in advance to take in the skirt under layer so I could pull the waist ties tight enough.

I remember proudly wearing that skirt to school the next year.  And that was the beginning of my love affair with sewing.

What was your first pattern ever?


Carolyn (cmarie12) said...

Mine was a skirt too. A long midi skirt with suspenders and big buttons to hold the suspenders to the skirts waistline. I used a Simplicity pattern in a child's size, I was a skinny teenager, in a bright lime green plaid. Yes it was a questionable garment but I was 13! However, it did cement my love of sewing. I can see the pattern envelope but can't remember the pattern number.

Eileen said...

I made a skirt also. Home Ec 7th grade. I remember it was brown. My Mom who was a formally trained seamstress took one look at it and said I would never learn, but I did! Prom gowns, a wedding gown and a man's suit among other things. Whenever I see patterns from that era it brings back some great memories.

Angela said...

I was a freshman in high school home ec class. I made a black button up shirt with a stand for the collar. The fabric was covered in a tiny floral print, so it was very hard to see my stitches, which is the only reason I could possible have made an "A." (My mom was an accomplished seamstress and I don't think she was too impressed:). I also didn't know about fit, so my sleeves were several inches too short. I think it took me the whole semester to finish that shirt.

Virginie said...

I made that skirt too! That was not my first, but one of the first. I made it a couple of times. I remember how those Simplicity's with the 'Jiffy' stamp were soooo appealing to me, they looked so modern and fresh! Thanks for posting this!

Christiana said...

I made this pattern too! My first pattern was a McCalls wrap top. The McCalls Marlo Thomas patterns and Simplicity Jiffy patterns were my go to patterns when learning to sew


Kristy said...

Mine was a neon yellow pair of elastic waist shorts that put me off sewing for a good 10 years before I rediscovered it and started afresh. When I teach my daughter to sew It will be with something she wants to wear and likes so that it fuels a passion! I have that pattern too although I haven't made it. Thanks for sharing your memory with us, it's lovely to learn of others sewing stories

Kelley said...

What a gorgeous story!

My first foray into sewing (that I can remember) involved me being far too impatient to wait for my mother to help me cut out the pieces for my skirt, so I just measured myself and cut away. It was only then that I discovered the need for seam allowances. ;-) Mum wasn't happy and I learned to be (a little) more patient.

Paola said...

I can honestly say that I also sewed this pattern as a first time attempt at sewing. It was in a yellow floral, and wasn't too bad, but not great enough to make me want to persevere with sewing. It took me nearly another 30 years to get the bug..