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Category: Sewing Hints

  1. Buying PDF sewing patterns - get them printed A0 size at a copyshop!

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    If you've been trawling through Instagram and searching online for patterns over the last few years you'll have spotted that there are some fantastic clothing patterns being produced all around the world. Not all are available to buy as paper copies in the UK, but you can often purchase a PDF download version instead. 

    PDF pattern search results online

    Traditionally, this meant printing off the pattern onto many sheets of A4 paper on your home printer and taping them all together - laborious! Plus printer paper is very stiff, which isn't ideal for pinning to fabric. For these reasons we wouldn't recommend using patterns made with printer paper to 'tissue fit' the pattern to your body to get the right fit prior to cutting in fabric. On top of the stiffness of the paper, parts can gape where taped, and getting your printer to print at the right scale can be tricky (TIP: choose 100% rather than fit to page). All over, not a fun process!

    The great news is that now copy shops will print your pattern onto one large A0 size sheet, hurrah! But what on earth is 'A0' (i.e. A-zero) size paper? Well, it's 16 x A4 (and measures 84.1cm x 118.9 cm) - so you get to avoid taping ALL these together:

    AO shown in A4 printer paper sheets

    A4 to A0-3

    The printer we love using to print PDF patterns, specialises solely in printing sewing patterns - they are Fabulosew - They use a lovely quality tissue paper, enabling you to tissue-fit your pattern before cutting in fabric. They will post it to your door neatly folded in an envelope in a couple of days. Best of all, it's not expensive. 

    Fabulosew tissue AO printed pdf pattern uk

    To find out how much your pattern will cost to print, you'll need to look at your PDF pattern notes to see whether it is 1x A0 sheet size or more. Our Coatigan PDF pattern is 2x A0, for example, as it's a knee length coat-cardi with a large shawl collar - so that takes up some paper. This is what the pattern will look like but on tissue paper (this is the original we created and had made into a PDF hence it being on thicker paper):

    2xAO pattern coatigan sew in brighton sewing school
    And here is the tissue version:

    Coatigan tissue pdf pattern from

    We recently ran a jacket making course and the patterns were 3xA0. A top might just be 1x A0. In the case of multiple A0 patterns, Fabulosew will print your patterns on several sheets. Sometimes the garment pattern pieces are longer than A0, like the 2xA0 size Dungaree pattern we use on our Dungarees Making Courses. In this case Fabulosew include joining marks, so you know where to stick the two tissue sheets together (just one edge to join rather than 16-32 edges or more when printing at home!). They also do 'oversize' printing, where patterns are wider than A0. For example VikiSews pdf patterns are 900mm wide. The pattern company will note that you need oversized printing. Vikisews say 'You will need a plotter printer that can print at least 900mm width' on the selling page of their patterns.

    So when you're ordering at, you put in the number of A0 sheets your pattern is first, then scroll down to enter the number of copies of the pattern you would like. You probably only want one unless you're running sewing workshops like us!

    Number of AO pattern pages - fabulosew

    Have a browse of PDF sewing patterns at fellow sewing school Guthrie Ghani here, or do a web search for PDF sewing patterns.

    When you're ready to have it printed head over to to print your pattern.

    Once you have your pattern, if you need help deciding which size to make and a hand fitting it to perfection before cutting your lovely fabric, we can help! Our Stitch! General Sewing & Clothes Making Classes are on most days and will help you get your garment fitted and sewn just right - more details of the classes here.

    Happy sewing all!

  2. 5 Tips for sewing denim

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    5 tips for sewing denim

    On the face of it you might think that sewing denim is going to be really tricky. And that’s largely because some of the properties of denim make people think it’s a really stiff material that doesn’t like to be altered or repurposed. But the good news is that doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, once you know to approach it, denim is fairly easy to work with. Here are our five top tips that will make your next denim project a whole lot easier.

     Tips for sewing with denim brighton 1

    1.Prep and planning
    The first step when sewing denim is to do your preparation and planning. For starters, make sure the material is the right size, weight, colour, etc. for what you want to do. Then, pre-wash to check the degree of shrinkage and colour run. Familiarise yourself with the grain direction to avoid twisting when you work with it. Finally, get your workstation set up with the equipment you’ll need.

    Tips for sewing with denim brighton 2

    2. Get the right needle
    While denim is fairly easy to work with, it does require the right needle. A standard sewing needle is probably not going to cut it, as it won’t be strong enough for the job.  Ordinary universal domestic machine needles in a size 14/90 may be fine for light and medium weight denims such as the 10oz denim we suggest for lining our Face Mask in our free tutorial (  Properties of denim, such as its toughness and durability, mean that a specialist denim needle is the more often the right choice for heavier denim. These needles are a lot sharper and stronger, and will help puncture the material more easily. Once you’ve used a denim needle for the first time it’ll quickly go on your list of favourite sewing tools.

     Tips for sewing with denim brighton 3

    3. Use a strong thread
    Just like you need a strong needle, the same goes for the thread, particularly when it comes to thicker seams. For sewing denim use a good quality branded polyester sewing thread such as Gutermann, Coats or Moon.  We find thin and strong is the ideal combination, as it’s usually easier to keep the stitch neat versus a thicker thread. Topstitching is great for reinforcing seams, and using a longer stitch of around 3mm is ideal when you’re sewing through multiple layers.  Use an ordinary weight thread on the bobbin when topstitching with a topstitch weight thread, otherwise it can be tricky to get a good tension between top and bottom thread. Also check your needle eye is big enough for the topstitch thread to fit through.

     Tips for sewing with denim brighton 4

    4. Always use sharp scissors
    You don’t just need sharp scissors to cut through strong denim because it’s tough; you also need them because denim frays and snags easily. So a sharp edge will give you a much cleaner cut. It seems like an obvious thing to say, but don’t be tempted to keep on cutting if you feel a snag. Switch to better cutters or sharpen the blades – you’ll be glad you did in the long run.

     Tips for sewing with denim brighton 5

     Go with heavy duty closures
    Finally, the buttons, poppers and zippers. The key here is to use strong closures, as denim is a strong material. If the closure is too weak for the fabric it’ll lightly pop off or open up at some point – which could be embarrassing! This is certainly the case with heavy denim, whereas a regular button might work ok on lighter denim.

    And that completes our top five tips for sewing denim. Put them into practice the next time you take on a project and let us know how you get on.

    View our Stitch Classes for help making or customising denim garments


  3. Kats Favourite Sewing Tools

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    Here's a round up of Kat's favourite, tried and tested sewing aids from the classroom to help make your sewing projects simpler, quicker and neater!

    Water erasable marking pen

    If you need to mark dots or a hem on a white fabric this pen is essential. It's also great for marking up fabrics like fleece which are almost impossible to draw on with anything else! Just mark then when sewing is completed spray with water from the iron to make it disappear. We love these pens and use them all the time in class. Buy them for £2.35 each in Fabric Land on Western Road in Brighton or £2.75 from the wonderful Jaycotts, online here (postage £1.50 - check out the other bits they sell - great range of sewing supplies at good prices, including the glue basting pen below and the Moon sewing threads we use, 1000m reels for 99p each!!)


    The Morplan flexible Grader Ruler

    This is an absolute must have for all sewing and pattern making projects. Mark quick hems (see pic with erasable marker above), seam allowances, darts and more. You will use this endleslessy in your sewing and dressmaking. The Morplan one is the only one worth buying as it's super strong and very flexible and has the best markings, both inches and cm. Try it out during a class with us to see how it's used, then buy it from us for £15 or if you want to buy direct from Morplan it's £11.70 (Min order £20+VAT and postage is £5.95)


    Water soluble 'basting' glue pen

    This is another great option for holding edges together instead of hand or machine basting or pinning for sewing - and later it just washes out. We use it in a similar way to the tape, one works better than others depending on the fabric. just get both in your kit and see which is best on each project!

    Buy it from Jaycotts for £2.95 here and also refills here


    Double sided water soluble 'basting' tape

    This is amazing stuff for holding edges together (instead of hand sewing or pinning) for ease of machine sewing - and later it just washes out, or you can spray with water it it goes all mushy and can be rubbed off! Students have used it in just the last week in class on oven gloves edging, visible and invisible zips, lace trims, pyjama hems and more.

    Buy a 2 roll pack (absolute bargain!) from Amazon here for £5.99


  4. Shoben tape and tracing wheels

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    Have you come across Shoben tape yet? 

    This stripey black and white tape sticks well to fabric and is very narrow - I use it to design new necklines or bust seams on toiles or garments I want to alter - like this: 

    shoben tape

    (this is Ralph Pink on Youtube designing seam on a bustier with Shoben tape)

    Then you can mark these changes back to your pattern using a sharp spikey tracing wheel (and board underneath - a cutting mat or even just a piece of thick cardboard box will do).

    shoben tapestracing wheel amazon

    You can buy Shoben tape online for £7.50 from Sew Essential (it will last you years unless you're making numerous corsets like Ralph above!) here

    Buy your own tracing wheel online here

    Happy designing!



  5. Notch-tastic!! Adding your own notches to bought dressmaking patterns for easy matching of pieces

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    Ever had trouble matching pieces when making up a garment from a bought pattern (Simplicity, Burda etc)? On my Making Clothes from Patterns course last night we were having a right old time working out which was the side seam, which was the back etc once the pieces were cut out - which made matching the right pieces together slow & frustrating. Once you've cut out the pieces there's often no indication on the cut fabric pieces as to the right way up or round to put things together. Taking a tip from the way we make patterns on the Pattern Cutting course I suggest adding extra notches to your patterns before you pin them to your fabric.

    But what are notches? Have you noticed little black triangles on the edges of pattern pieces? They're notches & they help you match pieces together, like a jigsaw puzzle e.g. a back sleeve head has 2 notches on the edge that correspond with 2 notches in the same place on the armhole. You cut them as tiny half-cm-deep snips at a right angle to the cloth (don't cut out the whole triangle, it'll fray!). I often find there aren't enough notches to help you match up effortlessly when sewing though, so I suggest, when making clothes from patterns that you add more of your own:

    1. Cut out the paper pattern pieces to your size as usual.

    2. Before you pin them to the cloth, look at the illustration below to see where I've drawn extra notches on the paper pattern pieces (the triangle shapes on the edges). Lay the pattern pieces together as you would when you sew and draw little notches on both pieces: for example half way down the side seam on the front and back piece, and 2 notches two thirds of the way down on the centre back, so there's no way you can sew a side to a back, as the notches won't match up. Put even more notches if your garment is cut on the bias as it will help you match up when the fabric stretches.

    Adding notches is even more important if like my student Heather's skirt below you have 3 panels in the front and 4 in the back. We added extra notches so it was a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, with each seam having a different notch position from the next seam - then we  just couldn't fit the wrong pieces together!

    resized notch tastic