No-pattern homemade garments
March 16, 2018 9:34 PM   Subscribe

I want online instructions but not printable (pinnable) patterns for garments I can make (for) myself. Where are they? Every google search takes me to pinterest! Also, no video instructions please - I lose focus 30 seconds in and have to keep rewinding which is infuriating. No zips or buttons please. Ties and elastic are ok.

I have a new sewing machine, yay, and I have made, so far, cushion covers, a desk cover and a bag bag. But I want to make clothes for me and I bought fabric (cotton) today. One of my plans is a circle skirt with elasticised waist. I am pretty much a novice even though I've watched every episode of British Sewing Bee twice (and once successfully made my daughter a pleated skirt with zip, with a paper pattern but pleats and zips are hard so I'm clearly awesome). Do you know where online I can find instructions for simple garments (no stretch fabric or sleeve inserts) that will suit a large busted, generally cuddly woman? Think sleeveless wrap dress, sleeveless maxi, loose-ish. I like flowy feminine things but with an option to shape the waist a little (I don't like belts, but those strings at side seams that you tie loosely at the back is good.) I can't wear strapless bras because my breasts are too huge, and I'm old enough that showing my bra straps in public makes me uncomfortable.

I would love it even more if I could wear the garment to work (very casual, uni, but not pyjama pants casual, at least, not for me).
posted by b33j to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Whatever your search terms, append "-pinterest" (without the quotes) to it. That will eliminate the site from your returns.
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:58 PM on March 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

I'll share my faves when I'm less blurry-eyed, but the terms you want to search are "DIY" and "tutorial."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:59 PM on March 16, 2018

Try japanese sewing books from amazon or your local library. There are translated ones available but even the japanese text ones (kinokuniya has sewing magazines too) use diagrams with measurements, expecting you to cut appropriately using chalk, ruler and scissors. Some have simple cloth-saving designs to maximize fabric bolts and will show how to lay out by grain in tetris fashion.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 10:13 PM on March 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Instructables has great text and photo based sewing project directions, and a great community forum to go with questions.
posted by ananci at 11:01 PM on March 16, 2018

Came to recommend a dress I've been meaning to make for ages, i.e., 30 minute jersey sheath, but it violates most of your "more inside" info. (Including it anyway, in case you might be interested when you become comfortable working with stretch fabrics.)

While there are endless instructions for making simple children's clothes, I haven't had much luck when searching for similar instructions re women's clothes. The only advice I have on the subject is to include (and exclude) as much info as possible in your search terms. E.g., when I was looking for instructions for how to make a bateau/boat neck (I was altering an existing pattern, so I didn't need a complete pattern), I googled something like "diy sewing pattern instructions altering women's bateau boat neck stretch knit free" ("free" to eliminate the pattern-selling sites).

I also recommend checking out this site re creating your own patterns.

Finally, there's a chrome extension that allows you to eliminate pinterest from all your searches, which as far as I'm concerned, should be the default setting.
posted by she's not there at 11:04 PM on March 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Have you checked out Chinelo from GBSB - she has written a book about pattern-less sewing - I can't vouch for it having not read it, but her website is very interesting and she seems to do pictures and text rather than video
posted by Heloise9 at 12:50 AM on March 17, 2018 [2 favorites] has all sorts of ethnic and vintage patterns, some simple, some not. I think several of the ethnic dresses could be adapted by length etc to be nice loose dresses.
posted by MovableBookLady at 1:14 AM on March 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

I’ve had decent success cutting a pattern based on an actual garment I own and like the dimensions of, which helps to figure out how much ease you like in a garment. I have also been happier starting from a muslin, even for stuff that more advanced clothing makers would find simple.
posted by tchemgrrl at 3:57 AM on March 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

I've got a couple recommendations for simple skirts: this 5-minute skirt from Amy Karol took me longer than 5 minutes but might be a good place to start. And this wrap skirt from Alicia Paulson might also work. That is a downloadable pattern, but you just measure and cut – there are no actual pattern pieces.

(And finally, this is a stretch because it requires a pattern, but the Kielo dress – flowy, feminine, shoulder straps, option to tie at the waist in front or back – sounds like something you might like. I've seen it on people of all shapes and sizes and it always looks great!)
posted by notquitejane at 4:32 AM on March 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

This book Patternless Fashions is very dated but the basic info will be helpful and patterns are adaptable.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:09 AM on March 17, 2018

Try looking for online instructions for some of the Built By Wendy clothes--she has several books out. They do have patterns that come with the books but most of the clothes are very simple to construct so you could likely do fine without them.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 9:55 AM on March 17, 2018

These are paper tutorials, but the patterns from 100 Acts of Sewing are perfect for the kind of sewing you're describing. They're extremely simple and straightforward. The designer is a curvy middle-aged woman, and her Instagram shows a wide variety of people wearing her garments. I've made a couple of things using her patterns -- they are easy to sew and easy to customize.
posted by linettasky at 11:13 AM on March 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

Half-circle skirts are dead easy. (Also, A-line skirts are easy.) I made my daughter a super-cute half-circle skirt out of fleece with an exposed elastic waistband. It was very easy.

The basic approach I've used (to make skirts for my kids mostly) is:
(1) Measure the circumference of the widest part that the skirt needs to go over. (So, hips, probably.) Add a couple of inches for ease. Call this measurement C.

(2) Decide what kind of skirt you want to make. I think that full-circle skirts are too full mostly, but half-circle skirts are awesome. Let's say you want to make a half-circle skirt.

(3) Figure out how long you want the skirt to be. Add a seam allowance and a hem allowance, if you like, and call this measurement L.

(4) First, you need to determine the little radius r that you need to cut out to make the center of the semi-annulus that will be your skirt. This is not hard (see first link) but I always just do the algebra.

You know that (circumference of a circle) = 2 pi * (radius of the circle) but in this case, since we're doing a half-circle skirt, we want
2C = 2 pi * (radius of the circle) => C = pi*r => C/pi = r. So to find the little radius r, you take your (widest part + ease) and divide by pi, which is about 3.14.

(5) Incidentally, you already determined how long you want your skirt to be, and that length L + r = R, the radius of the big circle.

(6) Ok, now you can lay out your fabric and mark and cut. I'm assuming you've got a fabric measuring tape or something and something to mark on your fabric.

Take your fabric. Fold it so you've got one fold. You're going to layout a quarter-circle so that one of the straight sides of the quarter circle is on the fold line. Put the end of your fabric tape at the end of the fold line, and then, pivoting at that corner point, measure out your distance r using the fabric tape and make marks that lie on a circle of radius r centered at that corner point. Then connect the points to make a circle. Do the same thing to make a circle (still centered at that corner point) of radius R = r+L. Then cut out along the lines and open up your fabric and you have a semicircle with a little semicircle cut out of the center.

(7) Sew a sem connecting the straight sides of the semicircle.

(8) Put on some sort of waistband. The wide colorful waistband elastic is pretty easy to use, see second link below. Or you can put on a covered waistband. Either way, I've found that measuring the elastic to just fit around the waist and then overlapping it by 3/4 inch or so when I sew it together gives a good fit.

If you're doing the exposed elastic waistband, sew the elastic together first to make a ring, then pin it on the skirt (usually pinning in 8ths is good: mark halves, then halfway between the halves, then halfway between those pins, on both the waistband and the skirt opening, then pin the matched places together). Then sew it onto the skirt using the stretchy technique described in link 2 below.

(9) You probably want to put a hem in the bottom. (or cover the bottom with bias tape. Or something.)

Here's some links:
Circle Skirt Maths

Exposed elastic waistband

eventually, has instructions for a covered waistband

For A-line skirts, you still have this measurement C and the measurement L. You kind of want to fold your fabric accordion style, so that you have two fold places lined up straight, say on the right-hand, because you want to cut two pieces at once. Then you measure from the fold perpendicularly out C/4 + a seam allowance, and measure down L, and figure out what looks good for the bottom width of the skirt and measure perpendicularly out that distance, and then make a sloped line from your top measurement to the bottom one (you're making a shape like a trapezoid with two perpendicular angles and one side of length C/4). If you cut this (experiment with a model made of paper) you should get two isosceles trapezoids where the top short length on each is C/2 (maybe plus a seam allowance) and the perpendicular distance from the top to the bottom is L (plus a seam allowance). Then sew up the side seams, put on a waistband, and put in a hem.
posted by leahwrenn at 11:19 AM on March 17, 2018 [8 favorites]

I think this falls in your perimeters, it's a pdf you can buy and download... and it contains instructions on how to make a 1920's style dress. I've used it myself and it's not bad. It's called the One Hour Dress
posted by patheral at 11:40 AM on March 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

A lot of clothing started out as rectangles, and that might be a good place to start with, for patternless sewing.

This dress is made from just 2 rectangles, plus some elastic. and this top is, too. Pre-made bias tape can be used instead of the trim she used. Both of these are free.

This dress is very simple, with very little fitting. also free.

And here are instructions on how to make a Yukata.

As others have said, skirts are easy. An A-line or wrap skirt is a breeze.

There is one blog that has a lot of links to tutorials and patterns, Sew Mama Sew, which I would recommend.
posted by annsunny at 12:52 PM on March 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

You guys are awesome!
posted by b33j at 3:27 PM on March 17, 2018

Have you looked at patterns for costumes? Some are simple.
How about a Renaissance Fair chemise? Again. Very basic and can be lengthened for a dress.
A length of cloth can be a scrape or sarong. No sewing necessary.
posted by TrishaU at 9:27 PM on March 17, 2018

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