Not enough can be said for a proper fitting pattern. I have had a horsemanship shirt made by a New York designer & pattern maker and while the price was very high, it is the best fitting item I have ever put on my body.
Materials & weights ... Next a good weight & proper type material for the item being made is extremely important. If you are making a slinky, I would advise using a material that has a good amount of two way stretch to it (one way stretch will work – if you make certain that all your pattern pieces are cut out with the stretch going in the correct direction).
Rule of thumb for a slinky material choice – 4” of material should stretch to 8”. The weight of the material is important as well. You can usually get this type of material in light, medium, and heavy weights. I find that some body builds just don’t look good in the lightest of these weights unless the cut doesn’t cling too tightly.
If you are in a store, you can drape the material over your arm or shoulder and get a feel for it. If you aren’t in a store, you can usually purchase samples of material before you purchase a large yardage quantity. Many online stores offer sample cards displaying their color & weight choices for a minimal charge.
Funny, I find that I actually spend more money on the slinky material than I do the vest or jacket material.
I find a great deal of my material online now (I will include some links at the bottom of this article for you to visit. The links in this newsletter may become old –
so the site may no longer be available when you read this article). I’ve experimented with a great deal of fabrics over the years starting with medium weight upholstery material for jackets and vest. This weight and look was/is excellent for these items. You’ll find many usable pieces in the remnants section of a fabric store.
Before the internet (remember my age here), I would go to fabric stores in every city I visited and buy material I thought that I might one day be able to use. I bought colors that I knew I’d never use for me, but since I occasionally make a vest for someone else, that didn’t matter. What did matter was that I built up several hundred dollars in unused material in my ‘material closet’, even while purchasing ‘bargain priced’ material. I used to find a lot of ‘sparkly’ materials at Christmas time. I remember buying a piece of tissue lame (gold) that I made into a Western Pleasure jacket. This stuff really ravels (pre-serger days) so I used almost an entire bottle of Fray-Check while making it. I had the jacket pattern. The cost of the material was around $5 (on sale, just after Christmas). I covered my buttons with this material for a total finished look. I got many compliments on this jacket, a win photo wearing this jacket, and the jacket is still in my show closet. I had one woman ride up to me and said, “Please don’t tell my husband that you make your show jackets. He’s having a fit about the price I paid for mine and he commented to me on how nice yours was.”
I have just ventured into Pleather (faux leather) material [I decided it was cheaper than lambskin & pigskin leather to start with]. I hunted thru all the fabric stores in my area and could never find anything except the vinyls used for making tablecloths. So, I tried that ~ miserable failure – too thick and the seams too bulky. I searched online for what seems like months before I finally found the sources that I currently use. My first order consisted of purchasing 3 pieces of Pleather, a hunter green textured, a sand colored ostrich print, and a gold metallic (a yd each ~ total cost with s&h was about $35). I took one of my vest patterns and cut it up a bit to make a vest with a yoke and cut out my first vest. While working with the appliqués and sewing the pieces together, I came across a discovery. The easiest material that I worked with was between 5.5 oz to 10 oz. The material on the light side of this range curls a lot and sewing small appliqués becomes difficult. The 7-10 oz range made good appliqués for me ~ maybe I’ll learn some better techniques as I do a little more of this. [remember; I don’t sew professionally, only for myself and a few friends].
Appliqués... I hunted all around to find some appliqué patterns to use for designs, when I happened on some excellent patterns that I had bought to help me in my graphic web designs. I took these graphics into my graphics program and started cutting them up; resizing them, and printing them out to use as patterns. I will be uploading some of these to my free graphics section for your use. This will mostly be done over a winter when I’m not spending every waking minute outside or on my paying job. I will also upload a photo of my first finished vest to the appliqué page and the online page of this article. I made a lot of mistakes (to my critical eye) but I learned a lot as well. I wore this vest at an open show where a photographer took a lot of photos during the classes. I was able to see how the vest looked from others prospective. It turned out very nicely to be my first with Pleather and my first with appliqués.
Dress form – buy or make your own... I decided that it would be beneficial to buy a dress form to help me with my pattern resizing and to view my creations as I worked on them, so I bought a dress form. I had a 50% off any item coupon from one of the local fabric stores and I ending up getting a new one cheaper than I could have found one used. I would like to have a form for my grandchildren but don’t want to pay the money to buy one and I haven’t been able to find a used one that I could use. BUT I have discovered several ways to make one (another use for duct tape). This is the best link that I’ve found since it contains 3 or 4 methods to make a dress form for your exact fit.
I hope that I’ve opened a new avenue for you in this article.
Links I’ve found for Lycra, Spandex, Pleather, Sensuede, Ultra Suede, Faux Leather, Lambskin, Pigskin, Leather, Rhinestone Zippers, Beads, Crystals, Western show clothing patterns, English show clothing patterns, Saddle Seat show clothing patterns, pattern
[There are many materials available for your uses that make up beautifully
- these are just an online sampling.]