For me, the hardest and most time consuming part of drafting a new pattern is writing the instructions.
Our patterns feature more sophisticated design elements (and, therefore, include more fine dressmaking details) than other children’s patterns on the market. This means that the construction techniques need to be innovative and the instructions need to be especially clear, thorough, and well illustrated.
Before starting Oliver + S, I taught regular sewing classes here in New York. That experience gave me insight into where people struggle at each stage in their development as seamstresses. When I write the instructions for our patterns, I always think of my former students. I ask myself if they would be able to accomplish something by following the instructions I’ve drafted. If the answer is “no,” I rewrite a step.
It makes my day when I hear someone say that sewing with an Oliver + S pattern feels like taking a sewing class. I’ve always considered teaching to be a core part of what Oliver + S is about. (We make great patterns, but we also help make good home sewers even better.) These days I don’t get to do as much direct instruction as I used to, but I try to make our patterns clear enough that they can be used as self-teaching tools for the people who sew from them.
All of this is a long way of getting around to the purpose of this blog post. Now that we have a critical mass of patterns, with styles at many difficulty levels, I’m able to do something with the line that I haven’t been able to do before. I can offer you a complete syllabus for learning to sew (or improving from your current level) with Oliver + S patterns.
You know the basics of how to operate your sewing machine, but you’ve never sewn a garment. Here’s your place to start.
Lazy Days Skirt: This free downloadable design will help you get comfortable with your machine and will allow you to demonstrate to yourself that, yes, you can sew a garment. This very easy tutorial doesn’t involve an actual sewing pattern and is a perfect place to start for absolute beginners. It also involves a minimum of supplies. You’ll learn to make a simple elasticized waistband and a very easy ribbon hem that gives the skirt its finished appearance. This skirt doesn’t even require you to finish your seam allowances, so it’s fast and simple to make.
Popover Sundress: Ready to sew from a pattern? This free download for a simple sundress provides a good introduction to sewing from a pattern. It also teaches you how to apply bias binding, which is frequently used in sewing projects. You can also have fun with combining different fabrics and adding a variety of trims to this dress.
You’re able to sew from a pattern, and you’re eager to learn basic garment construction techniques. Our patterns rated one scissors in difficulty are designed for sewers at this level.
Bedtime Story Pajamas: Our easiest pattern, this pajama set features simple elastic-waist pants and a bias bound kimono top. You’ll gain experience cutting out and assembling pants and a top without needing to worry about more detailed elements like buttonholes. The sleeves are fantastically simple to assemble, and you might try combining unusual fabrics for the bias trim and ties.
Sandbox Pants: This pattern allows you to create a great looking pair of pants with some interesting details that are fully within the reach of a new garment sewer. This project will teach you how to make simple pockets and will give you practice making buttonholes. The pants have a simple combination elastic/drawstring waistband which is slightly more challenging than the one on the Bedtime Story Pajamas.
Sailboat Top, Skirt, and Pants: This pattern provides a simple pair of cropped pants, a skirt, and a top that can all be made by someone without a lot of sewing experience. The details of the finished garments (decorative topstitching, buttons and button holes on the flat-front skirt and pants) provide a high satisfaction quotient for the novice sewer. You’ll learn to set in an easy sleeve and will be amazed at how simple it is to construct the pants and skirt—with no zippers!
Tea Party Sundress and Playsuit: This is also a one scissors pattern, but it is slightly more challenging than our other one scissors patterns. Using this pattern will teach you how to make a curved seam and how to use flat piping. The sundress will introduce you to our innovative hem facing, which is ideal for finishing flared skirt hems.
You no longer consider yourself a beginning sewer. You’re comfortable with your machine and with following a pattern. You’ve made a few garments, and you’re pleased with the results you’ve achieved. Our two scissors patterns are perfect for this level. They are a little bit more involved and challenging to sew because they introduce interesting new construction techniques, but they provide great results for the extra effort.
Bubble Dress: This fully lined dress includes a number of interesting details that will help you build your skills. The sleeve is part of the bodice on this pattern, so you can concentrate on the unique back placket, the scalloped side seams, and the hidden elastic at the hemline.
Sunday Brunch Jacket and Skirt: This tailored, unlined jacket will get you comfortable with sewing sleeves, gathers, and collars. As a result, it provides a slightly greater challenge—but also several opportunities to pick up new skills. The unlined jacket also gives the opportunity to practice bias binding, if you should choose to finish the interior seams this way.
2+2 Top and Skirt: This pattern features a unique placket and gathering treatment on the front of the blouse, bias binding at the neckline, and a button placket at back. The simple pleated skirt features a side placket. This pattern offers opportunity to develop your construction and technique skills while working on these features. Chances are that you’ll surprise yourself with your new sewing abilities once you’ve completed the outfit.
When you’re ready to invest a little more time and take on a greater challenge, our three scissors patterns are ready for you. They feature full dress
making details and, consequently, require a greater time investment to complete. But the outcomes are totally achievable (thanks to our detailed instructions) for an intermediate sewer looking for a new challenge.
Birthday Party Dress: You’ll gain experience sewing pleats, and you will use using accurate stitching to create the facing. You will experience a new and unique placket construction when you sew from this pattern.
Jump Rope Dress: This pattern features a straightforward construction technique that teaches you how to sew a sophisticated front placket. You’ll also get experience with sewing a collar. The detailed pockets and more tailored sleeves of this pattern result in a very professional final garment.
School Days Jacket and Coat: This is our “no holds barred” pattern for those of you who want a real sewing workout! Using this pattern will allow you to create a fully lined jacket or coat. You can even opt to make a removable, quilted lining. You’ll get experience sewing with laminates or wool. Sewing from this pattern is more time consuming than most of our others, but it will return excellent results for the investment. You’ll be amazed that you made it yourself!