Posted by on Sep 10, 2014 in Lessons, Sewing, Theory | Comments Off on Seam Allowance

Take a moment to look at the inside of one of your shirts. If you have an average garment, you’ll notice that, inside the seams, there will be about a quarter inch of fabric that, for lack of a better explanation, sticks into the garment past the stitching. That edge is called a seam allowance. Without this allowance, a garment will shrink by a half to a whole inch. Therefore, it’s important to make sure every pattern you make includes a seam allowance so that your finished product is the size you intend it to be.

before and after seam allowance

A pattern drawn with (right) and without (left) seam allowance

Recently, my daughter and I put in requests for nearly all of the books on pattern making and fashion design that are available from our local library. I’ve used this opportunity to read through techniques I’ve never used before and learn as much as I can. The vast majority of these books recommend using a see-through grid ruler to properly create a seam allowance. Though this method has its merits, and I wouldn’t stop anyone from using it, I find that it’s difficult to use on curved lines, which most patterns will have. Therefore, I’m going to share the technique I discovered from hours of surfing Pinterest.

You’ll need two pencils (preferably two you can devote to this purpose) and some masking tape.

I’m not really sure why, but the way typical pencils (even mechanical ones) are made, the space between two sharpened pencil leads is equivalent to a perfect ¼”. The perfect seam allowance is also ¼”. Whatever the reason, it works out for pattern-making purposes. All you have to do is tape the pencils together. I suggest taping them together at least two different places to stabilize your new tool.

seam allowance pencils

Now, you just have to trace the edges of your pattern with one of your pencils on the line and the other just on the outside and you have a perfect ¼” seam allowance.

seam allowance 2

For younger and novice sewers who are nervous about having that little space on the edge of their pattern, repeat this action again with your new line to make a ½” seam allowance.

double allowance

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