Continuing from Step 1: Inspiration, Step 2: Sketch, and Step 3: First Pattern, the next thing you want to do is construct your first sample. This is a crucial step in adjusting any fit issues or seam placement. From your first pattern, you want to cut into fabric that will be similar to the actual fabric you want to use for your design, but do not use the real fabric. The first sample is never a final product. Use this to perfect your end result. When choosing a fabric to use for your first sample, make sure that it is the same weight as your real fabric and has the same texture, for the closer you are to the real fabric, the more you will know how it will fit when you are ready to use the real fabric.
Once you have cut all your peices with the sample fabric from your first pattern, sew them together. I always start with all peices to make the front, then the back, then sew the front to the back. When sewing my first sample, I leave my edges raw so that once I fit the peice, I can examine it and think more about how I want to finish the edges (like the hem, neckline, armholes, etc.). For the best results, I would also include a zipper (if you are using one for closure) in the sample, but instead of buttons, I will just use pins.
When everything is sewn, it is time to use a fit model to try on the sample. If you don't have a fit model (which is a person with similar measurements to your sample), then the next best thing is to use a dress form. Dress forms don't really do justice, though, for they are stiff and don't show the body movement of a live body. I use myself for a fit model, which works great for me.
As you look at your sample on the body, analyze the fit. Look at where the fabric pulls, or looks too loose. Look at the seam placements. Look at how it makes the body look overall. Compare it to your original idea and see where it is the same and where it is different. Mark areas you want to change, or pin areas you want to take in. Consider how you want your hem, and how you want to finish your edges. Then, play with the edges and attempt to finish them the way you have decided. Take as much from this sample as you can and find all the changes you want to make.
After finding all the changes, go back to your pattern and make the adjustments. Once your adjustments have been made, you move on to constructing a second pattern. Then make your adjustments to the pattern, and continue going through this process until you have reached your goal of seeing the design exactly the way you envisioned it.
Do not be discouraged if you make many samples before the real garment. If you want a perfect design, you will want to make all the changes. Sometimes the more practice you have, the more you understand your fit, and the less samples you will make. But, sometimes if you have a very complex design, or tricky fit ideas, it will take a while to master the look. I will never cut into the real fabric until my last sample looks just like I want it to. And, I've learned the hard way that you never want to jump from a sample, to making changes, then cutting into the real fabric without seeing a last sample that you are full satisfied with.
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