Monday, 11 February 2019

Raccoon's red hot tips: Steps to success with Raccoon's Rags Sewing patterns.

Here are some of the most useful tips I have, and they relate to my sewing patterns, when doing your preparation.

I always use these methods, as it makes for very precise cutting.  Invaluable when sewing on a very small scale, like doll's clothing.  All the equipment I've mentioned below, I buy on Ebay, just so you know.

You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.

1)  Glue your paper pattern pieces to card stock.

This way, you can draw around the pattern pieces directly onto the fabric.  I then cut just inside the lines, and hold up my fabric piece against the pattern piece, to check it's exact.  Recycled greetings cards are good, or you can buy larger pieces cheaply on Ebay.

Use a 'dry' glue, like Pritt stick.

2) Press your fabric before marking out and cutting.

This is non-negotiable!  And press your seams as you sew for a really professional

3) Grain is more important for pattern cutting than you might think. 

 For tight fitting garments such as bodices, it is important to cut your pattern pieces on the grain line indicated. But what does 'grain' actually mean?

Well, for woven fabrics, the way to tell is this. If you can see the woven edges of your fabric (the selvedges) The grain is at right angles to those as indicated in this picture. If your piece of fabric is a scrap without selvedges, then the weft will have a slight stretch to it, the direction that has less or no stretch, is the warp... this is your grain.

Jersey, stretch jersey, and fleece, all have a grain, but as they are knitted, there is no warp or weft. Hold the fabric so the rows of fine knit run left to right, and the up/down direction is your grain - usually the least stretchy direction. If using fleece, the least stretchy direction is usually the grain. The most stretchy direction can be considered the 'warp', and is across the grain, not with it.

4 Draw around your card pieces directly onto the back of the fabric.

This beats using paper pieces pinned to fabric.  It's a nightmare cutting out tiny shapes this way.  I use standard black gel pens, because they don't smudge when  I apply the fray check.  Bear in mind that left and right are reversed when you mark out on the back of the fabric, but up and down are the same.

For best results, use a Pentel gel roller for fabric, if your fabric is soft and stretchy. These pens roll over slinky fabric nicely.   If using a woven or non-slinky fabric, a standard black gel pen is fine.

5) Apply fray check before cutting out.

It makes life a lot easier!  I use Fray Stopper because it's cheaper then Fray Check, and dries much faster, but the nozzles are a bit rubbish.  So,  I transfer my stuff to a fine-nozzle bottle, so it doesn't blob, and I keep a rag in my hand for wiping the tip.  Fray-checking on old bits of card mean you won't wreck your sewing table or desk.

Do not use fray check on stretch fabrics.  They tend not to fray anyway, and fray check will restrict the stretch.

6) Cut away the pen lines.

I cut just inside my pen lines, to remove the ink - it shows through on sheer fabrics, and can run when damp-styling.  Then I hold  the fabric piece against the card template to make sure it's exactly the same size.

When you draw around a template, you can enlarge the pattern piece by up to 1/16" all the way around.  This matters when sewing for dolls, particularly smaller dolls.  So cutting just inside the line should make your fabric piece the exact same size as your card template.

Cut all the notches if they are indicated on the pattern piece.  They will guide you!

7) Cutting on the fold.  Don't just fold the fabric in half to cut out your piece.

I find cutting on the fold very hit and miss when pieces need to be precise.  For example, hats, where the crown needs to fit exactly on the brim.  Or for bodice pieces that need to be exactly the same size as their linings.

I draw around my half-piece, making registration marks (red pointers)  Then I flip my piece over, matching it up carefully, and draw around it again. 

8) Mark out seam lines.

I mark every piece of fabric before I start to sew.  Standard purple vanishing ink pens are great, they can be damped away, or disappear after a few days.  But I also use Pilot Frixion pens, which can be removed by a burst of steam, or a quick press.

It makes for better accuracy if you stick rigidly to the seam allowances  given. For example, if the seam allowance is 3/16” (5mm) don't go thinking it's just the same as (say) 1/4”. The odd millimetre matters with this scale of sewing! Now, I know the standard seam allowance for doll's clothing is usually 1/4”, but when sewing tiny pieces, I find it's more precise to use smaller seam allowances.  Hence, my own sewing patterns can occasionally have varying seam allowances.

9 Hand or machine sewing?

All my own doll garments are always hand sewn, unless I state otherwise.

If you can't sew by hand, and if you're good on a machine, go for it, but I can’t be held responsible if people can’t get as good a result with a machine as I do by hand. Backstitch is best for hand sewing. It is an easy stitch, and will stretch along with any stretch fabrics.

Here's a link to my free  'how to backstitch' tutorial.

10) You are welcome to use my patterns to make your own doll clothes to sell. 

 HOWEVER - please, please, respect my copyright, and give credit to Raccoon’s Rags on your sale page. For example it’s okay to write “Handmade by myself, using a Raccoon’s Rags pattern” or even “Handmade by myself, adapted from a Raccoon’s Rags pattern” But not “My own design”.

I always credit other artisans/designers when I use their patterns or adapt them. They did all the hard work and deserve the recognition.

11) Cultivate good habits.

Some of this prep may seem a bit tedious, but I use these methods whenever I sew anything.  It makes for great confidence when making something worthwhile for a very expensive doll.  :)



  1. Great tips - all of which I already do - you've taught me well through your tutorials!

    1. You're my top student, lol! I thought I'd share it with all and sundry, so I can link to this in my sewing patterns instead of having pages devoted to it.

  2. merci beaucoup j'utilise souvent le système du patter/cardboard mais je ne pensais pas qu'il fallait couper avant le stylo merci merci beaucop

  3. Gracias es un buen tutorial lo pondré a prueba con mi patrón.

    1. (Google Translate) ¡Me alegra que sea útil!


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