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2012 March 20
by elizabeth_admin

Do you make samples?

For my colorblock dress, I made up some samples.  Having never sliced and diced a TNT pattern before to incorporate new design elements, I had no idea what order of construction I wanted to use or how I wanted to finish the seam allowances of the colorblock seams.  So before I started sewing, I cut out some pieces of my fashion fabric and started sampling away.


  • Did I want orange on pink and pink on orange topstitching?  Not sure. 
  • Or pink topstitching on both?  YES!!! 
  • Did I like the two strands of all purpose thread or the single strand of thicker topstitching thread?  Hands down, the single strand of topstitching thread. 
  • Did I want to use the triple stitch setting on my Viking Emerald 183?  Surprisingly, no.  I didn’t like it as much as the regular straight stitch at a setting of 4.0 on my machine.  The triple stitch setting does not allow for a larger stitch and while the stitches are thicker, I think they would be more pleasing if they were longer. 
  • Did I want twin needle stitching or a single line of stitching?  Hmmm…  I think the single line of stitching on each side of the seam. 
  • Did I want to sew the dart first or sew it after the topstitching?  OMG, definitely first! 



I learned a lot from my sample making.  Could I have guessed correctly at some of the outcomes?  Maybe, but for others, maybe  not.  And I definitely would not have been sure without sampling. 

One unintentional learning was finding out that the orange parts of the dress needed to be doubled as they were slightly see through and since I was using a pink lining, I definitely wanted them to pop more against the pink.  When I recut my waistbands, I doubled all of the pieces and sewed them as one with the rest of the dress.  It created a more opaque orange against the sea of pink — a great contrast.

Now I feel confident, as I continue constructing my dress, that every element will work and look exactly as I imagined it.  Do you find making samples helpful?  I found it helpful for this dress, which was uncharted territory for me.  I don’t expect that I will do it for every future project, but it was inordinately helpful for this one.  There is one thing I always do though (although I wouldn’t necessarily characterize it as sample making):  I always test my needles/thread/stitch length on the fashion fabric before I sew up the garment.  I want to make sure I’m using the right needle, the best shade of thread and correct stitch length for the fabrication. 

Do you sample?


The fabric by the way, is linen from Fabricmart Fabrics online.  It’s great – it has great body, nice hand, is pretty stable.  Depending on how loose the weave is, linen can be pretty unstable, but this one isn’t.  For those who might want to know, I pre-treated this fabric by laundering it 3 times in the washer and dryer on high heat.  I want to be able to launder the dress myself in the future rather than dry clean it.


19 Responses leave one →
  1. March 20, 2012

    IMHO- pink and orange are the BEST color block colors ever……
    Fantastic colors.
    Cant wait to see the finished garment.

  2. March 20, 2012

    I’ve never thought about this before, thank you for sharing your steps! I too can’t wait to see the finished garment 🙂

  3. Isabel's Daughter permalink
    March 20, 2012

    Sampling on something you have never tried before is an excellent idea. It saves time in the long run by eliminating nasty surprises. The dress is looking good. Can’t wait to see the finished product.

  4. March 20, 2012

    Great colours and I love that you are showing us your decision making process!

  5. March 20, 2012

    Good job on the sampling. As I get more seriously into garment construction, I’ll follow your lead on this. Is the double thickness of fabric going to feel odd when you wear it?

  6. March 20, 2012

    Great idea !

  7. Lisa permalink
    March 20, 2012

    The dress is looking beautiful! I have loved your postings on it too! I love the idea of sampling and this is very inspirational. I knit and have learned to always make swatches, and while I sample here and there for sewing – this is a really good idea to implement across the board!

    Look forward to the finished dress!

    Best wishes!

  8. March 20, 2012

    I absolutely do this. I never want to be surprised by how a stitch is going to look or act with a fabric, especially those expensive fashion fabrics!

  9. Jeanettec permalink
    March 20, 2012

    I enjoyed reading your post and the color combination is wonderful. I too am planning on making a color block dress. I’ll have to watch your progress carefully. 🙂

    As for samples, like you, I try out the needle, thread and fabric combination just before I begin. During the planning phase, I give a lot of thought to how I want things to turn out, but I don’t often make samples ahead of time. With my color block dress, I’ll be sure to do so. Thanks.

  10. March 20, 2012

    Looking good so far! I always do stitch samples before I work on important projects – I always want to make sure the needle/thread/fabric/stitch length combo is going to work out the way I want. Also, loving the color combos on your dress.

  11. March 20, 2012

    Yes, I always sample. I at least test the planned stitches on one and two layers of the planned fabric. I prefer sampling to making a full muslin.

  12. March 20, 2012

    I started sampling 3 years ago. Totally worth the time.
    Can’t wait to see your new dress!!

  13. March 21, 2012

    I sometimes make samples if I’m trying a new technique. I always do for topstitching because there’s no way I want to unpick it.

  14. Judi permalink
    March 21, 2012

    Thank you for this post! No I don’t sample except to try the needle/thread on a scrap piece before I start. From now on I will sample. 🙂

  15. March 21, 2012

    I sometimes sample and sometimes don’t—I do it the most often when I’m considering topstitching. And usually I’m happy that I did—although I spent *all* of my precious hour of pre-bed sewing last night working on samples for the piece I’m wanting to make next, and I kind of wish I’d just started sewing. Although I did learn a lot about how my different machines handle knits…

  16. March 21, 2012

    I sometimes sample if I’m not sure of the technique, but not very often. And I am not a perfectionist to the point that I test needles and thread for each garment! Maybe in a procedure-perfect sewing room, but not mine!

  17. Susie permalink
    March 21, 2012

    Right now, I have massive fabric, thread and machine envy. In a real seven-deadly-sins sort of way…

  18. March 21, 2012

    I defintely sample techniques first. That’s the technically correct City & Guilds way!

  19. SueN permalink
    March 22, 2012

    I love your colour combinations, can’t wait to see the finished dress. I was trained to make samples of everything before making any garment, and it is so engrained now I don’t even think about it, it makes a world of difference to the finished article and gives you so much more confidence in trying something new.

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