Hoppo Bumpo (n): A children's game. Played by folding one's arms and hopping on one leg. Aim is to bump opponents, so that they lose their balance. Last person standing wins.

Sew handy - some favourite reference websites for new sewers

The following is an amalgamation of some posts I began writing April of 2010. The links I have detailed are some of my favourite sewing reference websites. I hope you enjoy them too.

(Do call back sometime .... there's more to follow!)


Estimated Fabric Yardage Requirements
Are you a fabric stasher? Do you like buying fabric without a clue as to what you will do with it? See how to estimate yardage when you are buying fabric, but don't yet have a pattern. These tables, provided by Denver Fabrics, give you suggested yardage for shirts, t-shirts, sweatshirts, slacks, skirts and dresses. Measurements are provided in both inches and centimetres.

Fabric Width Conversion Measurements
What do you do when the perfect fabric for your sewing project is the wrong width? Too narrow and you'll run short; too wide and you'll have too much. This table, provided by Studio Tantum, allows you to convert the pattern requirement, based on a range of widths. Measurements are provided in both inches and centimetres. (Similar tables can be readily found on other websites such as Butterick.com, but are stated in inches only.)
(requires a PDF reader)

Fabrics International Wiki
This collaborative website is being filled with information by fabric enthusiasts. With each fabric indexed according to content, construction and family, its an interesting read. There are gaps here and there, but the documentation is extensive. Information includes how the fabric is made, its drape, care and sewing challenges. There are also links to pictures of completed projects using each fabric.

Textile Dictionary
Can't tell your tell your burlap from your boucle? Not sure if its selvage or selvedge? See Fabric Link's textile dictionary. There are no pictures, but plenty of short,helpful definitions.

Fibre Burn Test
Do you have unidentifiable fabric in your stash? Why not try the "burn test"? By setting a small piece of your fabric alight, you will be able to get a better idea of the fibre content. Ditsy Prints chart is easy to follow ( ... and fun, if you like burning stuff!)


How Sewing Machines Work
I love this entry at How Stuff Works. Not only is there a good basic explanation of the workings of a sewing machine, but there are two completely mesmerising animated diagrams showing stitch formation. Stare at them too long and you will go into a trance.

Sewing Machine Manuals
Lost your sewing machine manual? You're bound to find a replacement here ( ... though admittedly you will have to pay a modest amount for the privilege). Manuals are available as a PDF download or on CD.

Sewing Machine Needle Charts
This very handy table at Sewing.org provides a detailed description of the different types of sewing machine needles. The selection includes: universal, ballpoint, twin, overlocker, jean and leather needles.

Sewing Machine Needle Sizes
You can always rely on the Dummies site to save the day. If sewing machine needle sizes (including the sizing variations between countries) has you flummoxed, you will appreciate this cheat sheet.

Basic Sewing Machine Maintenance
This PDF shared by the New Mexico State University says: When you have trouble with your sewing machine, a good rule to follow is “Clean it first.” Many problems are caused by dust, lint or thread ends that have collected on the working parts of the machine. (Lint? Dust? Who'd ever have thunk?) Use their straightforward instructions to perform your own basic machine service.

Specialty Presser Feet
Simplicity Homecare provides basic information and diagrams explaining some common speciality presser feet. Find out more about the overcast, narrow hem, blind hem, cording, darning, applique, gathering, pintuck, roller and 1/4 inch feet.

More Speciality Presser Feet
Start a whole presser foot collection! PatternReview.com member Loohoo44 has put together an amazing list of links detailing specialty presser feet and uses. All the links point to PDF files residing at www.sewingmachinesplus.com, but so far as I can see the site has no readily accessible index.


Taking proper body measurements
Burda Fashion
These 3 pages on the Burda website provide detailed instructions about how and where to take measurements for sewing women's garments. Good diagrams are provided. The last page helps you determine the shape of your hip, bottom and tummy.

How to choose the correct pattern size
Commercial patterns are sized for ten different body classifications, including children, junior and men. Use the information here to decide on the sizing for your next project. Of note is the explanation regarding differences between Misses and Womens patterns.

Browse the pattern company catalogs online
Simplicity and New Look
Kwik Sew
Butterick, McCall and Vogue
While nothing beats leafing through the glossy pages of a real pattern book, the reality is many of us don't have the time (for example, diverting my attention for a few nano-seconds from my preschools, would lead to an embarrassing rampage). These sites are invaluable for browsing from home. The downside is that seasonal-collection information is sometimes topsy-turvy for those of us in the southern hemisphere.

Downloadable patterns
If you like shopping in your pyjamas in the dead of night, then you will love these sites. Download, print, match, tape and cut out your own patterns at home. SewingPatterns.com offers a subset of commercial patterns for download at a reduced price. Burdastyle offers a range of lovely free and modestly priced patterns. Be warned though - you will need a lot of sticky tape and printer paper and some patience!

How to read a sewing pattern
If you are about to sew from your first commercial pattern, look no further than this excellent primer by Lara at Sew Mama, Sew. You will find lots of helpful details regarding the envelope back, the pattern pieces, markings and instructions.

Brief introduction to pattern alterations
New Mexico State University
This site gives an overview of types of pattern alterations you might make to improve a garment's fit. Its a good summary with short explanations and diagrams (though probably not a substitute for a good book or class).

The font of all knowledge
Last, but most definitely not least, is this outstanding site. The comprehensive knowledge base at PatternReview is always worth consulting before buying or starting on a pattern. Thousands of sewers have submitted their personal reviews; rating the best and worst. There is a lot of candid, anecdotal information about alterations and workarounds. If you are a newbie sewer, the benefit of a bit of reading may stop you heading down a path of doom before you even start! You can view recent reviews (including photos of finished projects) as a guest, but have full access as a member. Use the advanced search page for the best results.


How to choose sewing thread
This step-by-step introduction at Wiki How, is particularly good for differentiating types of thread. The authors point you in the right direction for matching thread to projects. Did you know you should use silk thread for basting fabric?

A factual look at sewing thread
This brochure titled A Thread of Truth, is technical article about the properties and manufacture of thread. Despite the level of detail, its still quite an accessible read and is geared to the home sewer. Learn about tex size, tenacity, loop strength, color fastness, raw materials, finishes and construction.

How a button works
This eHow article clearly explains the differences between sew-through, shank and frog (Mandarin) buttons, as well as pronged and post snaps.

Attaching buttons
The Sewing and Craft Alliance provide an introduction for attaching both flat and shank buttons, as well as creating a shank on a flat button. I like their suggestions for "novelty" button applications, including tying the button on!

Elastic - the notion that gives
I undoubtedly first bookmarked this article because of its title! It is, however, a very good introduction to using elastic. Find out whether you should be using woven, braided or knitted elastic for your next project. This fact sheet is full of useful information about measuring and sewing with this notion.

All about zippers
This article is text only, but is a good introduction to zippers. It details types, parts and how to make a selection. There is even a short description on how to shorten a zipper.

The ABC of zip fasteners
Large manufacturer Coates, provides some great diagrams and photographs. See the differences between spiral, profile, concealed and metal zippers, as well as various types of open and closed ended fasteners.


Established in 2001 patternreview.com boasts a membership of over 200,000 people from around the world. The site began its life as a place to collect people's experiences of and opinions about sewing patterns. The site has expanded to include expert forums, real-time chats, sewing contests, online sewing classes and more. Although it is a membership site (free and paid available), it is possible to browse as a guest. As at May 2010 there are nearly 70,000 reviews in the database.

If you like reading sewing blogs and websites, this is a great place to go. With hundreds of listings, there's hours of reading fun and inspiration ahead. Each site is listed with a synopsis and a snap shot of the front page. The listings are displayed in order of popularity. Previews of recent posts from a selection of blogs are displayed on the front page and there search functionality if you are looking for a special topic. (At the time of writing there was news that a forum was going to be added.)

Sew Mama Sew is an online fabric and pattern store, blog and forum rolled into one. The many thousands of posts in the forum, are the first indicator that this site attracts a huge following. Sew Mama Sew regularly posts fabulous reviews and tutorials, as well as hosting themed months and sew-alongs.

Taunton Press, publisher of reknown sewing magazine Threads, is the host of Craftstylish. Whilst not exclusively a sewing community, you will find hundreds of relevant posts once you look at the Sewing category. The website is described as being "a place to connect, discover and share with other crafters" and a "destination for fabulous inspiration and expert instruction on the latest trends, projects, ideas, and materials". Members can also showcase their work and post tutorials.

If you like internet TV you will love ThreadBanger. Branded as "the home of DIY fashion how-tos, home décor tips, and more", the site offers regular episodes that can be accessed at the site or by RSS subscription or podcast. With a contemporary, edgy blog and a forum with thousands of members, there's plenty to see and do here.

Burdastyle is the brainchild of pattern company, Burda. One of the greatest drawcards of this hub is concept of "open source sewing" - or copyright free patterns. The site provides patterns for download, sewing tutorials, discussions and places to share projects. Patterns and tutorials are shared by Burdastyle and its 349,720 members alike. The great sense of community extends to the 240 "real life" BurdaStyle Sewing Clubs (BSCs) throughout the world.

My Sewing Circle is the new kid on the block, having only been launched in February of this year. Its a place to organise your fabric stash and tools, browse fabrics and patterns, show off your projects and admire the work of others (for anyone who is a knitter or crocheter, the site was inspired by Ravelry.com). The community and its features are in their infancy, but it looks promising. To access the site you need to be a member, but membership is free.
Some other not-exclusively-sewing-but-wonderfully-crafty hubs: