When researching straight sewing pins, I came across other options for holding fabric and pattern pieces in place which included clips and sewing weights.
I’ve been using clips to hold fabric pieces together on some projects, but my only experience with pattern weights was what I saw on the tv show Project Runway as some designers were cutting around pattern pieces.
In another competition show, Next in Fashion, the designers worked in pairs under tight time constraints, and several times you could hear them say, “Don’t pin. Just cut.” In the background, they were using weights or other objects to hold pattern pieces in place.
So, by not pinning, time could be saved in the sewing room, and I’m all about finding ways to be more efficient!
With garment construction on my mind, I want to try using weights to hold pattern pieces in place instead of pinning.
Where to Get Pattern Weights
I did a quick search online for “pattern weights” and saw a LOT of choices!
One option was to use objects you have around the house. I saw people using shoes, cell phones, and paperweights. As long as the object was heavy enough to hold the pattern in place, it seemed to be a viable option.
You can also buy pattern weights made specifically for holding patterns on fabric. There was a huge variety in appearance and price ranges.
The option that appealed to me, though, was to make my own.
There were tutorials on wrapping large hardware washers in fabric or making pattern weights from clay.
However, those were not the handmade pattern weights that caught my attention (Even though some of the clay ones were cute. Can you say donuts and cookies?)
My favorite make-your-own pattern weight tutorials had to do with SEWING your own.
In this post, I’m sharing my top three favorite ways to sew your own pattern weights.
One: How to Sew a Triangular Pyramid Pattern Weight from a Rectangle
The video tutorial How to Sew Custom Pattern Weights by Professor Pincushion shows how to use an 8″ x 4″ piece of fabric to make a triangular pattern weight. The finished pattern weight has a side length of 3.5″.
What I Like:
- The video tutorial was under three minutes and easy to follow.
- She explains how to add a loop from ribbon to create an option for hanging and organizing pattern weights when you’re not using them.
- The pattern weights don’t take very long to make.
- You can use scraps you have on hand.
Adjustments I Made:
- To have weights for smaller pattern pieces, I also cut rectangles that were 7″ x 3.5″ and 6″ x 3″. This gave me pattern weights with a finished side length of 3″ and 2.5″ respectively.
- I used ric-rac instead of ribbon.
- Before pinning and sewing anything, I turned and pressed one long edge 1/4″. I didn’t sew this side with the machine. Instead, this became the opening where I added the rice then hand-stitched closed. It was easier for me to turn it BEFORE sewing the two sides together instead of after as explained in the directions.
Two: How to Sew a Square Pattern Weight
Rebecca Page has a free pattern for square pattern weights available on her website.
What I Like:
- The directions come in a downloadable format that can be printed or viewed on-screen.
- There are photos that provide visual support for the written directions.
- Helpful tips are spread throughout the instructions.
- You can use scraps you have on hand.
I made the pattern weights as explained in the directions without any adjustments to size or construction.
Three: How to Sew Triangular Pyramid Pattern Weights with Different Fabrics
While I really enjoyed sewing both the triangular pattern weights by Professor Pincushion and the square pattern weights by Rebecca Page, I wanted some weights that were made with multiple fabrics.
After following the directions in this lesson, you’ll know how to sew triangular pyramid pattern weights from more than one fabric.
Tip: Read all of the steps before you begin.
Gather the Supplies
Fabric and Notions:
- scraps of fabric
- an equilateral triangle template (all sides are equal) made from paper, cardboard, or plastic
- Note: The finished pattern weight will have an edge length 1″ less than the sides of the template. Ex. A triangle template with 4″ sides makes a pattern weight with edges that are 3″ long.
- dry rice (or other filler)
- Note: The filler for pattern weights can vary. In my research people mentioned uncooked rice, fish tank gravel, bb gun pellets, and plastic pellets. I used dry rice, but use what you’re comfortable with or have on hand. Just make sure it’s small and has a little weight to it.
- 1/4″ presser foot
Tip: Read all of the directions before you begin.
- Before cutting fabric, press out large creases or wrinkles.
- For each pattern weight, you’ll need 4 triangles.
- If you’re making 6 pattern weights, you’ll need 24 triangles.
- If you’re making 10 pattern weights, you’ll need 40 triangles.
- The easiest way I found to cut the triangles, is to trace the template on the fabric with the marking pen and cut with scissors or a rotary cutter.
Tip: Read all of the steps before you begin.
Use a 1/4″ seam allowance.
- Divide all the triangles into 4 piles (one pile for each side of the pattern weight) and lay them in front of the sewing machine. Label the piles A-D with a sticky note or just do it mentally.
2. With right sides together, sew a triangle A to a triangle B along one side. Do this with all A and B triangles.
Note: To save time and thread, I chain sew the triangles together.
To chain sew, feed each set (AB) under the presser foot one at a time. Don’t cut the thread between each set of triangles. Let them pass all the way through to the backside of the presser foot before feeding the next set in.
Tip: You don’t need to backstitch because another seam will intersect with this one locking the stitches in place.
3. After sewing the last pair of AB triangles together, remove the chain from the sewing machine.
4. Leave the chain of triangle pairs together and press the seams to one side. Pressing the seam makes it easier to sew triangle C on. Keep track of which pair is the first one if you organized your fabric in a certain order.
5. Cut the pairs apart and lay them in front of the sewing machine.
6. Repeat step 2-5 but this time sew one side of the pair (either triangle A or B) to one side of triangle C.
7. Lay a set of triangles ABC in front of you. Sew the bottom edges of the outer triangles to each other. Right sides of fabric need to be together.
Important: You know you’re sewing the correct sides together if the middle triangle is folded in half.
You can chain sew during this part, too, but you don’t need to press this seam.
8. Cut the 3-sided pyramids apart if you chain sewed. Keep them in order if your original A-D fabric piles were organized.
If you kept track of the order correctly as you sewed triangles A-C together when you sew on triangle D, it will be a different fabric from all the other in the pattern weight.
9. Pin a triangle D to one edge of each pyramid. Right sides of fabric need to be facing each other.
10. Sew along that one side with 1/4″ seam allowance. You can chain sew here, too.
11. If you chain sewed, clip pyramids apart. Now, sew another side of triangle D to another edge of the pyramid. Pinning is optional.
12. For the last edge, you need to leave about an inch open in the middle of the edge.
To do this, start the seam in one corner, then stop about 1/3 of the way across.
Put the needle in the highest position, lift the presser foot, and pull the pyramid toward the back of the machine until you’ve gone at least an inch.
Then lower the presser foot and sew to the corner.
You can chain sew this partial seam.
Cut the thread that runs parallel to the opening on both sides.
13. Turn the pattern weights right side out, carefully push out the corners with the closed end of a pair of scissors or a specialty tool if you have one, and fill with rice.
14. Close the opening with a hand stitch. Use the ladder stitch if you don’t want the stitches to show. If that doesn’t matter to you, use a whip stitch.
Regardless of the stitch you use, take smaller stitches so the rice doesn’t get through.
Note: You’ll be able to get more rice in than you think. After you take a few stitches to close the opening, add some more rice. Shift it around so it settles. Take a few more stitches then add more rice. Finish closing the opening and tie off the thread.
You can watch in the video below how I use the ladder stitch to close the opening. You’ll also see me add more rice because the pattern weight isn’t full enough.
That’s It. You’re Done!
I encourage you to sew all three pattern weights. I believe you’ll love having multiple pattern weights to choose from that vary in size, shape, and fabric.
Using Pattern Weights
Never having used pattern weights before, I had questions like how many to use and where to place them on the pattern piece.
A quick search on how to use weights resulted in a wealth of information…some of it contradictory. This is what stuck out to me:
- Some people said a rotary cutter works better than scissors when using pattern weights.
- Others said to use only scissors.
- Some people said they used pins with pattern weights just less of them.
My take away was I need to figure out what works best for me.
Helen, from Crafty Sewing Sew, wrote a great blog post titled How to Use Pattern Weights. In addition to writing about how to use pattern weights, she covers other topics like:
- What you can use them for (It’s more than just holding pattern pieces down!)
- What to look for in pattern weights
- Why weight matters
If you have questions about pattern weights that I didn’t answer, be sure to check out her blog post!
One of my main goals is to support and empower you in the joy of sewing.
Make sure you sign up for Snappy Scissors, my FREE newsletter sent directly to your inbox twice a month. In it, you’ll find highlights from The Ruffled Purse® as well as other sewing related info to educate and inspire you.