Wednesday, June 21, 2017

WEEK 3: Alternative Method to Move Darts or Shorten Bodice

For this sew along, I am working with a small group of folks on a special group page I've set up for this purpose. Each are at a different level of skill, but each have committed to doing the assigned homework for the maximum educational experience. It's easy to sit back and let me do all the work, so I'm grateful to have such a committed group!

While I work with them on their individual projects in the group to get them caught up, I thought I would share with you my fit experience as I worked through the 10 steps from the last post.

There are TWO main things that will ensure an easy start on the road to fit:
  • Choose the right size for each area of your body. 
  • Sew an accurate seam allowance. Do a test with your sewing machine guide and then measure.   
I asked my larger sewing group what size I should make for my padded out dress form. The answers I got surprised me. What size do you say?  (see my size chart here)

I need to do a post on this subject, but that will have to wait until another day...

 Here is my dress form from the side (left). My pattern FBA adjustments have been completed, and I wanted to show you the pattern pieces and how they mimic the shape of the dress form. If the figure had more below the bust tummy fat, I could straighten that princess line (as represented by the pink line).

What I discovered from the tissue fit step (step 10 on last weeks post) 
  is that my dress form has a very high bust and I need to shorten my bodice above the bust. This is a VERY unusual adjustment and can cause some trouble for the princess seam. To avoid more pattern troubles, I'm going to use  this  alternative sliding method to shorten my bodice without causing more trouble with the princess line. It comes in handy to accurately move or shift darts and design details that are in cumbersome areas.
1. Square off the armhole area, marking below and again amount to shorten below the armscye. Mine will be shortened 1". Line should be parallel to the grain. 
2. Cut into pattern and fold, matching previously marked lines. Secure with tape or pins as desired.

Your pattern should look like the photo above once taped.
  2. True seam and cut lines. I'm going to take out some of that under bust curve to keep the bodice from becoming to busty.
  3. Walk seam lines to find a similar shorten location on Bodice Front. Mark.
Ready to fold and match lines
4. Match lines and secure with tape. True the seam and cut lines.
5. Re-test your pattern work by pinning bodice to do a second tissue fit.
Looks much better now!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

WEEK 2: Getting the Right Start with Fitting Garments

When it comes to fit, I take a simplified practical approach that will get me results fast. I don't do muslins for a professionally produced pattern because this is a consuming and expensive practice. If your pattern is NOT professionally drafted, or if you have doubts that the makers quality is questionable, I recommend that you measure your pattern before you ever start this process. Write the measurement results on your pattern in the measured location for easy reference. Assuming your pattern is well drafted, to get good results every time it helps to get off to a good start with these 10 steps:

1. Before you start, understand  and properly match the relationship between pattern, fabric and your body.
  • The grain and stretch of fabric- or lack of it- as it relates to your pattern. Don't discount the fabric suggestions on your pattern envelope.
  • How much ease does the pattern provide? How is the pattern meant to fit the body? Where are the fitting elements and how can they be used to improve fit?
  •  What kind of fit do you like? Do you understand how your figure differs from the standard?
2. Know your Measurements
  • With a well drafted pattern, you really should be able to get a reasonably good fit with these: 
    • HIGH BUST (I call it the CHEST. This measurement helps gauge/ fit shoulder width)
    • FULL BUST 
Do some math: Full Bust minus High Bust (CHEST) =_____________________inches
This number tells us what cup size you are and how much to add or subtract at the bust point.
If the difference is:
1"= A cup
2"= B cup
3"= C cup
4"= D cup
5''= E cup (also called a DD)
6"= F cup (also called a DDD)
7"= G cup (also called a DDDD)
    • WAIST
    • HIP
This SAL for Simplicity 1061 shows you how to take measurements.

3. Compare your measurements to the Size Chart on your pattern envelope.
  • Most of us are not just one size.  To get a fit that will have the best fit with the least amount of effort, choose the size that will fit each area of your figure.
 4. Choose a size and circle it!
  • The bust is the most troublesome area of the figure because most patterns are made to fit a "B" cup, but this does not always match every woman's figure. What size to choose for the shoulders and bust?  If your full bust NOT 2" more than your CHEST, use the Chest measurement for the size to cut. 
  • If your pattern does not give a chest measurement on the chart, and you know that your pattern is sized for a B cup, subtract 2" from the BUST measurement to find the CHEST measurement for each size offered on your pattern.
5. Vertical changes come first:
  • No "lengthen or shorten here" line? Make your own. I don't have a post to refer you for lengthening, but this one on shortening should help: How to Shorten blog post

6. Horizontal changes come next: Transition between sizes
7. Ready, Set, Trace
  • Trace off your pattern, marks, and labeling in preparation for doing a full bust adjustment. If you do not need to do a full bust adjustment then skip this section.
8. Make Interior Changes last:
 9. Make it True and Walk.
  • Truing is the blending of uneven curves and straightening of lines by blended or equalizing the differences. The adjusted seamlines are blended smoothly between the original cut and seam lines. 
  •  Walking is the process of matching a seamline to the adjoining seam line. Walking a pattern is necessary only for changed seams. It ensures alteration accuracy. Any pattern piece that doesn't walk needs to be investigated for the cause. 
10. Tissue Fit your Pattern to check the accuracy of your pattern fit for your figure: 
  • Patti Palmer did not invent this method, but has perfected and written about it for years.  Though I tissue fit at the end of my alterations, I highly recommend it as a substitute for sewing a muslin. Watch these videos through Fabric Mart that show you how to do it:  
Whether bodice or skirt, the process is the same. Once you have checked your fit via tissue fitting, your alterations have been assured, it's time to cut your fabric and sew the shell. The fit is checked again in your fabric.

Are you excited to get started?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

WEEK 1: One Pattern, Many Looks

newspaper clipping attached to pattern is a reminder
My title for this post was also the title I gave to the very first class I taught for the American Sewing Guild many years ago. I had 45 minutes to show students how one pattern can become so much more than what you see on the envelope. I know there are many more instructors greater than I that have taken on the same challenge too. So where does a new idea come from? Can creativity really be taught, or are we all really just following the examples of others?

How often have your projects started with an idea from something you've seen in the store or a magazine or on a blog and then you look for a pattern to match that idea? This is only one example of following.  There is certainly nothing wrong with that tradition, but it does have limitations, especially if you are living within the confines of current trend which may or may not be on your side in terms of taste or body type. 

Where real creativity begins is when you start with what feels like a limited scope (one pattern/one view) and then must reach outside of that perimeter to turn it into something different than it was before. This type of creativity does take practice. Research for ideas, and then pick ONE theme. Think of ways to develop your idea from there. 
How to Do it:
 For this sewalong, we are going to use the Sew Chic LN9005, Fantasia dress as our base to build from. The cover suggests this dress style belongs only as a formal.

But take a good look at the line drawing on the back of the cover. Consider the silhouette and the style lines. In what ways can we invent something new from this style?
OPTION 1: Do nothing. The easiest thing to do is nothing. We can create a whole new illusion, feeling, or purpose with patterns and colors using fabric. Have you twice made a garment with completely different fabrics and no one knew they were the same style? What about color blocking? This doesn't look too bad.... it's easy stuff.
OPTION 2: Interior Changes. Things like lengthen and shorten, you do all the time for fit. Why not for style? With this pattern, it can totally give you a whole different silhouette. The rule for this alteration is anywhere below the hip, or at the hem. Be sure to choose a location that will not interfere with  any design details. In the back, we have a "V" seam detail that we want to keep, so lets avoid that and place our "lengthen or shorten here" lines above or below that location. But what if you didn't want to keep that "V"? Then cut your skirt off above that detail and lengthen as needed by adding to the now cut off hem. Now you'd have a straight skirt with no high/low hem. Of course you must measure your pattern to be sure that you will alter in the same location both front and back. The easiest way is to walk your pattern at the side seam and use a lined mat and grid ruler to keep it perpendicular to the grain.  For this example, I'm going to shorten in two locations, both above and below. Let's see what shortening in two places is going to look like:
Let's assume that if you know how to lengthen or shorten, you also know how to true your work to correct that jog. How you true is another opportunity to change the silhouette of your style. If I true up to the hip, the style becomes an A-line rather than a tulip, trumpet, or fit and flare skirt.
Before we go on though, I first have one more interior alteration to make:
Because I'm going to stay with my color blocking idea, I want to add an interior seam. This seam is going to cut across my bodice side front at the same location that my cross over seam hits so that my color can extend to the sides as well. Simply walk your pattern to the bodice front along the seam line you've drawn in, and make a mark where that seam will cross. Draw a cut line across your side front pattern, and then a GRAIN line that extends to match the original. Cut apart and add seam allowances to both pieces and label. Now let's see what that will look like:
OPTION 3: Exterior Changes. Those are alterations to the edges of your pattern. Lengthening or shortening at the hem is one of those choices. In my case, I've added length to the sleeve to make it 3/4 length. It's a easy change to make that doesn't require to much effort. Lowering or changing the neckline would be another one of these changes. What do you think so far? Is it heading in the right direction?
OPTION 4: Last but not least is adding on details or creating external pattern pieces that match to the edge, such as collars, cuffs, ruffles, etc. I've added a button theme to my color blocking. These buttons don't have be functional, and neither do your external details, they can be just decorative. Hand stitch anything to your dress, it could be tubing, or flowers, or beading, or embroidery, rick-rack, etc. Experiment!

Make this dress I've just designed for you in a soft crepe for a 1940's vibe. Wear with your victory rolls, and black side set hat with seamed stockings and pretty black pumps and you are set! Are you headed for a hoedown instead? Imagine this dress in denim with flat felled seams, patch pockets and lots of buttonhole thread top stitching. Match that up with cowboy boots and you can take this dress to the rodeo! Inspiration can come from everywhere, so look for themes that appeal to you and then use these steps to come up with ideas that work with your theme.


Monday, May 22, 2017

The Ultimate Sewing Quest: The Fit and Design Sew Along

There are two general problems that all stitchers have. The first is the hassle of fitting a pattern that wasn't made to fit your body and the second is finding pattern styles that give you just the right silhouette and design details that will make you fall in love and excited to make and wear it.

With that in mind, I've scheduled a Fantasia Fit & Design Sew Along for the month of June. Yes, I know that summers are so busy, but when aren't we all busy?? I chose the Fantasia because it's a fantastic base for so many other creative ideas. Be aware that I am not going through the full assembly of this dress, just the fitting alterations and how to make design changes to that base. Once you get a pattern that fits, any change you make to that pattern should fit you just as well.

I've dedicated a facebook group and pinterest page to compliment and get the most from the FFandD sew along. I'm asking that everyone do some homework and post photos as we go along so you can be assured of success. The Sew Along begin June 6. The schedule is posted to the group page.

If you'd like to join in the fun,ask to join the facebook group:

All participants can add to the mood board:

Buy your pattern here:

I hope to see you there!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Getting the Scoop on Simplicity 8167

Designing Simplicity 8167

I know, I know. It’s been a long time since I’ve posted, and longer yet since you’ve seen a new release from me for Simplicity, but here it is, #8167!

My favorite photo of Simplicity 8167
 Having been in the pattern business since 1927, a household name like Simplicity doesn't build up a corporate empire by blindly investing in just anyone! So, with that first design (Simplicity 1061) we all waited through the seasons to see how it was received. Thanks to you, my wonderful supporters, it was a hit (thank you!) and from here on out you can expect a fairly regular stream of designs in the Simplicity catalog! You can also always find my latest and newest designs on my website.


It seems that this newest style for Simplicity  (a June release they call early autumn), # 8167, didn’t need much of a push from me. Three weeks into the release I went to my local JoAnn Fabric Store to find my top rack was completely sold out and the drawer space nearly empty. Simplicity has also put this design on their front page! Of all the new designs for this season, they chose mine!! What a thrill!

Since the release, some of you eagle eyes out there have asked me about the similarity to an earlier design I call Southern Belle. I am honored that there are some of you who know my pattern line that well…and the answer is YES! This design was actually Simplicity's first choice. I have been selling it for a very long time, so it was time to give it new life with Simplicity. As a result, Southern Belle has been removed from my line and will be an exclusive with them.

 Simplicity 8167 is a variation of this third pattern I designed for my company back in 2008. There are only a few differences, the main one being sizing. All the patterns I design for Simplicity are built to match their size chart, not my Sew Chic chart. Also, the neckline is square in front, the skirt is slightly less full, and the decoration is a rose and ribbon pin you make (or buy), not a ribbon belt like Southern Belle.

This dress for Simplicity is made of eyelash lace (google it!) which is basically a fancy lace stripe.  It must be matched like you would match any stripe or plaid. Eyelash lace is usually printed with the stripe parallel to the selvage, so you will need a bit more fabric and may need to turn your pattern to the cross grain for layout. Need more tips for making this dress? Shall we make a Holiday dress together?

 I have offered to do a 4-week Sew Along for this pattern from September 19 - October 12. But in order for me to divert my attention from my long To-Do list, I want to make sure there is enough interest. If there are at least 200 sewing enthusiasts that sign up between now and September 5, I will do another video/blog post style sew along. It will be free, so if you'd like to make this dress with me, sign up now by entering your email address and name here.

Get your pattern at your local Joann Fabric or on the Simplicity website. And whether you join me in the Sew Along or just make one on your own, don't forget to send me a picture!

UPDATE: 8/21/16
I forgot to mention something everyone can look forward to- next season (winter 2016/17) Simplicity will be expanding the size range, and with the Summer Catalog (2017) I will be adding plus to the size range!

Happy Sewing,


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Sewing the Tia Dress, Sew Chic 1312

The Tia Dress by Sew Chic Patterns
Can you stand one more post about the Tia Dress?

I found a detailed  instructional handout I did (probably for Craftsy students) showing how to attach the trim on this dress and thought I should get it out there into the web-o-sphere. You may print off this one page image (with attribution) to keep with your Tia pattern for easy reference. I hope some of you find it useful.

May your seams be straight and your pressing constant!

Have a great sewing day,

Friday, May 13, 2016

Pattern Hack Tutorial:The Ehlen Blouse

Next month is "Indie Pattern Month" over at The Monthly Stitch. This will be my second year participating in the June month long Indie Celebration. This year I'm sponsoring TWO contests-
  • One Pattern Two Ways
  • Hack It 
Prizes are many, sales are huge, and we've all pitched in a pattern or two for a PDF bundle sale that is listed as " up to 40% off" but in actuality, much more than that. HUGE discounts.

 Get the details about Indie Pattern Month here:

 With the sponsorship I was inspired to share a tutorial on this Ehlen blouse variation. I made this outfit for the IPCA fashion show for the International Textile Expo, an industry buyers event. The point of the fashion show is to use vendor fabrics and provide buyers with ideas and inspiration. I think it turned out nice.

  As written, the pattern recommends a  medium weight fabric and is entirely lined and trimmed with lace or piping.

In my hack,  I used lining and chiffon layered together, each piece basted inside the seam allowance and treated together as one and trimmed with binding. It's very light weight, and using the methods I will show you, it's much quicker to assemble too. I enjoyed playing with the contrast of the shiny lining and the dullness of the chiffon. The bow can be wrapped and tied in the front or back depending on where you want the drama!

1.Cut one layout each of lining and chiffon. Additionally, cut about a yard of 2 1/4" wide bias from the lining fabric. Fold in half lengthwise, with wrong sides and raw edges together, press. The ties are two 6" strips the full width of the fabric (45" -60"), or as long as you want them.

2. Pin lining to the chiffon and baste the perimeter of each piece just inside the seam allowance.

3. Follow instruction booklet, sewing back to front at shoulder as pictured.

 4. Sew a stay stitch around the neckline, at 1/2". Trim neckline seam to 3/8", or 1/4" from your stitching.

 5. With bias binding to wrong side of neckline, raw edges together, sew bias to neck edge. * Because this is a long seam to sew, I did it in two steps. The first row of stitching is 1/2", over stay stitching, and I'm not trying to be too precise. I just want to get it attached. The second  row of stitching is measured from the bias FOLD LINE. I want my binding to fold over to an exact width of 3/8", so I am going to sew 3/4" from the bias fold line to get that exact width.
 6. Trim again and clip in a "v" configuration. This allows the neckline to move and bend without puckering. Press binding to the inside.
 7. Fold bias to front, matching fold to seam. Top stitch close to fold. When I say, close, I mean a SCANT distance, which is to say it's next to almost nothing. Turn your computerized machine to slow if you need to.
 8. Trim the binding to match the front raw edges then sew the center front per instruction booklet.

9. This is the sleeve at the peek-a-boo opening. Following the same procedure for both the front and back sleeve, finish this opening with binding .Sew wrong sides to wrong sides.
Trim, press, and topstitch. 

Here's a helpful tip for sewing accurate curves on those sleeve bands. I make a template cut from my pattern and then trim the seam allowances off. put on my edge and with air erasable pen, draw in my stitching line. It helps to have something to follow!
10. For the ties, along one long edge, sew a clean finish (folded at 5/8" and inside the allowance again at 1/4" and sew close to fold) along one edge, fold up creating a diagonal as shown. Sew together at 5/8". Turn right sides out and press.

11. Clean finish the opposite side. Run that top stitching from the square end, to the point end.
Hummmm...why is this one upside down?? Well, you can see the whole tie here.
12. Sew two rows of basting on the short square end, gather it up, and pin to blouse front at waist, about 3" wide when finished.

13. Sew to side seam.

14. Finish up the garment as needed per instruction booklet, omitting the lining as a finish. I hemmed my blouse with a clean finish too. It's such a tidy sewing method!


Get your pattern here:

I hope this inspires you to join the sewing contests.

Happy Indie Pattern Month!