Search for better marking tools

Image from Sew

Image from Sew

It’s getting increasingly difficult to see my marks for darts and so forth. (I think the cause of my failing eyesight is this hideous grey font every web designer is so hot for.)   I found this product at the local fabric shop.  Mark-B-Gone is a fabric type paper similar to the  carbon or chalk papers but much thicker.   I used it on a dark linen.  The lines were fairly visible and came off easily on my swatch.  I did mark each side individually for better results.  Have you used this product?  If there is a white paper it would be even better on darker fabrics.  Is anyone finding the chalk paper harder to come by?

Do you have a favorite marking product that might be helpful for the visually impaired?  

Easy couture technique for waistbands – yes, easy!

New pencil skirt

New pencil skirt

Since I make a lot of  skirts I’ve decided to up the ante and start adding in couture techniques or different elements to keep my skills moving forward. On this pencil skirt from Burda 8155 I used a couture waistband technique from Susan Khalje which is featured in the latest issue of Threads magazine (March 2013). The short of it is to place petersham or grosgrain and sandwich in between the fabric and lining of the waistband.  It offers much more stability in the waist area.  

For the pertersham cut out the same length as your waistband pattern piece, which is usually your waist measurement plus 4 inches. Install the lining if there is one.  Next place the petersham on the right side of fabric, above the skirt’s waistband stitching line.  Here is where I added a step. Continue reading

Body Mapping for better fit


Here I am!

I’ve read about body mapping in the fitting book of Palmer and Alto’s Fit for Real People.  I’ve dismissed it as stupid and a waste of time. Sort of like the whole fitting shell thing.  Well.  Well.  I had Marni at our last meeting do me an outline of the old body.  Lo and behold it isn’t a waste of time!   Highly recommend this to not only see what you body might look like in a crime scene but to get a completely different look at your lovely body. You can’t see the  grid lines on this photo but they are quite helpful in getting a great look at your body and type.

Here is what I learned.

  1. My  right side is higher than the left.
  2. My left shoulder is sloping but not the right.
  3. I am  short waisted
  4. I have almost no visible waist.  
  5. I have a long crotch length
  6. My knees are average (Who knew!)
  7. I have a small frame and small bust. (I knew that!)
  8. I am either an hourglass or a rectangle.  My waist has little indentation but then my hips and shoulders are about the same width and my waist is 10″ less than my hips.  Unclear but I don’t think it really matters much.  Hourglass certainly has a better ring to it.  

My measurements are as follows

  1. Height 5’7
  2. My high bust is 31 (I’ve been measuring wrong, I thought it was 32 1/2)
  3. Bust 34
  4. Rib cage area 28 1/2
  5. Waist is 27
  6. Hips 37
  7. I’ve been sewing with a 12/14.  I refused to think my bodice size to be an 8. 

There are a lot more measurements to do if you decide to do a body map.  I chose the ones that I thought would be most helpful. I really care a less what my ankle or wrist measurements are.    

Fit for Real People goes into detail on how to do a body map and for a seamstress who is constantly looking for ways not to do something I thought this was really worth the time.  Goes without being said that you need a partner.  

Dumbest mistake ever. At least for today.

Got a call today from the sewing fairy

Got a call today from the sewing fairy

After God knows how many hours spent on this ridiculous pant issue,  ripping out, re-doing, re-cutting, darting, crying,  buying more freaking fabric and on and on, turns out I was putting the damn waistband on upside down.   Can. Not. Believe. It. 

Do tell.  What has been your silliest mistake.  To date. 🙂    

Waistband Gaposis

Finding a way to better fitting pants.

The formula for better fitting pants?

Back to making pants.  I found with the last pair the waistband was quite high.  To remedy I chopped off an inch of the front and back pattern pieces on this latest pair.

Now however, there is this huge plumber butt sized gaposis.    I have traveled the high seas of the internet in search of a solution.  

I’m not even sure what the body issue is?  I do not have a swayback, that I know. 

Anyone have an idea?  Maddening.

Eternity Scarves Project

At the Denver Sewing Collective’s last meetup we made Eternity Scarves.  This project was very easy and would make for great gifts.  I had problems with the written directions as usual but once Kim made a successful one it was all downhill from there.  

Here are some photos that might help those who are more visual learners.  I have been craving an easy project and this is it.  There are infinite possibilities here!   Have you made any?  I may just make everyone on my list one.

On the directions from Simplicity’s Eternity scarves here is a photo starting at step 6.

Sewing the short ends together

Continue reading

My sewing assistant hard at work

Yes, I’m that busy as a seamstress I have my own assistant. Take a look at my assistant at work.  

Keeping my pins in one place

Continue reading

Working with difficult fabrics

photo by elizabeth holcombe

Vintage fabric and supplies

Here is a list of fabrics placed in order of easiest to handle to most difficult.   What do you think?  Some seamstresses find silk and other slippery fabrics easy to work with.  I would love to hear your ideas on how to handle difficult fabrics. 

Any disagreements here?

1. Polyester
2. Cotton
3. Muslin
4. Linen
5. Knits 
6. Wool
7. Felt
8. Stretch
9. Taffeta
10. Chiffon
11. Bridal Satin
12. Silk
13. Lingerie satin
14. Pre-treated fabrics (water or fire-proof)
15. Velvet
16. Tulle
17. Organza
18. Velour

Not your grandma’s sewing machine

Sewing machine of the future?

  This sewing machine is created by Sarah Dickins who won the James  Dyson Award for her design.   She finds her generation frequently tosses clothing in the trash rather than mending it.  Most sewing machines have a steep learning curve and can be complicated machinery.  Often times one needs a set of classes just to learn how to operate it.  

Dickins set out to design a machine that was user friendly and could do general mending and could be used straight away.  I have not tested the machine but would love to. It has a beautiful design and shape to it and I certainly would not want to hide this machine in some dark corner.    You can read more here on her award and design process.

Would a machine like this keep you sewing?

Tips for better fitting from sewing patterns – Small Bust Adjustment

I get requests on how to get better fit from patterns.  One thing I continually complain about is the Small Bust Adjustment or SBA.  Much is written for you gloriously fuller girls but in some fitting books the SBA is completely omitted.  Or as one fitting book suggested ” wear a padded bra”.

There is a great tutorial here for a SBA but if you are still having problems you may want to look at some of my tips here.  For an SBA what is being done to the pattern is reducing fabric over the bust and this is done by slashing through the dart (or darts) and essentially lapping over to reduce width.

    Continue reading

Felting for the first time

I’m in love with felting.  Why haven’t I done this before?  Here is a sweater I bought from my local thrift shop.  This was a women’s extra large and on me it came down to mid thigh.  This sweater was from Banana Republic and was very nice in its original state.  I chose a 100% wool that said dry clean only.

Here is what it looks like after one wash in the cycle plus one dry.  Each on the highest heat setting. 

This is after cutting along all seam lines. The bulkier the knit the more dense the felting will become.  I don’t think this felt will work for small little sewn items.  The feel of this is amazing though.  I wanted to use this for a pincushion, but I’ll have to see if this will work, it might just be too dense. 

 Next, I dyed it using Kool-Aid.  I learned  this from a costume shop I worked at, when you’re in a pinch. I wasn’t sure how it would take to the wool.

But, here is the end result after it has dried.  I wanted a softer pink but this turned out surprisingly well. A kind of pinky orange (I think they call that salmon Jill).  Both pieces are 7 1/2 by 5.

I have made two pieces and I’m going to see what inspires me to make out of  the new felt.  Like I said they are really pretty thick and rather stiff.  Not at all drapey.  So, if you have any ideas on what I should make I would love to hear.  Oh, and this drink mix is crazy.  Check out my hands and this was after washing.  So, really, don’t drink the Kool-Aid.

Progress on Advance 7770

Here is the lining for my Advance 7770.  The construction is going along smoothly with one exception; the SBA.  I cut out the original SBA here and trying on the muslin in looked fine.  But, the lining still looks baggy up top.  The original dart was 2 inches wide and 7 inches long.  I narrowed it to 1 inch and 5 inches long.  But what is up with th bagginess?  It can’t be see in the photo but I had the iron on to high and did melt a little bit on the left side.  This side by the way fits better which led me to the conclusion that  I did not do all that is needed for a SBA. If you look below there is what I did for the muslin.  I took this to the Denver Sewing Collective meeting and got advice from Jane and Vicki.  They suggested that I go with the original.  But, I’m going to try one more idea.  If you have any ideas please let me know!  Oh, and the meeting was awesome, as usual.

How do you sew?

At one of the Denver Sewing Collective’s lovely meetups someone noticed that I sew with no shoes on.  Not sure why I do this, think it has to do with the pedal and having more control with barefeet.  Found out several people there like to sew in their stocking or barefeet.  So, this got me thinking how others like to sew.  Here are a few seamstresses sewing in a variety of ways.  Do you find yourself in here?

Sewing in your undies is always nice in the summer.

Maybe you prefer sewing outdoors.  That would be nice. I wonder what that sign says?

Or maybe you’re one of these new EXTREME Sewists who like to sew in such dark conditions you  might run over a finger or two. A hobby where the possibility of losing a digit always ups the excitiability factor.

And, my favorite EXTREME sewer is this lovely lady.  Not only is she breaking the rule of running with sisscors but in high heels that look like they are breaking a couple of laws of physics. 

Find yourself in here?  I would love to hear your comments.

New start on an old pattern – Advance 7770

 I am ready to tackle another vintage pattern.  This beauty is from the 50’s, Advance 7770.  I have started on the muslin and I am doing that a little differently this time.  

First, I cut the muslin and sewed up the side seams but left the darts just pinned. I figure I want to see how the fit will be of course, but my big (or small) body issues lie with the SBA.  So I want to be able to manipulate the darts to see what I need to take in.  Plus, I’m worried about those long shaped darts.  Have no ideas how that is going to work on the old body. Here is what I’ve been doing.

The new dart is now about half of the original dart width. Plus, I did shorten it as well. This muslin is going along well.  For the Fabric Shop Tour I want to find some awesome material.  I also plan on lining it.  Can’t wait for Saturday!

The small bust adjustment has begun

I have promised myself that this summer would be devoted to fine tuning the SBA.  I’ve done it a couple of times with not so good results. 

 I am doing another Vintage Vogue, pattern # 6795 a halter dress. 

 Here’s what I’ve completed so far:

  •  I have copied the orginal on to Swedish tracing paper
  •  Made the adjustments on the new pattern
  •  I have cut out on to muslin and just beginning to put it together 
  • I have removed the waist darts and at a stopping point

Things have been a bit slow in my sewing because, holy of holies I got a job!  I start on Monday and it’s only temporary but I think things will be moving ahead for me in that area of my life.

I hate my Pfaff…

in case of emergency, use this...

Well, so much for the lovely, great feelings of triumph  yesterday.  This machine sucks!  And, I am going to trade it in for something else.  It is bizarre I did test after test after test with finally great CONSISTENT results.  Then I go to do a buttonhole on the garment and crap after crap after crap.  WTF!?  Yes, the garment had all the same variables as the test piece.  So, I don’t know.  I almost broke down, then I just punched my machine.  If I had had a sledgehammer handy I would have slammed it down right on top of it.    Grrr…

Troubleshooting problems with buttonhole function on a Pfaff

Today I had the luxury of sewing for most of the day.  I usually don’t get that opportunity.  I mainly worked on my 1943 vintage Dubarry dress pattern.  When I got to a stopping point (need to buy buttons) I started playing around with the button hole  function on my machine in anticipation of putting in buttonholes.  The buttonhole function  has only worked once, every other time it has failed miserablely and I’ve taken it in several times never to get it adjusted etc.  When the machine is serviced the tech guys can obviously get it to do just fine and think I’m crazy.  So today I tinkered and wrote down notes and finally after about an hour I think I figured it out.  I’m so excited, I love my Pfaff  but to tell you the truth at the price I paid not to have something work really bothered me, so much I considered switching brands.  But, after looking at the problem and really strategizing it I finally got it to work.  If you ever have problems with the buttonhole function on your Pfaff send me an email and I can tell you what I did to correct the problem.  And, no you don’t have to do the manual function to get nice button holes.

Experimental sewing finished

For the weird idea I had with sewing 2 fronts of a skirt together, this is the end result.

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I put elastic for the waist because I couldn’t find the waist facing pattern pieces and I was too lazy to make new ones.  I call this skirt my Sushi Skirt because with the elastic waist I can eat all the sushi I want with little discomfort due to expand-o-waist.

Would I do this again?  I think just using a pattern would have been just has easy.  But, I was short on material and using the back piece wouldn’t have fit.  So if I come against that type of situation I would do it again and just go straight to the elastic waistband.  Or buy a new pattern.  But, I liked that I didn’t buy any new materials or patterns, I made do. And it worked out.

Experimental Sewing

Today I was working on a skirt I started at the Denver Sewing Collective meeting.  But, it wasn’t working out and I wasn’t too crazy about  the material so I abandoned all hope, and now it’s ‘crap scrap’.  However, I’m in the experimental mood and I am looking to make a slight A line skirt.  The one’s I’ve been making are too full.  So, I’ve taken a pattern front and I’m using it for the front and back.  The pattern is for a woven but I’m using a cotton stretch.

 ‘ M’ my sewing buddy said to be sure the hem is even since I’m using the front for the front and back.  (Didn’t think of that)  Sound confusing?  Why not use the back pattern piece?  I dunno, this all seemed like a good idea at the time.  I am just making this as I go, fitting it here and there.  I don’t have enough fabric for a facing, so I’ll either need to go to the store and get something similar or go for an elastic wasitband.  I’d really like a contoured waistband but I don’t have enough fabric to match.  If I go the facing route I’ll need to add in a zipper too. Or maybe I could add a facing but no zipper.  Hmmm. 

I tend to do a lot of sewing that isn’t by the book.  Sometimes it works but more often it doesn’t but at least it’s a try.    I’m not emotionally invested in this material so if it just doesn’t workout it’s ok.

 By experimenting I usually will find that there is a good reason why I am supposed to do something the way it’s written.   But, sometimes I get lucky and find a shortcut or just a better way of doing something.