Monday, April 6, 2015

Pattern Tutorial: Ehlen Blouse Variation

Trying to match a brown and gold polka-dot shantung silk pant, I found a gold lining in my stash that was the perfect color. While a blouse could be made exclusively from lining, in my opinion it looks a little cheap. This fabric is very light weight, and exceptionally shiny, so to tone down the shine and give the look an upgrade, I decided to pair it with chiffon in a champagne color. The result was a really pretty dull/shine iridescence. 

To pull out this contrast even more, I bound the neck and sleeve peek-a-boo edges in bias strips made from the lining and also added in a sash that is sewn into the side seams. This soft and sweet blouse turned out to be super quick to make, and in fact, I sewed it together in one day.

This tie can be worn both wrapped and tied in the front, or to the back. I love this look with jeans; a sassy bow and long ties floating behind....

To Prep for this project, you’ll need an additional ½ yard of lining fabric for the binding and ties. Follow the same number to cut except for the sleeve band you'll need to cut 2 of chiffon, and 4 of lining, both front and back. You will also need to rearrange your lining layout to accommodate space for the bias strips. You'll need 2 strips cut on the bias about 1 ½” wide and about 30” long, or enough to go around the front and back neck edge. One will be for the neck and the other will be used for the sleeves. Don't cut anything to size until after it's sewn. The first ¼ yard of lining will be used for the ties. Cut 2 strips 8” wide the full length of the cross grain. 

Once the chiffon and lining are cut, layer the sheer over lining and pin all the way around, with pins no less than 2” apart. Baste around all pieces ½” from the raw edge. Prepare the binding by folding in half, raw edges together, press.  Because the binding will finish the edges, and the lining will be used as one with the sheer, be sure to include a seam finish as you sew each seam. With the exception of the sleeve band, no lining is used on the inside. We want to put this together fast!

The bodice will need to be sewn together in a little different order than your booklet outlines. Here is how I did it:

 Sew the bodice back darts, and front to side front, then sew the front to back at the shoulders.


Sew a stay stitch around the neck edge at 5/8”. Trim to  slightly less than 3/8”. I did this to keep the seam allowance/binding edge manageable, and make sure that my stitching won’t show once the neck is complete.
With wrong sides and raw edges together, pin binding to neck the first few inches just to hold it in place. With the binding towards you under the machine, sew a roughly 3/8” seam. Now I say roughly because my eye stays on the folded edge of the binding (and the distance from the presser foot) at all times. I want that binding edge to be an exact measurement all the way around the neck. In this case, the seam allowance is not my biggest concern.

 Sew again, about 1/16” inside the seam allowance. This is an extra precaution against raveling.

Trim the seam to 1/8” from that second stitching and clip the curves as usual.

      Press the binding and seam up, then press the binding down to the right side of the blouse, folding down right on that seam.
    Top stitch on the right side close to that fold. Scant is the word we use to describe this distance- which means it’s so close you can’t really measure it!

    Sew the center front seam from that symbol all the way up the front. If you’ve measured that binding distance correctly, those binding edges will match right up.Now finish the front and back with the midriff and peplum.

I made my ties using a typical vintage fold up method, but for this light weight fabric, I think it weighs the ends too much. I recommend that you cut the ends on the bias and then clean finish all three edges, which is to turn under 5/8" and then again 1/4" to the inside of allowance. Stitch close to that second fold.

Make sure your ties are finished so that they mirror each other.It's easy to mix up which is the right/left/wrong right side of the fabric.

     Sew two rows of basting stitches at 5/8” and 3/8” along the remaining short end.
  Pull bobbin threads to gather to half the width, about 3-4”.
With right sides together, pin tie to bodice front at side seams above waistline seam.
 Baste to the side seam. Now you are ready to install the zipper.
    The sleeve won’t be lined either. We’ll finish the edges with binding instead.



       As before, stay stitch, add binding to the front and back where the angular peek-a-boo  opening of the sleeve will be. Press to the front and top stitch. Now sew the sleeve front to sleeve back as usual.

Sew the sleeve band as guided by the booklet. I make a template from scrap paper, then use chalk or disappearing marker to create a sewing line to help me get a nice curve around that corner.

I finished my hem with a clean finish as well. It's quick and neat, and won't get in the way of the zipper. Let me know if you make this blouse! I would love to see your creations!


Monday, March 30, 2015

Lengthening a Short Sleeve: Sew Chic Tia Dress

 Hi Everyone, time for another alteration request. This tutorial shows you how to lengthen a cap sleeve. I'll be using the Tia Dress Pattern to demonstrate.
 The easiest way to lengthen the sleeve on a cap is to draw a straight line from underarm to underarm. On this pattern, it lengthens about 1 3/4". Be sure to also extend the sleeve markings.
If you need more length beyond that, extend the underarm seam the same distance on each side and then draw a line across, perpendicular to the grain line. Add in the sleeve markings to the seam line as before. 
(not shown).

This alteration will change the fit of the sleeve band. You'll want to measure your arm and change the size of the sleeve band to fit your arm at this new length.

Enjoy! Best to All-

Sunday, March 29, 2015

How to Resize to Plus Size Sewing Pattern: The Sew Chic Spin Skirt

Hi Everyone! I often get requests to resize my sewing patterns for the vintage curvy girls- and while I would LOVE to do that, there are just too many hurdles of every kind to tackle that type of expansion right now. In the mean time, enjoy this easy to do DIY tutorial for resizing the Sew Chic Spin Skirt, #LN1209.

To start off, we need to do a little math. It's very handy that the waist/hip ratio in my example is exactly the same as the waist/hip ratio on my chart: 10" difference. If your ratio is different, I will mention what to do about that in a few steps, but for now we are going to need only the waist numbers.

We  need to find out how much difference there is between the waist measurement and the chart. Subtract the chart size 18 (38") from your measurement and divide the difference by 4.


The result is how much we need to add to the pattern, both front and back.

Make a long strip, 3 3/4" wide (per my example, your number may be different) that we can tape to our pattern. I used my cutting board grid to draw the first line, and then I'll measure across and make some dash marks to follow all the way down. Don't trust your board to measure for you. They are great for making straight lines, but as you can see, the squares on my board are not accurate.

Now connect your dash marks, creating two parallel lines.

Here are my two lines with 3 3/4" between them.

 With the yoke front, match up the first line with the center front line on the yoke. Tape in place.

Using the grid board and your ruler, square off the top and bottom, extending the yoke pattern.

 Relabel your pattern markings. Cross out the old labeling so you will know what to do if you use this pattern again in the future. Your pattern should look like this. In my example, I need to cut from the extension and follow the size 18 cut line.

If your waist hip ratio is smaller than 10", cut the size 18 and make any needed changes during fittings. If your waist/hip ratio is larger, it is at this point you would reshape the hip curve at the side seam, adding width to the bottom of the pattern (1/4 of the
ratio difference), tapering from nothing  at the waist. For example, if your waist/hip difference is 12" (2" more than the 10" pattern ratio), 2" divided by 4 = 1/2" needs to be added to the hip at the side seam.

Follow the same procedure for the back yoke. Use the grid board and the ruler to line up and move the notches to the new location.


The grain line stays the same.  Cross out the old center back and cut line. Make any needed adjustment to the hip at the side seam as you did with the front yoke.

 Now we move on to the skirt pattern. I've taped on the 3 3/4" strip to the pattern center front.

In order to keep the skirt flare evenly divided, I'm going to split the extension more or less in half by drawing a line down the middle. Mine is divided into 2" and 1 3/4" strips.
 Cut apart at the line. I'm going to add this cut away piece to the side seam.If you have altered the hip at the yoke, be sure and add this additional amount to the side seam also. Square off the extensions at the hip and hem as before.
 Here is what my skirt front looks like. Repeat this procedure to complete the skirt back.

To sew the skirt, I recommend a different order of operations from the booklet that comes with your pattern. Sew the skirt front to the yoke front, and the skirt back to the yoke back first. Then sew the side seams and center back seam so that you'll be better able to test the fit and alter it at the side seam in one step. I also recommend a full 9" or 12" zipper, which will provide for easier access in and out of your spin skirt. 

I'm excited, so sent me photos! Let me know this tutorial was useful to you.
Happy Sewing Day!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Sewing and Stitchery Expo 2015

This year I took a little bit of a "vendor" break and went to Expo to network and help my friend Dana Marie, designer at Dana Marie Designs. If you aren't familiar with her work, it's part wearable art and part rock 'n roll. I know her through my affiliation with the Independent Pattern Company Alliance. Visit her site here:

 The first day of the show I wore the new Pendleton design. I got so many lovely compliments and gave out a whole lot of business cards.  

However, my dress wasn't nearly as popular as my shoes! Many people commented- mostly about how comfortable (or not) they thought they must be. One woman came by and said "They told us to take pictures"  so she took a photo of my shoes. I wear a lot of black and white and red combinations, so it's true- these shoes are my all time favorites. I hope they never wear out.
The second day I had more opportunity to get out of the booth and wander. I wore Ginseng, a new spring design that will be out sometime between now and the end of March. So many people stopped me, swarmed, commented. It warmed my heart to know that people liked it.

Of course my affiliation with Simplicity meant I wanted to go to the fashion show. I enjoyed it very much. Stopping by the booth, I found they were giving away Simplicity clothing labels! The labels give you a space to write the pattern number, and then it is sewn into the garment. Years ago, they would give those away at the pattern counter. Would you add a label if they made them easily available again?

The business cards represent all the great people I met and talked to, like Carley Struve, instructor at Sew Good. It's wonderful to connect with the many people that do their part to keep the love of sewing alive! See you all at Expo next year!

Happy Sewing!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Valentine Slip Sew Along with SEW NEWS MAGAZINE

 The Sew News Sew Along is Sew Soon! 
Sew News Magazine SEW ALONG is about to begin. Join Sew News and make the Valentine Slip, #LN1207,  your next project too! The sew along begins MARCH 2.

Sew News "Sew and Tell" article from Jan 2015
  We are so excited! Look at all the beautiful variations of the slip! Imagine what YOU can do with it!
View A
View B

Made by Rhonda Buss
Rhonda Buss, blogger at "Rhonda's Creative Life" will lead you through the Valentine with both video and text/photo, and is 100% FREE.
The sew along video is funded by pattern sales, so please show them your love and support for this great service and buy your pattern at the Sew News "Sew it All" shop:

Rhonda Buss valentine slip detail
Rhonda made the pink slip shown in the magazine above, and this version to the right using vintage ribbon.Beautiful isn't it?
Rhonda is doing a Giveaway Extravaganza. and THIS WEEK, the winners will be picked - Saturday the 21st. She's giving away a number of amazing items including a free one-year subscription to Sew News Magazine, a Sew Chic Valentine Slip pattern, and a Feb/Mar 2015 Sew News Anniversary issue.

Check out Rhonda's blog and discover more of her wonderful work! Click on the link to go to her blogspot and find out how to enter in the giveaway before it's too late!

The Sew Along Schedule begins on the Sew News Blog:

Week 1: Week of March 2
Fabric Choice and Sewing Lingerie Fabrics
Week 2: Week of March 9
Construction and Bust Adjustments
Week 3: Week of March 16
Customizing with Lace and Seam Finishes
Week 4: Week of March 23
Finishing Touches

Read the Sew News article here:

Find the Blog to start your sew along here:

See you at the sew along, until then, happy sewing!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2015 A Year to Look Forward to!

Hello Readers! Isn't life great!? We get one pass at this crazy maze on earth, and no matter our situation, it is always worth the effort to seek the good, and be grateful. 2014 has been a good year filled with good moments, new friends and connections, and opportunities. I attended two new shows, one of them being the American Sewing Guild conference. With the passing of another year, it's a good time to look ahead as well. Here's a list of few of the events and collaborations to look forward to!





Sew News is sponsoring a Sew Along with Rhonda Buss using the Valentine slip!

The sew along starts March 2 and will last 4 weeks, ending March 23. It includes photos and video posted to the Sew News Blog.  It's 100% FREE, so support the sew along by purchasing your pattern from
the  Sew News Sew it All Shop.
Read the Sew News article and see their version of the Valentine Slip here:

It's a beauty!

 International Textile Expo

In March I'll be heading for Las Vegas and the ITE show. This is not consumer show, but is a show for retail stores. Will your retail store be here? I hope so! I will be participating in a fashion show, which is always fun to do, and with any luck, will get some good photos I can post.





Article For Threads

I am writing an article for Threads Magazine called "Mix and Match Patterns." It's a pattern making "how to" for successfully combining elements from different patterns in a surprisingly new way. It will be published in the Aug/Sept. 2015 issue #180. I think you're going to like it!







Designing for Simplicity

I'm very excited to announce that I am now a special designer for the well-known Simplicity Patterns! I spent all of December designing and sewing my first pattern for them. It's been a favorite of my fans for years; a style I call Pongo. This pattern will be available with the Fall 2015 catalog, available about August or September. In connection with this, we are starting our own sew along site too! I'll be posting more about that later :-)

Happy New Year, and as always, Keep on Sewing!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Learn to Sew: Cutting Line accuracy

I've worked with many a beginning seamstress. Some are naturally meticulous (and can go overboard, even for me!) and others are...well, a bit sloppy. Not because they want to be, but because they don't know. When I start a project, 75% of the time goes to the prep work - pressing the fabric and pattern, checking and correcting any problems with the grain, meticulously arranging a double layer of fabric so that both layers are on grain and perfectly straight, and then carefully measuring each piece in the layout. With all this care that goes into the prep for layout, it makes sense that just as much care would go into the cutting. In terms of fit, assembly, garment hang/quality, and cost - cutting is the most important task there is, and in the industry, the cutters job is given only to the highly qualified.

Here is the pattern piece we will be working with. I use a mechanical pencil when creating my patterns so that the line is as thin and precise as it can be. I cut on the outside of this line leaving no paper margin, but yet the pencil line remains.The goal is to create an exact fabric replica of the paper.

In this photo example above, I cut the top and a beginning seamstress cut out the bottom. Do you need to ask yourself which side best matches the shape of the pattern? Just in case...

Both top and bottom should look like this example with smooth edges and crisp sharp corners.
Beginners should:
  • Use a sufficient amount of pins to keep all layers firmly together. 
  • Aim carefully using long strokes with sharp scissors. use short strokes for curves.
  • Don't lift your fabric up- keep it level with the table as much as possible
  • Cut in the same "groove" as the cut before it.
  • Ideally, move your body, not the fabric to get a better cutting angle. 
  • If you must move the fabric, cut around the pinned pattern piece leaving a fabric margin, then turn the piece to cut the margin away. 
Why is this important? Because our seam line is determined by the cutting line. If we take care at this stage in the game, everything else is smooth sailing.

Want to get away from meticulous cutting? Mark all of your SEAM LINES with dressmakers carbon. Then your cutting line can be as sloppy as you please and no one will ever know!

Happy Sewing!