Friday, December 27, 2013

How to Shorten a Bodice Pattern

 Get out your ruler and a good sharp pen, pencil, or marker.

Draw two parallel lines, the distance apart being the same distance you would like to shorten the bodice by. Make sure your new lines will be perpendicular to the grain line. In this case, that is center back. How much to shorten? Subtract your actual back waist measurement by the back waist measurement listed on the pattern for the size you are making. If your back waist measures 16" and the pattern is made for 17", then make your parallel lines 1" apart.

Create a fold along the bottom line be folding the pattern under, just temporarily.

 Now unfold and bring that bottom line up to match the top line, creasing the pattern for an exact match.

Pin or tape in place. Notice that the side seam and dart lines now have a jog in them. Those need to be corrected. Place a ruler along this line, matching each end of the ruler with the end points of that line. Draw a NEW cut/sew line. This new line should run between the jags. This is called TRUE, or truing the line. Now alter the front pattern pieces in the same way, shortening in the same location as  the back.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Facebook 500 giveaway and year come and gone

This quick post is to say 

Thank You!

Since reaching 500 "likes" I posted a giveaway. Out of 32 entries, Sandy Beyer of Texas is the winner of a free pattern. Thank you to Sandy and everyone else for entering the giveaway, and thank you for allowing me share with you on Facebook.

This past year has been really eventful with a kick off in February teaching classes at the Sewing & Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, WA, at the Rocky Mountain Sewing Expo in Denver, CO, and taping an online class for called "Flirty Day Dress." I expect this class will have more than 1000 students by the end of the year, most of them international (Thank YOU!).

We've seen the interest in Vintage style grow, adding several new stores and vendors. It's exciting to see them grow and prosper, providing us with the vintage inspired fabrics and specialty products that we want. Please support them as you can.

Next year will be some of the same, and also a few new event. I'll be at the Sewing & Stitchery Expo in February again, with a class and trunk show on combining pattern brands. I'll also be teaching a sewing machine class, sharing some "tricks" and techniques to use with the old timer machines. I'll also be attending a wholesale show and fashion show. I've applied to teach at the American Sewing Guild Conference in St. Louis, MO during the summer, and I'm helping to put together a Sewing and Design Retreat, along with other members of the Independent Pattern Company Alliance (IPCA- see to take place sometime during the year. I will let you know how it all works out, but in the mean time, have a WONDERFUL and safe Holiday!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Ehlen Blouse, Sew Chic 1313

I'm so excited about the Ehlen Blouse, my new pattern this season, and have wanted to take you on a tour to show it off. This blouse may look simple at first glance, but there are some really nice features and techniques that may not at first be obvious, thus the reason for the "advanced" rating. I've also made some changes to the instructions that I hope you will be excited about.

Meet Ehlen A and B. A has the ties and lace for the frilly look, and for a tailored look, B has the buttons. The common features are the "v" neck, the princess seam at the bust, a front midriff yoke, a peplum, and short "peek-a-boo" sleeves - THAT I really love. They both also have a side zipper opening.

 This blouse design started with the idea of a cut-on neck scarf that could be arranged differently just using a new knot, or add in a broach, buttons, tie tacks, or any other means to create a new look. To test the wearability, I tied this cotton version with an overhand knot, and it stayed perfectly in place all day long. If you were to make it from a slippery fabric, I'm sure you could not expect the same results. 
 To stay with the theme, the sleeve band is also tied. A square knot is the most tidy. The other thing to note about this sleeve is that it's SHAPED down the center seam to give the illusion of, or make room for, a broad shoulder. A shaped sleeve and adjustable band that will fit nearly any arm is nice!

  Staying with the vintage vibe, and because it will be tied, I have not used any interfacing in my sleeve band.  The lace trim looks pretty, but it also serves as a stay for the bias and curved edges.
You could add a light weight interfacing if you wanted to.

 Reinforcing the stitching where the center front meets the ties, then clipping right up to the stitching is a really critical step. Too many times people do not clip close enough, but the fabric can't turn properly and lay flat any other way. If you fear the fabric will unravel, use a product called Fray-Check. Just a drop will do it.
 The inside of this blouse is completely lined. The front lining is cut from fashion fabric for ties that are faced with the same fabric on both sides.

View B is trimmed in bias binding, folded in half and pressed flat. Sew it in place as you would piping, but without using a zipper foot. Keeping the trim a consistent distance will be the only challenge.

"Tapering" the trim off the seam, it disappears from view
just at the last moment.

No special techniques were used to apply the trim to the sleeve, such as mitering corners. Keeping the trim narrow is the key. This band is interfaced, and is held together only with buttons. Initially I was going to make buttonholes and then I thought - Why? There was no need to "unbutton" the band. Simply try it on for fit, pin in place and add buttons. Keep it simple, right?

These blouses unzip from the bottom up the left side, exposing a beautifully lined inside. Sewing for a special needs person, continue the zipper all the way past to the sleeve. For a clean look, I have used (and the pattern recommends) an invisible zipper but an all purpose zipper could also be used.

Here's a view of the zipper from the inside.

 This photo shows how the sleeve is finished at the armscye.

The other great technique that should not be ignored is understitching at the hem. Understitching keeps the seam turned to the inside and keeps the lining from showing.
 In my classes, students said that they like the way that vintage patterns were illustrated, so I made some small changes from my usual instruction that I hope is a help to you.

Who uses a pattern layout anymore? Most people I know don't even bother with them, but for those of you who do, I have labeled the layout with the pattern number and given the number an "R" if the pattern has been reversed.

Just like many of the vintage pattern instructions, and as the steps will allow, I have only one illustration, with the seams numbered to match the written instruction. In this way, you can see how the garment is put together and arranged in 3-D rather than drawn flat. 
The sections are still organized into "STEPS", but rather than repeating the numbering, the numbers run continuously so no procedure is given the same number.

The lining can double as a "test" fit or "muslin" of the blouse before cutting into your good fabric. Formal or casual, this blouse is perfect for fine fabrics, great prints, or natural fibers. It has the details that make it special, easy to wear, and attractive for all figure types. There are so many reasons to love the Ehlen Blouse. You can pick yours up here:

I hope you've enjoyed the tour, and  I look forward to your feedback on the guide changes!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How to Enlarge a TOO Small Dress

This weekend my son gets married, and of course I put off altering his brides dress (who likes alterations? NOT me) until the last possible moment, but it's done now, and I'm pleased with the results. I hope she is too.

This dress was the brides mother's wedding gown some 30-40 years ago, and what mother doesn't want to see their daughter married in the same dress? It was my job to alter this for another day at the Alter, and I needed to add about 5" more to the bodice width and enlarge the sleeves which were too tight. I was to maintain the integrity of the design as much as possible.

Enlarging isn't a problem as long as you have access to more of the same fabric. Purchasing anything to "match" in terms of color, fabric, style, dye, pattern, wear, age, or type is right there next to impossible. If that thought ever crosses your mind, just wipe it clean now. In this case, my extra yardage would be coming from an extra long train that was to come off.

The first thing I did was take careful and thorough measurements. There were to be no fittings during this process, (which I don't recommend - it's like driving a car blind) so with scrap fabric, I draped a bodice on my girl. It would be my "map" of her figure.

Once I was ready to begin, I first took the dress sections apart:

My plan included a princess seam at the front (the dress has only one bust dart from the waist) to add more bust shaping and increase the width. Using the bodice drape, I determined the shape of the front and side front, and where the seam would go.

Then I pinned the paper pattern to the bodice to measure it and check it against the body measurements I had taken earlier. I also also experimented with some possible options for replacing the lace at the waist.
Before determining the hem, I cut all the pieces from the bottom of the train and sewed the bodice together.

For the skirt, I determined the diameter mathematically (being a circle skirt), then I sewed a basting stitch at that point, about 2" from the raw edge, to keep the layers together. Then I trimmed away leaving a seam allowance.

With everything together, I put the dress on a mannequin and very carefully cut the skirt hem all the way around. On a circular hem, I always cut it longer than I think I want, then go around again leveling it one more time. This hem was sewn using a serged rolled hem. It's the only way to hem chiffon!

The original sleeves had a lace insert that I needed to add to the larger sleeve. To do that, I cut the fabric close to the stitching and pulled the fabric loose, leaving the stitching alone. The new sleeve had to fit into the small cuff, so it was tapered to fit.

On the back, rather than adding in a princess line in the usual spot, I just added a panel to the original side seam. I also added a dart in the back, which it didn't originally come with, to help this bodice fit better than it would otherwise. Eliminating darts is a shortcut for smaller sizes that would never look good on larger people. We need those to fit our curves!

Originally, I was going to move lace around from the sleeves or the hat to keep the original circle of lace at the waist, but once I got into this dress, I realized that they had used different lace, and even different colors, for every part of this dress. Side by side they were not going to look good together.
I did want to keep the back "ruffle" so I shaped the lace, curving the ends up to finish the edge and decided that it looked fine as a little "peplum" in the back.

Shaping the back allowed me to take a little lace to fill in the front over those double seams (the original dart and the new princess seam) and give it a natural look. I wish there had been enough lace to fill in the sides, but it still looks nice.

In working with these beaded laces, you might not know that you can sew it all by machine using a darning foot. It has a little spring on it so you can move the dress around as you sew, avoiding the beads and following the shape of the lace. To glue the beads back on that inevitably fall off, put a little glue on a disposable surface and let it sit there until it gets old and tacky and almost dry in some places. Using a pin through the bead hole, pick up your bead, tap it in the glue, then apply to the dress. It will hold much better to the dress. Holds fast, dries quickly. I like that.

And if you want to learn how to resize various areas or even a whole pattern, check out my Pattern Resizing Tutorials, Part 1: Small to Large or Part 2: Large to Small.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Christmas Wedding

Doing that Craftsy class was a marvelous adventure, but aside from mentioning a quietly placed 20% discount link in the side bar, it is past time for me to move on to another topic.

My son announced recently that he is engaged!

He and his lovely bride-to-be have been dating for a while, so the real kicker to this announcement is that he's given us a whole 6 weeks to prepare! Yikes. Coming off the Craftsy event (which as set me back quite a bit)  I get to squeeze in a couple more things! I am excited about planning for a Christmas themed reception/open house for early December. Take a look at my Pinterest board of ideas:

But you know the real question going through my mind is...WHAT AM I GOING TO WEAR??

You'll not be surprised to know the colors are green, red and gold. I found this green knit that I think I'd like to use. It's been rumpled up in my laundry basket, waiting for a wash, and it's not iridescent, but this photo makes it look as though it were.

You'll eventually see me working on a retrofit of this dress that the brides mother was married in.

Friday, October 4, 2013

It's Almost HERE!

Are you tired of hearing about Craftsy yet? No? This is GREAT because it's a big job getting everything ready to go, and I'm still not done yet. Yesterday several BIG boxes were delivered to me with all the patterns to be mailed to students.

The content is exactly the same, and still comes in a zip style bag, but the packaging has been formatted to fit a smaller envelope. My instructions normally come in booklet form, so if you're a fan of the sheet style sewing guide, you won't be disappointed:
I love that the pattern is in blue print.

I've been working on my mailing list email, and the Craftsy list email, and setting up class links set up and getting oriented to the Craftsy class page so that I know how to answer all of your questions and we can have a great interactive experience.

This is the last week of the class giveaway, which end Oct 8, 2013, so get your name in the drawing soon!

To give you more insight into the Craftsy site and purpose, I found this great link to an interview with the Craftsy VP that I can recommend:

I can't tell you HOW soon it is, but the class will be ready SOON, and you'll be one of the first to know.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Craftsy Class Giveaway

Recently, I received photos and other graphics from the Craftsy class I taped in August.
Seeing these photos for the first time was pretty exciting and reminded me all over again why I accepted their request to teach this class. This new age of internet has made learning so accessible and affordable for everyone, no matter their station in life, and I am pleased that I can be a part of it.
We now call it information overload, but when I was learning to sew, this kind of specialized information was hard to get, if not from family or friends. Where would someone go to find someone willing to “show” us how?  As a teenager, I knew of a Russian woman in town that was a clothing designer and I wondered if she had something she could teach me? I was shy and insecure, and didn’t know the questions to ask. I only knew I wanted to learn.

I hope that anyone would be able to ask me. I invite you to ask me. Perhaps you don't know the questions either. This can make a project class (like those offered at Craftsy) so perfect. We learn by practice and doing. Even if you have been sewing for a long time, discovering a different way of "doing" is also of value. Remember that there are many roads that lead to Rome.

The Craftsy class is not quite ready for purchase, but while we wait, I’m happy to announce a class giveaway. Between now and Oct 8, 2013, please sign up to be entered into a giveaway for my class “Sewing Vintage: The Flirty Day Dress” through this link:

The winner will be announced on the first day of class, so stay tuned for that date! If you win, the class will be yours from day one.

So, until you see these banners everywhere........enter the giveaway, and Good Luck!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Craftsy Sewing Vintage: The Tia Dress Details

While you wait for my Craftsy class, officially named "Sewing Vintage: The Flirty Day Dress" set to debut in October, let me share with you the special techniques and extra features included with the class project, the Tia Dress, mailed to you FREE with the class. Besides all the extra dress features listed here, I go into the use of vintage tools, still in use today, and show you how they can be used for speed and accuracy. I go through the essential pattern alterations you may need to do, including altering the bust for cup size, including the math for anything from an A cup to a DD.

Here is just the list of special vintage features added to the dress:


The pattern calls for purchased bias binding, but in the class, we make a pattern for this wider trim so that any fabric or color can be used to trim the bodice, taking a 1/4 yard of contrast fabric. Instruction for this bow is not included with the class, but you can make one for yourself using the same pattern piece.We also make a pattern piece for the zipper facing.

make your own trim


A side zipper is oh, so vintage! You know I've said it before, and I'll say it again - once you know how, a side zipper is so much easier to sew than a back zipper, and you look good from the front and the back! In this class, we want to go back in time to the days when, in addition to our usual under things, women also wore slips for modesty (and girdles for shape and structure). To keep from catching your slip in the [metal] zipper and ruining it, women would sometimes add a facing to the zipper area, such as we still see in our modern-day slacks. This facing also serves as a privacy panel, and looks oh, so couture!

The perfect lapped zipper really does need an extension on the lapped side. The usual seam allowance can turn out to be a rather sparse edge for top stitching into place.

the vintage zipper extension


As a technique, a waist stay has many benefits, but most important, it keeps your waist measurement locked in place so it won't stretch with wearing.
a waist stay is a must!


In deciding on a seam finish for the class, I went through my collection of dresses from the 1920's to the 1960's, and the most common seam finish, even for a store purchased garment, really is the pinked edge. I found it used on everything. In places where the seam was bias, there was no finish whatsoever- in this case, they simply pinked up to the bias, tapering off to nothing. The lesson in this is do not under rate those pinking shears! Though I took the time to do a straight stitch inside the pinking, it really wasn't necessary. My dress has been wash, and you can see there is practically no fray at all. Of course it helps to start with a quality fabric.
seam finish with pinking shears


The pattern calls for trim at the hem, eliminating the need to top stitch or ease in a full hem. In the class, we've eliminated the trim and instead I show you a special technique for easing a wide hem all in one step. I use hem tape to transition the hem, and I show you a different way, common to the 1950's, to hand stitch the hem in place.


No vintage girl would be without a petticoat, so we make a two ruffle petticoat without a pattern to wear under your skirt. I show you how easy it is to sew ruffle to ruffle, all in one step, using a ruffler foot. This wonderful foot will cost you $15-25, but will save you HOURS in time. Top stitching over the seam (as the top ruffle is) is a really nice detail, but optional.

add a petticoat for structure
This is so much more bonus about tools, technique, fitting, alterations, and everything that I do to make clothing look professional, I share with you. I am super excited and really looking forward to the class launch. Is there anything I have missed? Any other technique you could possibly want to know that is not already included?