Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tutorial: Sew Chic Southern Bell Curved Hem Pattern Hack

Sew Chic Southern Belle LN8503Southern Belle #LN8503Meet my Southern Belle, LN8503. As designed, the full skirt made up of panels we call gores, and godet inserts at the hem creates this lovely angled hem that can handle border prints and laces with a straight edge. (photo at right). In the photo at left is the same dress, but with a curved hem, appropriate for all other fabrics.

You might remember this plaid dress as one I wore for lesson 8 in my Craftsy class.  I have worn this dress for a very long time, and it is still one of my favorites.

This yellow and black chiffon variation was made for the ITE show in 2015 with border fabric from Triple Textile. Instead of putting the border print at the hem, I placed the border print at the top of the skirt and did a curved hem at the bottom. This polyester chiffon may well still available for $3.50/yd (wholesale prices) on their website here:

Let me show you hot to put a curved hem on your dress. This customization is so easy to do.

You will need:

  • pattern paper
  • tape
  • curved ruler
  • tape measure
  • marker or pen
We will be 1) eliminating the godet and 2) straightening and lengthening the side seams of the skirt (there's just one panel, so this is easy), and 3) reshaping the bottom of the skirt panel to give it a curve.

Before you start, measure yourself from waist to hem and know how long you want your skirt to be. If you need to adjust the length of your skirt, do that now using the "lengthen or shorten" line on the pattern and following the "what to know before you sew" section of the instruction booklet. When planning your skirt length, consider the length of your petticoat if you'll be wearing one, and don't forget to include a 1-2" hem allowance, as appropriate for your fabric, and the 5/8" seam allowance at the top. I am using 29" as my measuring length. Subtracting 1 1/2" for the hem on my skirt and 5/8" seam at the top, my finished skirt will be 26 7/8" long, perfect for a 26" long, or shorter, petticoat.
Add paper

    1. Start by adding pattern paper from the hem up to the angled mid section. Tape it in place.

    2. Using a ruler, extend the side seam for your size. Use a yard stick to make sure that angle is straight from the waist down to the new end point. Measuring from the cut line for your size, make a mark the length you've determined for your skirt.

    Measure your pattern

    3. Then go to the center and again, from the cutting line for your size,  measure to the desired length and mark the bottom of the skirt panel. 

    4. Continue measuring and marking, inching your way toward the side seam you've marked previously, creating dashes all the way across.Keep your measuring tape or ruler straight down from the waist, no angling.

    5. Now comes the fun part! Using your curved ruler draw a new hemline by connecting the dashes from side seam to center. 

     6. Here is what your piece should look like.

    7. Fold your pattern in half lengthwise and copy your marks to make the right side the same as the left.

    Cut from fabric, this panel shouldn't stretch too much, but to be sure your skirt looks right, always mark your hem from the floor while you are wearing it, then hem it. You want your hem to be parallel to the floor.

    What do you think of the results?  I'd love to see how it turned out for you!

    Have a great sewing day! 

    Monday, May 18, 2015

    Pattern Tutorial: Fantasia Dress Variation

    Fantasia Variation - how to go from the Opera to the Office

    I love the Fantasia dress pattern with a fitted bodice and flared high-low skirt- words like formal, feminine, cultured, clean, classic and bridal come to mind. All my designs are fairly girly- but recently I had to rethink that concept when I approached a wholesale fabric vendor from the International Textiles Expo who was interested in collaboration. She was to send me fabrics for a blouse and skirt from my pattern collection and we would represent each other at the fashion show and market. I love teaming up!

    Then the fabrics came -- a pinstriped navy and blue/gray suiting. The tweed, as our vendor called it (it's not an obvious tweed weave) was soft and thick with the right amount of body and the shirting was crisp and tightly woven. They washed up beautifully and high quality fabrics are always a dream to work with, was a little on the "manly" side. Hmmm. Would this work for a girly twirly skirt? I looked at my patterns and nothing seemed quite right until finally the thought came to me: combine these two fabrics with the Fantasia dress, then complete the look with the Victory Jacket and voila! I've got the suit style that this fabric needs. This outfit has a definite 1940s vibe, and made for fall, this combination will definitely be one of my season favorites.

    I chose the low-calf length, view B, but for a formal event, the longer length (view A) would look fabulous too. For this blouse and skirt look-a-like, I used the tweed for the skirt and jacket and the contrasting navy fabric for the dress bodice. It looks like a skirt and blouse, and because it won't come un-tucked, it wears even better!
    The fabric completely changed the look of Fantasia and is an easy way to move into the look of a suit without all the typical tailoring. When cutting out the pattern, I simply used the navy pinstripe for the bodice and sleeve pieces and tweed for everything else.

    I decided to switch out the cap sleeve for a longer length. I used the sleeve from Beatrice and shortened it to just above the elbow, which is about 6-6 1/2" from the underarm, finished. Rather than using the sleeve facing, I turned up the bottom 1" and did a blind hem on the sleeve (the alteration means the facing wouldn't fit anymore anyway!). Other than that, the dress has no other variation.

    The gray tweed was used for the skirt section, and to transition the two fabrics, I added in a 2" wide covered belt.

    To make the belt, follow the tutorial I did for the Sew Mama Sew blog called "Made to Match." Find that tutorial here:

    To further separate the identities of the top and bottom, I finished the skirt seams  by pressing open, turning under 1/4", and top stitching through all layers about 3/8" to the right and left of every vertical seam. The bodice seams were serged. See the next photos for a view of the skirt seam.
    These pictures shows the "V" detail in the skirt "train" where it attaches at center back.

    This photo shows the inside finish of the skirt seams turned under and stitched. To emphasize the lovely flares and help  it keep structure under the weight of this suiting fabric, I tucked a 1/2" wide horsehair braid down into that hem allowance and topstitched everything into place in one step.

    The Victory Jacket was made as is outlined in the instruction booklet with only one variation...

    I turned back the front from the side of the neck, parallel to center front and tacked it with a flat 5/8" covered button.
    This dress is soft and comfortable to wear and oh so pretty. What do you think of the new Fantasia suit look?
    Buy the Fantasia pattern here:
    Buy the Victory Jacket pattern here:

    Have a great sewing day!

    Wednesday, May 13, 2015

    Pattern Resizing Part 2 - Large to Small

    If you've read or followed my Pattern Resizing Tutorial - Small to large, (which shows you how to make your pattern bigger) this will be simple. We will be doing the same thing, but in reverse! This tutorial will teach you how to make your pattern SMALLER that the sizes marked on your pattern. If you mean to make your pattern LARGER,  then click here to go to the tutorial part 1 for that instruction:

    If this is your first attempt to resize, don't worry! Using my Southern Belle pattern, #LN8503 (buy the pattern here: you can follow along with me and before long you will have a perfectly-sized piece.

    Here is what you will need:

    • Your chosen pattern.
    • Any pattern paper of your choice (or use the paper cut from the edges of your pattern sheet).
    • A long see-thru ruler with a grid
    • A curved ruler is nice, but optional
    • Your personal measurements 
     1. Measure and Math
     Use this chart to record your measurements and then we'll do some math.

    Most of my patterns range from a size 2 to 18, and as an early design the Southern Belle only reaches to size 6- not small enough for my imaginary figure!  Let's fix that. Put your measurements in the first column, and the smallest pattern measurements from the pattern in the second column. Subtract the small from the large, and put that number in the third column. This is the overall decrease, but we need to disperse this measurement evenly on all 4 sides (divided between our front, back, right and left side). Now divide that overall number by 4 and put that in the last column. This smaller number is how much we will subtract from each of the side seams, front and back. Check your math!
    The changes in the pattern chart sizes include both width and height to make the sizes proportionate. Keep this in mind as you make your reductions. Maybe you need to reduce the width, but keep or even add some length (see Small to Large tutorial). No problem. This is why you've taken your measurements. 

    Exceptions to this divide by 4 math rule:  -- i.e. a princess seam. However this number may not be divided 6 ways equally.  Plan it out so that the princess line will land just to the outside of the bust point, and put the rest at the side seam.)

    2. Draw extension lines
    For this example, I'm using the Southern Belle #LN8503, pieces 1 (bodice front) and piece 2 (midriff yoke). Cut out the pattern pieces that you will need for your project. Because we are going to reduce our pattern we will be drawing some new lines on the pattern pieces -- extension lines. Even though we are reducing, you may still need some extra pattern paper for changes.

      Use a ruler to draw a grading point through the inside corner points of every edge. There will be exceptions where you draw outside of the pattern. This allows us to follow the pattern shape while at the same time shrinking it down.

    For the moment, ignore the vertical side seam line we've drawn in. What I want you to notice is the grading line at the outside waist from the 18 to the 6, that it's outside the pattern piece. Tape paper here if you need to. See how the outside edge of the pattern drops at the waist for all sizes? We want to maintaining this shape for our size too. We will be also be redrawing this line, but to match our measurement.

    3. Start at the side seam

    First we will concern ourselves with the width changes. Using the reduced measurements from my chart, I need to subtract a total of 3" from the waist, and divided by 4, the change will be -3/4" from the size 6 mark on the piece. Using a ruler I drew a line 3/4" in from the size 6 mark, then matched it up with the waistline.

    4. Work your way around the pattern

    Working your way around the pattern piece, measure and mark your new lines, keeping in mind which reduction goes where!

    We've used a ruler to mark 1/2" all the way around this pattern piece, matching the reduction for our bust, changing direction at the grading points.

    At the curves, keep the transition from wide to narrow the same as the other sizes are. Use a curved ruler, trace (the neckline above onto a piece of paper then with that tracing underneath, redraw it in the correct position, or neatly free-hand that line.
    On this pattern, although my waist needs to be reduced by a total of 3", the bust only needs to be reduced by only 2".
    This means we are going to have to correct that transition between pattern pieces with different width adjustments (narrow waist, wider hips for example). For now, draw the new new measurement lines for each piece and we'll tackle this step a little later in this tutorial.

    5. Lengthen or Shorten

    Looking at my imaginary person's measurements, we see that although the bust and waist need to be reduced, her back waist measurement needs to be lengthened. There are two places to lengthen: above and below the bust point. If you need to lengthen the bodice area, you'll need to take into consideration any darts and your bust point. With our pattern we will make the adjustment on piece 2.

    Rule of thumb for lengthening is to cut the pattern piece perpendicular to the center front or back. We did this and then placing it over our pattern paper spaced it apart the extra 1/2" (use a ruler to mark!) our lady needs and taped it down.

    This pattern doesn't have a dart, but if yours does, you may need to move it. Measure yourself from bust point to point. Divide that measurement in half. Measure from the waist up to your bust point. Measuring the pattern over and down to the waist, find your bust point. Transfer that information to the pattern and mark your bust point.  Use a ruler to draw a new line the corrected distance from the dart marked on the pattern. This is a cut line, not a sewing line. The bigger a dart is, the nearer to the bust point your dart should end. Assuming a good quality bra that keeps you nice and high, draw an arbitrary double line above and below the bust point. Measuring from the waist, vertically up to the bust point you can determine if and how much should be lengthened below and anything left over should be lengthened above.

    If you need to shorten your pattern, I will refer you to this tutorial on Shortening a pattern:

    6. Matching the pattern piece seams

    This is where we make the newly marked pieces match! Remember how our lady's waist and chest have different reductions? Well, those pieces have now been altered accordingly and won't match up -- until we work our magic.

    In our example we need to align the bodice front (reduced 1/2") with the midriff yoke (reduced 3/4"). 
    Mark your seam line at the bottom of the bodice and the top of the midriff and overlap them, one on top of the other, with the size 6 cut line touching. My red pencil is pointing to that overlap/match point.
    I've pinned my pattern so that it won't shift.
    I've made an X at the bottom and top of the side seam. These two points I will match up with my ruler, drawing a line between them. This is called truing. This will be my new cut line.
    This side seam is not straight, so I am using a curved ruler to guide me from that bottom X to the top X. Use a tracing wheel to mark this new cutting line on the paper below. The tracing wheel punches tiny holes into the paper so you can see it. Mark over that line with your writing implement.

     8. Complete other pattern pieces

    Continue on with the other pattern pieces, customizing the darts, subtracting from the side seams and redrawing the pattern shape as before until all pattern changes have been made. Don't forget the facings. Keep a notebook or use a diagram to help you keep track, but always walk (match your pattern pieces at the sewing lines) your pattern to be sure you haven't forgotten anything. Make a check mark on each seam that has been walked to partner so you don't have to worry. Checking this now will save your time, money and hassle down the road. If your chosen pattern has more pieces to it, such as the Tia dress, remember that the concept is the exactly the same. Make your marks at the side seam to personalize, and resize the pattern using the same grading lines, tapering as was done on the sizes before. Keep measurement changes the same throughout so that all the pieces will sew correctly to each other, walk your seams, and that's all you need to resize your pattern from what you have to what you need!

    Have a great sewing day!
    ~ Laura

    Thursday, May 7, 2015

    Sewing Contests and Pattern Giveaways

    Dress Up Party already Underway!
    Do you like reading pattern reviews and enjoy daily giveaways? Then this is for you. Every weekday until May 29th Sara Lawson from Sew Sweetness has organized this online party by arranging to have two guest bloggers share a pattern review. This review will contain info about the pattern, modifications and more. What a great way to get inspired! Sew Chic is proud to be a sponsor of this event. Entering is so EASY. Just scroll down to the end of Sara's giveaway post and click the "Enter this Giveaway" link. At the end of the event, any garment project made between May 4 and June 16th can be submitted for a chance to be a bonus prize winner too.
    Click the link below to win 3 patterns (winner gets to pick the style!) you have only TWO DAYS to enter:

    You can visit the schedule of the guest bloggers, contest rules with this post too:

    Next UP: Indie Pattern Month/Sewing Contest in June!

     Have you been meaning to start that sewing project? Well now you have a reason -- four weeks and four themes starting June 1st.

    Hosted by The Monthly Stitch, this contest is sponsored by 21 Indie companies and encourages you to start (or finish) a dress, separates, try a new pattern maker or sew the "other" view. Sew Chic will be providing prizes in two categories: "Dresses" and "New to Me." I'm looking forward to seeing your fabulous posts with Sew Chic designs!

    Read the rules and announcement here:
    and the category rules are here:

    We are sponsoring both the DRESSES category

    and the NEW TO ME category