You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Sewing’ category.

As I said in my previous post, while working on the Taffy blouse from Colette Patterns I became a bit disenchanted with the Full Bust Adjustment, and decided to try the small shoulder adjustment instead. It worked beautifully, and now I am ready to share with you the method and the results.

I began by copying the front and back bodice pieces that corresponded to my full bust measurement. On the copy I also traced the upper portion of the pattern size corresponding to my high bust measurement. At the bottom of the armscye, I blended the smaller shoulder into the larger side seam. This new line was my new armscye.


If the length of the new armscye was more than 1.5 inches bigger than the sleeve, then the sleeve cap would have to be adjusted to compensate for the new size of the armsyce as well. Fortunately, that was not the case with this sleeve cap, and no adjustments had to be made. Frankly the idea of adjusting the sleeve cap of this bizarrely shaped sleeve is the stuff of nightmares, and I thanked God that it didn’t have to be adjusted.

The initial tissue fitting indicated that I was pretty close to a great fit, and a muslin indicated that it was nearly perfect. Here is the result.


I think that a comparison of the FBA adjustment and the small shoulder adjustment makes the difference in fit pretty apparent. The armsyce is really distorted after the large FBA, but looks pretty normal after the small shoulder adjustment.


Like nearly all pattern adjustments the small shoulder adjustment can be done in more than one way. My way, is simply that, my way. It is not necessarily the best way, or the “correct” way, but it is what worked for me, and I will continue using it, until I find something that works better.

The Taffy Blouse, from The Colette Sewing Handbook.

My latest crafty endeavor is the Colette Taffy Blouse, which, given my limited crafty time and exacting standards, took me over a month to complete. While I will try to cover a few of the reasons it took me so long over several posts, today I will only be covering the sleeves.

The Sleeves of the Colette Taffy Blouse are, as you can see, quite voluminous. While they are very pretty, frankly, they are a bit much for my taste. So I decided to make the full circle sleeves half circles. I will show the the first step in that process today.


First I traced the original full circle pattern piece. I trace all of my pattern pieces before I make any adjustments so that I can go back to the original if I make any mistakes and so I can make a different size in the future.


I started to adjust the pattern by making evenly spaced cuts through the sleeve, up to but not through the seam line. I mirrored these cuts in the seam allowance, again, not cutting through the seam line. Keeping the seam line intact keeps the armscye intact, so that the armscye on the blouse portion of the pattern doesn’t have to be adjusted as well.


Then I overlapped my cuts evenly and taped them in place.

It is worth noting at this point that I could have also simply cut a large wedge shape from the center of the sleeve and taped the exposed ends back together. The reason I didn’t do this is that the sleeve ins’t a perfect circle, and while taking a piece out of the middle would have reduced it’s bulk, it would also change it’s shape. Reducing the sleeve evenly around it’s circumference better retains it’s shape.


When finished, the pattern looked something like this.

In the final version I further decreased the bulk of the sleeve and extended it’s length by several inches.

I have been asked a lot recently to teach classes in sewing (usually whenever someone finds out that most of my clothing is hand sewn, rather than store bought).  I would love to be able to do just that, but I simply don’t have the time.  Most of my sewing is done at night, or during spare moments on the weekends.  I have no idea how I could squeeze a class into the mix, but I decided to try anyway – at least in bit and pieces.  I have decided to create several online tutorials at my leisure (Ha!), starting with the basics, and working toward a perfectly fitted pattern.

Choosing the appropriate pattern size

If you buy clothes off the rack, it is relatively easy to find the best size, you just try on all of the sizes that might fit, and pick the best one.  When you are sewing your clothes, it is a bit more difficult to find the correct size; after all, you can’t try the pattern on before you sew it.  On the other hand, sewing your own clothes can give you a perfect fit, rather than the fit that is just close enough.  The problem is; which pattern size should you choose?


Ready to wear clothing, and most sewing patterns are made based on an average, ideal person.  She is a size 8, about 20 years old, 5’6” (1.67 meters), and a B cup.  As I am sure you know, very few people fit this “average.”  Most of us are shorter, or taller, younger or older, larger or smaller, or several different sizes.  So which size should you pick?

Here is the rule of thumb;

Pants – Measure at your widest point below your waist, and above your legs, and choose the pattern size with the corresponding hip size.  If you are between sizes, choose the smaller size (Unless the style of the garment is very closely fitted.   Most styles have enough ease, or extra room, to fit people who are between sizes; however, very closely fitted garments have minimal ease).

  •  Why?  It is relatively easy to adjust the width of the waist, and legs of pants, but the curve at the seat of the pants is a bit tricky to adjust.  Picking the full hip measurement usually allows for the easiest adjustment.

Skirts –

  • A-line, and other styles that are closely fitted at the waist, and then rapidly increase in size skimming the hips, should be chosen based on the waist measurement.
    •  Why?  Since the waist is the only part of this style that is closely fitted, picking the size that fits the waist allows for the least pattern modification.
  • Straight skirts and other styles that are fitted through the waist and hips should be chosen based on the hip measurement.  Chose the pattern size in which the hip size corresponds to the measure of your widest point below your waist (this measurement may be at your hips or thighs).
    • Why?  The waist in this type of skirt usually has easily adjustable darts at the waistline.

Blouses and Dresses – Measure your full bust, and your upper bust (wrap the tape measure around your chest under your arms, but above your breasts).  Now subtract the upper bust measurement from the full bust measurement.

  • If the difference is 2 inches (5 cm) or less (you are likely an A or B cup) choose the pattern size with the bust measurement corresponding to your full bust measurement.  Congrats, you probably don’t have major bust revisions ahead, since most patterns are designed for b up breasts!
  • If the difference is greater than 2 inches (you are likely a C cup or larger), chose the pattern size with the bust measurement corresponding to your full bust measurement.
    • Why?  While the bust adjustment isn’t easy, it isn’t nearly as complicated as sizing down shoulders that are too big.  If you were to pick the size corresponding to your full bust measurement, the bust would fit, but the shoulders (and often everything else) would be too large

I am currently working on a dress for myself, and I have been focusing on the fitting issues inherent in dresses recently.  Since they are on my mind, I will likely post next about bust adjustments.  Till then, find a simple dress or bodice pattern, and find your size.  I am working on the Truffle dress, by Colette Patterns from their new book, “The Colette Sewing Handbook”.  It is a wonderful pattern for perfecting fit, and I highly recommend it.

I forgot one of the best cakes (Thanks for reminding me Gadabout Knitter)! The dragon cake that my MIL and SisIL made my son for his 2nd birthday.  So here it is….

The wings and fire are made of fruit leather – pretty clever I thought.

The party was Mighty Knights themed, and the dragon cake wasn’t the only dragon at the party.

I created the “fabricy”part of the costumes for the human and animal guests, firebeard made the wooden shields.

Highly accurate armor, don’t you think?

After my mosquito fear mongering a few days ago I decided to make a few pairs of play pants for my son (otherwise know as a human mosquito magnet).

I make these pants from up-cycled men’s dress shirts I find at thrift shops.   A men’s size large is usually big enough for a full length pair of kid’s size 2T or 3T pants.  The material is light weight, still fairly durable, highly washable, and cheap.  Best of all, my kid’s think they are comfy, and the elastic waistband is easy for them to take on and off for potty breaks.

When a dressmaker wants to make a fancy pattern using the flat pattern method they usually begin with a sloper or block.  A sloper is a basic pattern without seam allowances, made to fit the measurements of the person who will be wearing the fancy pattern.  Once a sloper is perfectly fitted it can be used to create a lot of different clothes by changing the details, like the length, or neckline, and adding fancy stuff life ruffles.

Why would a knitter care?

Knitting schematics are basically flat patterns.  If a knitter has a perfectly fitted sloper, and knows the measurements of that sloper, then the knitter should be able to adjust the measurements of the knitting pattern to match the measurements of the sloper, and get a perfectly fitted garment.  Interested yet?

I am currently adjusting a pattern to fit me based on  a sloper, and I plan to tell more about it once I get a bit further into the pattern, so stay tuned.

Hillary Lang of Wee Wonderfuls designed these wonderful dolls I made for my kids this Christmas.  These are the Olive and Archie dolls.  The pattern for both dolls is only $15, and it comes with a number of patterns for accessories for the dolls.

I chose to make these dolls for a few reasons.  First, and most importantly, one of the dolls was a boy.  I looked for quite a while before finding a pattern for a normal looking boy pattern.  Most of the boys were elves, fairies, or the like, and this doll was just a normal boy.   The second reason was the doll accessories.  The accessory patterns are not typical of most doll patterns.  Instead, these dolls come with patterns for backpacks, sleeping bags, snow suits, and even a cat.

In the above picture the dolls are wearing winter outfits I made for them while the kids were sick after Christmas.  The kids were worried their dolls would be too cold to play outside after the kids got better.  Archie’s sweater and hat were made with a felted wool sweater from the thrift store, and Olive’s hoodie, skirt, and boots were made from a pair of pj’s my daughter had outgrown.  

Sew Mama Sew is having a Sewing Machine Month, kicking off with this meme.  I found this interesting, and thought you might too.  Here it goes;


What brand and model do you have?  

I have a Singer Feather Weight 221

How long have you had it?

I have had my machine a bit more than 5 years.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?

Feather Weights are antique machines, and the cost varies greatly based on the condition of the machine; however, you can generally find a machine in good working condition that doesn’t look perfect for about $500 on e-bay.

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?

I sew almost everything!  Clothing, home dec objects, and craft items come off my machine the most though.  I like to sew practical objects that are also pretty, and reuse or restyle fabric and trim as often as possible.

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?

I would say that my machine gets about 5 to 10 hours of sewing a week.  Sometimes that is very light work, stitching up kids clothes in quilt weight fabric, and sometimes it is much heavier work, like making bags in home dec weight fabric.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?

Most of the time I think I take my machine for granted, because she simply works.  My machine is not fancy, and cannot do any of the cool things that the newer models do, but night and day, stitch after stitch she works without complaint.

What features does your machine have that work well for you?

My machine is a straight stitch only machine, so it doesn’t really have much in the way of features; however, my machine has accessories that allow it to do many of the things the modern machines can do.  Many of these accessories are available on-line at really low prices.  So far my favorite accessory is my buttonhole attachment that was about $10 on eBay.

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?

My machine does not have a zigzag stitch and I wish it did, because it would be much easier to sew knits with a zigzag stitch.  So far I haven’t been able to find an attachment that will make it zigzag either.

Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!

My machine was given to me by my grandmother on the day of my wedding.  It had been her machine since the day of her wedding when it was given to her by her mother.  I hope to one day give this machine to my daughter or son on the day of their wedding continuing this tradition.

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?

I would definitely recommend this machine for anyone that is beginning to sew, or needs a good machine that doesn’t cost  a lot.  Why?  Again, this machine is simple, and it simply works.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?

After having a machine with a lot of cool features that completely died after about 1 year of use, that most important feature to look for in a machine for me is durability and serviceability.

Do you have a dream machine?

My dream machine, at the moment, the the Husqvarna Viking Scandinavia 300.  It is one of their lower end machines.  I am very impressed with Viking’s continual commitment to strong durable machines.


 Do you sew?  What kind of machine do you use?  I would love to see your answers to these questions.  If you decide to do this meme, please let me know.

My daughter loves the soft fuzzy feel of fleece, and was reluctant to give up her fleece footy pj’s when they got too small and the temperature got too high.  When she wanted to wear the too small pj’s on an 80 degree F night, I was only able to talk her out of it by promising to make her a pillow from the pj’s.

Here is what I did.

This is what the original PJ’s looked like.










Step 1:  Cut off the Sleeves.

Step 2:  Sew a line of stitches perpendicular to the zipper just under where you cut the sleeves off.  Make sure the zipper pull is BELOW this stitch line.









Step 3:  Stitch another line perpendicular to the zipper just above the crotch.

Step 4:  Cut off the sleeve area above the stitch line, and the leg area below the stitch line.  Leave a seam allowance.  I left about 0.5 inch.

Now you have a pillow case.  You can stuff it, find an insert that fits, or use all of the leftovers that you cut off, sew them together into same dimensions as the case and stuff that.  I did the later, and ended up with a Frankenstein’s monster esque pillow, that worked really well.

There was only a little bit of fabric leftover.  I cut these pieces into circles roughly 2 inches wide.  I pinched these circles at the middle, then sewed that pinch together.

I sewed these together at the base, then sewed them to the pillow.

Ta Da!