Sewing with less stress Front

Sewing with less stress Front
My newest sewing book

Sewing with less stress back cover

Sewing with less stress back cover
What my new book is about

Clothesmaking mavens

Clothesmaking mavens
Listen to me on the clothes making mavens podcasts

About me

My photo
I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon



Follow me on Instagram

Follow on Bloglovin

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Handy sewing hint of the day #16

I should call this the can of worms entry.

The last week I have been busy. I made a blazer, more on that later, did family stuff, and visited with my niece who will be coming to live with me in September while she is in nursing.

We have been working on some long overdue basement renovations to make a sort of apartment for her to stay in, and yes my mouse saga continues. Suffice it to say I now have a close business relationship with a company called Skedaddle.

Now onto the hint.


Obviously this is going to set off several posts at least but I think it important not to disappear into the weeds too quickly without an overview of what personally (and this really is my own opinion) I feel are the basic principles.

It is going to take me some time to get to all I want to say, but we better start somewhere.

Principle #1:

It is always easier to make something bigger than it is to make something smaller.

Think about it. 

If the neckline is too big (I have said elsewhere that sewing the facings of a neckline first and trying it on to see how the opening looks before you jump in and make a top that has a neck that swims on you is a good idea, and that is worth repeating here) you can't make it smaller really. I mean the fabric you wish you had is already gone, you cut it away and there is no way to get it back.

This matters because it leads you directly to what size pattern to buy, and to the universal truth that most women measure in odd numbers and most patterns define measurements in evens.

What are you supposed to do if you are "between sizes" or, just as typically, not one of your measurements is in the same category?

This brings us, without really answering this question yet, to:

Principle #2:

Fit the parts that the garment is going to hang on first and adjust the rest.

For an upper body garment this is the shoulder/upper chest area (essentially above the breasts, which we all know have nothing to do with your frame size) and your waist/pelvis area.

Specifically this means buy a pattern for a garment that hangs from the upper body according to your "upper bust" chest measurement - that number you get when you wrap a measuring tape across your shoulder blades (this will catch bone/frame size) high under your armpit and across your upper chest, avoiding your bust line all together. A pattern sized to fit this part of your body will most likely fit your neck, shoulder and frame pretty well (with only minor adjustments for things like a forward shoulder etc. or shoulder slope if you need them) and eliminate a lot of that awkward mobile neckline or bunching you can get if, like most woman who have matched the pattern size to their "bust," you are making a garment that is too big for the hanger.

In your head you have to translate the upper bust measurement to what the pattern calls "bust" and add extra to the bust later (two methods, remind me to write about those) and of course if you fall between sizes buy the smaller size.

So if your upper bust is 35, your bust is 38 you buy a pattern for a 34 bust and add 4" to the bust line. Try this, just doing this will eliminate an amazing number of fitting issues.

In sewing pants or skirts however you have to look at your waist and hip (the later universally defined as the largest lower body circumference) and decide what is the smaller measurement and select a pattern that matches the smaller, waist or hips, of those two measurements and then add accordingly.

So much easier to add to the side seams of a skirt or pants to fit a larger waist or too try to take in excess fabric from the crotch area and above, in a pair of pants.

To help you visualize this think of how so many older women look in pants they buy, particularly from the back view. Tons of extra fabric flapping around their hips and legs am I right? This is because, in order to get enough space to fit larger, older waists, they have had no choice but to buy a size that is way too large for their frames, legs and hips. How much easier would it be to get that fit right out of the envelope and just to cut a wider waistline?

Conversely how many of you have seen photos of sewn pants that suffered from smiley crotches and baggy fronts (some of these are even in the pattern books). Again adding to the legs as necessary and even altering for a fuller seat (will show you how to do that too) is a lot easier that trying to get rid of extra wrinkles and fabric.

Principle #3: Keep it simple and do only one adjustment at a time. Wrinkles point, literally, to the area you need to work on and let them tell you what you need to do first.

Try the suggestions above, do some simple flat pattern additions where your measurement indicate you are going to need too (as above where you can see the need for an extra 4" coming around the bust) and make up a trial pair without any further changes (if you want some "muslin" I have a vast collection of mouse pooped sheets I no longer trust).

The fact is that each pattern change you make has sort of a ricochet effect, improving or worsening another area, and if you fiddle too much in too many areas too quickly you won't really know what is working and what isn't.

And a final few words on some things I have noticed in the vast number of alteration and fixes available all over the internet.

a. Don't be freaked out by fitting. 

If you have the general idea of the why it really isn't that hard and don't let anyone tell you it is. A Ph.d. in civil engineering is not required. It's the why not the how that matters really and I am going to try to help you with that. A whole lot of adjusting without knowing what's going on is sort of like that cooking you did in the early days where you knew it needed something and kept dumping in seasoning until you ruined it, probably egged on by a younger sibling.

There really are easy ways to fix most things and IMO we can leave the complicated ways to folks who actually have a Ph.d.s in civil engineering.

b. Figure out your own body and clear your head of any misperceptions about it. What your family told you was probably wrong. I spent years altering for the big hips I was told I had and it wasn't until one high forceps, one broken clavicle delivery (poor baby and not me) and a C section that I realized I have narrow hips but a big butt. Completely different alterations. I will do my best to help you figure out where you might need to alter, keeping it simple of course.

c. I dispute all that advice about measuring clothes you like the fit of and using that as your personal ease preference etc. If you had that many clothes that fit maybe you wouldn't need to sew. Sewing your own clothes means you hope for better that RTW, and fortunately that's not all that hard.

More later, busy week but my mind is going to be churning on this one.