Free Printable Tailor’s Square

Printable_L-SquareOne of my readers was inspired by my free printable French curves to create a printable pattern drafting tool of her own, which she would like to share with you.

Here is a printable tailor’s L-square, courtesy of Eva Mendoza. To make the ruler, print out the sheets at actual size. When printed to the correct scale, the border around each sheet should measure 7 inches by 10 inches.

Trim along the borders as needed, and carefully glue or tape the sheets together, checking the alignment marks and numbers on the ruler to make sure you are taping the right sheets together.

There are separate files for the front and the back, so you can print both and glue them together, keep them separate, or just use one or the other if you don’t need both sides.

14 x 24 Printable Tailor’s Square Ruler

14 x 24 Tailor’s Square Ruler (Back)

Print

Posted in Patternmaking

Three Blackwood Cardigans – A Brutally Honest Review

I needed to make some new sweaters or sweatshirts to wear around the house. After considering several different cardigan and sweatshirt patterns, I decided on the popular Helen’s Closet Blackwood Cardigan pattern. This pattern had the features I wanted, but I also chose it because I’m a fan of the Love to Sew podcast, which Helen co-hosts with Caroline of Blackbird Fabrics, so I like to do what I can to support the hosts’ businesses.

When I first saw the Blackwood cardigan pattern, I dismissed it as something I would never wear, since I mostly saw people making the long version. I’m 5’2″ tall so, a long cardigan would be overwhelming on me. I also don’t like a lot of weight hanging off my shoulders. I had looked at the shorter view, but I thought it looked too boxy.

However, I finally tried the short version anyway, and once I saw the finished garment on myself, I don’t think it looks boxy. I also wasn’t sure that a cardigan worn open would keep me warm, but I found that it does keep me warm enough, and I like how it shows off the top you have on underneath. So I’ve been a little slow to join the Blackwood fan club, but now I’m a convert.

I decided to live dangerously, and I made my first Blackwood out of some navy blue wool French terry that had slightly less than the recommended amount of stretch. I started with one size up from what my measurements called for, did a full bust adjustment**, a full butt adjustment, my usual amount of shortening, and straightened the sleeve seam to give me a little more elbow room. I also made some pattern corrections to the armholes and sleeves, which I describe later in this post.

**Helen includes a copy of her guide to FBA’s on knits with the pattern. I chose to combine two of the methods (the two shown in this blog post) which worked quite well. I converted half of the bust dart to ease at the side seam, and then used the method that curves the lower hem to get rid of the rest of the bust dart.

You can’t see much of my navy cardigan, since it’s such a dark color, but here it is. The bottom edge hits me just below hip level, which is longer than I was anticipating, but I guess longer keeps me warmer, right?

I was quite pleased with my first Blackwood, but I don’t like to wear wool sweaters except on really cold days (they make me break out in a cold sweat, and then there’s the scratchiness) so I made two more in cotton fabrics. For the next two, I went a size narrower at the shoulders, which I think looks better on me. Plus I used fabric with more stretch, which made them more comfortable.

Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click on these links and purchase something, I will earn a small commission.

For the second cardigan, I combined three different scraps of unbleached cotton. The body of the sweater is made from some thick, cozy fleece, the sleeves from a waffle knit, and the bands are made from 2×2 ribbing from Organic Cotton Plus*.

Here’s a close-up of the three different fabrics I used. This cardigan is so softy and cozy I want to wear it every day.

For my third Blackwood I used some pink cotton velour. I shortened this one to hit me above the hip, and also shortened the lower band. This one is cute and would look nice over a dress.

Sewing velour is pretty frustrating, but it’s worth it in the end. I had to glue baste with washable glue stick in several places, and I had to hand baste the sleeve bands, because I couldn’t get the fabric to stay in place with pins or Wonder clips. Even though sewing velour is a pain, I sort of want to make a cotton velour Blackwood in every color.

Hmm . . . and now I’m wondering how a three-quarter length sleeve or short sleeve version would look. Just a little something to wear over a sleeveless summer dress. I’ll have to re-visit that idea in a few months when the weather warms up.

I felt a little guilty making my cardigan out of this velour, since I originally intended to use it to make a dress for my daughter, but I did manage to squeeze a T-shirt for her out of the scraps.

There is this weird nicey-nice culture around sewing blogs, where people tend to gloss over pattern issues and glowingly praise every pattern, no matter how poorly drafted it is. Frankly, the pattern drafting on most home sewing patterns, whether they are big 4 or indie patterns, isn’t that great.

I’ve found myself not writing blog posts about some things I’ve sewn, since I had so many problems with them, and I hesitated to say anything negative here, because I don’t like reading negative stuff, and I’m guessing you don’t either. I’ve decided that from here on I’m going to honestly and frankly point out the problems I run into with patterns, and if I can, show you how to fix them.

I’m not doing it to be mean, but to help people. If you ask me, it is mean and hurtful to NOT point out problems you find in a pattern, because you might lead a beginning sewer to try a pattern that needs significant pattern corrections to even sew together. Plus, you never know, the pattern designer might read your review and do a better job on their next pattern.

Since learning to draft sewing patterns, I always check the sleeves and armholes on commercial sewing patterns. There is almost always something wrong with them. Luckily, with this pattern, the shape of the armhole and sleeve cap are very nice (probably the best I’ve seen on a pattern for a knit top, actually), but there are some things that need to be corrected. The sleeve is twisted, the front armhole is too large, and the front armhole notch is in the wrong place. I checked this on size 10 and on size 20, and I found the same problems on both sizes, so there’s a good chance that all sizes have these problems.

Helen, the pattern designer, recently re-released this pattern with a larger size range. She mentioned removing some excess fabric width in the front armhole area, and this must have been a last minute alteration, because she apparently did not make alterations to the notches, etc. after doing this, which I am guessing caused some of the problems with the sleeves and armholes. These are relatively minor problems, but I think they are worth correcting, especially the front armhole notch issue.

I should add that I am not specifically picking on this pattern designer. Overall, this pattern is drafted better than most home sewing patterns I’ve tried. I’ve just decided I’m tired of all the dishonest praise fangirls post on their sewing blogs, and I’m going to start pointing out the issues I find on every pattern that I review, even those I really like.

Here’s how to correct the issues I found with this pattern. Ideally, you should make these corrections before you make any other fit alterations to the pattern, but they can also be made later if you’ve already altered your pattern.

Note: I printed out half scale versions of the pattern to save paper and to make photography easier.

Draw in the seam allowances accurately around the front and back armholes and the sleeve cap.

Here’s how to correct the sleeve twist.

First, lengthen or shorten the sleeve if you need to. If you changed the sleeve length, draw in a smooth line for the front sleeve seam, but don’t worry about the back seam yet. If you want a slightly looser sleeve, like I did, draw the sleeve seam as a straight line from the underarm to the wrist.

Partially cut out the sleeve along the front inner arm seam and the front half of the sleeve cap.

Fold the pattern in half lengthwise, matching the sleeve seams the best you can, but without twisting or wrinkling up your paper. The underarm and wrist points do not line up, indicating the sleeve has some twist in it. This means that if you sew it up as is, you will get diagonal wrinkles on the underside of your sleeve. Apparently this is a common issue with sleeve patterns, because I saw this correction mentioned in a Craftsy class.

I found that the front underarm point was a little higher than the back. If the difference is small, you can either trim off the extra length on the front, as shown below, or raise the back to match the front. If you have a significant difference, trim off half the difference on the front sleeve cap seam at the underarm, and increase the height of the back at the underarm to match. Smoothly blend into the existing curve.

At the wrist, use a square to draw a new wrist line perpendicular to the fold.

Trace the front sleeve seam onto the back.

Before unfolding the pattern, cut along the wrist line.

Open up the sleeve pattern and draw in a new grainline on your fold line. Cross out the original grainline, then finish cutting out the sleeve pattern along the new lines you marked.

Now cut out the notches on the sleeve cap. Walk the sleeve around the front armhole, using an awl or pin as a pivot point along the seam line. Here’s how to walk the seam, in case you haven’t done it before (or if you’ve only seen the grossly inaccurate methods demonstrated in certain Craftsy classes): Start by matching up the shoulder points, with the awl at the shoulder point right on the seam line, not the edge of the pattern. Pivot the sleeve pattern slightly, and re-position your awl a little further down the seam, making sure to place your awl right on the stitching line each time you move it. Repeat this until you get to the notch.

Mark the notch location on the sleeve onto the armhole (the original notches don’t match up).

Continue to walk the rest of the sleeve cap seam. You will see that the armhole is larger than the sleeve, which is the opposite of what you are used to on a woven garment. On a knit garment the sleeve cap and armhole seams should usually be the same length.

My suggestion is to simply ease the extra armhole length into the sleeve between the notch and the underarm point. Because the knit fabric is on the crossgrain or bias in this area, it will ease so well you will barely notice it as you sew. There’s no need to even sew ease stitches—just stretch the sleeve to match the armhole as you sew.

The armhole ease is essentially acting like a replacement for a small dart, giving you a little extra room in the bust area. I actually did this same thing on purpose as part of a full bust adjustment on my Lark tees, and it worked great. The ease at the lower front armhole is not noticeable on the finished garment.

Alternatively, if you are small busted, you could trim this extra armhole length off of the front side seam, blending to nothing at the waist.

Now you should also walk the back sleeve cap/armhole seam. I didn’t find any problems with the back armhole on size 10, but I didn’t check any of the other sizes.

With these changes, you can make this awesome pattern even better. Yay!

* Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click on these links and purchase something, I will earn a small commission.

Posted in Sewing

Doll House Size Dress Form

Someone asked me if my miniature dress form patterns could be used to make 1:12 scale dress forms for a doll house. I was going to reply no, since they are designed for quarter scale to half scale. But then I wondered if maybe the paper version could be made that small.

The half scale paper dress form pattern is designed to be printed on card stock and reinforced with corrugated cardboard. To test making the pattern at 1:12 scale I printed it at 16.7% of the designed size on regular paper and used a cereal box for the cardboard. I taped it together with tiny strips of Scotch Magic tape and used Liquid Stitch fabric glue applied with a toothpick.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy to put the tiny pieces together. However, much to my astonishment, it was actually possible! It helped that I have made several samples in the half scale size, so I was familiar with the construction process.

I wasn’t planning on finishing the dress form. I had thought I would just put a couple of the pieces together to see if it would work. The pieces went together well, though, and it was so cute I had to finish it. I also used the included cardboard stand pattern to make a stand for it. The pole for the stand is a piece of wire coat hanger.

I sewed a knit cover for the dress form from some thin knit fabric and decorated the stand with washi tape. It is so adorable I almost want to make a doll house to put it in. But no, sewing takes up enough time and space in my life, and I don’t need another hobby. I’ll just set this dress form next to my keyboard.

Posted in Half-Scale Patternmaking and Sewing, Sewing

Favorite Sewing Tip of 2018: Pin Diagonally!

I meant to come up with a favorite tip for each year, but I couldn’t think of one last January. This year, however, I came up with a really good tip. In fact, this may be the best sewing tip ever. And it’s so simple it’s mind blowing.

Here it is:

Pin diagonally. Not perpendicular to the seam. Not parallel to the seam. Diagonally.

Apparently, there is some great debate about whether pinning perpendicular or parallel to the seam is better. I’ve always been a perpendicular pinner, because that’s what my mother did. I never even thought about it. Then I watched Kenneth King’s Craftsy (now Bluprint) classes, where he advocates pinning parallel to the seam, so I decided I’d do a test to see which I liked better.

I’ve always pinned parallel to my seams when matching dart legs, but I hadn’t tried it on a whole seam. After trying pinning parallel along the seam a couple of times, I decided it was not for me. Yes, pinning this way keeps your fabric edges aligned better, but it’s harder to match seams or stripes, it’s harder to remove the pins, you can’t sew as close to the pins, and worst of all, I stabbed myself with pins every time I tried it.

Then one day, I think when I was pinning down a bias binding, which is kind of bulky, I had a pinning epiphany. When you pin at a 45 degree angle to the seam, you get the benefits of both parallel and perpendicular pinning, without the drawbacks of either, plus a couple of additional benefits.

Here are the benefits of pinning diagonally:

  • The pins slide in more easily.
  • The fabric is distorted less.
  • It’s easier to pin through bulky areas.
  • You can sew close to the pins before removing them.
  • The pins are easy to remove.
  • The fabric can’t shift either side to side or along the seam.
  • You can easily match stripes or seam lines.

Here’s how I match a seam or stripe.

First, measure in the width of your seam allowance and stick a pin vertically through both layers of fabric, matching the seam or stripe right on the stitching line.

Now put a diagonal pin right on either side of the vertical pin, making sure the first vertical pin stays straight.

After those pins are in, remove the vertical pin and put it in diagonally right over the match point. Finish pinning your seam.

When you sew the seam, sew right up to the pins near the match point before removing them.

Every time I do this I’m amazed at how well my seams match. I always had problems matching seams before I tried it this way.

While I’m on the subject of pins, I thought I’d share my recently discovered favorite pins with you. I’d been sewing with the same old pins for over twenty years, and then when I kept trying to replace them, I ended up with a whole drawer full of dull pins. I am so frustrated with the poor quality of nearly everything these days.

Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).

Finally I bought Clover Marbled Glass Head Pins*.  These are absolutely perfect for garment sewing. They are 36 mm long, 0.5 mm thick, sharp, and you can iron over the glass heads without melting them. They slip right into fabric, but aren’t so thin that I’m constantly bending them.

They are however, a little pricey, and you only get twenty pins in a package, which I found wasn’t enough. I liked them so much I hated having to use my old pins when I ran out of the new Clover pins.

I almost bought a second package of them, but then I realized that Clover Patchwork Pins* are the same diameter and length and also have glass heads, so I bought a package of those instead. The Patchwork Pins come in a package of 100 instead of 20. Don’t be put off by the word “patchwork” — they are perfect for garment sewing, too. The only difference I could see between these and the marbled pins was the color of the pin heads. So unless you really want pretty marbled pin heads, just get the Patchwork Pins.

After checking the thickness of all of the pins that I have and testing how easily they slide into fabric, I decided that 0.5 mm pins are the thickest I ever want to use for garment sewing. For thick fabric that would bend the pins, I switch to using Wonder Clips*.

For thin fabric, I use Dritz Ultra Fine Glass Head Pins*, which of all of the Dritz pins I’ve tried are the only decent ones. These pins are 0.4 mm thick and very sharp. They bend easily, so I only use them when I really need thin pins. Clover also makes 0.4 mm pins — Clover Patchwork Pins-Fine* (don’t confuse these with Clover “Quilting Pins” which are longer and thicker).

Pinning diagonally is so simple and effective, I’m wondering why everyone doesn’t pin this way. Have you tried it?

* Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).

 

Posted in Sewing

Half Scale Pattern Changes

Craftsy is in the process of making changes to the patterns available on their site, and as part of the process, they’ve removed most of the patterns I had listed for free and for sale there. They will be making more changes, but it is not yet clear what they are.

All of my paid pdf patterns continue to be available in my Etsy Shop. If you have previously purchased a pattern on Craftsy, it will still be available for you to download.

To maintain access to all of my free half scale patterns pictured below, I’ve created a page here on my blog where you can download them, and I added the page to the main menu.

I have plans for more patterns. I’ve been working on fabric men’s versions of the miniature dress forms. I have the patterns designed, but I still have more samples to make, photos to take, and instructions to write. With everything else I have going on it may take me a while to finish, but I hope to have these patterns out in the next couple of months. Here is a sneak peek of the men’s dress forms.

Posted in Half-Scale Patternmaking and Sewing

Tailor’s Hams and Waffles

Here’s my tutorial and free patterns for making pressing hams of various sizes. And as a bonus, you get my gluten-free waffle recipe.

I’ve been meaning to get an actual pressing ham forever, but instead I’ve just made do with my sleeve roll that has a rounded end. Finally I decided it was time to get a real tailor’s ham.

Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).

After reading reviews of commercially made hams, like the Dritz Tailor’s Ham*, I realized the “wool” side is usually some type of synthetic fabric, or a blend containing a small amount of wool, and it can melt if you are not careful to use low heat on that side. They just don’t make them like they used to.

I’d seen tutorials for making your own ham, so I decided that was the way to go.

The trick with making your own pressing ham, though, is finding something to stuff it with. Pressing rolls and hams are traditionally stuffed with sawdust, but safe sawdust is hard to find. As long as no pressure treated wood has been cut in the mix, sawdust is probably not terribly toxic, but these days even plain lumber is all treated to prevent mold, so it’s more than just wood in that dust. I believe in Canada it’s illegal to sell sawdust. So unless you can get sawdust that was made from cutting firewood or other virgin wood, I’d stay away from sawdust.

I’ve read other suggestions of using shredded paper or fabric scraps. I imagine serger and thread trimmings would work well, but I haven’t been saving them up lately.

I already had some pine shavings made for animal bedding, so I decided to use that. However, wood shavings are designed to be fluffy and hard to compress. I’d read another blog post where the author considered blending them up, but decided it would be a bad idea.

However, I have a super-duper blender. I use my Blendtec Total Blender* to grind grains into flour to make gluten-free waffles, and thin wood shavings are probably easier on the blender than grinding up rice, right?

Pine shavings. Will it blend?

Yes, of course it will!

I found it worked best to blend about three cups of non-compressed shavings at a time on speed 9. They blended down to about a cup of sawdust.

The blended shavings were still probably a little fluffier than actual sawdust, but they were much easier to compress than they were before blending. The blended shavings did have an advantage over sawdust from a saw, though — there was much less fine dust in the mix.

I drew up a set of patterns for tailor’s hams in various sizes. Print out both sheets, trim off one of the borders, and tape the sheets together, matching up the lines.

I made the second largest size and the smallest size. See the picture below for size reference. I plan to use the miniature ham for sewing bras and half-scale garments.

I cut one piece of wool fabric, one of cotton, and two of cotton muslin to underline both sides.

Here’s how to sew the ham:

Place a muslin piece against the wrong side of each of the outer fabric pieces. Stitch the muslin to the outer fabric between notches, 1/4″ (6 mm) from the edge.

Place the right sides of the outer fabric pieces together and stitch around the ham with a 1/4″ (6 mm) seam allowance, leaving the seam open between the notches, and backstitching at each end of the seam.

For the two smallest sizes, you can trim the seam allowance, but don’t clip it. Don’t trim or clip the seam allowance on the larger sizes.

Turn the ham right side out.

Then stuff sawdust (or other filling material) into the ham. Pound and squish it to compress the stuffing. Keep stuffing and stuffing, until it is as firm as you can get it and you can’t physically get any more stuffing in there. This will take a while. I made the opening on the largest three sizes large enough to fit a canning funnel* into. That should help you fill it, at least until it is mostly full. If you don’t have a wide mouthed funnel, you can make one by cutting the ends off of a plastic beverage bottle.

If you’ve stuffed your ham with sawdust, you will now have a horrible mess. Get out your vacuum cleaner and vacuum the dust off of the outside of your ham.

Now hand stitch your ham closed, and get pressing!

 


When I was blending wood shavings, my daughter heard the blender going and came over, hoping the sound meant I was making waffles. So I had to make waffles right after I finished blending the wood shavings.

Here’s my “recipe” (or a summary of my haphazard method, at least) for making gluten-free waffles with a Blendtec* blender.

This makes a big batch. Even with a family of four pigging out on them, we have some left over for the next day. You can freeze any leftovers.

For grains to blend properly in a Blendtec blender, you need to blend 1.5 to 2 cups of grain at a time (no more or less), so keep that in mind if you want to reduce the recipe to make a smaller batch.

I blend grains at speed 9 out of 10. If your blender just has high-medium-low settings, blend at high speed, though I’m not sure if it will work quite as well with that type of blender.

Blend (2 cups at a time)
2 cups hulled buckwheat*
2 cups quinoa
2 cups brown rice

You can substitute other grains like millet (very dry, so don’t use too much) or oats (medium dryness) for some of the grains. A balance of dry and gooey grains works best. I suggest keeping the proportion of 1/3 buckwheat in the recipe, since it is nice and gooey. The waffles come out dry and crumbly without the buckwheat. (A caution about buckwheat – grind your own buckwheat flour from hulled buckwheat – don’t frequently eat commercial buckwheat flour that has the hulls ground up in it. Buckwheat greens and hulls cause sun sensitivity. After eating just a little commercial buckwheat flour regularly for a few months, for an entire summer I got hives every time I got the slightest bit pink from too much sun. It took months for the effect to wear off.)

  • Put all of the flour in a large mixing bowl.
  • Add 1 1/2 to 2 Tablespoons baking powder and
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix the dry ingredients together in the bowl.

  • Put 1/4 cup of coconut oil or other oil in the blender jar.
  • Add your choice of 2 eggs, 1 tsp sunflower lecithin powder*, or two eggs worth of egg replacer*. (Optional —makes the waffles a little less crumbly.)
  • Add water until it’s up to the 3 cup measuring line. (You can substitute some type of milk for some of the water for a richer flavor.)
  • Add 1/2 tsp vanilla if you like.
  • Blend at maximum speed until the liquid is well mixed.

Pour the wet ingredients into the flour. You will need to add more water or milk until the batter is the right consistency, usually about 3 cups (but start with 2). Mix up the batter. The amount of water needed depends on the mix of grains you use. Err on the side of too thick, since it’s easier to get gluten free waffles out of the waffle iron if they are made from thick batter. Plus it’s easier to add more water than more flour if you need to adjust the batter. You can also use this batter to make pancakes.

Enjoy!

* Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).

Posted in Crafts, Half-Scale Patternmaking and Sewing, Sewing

Just Sew It!

This year I resolved to get my sewjo back. I was frustrated that my “to sew” list just kept getting longer and longer. Also, I really needed some new clothes, but now that I know how good custom made clothing feels, I can’t bring myself to buy ready-to-wear clothes. But I was stuck and couldn’t seem to start a sewing project.

Heather Lou, the designer behind Closet Case Patterns, was on Episode 23 of the Love to Sew Podcast last January. Her advice for procrastinators really resonated with me. “Just do the damn thing. Stop thinking about it. Stop making endless lists. Just do it.”

I really need a personal cheerleader telling me that all the time. I tend to think something to death because I’m so afraid of something going wrong, or I’m just not sure of how to get started, or I want it to be perfect. Also, I have way too much sewing stuff in too small of a space. I have things arranged as best as I can on rolling carts and things, but there’s still the mental hurdle of having to move things around before I can get started.

Since I don’t have a personal cheerleader, I thought maybe I could print out a note reminding me not to procrastinate and hang it on the wall. I know from experience, though, that I’ll stop noticing a sign on the wall after a couple of days.

I thought maybe if I spent several hours sewing myself a note instead, I might pay a little more attention to it. So I made this wall hanging, which I put on the wall just above my computer screen:

Did it work? Well, I still ignore this sign sometimes, but when I do really look at it, I have positive feelings about sewing. It is definitely more motivating than words on a piece of paper would have been. I think a paper sign would make me feel guilty for not doing something, while the sewn sign makes me happy because—hey, I sewed that, and look at those nice satin stitches on the applique!

I’ve sewn quite a few things this year. The funny thing is, I just haven’t felt like blogging about most of them. I guess I feel I should have pretty pictures of them. But, you know what, taking pictures sucks. I don’t have good lighting or much room indoors, and taking everything outside is a huge hassle. Then there’s trying to get good pictures when I am a total dunce at posing. But this is my blog, and I can do whatever I want, so you get whatever pictures I feel like taking, even if they are just on my dress form or in bad lighting.

I’m writing this blog post mostly for myself anyway, to remind me, that yes, I’ve sewn quite a few things this year. When I don’t blog about them, I tend to forget how many things I really have sewn.

After I took care of the two main things that had me stuck—I needed to make bras that fit me before I started fitting new clothes, and I really wanted a new custom dress form—I started sewing a lot more. That dress form has been absolutely amazing, by the way. I can’t believe how much faster and easier fitting is now. I wish I could come over to your house and help you make your own dress form, but I can’t, so that’s why I wrote the tutorial on how to make your own dress form. Actually, I think writing that tutorial is what got me burned out on blogging for a while—it was a lot of work.

These are the garments I’ve sewn this year but haven’t mentioned on my blog. They are all made from fabric from my stash purchased in 2017 or earlier. I spent too much on a set of thread and some vintage sewing machines this year, so I’m not buying fabric for the rest of the year. I’m making room in my stash, though, so next year I’ll have room for new fabric!

Here’s an Itch to Stitch Davina Dress. I made this with a heavyweight cotton/spandex double knit fabric that I had previously cut down the middle lengthwise to make it into a baby carrying wrap. My babies are now almost teenagers, so I converted the wrap into a dress. The fabric was narrow, so I had to do some creative piecing, but I made it work. I had some issues with the neckline gaping, so I sewed some clear elastic into the seam, and now it ripples. I need to remember to alter the neckline and do an FBA if I make this dress again. I do wear the dress, though. In fact, I’m wearing it right now.

Here is an SBCC Tonic Tee. I made some fit alterations, so this version fits a little better than the last one I made, although I may have overdone the flat upper back alteration just a tad—the shoulder seams are a little too far back now. But it’s a knit, so it all works.

Another Tonic Tee in mint green.

An Itch to Stitch Lago Tank. This was the first one I made, so I consider it a wearable muslin. I should probably get rid of it, because it’s polyester, and I hate wearing polyester.

Another Lago Tank made from cotton baby rib knit. This one has a very loose fit, because there is no spandex in the fabric. I don’t really care for the cut of this tank, because it shows my bra straps in the back, but it’s a good place to start from if I want to customize the pattern. I’ll wear this tank in the winter as an extra layer for warmth.

Here’s my first Helen’s Closet York Pinafore. The fabric I used was a remnant of cotton twill. I made the bias facings extra narrow, hand basted them in place, and sewed them down from the right side with jeans topstitching thread. I did an FBA and shortened the pattern in the upper chest area so the neckline and the opening on the side aren’t down so low. I also made some fit changes to the back shoulder and made a full bum adjustment. The pattern alterations were so easy with my dress form! It is such a simple pattern that I just pinned the printer paper pattern onto my dress form and adjusted it. Kind of like tissue fitting, but I didn’t even bother tracing the pattern onto tissue paper.

Here’s my second, longer version of the York. I made this in linen. I drafted narrow exposed facings for this one instead of using bias tape. The facing fabric is floral linen left over from making my Bootstrap Fashion dress form.

I had some lavender linen left over, so I made another modified Scout Tee with it.

Helen released a cross-back apron expansion pack for the York Pinafore. I thought that was a fabulous idea, but I had made so many fit changes to the pinafore already that I thought it would be easier just to figure out this pattern hack on my own (plus I spent too much money on sewing stuff already this year, so I’m on a fabric and pattern buying break). I put my first York pinafore onto my dress form and pinned ribbon onto the back to figure out the apron back lines, then traced them onto tissue paper.

I managed to squeeze this apron out of just under a yard of cotton canvas I had in my stash. I had to cut the back pieces slightly off grain, but it looks fine.

The apron is ever so much more comfortable than ones with a tie around the back of my neck. And it fits! The one-size-fits-all store bought aprons I have are much too large for me.

I made a second, reversible York cross-back apron. I thought it would be easier to sew than sewing on over five yards of bias facing, but it really wasn’t, and the edges aren’t as stable. If I make another one of these aprons, I’ll stick to finishing the edges with bias tape.

Is it a floral kind of day?

Or am I in the mood for food and farm animals?

Here is a loose fitting tee I made. My husband got a free T-shirt that ended up being a women’s large, not men’s, so he gave it to me. It is absolutely the perfect size for me, and I realized that my other ready-to-wear tees are all either too big or too small. So I traced off a pattern from the shirt, compared it to my fitting shell, and came up with a method for drafting the perfect loose fitting tee based off of a woven sloper. Once I’ve perfected the method a bit and tried it on other people I’ll share it. This tee is almost perfect. I need to raise the shoulder points just a bit on the next version.

I don’t tend to think of loose fitting T-shirts as needing much fitting, but they really are more comfortable when they fit correctly!

I sewed three more bras using the same self-drafted pattern as last time I made bras. The yellow and white checked fabric is Kaufman Carolina Gingham, which seems like an unlikely choice for bra fabric, but I really like it. It doesn’t stretch out too much over the course of the day, yet it has a good amount of give on the bias. I didn’t have yellow ribbon, so I made the bow out of a narrow tube of bias cut fabric.

I pulled out all of the scraps of knit fabric I had in my stash and sewed a drawer full of underwear. I only own two pairs of ready-to-wear underwear now. The pattern is one I made myself. Originally I traced off patterns from three different pairs of ready-to-wear underwear and combined them. Then I just kept tweaking the pattern. By the last pair I had the fit perfect.

Here are a couple of blurry mirror shots of my Avery Leggings. These are really just a wearable muslin. I actually made the lower rise, cropped version, but I’m so short they nearly come up to my natural waist, and go down to my ankles. I added length to the back waist for a full bum adjustment, but next time I’ll add just a little to the width, too.

The pattern calls for 1/2″ elastic at the waist. I’m sensitive to pressure, so I used some 3/4″ elastic instead. You have to use elastic with gentle stretch, or the elastic will be longer than the fabric and it won’t sew together right. Even with the gentle stretch 3/4″ elastic, the waistband still cuts into me painfully. If I put my finger under the elastic, it doesn’t feel tight, but I just can’t tolerate narrow elastic around my natural waist.

I think I have enough fabric to re-cut the waistband and try to make it more comfortable. I can try a slightly longer piece of elastic. If that doesn’t work, I might try figuring out how to fit two rows of elastic at the top. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find wide elastic with gentle stretch. The wide elastic I’ve purchased is all pretty firm.

It’s too bad I find the waistband uncomfortable, because I really like the higher waisted look of the leggings, and the double layered wide fabric waistband holds in my tummy nicely. It’s only waistbands up at my waist that I find uncomfortable, so I may have to get rid of the fancy waistband and just do a simple stitched and turned lowered waistband with wider elastic on my next version. I’d still get the benefit of the nifty hidden gusset in the pattern.

I sewed four pairs of woven pants for my son. I made the pattern using an experimental draping/drafting method I’m working on. I’ve learned so much about how pants fit during the process. It’s really been quite horrifying to realize how much pants fitting “experts” and pattern drafters misunderstand about the geometry of pants fit. No wonder those fitting and drafting methods haven’t worked for me. I’m not quite ready to share the method, but I think it’s going to work.

I also made him a few pairs of sweatpants using the same experimental patternmaking method for the pattern, and a matching sweatshirt using Jalie 3355. I reinforce the knees on all of his pants with interfaced patches. Otherwise he blows out the knees in a few weeks.

Not pictured are four pairs of elastic waist pants I made for my daughter, a leather holster for my scissors, and some pillowcases I sewed with my kids.

 

 

Posted in Sewing

Three Scrapbuster Scout Tees

I’ve been trying to use up some fabric from my stash, and I thought woven T-shirts would be a good way to use small pieces of fabric. I have not had good luck with woven T-shirts in the past, though. Many years ago, I sewed Vogue 8294, view B with short sleeves. It was nearly unwearable. I only wore it a few times, because when I lifted my arms even slightly (like to type on my keyboard) the sleeves pulled tight and cut into my arms and the whole shirt lifted up. That pattern just exemplified everything that is wrong with big four patterns, and is one of the reasons I hardly sewed anything for many years.

Now that there are many more options for patterns other than big four patterns, I have some patternmaking and fitting knowledge that I didn’t have years ago, and I have a custom dress form, I finally feel like I can sew anything I want, and make it fit like I want it to.

I remembered hearing a podcast where Jen Beeman from Grainline Studio said that her Scout Tee is one of her best selling patterns, so I decided to start with that pattern.

I had draped a sloper pattern on my new dress form, so I compared it to the Scout pattern to check the fit. I started with the back, and it looked like one size up from the size selected from my full bust measurement would be a pretty good fit, with only a length adjustment to fit my petite self. Going up a size surprised me, since I’m larger than a B-cup, so usually I would go down a size or two and then do a FBA. Good thing I checked! Indie pattern companies are great, but you have to figure out what changes you need to make for each company, since their sizing and fit vary.

Then I compared my sloper to the front pattern. I was confused at first because the shirt front was really wide above the bust level. The neckline was so wide it looked like it would gape. I looked up pictures of the #scouttee on Instagram, and saw a quite a few gaping necklines, which confirmed my suspicion. It didn’t gape on everyone, though, so either it works on some people, or they made fit changes.

I think the pattern was designed so that the front is the same width as the back, which is how basic loose fitting knit T-shirts are designed. However, loose fitting knit tees usually have high necklines, which minimizes the gaping problem caused by the extra width in front, and knit fabric is more forgiving of fit issues. The Scout does have a wedge of fabric taken out from the neckline/front shoulder seam to reduce gaping, but it apparently isn’t enough of a solution to work on everyone, based on the pictures I looked at.

I know Jen Beeman likes loose fitting boxy garments, but wide gaping necklines and extra folds of fabric at my front armholes aren’t really my thing, so I re-drafted the front pattern.

In case you are familiar with patternmaking and are curious, here’s what I did: I started with my sloper pattern, and added about 1.3 cm of width at the armholes. I eliminated the below the bust dart on my sloper, then I rotated part of the upper bust dart to become ease at the armhole (I think about 2 cm total – I already had 1 cm of the upper bust dart converted to armhole ease on my sloper, but I added more). This is basically an unsewn dart, and it makes the armhole much more comfortable. Then I rotated another portion of the upper bust dart into fullness at the hem, to give me the same width as the original pattern at the hem. The remaining portion of the upper bust dart I left as an actual dart, angling down slightly from the bust to the side seam. I used the original pattern as a guide for the amount of ease to add at the bust. Then I made the neckline narrower to fit the new pattern. I think I raised the neckline a bit, too, which I usually do since I’m petite.

I made sure my armholes were the same length as on the original pattern, and I didn’t make any changes to the sleeve pattern.

I made up a quick muslin, and wore it around the house to test out how comfortable it was. Even though it was made of quilting cotton, the muslin was pretty comfortable, and it gave me an acceptable range of movement. I wore it two days in a row, so I took that as a sign that this pattern was a success!

My first impression was that the pattern came out perfect on the first try, which was incredible, but then I did notice a couple of things that could be improved. The side seams swing forward slightly, which I think is an indication of too much length in the upper back area (I have a flatter than average upper back – the opposite of the more common round upper back fitting issue). The bust dart was also just a little too low.

I decided not to fix these minor issues. The tee already fit better than most of my clothes, and it was good enough as is. No, it was better than good enough. I’m trying to get over my perfectionism – done is better than perfect, right? I have a tendency to think things to death and then never get anything done.

I looked through my fabric stash, and labeled all of the most likely pieces with their width and yardage. I discovered that a lot of my fabric was in larger pieces than I thought – too large to waste fabric by making a Scout Tee from it, which in my size only takes about 1.3 yards. But I was committed to making Scout Tees, so I dug really deep into my stash, into those leftover bits that I’m not sure why I was keeping, and found some fabric to use.

This first Scout is made from some striped cotton gauze that used to be someone’s curtains. My mother had picked up a bin of fabric at an estate sale and had given it to me. It was mostly ugly quilting cotton that I use for making muslins, but these gauze curtains were included. There were some stains on them, so they must have been kitchen curtains, but I mostly cut around the stains, which don’t really show through the stripes anyway.

I wore this shirt out gardening on a hot day, and it was wonderfully breezy. It’s loose enough to give me reasonable freedom of movement, and it keeps me cooler than a knit T-shirt on a hot day, since it stands away from my body and allows lots of air to blow through. Of the three Scouts I made, this one is my favorite, probably because these colors look good on me.

The second is made from some stripy mustard colored cotton fabric I bought years ago. I had just enough to make a Scout from it. I’m glad to finally find a use for that piece of fabric that I’ve been staring at in my stash for years.

The third Scout is made from the cotton voile lining I removed from a thrift store dress I never wore – one of those “What was I thinking?” purchases. It’s underlined with cotton voile saved from one of my old nightgowns. I just barely squeezed the pattern onto the fabric I had. I ended up with a seam at the center back of the underlining. The fabric already has a couple of tiny holes starting – it wasn’t high quality fabric to begin with. It’s really comfortable, though, and I’ll wear it as long as I can.

This last one wins the prize for scrapbusting. It’s made from two small pieces of fabric rescued from former garments that I was hoarding just in case I needed a scrap of voile for something – and now they are transformed into a garment I will wear!

 

 

Posted in Sewing

Meet My Mini-Me

After making my Bootstrap Fashion DIY stuffed dress form, I made a half scale version of myself. Pretty cute, isn’t she?

I made some alterations to the bust area to try to correct the fitting issues I had there on the full scale version. It’s better than it started out, but I went a little too far with the bust reduction, so now it’s a little too small. I stuffed the bust as firmly as I could, and it’s close to the right size, though. I didn’t make any other fitting changes to the rest of the dress form.

I draped a fitting shell on my paper tape dress form that fits me perfectly. I scanned the pattern and printed it at half scale to see how it fit on the half scale dress form. The fitting shell goes onto the half scale form OK, but it is not what I consider a good fit. The worst issues are in the shoulder area. Still, it’s close enough that I could design a new garment based on my half scale fitting shell, sew it up, put it on the miniature dress form, get an idea of how the finished garment will look, and tweak the design before making a full scale version.

Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you). I was provided this pattern at no cost to me.

For the most part, the sewing directions for the full scale version of the Bootstrap Fashion dress form pattern* work for the half scale version. There are some things you can do to make sewing all of those tiny, curvy pieces easier, though.

After you print the pattern at 50%, add 1/4″ (6 mm) seam allowances.

Use thin but stable fabric to make the dress form from. I fused Pellon SF101 interfacing* to quilting cotton, and cut the pattern pieces with both the fabric and interfacing on the cross grain so the most stable direction of the fabric is going around the body. This was a good weight of fabric and interfacing to use, and it was stable enough without being too thick to sew with all of those tiny pieces.

I would suggest pressing the seams open, but not topstitching them. I made a mini pressing ham by stuffing one balled up sock into the toe of another, and I pressed using my Clover Mini Iron*. You could also skip the pressing and just finger press the seams open, but the finished dress form will look a little nicer if you press the seams open as you sew them.

The biggest change I made was to make the center support tube go only up to just above the waist. This is not necessary, but it helps the support tube stay firmly in the center and not end up tilted to one side, and it makes stuffing the dress form easier if you have a small waist. This is similar to the way I designed the center support tube in my Mini Stuffed Dress Form. I also recommend cutting the center support fabric piece from only a single layer of interfaced fabric rather than cutting two, and sewing it to both layers of front and back seam allowance (don’t topstitch the center front and center back seams, or this won’t be possible). The explanation for the pattern adjustments is rather long, so I’ll come back to this at the end of the post.

When sewing two pieces together that have different curvature, you will need to pre-clip the seam allowance of the less curvy (or inward curving) edge before you can pin and sew them together.

For the neck top and armhole cover, I highly recommend hand basting them in place first. I used two rows of hand basting on the armholes – one row on either side of the stitching line. You will need to clip into the seam allowance really close together to be able to get the pieces to fit together. Machine stitch using a zipper foot, with the neck top or armhole cover facing down on the machine bed.

The lining piece that holds the cardboard armhole support in place can just be hand sewed in place with basting stitches. There’s no need to try to wrestle it around on your sewing machine to get a row of machine stitches there.

Instead of stuffing the neck with a piece of sponge or foam cut into a cylinder, I rolled up a strip of fleece to the right size and sewed the end in place.

For the base cover, instead of cutting two of each piece, I cut one of fusible interfacing and one of plain unfused fabric. I sewed the fabric to the interfacing, with the non-fusible side of the interfacing against the right side of the fabric. Then I trimmed and clipped the seam, turned the pieces right side out, and fused the interfacing in place. This finishes the edges without adding extra bulk.

I also skipped adding the zippers on the base cover, since that would be too bulky at half scale. I hand sewed the edges together. Pulling some slack in the base cover and pinning it through the cardboard makes sewing easier.

Here are the details on the changes I made to the center support and tube.

I made a sturdy paper tube from heavy paper by wrapping it around the dowel on my stand and gluing it as I rolled the paper around the dowel. This way I had a tube exactly the right size for my stand. I also glued a circle of paperboard onto one end of the tube to prevent wear and tear on the top of the fabric pipe tube when the dress form is turned on its stand.

To combine the front and back center support pattern pieces into one piece, I placed them with the long straight stitching lines in the center 2 cm apart, aligning the bottom edges. Note that seam allowance is only added to the long curved edges of these pieces. Then I connected the curve up at the neck and connected the lines at the bottom. The original stitching lines down the middle will not be used. You can throw out the pipe sleeve pattern piece, as you will be drawing a new pattern piece for it.

Draw line A midway between the original stitching lines from the bottom to about half way between the bust and waist. Draw line B perpendicular to A.

Measure the length of line A and make a note of it. After gluing a paperboard circle onto one end of the paper tube, use a razor knife to cut the paper tube to be the length of line A plus 5 mm.

Measure the outer diameter of your paper tube. Mark half of the diameter on either side of the red line A. These are the dashed green lines shown below, and will be stitching lines. Mark additional lines 1/4″ (6 mm) out from the dashed green lines. These lines, shown as solid green below, will be the lines that you line the fabric edges on the pipe sleeve to.

Shorten line A and draw in angled lines that end at the intersection of line B (blue) and the stitching lines. The red lines indicate where you will cut the fabric. The other lines should just be marked on your fabric, although marking the stitching lines is optional.

Here is my pattern piece, cut and marked. I do not have the stitching lines marked, just the reference lines 1/4″ (6 mm) out from the stitching lines.

Cut a narrow strip of paper and wrap it around the outside of the paper tube to find the circumference. Check in several places and measure around the largest place. Make a mark on the paper to mark the circumference, then remove the paper and make another mark 2 mm past that mark. Cut the paper at the second mark, then fold it in half.

Here’s how to draw a new pipe sleeve pattern. Draw the following, where A is the original length of line A, and “WIDTH OF FOLDED PAPER” is half the tube circumference + 1 mm.

 

Add seam allowances of 1/4″ (6 mm) to the long sides, but not on the 4 cm section on the end. Draw in three evenly spaced 3.5 cm long lines on the end of the 4 cm section. These will be where you cut the end into a fringe. Mark notches, etc. as shown below.

Here’s what the final pattern looks like, with stitching lines shown dashed.

Cut the pipe sleeve from interfaced fabric. Sew the sides from the notches near the folded end down to the ends near the fringe, being very careful to use the correct seam allowances. Test to see if your paper tube fits. It should be snug but not super tight. The fringe pieces should align with the end of the paper tube. Take the paper tube back out.

Align one long edge of the pipe tube with a reference line (the ones I showed as solid green above). Align the notches with line B (blue line). Stitch just next to your first line of stitches (stitching closer to the cut edge so your pipe sleeve does not get smaller). Align the other pipe sleeve edge with the other reference line and stitch as you did the other side.

If you’ve done everything correctly, when you insert the paper tube, the width of the center support piece should be the same as it was originally on the pattern at the waist and hips. The top of the paper tube should be at line B, and the other end of the paper tube should extend 5 mm past the bottom edge of the center support.

Here’s the center support piece pinned to the center front and center back seam allowances, matching notches at bust, waist, and hip.

Note that the bottom edges will not line up:

When you are stuffing the dress form, stuff down to the level of the top of the pipe sleeve with the paper tube removed. Then insert the paper tube and finish stuffing the dress form as per the pattern instructions.

Here are the links to the Bootstrap Fashion dress form patterns, if you want to try making your own mini-me (or full size twin!).
Missy Dress Form*
Curvy Dress Form*

* Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).

I was provided this pattern at no cost to me.

Posted in Half-Scale Patternmaking and Sewing, Patternmaking, Sewing

DIY Dress Form Arm

Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you). I was provided this pattern at no cost to me.

I made an arm for my DIY dress form using Bootstrap Fashion’s dress form arm pattern*. The cool thing about this dress form arm is that it is made to your measurements, and it actually looks like an arm! In the past, before this pattern came out, I had looked for dress form arm patterns and the only commercial pattern I found was Connie Crawford’s dress form arm pattern, which only comes in three sizes and is obviously drafted from a sleeve pattern. There are also several tutorials online and in Threads magazine that show how to draft a dress form arm pattern from a sleeve pattern, but again, you end up with something that doesn’t look very realistic.

This dress form arm should fit on any dress form that has a flat armhole plate and has shoulders ending at the natural shoulder point. It pins in place, but you could also sew ribbons onto it and tie it in place around the opposite armhole and around the neck if your dress form is not pinnable.

I am happy with my final dress form arm, but it took me a couple of tries to get it the right size. The pattern has some negative ease in it to allow for the fabric stretching as the arm is stuffed. On the first arm I sewed, the bicep measurement was too small, no matter how firmly I stuffed it. The elbow measurement was perfect, though, so I measured and found that at the elbow, the pattern measured 94% of my actual elbow measurement. I adjusted the bicep area of the pattern to be 94% of my actual bicep measurement, and on my second arm the bicep measurement was correct.

The amount of negative ease you need is going to vary a little depending on the fabric you use and how firmly you stuff the arm. The instructions for this pattern say to stuff the arm firmly, but another option is to make a lightly stuffed floppy arm so you can bend it to make dressing your dress form easier. If you want to stuff the arm less firmly, or you just want to make sure it ends up exactly the right size, you will need to adjust the pattern.

To avoid having to sew two arms to figure out if you need to adjust your pattern, you could sew a bicep-sized cylinder from the same fabric you will use for the arm. Sew one end closed, stuff the cylinder, then measure around it. Divide the pre-stuffed circumference measurement of the cylinder by the circumference after stuffing it to get your negative ease factor. Multiply your bicep measurement by the negative ease factor to get the total measurement that the pattern should be at the bicep. Multiply your elbow measurement by the negative ease factor to get the total measurement that the pattern should be at the elbow. Compare these numbers to the pattern measurements. There are two vertical seams on the arm, so divide the total amount you need to change the pattern by four to get the amount you need to add or subtract from each edge. Make pattern adjustments at the seam lines, blending to no change at the armhole area.

This pattern does not give you the option to input your arm length measurements when your pattern is created, so you will have to adjust the shoulder-to-elbow and elbow-to-wrist lengths manually. These are just basic length adjustments like you would make on any sewing pattern, so they are not difficult adjustments, but you do need to be careful to measure your arm correctly.

Here’s how to measure your arm length. To locate your shoulder point, raise and lower your arm slightly and feel for the dent between the bones of your body and those of the arm. Place your finger on your shoulder point and raise and lower your arm again. Your finger should stay stationary if it is in the right spot, not move with the arm. Mark this location.

If you are measuring yourself, tape the end of your tape measure to your shoulder point. Measure from your shoulder point to the point of your elbow and record this measurement. Then, with your arm slightly bent and the tape still going over the elbow point, continue measuring down to the prominent bone on the wrist.

I decided that rather than stuff the arm with fiber fill, I would experiment with stuffing it with polystyrene beads* that are used to stuff bean bag chairs. These beads weigh almost nothing, and they allow you to stuff the arm fairly firmly, but still pat it to adjust its shape a little. Polyester fiber fill will fill out the arm into a cylindrical shape, but with the polystyrene beads the arm can have a more natural somewhat flattened/oval cross section. Also, they weigh less than fiber fill, which makes it easier to pin the arm to the dress form. The beads do show through the fabric a little, though – it looks like my arm has goose bumps.

I added a bag with three tablespoons of sand in it to the wrist. I thought this might help the arm hang better. It does hang down just fine, but I don’t know if the sand was necessary. Then I packed polystyrene beads into most of the arm. I finished stuffing the shoulder area with polyester fiber fill. I like how stuffing the arm with the bean bag beads worked out. I would especially recommend using them as stuffing for larger sized arms, so your arm doesn’t end up too heavy to pin to your dress form.

I’m quite happy with this dress form arm* – it really looks like my arm!

* Links in this post identified by an asterisk (*) are affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you).

I was provided this pattern at no cost to me.

Posted in Sewing
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