December 22, 2015

Pride an Prejudice Uniform Trim Project Tutorial

It's the first day of Winter and the week of Christmas. I was going through some photos from last Summer's job at American Players Theatre and though I'd share this fun uniform trim project.  I pitched in on this project after my shows had opened and it was very gratifying to see it come together, and to have a tiny snippet of a part in getting this lovely production to the stage.

The production was Pride and Prejudice and the Costume Designer was Susan Mickey from the University of Texas at Austin.  The Draper for this show was Kathy Brookfield, and the Tailor for the menswear was Sheila Morris. Kathy was in charge of draping the women's costumes, which where absolutely stunning. And Sheila was in charge of the menswear, including the absolutely swoon worthy tailcoat and overcoat for Mr. Darcy.

The principle actor's costumes were built in house by the APT costume shop. A portion of the costumes were "pulled" from the exquisitely archived costume stock at APT. The military uniforms were manufactured by a custom uniform shop according to the actor's measurements. They were then shipped to the costume shop in Spring Green Wisconsin where they were fit on the actors by tailor  Sheila Morris. Each of the coats was then altered according to the standards used by the shop to assure that they will be able to be used by many other actors for years to come.

This uniform was being altered at the center back neckline for a custom fit specifically for this actor in this production.
The coat will be able to be re-altered in the future. 

Then Susan  and her assistant Kelsey Vidic set up  and designed trim for each tailcoat individually using gold braid and shoulder boards that they purchased or pulled for the show.   They set up all the trim by pinning each section of braid on the uniforms while on dress forms and took photos of them. I was then able to reference the photos when pinning and sewing the trim.  Kelsey bagged each of the trim "kits" separately. These bags of trim were carefully marked with the actor's name and stored with the photo in the boxes used to organize all the little pieces and parts assigned to each character.

I found the placement for the trim by basting in some guide lines so the finished points would all line up when the coat was closed.  Note that the center of the body is not the same line as the edge of the coat front. So I had to mark the center of the body and measure the distance of all the trim pieces from that line, not the coat front line. 
I placed the top and bottom pieces individually based on the distance from the bottom of the coat and the shoulder line. I then counted the remaining pieces that needed to fit in between the top and bottom and used one of my favorite tools to find those evenly spaced marks

After all the placement was marked I made the individual trim units by cutting the braid and using Fraycheck on the ends to assure that they didn't unravel, as they proved to be considerably unravely. 

After the trim was dry I could zig zag the pieces together by starting at the ends and zigging across the ditch. The walking foot on my machine came in very handy to keep everything going smoothly and accurately. 

I then pinned the little trim units onto the coat front and again used my walking foot or IDT for Pfaff users to keep the work very precise.

And then the other side: 

All pinned and ready to sew. 

The finished coat front. 
They each got sleeve and collar trim and big whopper popper closures as well. 

I thought you might enjoy the process of how these things come together.
 The trim only portion of all  these uniforms (I believe there were a total of 6) took me the better part of a 40 hour work week to complete. 
In sharing this I hope you are able to see how much thought and care go into a production. 
If you have any questions or comments please share in the comments section below. How have you handled tricky multiples projects?  I love to hear what you like to see more of so let me know. I take pictures of all my projects as I go now so I have a lot more in the vault to share. 


October 5, 2015

Swing Jacket Pattern!

My first garment pattern is now available in my Etsy shop!

This pattern is a very easy to sew swing jacket that has a flattering strong vertical front neckline, bracelet length sleeves, a timeless vintage inspired silhouette, and only requires 2 yards of 55" wide fabric for all sizes. It includes sizes S -3XL. (See photos for sizing information.) 
Great for layering, and can be made in woven or knits in weights from sheer to mid-weight linen to wool melton or polar fleece or sweatshirt fleece depending on the season. This jacket is easy to wear and easy to make with convenient on seam pockets, and the entire jacket is two pattern pieces: The jacket body (including sleeves and pockets) and the neckband. There are optional instructions for finishing either with standard turn and fold topstitching hems or with hemstitching for a vintage look. Enjoy!

Go to my Etsy shop here:    Swing Jacket Pattern

September 4, 2015

Patterning Gathers

Hi guys, I get a lot of questions on my Craftsy Pattern Drafting from Ready to Wear class about how to handle gathers. Up to now I've been able to explain it pretty well in just words, but I got a request for a visual, so I've drawn a few illustrations for it. 

First when the area you are patterning is pinned down, make sure you pin it to the square as shown in the class demonstration. Smooth the garment as much as possible wherever possible and pin that area. 
Note that not all areas will touch the line on your paper because of the gathers. Just let it pull away and keep the garment straight and square as you pin. 

Remove the garment and see the pin holes as in the other pieces you've done already.

Draw in your lines, but where the gathered area is, use the curved ruler I demonstrate in the class to extend the armscye area straight up, and use the L line you've drawn on the paper to find the outer edge of the fold line at the top. (If the garment is folded on the straight of grain, you know that this will be a straight line extending all the way through the front of the garment. 

Then you just proceed as usual by putting in your seam allowances and cutting and sewing instructions. 

I hope this helps!
Please let me know and I will continue to supplement the class discussion in this way. 

January 23, 2015


Holy Moly! I got nominated for a blogging award! This humble little blog I made to share what I can't stuff into all my classes. Thanks so much whoever nominated me! I'm super grateful!

You can VOTE on this and all the other categories here:


January 15, 2015

Tailoring Supplies

I get a ton of questions about the best resources for tailoring supplies, so here are some of my best go to resources for all things tailoring.


These are the shoulder pads I always use in jacket and coat tailoring and they come in 2 sizes, 3/4" and 1" I get the 3/4" for women's styles and the 1" for men's as a general rule, but depending on the project you may want the other. It's a case by case thing. As I point out in my classes, they look a lot fluffier when you get them than you think they need to be but they compress a lot when you put them in. They are sold in pairs. If you think you might like this tailoring thing get several pairs at once and then you just have them around if you want to whip something up or if you're needing to refresh something old, or ad an extra pad to someone that's a little asymmetrical. These are just great to have on hand. You can buy them at SEW TRUE HERE


These are the sleeve heads I always use in jacket and coat tailoring.  As with the shoulder pads, they look a lot fluffier when you get them than you think they need to be but they compress a lot when you put them in. They're sold in pairs, and again, these are also just great to have on hand. You can buy them at SEW TRUE HERE


Here's the sew in canvas I use in my Jacket tailoring classes. It can be found at many online and brick and mortar retailers, as it's the most common old school tailoring supply. I'm just giving you the link for SEW TRUE to keep it all tidy and you can pretty much order most all of these supplies from them or B. Black and Sons.

It also comes in a fusible version which is very useful and I've had terrific luck with it staying fused and it shapes just the same as the sew-in, but you don't have to do all that pad stitching. Here's the link to the SEW TRUE page where you can buy it. 


This thread is tha bomb. It's very stiff so it doesn't tangle easily, it's all cotton so it breaks easily and it's just the best thing for doing a lot of basting. You see this in tailor's shops everywhere. It's the real deal. The old school tailors don't use a lot of pins, they mark with chalk and baste with this, so they always have a needle loaded up with this at all times. I can't say enough how great this is. Get one, they last forever. You can buy it from B. Black and Sons Here


And speaking of chalk, this is all I ever use. It's the most often used among all the tailors I've ever worked with. It has a nice sharp edge and it disappears when you iron it, really disappears. If you ever use it and find that it doesn't disappear on a fabric, you just scrape the line lightly with your fingernail and it does. If I was a little more photo shop oriented I'd draw some radiating beams of sunlight around this box of chalk in the photo. Buy a box and you will have some left over for your grandkids. They make a sharpening gadget as well, but old school tailors just sharpen them with a razor blade. You can get these at B. Black and Son here.
To be continued...

October 31, 2014

Vintage Jacket Pattern

This week I got started patterning a cool Vintage Jacket that was hanging in the background for my Classic Tailoring: The Blazer class on Craftsy. I've had so many people ask me about it, I figured it would be a good one to start with if I'm going to make patterns to sell. So I've been spiffing up the workroom, sent off a couple of boxes of fabric donation to one of my favorite University Costume Shops, and threw a ton of stuff away and it's soooo much nicer. I replaced all my burned out lightbulbs, cranked up the Netflix and got started. I'll be posting my progress here. If you'd like to know the whole process, that I use for making the paper pattern, here's a $25 off discount link to the 
to give you all the nitty gritty details of the how and why.
After I get it all paper patterned I'm going to use Illustrator to make a digital pattern. Last year I stumbled upon this great class by Lauren Dahl, Pattern Workshop. So I'll be using that to hone the illustrator ninja skills I got from writing my book. Then I'll get to do the digital part of the drafting and grading, and tiling the whole shebang  for digital download. Her class could not have been offered at a better time for me. I'm excited to get moving on it. 
What's on your cutting table this week?

September 16, 2014

What size do I cut my pattern if I'm not all one size?


This is the most common question I get in my sewing classes when we're working from a sewing pattern. You take your measurements according to the package directions and then you find those measurements on the chart on the envelope. But your bust is in one size column, your waist is in another size column and your hips could even be in a third column. You don't know which size to buy let alone cut out and sew. Where to start?

Well, this is the shortest, easiest way to get the best result. 

I'll show you how you can use all those sizes and make a garment that is the closest thing you'll have to fitting your personal shape. 

First let me say, there's a lot that goes into making these patterns and the companies do their best to come up with the most common averages of waist to hip to bust ratios, but very few people are the exact statistical average proportions. There are as many different variables on shapes and proportions as there are people. The sewing patterns you buy are just a very good solid jumping off point, it's up to you to know that there's nothing wrong with you for being different sizes, these are just useful pieces of paper that are meant to help, not make you pull out your hair. They're meant to be tools that when mastered, let you be more creative. 

So, let's just assume that pretty much everyone will need to know how to cut for several sizes within one garment and go from there. 

Next we need to decide which size to actually buy. My advice is to buy the size that will fit your bust and shoulder area, because these are the areas with the most variables in fitting and if you can begin with a size in this area that's as close to you as possible, the waist and hips and lengths are much easier to adjust. 

When I'm doing a private sewing lesson, I show the person how to mark all the seam allowances on the paper pattern and then measure the pattern at different points (bust, waist, hips, etc) and check the measurements agains their own. This is when I explain also, that the pattern designer adds in a bit extra over and above the actual measurement for ease. This can be very little for a very fitted garment like a strapless bodice on a dress, to a great deal of ease like about 4" for a coat. Jackets are about 2" and so on. Each company has their own standards for ease, this is why you may wear different sizes for different companies. There's also the idea of those companies having different sample sizes that they begin with and then grade the patterns up and down from there. But that's another discussion for another time. (For more on this, I'd highly recommend Kathleen Fasanella's book The Entrepreneur's Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing.)

So lets say you are making the simple jacket from my Classic Tailoring: the Blazer class, B4610

You've taken your measurements and they show that you would need a 16 in the bust, an 18 in the waist and a 16 in the hips. I circle my measurements as shown above to make sure I don't have to look back at the measurement sheet again for this project for these measurements. 
So based on my logic of buying the size that most closely matches the bust I'd buy the envelope with the size 16 in it and adjust the waist and hips.  

When I begin the project I find all the pattern pieces for that size and as my Home-ec teacher Mrs. Pool taught me in the 6th grade, I "whack" those out roughly, just so I can get to them all and work with them (you'll want to cut them out with an ample extra amount in the area you need to adjust for, if you're adjusting past the range of the sizes that are marked within these pieces, for example if you where measuring more in the 22 range on the waist or hips you'll just draw that in using the same logic of grading that you see for the other sizes.)

Once you have your pieces free from the group, then you'll go through each piece and mark the lines that you'll cut for that particular area based on your measurements. I like to use a contrasting pencil or marker so there's no doubt where the line is, and you don't lose track of which size you're cutting while you're cutting into your precious fabric. 
(But of course you'll make a muslin first for fitting, right?)

So as you can see below I marked the lines for the size 16 on the bust area. I've also drawn in the sizes here so you can see which size I'm marking. 

Next you'll go to the waist area and just put a mark on the waist at the size line you intend to cut for that area, and then do the same with the hip area. Then go back in with your gridded ruler and connect those lines as shown below. If you need to use a curve you can use that tool as well. 

 So we connect the size 16 bust area to the size 18 waist area. 

And then the size 18 waist area to the size 16 hip area. And Voila! You have your adjusted pattern piece. Then you do the same with all the other pattern pieces. Mark every cutting line with the size that will fit your measurements. It's so simple, if you've been sewing and making things from patterns for a while it may seem obvious, but you'd be surprised how relieved people can be to see it demonstrated clearly. I agonized for years over whether it was better to adjust a pattern from the perimeter, or slash and spread from the inside. You'll find that if you were to slash and spread a version of this pattern and then do this method and put one on top of the other, they would be the same, given that you were adding the same amounts that the manufacturer adds for grading. 

This is also a terrific way to evaluate whether this style would be flattering on you. Often those of us who wore classic, fitted shapes with fitted side seams, and traditional horizontal bust darts and under bust darts in our 20s and 30s try to continue with that style because we think that's what's most flattering, but our bodies have changed and we might be better suited to a style that has maybe a diagonal french dart. 
(But this is another whole discussion for another day.)
Anyway, doing this helps us to take our real world measurements and apply them to a pattern, taking out the guess work of which size to buy, and which size to cut and sew. 
This is just the tip of the pattern alteration iceberg as it were. If you'd like to know more about pattern alteration I'd recommend these great classes.

What sort of alterations do you usually make to your patterns?