March 21, 2018

How to find the grain line

You can test that by pulling the fabric in different directions. The straight of grain has the least amount of give, the cross grain has a bit of give and the bias has the most give. 
Also most garment pieces are patterned so that the straight of grain runs straight up and down. This allows the fabric to "drape" gracefully along the body. 
So if you can't determine the exact grain, start with assuming that it's straight down the center of the pattern piece and do a mock up. When it's in fabric you'll see right away if the grain is wrong because you'll get a lot of what we call "Drag Lines" or the wrinkles that let you know where something is off.

September 19, 2017

Book Announcement!

Oh, for goodness sakes, it's been quiet around here. I'm so excited to let you know what I've been up to all these months since I last posted.
I've written my second book and it comes out December 5th!

I truly love writing about sewing and the best part of it for me is that love taking in tons of research  (research is my FAVORITE thing) from all different sources and distill all that info into clearly written and illustrated pages for people to enjoy.

There's nothing better than having someone who's been sewing for years say to me, I can't believe I didn't see that before!

Not sure why but for some reason my super power seems to be this taking in of huge amounts of dry technical information and funneling it all into beautiful, easy to understand visuals.
This is what makes my heart SING!!
So make sure you subscribe for more information on what's coming next, and get ready to see your Sewing Machine in a whole new way!

You can pre-order on these sites:
Barnes & Noble
Book Depository

March 25, 2017

Dress Forms

Ok kids! Here's one of my most asked questions so here you go:
What dress form should I buy?
Here are some key things to note when buying a dress form and why.

1.  Get a form with collapsible shoulders. 

You'll have a really hard time getting garments on and off if you don't. Trust me. This is a very big pain in the neck if you don't have a way to get the garment on and off when working on it.

2. Get a form as close to your size as possible. 

Go ahead and take your measurements according to the form company's sizing chart and get the closest size possible without going over. You can also get one form between two sizes you use a lot and make a "skin" for the larger size that you use often.
Which brings me to number 3.

3. Get a pad set.

I used one of these for the first time last Summer and it saved me a ton of time building out a shape from scratch, and it also allows you to jump up in size in a more symmetrical way. If you can, go ahead and just spring for the kit, it will last forever and you'll be glad you did.

The only thing that was not great about the kit is the "skin" that comes with the kit. It had a very narrow opening at the bottom which made it difficult to fit.

4. Get a form that you can raise and lower easily and has a heavy stand that rolls. 

The adjustable forms you get are great if you need something to start out, but if you get one, make sure to make or buy something to weight the bottom or you'll end up flinging it around any time you go to turn the form and work from another angle.

5. Get a form with legs if you'll be making lots of pants and or dance wear. 

You can't drape pants on a standard form, and once you work on a form that has legs and is suspended from the top you'll never be able to work without one after that. They are really great for using when dying or distressing and you need the garment to be on a body to spray the dye. Just make sure you cover it well with plastic first!

January 18, 2017

Sewing Machine Manuals

The one thing that helped me most in my sewing life was reading my sewing machine manual. No joke! Here are some links to the most common brands:

  Baby Lock








  Husqvarna Viking

January 9, 2017

How to estimate Ruffles and Gathers

I remember looking this up for some dresses we were making in Grad School, and for some reason it's always stuck with me. Usually a good ruffle is between 1.5-3 times the length of the area you're covering, depending on the fullness you want and the weight of your fabric. When using the ruffler or gathering foot to join and gather or ruffle at the same time, here's what I've figured out. Photos coming soon. Take a sample unruffled piece and mark it clearly with 1" marks along the edge. Then use it to calibrate your ruffle and get one you like. Then mark it again with 1" marks for about 3 or 4" and measure how many original 1" marks within each second 1" section. This will give you the ratio for your ruffle. So if each section has an average of 2.5 marks you have a 2.5:1 ratio. And if you have a 15" straight piece to cover then you need 15 x 2.5"= 37.5" But also add 2" or so of "slop" at the beginning where it isn't ruffled yet and about an inch for your 2 seam allowances. What do you like to use rufflers or gathering feet for? Let me know if you have any questions in the comments.

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.