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Category: how to

how to: get a perfect fitting bust

I designed a dress a few years ago for a fall collection, and it was the most simple dress you can imagine. It wasn’t trendy or fussy, and other than two well placed pockets, there were no bells and whistles, because I’m a big believer that the bells and whistles aren’t always necessary. Sometimes, simple is enough.

The Millie dress was always popular, and it was in every collection I designed up until the very end. Like many other things I designed and sold at one point, I never managed to keep a Millie dress for myself. I wish I had, but the beauty of sewing is that nothing is ever really gone forever. And now, I finally have one of my own.

The Millie dress, over the years:

I actually made this dress last summer, but it’s only now making its debut. I was reminded of it recently when I used the remaining two yards of the fabric on a spring blouse, which you saw me wearing in Florida and in this post from last Friday. I got the fabric (cotton sateen) in early 2016 from Fashion Fabrics Club and, not surprisingly, it sold out pretty quickly. Fingers crossed they restock their sateen inventory soon!

Because the design is so simple, it’s important to get the fit just right. The bodice has front princess seams and a back dart, and there’s a very simple trick I use to get a closer, more flattering fit around the bust. (A lot of you commented on the fit of this dress, so here we go!)

You can apply this technique to self drafted patterns as well as commercial patterns, and you can also use this method to shape front bodice waist darts for a closer fit. For this tutorial, I’m using my own sloper to draft a front bodice with princess seams.

Essentially, what we’re doing here is taking out some fabric from under the bust and contouring that area to fit more closely to the body.

I’ve traced the front bodice and drafted a princess seam. Then, I mark on my dart legs 3″ up from the waistline, which is where I want the bodice to fit me better. Now, this is important: you will want to measure yourself because this particular measurement is different on everyone. For instance, if you’re short waisted, you may only need to measure about 2″ up from the waist and vice versa for you taller gals. When I first started doing this to my patterns, I tested it on a muslin to make sure I was taking in the right amount in the right place.

Next to the marks on the dart legs, I measure about 3/16″ into my bodice. Those of you with a bigger cup size may need to take more in here, and the reverse is true of smaller cups. Cup size aside, if there isn’t much difference in the bust measurement and directly below the bust, this adjustment may not be necessary at all.

Using a French curve, connect the waistline, marks under the bust we just drew, and princess seam lines. Your pattern will look something like this:

For reference, this is what a princess seam looks like just following the original dart leg, and one that has been shaped. You can see the difference that 3/16″ makes!

If you have any questions, let me know. I hope this helps you get a closer, more tailored looking fit on your spring projects. Happy Sewing!

how to: draft a half circle skirt pattern

I can think of no better way to officially kick off a new year of posts than to spotlight something I consider a major building block for anyone who sews apparel: the half circle skirt. Half circle skirts are wonderful for a lot of reasons, but I love them for their potential; mostly, I use them as foundation patterns to which I add pleats or gathers or whatever I want. Because I prefer fuller skirts, starting with a half circle pattern gives me a little flare right off the bat. Plus, it’s less time consuming and easier to draft than working with my basic skirt sloper. Once you know how to draft this skirt, you can adjust it to fit any bodice. For example, if you have a commercial pattern and you love the bodice but you want to change up the skirt a bit, you’ll have the know-how to make it happen.

One of my favorite designs–and something that always generates lots of comments and questions–is this skirt, which is a half circle with inverted box pleats and side seam pockets. To create the stripes, the pattern is split into six even sections. I’ll show you how to make this one soon.

Here are a few more examples of design elements added to a half circle pattern: a gathered skirt with lace trim around the hem, a skirt with side pleats and slanted side pockets, and a skirt with inverted box pleats and a contrast hem band. The options are endless!

So, let’s get started. Drafting a half circle pattern is super easy. There’s a little math involved, but it’s not complicated at all, and I can share a tip with you to double check your work. For this project you will need pattern paper, paper scissors, pencil, ruler, flexible curve, a marker, and tape. For more information on these supplies, see this post.

how to: hem facings

I designed a skirt a few years ago, a skirt some of you may remember. It was long and sequined and ladylike and magnificent. I always sold the samples in a big sample sale, but I’ve always wanted one. Last month, I decided that with two tulle skirts in my closet and plenty of new dresses finished and ready to wear it was time to make this skirt for myself. I can’t wait to show you the finished product soon, but what connects my new sparkly skirt and this post is the fact that I put a hem facing in it. Hem facings are one of my favorite things, and I realized that I do them quite frequently, and for various reasons.

Hem facings are just another way to finish a hem. They are simple and easy to do, and they give the garment a very professional and clean finish. Think of hem facings just like you would any other facing–it’s simply a copy of the hem in a width of your choosing. Let’s go through some examples, starting with a garment with a shaped hem. You can sew a narrow hem on a shaped hem, but depending on your fabric they can roll or stretch and look a little blah. For a shaped hem like this, a hem facing is a nice detail that looks neat, and it’s also easier to sew.

This is a dress I made over the summer, and the fabric is a washed linen I got in Amsterdam last March. Linen makes a wonderful hem facing because it’s so easy to work with and because it presses so well. This hem facing is about 3″ wide, and I included 1/4″ to turn under and stitch in place. If you look closely you can see the row of stitching on the right side of the garment.

This is what my pattern pieces looked like. All I did was trace the bottom of the hem about 3″.