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!

sewing room essentials

Happy First Day of Spring! I don’t know about you, but I love it when things become official, and the first official day of spring is one of my favorite days. We’re having gorgeous weather here today too, which is fantastic. You know I love sunny skies!

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw some photos from our trip to Florida over the weekend. What a trip it was! We truly had a wonderful time. It’s been a long time (two years, I think? maybe three?) since Ty and I really got to get away for a few days, and I know we both desperately needed a break. I’ll post a few snapshots from the trip next week, but today I’m happy to be home and excited to get back to work.

I spent some time in the studio last night cleaning and getting organized for a new batch of projects, and I finally invested some time into pattern organization and storage, an important part of today’s subject: sewing room essentials. I get a lot of questions about various things in my studio and where to find them, so what better way to kick off a new season of creating and sewing than by sharing a few tips about what you need in a sewing studio and where to find them.

My pattern collection was quite small when I closed my business a couple years ago (everything fit into one shoe box), but it has since grown quite a bit. I blame pattern sales! (Don’t we all?!) The pattern situation was getting so out of hand that I was forced into a solution. I had outgrown the boxes I was putting everything into, and it was such a pain to find what I was looking for. I decided the best thing to for me to do was to group all of my patterns into categories (dresses, skirts, pants, etc.), and then file them in storage drawers I already had. And, just like that, I have a solution that actually works and makes finding what I’m looking for a snap.

So, sewing essentials #1: pattern organization and storage. All of my patterns fit neatly into two storage drawers, and each one is filed in its own category. Makes it a breeze to find what I’m looking for. I don’t really need to file them in categories more specific than this, but I might put some neon sticky tabs on the top corner of my favorite patterns, so those stick out when I open the drawer. For now, I’m just glad everything is organized!

Sewing essential #2: a dress form. If you’re going to invest your time and energy into sewing apparel for yourself or others, I really think a dress form is a must-have tool. I use mine daily for draping, to analyze print placement, to look at a muslin and make adjustments, and for photos, among other things. My form is industry grade with legs and collapsible shoulders and is from PGM, which is also a great resource for a lot of sewing and patternmaking supplies. Brand new forms like this are a little pricey, but used ones can be found online and at estate sales every now and then. I’d love to have another one at some point, so I’m always on the hunt for a bargain dress form.

I know a lot of folks like the adjustable dress forms sold at JoAnn, so that’s another option as well.

Sewing room essential #3: thread storage. When I was first getting settled in this space, my dad built a table for me, as well as this thread storage solution and a wall mount for big bolts of fabric. The wall mount for fabric is gone now that I don’t need it, but the table and thread storage remains. Similar storage can be found at places like JoAnn, or you can make it yourself with some scrap wood and dowel rods. That’s what my daddy did, and every time I pick a thread off one of the rods, I’m reminded of how handy and awesome he is!

I did buy the serger thread rack when my thread collection overran the wall rack.

Sewing essential #4: garment labels. Without fail, I always get asked about labels, and any seamstress worth her salt should include them in every garment. If you’re interested in having custom labels printed and care labels, there’s lots of info in my post from last fall. McCall Company labels can be found on their website.

Sewing room essential #5: a good quality iron. You want a dependable iron that will last a long time. My Rowenta has been chugging along for years, and I don’t know what I would do without it. I love it. I use it dry, and keep a spray bottle at the ironing station, which is my preferred method of pressing. Works like a charm. I also have a Rowenta steamer, which is another good tool to have.

Sewing room essential #6: pattern hangers and racks. I often trace commercial patterns onto sturdier pattern paper, especially when I make adjustments to it or use it multiple times. These patterns don’t fold well, so they get hung up. You can find inexpensive racks like this at TJ Maxx or Ross, and the hangers can be found at PGM. For more information on supplies specific to patternmaking, see this post from last summer.

Sewing room essential #7: interfacing. I know this is more specific to sewing itself, but I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about what interfacing I use. Interfacing is important and you never want to settle for a cheap stabilizer. I use Pellon White Shape-Flex® Fusible on almost all of my projects. It’s the best. It never bubbles or falls apart, and it gives waistbands, collars, facings and the like just enough body without being too stiff. JoAnn sells it, and I’ll wait for a mega sale or coupon to stock up.

Sewing room essential #8: a bias tape maker. I’m a big believer in utilizing tools that make our lives easier, and this is one of them. I don’t use this daily but I use it regularly enough that it makes a difference. With spring and summer finally upon us, all those unlined tops we’ll be making will need neatly finished necklines, so this little guy will come in handy. All you have to do is cut your strips, and then send them through the iron where the edges get pressed down in a matter of seconds, saving precious time at the iron doing it yourself. I got mine at JoAnn a long time ago, and I have two or three different attachments for it based on the size and type of bias tape I need.

(I can’t seem to find this particular model on the JoAnn website, but I believe they’re sold at Hobby Lobby as well.)

Sewing room essential #9: a rolling rack. Before I bought a sturdy, reliable rolling rack, it was comedy of errors trying to put anything anywhere. Half finished projects, finished garments, and fabric were all over the place. It’s crazy how something as simple as a rolling rack can make such a big difference. You can find this rolling rack at Bed Bath & Beyond. It’s particularly great because it folds down for easy transport. We used these all the time for pop up shops and at various events. Plus, they’re on wheels so I can move it easily on picture day when I need that wall space.

Sewing room essentials #10: storage carts. I love these little things. I have two, both from Target, and they are not only great for storage, but they’re like little station carts for the different parts of the process that go on here. I like having one next to my iron with a few tools that I can easily grab, and I have another one set up next to my pattern rack with patternmaking tools on it. I can move them around when I need to. They’re just the best.

Sewing room essentials #11: a big workspace/table. When I first started college, I didn’t have a big table to work on, so I cut out a lot of projects in the dining room on the floor. Then I graduated up to one of those folding sewing tables you can get at JoAnn and used that thing until it was all but falling apart. Then my dad built a table for me, and it’s been the best thing ever. He customized it to my height so my back never hurts, and I have plenty of storage space underneath. It’s wonderful.

Sewing room essentials #12: fabric storage. For me, I like storing my fabric stash in clear drawers. I usually organize it all by type of fabric, but right now it’s a free for all in each drawer. The key for me is being able to see everything. I used storage totes for a while, but those are a bit big for my liking. Things get buried in there, and if they aren’t clear you have no idea what’s in them. I also like to keep my fabric away from direct sunlight. It’s the same theory as not having a window in a closet. Over time, the sun will fade whatever side of your clothes is in its path. Protect your fabric, folks!

Sewing room essentials #13: quality sewing machines. This goes without saying, but you’ll get nowhere fast on a cheap, unreliable machine that doesn’t have all the capabilities you need it to have. Soon, I’ll be telling you all about a fantastic machine from my favorite brand, HUSQVARNA VIKING®, but here’s a peek of my machines. I have two sewing machines, and a serger (also essential).

I hope this answers some questions about where to find sewing tools and other supplies you need for a functioning sewing room. Also, because it’s fresh on my mind, I’d love to know how you store your patterns. I’m all ears!

Happy Sewing!

one pattern, three ways: mccall’s 7163 (and a tutorial)

This may come as a surprise, but I love trends. I love following them, I love watching the industry evolve and grow, and I enjoy watching the somewhat predictable cycles of styles go in and out of fashion (flared jeans are coming back, you guys!). The trick with “trends” is making the ones you really like work for you. Some trends are worth figuring out for yourself because they’re that fun or cute, and some are here and gone so fast–usually because they’re terrible–that all we really need to do is watch them crash and burn. (Anyone remember the ridiculous exaggerated shoulders and epaulettes on jackets a few years ago? Or the huge monograms on handbags that were around for a second one season? Yeah, either you have no idea or you do remember because they were so absurd.)

In college, I took a fashion forecasting course (one of my favorites), and that class had an immersive component to it where we studied in Paris and London one summer. (It happened to be the summer that Yves Saint Laurent died. We were in Paris the day of his funeral, and a couple of us braved the crowds to get as close as we could to the cathedral for the service. We watched Valentino and Armani walk right by us. I will never forget that day, but that’s a post for another time.) Being in Paris and London and studying in real time and up close what was happening in street wear and in the shop windows there was incredibly interesting. The next big thing in trends usually hits the European market before it finds us in the US, and there’s usually some clues about what’s going to happen next if you watch closely enough.

This year, we’re seeing a few different things as far as trends go, but sleeves are a big, big trend (the more interesting and detailed, the better), and off-the-shoulder, ruffled blouses are everywhere. Everywhere. I happen to like this trend, because it’s a nice alternative to silly tank tops and it’s a fun option for warm weather. The more billowy the top, the more air is able to flow around you. Plus, they’re cute and anyone can wear them. I thought I’d give this trend a spin, and in my search for a pattern came across a pattern from the McCall’s catalog that is a few seasons old, but no less adorable or on trend.

I first made this pattern in a floral cotton sateen I had in my stash. I made a dress using the same fabric last summer, so this was a great use of what I had left over, plus it’s always nice to see a fabric more than once in a collection, and you know that’s what I’m all about when I sew. Instead of making changes to the pattern right away, I cut it as is, view D. Talk about an easy project!