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Announcing the Pattern Library

The Just Cut the Scrap Pattern Library is now available.  This FREE library contains a list of patterns that is searchable by  type of fabric, type of garment, skill level, your measurements, and more. The advanced search allows you to combine search requirements to help you narrow in on the patterns you are looking for.

The patterns themselves are NOT available for sale or download here, but you can purchase them from their original publishers.  I am not affiliated with any pattern companies. The data is compiled to the best of my ability, but is not guaranteed. Always refer to the pattern company web site when in doubt.  I’ll be adding patterns regularly to the library!

Visit the Just Cut the Scrap Pattern Library

Feedback and requests are appreciated, please click here to email me.

 

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Mashup of Itch to Stitch’s Celeste Dress and Anna Allen’s Anthea Top

Original Itch to Stitch Celeste in Extended Sizes

 

Back of Itch to Stitch Celeste Dress in Extended Sizes

 

I was fortunate to be selected as a pattern tester for Itch to Stitch Celeste Dress pattern in extended sizes. My measurements as of testing were 48 bust, C cup, 49 waist, and 59 hips. I started with a D cup size 18, graded to size 30 waist, and size 34 hip. My bust fell in middle of range, in the end rounding down to C cup resulted in even better fit. First thing to mention is this is one of the best  results I have gotten while grading a dress. My measurements require pretty significant grading, and after grading, this dress went together like it was out of the envelope. The princess seams were spot on. There was no shoulder adjustment needed as well. I did struggle a bit with a full bicep adjustment on the sleeve. My final make was done in a linen blend. Being 5’4” I shortened the pattern to match the designer’s intended length. I also added 3/4” to the bodice along the recommended line. The pockets are amazing. It is a great summer dress with just the right amount of sass. Normally I would drop the arm scye to accommodate a larger sleeve but the side invisible zipper prevented me from doing this. In the end I could have skipped the zipper as my body shape does not need it. I received a free Celeste Dress pattern from Itch to Stitch in exchange for testing. This  pattern would be excellent for a beginner sewist wanting to try grading. It is a great all round pattern for beginner and beyond.

 

My hacked version of Itch to Stitch Celeste

 

 

After testing was over, I was free to diverge and make this my own. I started by shortening the dress to a tunic. I added a back yoke, mirroring the front. This allowed me to add a back pleats for added roominess and it visually breaks up the back of the tunic.  I color blocked the front yoke, the reversed pocket facings, and replaced the sleeves with the sleeves from Anna Allen’s Anthea pattern. Warning the Anna Allen’s Anthea pattern does not offer extended sizes. So yeah, I bought the pattern for the sleeves, but I adore them. I have worn garments with these sleeves on hot humid days, and I get coverage, free range of motion, and airiness, which is rare with my 19”+ biceps.

Front of Anna Allen’s Anthea blouse. Limited sizing, but generous design ease.

 

I also dropped the arm scye down the side 1” and eliminated the zipper which is not needed for my pear shape frame.

The Celeste Dress pattern by Itch to Stitch is such a great launching off point. Imagine piping, embroidery, and trims just to name a few. I considered a band of print near the hem, on the sleeves, waist ties in contrast. There are so many possibilities. I highly recommend the Celeste Dress by Itch to Stitch patterns as your next launching off point.

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Sewing Guide for the Self Drafted Flutter Sleeve Top

To begin, this is not a pattern. This is a sewing guide. You will need a well fitting bodice pattern that is sleeveless, with princess seams. This will serve as a foundation off which you can draft the rest of this garment. This garment is designed to cinch in under the bust. On my figure that is smallest dimension, and therefore this garment is designed to accentuate that area. Full disclosure my measurements at time of making this garment was 49 bust, 50 waist, 59 hips. This walks an experienced sewist through the steps to make this bodice. The bottom of garment is not discussed. The bodice is fully lined, and sleeveless, with flutter sleeves attached in the princess seams which fall down shoulder and over arm.

Steps:

  1. Cut out 2 sets of bodice pieces, one from lining and one from garment fabric. The bodice should consist of four pattern pieces: center front, center back, side front, and side back.  Cut one each on the fold of the front center and back center pieces. Cut two side backs (mirror image), and cut two side fronts (mirror image). Be mindful of grain lines for drape. Repeat for lining fabric.
  2. Stay stitch around the necklines and arm openings.
  3. Transfer all markings needed to accurately align the princess seams. Mark the top and bottom of center front and back. Mark on wrong side the lining center front , along center, the desired depth of slit. My slit was 5” plus seam allowance down. I also chose the top width of slit to be ¾”.
  4. Serge or finish the bottoms, the shoulders, and side edges. I did not serge my princess seam edges before sewing, to aid in alignment, and instead finished the seam allowances after sewing the princess seams. Repeat for lining pieces.
  5. Sew the center front to the center back at the shoulders, with right sides together. Repeat for lining.
  6. On a piece of fusible interfacing draw a straight line the desired length of slit + ½” + seam allowance. In my case, this line was 6 1/8” long. Draw a perpendicular line of 1.5” centered at the top of line. Draw a parallel line down from top along the seam allowance. Mark the intersection of these lines. This is top of slit. Mark two points 3/8” from the center out along line. This is top of sewing lines. Measure and mark bottom of slit along the slit line. Connect these points to form narrow V. This is stitching lines. There should be approximately half an inch beyond the end of slit. Draw a one inch line perpendicular to the slit line and centered on the bottom. Connect the end of bottom lines to end of top lines, and this is the cutting line for the interfacing.  Fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of center front lining piece, being sure to align it with marked center and end of slit markings.
  7. Put the bodice pieces together, right sides facing. Stitch along the stitching lines. Use smaller stitches as you approach bottom of slit. At bottom, with very small stitch length, take two stitches, then turn and head back up stitching line, increasing stitch length as you get further from the point.
  8. Cut the slit along center line down to but NOT through the stitching. I press the slit seams open as much as possible. Turn the garment right sides out and press. Keep the lining from showing on the front of garment. Press from wrong side to avoid press markings. I also hand baste around the slit, to aid in the top-stitching. Top stitch very close to the edge of the slit. Interfacing depends on the fabric you are using. If very delicate you may want to interface around the bottom point of slit on wrong side of garment fabric. Practicing the slit on fabric and interfacing is highly recommended. Also, after sewing slit, placing some loose basting stitches near bottom of slit, will reinforce the area while the garment is under construction.
  9. Baste the neck lines together at seam allowance. Measure the neckline seam using the basting. Divide in half to get collar length. My collar ended up at 9.75” for a total of 19.5” finished collar. Cutting one collar and basting it on, is an excellent way to audition your collar before committing too much time and fabric. When satisfied, cut 3 collars, using one piece as stiffener. Apply  the extra piece with its right side against wrong side of outer collar, and basted it on at 1/8 inches. Trim the inside collar piece very close to the basting. On un-interfaced collar piece  fold up the bottom seam allowance and press. Put right sides of two collar pieces and stitch together. Trim, clip, and then grade the seam, especially around curve. Turn right sides out, and verify the collar is same shape and width at ends. If not, correct it now!

 

When grading a seam, the seam allowance next to garment fabric should be the longest, and then each layer gets reduced, forming stepped layers.  Try to remove as much bulk as possible, clipping seam allowances, and cutting into stitching lines.  Always try to maintain a scant ¼” along the seam, to preserve structural integrity.

 

  1. Sew the collar on to the neckline, being sure to align the end of collar with the top of slits, and matching the center back of collar and garment. Again trim, clip and grade, the seam allowances. Press the seam allowances up into collar. Baste or hand stitch the folded edge of collar down to neck line along stitching line, enclosing the collar. Top stitch collar if desired.
  2. Sleeve pieces are half circles, with an added seam allowance along the flat side. Measure along the princess seam to determine the approximate length of the diameter of the circle. Divide the diameter in half to determine width of sleeve at top, compare it to the princess seam down shoulder and arm to verify sleeve length. Finish outside curved edge of half circle with ¼ inch seam turned twice. Place the sleeve along the edge of just the garment fabric right sides together and placed in from front and back bottoms evenly. Stitch with 3/8” or reduced seam allowance. Repeat for both sleeves. This garment had 27” half circles for sleeves.
  3. Sew the front and back sides together at shoulder seams. Press open. Be sure to have right and left side. Stitch to bodice center, matching right sides, and fitting the princess seams. Finish edge of seam allowances to remove bulk and allow curves to fall smooth. Press seams open. Repeat process for lining.
  4. Using the burrito method, sew the garment to lining along just the arm opening. Be sure not to catch the garment in the seam. Reinforcing with stay tape may be desirable. Clip and grade the seam allowance. Pull the garment right side out. Repeat for other arm opening. Do not under stitch, or top stitch. Press arm opening being sure the lining is not visible from garment side.
  5. Open and sew the side seams right sides together from garment side front to garment side back. Repeat for other side seam. Repeat for lining. Press seams open. Top stitching can now be done along arm openings. The bodice is now complete and ready for attaching to the bottom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Apron Dress on 3X Apple/Pear Shaped Me

Final Version – Front
Final Version – Back

So, I have been garment sewing out of necessity for a couple of years now. When I started I actually thought about the wardrobe I wanted but could never find or buy in Ready To Wear. One of the items I wanted was an apron. Back then there was no such thing as a cross over apron pattern for someone my size. And then, last week I stumbled on to the Apron Dress by The Assembly Line. I loved the look of it. It had simple yet flattering and thoughtful design lines, and it was offered in a size range, close enough to my measurements that I decided to give it a try. Full disclosure, I am a 48 inch bust, C cup, 48 inch waist, and 58 inch hip. This pattern offered only finished garment measurements in cm. The pattern is offered in a two versions: straight size and plus size.  With the 3X finishing at waist at 51 inches, I decided my first attempt would be a straight 3X. I examined the skirt pieces and drew a line at about hip distance around both. I then measured and it came in large enough to accommodate my hips with enough ease. I was not sure how to go about grading this bottom skirt portion with its unique slanted side seams. I imagine a cut and slash method might work, but I was glad to not have to try it. The bib was going to be big for the first go around, but I was willing to accept that for my first attempt.

This was my first time working with a pattern from The Assembly Line. I bought the PDF and printed it out on A0 paper. The pattern offers multiple sizes, but all sizes are rendered in same solid black line. The lines are not marked near the intersections which caused me some confusion. A silly mistake for an experienced sewer, but a new sewer could be easily confused. I did end up cutting the bib section too large, but luckily I was able to discover my error and just trim down the original piece. Phew! I did do several things differently. It was a hassle but I did sandwich my front straps between bib and facing. I sewed the back straps intersecting diamond, to make it easier to get in and out of. I turned the single back pleat into two opposing pleats. Another down side to the plus size version, is it mentions several options if the pleats proposed do not work, but there is very little guidance for how to determine correct placement. My first attempt I installed snaps as directed,  but since the straps were spaced so far apart the middle of back waist drooped in a very unattractive way. The waist was a bit large but the skirt was skimming my hips perfectly. I could not afford to go down a size. I did not want to move straps as their placement was part of the overall design line of the garment. I needed to find a way to cinch the waist and bring back straps closer together without causing problems for my hips. To save my first version, I added two more snaps to form two additional shallower pleats. This gave me the smaller waist I needed while maintaining the hip area. I decided on two opposing back pleats for my second version. I also reduced the width of the front bib by a total of 2 inches total to accommodate my bust. This required redrafting the facing and interfacing pattern pieces, which frankly was the absolutely worst part of this make. Something about paying money for a pattern and finding myself re-drafting multiple pieces makes me sad, but it was worth it.

How to determine your correct pleat depth if you choose two opposing pleats. Measure the distance between the straps on top of the back waist band (X). Then try on your dress and pin it to proper waist size, by pinching out some of the back skirt at center back. Do not over do it. Carefully sit with it pinned, to be sure you have left enough ease. Measure between the back straps again. Here is where math is your  friend.

X = Distance between back straps

Y = Desired distance between back straps (after pinning)

Z = X – Y

If doing two pleats, your pleat depth will be Z/4. If you are sticking with single pleat, your pleat depth will be Z/2.

The distance between my back straps was 21.5″. I wanted about 10.75″ between the back straps to prevent back waist droop and comfortable waist. This resulted in two opposing back pleats of 2 5/8″. It worked like a champ on my second attempt. When considering future versions I may replace the snaps with a short corset lacing  section to allow the garment to grow and shrink with my ever changing body.

I absolutely love my finished garment. It has been a long time since I have been so excited to wear a make. I love the fresh and interesting designs offered from The Assembly Line. My one caution is the pattern lacking proper labeling and differentiation between sizes. But, after that hurdle, the construction was straightforward and comprehensive. As for plus sizing, it will take some extra work on the part of the plus sized sewer to modify the pattern for different body shapes. A commercial pattern cannot possibly fit all possibilities. But for me a short, apple/pear shaped plus size, I managed to get a very flattering and well fitted garment. My next version is going to be in a light weight denim. This garment will work for multiple seasons. One could go wild with embellishing this garment as well. I just cannot say enough about it. Give it a try.

First Attempt – Front
First Attempt – Back

I am not affiliated with any of the following just a happy customer. The pattern is the Apron Dress from The Assembly Line. The fabric is cotton twill in blue and gray from Fabric Mart. The snaps are from KAM Snaps.

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2021 Sewing Bee – Round 3 – Pattern Matching Challenge


1When this challenge was announced, I knew immediately what fabric I was going to use. I purchased two 2 yard remnants of Japanese Dobby cotton batik fabric, last year. The panel contains a diamond shaped medallion in a field of subtle textured blue, and a gorgeous border print runs down the both edges. I promised the woman I bought it from that I would make something special with it. This would be the main focus of my print matching challenge.

The print matching in my outfit starts with the front and back princess seams on the blouse. The center back medallion is matched down the middle and conceals a zipper. The sleeves have small diamond shapes to repeat the motif. The side seams under the arms could not be matched. But I strived to create similar shape and placement, to maintain the balance of the garment. Luckily the sleeves cover much of those seams. I created a two piece collar, in which the print is symmetrical. The angle of the collar also repeats the angle of center medallion and the curves of collar is the same as found in the medallion print. As a compliment to the strong top, I wanted a soft flowy bottom, and a large scale gingham print in the same colors came to mind. The gingham is a lovely lightweight linen blend fabric with incredible drape. I vertically pleated the top three rows of gingham, to form the waist band stripes. The single seam is matched down the center back. For added interest I added four horizontal pleats along lower rows of the gingham to add dark bands around bottom of the skirt. I absolutely love both of these pieces.

I had recently purchased the Wren pattern from Chalk and Notch. I love the short “statement” sleeves. I imagined the bottom ruffle to be made with the border print. It just came together in my mind. But, as the project developed, modifications had to be made. The Wren has a front button placket, which was challenging from print matching with the limited amount of fabric. I decided to make a princess seam bodice with an invisible zipper in the center back. Matching the front and back princess seams were challenging. I basted together the center back pieces in preparation for installing an invisible zipper. I highly recommend Kenneth King’s method of sewing the Imperceptible Zipper. The neckline had to be raised to keep the front diamond intact. I was able to use the sleeves from the Wren but I had to add a seam below the sleeve puff in order to be able to use the fabric efficiently. I decided to line the blouse bodice to make it easier getting on and off, and to tidy the inside. I strived to save the border prints to make the lower ruffle similar to the one on the Wren. I played with box pleats in the border print, and I was having so much fun. After auditioning the pleated border, the length of the ruffle was too short and adding it on to the shirt at the natural waistline, threw the proportions off. I was so disappointed. The original concept was based on that border print. But, I stepped back and realized the blouse was beautiful. Being a pear shape, using attention grabbing and wider upper garments can balance out my overall look. It was tough setting aside that border print, but choosing what to leave off a garment is crucial to success. I added a sewn on facing for the bottom hem and lined the bodice portion of the blouse.

With the blouse complete, I envisioned a simple companion piece, which was soft and flowy. I had been contemplating making a skirt that I could throw on quickly over leggings when I needed to dash out the door. The skirt’s waistband had to be easily modifiable. My waist measurement often changes by several inches throughout the course of a day. I came up with a design for an elastic waistband skirt. The waist band consists of three channels, and I used button elastic to allow me to quickly adjust the waistband. I chose a lightweight linen blend fabric with 1.5 inch wide gingham check. My only regret is that the fabric would not support pockets. The skirt started as a little over 3 yards and was joined by a single seam after removing two small strips to even the edges. The body of the skirt contains 38 vertical pleats over four rows to form the waistband. The bottom of the skirt is then pleated four times to form darker bands. Each horizontal pleat required aligning 82 columns of color. Someone mentioned fork pins on the discussion board, and thank goodness, as the fork pins greatly improved my print matching results. The pleats created a subtle ombre effect on the skirt. I cut the hem off of the skirt and then reattached, after adding a featherweight interfacing. This is one of those skirts that you just want to twirl in the minute you get it on. I absolutely love it.

The blouse and skirt combination is really me. If you are lucky, while sewing a garment at some point, you just fall in love with it. You start to imagine the feel of it on, and how you will look in it, and how it makes you feel while wearing it, and that is the magic I hope for with the start of every project. This time, I achieved the magic in both pieces. Both pieces are welcomed additions to my wardrobe. I have done print matching in the past in plaid shirts, for the family, but this challenge, I took print matching to a whole new level and I love the results. After completing both pieces, I checked the weather and luckily bright sun was expected in the morning. I laid out the pieces so they would be ready in the morning. It reminded me of when I was young, and I would carefully lay out my outfits the night before a special day. I snapped a photo, and it became my favorite.

I am planning to make a beautiful Obi belt with the remaining border print., and I have fabric picked out to make the Chalk and Notch’s Wren blouse/dress as it appears in the pattern. Here is to never ending inspiration! Thank you!




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2021 Sewing Bee – Round 2 – Recycled denim



When a round of the sewing bee is announced, I carefully read the announcement, all the while mentally scanning my list of things to sew. I have maintained a list of things I would like to sew for several decades. It started while I worked and raised my family. Back then sewing time was precious and very limited. It allowed me to hit the ground running when I did find time to sew. My list is not just a written list of projects – it consists of patterns, pictures of garments, swatches of fabrics, and notes on techniques. These are the seeds of my inspiration. When the sewing bee round is announced, I pull my ideas from my list and formulate a plan that incorporates the theme of the contest while also tackling as many “to sew” actions from my list. Now that I am retired, I pick away at my list pretty steadily. When I am participating in the sewing bee I go into warp speed. I try to incorporate as many of my sewing to dos as I can. Luckily inspiration is bountiful and my list of things to sew continues to grow faster than I can keep up with even during sewing bee.

Recycled denim was a bit of a challenge. I am an avid quilter, but quilted or patchwork clothing never appealed to me. The patchwork garments I made over the years never made it out of my closet. I admire the artistry of fashioning new garments from the pieces of clothing. But, I would not wear a Frankenstein garment that was obviously comprised of sections from other garments. Recycling is about minimizing waste, using resources efficiently, and repurposing. Making something I knew would never be worn was a non-starter. I finally settled on the Tuxedo blouse and a corseted belt. These two articles have been languishing on my list for far too long. Although I love sewing for family and friends, when it comes to the sewing bee, I could never ask someone to put up with the many try on sessions, so the garments would be for me. I immediately dug out two pairs of store bought stretch jeans in dark navy denim that I purchased just before lock-down. One of the pairs still had the tags on it. I had hoped the stretch would help to accommodate my unique physique, but it was not to be. A friend donated a beautiful faded light denim shirt. I went to a local thrift shop and purchased two more pairs of dark navy stretch jeans, and a denim skirt in a medium blue. These six garments would be the source for my projects. The Tuxedo blouse would be made from the four pairs of dark stretch jeans. The belt would be lighter in color adding more shape and contrast to the outfit, using both sides of the denim skirt. The beloved denim shirt from a friend would be used for lining in both pieces.

While formulating this plan, I took careful inventory of the fabric I had available. I did not cut the denim from the pants or skirt, until I could pin all the necessary pattern pieces on the denim. Some of the pieces had to be cut single layer, requiring extra attention to make sure I cut an up and down version of a pattern piece. This added a lot of stress to this project as I had very little margin for error. In some cases, I would sew test pieces out of other fabric to fine tune the fit, before the final pattern pieces were cut from the denim. On the back inside of the cuffs, you will find a dark spot of denim, which originally fell under the back pocket. I was so tight for dark denim I had no other choice for the cuffs. I think it adds authenticity to my recycling efforts. Also in the lower hem facing I was forced to use a piece of denim that originally had a pocket on it, and you can still make out the pocket outline. I am proud of how little was left of my original garments. I included a photo of the source garments before and after. Among the cast offs, there are useful sized pieces left destined for other projects, so I will have to find them a home.

The Tuxedo blouse made it on to my list several years ago at a sewing class. A fellow student was wearing her creation and I kept staring at the design lines and searching for construction clues. I finally asked her about the pattern. It is the Tuxedo shirt from Sandra Betzina’s book, “No Time to Sew”. It is a winged collar blouse, with simple relaxed long sleeves with no cuffs, and the bottom hem line was like none I had seen before. It would flatter a variety of shapes and sizes. I bought the book, and the patterns. The reason this project lingered on my list was the pattern accommodated small, medium, and large. The largest hip measurement was 24” smaller than my hips. The bodice would also need grading, and the original pattern had no shaping in the way of darts or princess seams. Also, the pattern called for lighter fabric with more drape. But, I thought the denim would add structure to garment accenting its strong design lines and being more flattering to my figure.

Not one to give up, I formulated a plan. I would use a self-drafted princess seam bodice, that I can fit easily, and I had already drafted a pattern for a flip cuff sleeve for the bodice. These had the benefit of using many smaller pieces which could be cut from the legs of jeans. I used the winged collar pattern piece from the original pattern, adjusting it to fit on my bodice’s neckline. For the bottom I had no existing patterns that would approximate the shape. I started from a circle skirt, reducing the flare to just skim my hips. In the original pattern there is not a waistline seam. The need to keep pattern pieces small forced me to add a waistline seam and to increase the number of panels in the peplum. To approximate the original pattern I wanted the peplum to flow smoothly from the waist. The bottom hemline was drafted as close as possible from the original pattern. Not being a fan of buttonholes in denim, I changed the front button placket on the original pattern to a cut-on hidden button placket that ended at the waist. This resulted in a garment with sharp crisp, clean, classic design lines, similar to the original pattern.

Once I had drafted the pattern, the construction was fairly straight forward. All seams were finished with a serged edge. I minimized topstitching to where it was needed and did it in matching thread to keep the look clean and sharp. I made covered buttons to maintain the design uniformity. The button loops on the cuffs are made using soft elastic covered with a two pass rolled edge done on my serger using matching thread. Gail Yellen has an excellent video demonstrating this technique. It results in a perfect matching elastic. Grading was extremely important to complete the collar and button stands. I recommend Muna and Board’s sew along for the Noice Jeans as my all-time favorite demonstration of how to grade denim. I used the lighter denim from the gifted shirt, to make the hem facing. The shirt was pretty stained and paint splattered, so I used the wrong side to get a more uniform look. The peplum consists of 10 panels, which was necessary to be able to cut them from the jean legs. When cutting, I managed to maintain grain-line on the top portion of garment. The sleeves had to be pieced. The bottom pieces had to be cut off grain, but the bias I think actually enhances the drape of the peplum. I absolutely love slipping this blouse on. The denim is soft with a slight stretch. The garment offers coverage without being oversized. I truly look forward to making another of these with ample fabric to allow combining some of the many pieces, so it is back on my “to sew” list. The blouse had the correct proportions for my body, and it would be perfect to showcase my accessory, a belt.

A corset was on my “to sew” list as well. I knew my first corset should not and could not be rushed, but a corseted belt would be an excellent way to familiarize myself with some of the techniques needed to someday make my own corset. View D from Simplicity pattern 8626 caught my eye, but I liked the back of it. Starting with that pattern I drafted a pattern which featured a front centered zipper to allow easier on/off. I added a laced section in the back. I added 4” to the pattern to accommodate my waist. Adding sections while reducing their size allowed me to add a lot more boning, which is installed in the seam allowances. The laced panel was designed to allow me to cinch the belt in or out up to 1.5 inches, which makes it versatile when pairing with lighter or bulkier outfits. The lacing is a thick cotton cording, and my husband saved the day by suggesting heat shrink tubing to seal the ends of laces to prevent fraying. The belt buckle was repurposed from a belt purchased at the thrift store. I also backed my sections with Peltex 70, ultra-firm stabilizer. It is 100% polyester and machine wash and tumble dry. This resulted in a very comfortable supportive belt. The amount of work to install a zipper, a belt buckle, 16 pieces of boning, 13 grommets, 2 rivets, throughout the 9 sections of the belt, has given me a new found appreciation for accessories, and I will never complain about the price of a well-made belt again. I used the denim skirt for the belt. I used the wrong side of the denim for the two front belt pieces to add a bit more contrast. I used the rest of the denim shirt to line the belt sections. I love this belt, and look forward to wearing it with many of my outfits. I could never purchase a belt that is this comfortable to wear while giving me the shape and support I want. I plan on making another of these too, which is why my “to sew” list never stops growing.

As for my list, here is some of the “new to me” techniques that I used during this project: making covered buttons, making matching elastic loops, drafting a cut on hidden button placket, installing grommets, lacing a corset, installing a belt buckle, shortening a metal separating zipper, and adding boning to a garment to name a few.

Once again, the sewing bee has done its magic, and in record time I have boldly challenged myself to draft and make a garment and an accessory for myself. Thank you to all those behind the scenes that make it possible, and thanks to my fellow participants who not only understand the joy and excitement of sewing bee mania, but who also inspire me with their creativity and willingness to share!




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2021 Sewing Bee – Round 1 – Uniquely you pajamas


I am a “nightgown or nothing” kind of gal, so two piece pajamas were a stretch for me. As I pondered my options my 7 month old German Shepherd puppy nuzzled my leg, and it came to me. At 58, I never thought I would adopt another dog, let alone a puppy. We lost our beloved Tilly several months into lock down and social distancing. The sheer silence and loneliness overwhelmed me. After much soul searching, I started to consider, plan, and train for the physical demands of a puppy. My latest love, Miss Lotte, came home October 7th. One thing I did not properly plan for was the many middle of the night and early morning trips outside. On more than one occasion, I surprised a delivery person, with me sitting on my steps in my nightgown. Those early morning moments spent sipping coffee, tossing sticks, kicking balls, and wandering the woods were so very special, but I could not help thinking I wish I had a more appropriate outfit. There is no time to waste when puppies have to go. I needed something that was comfy to sleep in, but would allow me to roll out of bed and be out the door in a flash. It needs to be warm, presentable and have pockets, lots of pockets. I searched the internet for a solution and stumbled upon Pajameralls, a combination of pajamas and overalls. As good as they were, they had some drawbacks, the buckles and hardware did not seem comfortable to sleep in, and would add unwanted excitement to my own middle of night bathroom trips, fumbling with buckles and buttons. So, out of this was born my version of Pajameralls.

I started with Jalie Pattern 972 Overalls. This pattern is unisex, and actually extended into my hips range. I made the following modifications: eliminating the front fly, replacing the side button and buckles with snaps, adding elastic to the straps for comfort. I added a contrasting internal cuff for added strength and pizazz. I compared the area between waist and crotch to my favorite fitting high waist-ed pants pattern, and made the necessary adjustments, which also required reworking the pocket pieces a bit. The effort was worth it as the initial fit was very close. At the same time I replaced the front fly with a simple center seam.

The next area of concern was re-designing the straps. I wanted to avoid the metal hardware, and needed fast on/off straps, that had to stay in place without being so strong that they dug into my shoulders and gave me my first wedgy in years. Much laughter accompanied this part of the project. The straps are two layers of fabric. There is a 3/4 inch elastic in a channel running down the straight side of the strap. The elastic caused a ruffle effect on the straps which I really liked.

I chose a Linen/Cotton blend fabric that is butter soft, lightweight, and breathable. For contrast, I chose a half yard piece of printed linen, which was actually one of the last pieces of fabric I bought before lock down. I loved the color and design, and I used every bit of that fabric in these overalls. The original pattern calls for a heavy weight fabric, so my choice meant I had to consider where I would need to add interfacing, stabilizers, and extra layers of fabric for reinforcement. This made the instructions a solid starting point, but I would have to determine where and when to apply the necessary interfacing, stabilizers, and extra layers of fabric. I added interfacing to pocket edges, twill tape to some seams on the bias, and doubled the fabric in the straps, as the original pattern called for a single layer of fabric. I also wanted to make sure I did not go too far, making a stiff garment which would not be comfortable to sleep in. I also added inside openings to the side of the front waistband, to allow the possibility of adding a drawstring or belt in the future should the need arise. Here is hoping that it does!

I decided on a 3-thread cover stitch for the top-stitching, using a thick 30 wt cotton thread for needle threads, and Poly Yarn in the chain looper, which is strong, soft, and more tolerant of heat. This results in a soft, clean, durable inside of the garment. Last Christmas I received a KAM snap setup for installing jeans buttons, grommets, rivets, and last but not least snaps. Never having used snaps before, I was delighted with how easy to install, attractive, and durable these size 24, fashion snaps in gun metal were.

For my second piece, I made my fitted for me T-shirt. Last spring, I took a two day online class with Deb Canham, in which she talked us through drafting and making a pretty near perfect fit t-shirt. We started with McCalls 6964 pattern, in a size closest to our bust size. She has great tips for applying the neckbands (both V and crew), fitting the sleeves, grading out, and just so much useful information. Even after years of sewing on serger and cover stitch machines I learned so much, and I live in my made for me T-shirts. For this outfit I wanted something more special that made me feel a bit more feminine. I used the Cashmerette write up for bishop sleeves and modified my long sleeve pattern to result in this pretty sleeve. The sleeve would drive me crazy if I were trying to cook, or sew, but it adds a bit of fancy when winding down at the end of a long day, and pulling on this t-shirt. The fabric is a very lightweight cotton knit. I am also very proud that no fabric was purchased for this project, so a considerable amount of stash busting has occurred.

Overall, (get it) I am delighted with the outcome, and look forward to rolling out of bed, and quietly stealing off with Miss Lotte in the early morning hours to share our quiet times before the world gets going.




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Jeans Finally!

I have been trying to make myself a comfortable pair of jeans for literally years. Full disclosure, making well fitting pants are hard. For a plus size person there are added hurdles. I started with the Sure Fit Design method. I learned so much from this system. I made custom blouses, gorgeous dresses, and a few pants with some success but only after I accepted an elastic waistband. The front was achievable, but the back of pants were always off with various wrinkles. With every alteration I seem to move the wrinkles but not eliminate them.

I tried some other plus patterns. Having some success with other Megan Nielsen patterns, I tried the Curvy Dawn. I could not even get the toile up my legs. After opening the legs up, the back was a mess, discouraged I gave up. After a long while I discovered Muna and Broad patterns. These patterns are all about the plus size body. I made their Waikerie Shirt and fell in love. Cute lines, and the short sleeves were stylish and just enough coverage  to hide my upper biceps, and still short enough to be cool in the heat of summer. I am not a fan of wide leg pants. Being rather short, they just never felt quite right for me personally, so I have not tried Muna and Broad’s other pant patterns. But when they recently released the Noice Jeans pattern, I had to make it.

I am 5’4″ tall with 48″ waist and 59″ hips. I made a toile out of heavy satin cotton, typically used as drapery lining. It had similar enough thickness and drape I thought it would be good practice for construction methods as well as a test for identifying necessary fitting alterations. I used size G for waist, and graded to H for hips. This required some minor alterations to the pocket pieces at the sides, to match my grading. I stumbled a bit making my toile from the written instructions, but I got there. Then I discovered that Muna and Broad provides a Resources button on the Noice Jeans pattern page which is a list of videos demonstrating the construction process. Suddenly, I was cruising along. The videos demo proper grading with heavy fabrics, zipper installation, and a Hong Kong finish on the waistband which I love. My toile is completely wearable but even with the generous seam allowances which allow for alterations, my bottom crotch area was, as they say, a bit hungry. Easily fixed by adding to the back crotch curve and moving the back crotch point out a bit. Other than that, they were a complete hit.

Now, another full disclosure, the Noice Jeans are HIGH waisted. I mean high waisted. I wore my  toile and although I can see outfits that I would welcome the highness of waist, I decided to lower the front waist to match my forward tilting natural waistline. I removed 3 inches from the top of my front piece. That meant using a 6″ zipper instead of 9″. I had to redraw all pocket pieces, zipper pieces, and the front waistband. It was tricky work, but doable if you take your time.  I also made the necessary minor alterations to back crotch. I then made my first real pair of denim jeans for myself. It was a heavy non-stretch denim. The second round of construction went smoothly except for the buttonhole. The thickness of denim proved problematic for my automatic buttonhole foot even with a compression plate. I ended up making a fairly decent keyhole traditional buttonhole using the manual buttonhole procedure on my machine. But while cutting open the buttonhole, I sliced through the threads. Disaster! Quick video from internet on how to make hand buttonholes, and I was saved. I like the handmade buttonhole even better.

These jeans are comfortable when sitting and standing. I can comfortably bend over and touch the ground. There is some small gaping when I sit, but it is minor, and easily fixed with a belt. I may reduce back waist band a very small amount in the next make. And there will be more makes. In lovely high quality denim that I have been collecting and saving for the day when I had a denim jeans pattern that worked for my unique body shape.

I do not work for any pattern companies. I am simply putting this  information out there, to aid others who might be attempting to make their own custom plus size denim jeans. The secret to my success with Muna and Broad Noice jeans is due to the choice of two fits. One fit is a traditional curve from waist to hip, and the other fit is for folks who have a more boxy drop, as if there is a small shelf  on top of the hips. The resulting back yoke shape is much more dramatic and curvy than I had encountered on any other patterns. Once that area was properly fitted the lower back crotch curve can be adjusted with normal methods. This probably won’t work for everyone, but it was a game changer for me.

Some added details… I used a 90 jeans needle for both topstitching and regular sewing thread. I did a lot of practice on scraps of similar thicknesses before stitching. The topstitching thread I used was 30wt topstitching thread from Superior Threads. The topstitching was standard stitch with tension adjusted for thicker jeans fabric on 3.5 stitch length. My hardware came from KAMsnaps. The belt loops were a zigzag .75 length with 2.2 stitch width. I hammered down the bulk before all attempts to sew. This was on a Bernina 710. I also have a gravity fed steam iron. Hope that helps! Happy Sewing!

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Making Masks

Adapted from David Josef

*** TRY TO NOT USE PINS AS THIS INTRODUCES HOLES INTO INTERFACING ***

1) Cut fabric
– Cut 1 top of mask 9.5″ x 7.25″
– Cut 1 back of mask (liner) 7″ x 5″

* EVEN BETTER if you interface these pieces with non-woven medium-weight interfacing.

2) Mark center of mask front and liner pieces. Fold front mask piece in half

Clip small triangles less than the seam allowance

Do the same with one of the liners. These will help with aligning the pieces.

3) With two liner pieces, fold the long (un-clipped) edge

4) With right sides together, align the mask front with the liner, aligning the centers.  Place 2 liners, be sure the finished sides are against the right side of the top of the mask.

5) Serge around all of the outside edges

6) Press the liner into place, forming an envelope-like opening, then stitch the edges down.

7) Form the pleats, use the edge of the liner to fold the first pleat, then form 3 shallow pleats all in the same direction.

8) Press the pleats into place.  Make sure both ends are the same finished width after pleating.

9) Stitch the pleats into place on the very edge, and along the edge of the liner stitching.

10) Fold the edges towards the back of the mask to overlap the liner, and stitch into place.  Repeat for the other side.

11) Cut two 7.5″ pieces of elastic, thread it through the sides of the mask, and stitch the ends of the elastic together.  (Alternate: cut elastic slightly longer and knot ends together)

12) Rotate stitch (or knot) to the inside of the mask.

 

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2020 Sewing Bee – Round Four

I have always dreamed of traveling. In recent years, I have traveled to Scotland, Switzerland, Ireland, and did many car trips, including one to Florida, and another to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia in Canada. I toured Scotland with my daughter, who insisted I leave my suitcase home, and instead I traveled with a 30 lb backpack for 8 days. In Switzerland, I spent 10 days, hiking, doing walking tours, scrambling through a castle, hopping boats, horse-drawn wagons, and trains, and eating in fine restaurants, all requiring careful consideration of my wardrobe. My husband and I love road trips, and averaged at least one road trip a month last year. Having just completed a year packed full of travel, I learned a lot, about what I want to wear on my future adventures. Having a well tailored, comfortable, versatile, condensed, attractive wardrobe makes all the difference while traveling. As I travel more and more, I also want to find ways to pursue my obsession with sewing while on the road. I left for a road trip just two days after the round 4 challenge of the sewing bee was announced. The trip had been planned months ago, and I never thought I would make it to round 4. Never, say, never. Suddenly, I needed to pack up a streamlined sewing studio and hit the road. I formulated my plan, picked patterns, pulled fabrics from my stash, made a few purchases, and made up some quick muslins. I then cut all the garments, applied interfacings where needed, and I serged all the edges to keep the raveling to a minimum. There were a number of snags along the way, but, I adapted and overcame. I am so pleased with my outfit, but also for my successful proof of concept of sewing on the road. When my husband does eventually retire, I hope our future holds many more adventures on the road, but I worried that it would drastically cut into my sewing time. This outfit was the result of my first attempt at creating travel worthy garments using my portable, yet comprehensive sewing studio.

I present to you my traveling outfit. This is comprised of four pieces: a dress, a blouse, a pair of pants, and a short kimono jacket. The dress is a full length dress, with a rounded collar, tulip sleeves, inseam pockets, a button band with 17 buttons, and can easily be converted into a duster. The blouse is reversible, featuring a hi low split hem, delicate trim on neckline and armscye, and pintucking on one side. The pants are pull on linen pants with side in seam flat felled pockets, a very comfortable high waisted, wide triple elastic waistband, and cuffable pant legs for an impromptu walk on the beach. The jacket is a short reversible kimono jacket, made with denim and linen, featuring patch pockets and a bound buttonhole with back to back buttons for reversibility. This versatile comfortable attractive 4 piece ensemble can be mixed and matched for many different looks, making it perfect for traveling.

The dress is a self drafted pattern using my sloper created with the Sure Fit designs dress kit. The dress features princess seams, tulip sleeves, full length front cut on button placket, and a 3/4 circle skirt bottom. It is made with 6 yards of Robert Kaufman’s Brussels Washer Navy. The blend of linen and rayon has a lovely drape, that dances around my legs as I walk. It is long, cool, comfortable, and with an extra couple of buttons and buttonholes, it converts into a duster or long vest. This idea came to me when I found myself touring through a castle full of winding staircases in a lovely long dress. To safely navigate, I buttoned up the dress on itself, it looked strange, but it worked. This is a more attractive version, which can easily convert into several very flattering looks. I placed a button on the inside bottom of each button band. I also attached tabs with buttonholes along the back princess seams at the waistline. This allows two different levels of drape. I wanted to use flat felled seams but, this was not compatible with curvy princess seams so I devised a clean finish, that transitioned to a flat felled seam below the waist. The armscye seam allowances are bound with bias to keep it neat. The curve in collar mimics the curvy tulip sleeves. The tulip sleeves are large upper arm friendly, and add width to my narrow shoulders, balancing out my overall pear shape, and giving the impression of more of an hour glass shape. I feel absolutely fabulous in this dress.

The top is a reversible pull over top. The white side is pintucked. The neckline and armscye is trimmed with a white flat piping. The bottom is finished with a hi-lo split hem. It is made with white handkerchief weight linen, and a lightweight printed linen. It is cool, comfortable, and provides two looks with one garment. The pattern is self drafted from my sloper. It is dartless. I challenged myself to find a way to make it reversible. I had these lovely yet sheer linen, that I would not use alone, but together in reversible top was perfect. The pintucking was done on my serger, and gives the garment a little structure. The construction was tricky to figure out and was achieved in a hotel room late at night with a couple of scraps of cotton, resulting in a mini mockup. The shoulder seams are sewn on both tops. I sewed a bias strip folded in half around neckline of one top. I then layered tops right sides together, and used the first stitching as guide to stitch neckline on both shirts. The flat piping made it very easy to turn the shirt. The armscye’ s were done similarly, but the trim must not fall within seam allowances. I used burrito method the sew the arm scye’s right sides together after trim was applied. I then sewed the side seams down to the start of the split hem. I used the burrito method once again to finish the front hem. I left a gap in the back hem to allow for turning right sides out. I also cut the white side of shirt an additional half an inch longer in the front resulting in a thin white edge on the front lower hems of both shirts to coordinate with the other trim. I skipped white trim on back hem for practicality. I will repeat this pattern again, but next time I want to try using some, lovely lawn print with some handkerchief weight linen for an even lighter more fluid effect.

The pants were from a tried and true pattern. Being a short plus size pear shaped woman, makes making pants for myself a major endeavor. All pants patterns require extensive alterations to fit me comfortably while sitting, standing, and walking. I have a tilted waist and wacky crotch depth and crotch curves. Many muslins were done, and with every make I tweak and enhance the fit and finish of this pattern. I love these pants, which are as comfortable as my knit leggings, but are much more flattering. This pair of pants is made in a heavy weight linen. The seams are flat felled, with side in-seam pockets. The triple elastic waistband is wide, comfortable, and attractive. I added an additional 1/8 inch of top stitching along the very top edge of the waistband, which adds a bit of polish. I added linings to the lower legs to allow cuffing, and to provide a pop of color and coordination with other pieces in my travel wardrobe. I also eliminated the front waist pleats, and added back waist darts to my version of the pattern for a better fit. The pattern is a free PDF download from “Fabric-stores.com”, and is called the Crisp Linen Pants Pattern. The pattern accommodates sizes 0/2 to 28/30, in Letter/A4 paper. The instructions are provided via an online tutorial, with separate links for detailed instructions on several techniques such as flat-felled seams, and putting a pocket in a flat felled seam. There are no licensing restrictions as well. These pants are perfect for the impromptu walk on the beach, as well as throwing on some heels and heading to dinner.

The jacket is the Women’s Kimono Jacket sewing pattern, from Wiksten. Although the pattern only extends to XL, it is a loose boxy style, which I thought could work well for my plus size figure, with some adjustments. I chose the short jacket version, but shortened it an additional 2 inches. I shortened the sleeves an inch, as well. I also added a rounded triangle to the back of the collar piece to expand the flip down collar on the jacket, which could then conceal the collar on the dress, avoiding the double collar conundrum. I am not a fan of open jackets, so I also added a bound button hole and two back to back buttons. Being reversible, it offers two looks, in one garment. One side is a denim I purchased from Vogue fabric, several years ago. The second side is Robert Kaufman’s Brussels Washer YD denim, purchased from Pintuck & Purl, an amazing shop in North Hampton, NH. This jacket feels so lush. I typically shy away from loose boxy styles, but with a few minor adjustments, this jacket broadens out my shoulders, balances out my pear shaped figure, and draws the attention up to my face and upper body.

Round 4 started in snowy cold New Hampshire. I cut all of my garments out, and then packed up a mini sewing studio and headed south for warmer climates. Not long into the drive, I discovered I had cut the dress for a scoop neck, instead of a collared neckline. I re-cut those pieces on a king size bed in a Hampton Inn. Thank goodness for my emergency backup supply of fabric. During the 2.5 day drive, I basted seams, planned construction, started my review, and fretted about how I was going to get it all done. Once in Florida, I setup in the sunny game room, complete with a ping pong table, which worked beautifully as my sewing studio away from home. Now that the sewing is done, I am packing up the traveling sewing studio, unloading my bike, and I am heading out to catch up on some much needed sunshine, fresh air, and exercise, confident that I can bring my sewing along on my future travels, with planning and preparation.

Why should I win the sewing bee? Like my fellow contestants, I love to sew. For me sewing is the perfect combination of mathematics, engineering, and artistry. Sewing is a constant source of challenge, frustration, and provides a true sense of accomplishment. When I sew, my focus and concentration takes me to another world. Sewing for me started with quilting, which I did for nearly 20 years, and then one day I stopped. I had had enough of quilting. Soon after, my daughter needed a prom dress, so I bought a book on couture, dusted off my sewing machine, and made her a gorgeous gown, in satin, with boning, and tulle. It took several months, and for my first muslin, I used actual muslin, which makes me laugh today. After the prom dress, I decided I would like to make myself a vest. How hard could that be? I bought a pattern, measured, sewed, and it looked beautiful until I put it on. It was even worse, when I sat down. Adjustments were needed. I bought a book on plus sizing fitting, and my next vest worked up much better. There are no magic patterns that work for me out of the envelope. I have studied and learned how to alter patterns for my plus size body. The next hurdle was to learn how to choose a fabric, and consider drape, durability, as well as visual impact. In the early days, there were too stiff skirts, unintended see thru tops, unfortunate pattern placements, and casualties that did not survive the washing machine. After all that, I was starting to make some really nice garments, but I found they did not always flatter my figure. So I then studied my proportions, and my shape, and how to pick patterns, fabrics, and styles that would balance out my figure. Suddenly, the success rate of my garment making soared. Today, I live in made by me clothes. I love making for me and friends and family. I love sharing my love of sewing. I would love to be able to go back to my curvy plus size online communities and say, I won the sewing bee, making and modeling my own perfectly plus garments. I think it would inspire a lot of others to navigate the labyrinth and come out the other side, to a place where you can make one of a kind garments, that make you feel absolutely fabulous.

Finally, a huge thank you to the Pattern Review team, and the guest judges. I appreciate the time of effort that went into making this event a reality. It has been a real game changer for me. Also, none of this would have been possible without my amazing husband who made countless meals, rubbed sore shoulders, hauled sewing machines and totes full of fabric and sewing supplies, and took the most wonderful photos.