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? 

July 23, 2014

New Class Giveaway! Inside Vogue Patterns: Coatmaking Techniques

This post contains affiliate links, which help me keep my blog up and running - 
thanks for the support! 

I'm so excited to announce that my newest collaboration 
with Craftsy and Vogue patterns will be 
coming out soon and I can't wait to share it with you all!

Enter here to win my newest class.
Hurry, the contest ends Monday, July 28th at Midnight!

Here's a sneak peek at Inside Vogue: Coatmaking Techniques!

I'll be sewing this terrific newly released Vogue coat pattern that has a sweet peter pan collar, princess seams with inset pockets and a full skirt that comes with several length variations. 
My version will focus on working with tricky fabrics, like the velvet collar shown in this version.

And of course it wouldn't be a class from me without some additional details, like a surprise inner "chinese wedding pocket" and  these lovely hand worked buttonholes.

The class materials will feature where to find all these great tailoring supplies and fabrics. And Craftsy is even cooking up a kit that will have fabric that you can purchase as well. 

February 5, 2014

Pink Ribbon Makeover

I've been wanting to address what I've been up to this past year, but it's been hard to know how much to share here. People who know me from Madison have seen me out and about and have heard through facebook what was going on, but I wanted to let you guys who may have taken a class with me in the past or just found me through the blog or my book what's up and why I haven't been very active here this past year. 
So I'll share a post I made in the Craftsy forums to explain: 

What's with the sassy haircut, Steff?Lots of folks have been wondering about my new look. So I wanted to share with you that after I shot my class "Pattern Drafting from Ready to Wear" In late 2012 I was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer. So my 2013 was spent doing lots of chemo, radiation and surgery. In the process of chemo I lost my hair. I like to think of it as my "Pink Ribbon Makeover." But the great news is that I'm finished with treatment and doing very well now. I'm so grateful that because of Craftsy I was able to maintain my teaching work through this terrific learning environment. I couldn't be more delighted to be able to reach so many of you great students, right where you are and just as I am. What a terrific age we live in! So don't forget your Mammograms ladies. Happy Sewing!

So yep, I got the old Pink Ribbon Makeover this past year. In fact it was exactly a year ago when my first Crafsty classes came out that I noticed a lump under my arm. I had had a pretty thorough diagnostic mammogram a few years before and I guess I thought that was a good excuse to ease up on my yearly mammograms. Somehow I thought that if there was anything there, it would have been found then and that surely nothing could go wrong in just a couple of years.

I was wrong. I had been getting more and more tired, but just thought it was from being busy and working, but now looking back I should have been more concerned about my energy level. Also looking back I realize that I had been reminded to get a mammogram from my Doctor's office, but I put it off. Only when I felt a lump did I go in and by that time it had spread to my lymph nodes.
I really want to share this story mostly because I know that those of us who take care of others are so hesitant to take care of ourselves. I need to let you know this to know that by the time I got to the oncologist's office for my first Chemo treatment the lump measured 4 cm. And this is the crazy part: Three different surgeons, not to mention the multiple other doctors, but three separate SURGEONS that I saw all had the same comment. "I wouldn't have felt that on an exam." And it was 4 cm.
So the takeaway here is that you've gotta "feel your boobies" as they say, on a regular basis. And not just your breast tissue, but your underarm area as well.

I'm so incredibly grateful for all the care that I received through chemo, surgery and then radiation and now the occupational therapy that I'm getting for lymphadema. I just know that if I'd had my yearly mammograms, it would have been caught sooner and would have had more options.

So take care of yourselves, no one can do that for you!