Adding “Pouf” with Horsehair Braid

Previously I blogged about my recent haul from Wawak Sewing supply company, including a pair of 144-yard spools of horsehair braid, one white and one black. Then a friend asked me “Why do you need so much?  What do you do with it?” Fair enough, since most people buy it by the 3-yard package…..


I make a lot of costumes,  and horsehair is great for adding body to necklines and princess seams….plus of course hemming. I love it for hemming, to add “pouf”.  Actually I use it 2 ways for hemming, the “typical” way, and another way that I made up.

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Product Review: Wawak Sewing Supplies

Well not exactly a “product review”, more of a “resource review”.   Wawak Sewing is an online retailer that I’ve used for several years. No, I don’t have any affiliation here, just want to pass along some useful info for my fellow sewists!


I keep going back to Wawak Sewing because:

  • They carry products not available locally….things that I could purchase on my way home from work when I lived in Manhattan, but out here in the suburbs?  Not so much.
  • Delivery is super-fast, shipping is a very reasonable $5 flat fee (and free shipping with purchase over $100).
  • Prices are very reasonable.

Now I’m a real sucker for “free” shipping (I know, it’s totally illogical) so I tend to make 2 or 3 larger purchases a year from Wawak, to take advantage. Want to see what I just received? (I’m such a sewing geek….pretend this is a “Sephora haul” or something more glamorous).

First up: a 36″ bolt of dotted pattern paper (they also carry 48″ and 60″):


Ahhhh this gives me that “Back-to-School” feeling of getting fresh supplies! I use this daily for drafting my own patterns as well as tracing pdf’s.  One roll (500′) costs about $50….this is a great item to split with a sewing friend.

Everything else came in one small box:


The rolls on the left are horsehair braid:


This is 1/2″ (they also carry 1″ and 2″ widths), 144 yards for $28, and it’s something that I use all the time because I make petticoats. Most people wouldn’t ever need that much, but the price is so much more reasonable when bought in bulk, this could be another item you might want to split with a friend.

See? I was almost out of black horsehair braid:



The final items I received were simple white 2-hole buttons, in 3 sizes:


These were under $8 per gross (1 gross = a dozen dozen, or 12 x 12 = 144), so we’re talking six cents a button. That’s around the top price most mass-manufacturers use.  But most home-sewers have little choice except to buy buttons at  MUCH higher prices, because at retail you buy buttons on the card, a few at a time.  The cost involved in selling  this way is enormous because of the work involved in wiring buttons onto cards, designing and printing the cards, keeping inventory.  And it’s great to have that choice of sizes, colors, and styles…..but if you can use larger quantities of simple styles, it saves money to buy in wholesale quantities.  Again, a great item to split with a friend.

Here’s what I’m using these buttons for:


(This is my simplified “Dorothy” costume for Halloween).


So that was my “$100 with free shipping” purchase.   Here are some other products that you might be interested in (you can order a catalog here):

Thread!  Many varieties, lots of colors:


Rulers, and French curves (yes you need one!):


Scissors! Maybe gifts for your family so they don’t “borrow” your fabric scissors?


One last word: once (ONCE!) I received a Wawak delivery that was missing one teeny tiny item.  When I let them know about it, they sent it right away…..WITH A COOKIE.  I kid you not, a wrapped up chocolate chip cookie. Talk about amazing customer service! I posted a photo of it on Instagram.

(Did I tell you I have an Instagram page?  It’s where I post what I’m working on: @7pinedesign)


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Can you Save Money by Sewing? #2

Previously I wrote about “saving” money by sewing….whether it’s possible, or even important.  Having an Etsy shop, I get requests to sew garments on a regular basis, and pricing them can be a challenge.  Most of the time my customers have an idea of something they can’t find anywhere, and it’s fun to create that vision. For example I’m working on a “Hamilton” costume right now, but it’s for Halloween not theater, so it doesn’t need to be heirloom-quality, but it still takes a LOT of fabric and quite a bit of time. For sure I’ll be “losing” money making it, yet it inspires me and that’s worth something.

Unfortunately I often get requests to copy something already available. Last night I received such a request, accompanied by this photo:


The customer’s sister-in-law found this dress at “a vintage fair”, and she wanted the same dress for her own flower-girl.  So I had a choice:

  • A: Accept the challenge! Obviously it’s a hand-crocheted bodice, and I can crochet (I can NOT knit!).  Looks like a simple silhouette, although that’s a lot of chiffon, and hemming chiffon takes forever. In my head this would be a $100 to $200 dress, depending on how fast I could crochet, even at minimum wage.
  • B: Look for the dress online and see if it’s readily available, and if so then give away the sale.

A 10-minute search showed that the exact dress is available at this Etsy shop and this one, also from this Ebay store and this one, and also from this wedding site. Therefore it’s fairly clear that it’s mass-produced, and sure enough it’s from this importer. Open that last link in a new window and you’ll see it’s a $15 wholesale dress.

Fifteen dollars, with free shipping from China.  For 3 to 4 yards of “chiffon”, several hours of hand-crochet, and sewing the actual dress, plus steaming, finishing, packing. I realize the government in China subsidizes shipping, whereas I have to pay USPS around $6 just to ship within the U.S.. I can’t purchase fabric for under $1 a yard and I’m not about to crochet for pennies. At a closer look, that dress isn’t even hemmed, it’s most likely nylon tricot, and I wouldn’t send out a non-hemmed dress.

Do I let a potential customer know that the dress isn’t vintage, and it’s not handmade? How else can I explain that I can’t take the sale?

What would you do?



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Free Pattern: Bow Headband

The best thing about sewing is making exactly what you want. I was looking for a free pattern or tutorial online for a “Bunny-ear” or “Dolly-bow” headband….but I couldn’t find one with the specifics I was after:


  • woven fabric (since I have so many scraps)
  • tie-front (but not the extra bow piece to tie on, as it could get lost in the wash)
  • elasticized back (so you can keep the bow tied, and still have adjustable fit)
  • all sizes (as long as I was making one, why not make them for my shop?)

I did find some for sale….but seriously, is a headband pattern worth $4 to $8?  And even those weren’t exactly right: one used the same width and length of elastic for infants through adults.

So I drafted my own pattern. You can get it here:   Blog Tie Headband Pattern

(right click to open in new window, then file or print by clicking this tab in the upper right corner:

print download

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Free Pattern: Wing-Collar Shirt Dickey

Many of my sewing projects are born of necessity, in other words they are “needs” instead of “wants”. This is one of those. My dear friend Allison has a job that requires wearing a uniform smock, and recently management decided that staff must wear white collars as well. This is the smock:


She came to me with this dilemma: washing and ironing a half-dozen white shirts every week sounded like no fun.  Also she usually wears a sleeveless shell blouse underneath, to stay cool: a full shirt would be too hot. What about making old-fashioned collar dickeys?


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Simple Preemie Angel Gown: Free Pattern

How to make the easiest,  fastest “angel gowns” for newborns and preemies

In my previous post about sewing angel cocoons, I promised to write about sewing angel gowns.  If you sew for charities that provide angel gowns for  the tiniest of babies who won’t be coming home from the hospital, then I’m sure you are familiar with the classic infant kimono,  turned around so that the closure is in the back (this is necessary for all bereavement garments). Although this seems to be the simplest of patterns, it can be tricky and frustrating to sew, especially when using slippery fabrics (many sewing groups use donated wedding gowns for these projects). I’ve researched many tutorials and videos online, and seen the struggle of hemming tiny sleeves, and binding tiny necklines.


(Pinterest link:


I’ve figured out a faster, easier method for sewing this design:

  • no hand-sewing
  • no seam allowances to finish (no need for overlocker/serger)
  • no raw edges against delicate skin

Why hasn’t everybody been using this method? Because it is harder to explain.  Paper patterns for infant kimonos have been published  since the ’40’s,  with instructions that can be reduced to a few phrases and tiny line drawings.  So if you’re ready to try a new sewing method for this traditional style, here we go. I’ll show you how to do this, using 2 different printed cottons (outside fabric and lining)  for clarity, and then again in white wedding dress fabrics .

kimono1  ..kimono6kimono3

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How to Walk a Sewing Pattern

“Walking” a pattern is the process of matching up stitching lines of each seam, to determine if the seams will line up correctly when sewn in fabric. In some cases the stitching lines will be exactly the same length, which is straightforward matching:  center-front and center-back seams are almost always the same length.  Seams that need “easing in” extra fullness will have slightly different stitching line lengths and need to be measured:

  • sleevecaps of set-in sleeves that get eased into the armscye
  • waists that get eased into waistbands
  • princess lines easing over the bust apex
  • backs of shoulders which get eased into the front shoulder (in tailoring)
  • backs of sleeves which have extra fullness ease into the front at the elbow
  • backs of men’s trousers which have extra fullness eased into the front at the side-seam so that they will drape correctly

Every seam of every pattern piece in every size should get walked in alpha-testing.  When patterns are graded with a dedicated pattern-grading software system such as Accumark , walking is done automatically.  When grading is done manually, walking is done manually, using a measure tape or flexible ruler:


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Can You Save Money by Sewing? #1

(#1 because I could talk about this from a whole bunch of angles…and probably will. I’ve been sewing since I can remember  and I’ve worked professionally doing  everything from custom one-of-a-kind to mass-market volume apparel production. I’ve “costed” factory lines down to the fraction-of-a-penny per item, and I’ve overspent on gorgeous fabrics for myself  that never got sewn into anything ….yet.)

If you are a sewist, you’ve probably been asked (or just wondered yourself) if your “hobby” saves you money.  Simple question, complicated answer. It depends on how much your time is worth, how fast you sew, where you source your materials, etc.  Much also depends on which projects you choose to work on: are you mostly mending.  altering, or creating? Are you sewing for yourself, your family, or paying customers?

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Another Way to Finish Waist Seams on Dresses

When sewing a gathered skirt to a bodice, I find that these are the  two most common home-sewing-pattern  instruction methods for finishing the seam allowance:

  • 1. Clean-finish couture“: press skirt seam allowance up towards bodice, and press bodice lining seam allowance under (left), then enclose the waist  seam allowances with the bodice lining and slip-stitch by hand (center). Beautifully invisible outside (right), the smoothest and most comfortable inside (important for babies and for children with sensory issues)…. but time-consuming:


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FREE Alpha-Testing

Public Service Announcement: I am offering FREE Alpha-Testing of one garment sewing pattern for any new designer planning to release a line. This is a completely confidential service, although I will keep a tally of frequent mistakes for use in a possible future post, to help others interested in starting an apparel pattern business know what to look out for.

What you will get:

  • a measurement analysis to determine if your fit and grading need adjustment
  • a walking analysis to determine if your pattern pieces line up
  • a trueing analysis to determine if your darts and corners are correct

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