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?


Continue reading

Posted in Free Pattern, How To, Sewing Tips, Tutorials | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

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

Continue reading

Posted in Charity Sewing, How To, Sewing Tips, Tutorials | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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:


Continue reading

Posted in How To, Pattern Reviews, Sewing Tips | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

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?

Continue reading

Posted in Blog, Sewing Tips | Tagged , , , | 28 Comments

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:


Continue reading

Posted in How To, Sewing Tips, Tutorials | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

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

Continue reading

Posted in Sewing Tips | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Pattern Grading: Hummingbird vs. Felicity

Grading is “a methodical and mathematical process that’a used to “grow” and “shrink” a style to fit a range of customer sizes….Grading is not morphing; it cannot change shape, but only makes an existing shape larger or smaller.

(Kathleen Fasabella, “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Sewn Product Manufacturing”)

Incorrect pattern grading, whether the sizes are off or the shapes have changed between sizes,  is  one of my biggest complaints in the indie pdf market, and manually correcting grading is an irritating, time-consuming task when I want to use a cute new design. Since I can’t have inside-access as to how designers are doing their grading, I don’t know what causes the weird shape changes and off-chart measurements.  I have a guess, which I’ve mentioned before (here and in some FB groups) but apparently my guess has been misunderstood so I thought I’d clarify it.

Continue reading

Posted in Pattern Reviews, Sewing Tips | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

How to Eliminate Crotch Bunching

Wrap shorts were a trend when I was a teenager (they were called “Hawaiian shorts):


Continue reading

Posted in How To, Sewing Tips, Tutorials | Tagged , , | 24 Comments

Trueing the Crotch/Rise Intersection

Sewing patterns must be “trued” to ensure a smooth edge wherever a seam ends, so that the joined pieces are  ready for the next step in construction.  The top and bottom corners of each pattern edge should be as close as possible to 90-degrees (a right angle) so that after stitching the seams together, the resulting edge will be a smooth straight line (180-degrees).



If the corners are LESS than 90-degrees, the seam-stitching will result in a little triangle poking out, which will make it difficult to go onto the next step, whether it’s hemming, or folding the fabric edge over to stitch an elastic waist casing, or simply matching up the following seam intersection. Previously I showed how this could be a problem on a dress bodice at a neckline casing, and this time I’ll show how it could be problematic in pants  at a waistline casing and more importantly at the crotch seam intersection.

Continue reading

Posted in Sewing Tips, Tutorials | Tagged , | 7 Comments

How to True a Bikini Panty

Designers sometimes offer free, or almost-free, pdf patterns to let new customers try their product. Yesterday I spent $.99 to try a Little Finch pattern. I chose the Quicker Knickers. This is a cute basic bikini/brief, but unfortunately the grading is inconsistent: these are the side-seams, with a variety of shapes and lengths that aren’t nested (the largest size 3X side-seam is SHORTER than the smallest size 2):


More importantly the pattern is not trued. But that can be fixed. Here’s how to true the Quicker Knickers pattern in 3 easy steps. (Note: the pattern  includes fabric bands at the waist and leg openings, yet the basic design of the panty itself should have a smooth fit, so I’m only showing the pattern NOT including the waist and leg bands,  for visual simplicity.  Also only small parts of the pattern are shown, just enough to indicate the corrections).

  1. Side-seam bubbling: the side-seam has  a very rounded curve, creating a bubble when stitched:


The side-seam of a panty, just like pants or shorts, should be drafted with a hip-curve that is more shallow than a French curve, to eliminate that bubbling. Photo on left shows a hip curve on top, a French curve on bottom, and a combo in the middle. The combo has a French curve on the upper end and hip curve on the lower end. I grab a combo for everyday quick-and-easy corrections:


2. Waistline:   The top corners of the side-seams are not trued; they have (depending on size) moderate to extremely acute angles, so that when the side-seam is stitched,  the result is a deep “V” shape  along the waistline edge…..sure, this “could” be a design -feature, but looking at the photos on the pattern cover, it seems like the designer was going for a straight-across waist:


It’s helpful to see the pattern pieces  on the dress-form to understand the correction, because it’s a bit counter-intuitive. There’s a saying in pattern-drafting that “A straight line on the body is a curved line on the pattern, and a curved line on the body is a straight line on the pattern”.  Here’s what that means: the waistline on this pattern is straight across:


It will not be straight across once on the body, it will curve downward at the side-seams:


So, to make it “look” like the waistline is going straight around the body, you have to curve the pattern. Brilliantly, this also automatically trues the corner, cancelling that “V” on the side-seam and making a smooth waistline!



(Edited to add:  The back gets a shallow scoop, the front gets a deeper scoop, depending on your fitting preference):


Generally the waist  of bikinis scoops lower in center-front than in center-back:



Try it: cut out a muslin swatch with the revised curved-waistline pattern: on the dressform the  waist “looks” like it’s going straight across:


See what I mean by counter-intuitive?

Original with STRAIGHT waist pattern….Revised with CURVED waist pattern



The last fix is really simple:

3. Crotch Shape: the front-to-back crotch isn’t trued, there’s no smooth connection from the front to the back.  Even adding the fabric leg bands, the angled cut-out  creates a disconnect from front-to-back. The front crotch gets narrower and narrower as if it’s going to be a thong, and then boom! Suddenly there’s a full brief in back:


This is an easy fix: simply French-curve the front to the back:


And that’s it!

In the restaurant business, there’s a saying that “You’re only as good as the last meal you served.” .  Because that’s the one your customer remembers. The same thing could be said of the pattern industry. It’s sad, but even one experience with a pattern that needs work can make you avoid that company going forward.  If  you’ve had better experiences with Little Finch please let me know. I’m always willing to try again.

Edited to add: this is off=topic (not about trueing) however I received a question about how to adjust this pattern for a higher back rise and shorter front rise.  You can “slash-and’spread” the back (left), and take a fold in the front (right):



Posted in How To, Pattern Reviews, Sewing Tips | Tagged | 21 Comments