Archive for ‘Tools, Books, and Notions’

June 12, 2012

Two Books


I’ve had my eye on these books for a while and finally picked them up this week. I already have the first two volumes of the Pattern Magic series so it was only a matter of time before I bought Volume 3. The other, Drape Drape, is on of those books that I always thumb through at the store but have never purchased because I’m just a hair too big on the size chart. I started thinking though that the designs have so much volume that I could fit into most. I have the first one on my tracing table as we speak so we’ll see!

Do you have these books? Have you made anything from them?

April 10, 2012

My Bodice Sloper

I really enjoyed reading the comments from my post on my skirt sloper and I thought it would be fun to post about the other slopers I’ve made. This is my bodice sloper drafted to the low hip.

This is the front of my bodice sloper. The sloper is notched at the high hip, waist, bust, armhole, and cross front. I’ve marked the four darts (shoulder, armhole, bust, and waist) and their apices (the high and low figure point). I can choose which figure point to use as the pivotal point when manipulating the darts. You’ll notice a (faint) circle around the dart apices. This represents my bust and is used when drafting necklines. If a lowered neckline meets or goes beyond the top of this circle, I can add a neckline dart to prevent gaping.

You’ll notice that at the waist there is 1/2″ shaping which extends to the waist dart and then tapered to zero at the side. This can be taken out at the neck and shoulder during the drafting process, with princess seams, or with a seam at the waistline.

On all my slopers, I’ve written in the key measurements used for reference while drafting. For my bodice slopers, I’ve also included a neckline chart which helps me to draft wide necklines that don’t gape at the center front.

The back sloper has a shoulder dart, waist dart, and waist shaping like the front. In addition, it also includes awl punches for optional back contouring. The back contouring is taken at the waist and then tapered to the high hip and the cross back. This contouring helps to accommodate the natural curve along the spine. If I choose to take this out, I need to adjust the waist dart so that the waist measurement remains the same.

That’s my bodice sloper! Do you use a bodice sloper? I love seeing and reading about different drafting approaches and would love to hear how your sloper differs. I’ll post next week about the bodice sloper I drafted recently for knits – I’m using it for a surprise project that I can’t wait to reveal.

Remember, the Seam Allowance Guide giveaway ends tonight! See the post for a chance to win this handy device. Winners will be announced tomorrow morning!

April 7, 2012

Closed:: Giveaway: Seam Allowance Guide ::Closed

The lovely Hollie, inventor of the Seam Allowance Guide, has offered to giveaway SAGs to three lucky readers!

Curious to find out more about this product? Check out my review from earlier this week. The Seam Allowance Guide is a must for those who hate having to add seam allowances to your sewing patterns. I’ve also started using my guides to help me evenly trim seam allowances during sewing.

To enter to win, comment on this post and tell me your favorite sewing pattern without seam allowances. Make sure that you’ve included an email address in your profile. One entry per person. Open internationally. The giveaway will close on Tuesday, April 9th at midnight (pacific time) when the winners will be randomly selected. I’ll announce the winners on Wednesday!

The giveaway is now closed! See the winners here!

April 3, 2012

Review: Seam Allowance Guide

Truth be told, I’m not a gadget person. When I was in culinary school, I had a lovely chef who would always tells us, “if you don’t have it, you don’t need it.” I’ve carried this bit of wisdom throughout my life. It’s amazing how little you really need and what you can do without.  Having said that, I’m not against looking for tools that will aid me. For my school projects, I am constantly adding seam allowances to my working patterns and it can get pretty tiresome. So when Hollie contacted me to review her seam allowance guide, I was pretty jazzed about the idea of a small gadget that could streamline this process. A week later, a package arrived with Hollie’s invention. This product was given to me for free but I want to be clear that it won’t color my review.

For $15 AUS you get two guides, a little instruction card and free international shipping. The guides are about an inch and half long and the circumference of a crayon. They feel really sturdy and have a strong magnet. The guides are different from one another, although you can’t tell straightaway. The yellow guide is for blades with a slope and the green is for blades that are straight (it would be perfect for a rotary cutter. I must emphasize that the yellow only works with blades with a gentle slope. Unfortunately my favorite scissors have a very steep slope and the yellow guide will never lie parallel to the table. See how it tilts down?

So my only option with my Kai’s is to position the green guide way back at the pivot. This is fine for long, straight seams but wouldn’t work for curves like a neckline.

In order to get the most use from the seam allowance guide, I need to switch to my backup scissors. This pair has a gentler slope and you just stick the guide on the blade and twist until it’s flush with the table. Once on, you just follow a few easy steps to align the black band to your desired seam allowance and cut away! I’d recommend watching Hollie’s video the first time as it helps to clarify the process. Something to keep in mind (this may be a deal breaker for some of you), is that you must cut in one direction – clockwise for you right handers and counterclockwise for the lefties. If you don’t have a table that you can easily walk around, this may cause some problems.

Sadly, I don’t see myself pulling out the seam allowance guide for its traditional use because of my scissors. My backups are from Mundial and are beasts! More than a few minutes cutting with these and my wrists begin to ache. Since I overuse my wrists at my day job, I try to be careful the rest of the time so that I don’t end up with serious problems later on.

Having said that, these little guides are useful in other ways! I find that the more uses I have for a tool, the more likely I am to keep it around. Something that I absolutely abhor is trimming seams. I can never maintain a consistent trim and I’ve started to use these guides during this process. It took a little dexterity but once I got the hang of it, I was really pleased with the result.

I’ve also been experimenting with adding it to pencils and other marking devices. So far, I haven’t found anything that has enough magnetic pull but I’m sure it’s out there. Do you have these seam allowance guides? If so, have you come up with any alternative uses?

If you’d like to pick up your own pair, you can order directly from Hollie at!

April 2, 2012

My Skirt Sloper

I thought it might be interesting to talk a little bit about my skirt sloper and it’s features. I drafted this sloper last spring in my pattern drafting class. If you’re interested in making a similar one, you might invest in a copy of Building Patterns. This book was written by my school’s founder (and my current instructor) Suzy Furrer. It’s a wonderful resource that takes you step by step in creating your sloper and then details the process to draft variations. Each section has a few pages on rules of drafting that I find invaluable. I can’t attest to working through the book on your own but perhaps one of you owns a copy and could give us your opinion on this. I know that Sunni at A Fashionable Stitch uses it!

Here are my back and front skirt slopers on card stock. Notice that these are halves and you would need to either cut two or cut on the fold to make the skirt. This is a one dart sloper (for a total of four darts in the finished garment). The book gives instructions to draft a two dart sloper but I found that I get the best fit with one. If you have a greater difference between your low hip and waist measurements, you may find that the two dart sloper fits your better.

The sloper is drafted using three core measurements – the waist (taken just above the belly button), the high hip (generally 4 1/2″ below the waist), and the low hip (about 8 1/2″ below the waist). Added to these measurements is 2 inches of ease. You might be able to make out the notches for each of the hip measurements which enable me to mark these locations when I’m tracing the sloper. Something that you might not be able to take from the photos is the redistribution from front to back. The front sloper is actually 1/4″ (for a total of 1/2″) larger than the back so that the side seam falls toward the back. According to my book, this is a more flattering place as it minimizes the appearance of the rear end.

Taking a look at the center back, you’ll notice that I’ve pointed to the back contouring. Instead of the center back being a straight line, the waist dips in and reconnects with the center back midway between the high and low hip. This helps the fabric to contour to the natural curve of your spine, preventing gaping at the waist. If I wanted to eliminate the seam at the center back, I would straighten the center back seamline and then increase the dart by the amount that I added to the waist.

I’m sure there are a myriad of ways to draft a skirt sloper. If you’ve ever drafted one, how does yours differ? I’m curious to hear about the different features!

February 13, 2012

Me, Myself, and I

Thank you for the lovely comments on my Spring Wardrobe Sneak Peak! I’m absolutely nuts about the palette that I chose and I can’t wait to get started.

You may remember that during my last challenge I regretted not having a more thoughtful plan when it came to separates. Although everything worked really well with my existing closet, I had intended to wear the pieces together more often. I decided that for my next challenge, I would sketch my plans in hopes of creating a more united collection. Instead of using a standard croquis, I followed Lladybird’s tutorial and made a personal one. The whole thing came together in less than an hour and now I have a great base to sketch on!

This may sound funny but I’m actually amazed that it looks like me! I was prepared for a shock but instead… I got me. That’s totally my body – I’d know it anywhere. I feel like this past year of sewing and taking photos has a lot to do with it. Like everyone, I’ve struggled with my body image but blogging has been a really positive experience. I can remember selecting photos for the first couple of projects and grimacing at the outtakes. That’s hard to admit to and makes me incredibly sad. I’m sad that I was ever at a point that I didn’t know and accept my body. I doubt that the struggle is over but I hope that it never reaches such a low again.

I took a couple of pictures with different poses but I’ve only outlined this one so far. For the sketches I’ll be using a pencil so I made a printable version with a very light outline. Once the clothing is colored in, you really can’t see the original outline. Now I just need to figure out how to sketch clothes (let’s not even talk about facial features).

I’ll be posting a formal plan for my spring wardrobe tomorrow and I hope to show you some of the sketches by the end of the week!

November 2, 2011

Darling Ranges Pattern

I received my Darling Ranges Pattern today and I’m already impressed.

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The pattern, printed on sturdy paper, comes in an envelope that velcros shut. There’s a large instruction booklet with clear instructions and illustration. In the back, Megan has included some suggestions for modifications and a pattern log where you can record your projects. So stinkin’ cute! I can’t wait to get started.

September 25, 2011

My Newest Addition

When I first started my pattern drafting program, I was told that I would want to invest in a serger within 6 months. There was a part of me, though, that wanted to resist. I thought, people have been sewing intricate garments ages before the home serger was available, why do I need this expensive equipment? Little by little, I began to see how a serger would make my life easier. In particular, the princess seams from my latest unit made me see the light. How are you supposed to finish a curved and clipped seam on easily frayed fabrics without one?

When it came to purchasing one, I really had no idea what I needed. Years ago, I took a t-shirt class at a local sewing studio and was able to play around with a serger but other than that, I’ve had very limited time with one. Considering how expensive these little buggers are, this inexperience scared me. Do I buy the entry level ($250 – $300) machine and hope that it does everything I need or do I invest in a mid level ($500 – $1000) blindly? I considered used machines. The repair stores around me said that they rarely have a used machine for sale and craigslist/classifieds frightened me. I didn’t know what to look for and if I spent $150 – $200 on a machine that later needed to be repaired, I wouldn’t really be saving much. Also, who would show me how to thread it?

Last week, I wandered into my local craft store only to find this machine in the window for $125. Rose, the owner, has been fixing up used machines to sell and all proceeds go to Rainbow Kids, a local nonprofit for local at-risk children. I can be confident that the machine has been recently serviced and is in working order and the best part is that they’ve agreed to teach me to thread the thing. If you happen to live in the area and are looking for a serger, there are a few more ready for sale!

The machine, a Singer 14u34b, is nothing fancy but reviews say that it is a workhorse. The machine can run 3 or 4 threads which means I don’t have coverstitch or 2 thread options but I don’t anticipate this being a problem. It has the capability of doing rolled hems but I’ll have to buy the throat plate since it was missing. All in all, I’m really happy with the purchase. I think it will serve me well and give me a chance to learn what it is that I need from a machine. Also, I can’t wait to try my hand at some knit fabrics!

Do you have a serger at home? What’s your favorite feature? Any advice to someone just learning?


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