It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month

We’re almost halfway through October, and it’s time for a PSA. This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you are a woman over age 40, PLEASE make sure you get an annual mammogram. I know, I know – there are conflicting opinions about whether it’s worth it because statistically the number of women diagnosed with breast cancer if they have no risk factors doesn’t justify it.

Well, you’re looking at one who WAS diagnosed, at age 48, with no risk factors. So remember those three books in increasing order of thickness: “Lies”, “Damned Lies” and “Statistics”. Please, get an annual mammogram.

A dear friend asked me to send her links to my blog posts during chemo, for a friend of hers who is going through it right now. I fervently hope that none of my readers ever have to endure it, but if you do, maybe my experiences can help some:

Cancer, Chemo, and What I Wore

Cancer, Chemo, and What I Wore Part 2

Cancer, Chemo, and What I Wore Part 3

Cancer, Chemo, and What I Wore Part 4

After all was said and done, hopefully forever, I donated all my wigs back to the hospital for folks who need them and can’t afford them. Actually, not all. I still have the pink wig and I keep it as a talisman. I can’t say it enough – please get an annual mammogram if you are a woman over 40. They save lives. I know.

Stay healthy, and happy sewing

Posted in Sewing | 2 Comments

The Vagaries of Fit: Shoulders

This week, the sewing interwebs have exploded over a recently-released pattern. I won’t name names, but it’s easy enough to find. Said pattern is giving people fits (pardon the pun) over the fit of the bodice. I don’t own the pattern so I can’t comment on it, but the brouhaha did get me thinking (uh oh, she’s thinking again).

Let’s talk about fit. This can be a very long subject, with lots of subtopics, and I’m certainly not going to cover all of them here. But there’s one area that I’ve found is critical to the success of almost any garment: the shoulder. When I was actively singing, a voice teacher said to me in reference to how to hold the body, “Everything hangs from the shoulders.” Boy oh boy, that resonates for sewing enthusiasts, doesn’t it? You can play with ease and adjust things on other parts of the body to make your garment tighter or looser, but the shoulders  are the area that need to fit properly for the rest of the garment to work.

In my years of sewing I’ve noticed that the shoulders on many patterns are simply too wide. Even if you pick the “correct” size by your high-bust measurement, the shoulder line on the pattern is too long and extends beyond the shoulder point. Often far beyond. Let me show you an example of a jacket. In this case it’s one of my favorites: Vogue Basic Design V7975. I’ve made this jacket twice, and I will undoubtedly make it again. The first time I made it, I made a size 14, based on my measurements. It turned out… fine.

Here's the front of the original

Here’s the front of the original

And here's the back

And here’s the back

But like many sewing patterns, especially those from the “Big 4”, it always seemed to hang off my shoulders, even though it fit my bust quite well. Now, looking at these pictures, you can see that the shoulders are significantly wider than Shelley’s. The jacket hung off my shoulders in the same way, and while I like it a lot and it’s comfortable to wear around the office, it just doesn’t have a designer shoulder line. Enter Susan Khalje. I took a class with her and I brought a muslin of a longer version of this same pattern, in this same size. She immediately set about fitting it to me, and the first thing she did was pin out a whole lot of width at the shoulder. This pattern is great for that kind of adjustment because it has a shoulder princess line. In addition to the shoulder, she pinned out excess ease at the top of the chest and a slight amount at the shoulder blade area to give a sleeker fit through the upper chest area.

Refined front shoulder

Refined front shoulder

Refined back

Refined back


Before and after

All in all, we took about 1 1/2 inches from the length of the shoulder seam, tapering back out to the original seam at the bust apex. The result is a fit that looks far more professional, IMO.

I’ve illustrated this with a jacket made from woven fabrics, but the same holds true for knits. You’ll get much better fit and look if you adjust your shoulder seam to match your anatomy. So next time you pull out a pattern, check the shoulder against yours, and if you need to make adjustments, start there and then work your way down. You’ll be glad you did.

Happy sewing!

Posted in Fit, Susan Khalje, Teaching | 25 Comments

Pattern Review: StyleArc Cold Shoulder Top

Pattern Description: From StyleArc’s website – Embrace the trend this season and wear the fashionable “Cold Shoulder Top” with its cut out shoulders this top is designed to hug the body and looks great with your jeans. Make it with a long or short sleeve.

I made the long sleeved version.
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Posted in Sewing | 16 Comments

And the Winner of The Dressmaker’s Guide To Couture Sewing Techniques is….

Mary Rames!

Thanks to everyone for entering. I’m sorry I don’t have a book for each of you, but I’m sure there will be more giveaways soon.

I spent this afternoon at an ASG meeting, where Andrea Schwe did a great talk about her history and processes of pattern design. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to talk to her beforehand privately. She is a lovely lady, and an incredible pattern designer. Her patterns are available through Simplicity, and they are fabulous! BTW, she also designed the blockbuster “Titanic” Rose gowns patterns, which are selling on eBay for a lot of money and which have always been among my favorites.

So thanks again for playing. Next up on my sewing table is a blouse using StyleArc’s Holly in a stash silk that I just rediscovered.

Until then, happy sewing!

Posted in Giveaway | 4 Comments

Book Giveaway! The Dressmaker’s Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques

Today is the last day of National Sewing Month, and to mark it, I’m doing a book giveaway! Today’s prize is The Dressmaker’s Handbook of COUTURE Sewing Techniques.
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Posted in Giveaway | 76 Comments

Sucky Selfies

Thanks, all, for your thoughts and comments on Preferences. Special shout out to Sewing Faille, whose description of the time, treasure and talent involved in getting a good set of pictures was so painfully funny, it practically made me spew coffee on my screen. I will continue to post construction pictures, and I’ll try to get shots of me in the clothes, but no promises that it will happen every time. In fact, I can reasonably assure you that it will continue to be a minority unless I can get my stupid Amazon remote photo clicker thing to work. It supposedly does with my camera, but it never has, and I’m not even sure where it is right now… Oh well.

But in the meantime, I did make a second pair of Butterick 5250, this time in a fabulous Cashmere and Wool Suit Weight in Black Olive. OMG, can I tell you? This was HEAVEN to work with. I didn’t make any other changes to the pattern, so here – gasp! – are a couple of sucky selfies on me this morning before I went to work.



I couldn’t get a shot from the back, but they’re really comfortable. I’m wearing them with Simplicity 8166. I just noticed I didn’t press the belt loops down. Oh well, my bad.

I’m not sure what I’m going to make next, but now that it’s cooled down and started raining (YAY to both!) I’ll probably be inspired soon. ‘Til then,

Happy sewing!

Posted in Butterick, Gorgeous Fabrics, Sewing | 8 Comments

Felicidades, Paco!!!!

My dear friend, Paco Peralta, couturier extraordinaire of Barcelona, was just published for the first time this week in the Winter/Holiday edition of Vogue Patterns. ¡YAY Paco! ¡Congratulations and felicidades!

Paco and I were internet friends for years, but I had the delightful opportunity to meet him and spend an afternoon with him, his sister, and our friend Vera when DH and I visited Barcelona a couple of years back. He is an absolute love, and his sister, Isabel, is just as wonderful. We had the greatest time, and I can’t wait to go back and see him again. Next time I’ll brush up on my Spanish!

I have to find the pictures with Isabel and Vera. Stupid Apple Photos lost them when it switched from iPhoto

I have to find the pictures with Isabel and Vera. Stupid Apple Photos lost them.

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Posted in Paco Peralta, Patterns, Vogue | 4 Comments


I got into a conversation with my dear friend Rosie about photographs on blogs and social media, and it got me thinking…

Do I need to plaster pictures of myself all over my blog?
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Posted in Commentary, Sewing | 38 Comments

Beginning of a Season, End of an Era

Happy fall! Or spring, if you are in the southern hemisphere. For me, the autumn equinox feels like the beginning of a new year, far more than January, which has always seemed pretty random to me. With the change of season, I made some big changes in my own life. I think my mother’s passing had something to do with it. I have had a very strong urge in the last month (has it been a month already?) to purge and clean house. On top of that, with both boys off at college, I have more time and space.

So the first thing to go was…
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Posted in Machines, Miscellaneous | 3 Comments

Pockets? Or No?

What has it got in its pocketses? -Gollum in

What has it got in its pocketses? -Gollum 

I posted a link on the Gorgeous Fabrics Facebook Page to an interesting article titled “The Politics of Pockets” (click on the title to open the article in a separate tab). It gives interesting insight into the history of pockets, and the fact that until relatively recently (the early 1900s) pockets were a rarity in women’s clothing.
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Posted in Commentary, Sewing | 32 Comments