Friday, October 17, 2014

Pattern Fitting and PIQF


Perfecting the Fit

I know that I am very lucky.

As I've mentioned before, I am working on a project using a very cool two-sided fabric from Marcy Tilton. I couldn't find an envelope pattern with the exact design lines that I wanted, but I managed to find one in a Burda magazine. Unfortunately, the pattern in the magazine did not go up to my size—it went up to a 46 which wasn't big enough.

So my first challenge was to trace off the 46, grade it up, and add an FBA. (In other words, I was enlarging it all around, but more so for the bust.)

I did the alterations and, because there were so many changes and I have limited and irreplaceable yardage, I made up a test muslin. It required some additional fitting, especially in the armscye. I transferred the changes to the paper pattern, but did not make up a second muslin, as I was reasonably certain that any additional fitting could be handled in the real fabric.

I cut out the Tilton fabric, and a contrasting fabric (after spending a lot of time dithering on which contrast fabric to choose), and sewed up one of the back princess seams.

Immediately, I saw a problem. Due to my armscye alterations, my garment had developed "back boob".

I decided to partially sew my piece together. It features front and back princess seams, so I sewed the bottom of almost every seam seam, then I pin basted the rest. I also pin basted the side seams and the shoulder seams.

And now we come to the part where I explain why I am lucky.

Last Sunday I had a sewing day planned with some of my local friends up in the hills of Saratoga. One of these friends is Georgene, a professional pattern drafter who started her career studying in a couture school in Paris. (I really enjoy hearing her stories about this.) Not only is Georgene an excellent pattern drafter, but she's really good at fit, too. (The two skills do not necessarily go hand in hand.)

(By the way, I googled and saw that, at one time, Georgene drafted patterns for Modcloth. She never mentioned that fact to me. She's written at least one article for Threads, and she was one of the Sewing Divas.)

I had planned to only ask Georgene to re-pin the back princess seam with the garment on my body, so that she could remove the back boob, but she pointed out some other tweaks that would improve the line. After reshaping the back princess seam, she also slightly reshaped the front princess seam, moving the seam one-quarter inch towards center front, but only at the bust. Then she noticed that the side seam could be moved maybe half an inch back, also only at the top of the seam. Finally, she re-pinned the shoulder seams.

These tweaks were subtle, but the resulting garment was much more flattering! It was like one of those ads where they only put the makeup on half of the face. She had only modified the right side of the garment and, side-by-side, the improvement was so obvious.

My next task was to thread trace all of these new seamlines on the garment, replacing the pins with lines of thread on both sides of each seam. I then had to rip out the sewing I had done (my new seam ripper got quite the workout that day) so that I reduced the garment back to the individual pieces. Next I will transfer the changes back to the paper pattern and recut the contrasting fabric pieces (luckily my Marcy fabric pieces are fine).

When all is done, I will have a TNT pattern that I can use over and over, changing the details.

This process is slowing me down, but it's completely worth it.


It's been four years since I've been to PIQF, but I decided it was time to take a day off work and visit the Pacific International Quilt Festival once again!

Lots of thread at PIQF!

Even though I no longer quilt, I enjoy buzzing around the juried quilts. There are some amazing works there. But, of course, for me the main event is the vendors. If you want to buy a sewing machine, or an iron, they have those items. (Often with special show sales.) But I kept my eyes peeled for buttons, zippers, notions (tons of Steam A Seam Lite 2 was there), and smaller sewing tools.


I didn't buy much, but I did find some metal buttons from Italy for $2 a bag—I bought an assortment of those—and I purchased a seam allowance device for the sewing machine. I am keen to try that out. My only other purchase was at the tools booth.

Wow, I love tools.


I bought some very nice tweezers and some cute fingernail clippers. (I know, very mundane.) And I bought some clips that can be used as closures.

Olfa had a booth, as did Bernina

And that's it! Not a large haul, but a very nice outing.

If you are local to Santa Clara, PIQF runs through this Sunday.

Clever repurposing of the convention center's bathrooms!

Gayle's Vest

Have you laid your eyes on Gayle's fabulous vest? She made it using an OOP Marcy Tilton pattern and a fabric from Marcy. I was so enamoured of her brilliant use of the black garter belt tape for the closure, that on my way to PIQF I stopped at the store where she had found it. I bought some for myself and Margy (don't worry, I left plenty behind).

I have only been to Fabrics R Us in San Jose once before, but it is an interesting experience. It's sort of like traveling to a different country, as most of the clerks speak very little English. But with lots of smiling, pointing, and repeating oneself, it all works out. If I still made costumes for my kids and lived closer to San Jose, it would be my goto location, as their prices are very reasonable. (For example, I also purchased a poly polkadot charmeuse to use as lining for $3 a yard.)

Today is a work day for me, but I'm looking forward to a productive weekend. Enjoy!

Lollipop! (and My Favorite PIQF Quilts/Wearables)

The Android L statue has been unveiled! L is for Lollipop.

Whimsical dress made of men's shirts. The sleeves decorate the skirt.

A fun use of fabric yo-yos

My favorite quilt of the day

Another beauty

I love the fractured blocks


  1. Goes without saying that I can't wait to see your upcoming jacket! And thanks for all the photos--great eye candy this Friday morning!

  2. Thanks for the reminder about the quilt show. Think I'll make the trek this year.

    And a huge thank you for the details of your remake. I had never thought of thread tracing those new seam lines but I'm gonna do that from now on! And you're right, it's so worth it to not only get a garment that looks perfect on but a pattern that can be confidently used again and again.

    And, you are so sweet to mention my vest. I'm also heading over to get more garter tape before the whole world depletes the stock!

    Great post, Shams.

    1. Thank YOU, Gayle! I just love your latest creation and that closure is fabulous!

  3. You are very lucky! I remember Georgene from the Sewing Divas and from her posts on Pattern Review. Wow. She really is amazing. Love the metal buttons.

    1. Thanks, Nancy! I'm glad that folks remember Georgene - she is amazingly skilled.

  4. I was there yesterday too! Lakeside Scissors are the best. Every year I stop by and buy my glass nail files. :) Little pleasures.

    1. I love that booth! I didn't even notice the glass nail files, though. :)

  5. I also remember and miss Georgene and the Divas. I think their blog really kicked off the sewing blogosphere and set such a high standard. Please tell her she is missed.

    1. Absolutely tell her she is missed! I agree with Bunny, it was the first blog I found with really good sewing information

  6. Thanks for the interesting photos, and intro to your project. I am a bit stalled right now but am patiently waiting for creativity to blossom again. Love that fractured block quilt!

    1. That mojo is an elusive beast. I hope it returns in full force soon!

  7. Thank you for a very enjoyable post. I'm not a quilter but the fractured blocks could win me over!

    1. Thanks! You aren't alone. I heard others express a similar sentiment about those fractured blocks.

  8. ahhhh Fabrics R Us! Some days, when I am feeling particularly itchy, I think about getting on a plane to San Jose Airport and WALKING to Fabrics R Us. I'm pretty sure I could do it, too. (The walking not the last minute flight to San Jose!)

    1. LOL! I thought about you when I was there, Claire. I wish it were closer to me - San Jose is pretty far when you factor in traffic.

  9. Thanks for the details on the progress of your vest. I'm really looking forward to seeing it.
    Fitting partners are so valuable! I'm fortunate to have a coworker who is a whiz at fitting (Janee at She's been a big help to me both with fitting and sewing advice.
    Thanks for the photos from the quilt show. I'm always amazed at the artistry in quilts. Thankfully, I'm not at all enticed to become a quilter, because there's just no time for that!
    I just reread your post about FBAs in knits, because I'm making a top for my sister, who has a large bustline compared to the rest of her body. Your tips are helpful. I'll be fitting this to her in person, as doing it by guess would probably be disastrous!

    1. I'm so glad you have a fitting partner, Dixie! And I hope that the FBA advice is helpful. :)

  10. Lucky you! Now really looking forward to seeing the finished garment!

  11. Great post, shams. Quite meaty.

  12. Shams...
    When I moved from Palo Alto after caring for my mother, I had to leave behind my memories of Fabrics R Us and (the fabulous) PIQF.
    The beautiful quilts on view during the show refreshed the memories of the many quilts made by my grandmother during my childhood, and I always was able to find wonderful notions in the booths for my sewing projects at home. These quilting shows became my favorite way to spend a weekend with sewing friends....even before I made my first quilt. I miss that show! PIQF remains one of the best.
    I used to visit Fabrics R Us whenever I needed inexpensive notions or lining fabric for a garment I was working on. I know, I have to look out for the dust and make sure you have an employee who understands English fairly But, they do have a selection of inexpensive upholstery fabrics for the totes or purses I was creating at the time. I miss that place, too.
    Thank you so much for refreshing those memories and verifying they are still in around for my next visit to northern California.

  13. Watching Georgene perform her magic on your vest was a major treat!

    And now I'm wanting to visit PIQF....


  14. Can't wait to see your new project! Thank-you for the pictures of the gorgeous quilts. I never aspired to quilt making, but I do love to look at the beauty that others create.

  15. What a fun day! I, also, am impatiently waiting for the vest unveiling! And thanks for doing a little shopping for me...

  16. Look forward to seeing your finished jacket! How wonderful that you got some fitting help from a pro.

  17. "These tweaks were subtle, but the resulting garment was much more flattering!" ah, Sharon, this experience hits on one of my pet peeves about fitting. So so so many times i see the classic "just divide up the alteration into fourths and add/subtract to the center front, center back and side seams equally...." aarrrghghghg! NO ONE is completely symmetrical all around, you end up having in the best case scenario a decent-fitting garment on the front or back or sides but screwy on the other parts...and that's at best.

    At least there is a lot of talk about full bust adjustment these days, so people get the concept of adding fabric where it's needed - over the bust- instead of just throwing it on the side seams and hoping for the best. Why not encourage people to take their own figure shape into account from the beginning when altering/fitting? Most of us know the parts that stick out, and the parts that cave in. Start from there, of course you won't get it perfect the first time but you will start to learn how the shapes interact with your figure.

    Then you can take it a little further and nudge the line of the seams a bit to balance and enhance the line of the body. Georgene sounds so knowledgeable, lucky you indeed! And thank you for sharing with us :) Happy Day! steph