Sunday, March 26, 2017

Shams' Emails

It's the middle of the night, and I've been answering some emails. I don't always have time to respond to emails, or I might respond after many months. I ignore some of my blog emails, mostly those from folks who want me to hawk their wares. Seriously, I get some ridiculous requests that show they've never ever read my blog. For example, I once received a request to advertise prom tuxedos! Most recently I was asked to post my 2017 bucket list experiences for an event website.

I recently received a few emails that I want to share. I'm sharing these now because they contain useful information, and it's been awhile since I talked about fitting. Because I didn't ask permission, I won't include the original emails or names, but I'll summarize them. My responses have also been edited, 'cause that's how I roll. ;)

But first, I want your opinion on two tops.


Which Looks Better?

I was recently shopping in one of my favorite San Francisco boutiques, Simply Bella. Bella, the owner, knows me quite well and we had a friendly argument on my last visit. I purchased an Alembika top from her—an Israeli designer that I like very much. Bella noticed how flattering this top was on my figure and, in particular, how it minimizes my bust. This top is similar to the Presto, which I've made many times. Her opinion is that the Alembika is more flattering, because it's more fitted through the bust and more roomy through the hips. It has more of a swing shape, though the Presto has hip flare. The Alembika also has a curved hem and 3/4-length sleeves. It would be easy to alter the Presto to fit more like the Alembika, but I don't really want a top that is so fitted through the bust, and I think a swing shape can overwhelm my much-smaller hips.

I don't usually ask your opinion (because I typically trust my instincts), but I am today! When I visited her store, I was wearing one of my printed Prestos but, to make the comparison more fair, I'm wearing a dark solid teal Presto in this photo. (Sorry it's a bit wrinkled, but I wore it Friday and pulled it from the hamper.)

Which do you think fits better?

Left: Presto, right: Alembika

If you are in San Francisco, consider visiting Bella's store! It is small, but she has a great eye, and shops carefully. I bought four items when I visited recently, including a white mesh jacket by Alembika that I will probably take to Florence, and a pair of Spring Step shoes. The store is open 7 days a week, but Bella is usually there in person from Monday through Saturday, unless she's traveling.

Edited to add (4/2/2017 @ 11:40pm):

Wow, I appreciate your opinions! I have read each comment and am glad to see that I wasn't totally off base. I can make the black Alembika work when properly accessorized and layered. ;) Thanks again!

Email from N from Chicago: Having Trouble with a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA)

N, who lives in Chicago, had some questions about FBAs. She followed the Palmer Pletsch directions for an FBA and still ended up with a tent. She also asked how it's possible to ease 1-1/2" into the side seam, which I've described in this post. What might she be doing wrong? Finally, she asked which pattern I used for my green, Tried 'n True (TnT) sheath dress.

My edited response:

Hi N!

I'm sorry to hear you've been having trouble adjusting for your bust! It can be tricky until you learn what you need to do, then you can just do the same thing on most of your patterns.

The easing that you describe is only used for knit fabrics when I do a vertical-only FBA. It's quite easy to ease 1-1/2" in a knit fabric. It would not work for wovens.

I'm pretty sure that the green TnT dress shown in this post started from the Style Arc Adele, modified to a tee-shirt dress. It's a great pattern—I like how the neckline uses facings, rather than binding. Note that Style Arc patterns tend to fit in the chest/shoulder area more naturally than American patterns, so consult their chart when choosing patterns, but expect less ease.

Are you familiar with the "best patterns of 20xx" articles on Pattern Review? Written by Diane E (a friend of mine) each year, this year's article includes a McCalls pattern that people are loving. McCalls 6886, a sheath dress very similar to my TnT pattern, currently has 150 reviews on PR.

While I'm thinking about it, I also love the Sewaholic Renfrew, also mentioned in that article, and another TnT for me.

On my blog you said:

I purchased Palmer/Pletsch Bust Fitting DVD and other classes you recommended, studied your post, but still made a tent like tunic.

I'm not sure what is going wrong, but I suspect that you are starting with a too-large pattern. American patterns are known to be overly large in the upper chest/shoulder area, even though they are designed for a B-cup bust. So you need to measure above the bust to find your size. My upper bust is 40", so I start with a size 18. My full bust is 47" so I add approximately 7" at the bustline in my FBA, though I might add less if the pattern includes more finished ease than I need through the bust.

For most patterns, I do the FBA after cutting the bottom of the pattern off, because I don't want to widen the pattern at the waist or hip. After the FBA, I add the bottom back, and then merge the side seams together. In the classic approach, you leave the pattern intact, perform the FBA, and then remove the extra fabric below the bust using fisheye darts. I am not a huge fan of the front fisheye dart because I have a belly, but it might work well for you. (I do like fisheye darts in the back of some garments!)

If you continue to have problems with pattern alterations, do you live near a community college that offers Fashion or Home Ec classes? You can learn a lot about fitting that way and you don't have to get an AA degree. You mention living in Chicago. Are you aware of the Haute Couture Club? I know several women in that club who are amazing sewers! There is Cennetta and Rhonda, for example, but I know of others, too. I bet if you join you can find help, or at least pointers to help.

Finally, the Selfish Seamstress (who no longer blogs) highly recommends Tchad, a Chicago-based sewing teacher. She credits much of her skill to Tchad's classes. He seems to teach drafting patterns from scratch, rather than pattern alterations, but this is a wonderful skill to learn.

Good luck! I have no doubt you can figure this out, but my suspicion is that you are starting with the wrong size pattern.


Email from T: Do You Have a Custom Dressform?

T sent me a recent email, asking if I have a custom dressform. She has a challenging figure (she describes having a large bust and a bootie) and wonders how I fit my clothes as well as I do. I actually sent her several replies, mushed together here.

My edited response:

Hi T!

No, I don't have a custom dressform. It would be handy, but I have never had any interest. For one thing, my figure changes too frequently. For another, it would be too unsettling. I inherited my mother's dressform after she passed, and I sometimes use it as a 3D hangar, but never for fitting as it's much too small and features a high, perky bust.

I often sew in my underwear because it's easier to try a garment on over and over, as I tweak the fit. I apologize if that's TMI. :)

I learned sewing from a very young age (my mother was an amazing seamstress), so I made lovely clothes that rarely fit me. I learned fitting when I took classes at Cañada College in Redwood City, CA. I highly recommend taking Fashion or Home Ec classes at a local community college, if you have one nearby. I don't think you'll learn as much if you take, say, a Craftsy class, or a quick class from someone, because fitting can require iteration under expert guidance. The semester long classes I took really gave me a chance to learn how to fit my body. For example, I was shocked back in 1985 to learn that I need to narrow the shoulders on my garments.almost.every.time.

Since you read my blog, you know that I am busty, but I have a flat butt and don't need to alter for a small waist or sway back (many women with a bootie need both of those alterations). These are my normal alterations:

  • Forward shoulder (common on older women)
  • Widen back (I don't yet alter for a round back, but that may be coming)
  • FBA (I do my own version of an FBA where I don't widen the garment from bust to hem
  • Narrow shoulder
  • Narrow hip/remove hip curve (when appropriate)
  • Shorten sleeves (my mother had to always lengthen sleeves, but she was also an A cup with a long torso and small waist)

I do get tired of all the alterations I must do, but I often use a pattern over and over, just changing the details. This makes it much easier to sew if I don't have to do all those alterations over and over. It lets me get right to the fun part.

I was just shopping for patterns on the BMV site (they are having a pattern and shipping sale that ends at the end of Sunday) and I just bought this pant, Vogue 9155.

I think it would be good for someone with a bootie because of all the back seams. You could use those seams to take larger darts at the back waist. Most women with a bootie need more darting at the back waist. At least I think so—it's never been a body type I've sewn for. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if sewing for a bootie might be similar to sewing for a big bust. Not the same, but it seems like a similar issue. You need more fabric to go over and around the butt, but not more fabric at the back waist. Many women with a bootie have a small waist which increases the need for a back yoke or extra darting.

Good luck! Once you learn to fit yourself, sewing is SO much fun!


By the way, T actually described herself as "very petite and curvy (big boobs and big butt) :)", but I found that it was hard for me to say "big butt" in my response, as it felt so judgmental! Clearly, that's my issue! I don't mind saying "big boobs", since I have them, too. In fact, I usually describe mine as "uber boobs". ;) )

Email from The Doctor's Show: Want to be on our show?

This email arrived in December, 2016. Normally I ignore this sort of thing, but I checked it out and it was legit.


My name is <redacted> and I work with The Doctors TV Show. I stumbled across your blog,, and thought you might be perfect for an upcoming beauty segment I’m working on! Are you located in the LA area? I’d love to schedule a call or meeting with you.

If you’re not familiar with our show, please feel free to browse our website and get to know us!


My response:

Hey, <redacted>!

Thanks for your interest, and you actually look legit (I get lots of spam requests), but I politely decline. :)

All the best!


Not gonna happen. No way. No how.