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Frequently Asked Questions

My tailored jackets look limp. Any suggestions? To duplicate the look of a hand tailored jacket with fusible interfacing, you have to use layers of interfacing. If the fashion fabric isn’t too bulky, each pattern piece should be fully interfaced with a lightweight interfacing like Easy Knit. Subsequent layers of interfacing can then be added without showing through to the right side. Fusible hair canvas, with seam allowances trimmed away, should be added to the under collar from the roll line to the neck edge, on the lapel from the roll line to the outside edge, at the hem of the sleeve, front, back and optionally across the back. The Easy Knit gives the jacket body and the hair canvas causes the lapel and collar to turn gracefully.

How can I find a good fitting pants pattern? Unfortunately, the best fitting patterns seem to be found by chance and many not so good patterns must be suffered through. A few things can increase the odds of achieving a good fit. Compare a pair of pants you love to your pattern. Try to match the width of the leg, length of the crotch and waistband/hip measurement.

Add 1″ to the center back seam, easing into the crotch. Cut the waistband in two pieces, adding 1″ to the center back. This will give you some “wiggle room” for fitting the waist. Apply the waistband and finish it before sewing the center back seam. Try the pants on, check the fit and adjust at the center back seam. (The center back seam makes the pants easy to alter if they need to be tightened or let out at a later date.)

How can I pick the best fabric for a garment? First, look at the suggested fabrics on the back of the pattern envelope. Fabrics are listed in order with the best-suited fabric listed first. If you are considering a fabric not suggested by the pattern envelope, think about the drape the design requires. Heavy, stiff fabrics are best for tailored styles that fit close to the body. Designs with gathering or fullness need fabrics that are lighter and drapey. Bias cut skirts require fabrics with some weight, so they fall gracefully.

When using stretch woven fabrics, should I use a pattern designed for knits or wovens? Patterns made to use with woven fabrics work best with stretch wovens. Patterns designed for knits generally don’t have enough ease. Designs like slim fitting pants and skirts without much fullness are a good choice. Be sure to fit as you go as you may not need as much ease as the pattern gives.

I’m having trouble with skipped stitches on my sewing machine, any suggestions? First, make sure your machine is in good mechanical shape. Clean and oil it regularly at home and have it done professionally once a year or more depending on use. Be sure to remove lint around the bobbin case and under the throat plate. Use the right needle size and type for your fabric. Size 9, 11 and 14 are most commonly used for light (silk) to heavy weight (wool) fabrics. Sharp needles are used on wovens as they pierce the fabric cleanly. Ball point needles are designed to slip through the knitted stitches of stretch fabrics. Make sure your needle is in good shape, I use a new needle every time I start a project and if I nick a needle on a pin, I replace it. This is especially important when sewing delicate fabrics. Check your thread tension – start at a medium setting and adjust up or down until stitches lock in the middle then loosen it a little when topstitching. Try not to fool with the bobbin tension, have a repairman do that if necessary. If it’s possible on your machine, adjust the pressure on the presser foot so the fabric moves through the feed dogs easily. Sometimes there is a finish on the fabric that causes skipped stitches (a good reason to pre-wash).

Pattern sizing is so confusing, how can I find my size? Patterns base their sizes strictly on measurements so they are very consistent. Compare you most relevant measurement to the pattern size; i.e. if you are making pants compare your hip measurement or a jacket your bust measurement. These measurements are the most critical for fitting and so should be as close to the pattern as possible, other measurements can then be altered. As a general rule of thumb, go up 3 sizes from your ready-to-wear size. (Don’t freak-out! It’s only a number.)

What can be done to keep facings from popping-out? I avoid facings when possible by lining the garment or using a bias strip to finish the edge. Facings stay put best when they are understitched and tacked to seam lines by “stitching in the ditch”.

Why do my hand-stitched hems look puckery? Take long, very loose stitches, almost loopy, and only catch a thread on the right side of the fabric.

Project MyWay #1–Black Silk Skirt Alteration Part 2

The skirt alteration turned out great! Here are the steps I took:

1.  I tried the skirt on and put a tight piece of elastic around my waist. I pulled the top of the skirt above the elastic and adjusted it until it looked right and was the right length. I marked the new waistline with pins:

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2.  I added a seam allowance and cut off the top of the skirt. I couldn’t leave the zipper in place as I had hoped–after I cut off the skirt there was only an inch or two left, so I removed the rest of the zipper:

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3. I inserted a new invisible zipper. As usual, I ended up with a bubble at the end of the zipper. I found a great tutorial that I’ll try next time, it’s a little fussy for me, but at least I’ll baste the zipper in first and I think that will avoid the bubble. http://sewiknit.blogspot.com/2006/03/invisible-zipper-tutorial.html I never use an invisible zipper foot, just a regular zipper foot and I smooth the coil open as I sew.

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 4.  I tried on the skirt and fitted it to my waist using the 6 seams–two side front seams, two side back seams and two side seams.

5.  I cut a facing from the upper skirt that I had cut off and finished the new top with the facing. The skirt is lined, so I re-inserted the lining before I sewed on the new facing.

6.  Voila! A new skirt that is shorter and perfectly fitted to my waist–it’s gorgeous! The back is still longer than the front. The only way to change that is to re-hem the back. I don’t want to do that and it looks good as is.

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Here is a picture of the back, the bubble at the end of the zipper doesn’t bother me too much. (Check out my entry in Tutorials to find my fool-proof way of fixing little sewing problems.)

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Ta-ta for now.