Mpressive Threadz Studio Blog

Sharing my love of sewing

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The Return to Sewing

I hope everyone is having a delightful Labor Day weekend.  I am.  I am sewing! 

My husband commented that no one is having a barbeque this weekend.  That doesn’t bother me because it won’t cut into my me time.  I know someone is thinking why my husband doesn’t have a barbeque.   That’s one of the things that has happened since I last blogged.  We had our annual end of June backyard barbeque.  This year we had 100 people; we started around 2 p.m. and the last group left around 1:30 a.m.  My husband and I do all the cooking and baking; it’s what we enjoy doing.  This year’s menu: chicken, ribs, chopped BBQ, hamburgers, franks, fried fish, shrimp, bean salad, fruit salad, cole slaw, mixed green salad, pasta salad, potato salad, red rice, macaroni and cheese, corn, potato chips , tortilla chips and salsa, devilled eggs, cookies , graduation cake, birthday cake, cupcakes, ice pops, ice cream, watermelon, soda, water, lemonade, sweet tea, beer, cocktails, and coffee.

So what have I sewed so far today?  I just finished sewing a pair of black linen pants.  The only thing left to do is work the buttonholes on the waistband and sew on buttons.  I made the fitting shell earlier last week.  Last night I altered the pattern and cut out the pants.  I used Vogue 7881.  I thought the legs were too full in the thighs for the look I wanted so I narrowed the leg around the knee area, making the leg straight from the knee area to the hem and not from the hips to the hem. I did a sway back adjustment by folding out 1” on the center front and tapering to 1/2” at the side in the front crotch area, then folding out 1/2” on the side and tapering to nothing at the center back in the back crotch area.  I like the look and fit of the pants, but I don’t love it yet.  On the next pair I will add 1/2” to the back crotch extension continuing all the way down to the hem.  After I made the linen pants, I looked at the sway back adjustment in the book “Fitting & Pattern Alteration: A Multi-Method Approach” and noticed that back crotch extension is also altered along with the center back.  I also compared my linen pants with a pair of ready-to-wear pants I like a lot and I noticed that the back leg of the RTW pants were 2” wider than the front, whereas the back leg of my linen pants was only 1” wider than the front.

Hopefully, I can convince my husband to take a picture of me in the pants so I can post the picture in the next blog post.  In the meantime, I think it time to start making a matching top.


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Sewing and Scoliosis


Sometimes medical conditions are not diagnosed by a doctor, but by a dressmaker. I had a young woman come to me at the last minute to make her a prom dress and it was nice to see her after several years.  She has grown into a lovely young woman, tallish, but most of all with a “straight” spine.  She is one of my special young women; I “diagnosed” her scoliosis while making a dress for her years ago.  There are three more young women in this group.  Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that occurs most often during the growth spurt in pre-teen and teen years.

I encountered the first one almost 20 years ago when she was a teen.  I was making a gown for her that had a fitted bodice.  When I pinned the center back seam closed I noticed it was twisted into an “S” shape.  I unpinned and re-pinned the dress and the twisting would not go away.  I had her mother take a look at it and we noticed one of her shoulders was higher than the other.  Her mother took her to the doctor for an exam and it was determined that she had scoliosis.  Her treatment included a brace. 

A few years later when making a dress for another teen, I knew instantly that she had scoliosis when I pinned her center back seam.  I told her mother that she needed to take her daughter to the doctor to have her spine checked.  I saw them both recently and the mother still remembers that fitting after all these years.  She still can’t believe a dress fitting would discover a problem like that.  Her daughter had to have surgery and a brace. 

The other two young ladies just had to be monitored during their growing years.  The best thing is that their conditions were detected early while they were very young teens.

So, if you are ever making a dress for someone and the center back seam twists, a visit to the doctor may be in order.

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Sewing Project # 1: The Six-Gore Skirt – Drafting and Fitting the Pattern

Hello my ambitious newbie sewists.  Are you ready to make your go-to six-gore skirt pattern that fits well and can be used over and over?

Remember, I wanted to keep the cost to a minimum so I am using some very basic tools and improvising.  However, the right tools make the job easier and faster.  If you have an L-square ruler and a curved ruler, it’s easier to square and true lines.  A wide 18” long see-thru ruler makes marking seam allowances a breeze. With a rotary cutter and cutting mat, you can cut out the pieces in seconds.

Learning to fit a garment takes practice.  This project will give you just a taste of it.  Reading about fitting and doing it a lot over time will make you better at perfecting the fit of your garments.

Click here for the lesson to draft and create the skirt sample for fitting.  If you have any questions, use the comment section.  I will answer as soon as possible.

Next week I will post instructions for constructing the skirt in “real” fabric.  Imagine the skirt in a beautiful linen or printed cotton. Remember prints are the hot look this spring and summer.  Avoid stripes and plaids for this first skirt because it’s hard to match the lines.  You can use the week to buy the fashion fabric and notions to make your six-gore skirt.

You will need:

  • Fashion fabric: yardage = 2 times the skirt length, without nap fabric
  • Interfacing: yardage = length of waistband pattern piece, lightweight and fusible
  • 9” regular skirt zipper to match your fabric
  • Thread to match your fabric

Until next week, HAPPY DRAFTING!

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Another Sunday – Another sewing lesson

Another Sunday, another sewing lesson for Kira.  Today’s lesson covered a few things.  First part of today’s session was spent pinning and sewing the shoulder seams of the lining on her Chanel style jacket using the fell stitch. 

Wednesday was the first time I had Veterans’ Day off, and I spent it printing a pattern and stitching a muslin for my Chanel style jacket.  I drew horizontal lines on my muslin pieces before stitching the jacket to see how the horizontal lines would match.  The shape of the front side piece caused the stripes to tilt in the shoulder area, creating a funky look at the princess seam in that area.  I experimental with the pattern piece and did not improve the look.  As well, I needed more ease everywhere and the shoulder seams tilted too much toward the back.  So I tossed the whole thing, tweaked the measurements in my patternmaking software, reprinted the pattern and cut a new muslin, which I stitched today while Kira worked on her jacket.  I tried on the muslin of the jacket and this became the second part of her lesson.  She watched while I let out the seams in the back across the hip area and lowered the front neckline.   We evaluated the horizontal lines.   The horizontal lines are better and the fit is good.  I explained that I would move the shoulder/princess seam intersection 1” closer to the neck, which will improve the look of the horizontal lines. 

Now to the next part of today’s lesson. Kira asked if I kept my paper patterns after making the garments.  I explained that I did keep some.  I lectured on tried-and-true patterns and slopers, and why I would transfer the bond paper pattern of my jacket to oaktag or poster board.  I sketched a princess seam jacket, the Chanel styled jacket, and gave it a military look by sketching upper flaps and lower patch pockets with buttons, epaulets and belt loops with a tie belt.  Cut it from wool gabardine for the winter and linen for the summer.  Extend the front overlap and add two lines of buttons, and you have a double breasted jacket.  Add a horizontal seam line and you have a yoke.  Overlap the front and back at the shoulder, trace the neck area and center lines, draw a shape from the front to the back and you have created a collar.  She had that sparkle in her eyes, which told me she got the point.  I demonstrated dart manipulation of the side dart on a bodice front, turning it into an armhole princess seam.  I next demonstrated how to turn a long sleeve sloper into a short puff sleeve, using the slash and spread method.  Her smile told me her mind was working, envisioning the possibilities when I sketched the princess seam dress with a puffed sleeve.  She also learned how to draft a flounce and how to add flare to a straight skirt.  Now she knows why I don’t have an abundance of patterns; I change what I have by drafting the pieces I need.

We closed out the lesson making lap zipper samples.  She understands how to improve her lap zipper installation and we will do it again next week.  While she worked on her lap zipper sample, I finished baking a banana pudding for her to take home.

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Quest for the “Perfect” Knit Top

Each of us has an idea of the perfect knit top.  What is perfect for one is not perfect according to another.  For me the perfect knit top is one that hugs and skims the body.  It hugs where it needs to hug, usually the bust area, and skims the body everywhere else.  The neckline is low enough to elongate your neck, but not so low that you see a lot of cleavage, or worst, a lot of bra.  The top is long enough to keep your midsection covered even when you reach up.  I think I am almost there.

I started with Butterick 3344, which I purchased several years ago.  It’s now an out-of-print pattern.  I altered View C, the purple top.  I changed it to a v-neck, bringing the “v” up about 1 1/2”. I lengthened the top 3” at the hem.  Finally, I tapered the sleeve in at the elbow and a little bit more at the wrist. 


I used a VERY narrow zigzag stitch to stitch the seams.  I cut 1” strips from the selvage of lining fabric to use as shoulder stays to prevent stretching in the shoulder area.  I used a twin needle to stitch down the neck binding and hem the top.  I love the twin needle; the topstitching stretches without breaking.  Taking a clue from ready-to-wear knit tops, I stitched the sleeve to the top first (armhole seam) because it’s easier.  This allows me to hem the sleeve flat, also easier.  Then I stitched the underarm and side seams.  The top is finished and I like the look and the fit.  On the next top, using the pivot method, I want to take ½” out of the front armhole curve and open the front side seam in the bust area like a dart.  I don’t want a dart, so I will ease out the fullness.  If I love the look and fit, I will then have my go-to knit top pattern.  Pictures to come soon.


Okay. What do I do with my daughter?  She just called to tell me she needs a dress for homecoming.  When is the event?  THIS FRIDAY! What color does she want?  RED!  Is that in my fabric stash? NO!  Now we have to go fabric shopping tomorrow and I have to put her Chanel jacket off until next weekend.

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Made a Dressform

I finally did it.  I finally created a dressform for me and it cost me about $110! I wanted a dressform in my size, but didn’t want to invest in an expensive professional one that wouldn’t have my dimensions or posture.  Many people praise the duct tape form because you get to see all the lumps and bumps of your body.  I tried the duct tape thing years ago and didn’t like it.  You can’t pin to it. My husband was the only one who had fun; wrapping me in duct tape.  I lost a bra when he cut up the back to remove the form and cut my bra as well.   

After years of searching the Internet for alternatives, I gathered up my thoughts and ideas and took the plunge.   Thoughts:

  • The purpose of my dressform is to minimize fitting problems, give me less stress and more efficient sewing.
  • A dressform is a 3-D sloper (a pattern with no ease) and in school we draped our slopers on our dressforms.  So why can’t I do it in reverse.  Create a sloper on me and turn that into my dressform.
  • I don’t need to see every bump and lump.  The purpose of sewing it to hide the bumps and lumps.  If I had a dressform with my dimensions and posture and the garment looked good on the form, then it would look good on me.

 I wanted a dressform that’s easy to make, cheap, will take pins and is realistic looking.  I think I did it.  Here’s my supply list: 

  • princess seam pattern
  • muslin
  • zipper
  • woven cotton fabric for outer shell
  • woven fusible interfacing
  • stay tape
  • fitted t-shirt
  • XL sized t-shirt
  • bra
  • 1 inch high density foam
  • 6 pounds of polyfill
  • knee-hi nylons
  • hanger
  • thread
  • marking pencil
  • ruler
  • tape measure
  • scissors
  • straight pins
  • very small safety pins
  • 1″ elastic
  • duct tape

 I plan to make one of my daughter and will document the process and share with all the other frustrated sewists.

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The Making of Diana’s Dress

Diana is a friend of mine, as well as a client.  Usually, I see her when she or a daughter needs a special dress.  I know Diana is a good friend because when I took a LONG break from sewing for customers due to the burnout caused by the bride from H@%%, I would only sew for family and friends I love and Diana and family met that qualification.  Diana is about to attend a high school reunion.  You know that means a person has to look GOOD.  You want to be the person everyone else looks at after all these years and says “WHOAA, she looks great!” 

Diana’s dress has been evolving.  She came with a picture of Halle Berry in a long beige gown, cut low.  We raised the neckline, eliminated the front pleats on the skirt, and decided to make a red chiffon dress.  One of her daughters went shopping with us and the dress became reddish orange.  All three of us thought it was a great color in the fabrics we chose.  I made the muslin for the dress and fitted Diana.  She called shortly after leaving my house.  She wanted to show me a top that one of her daughters was wearing.   She stopped by and showed me the picture on a cell phone.  Don’t you love technology?  Now the dress will have wide straps and a sweetheart neckline.  I told her I could not do the ruching because there wasn’t enough chiffon to do the bodice that way.  While I was making the muslin of the new bodice, I thought about the ruching and came up with an alternative.  I added gathers along the center front.  We had the second muslin fitting and really like the new look.  Diana looks GOOD in the mock-up, so she will look fantastic in the final dress.