Full Bust Adjustment (FBA): Adding a Horizontal Dart

In my last post I showed you the Edwardian dress I sewed for my SIL.  Despite using reference books and websites with directions on FBA, I wasn’t able to put my finger on the  directions for adding a horizontal dart while narrowing the shoulder.  Since I’m not sure I can describe what I did for the narrow shoulder adjustment, I can show you how I made the full bust adjustment (FBA).

This Past Patterns #903 pattern was the starting point.   Given that the bodice only has vertical darts, my options were to slash the pattern, eliminate the darts and make it into a princess line dress or to add a horizontal dart.  While I chose the latter, I now wonder if it would have been easier to convert one of the vertical darts into a princess line and forget the second dart, especially because of the narrow shoulder adjustment.  Maybe the next time?


1.  Copy the pattern piece onto a separate piece of pattern paper, leaving several inches around all of the edges so you have space to make adjustments.  Out of the envelope, the front pattern piece looked like this.

Original pattern piece – front bodice

2. Start by adding width to the side of the bodice front (and back if needed), making sure that the dress pattern is equal to the wearer’s full bust measurement plus wearing ease.  I did this by adding to the side of the front and back of the dress top.  On the photo below, if you look to the right side (arrow #1), you can see that my pattern is much wider than the largest size of the printed pattern.  Note: By taking this step you have accommodated for the wearer’s circumference, however in order to avoid having the dress pull up in front, you will also need to add length to the dress front.  That’s where we’re going now.

3. Slash the pattern horizontally at the wearer’s bustline.  Note:  If you slash the pattern at the full bust line, the dart should fall in the correct position.

4.  Physically separate the top and bottom pieces of the pattern and add an amount that is consistent with the wearer’s fullness.  For me is was guesswork to start and then I made further adjustments with each muslin.  There’s probably a formula to calculate this but I couldn’t find it.  In the final muslin I added nearly 4″ to the bodice front.

5. Fill the slashed area with a piece of pattern paper and tape in place (not visible on my photo).

6.  Draw a dart at the center of the area you added to the pattern. (Arrow #3).  Note the bottom of the pattern – the revised pattern is much longer than the original.  (Arrow #4)

While this will likely not be your final alteration, it’s a great place to start, and you can make changes based on how the muslin fits.  In the end you should end up with something like this:

Narrow Shoulder Adjustment:

Unfortunately I don’t feel that I mastered this technique or could even offer advice on what I did to narrow the shoulders while adding several inches to the side seam.  Essentially this was so the armhole wasn’t oversized for the sleeve.   All I can say is that I followed Nancy Ziemen’s Pivot and Slide technique .

Readers, if you have suggestions on how to make this alteration differently, please leave a comment.


Catie’s First PJ’s: No Pattern Required

Here is very proud Caitlin wearing her second sewing project, a pair of PJ’s (the first was a pillowcase – several months ago).  At age 6, she’s pretty amazing with the sewing machine – motivated and already sewing with a plan.  It was her request to “make pajamas that are shorts and with a spaghetti strap top”.  She chose the fabric from my stash.  I cut and Cate could hardly wait to start. She eagerly sewed the seams and finished them with a zig-zag stitch using my vintage Bernina 707 with the speed on “slow”. Cate did all of the sewing except for the ruffles.  Total sewing time was about 2-1/2 hours, with a few interruptions.   Last of all she found some pre-made ribbon roses to embellish her new sleeping attire.  

After wearing the pj’s for the remainder of the day and through the night, Cate reported that they were “perfect”.   

If you’d like to work with your favorite girl to make these pj’s you don’t need to run out to the store for a pattern.  

Pajama Pants (PJ’s) Tutorial:

  1. Measure the child’s hips (22″ for Cate)
  2. Find an existing pair of shorts, pants or leggings.
  3. Turn the pants inside-out and lay the pants on top of the fabric with the center front facing you.
  4. Cut along the edges of the crotch front. 
  5. Cut along the side, adding width to the side to assure that there will be at least 6″ of wearing ease plus 1/2″ seam allowances.  For Cate, 28″ was the total circumference of the pants with the finished width of the front of 13-1/2″ and the back width of 14-1/2″. There’s no need to fuss about the size as loose PJ bottoms are needed for comfort.  
  6. The length is your choice but the inseam should be at least 2″ plus the amount you need for a hem.
  7. Turn the pants so the center back is now facing you.
  8. Repeat steps 4 and 5.
  9. Sew the seams as you would any other pair of pants.  Note:  for the ruffles, I added them after the side seams but before the inseams were sewn.
  10. Add elastic for the waist.
Oh so, easy!

PJ Top or Pillowcase dress

Here is the pillowcase dress pattern I used.  If this one doesn’t work for you, there are many other free pillowcase dress patterns on the web and YouTube has lots of video tutorials as well.  Cate, Mira and I watched one of the videos.  Mira noted that the woman put her fingers “too close” to the sewing machine needle.  I learn so much when teaching Cate and Mira to sew.

As you can imagine, these pj’s have been a hit – suitable for bedtime or playtime.   Give it a try with your favorite child and let me know what you learn.

The 2-Minute Buttonhole

For months I have been sewing an 1890’s day dress for my SIL, Margie, who volunteers at an Edwardian Mansion.  Sewing the dress was disrupted significantly by our cross-country move and buying a new home but also because my SIL and I live miles apart.  Admittedly I probably procrastinated a little, dreading the 20+ evenly spaced buttonholes on the dress front.  When I finally tackled the buttonholes, it took less than an hour from the sample buttonhole to completing all 21 buttonholes. Best of all, the buttonholes were equal in length.  It was so easy that I need to share this technique with you. 

The 21 buttons all standing neatly in a row


1.  Make a sample buttonhole so you know long to make each buttonhole and of course to see if the stitch length needs to be adjusted.

2.  Take the measurement for the buttonhole.

3.  Machine-baste two vertical rows of stitching on the dress front (or the complete length of whatever garment you are working on), corresponding with the ends of the buttonhole.   Going forward I will refer to these lines as “guide lines”

4.  With a marking pen, make a horizontal line for each buttonhole, extending to each vertical line of stitching or guide line.  (For me, marking was easy as the buttonholes were one inch apart).

5.  Place a narrow strip of clear wash-a-way stabilizer over the buttonholes (this technique lifts the satin stitch out of the fabric resulting in a more finished look).

Sewing the buttonholes – the clear wash away stabilizer is difficult to see but it’s there.  Click on photo to enlarge.

Sewing the Buttonholes – Staying Inside the Lines is the Key

Note:  To give me more control, I turned off the automatic buttonhole setting. 

1. Place your needle at your starting point for a buttonhole, barely touching the vertical stitching line – unlike Kindergarden, this isn’t a time to sew outside of the lines!

2. Stitch the first side of the buttonhole until the needle is just shy of the second guide line.

3. Bar tack (or make the wide end stitch)

4. Sew the second side of the buttonhole

5. Make the final bar tack, again staying just inside of the guide lines.

6.  When you are finished with the first buttonhole, move right on to the next one without cutting the threads.

Before you know it you’ll have completed all of the buttonholes.  When completed, clip the threads, remove the guide line stitches and the excess wash-away stabilizer.  To remove the stabilizer I used an embroidery scissors.  You can always dab some water on the stabilizer remains.  Last of all, carefully cut the buttonholes and press.

Sewing completed

What I learned:

1.  By turning off the automatic buttonhole feature, I had complete control and could stop at exactly the desired point.

2.  Sewing the buttonholes in such a short timeframe actually made it easier, as if I was on an assembly line.

3. Previously I have used strips of blue masking tape as a guide however the stitching line was much easier.  Those little blue pieces of tape didn’t look good with all fabrics.

4. I liked making 21 buttonholes.

Give it a try

Sewing a Fur Collar

First of all, thank you so much for the many wonderful comments on my coat.  You made my week.

Now it’s time for me to give back to you and share some of the techniques.  Let’s start with how to sew a fur collar, and next I’ll do a post on pad-stitching.  It had been a few years (like 30) since I made a fur collar which required me to do a little research and to think through the process.

Starting with the end:

The fur – a piece of dyed lambswool approximately 24 x 24″.

Dyed Lambswool

Fur Alert!

The following steps resulted in small green fibers of fur in every corner of our house.  You’d have thought I had a fluffy shedding pet who followed me around the house.  Ugh!


1.  Select the piece of the fur from which you wish to cut the collar.  All fur is not created equal – some parts of the pelt were clearly not usable as the fur was sparse or just didn’t look good, and I hoped to have enough left for cuffs.

2.  When planning for the collar, if the pattern doesn’t have an upper collar piece which is larger than the under collar, increase the length and the width of the upper collar by approximately 1/2″.  You will need this additional fabric so the collar turns well and to keep the fur visible and the under collar not visible.

3. Using a pointed scissors, cut the collar from the back side of the fur, only cutting through the pelt or fur backing.  The fur fibers will separate without the help of a scissors.

4.  As you plan to sew the upper and the under collar,  for the width of the seam allowance, cut away the fur from the pelt or backing.  Note: Do not cut away the actual seam allowance.  This step reduces bulk when sewing the upper to the under collar.

Fur is cut away but NOT the pelt

5.  Pin the upper and under collar together.  Baste if you are so inclined.  For leather you will need to pin in the seam allowance.

6.  Sew the upper and under collar per the pattern instructions.

7.  Before you trim the seam, turn the collar right side out.  Use a pin or needle and pick out the fur fibers that got caught in the seam.  If you don’t take this step, your collar will look like this:

Use a pin to pull out any fur fibers which are caught in the seam

8.  Trim the seam in the same way as if you are working with fabric only

9.  Now turn the collar and press.  This was quite challenging for me as I didn’t want to burn the delicate lambswool.  Good thing is that it didn’t need much pressing.

Back side of the turned collar.

Now continue with your coat or garment construction.

My New Coat: Marfy 1974

With great pride, I wish to share with you my beautiful new coat from Marfy pattern #1974:


  • Taupe wool jacquard from Pendleton
  • Underlined with polished wool – i.e. men’s plaid suit fabric
  • Faced with brown wool
  • Trimmed with lambswool
  • Lined with Asian print, underlined with cotton gauze

Consistent with Marfy’s approach to provide pattern pieces without instructions, the following is a photo diary of the process.  Besides, this post is for my kindrid spirit whose wish to see the details more than to hear the story.  Enjoy!


Underlined with polished wool and linen for shoulder stabilization

Welt pockets

Bound buttonholes

Velvet pockets

Fur collar with stand

Resulted in:


Back yoke detail

Collar stand

Bound buttonhole

Facing, window for inside of buttonhole, velvet piping

Bone buttons and lining

Fur cuff

One more time

Thank you for visiting.

Hemming Jeans So No One Will Ever Know

Want to avoid the “homemade” look when hemming a pair of jeans?  Here’s 9 easy steps for making them look like this, with contrast stitching on the inside and out just like when you purchased them.

There are scads of online tutorials on how to hem jeans however the result of many of these processes is a pair of jeans that look like they were hemmed at home. Since I grew up wearing home-made clothes I do everything possible to avoid the impression that my garments are hand-sewn (even though I am now proud that they are sewn by me).



  • Contrast thread to match the jeans topstitching.  (Big box fabric stores have thread for jeans, or you can use upholstery thread, which comes in more colors).  Thread your machine with this contrasting color.
  • Navy thread (or color similar to jeans).  Use this thread in the bobbin.
  • Size 100/16, a 90/14 or a jeans sewing machine needle.
  • Seam gauge or measure
  • 30 minutes of uninterrupted time
  • Iron.

1.  On each jeans leg draw a line 1-1/4″ longer than the desired leg length.  Note: The result will be better if  the hem is cut evenly, which is why I recommend drawing a line before cutting.

2.  Run a test stitch on the discard fabric, preferably going through 3 layers of fabric to get the feel of working with the bulk.  Adjust stitch length so it looks like the original hem.

3.  Close to the lower edge, trim away excess fabric on the seam allowance, like this:

4.  Turn hem over 1-1/4″.  Finger-press and pin in place.  Press.  Note:  At this point you will have a fold of 1-1/4″ of fabric turned toward the inside of the leg.

5.  Fold the bottom edge of the leg to meet up with the fold line.  This will give you a double-folded 5/8″ seam which is common in RTW jeans (see next photo).

Click on photo for close-up of hem

6.  Finger press, pin in place and press hem in place.  

7. Working from the inside  (contrast thread will be on the inside) and using a long stitch, sew the hem in place.  Note:  Remove pins before they get close to the machine needle.  Trust me, sewing over pins in denim can really mess up your machine.  

Wrong side

8. Turn leg right side out.

Right side

9. Sew directly over the bobbin thread.  In the sample below, you can also see that the orange threads peaked through with the bobbin thread, which makes it easy to see the stitching line.  Note:  The bobbin thread will show one the right side but won’t obscure the effect of the top-stitching.

Top-stitching on the right side

Now put those jeans on and wear them with pride!

DIY Travel Shirt / Adventure Shirt / Technical Shirt

When traveling, one of my staples is a travel/adventure/technical shirt.  Typically they are made from lightweight quick-drying fabric.  In recent years, some fabrics include sun protection.  Typical features of these shirts are zippered pockets and vents.  They are especially good for layering over a t-shirt or top, and because of the long sleeves they provide sun protection.  The good and the bad is that these shirts are durable and thus they never wear out.  Because I have always owned two, my travel photos are pretty boring – either I’m wearing the red shirt or the blue shirt.  Now you know where this is going……

Travel Shirt Tutorial

Starting with Vogue 8689, I made a few modifications and now have a shirt I’m really pleased with.  In the future, I’d like to make another (or two?)

Three major changes to the pattern made this shirt very functional as a travel shirt:  a vented back yoke, front zippered pocket and zippered side vents/pockets.  Following is a tutorial for each change.

Additional Supplies:

  • 1/2 yard of mesh or other breathable fabric
  • 3 invisible zippers – I used long zippers and cut them to the desired length.

Back Vent:

RTW technical/adventure shirts often have a vented yoke like this:

To make this change in your pattern you will cut:  a) one yoke from mesh fabric and b) one yoke from the fashion fabric, extending the length by 1″.

1.  Cut one yoke front he fashion fabric, extending the length by 2″ as in the following photo (I extended it by 3″ but ended up cutting off 1″).

2. Cut a back yoke from mesh fabric.

3.  Cut a diagonal from the upper part of the yoke, like this

4. Serge or zig-zag the diagonal edges.  

5. Sew the mesh to the lower back piece with the right side of the mesh against the wrong side of the lower back piece.

6. Top stitch close to the seam-line.

You are now ready to attach the fashion fabric yoke.

1. Finish the lower part of the fashion fabric yoke by turning the hem twice (1/2 to 5/8″ rolled hem).

2. With the shirt back and the yoke wrong side down, lay the yoke on top of the mesh, matching the edges.  Pin in place.

3.  Top stitch the yoke at each end (about 1″ of stitching) and at the middle (1.5 to 2″).  The remained of the yoke will not be attached to the lower back, allowing air to flow (i.e. venting).  The arrows on the following show the top-stitched areas.

Arrows show top-stitching position for back yoke

Front Zippered Pocket

1. When sewing the front yoke to the front bottom pieces, insert an invisible zipper into the seam.  The zipper should be ~1″ from each edge.  On a size 16 shirt, this made a 5″ opening for the pocket.

Note:  If you want more pockets, you could do this on both sides of the front.

2. Working on the wrong side of the fabric (to make the underside of the pocket), sew a 5-1/2″ by 5-1/2″ piece of mesh, to the bottom of the zipper tape.

3.  To make the upper pocket piece, sew a 5-1/2″ by 6-1/2″ piece of mesh to the upper zipper tape or seam allowance.  I zig-zagged the edges together.

4.  Pin the pocket pieces together.  Sew edges as in the following photo.  You will notice that on the pocket sides you are unable to sew all the way to the top however this won’t alter the functionality of the pocket.

5. Serge or finish the edges to your liking (I didn’t but if would look better if I’d taken the time to do it.

Zippered Side Vent and Pocket

1. Before sewing the side seam, place an invisible zipper into the seam, starting at least 1″ from the arms-eye.  At the lower edge, leave at least 4″.  (My zipper was 10″ long)

2. Sew the seam above and below the zipper.

3. Using a 10″ wide by 12″ long piece of mesh, sew each side of the mesh side to each side of the zipper tape to form a single piece which will become a vent and a pocket.

4.  Fold the vent/pocket toward the shirt front.

5.  Sew the front seam and the bottom seam of the vent/pocket.  Finish edges if desired.

6.  Run one more stitch approximately 4″ from the top of the vent/pocket.  I’m not sure if this is needed but my thought was that this line of stitching would form the pocket.

7.  Hand stitch the top and bottom edge of the vent/pocket to the front princess seam to keep it in place.

One more note:  Inadvertently, I placed one zipper with the pull at the top and one with the pull at the bottom.  When wearing the shirt I realized that both directions have advantages, so I’ll leave that choice to you.

Finished – combined vent/pocket

Of course, what does it matter if the garment isn’t functional.  This shirt worked so well that I wore it all the time, as you can see in the following photos (oh yes, and we had fun too).

Now, I need your feedback.

The World’s Most Comfortable Travel Skirt

Just having returned from several weeks in Spain, I’m still in the mode of thinking about travel clothing – what worked and what didn’t.  In the coming weeks I’ll share some tips on making travel clothes but for now I need to tell you about this travel skirt which is sooo comfortable.  

Initially I made it for our 2 month trip to Central America where it got a lot of wear. I liked it so much that although faded and somewhat worn, I took it on this trip to Spain.  Honestly, it’s the most comfortable skirt I’ve ever owned.  The inspiration came from a travel skirt on an internet site I can no longer find.   Essentially it is made of 6 panels with ruching on each side of the seams, made from woven cotton/poly with lycra.  This photo is a little better at showing the detail.


  • 1-1/2 to 2 yards of 45″ fabric or 1 yard of 60″ woven mid-weight fabric with lycra
  • 1 yard of 1-1/4″ wide elastic
  • 4-6 yards of 1/4″ elastic depending on skirt length
  • Twill tie if desired


1.  Before cutting or sewing, do a test with the elastic and a fabric scrap to determine the ration of elastic to fabric needed to create the desired ruching effect.  

2.  Cut six pieces of fabric 9-10″ longer than the finished length (mine was 30″ for a 20″ skirt).  For the width, use the following formula.

  • Divide hip size by 6.
  • For each piece, add 1-1/2″ for the seams and 1″ to create the puffy effect.
  • If desired, you can flare slightly, making the lower part of the skirt wider.
  • For 40″ hips, my panels were 30″ long by 10″ wide at the top and 11″ at the bottom.

Cut panels. Middle panel has elastic applied.

3.  Cut 12 pieces of elastic based on what you learned when you ran your test.  (My elastic pieces were about 18″ long)

4.  Serge or zig-zag edges to reduce raveling.

5.  Starting 2′ from the waist edge, stretch fabric while sewing to each side of panels, one inch from each edge.

Note:  You start 2″ from the top as ruching in the waistband makes it too bulky.

6.  Sew panels together with a 5/8 to 3/4″ seam.  Press the seams open although this is somewhat useless as the seams don’t lay flat.

7.  Repeat for all panels.

8.  Turn waistband over and sew 1-1/2″ from the edge.

9.  Insert elastic to desired length.

Note:  I also put a twill tie in the waistband but it’s not necessary.

10.  Turn over 5/8″ at the bottom edge for a hem.  Machine sew with a straight stitch.

11.  Because there aren’t pockets in this skirt, to have a secure place for my passport, add a travel security pocket on the inside.

You are done!  Roll it up and put it in your suitcase.

Sometime it’s the Little Things

Several years ago when our daughter Megan lived in Japan, even with all of the adorable Japanese clothing,  the cutest clothing items she wore were on her feet. Socks of all types:  socks with toes, split socks for thong sandals, unusual designs, bright colors, etc.  Of all of her footwear, the item I coveted was low-cut lace slipper socks or footies to be worn under casual or dressy shoes; an alternative to peds or some other ugly footy that in the USA, you can only purchase in the drug store. The advantage is obvious – if a part of the sock shows, it’s lace and not nude colored lycra.

from Ebay seller

In the US, I searched everywhere but wasn’t able to come up with anything close to these lace footies.  Nope, not even the Dollar Store.  How about Ebay?  There was/is one who likely imports the item from Asia.  They were dirt cheap and looked like the real deal so I hit the “buy” key.  I got them in a few days however they were sized for Cinderella — surely not for my feet.  The sewer’s creed, “I can make that” came to the rescue and the following is the result.

Low-cut Slipper Socks Tutorial and Slipper Socks pattern (pdf)


  • Two 9″x9″ pieces of stretch lace:  Stretch should be at least 25% across the grain.  I chose black and off-white/ecru.
  • Lightweight lingerie type elastic.   Approximately 28″ for each pair of slipper socks.
  • Slipper Socks pattern (this pattern is for an American shoe size of 8-9)


1. Cut slipper socks on the fold.  (Note, stretch goes lengthwise on the foot)

2. Cut two 14″ pieces of elastic

3.  Serge or zig-zag the front and back seam.  The seam should be narrow  (Zig-zag of 2.5 or serger knife set at 6-6.5).  Roll your fingers over the seam to assure that the entire seam is stitched.

4.  You are now ready to add the elastic.  Mark the elastic at 6″ and 12″  (the other 2″ is a handle to make sewing easier.  It will be cut off and discarded)

5. Starting at the heel and using a zig-zag stitch, sew the elastic to the slipper sock.  Apply more “pull” on the elastic in the area closer to the heel and to the center front area.  Use 6″ for each the right and the left side of the slipper sock.

6.  At the heel, secure the elastic by stitching back and forth a few times.  Cut off the 2″ tag.

Oh so cute and comfy, even if they peak out of your shoes.