The joys of bias

Specifically, cutting out a pattern on the bias. The fit and drape is instantly better with no real work. It is a very fabric-intensive technique so next I want to see if it works just as well with pieced fabric.

Pattern drafting for an imaginary machine operator

People who operate sewing machines in factories are paid small amounts of money for each seam they sew. More seams=more money. This means that anything that slows down sewing a seam is money lost. For instance, pinning a seam into place, sewing a gathering line (or two!), unpinning, finicking with where a seam should start. All of those are things that mean that the operator is not just sewing a seam together and getting on to the next piece. If they have to do one of those things, someone else has messed up.

This means, that it is likely that you, the home sewer with a few thousand inches of machine operating under your belt, also do not need to have pinned seams and gathering stitches–if you prep your patterns and do your cutting correctly.

Sewing a princess seam together or 5/8″ seams suck

There are a number of excellent tutorials out there on sewing together princess seams. However, I’ve noticed they’re aimed at people who are either working with unforgiving fabric or people who just aren’t that comfortable with their sewing machines. So here’s the trick for those experienced seamstresses who are working with nice pliant wovens.

  1. Walk your seams. Especially if you bought from the Big Four. Make sure that the stitching lines of the two pieces are the same length, the seam allowances will NOT be the same length, but the stitching lines MUST be.
  2. Match your pattern up at the first notch then work back to the start of the seam. If necessary trim the seam allowance so that the start of your seam is a neatly matched corner. That way you can start your seam with the seam allowances matching.
  3. Now you’re ready to sew. Well, almost, do yourself a favor and trim your allowances to 3/8″ or 1/4″ if they aren’t already.*
  4. Line up the start of your seam. Drop your presser foot on the seam and lower the needle. Control your the lower layer of fabric with one hand and the upper layer with the other hand.
  5. As you come to curves, put a bit of tension on the fabric as needed to match the seam allowances only on the part of the seam that is just about to go under the presser foot. The fabric will stretch a bit for this to happen. It will not be stretching at the stitching line, so there will not be puckers.
  6. Grade your curves (thank you Coletterie), press.

*The regular straight stitching position gives a 1/4″ seam on a standard presser foot. Then there’s an offset needle position for straight stitching that creates a 3/8″ seam. Obviously, this also creates a 1/8″ seam with the other edge of your presser foot. It is amazing how much better life is when you can just use the edge of the presser foot to line things up.




Sleeve fitting and bodice notes has fantastic information on bicep ease and how it relates to the fitting of the armscye.

I highly recommend Lorraine’s pattern drafting tutorials. She’s the reason I finally figured out that a princess seam bodice would work best.

I’ve had a good-fitting princess-seamed dress for a long time now. It was originally my wedding dress and then I turned it inside out, put it back to front, removed the sleeves, reshaped the neck, dyed it (and $500 dollars later you will end up with a gown that is quite obviously a bridesmaid dress altered to be worn as a cocktail dress), and added front lacing. It’s a comfy medieval-esque dress that creates the right silhouette while being completely incorrect for the period it’s imitating.

Image (Do I look about 6 months pregnant? That’s the only historically accurate part of that dress!)

But it made an excellent base for a princess-seam pattern. I traced the pieces using Glad Press ‘n Seal plastic wrap again. The front in the picture became the pattern for the back, back became the front. I did a sample muslin of one side to just below the bust. Then did an FBA and tried it again. Did another FBA and got a bodice that fits over my modern bra.The back fit perfectly the first time.

(Side-note: if I convert all the fullness to a single dart, it’s almost a right angle. The “basic bodice” about half-way down this page is hilariously different from what I get.)

Full-arms adjustment

I dearly love Susan Partlan. has the next piece to the sleeve puzzle. Namely, getting the sleeve to fit the biceps comfortably without messing up all the other fitting.

I’m also interested in her mathematical sleeve cap creation. I’m going to try a similar thing, but with 5 points.

1. The curve at the top of the armscye.

2. The point where the front of the armscye starts curving back under the arm.

3. The point where the back of the armscye starts curving forward under the arm.

4-5. The place where front and back meet to become the side seam.

(Side note, I’m starting from a bodice that fits as a sleeveless bodice.)