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p. 56

Delicate Details

Petite Piping, Mini Rickrack, Tiny Binding

PRESSING TRICKS for Tight Spots An Expert’s Guide to


A Simple Secret

Sewing Sheers for


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Au g u st/ S e p t e m b e r 2 0 1 6


contents ®

* NUMBER 186

A U G . / S E P T. 2 0 1 6


34 Amazing, Adaptable Linen Strength and beauty unite in this ancient fabric BY JULIANNE BRAMSON


Western-style pockets



Diminutive Details Discover sophistication in youthful embellishments BY VAU N E P I E RC E

46 Tame Fabrics with Tissue Sew with a tear-away layer BY ABBY RIBA

48 Drape a Knit Bodice Block A personal pattern helps you design a variety of knit tops B Y LY N D A M A Y N A R D

56 Couture Zipper Fly A precision designer method BY CLAIRE SHAEFFER

60 Simple Stitches, Complex Designs Explore the elaborate motifs of Yemenite Jewish embroidery B Y I N D I A H AY F O R D

66 Cowboy Pockets A Western-inspired detail adds a “smile” to any garment BY GILBERT MUNIZ





p. 56


Delicate Details

Petite Piping, Mini Rickrack, Tiny Binding

PRESSING TRICKS for Tight Spots An Expert’s Guide to


A Simple Secret


ON THE COVER: Petite piping along a collar, sleeve edge, or hemline adds a subtle, sophisticated touch to garments. To learn this and other heirloom sewing techniques, turn to page 40.

Cover photo: Jack Deutsch.





versatile linen




hand embroidery


Use a stapler to fine-tune fitting, round up power cords, make faux fur trimming easier, label pattern pieces quickly


Sticky but repositionable measuring tool, wool batting, folding rulers, anti-calcium iron


Textile links




ESSENTIAL TECHNIQUES 70 Invisible zipper insights

SEWING SAVES 74 Sweater rescue



Proper sequence for pattern alterations, Frostline Kits disappear



Threads’ digital editions are searchable and full of interactive extras. Download the app at Access is free with a print subscription or Threads Insider online membership.

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Have you ever rescued a project after a sewing blunder? How did you do it? (“Simple Stitches, Complex

Designs,” page 60) left a skirt where her young son could “improve” it with a permanent marker. She cut off the undamaged hem section and put it aside, then she cut off the marred fabric. “Between the remaining skirt body

Editor Art Director Special Projects Editor Technical Editor Senior Copy/ Production Editor Contributing Editors

and the hem section, I inserted a band of Seminole piecework made from leftover scraps of the skirt and

Seamstress Intern

coordinating fabrics,” India says.


India is an Embroiderers

(“Drape a Knit Bodice Block,” page 48) had a sewing mishap at a crucial point in her education. “My final college project was a cashmere coat. I chose to attach the lining to the facing with hand embroidery. When snipping

Guild of America certified instructor, specializing in contemporary design and ethnic embroidery. She

(“Diminutive Details,” page 40)

had to solve a high-stakes problem. She was sewing

gash in the lining. I released the

the cover garment for Creative Needle magazine’s July/

lining and had an embroidery

Aug. 2000 issue. “The dress bodice front had a tick-tack-

shop cover the flaw with my

toe board with bullion roses,” Vaune says. “I was trim-

monogram,” Lynda says. “It was

ming threads when I snipped a hole in the bodice!

an excellent outcome.”

I basted a tiny fabric insert

Lynda is on faculty at City

on the wrong side and then

College of San Francisco and

generously sprinkled more

Cañada College in Redwood City,

bullions on the bodice.” Vaune, an internationally

School of Sewing and Design

trained instructor, focuses

in Tacoma, Washington, and

on fine details in construc-

Serge-A-Lot in San Francisco.

tion, finishing, and embel-



(“Tame Fabrics with Tissue,” page 46) got

creative with a coat. “I decided to make bound buttonholes, but I missed a crucial step, and I ended up with 13 useless buttonholes,” Abby says. “The fabric would not support the technique again, so I trimmed the buttonhole windows with Ultrasuede, then used the same fabric for belt loops and buttons. It looked like a design statement rather than a mistake.” A custom clothier for over 40 years and a past president of the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals, Abby lives in Florida. 6


Rosann Berry Stephani L. Miller Carol J. Fresia Jeannine Clegg Louise Cutting Susan Khalje Kenneth D. King Judith Neukam Norma Bucko Jessica Petersen Carolyn Mandarano Sarah Opdahl Web Producer Video Director

the thread, I inadvertently cut a

California, and teaches at the

Senior Special Projects Editor

Web Editorial Assistant

lives in Wyoming.


Senior Managing Editor, Books

Sarah McFarland

Web Design Director

Evamarie Gomez Alex Lombardi Colin Russell Jodie Delohery

Threads: (ISSN: 0882-7370) is published bimonthly by The Taunton Press, Inc., Newtown, CT 06470-5506. Telephone 203-426-8171. Periodicals postage paid at Newtown, CT 06470 and at additional mailing offices. GST paid registration #123210981. Subscription Rates: U.S., $32.95 for one year, $54.95 for two years, $78.95 for three years. Canada, $34.95 for one year, $58.95 for two years, $84.95 for three years (GST included, payable in U.S. funds). Outside the U.S./Canada: $44 for one year, $75 for two years, $109 for three years (payable in U.S. funds). Single copy U.S., $6.99. Single copy Canada, $8.99. Postmaster: Send address changes to Threads, The Taunton Press, Inc., 63 S. Main St., PO Box 5506, Newtown, CT 06470-5506. Canada Post: Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to Threads, c/o Worldwide Mailers, Inc., 2835 Kew Drive, Windsor, ON N8T 3B7, or email to Printed in the USA

Photos: (Maynard) Kyle Chesser, (Hayford) courtesy of the author, (Pierce) Debi Aquino. (Riba) Dave Riba.



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What’s your style?

Sarah McFarland Editor

We’d love to hear from you! Send your letters to: Threads Letters PO Box 5506 Newtown, CT 06470-5506 or via email

Write an article for Threads THREADS

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In our next issue: Learn how to sew beautiful, textured bobbin-work embroidery, see our fall fashion forecast with fabric and pattern inspiration, and learn full-bust fitting from pattern designer and fitting expert Sarah Veblen. Also, couture scholar Claire Shae≠er examines construction di≠erences between classic Chanel ready-to-wear and haute couture.

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enjoy reading fashion and style guides, from the thoughtfully good to the hilariously awful. You can’t always tell from the title, the author, or the cover, if the book is going to have interesting ideas. Some very stylish women write terrible advice. One tidbit that made me laugh out loud was in a guide for “grown-up girls.” It recommended that a mature woman should never sleep on her side because that causes wrinkles. An informative guide that the Threads staff recently enjoyed dishing over was the Lucky Guide to Mastering any Style (Gotham Books, 2008), which put forward "fashion tribes" with celebrity examples. It was fun to debate whether one of us was “American Classic” (think Katherine Hepburn) or “Gamine” (à la Audrey Hepburn) or fit under another classification. I think about different style tribes as we plan each issue, and whether we have successfully represented a range of looks throughout the issue. All of us feel strongly about personal style, and consciously or not, we do classify ourselves. I read these guides to make sure I consider different aspects of our audience, and what each might like to see. We welcome your thoughts on the looks in the magazine, and which way to go in upcoming issues. We look to strike a balance between being fashionable and being practical, while always showing you garments that most readily demonstrate the techniques our authors share. When you read Vaune Pierce’s story, “Diminutive Details,” page 40, think about applying some of those heirloom details usually found on children’s garments to your own sophisticated, grown-up clothes. And with “Drape a Knit Bodice Block,” page 48, Lynda Maynard teaches the foundation steps for creating a host of custom knit tops. I would love for every reader to be excited about every garment in Threads, but truly, our goal is to give you the confidence and the techniques to create exactly your vision. That way, you can join a fashion pack or be a free spirit, in your own style.





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I was about to begin a project that I had never done before, curing the ills of a wellworn priestly vestment. Just as I thought I was in trouble, Threads no. 185 (June/ July 2016) arrived, and there was Kenneth D. King quoted on silk organza. Zing! I had my solution. A clip-on microphone, worn on the vestment’s collar, had worn the vestment threadbare. After reading Kenneth’s tip, I thought to place silk organza under the expensive gold fabric. Then I mended the worn area with stitches in DMC gold thread. The sturdy silk held the garment firmly, the stitches matched the gold material, and the patch underlayment could not be seen. Success. This was not the first time an article has arrived in time to avoid an incident. How do you do that? Do you have a magical insight? You are my top source for solutions to daily sewing dramas. Thanks! —Jane Taylor, White Pigeon, Michigan DE SI GN A N D FITTI N G H EL P

I am a 20-year-old home seamstress who has sewn for as long as I can remember. A few months ago, my mom bought Threads no. 180 (Aug./Sept. 2015) for me at a fabric store and I was hooked. I subscribed the next week and have devoured every issue. My two favorite articles so far are “Mixing Patterns,” by Laura Nash in no. 180, and “A Fresh Way to Fit a Sleeve,” by Kenneth D. King in no. 183 (Feb./March 2016). I have picked out fabric for half a dozen new dresses, and I am bursting to make them now that I’m armed with new knowledge. Thank you so much for publishing the articles. —Anne Marie Greene, Shelby, North Carolina CO N STR UCTIO N C R ITI C I SM

I have been a Threads reader/subscriber for many years for several reasons. First, there’s wonderful information and projects provided. Second, because of the perfection of sewn projects presented in the magazine on a consistent basis. Until 10


now. I was very disturbed by the construction of the tunic in Pattern Review in Threads no. 185, page 31. The curved hem on either side of the split front does not look the least bit professional. There is too much waving in the curved hemline. It’s possible that the cotton voile is not the right fabric for this pattern. Most cottons are not very forgiving when sewn on the bias. —Crystal Griffith, via email H AWA I IAN S K I RT

I enjoyed “DIY Project: Simple summer skirt,” in Threads no. 185. As a hula student, I have made my share of pa‘u, which, by the way, rhymes with “yahoo” rather than “wow.” My halau (school) uses elastic in the channels, but I have seen the drawstring style as shown in the issue. This skirt is suitable for all bodies, is comfortable, cool, and classic. Thank you, Carol J. Fresia, for featuring this bit of Hawaii. —Carolyn Soto, via email I was pleasantly surprised to see your article on sewing a pa‘u skirt in the July 2016 issue. However, although your spelling is correct, your pronunciation is not. Your example, “wow,” is for the word pau (notice there is no ‘okina, a punctuation mark that indicates a glottal stop). Pau means done or finished. Pa‘u is the skirt, pronounced “pa-oo.” —Marci Armstrong, via email

similar to the one shown on page 51. I see the Burda pattern is out of print, but I can find something similar. However, I cannot find a website with synthetic oilcloth suitable for garments. It all seems to be for tablecloths. Any information on this would be appreciated. —Irene Jewson, United Kingdom, via email Dear Irene, The fabric sources cited in the article sell synthetic oilcloth of the type used for the raincoat. There’s only one type on the market, and though it may have been originally intended for tablecloths, floor cloths, etc., it is what we adapted for the raincoat with Don’s techniques. —SLM S CAL E WITH A PH OTO COPI ER

While reading the article “Strategic Stretch” by Kelly Tygert in Threads no. 184 (April/May 2016), I was reminded of an even simpler method to scale down a pattern from woven to knit size. I simply laid a ruler face down on my photocopier, adjusted the settings to a custom size of the 82 percent specified in the article’s example, and copied it. The photocopy ruler matched the scaled-down widths of the example exactly. My copy machine also comes in handy for making multiple copies of small pattern pieces for complicated layouts, and for making patterns to re-create favorite garments. —Sharon Roness, via email



As a mostly self-taught seamstress, I had never encountered underlining before reading Daryl Lancaster’s excellent tutorial in Threads no. 183. I put the technique to use right away and have fallen in love with it. —Katherine Klinge, Deerbrook, Wisconsin

The blog post, “Take a Tour Inside a Chic Couture Skirt,” by Susan Khalje on caught my eyes. The tweed skirt had details that set it apart from anything that I have seen. I decided to replicate this style and method by reading and looking at the pictures included in the post. It took me some trial and error, but I was determined to finish this project. I spent a lot of money on the wool tweed, as I had to buy the yardage twice. On the first attempt, the wool burned under a magnifying sewing lamp left over the fabric under direct sunlight.


I enjoyed Threads no. 184 (April/May 2016), in particular the article “Sewing Vinyl Fabrics,” by Don Morin. It interested me and it would be a new challenge. I would love to try to produce a trench coat


E x c lu s iv e ly b y

Connie Crawford To contact us: Threads The Taunton Press 63 South Main Street PO Box 5506 Newtown, CT 06470-5506 Tel: 203-426-8171

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Send an email: Visit: To submit an article proposal: Write to Threads at the address above or Call: 800-309-9262 Fax: 203-426-3434 Email: To subscribe or place an order: Visit or call: 800-888-8286 9am-9pm ET Mon-Fri 9am-5pm ET Sat To find out about Threads products: Visit To get help with online member services: Visit To find answers to frequently asked questions: Visit

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Need to make your pattern larger or smaller? Take the mystery out of re-sizing. Connie specializes in great fitting patterns from XS thru 6X


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I was about to begin a project that I had never done before, curing the ills of a wellworn priestly vestment. Just as I thought I was in trouble, Threads no. 185 (June/ July 2016) arrived, and there was Kenneth D. King quoted on silk organza. Zing! I had my solution. A clip-on microphone, worn on the vestment’s collar, had worn the vestment threadbare. After reading Kenneth’s tip, I thought to place silk organza under the expensive gold fabric. Then I mended the worn area with stitches in DMC gold thread. The sturdy silk held the garment firmly, the stitches matched the gold material, and the patch underlayment could not be seen. Success. This was not the first time an article has arrived in time to avoid an incident. How do you do that? Do you have a magical

insight? You are my top source for solutions to daily sewing dramas. Thanks! —Jane Taylor, White Pigeon, Michigan DES I G N AN D FIT TI NG H EL P

I am a 20-year-old home seamstress who has sewn for as long as I can remember. A few months ago, my mom bought Threads no. 180 (Aug./Sept. 2015) for me at a fabric store and I was hooked. I subscribed the next week and have devoured every issue. My two favorite articles so far are “Mixing Patterns,” by Laura Nash in no. 180, and “A Fresh Way to Fit a Sleeve,” by Kenneth D. King in no. 183 (Feb./March 2016). I have picked out fabric for half a dozen new dresses, and I am bursting to make them now that I’m armed with new knowledge. Thank you so much for publishing the articles. —Anne Marie, North Carolina


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I have been a Threads reader/subscriber for many years for several reasons. First, there’s wonderful information and projects provided. Second, because of the perfection of sewn projects presented in the magazine on a consistent basis. Until now. I was very disturbed by the construction of the tunic in Pattern Review in Threads no. 185, page 31. The curved hem on either side of the split front does not look the least bit professional. There is too much waving in the curved hemline. It’s possible that the cotton voile is not the right fabric for this pattern. Most cottons are not very forgiving when sewn on the bias. —Crystal Griffith, via email H AWAI IAN S K I RT

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tips Fit with a stapler




Like many other sewers, I use a hammer to flatten thick hems and seams, but my fingers often suffer when the hammer misses. To save them, I started using a thin, flexible piece of clear plastic. I use a 4-inch square cut from packaging material; choose plastic that bends, or it will splinter. I arrange the seam or hem into position with one hand, and then, with the other, press the plastic over the seam,

send usyour tips 14


maintaining pressure on the edges of the plastic to keep the seam in place. As I hammer the seam through the plastic covering, I can see where I am hammering, and I easily avoid hitting my fingers. —Daphne Dykeman, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada DIY F R EE-MOTION QU I LTI NG M AT

Teflon-coated free-motion quilting mats are expensive, but I wanted something to

make stitching quilts easier and smoother. I tested a 6-inch square of Con-Tact Brand Lite Tack Shelf Liner for my free-motion quilting. It clings to the sewing area of my machine, and is repositionable and easily removable. It leaves no residue. When I’ve finished quilting, I fold the Lite Tack paper in half, wrong sides together, and store it until I need it again. The tacky surface maintains its grip, and the smooth surface makes quilting easier. The paper comes in

We pay for every tip we publish. Threads Tips • PO Box 5506 • Newtown, CT 06470-5506 • or via email:

Illustration: Rosann Berry.

I took up sewing again after 25 years to help with my wardrobe problem. I had lost 90 pounds, with 70 to go. Along the way, I had a breakthrough in fitting pants on myself. I decided to make a master pant pattern and began by cutting a basic pant in 1-inch gingham, using my hip measurement to select the size. I didn’t have a helper, so I stapled the pieces together, with the seam allowances on the outside. Then I fitted myself using the stapler, instead of pins, to adjust the seamlines. I had no problem fitting the back seams and crotch seams with the stapler. I let myself out of the pattern by undoing the center-front seam after I marked the seamline. I sewed the stapled pieces to establish the new seamlines, and I added seam allowances. This process took less than a couple hours working with the stapler. I use the master pattern every time I make a new pair of pants. —Elizabeth Burgess, Bremerton, Washington

generously sized rolls, more than enough for my needs, but at a price that’s a fraction of a Teflon mat’s cost. —Geraldine Livingston, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada CONTRO L POWE R CO R D S

If you sew on a wooden table as I do, here’s a great way to keep your sewing machine power cords organized and out of the way. I’ve screwed several latching cup hooks into the underside of my table (Lowes .com). They do a great job of keeping the foot pedal cord out of the way, and if I change machines, it takes just a second to switch the cords. I also use these for my serger and OttLite cords. No more getting my feet tangled in the cords. These hooks also come in handy for your iron, steamer, or other electrical equipment. —Dale Jenssen, San Antonio, Texas USE SA F E TY P I N S AS M A R K ERS

To transfer pattern markings to fashion fabric, consider securing a tiny, rustproof safety pin within the seam allowance. This is especially useful on materials that fray when notched or on textiles you’re leery of marking with wash-away or rub-away pens. It’s much faster than making tailor’s tacks, and the pins don’t slip out of the fabric the way thread tacks can. —Erin Beauchamp, Warrenton, Virginia COLO R- CO D E M AC H I N E N EED L ES

When I take a needle out of a manufacturer’s package, I know the size because it is printed on the packaging. However, once it’s installed in my sewing machine, I find it difficult to determine its size. Using a Sharpie marker, I now mark my needles with different colors. I simply run the Sharpie marker over the shanks of the needles while they are still in the package. I use the color scheme of green for 70/10, orange for 80/12, blue for 90/14, and purple for 100/16. I can tell what size needle is in my machine without taking w w w. t h r e a d s m a g a z i n e . c o m

the needle out of the machine or trying to read the tiny etching on the needle. —Debbie Jean Hopkins, Sacramento, California SMO OTH S H AV E FOR FAUX FU R

When I sew faux fur, I trim the seam allowance with a razor before stitching. To guide me in making sure I don’t shave too wide an allowance, I mark the desired seam allowance width on the razor itself. I mark it with a permanent marker or, if the razor is too dark, I apply a piece of masking tape. It takes the guesswork out of getting the right amount trimmed and makes sewing the seams so much easier. —Mariana Bendinelli, Hidden Valley Lake, California U N STI C K A ZI PPER S L I D ER

I had a zipper caught on a garment made of sheer fabric and was afraid to pull the zipper slider or the fabric, because it might leave a hole in the garment. I also did not want to break the zipper slider because I would have to replace the slider or entire zipper. I applied a bit of Sewers Aid, a nonstaining lubricant for hand and machine sewing, on both sides of the fabric where it was caught in the zipper, and the zipper slid down easily. I first tested the product on a fabric scrap and then washed out the residue to be sure the lubricant wouldn’t stain the garment. —Margrete Olsen, West Hartford, Connecticut P I N N I NG AT TH E I RON I NG B OAR D

I press as I sew, and I often use the ironing board as a worksurface. When pinning, I found that I often pinned through the project’s fabric and into the board cover. To solve this problem, I slip sections cut from a thin, flexible plastic cutting board between the fabric and the ironing board cover. I divided one board into a square and a wide strip; I can slide the strip under the work or between layers to isolate what

I’m pinning. I don’t have to pick up the work, which might distort it, until I’ve got the next seam securely pinned and ready to move to the sewing machine. —Stephanie Mascis, Seattle, Washington L EAR N AN D S H AR E, PART 1

I thought Carolyn Thomas’ tip (Threads no. 184, April/May 2016) about learning a new sewing technique was good. Carolyn deconstructs a thrift-store garment that has the technique she would like to learn. I would like to add to that. After she has studied the construction, she could rebuild the garment and return it to the thrift store or give it away. She then has a chance to practice the new method, making sure she’s understood it correctly, and the garment doesn’t go to waste! —Marsha Jewell, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada L EAR N AN D S H AR E, PART 2

I usually make a muslin before I embark on cutting into my good fabric. But I like to make the garment in its entirety, so I can see how it will fit with closures, collars, pockets, and other details. I also like to practice the construction sequence, and find ways to streamline the process. I buy inexpensive fabric similar in weight and hand to the fashion fabric I intend to use for the final garment, and use it for my “practice run.” I try the garment on, note the adjustments I want to make, and mark them on the pattern. The test garment, which is much more than a muslin, then goes to the local women’s shelter. I get the benefit of a thorough run-through, and someone else gets a new garment. —Edera Braidwood, Loudon, Tennessee PAT TER N PAPER ROL L HOLDER

I’m always tracing patterns in various sizes, and I like to use medical examiningtable paper. But it’s annoying to wrestle with the paper rolls and to cut the right length for each pattern piece I want to AU G U ST/ S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 6



trace. I found the perfect solution: the Måla tabletop paper holder from IKEA. It costs about $8 and holds a roll of 18-inch-wide examining table paper, which can be easily pulled off to just the right length for use. —Paula Van Brink, Woodland Hills, California L AB E L PATTE R N P I EC ES Q U I C K LY

When I purchase a new pattern, I trace the pattern in the size I need. It is timeconsuming to write the pattern company name, pattern number and piece number, size traced, and cup size (if it is a pattern with different pieces for each cup size), on each pattern piece. So I set up mailing labels on my computer. I type one label with the constant information, such as pattern number and size, and then copy and paste this information on enough labels for all the pattern pieces plus one extra for the resealable bag where I store the traced pattern. Then I add the pattern piece name to the labels, and print them. I stick the labels on the corresponding traced pattern pieces. It saves writing the same information multiple times. —Anita McDonald, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada GE T A GR I P WITH G LOV ES

If you have difficulty holding onto your needle when hand sewing, try wearing a vinyl or latex exam glove. I often use a glove instead of a thimble. If you puncture one of the glove fingers, the remaining fingers can be salvaged by cutting them off for later use as grippers. Gloves also work wonders if you are handling fabrics that snag on rough or dry skin. —Denise Hanna, Columbus, Texas HAN D S - F R E E H E LP S ET TI N G S N A PS

I was installing Babyville snaps on a very large and awkward project I was making for my granddaughter. Positioning the snaps correctly was proving to be almost impossible, as they were in hard-to-reach 16


areas. To be set correctly, they had to be adjusted in the plier-type setting tool that was used to put them on. Trying to look at both sides to make sure each piece was properly lined up, while holding a ton of fabric out of the way with one hand and the pliers with the other, was very challenging. After ruining about seven snaps, I came up with the idea to use a peel-andstick fabric fusible tape (or double-sided tape) on each side of the snap to temporarily hold the pieces in place while I achieved the correct position. It worked great, and I didn’t ruin any more snaps. —Pamela Hess, Wesley Chapel, Florida PAT TER N FL AT TEN I NG

When I’ve finished cutting out a pattern, I store the tissue pattern pieces under my large cutting mat. I can easily consult the pattern pieces while sewing the garment, and when the garment is done, the paper is nicely flattened and smooth, which makes it much easier to fold the pieces to store in the pattern envelope. —Meg Brown, Verona, New Jersey

PRIZE FOR BEST TIP Do you have a good sewing tip? Send it in, and we’ll pay you if we publish it. We’ll also select the best tip in each issue, and the winner will receive a gift package of The Taunton Press products shown above. (You can see our full line of fiber arts books and DVDs at

This issue’s winner receives: ■


I recently acquired a piece of bouclé fabric and embarked on the challenge of making a Chanel-style jacket. My research in back issues of Threads suggested that the main problem would be controlling seam allowance fraying—what Susan Khalje calls the “woolly mammoth” effect. After thread-tracing around the pattern pieces (without seam allowances), I applied blue painter’s tape outside the basted marks, taking care to smooth the fabric to avoid bunching under the tape. I then cut the pieces either down the middle of or outside the tape. This has worked well for me so far, although the tape can be difficult to remove from the fabric. Since it is placed only in the seam allowances, any marring from removal does not show, and it has really prevented a “woolly mammoth” from developing. —Susan Cross, Tallahassee, Florida

Sewing Essentials: Serger Techniques, by Pamela Leggett. If you own a serger or are contemplating getting one, then you’ll want to learn all the techniques, tips, and tricks for mastering this specialized sewing machine. This instructional guidebook and DVD workshop combo provides you with the knowhow for getting the most out of your serger. ($26.95) Create a Master Bodice Pattern with Sarah Veblen. Fitting expert Sarah Veblen offers an innovative approach to personalizing a basic bodice pattern. She walks you through the process in detail, so you can learn to fit anyone, of any body type. Once you’ve made a master bodice pattern, you can use it as the basis for countless new, flattering designs of your choosing. ($74.95) How to Sew a Travel Wardrobe with Sandra Miller. Learn to create a stylish capsule wardrobe for your next adventure. Sewing professional Sandra Miller helps you plan and sew a suitcase full of mix-and-match separates that will keep you well-dressed no matter where your journey takes you. She explains how to select the best fabrics and patterns for versatility, comfort, and easy care. ($59.95)

Photos: Mike Yamin.



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Au g u st/ S e p t e m b e r 2 0 1 6


notions Sticky measuring tape


he Colonial Needle Company’s Handy Tape II is a self-adhesive, repositionable measuring and marking tool designed to make measuring easier in situations where two hands aren’t enough. The film-backed tape is printed with inch, centimeter, and millimeter markings in a 12-inch repeat on a 25-foot-long roll. A ¼-inch-wide guideline is printed along one edge of the ¾-inch-wide tape, to assist in marking and measuring hems and seam allowances. The tape also is ideal for measuring odd-shaped objects. (; $7.49)

Longarm machine for beginners


or sewers interested in taking up longarm quilting, Baby Lock offers its space- and budget-friendly Coronet 16-inch longarm quilting machine. The 5-foot, freestanding frame provides 14 inches by 48 inches of stitching space, with 16 inches by 8¼ inches of throat space to accommodate quilts. The highgrade steel frame is height adjustable from 33 inches to 44 inches, and the machine has a durable, cast aluminum body. Other features include a speed of up to 1,800 stitches per minute, a built-in stitch regulator, an LED light ring illuminating the quilting area, ¼-inch interchangeable hopping and open-toe feet, a laser light stylus for following quilting designs, and a manual stitch mode with two custom preset speeds. (; $5,999.99) 18



Free-motion feet


ree-motion stitch around rulers and templates on a home sewing machine with Sew Steady’s Domestic Ruler Foot. The stainless steel ruler feet are designed to “float” just above the fabric and enable the sewer to follow the edge of a template or ruler while free-motion stitching. The manufacturer offers ruler feet in four styles and two thicknesses, based on shank height, to fit more than 3,000 different sewing machine models. The Domestic Ruler Foot comes in a set with a 12-inch arc template to guide stitching inside and outside curves, and with self-adhesive Stable Tape to keep the template in place. (; $55.00)

Low shank

High shank


Vintage style, modern dressmaking If you love retro style, check out the new sewing book by Gretchen Hirsch. Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book: A Modern Guide to Sewing Fabulous Vintage Styles (STC Craft, 2016) is a comprehensive reference to dressmaking techniques and a pattern book in one 236-page, spiral-bound hardcover package. The book’s first half teaches a solid range of skills such as dress construction, finishing details, fitting, and working with special fabrics. The second half offers patterns and instructions for 23 vintage-style dresses designed by Gretchen for day, night, and special events. Patterns are printed on separate pattern sheets in an envelope at the back of the book. The pattern pieces are also interchangeable; any bodice can go on any skirt, and collars, sleeves, etc., are mix-and-match so you can create even more than the 23 designs provided. (; $35.00)

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Lightweight, lofty batting


reated to resist shrinking, shifting, and escaping through a project’s outer fabric (a.k.a. “bearding”), Select Soft Wool batting from Quilters Select by Floriani with Alex Anderson is also lightweight, breathable, and insulating. The wool batting’s lofty fibers contribute warmth and moisture-wicking properties to quilts and other projects so they remain cozy in cold conditions and breathe in warm conditions. Previously, Select Soft Wool batting came in a 96-inch width, but the manufacturer is phasing out this size in favor of a 120-inch width to align better with standard bed and quilt sizes. (; $28.99 per yard)

Foldaway rulers

C Anti-calcium iron


he T-fal Powerglide steam iron features an easyto-use, removable calcium collector to extract calcium deposits left by tap water. In addition, the iron has an enameled ceramic soleplate with a durable two-layer coating for ease in gliding over fabrics, as well as even heat and steam diffusion. The Powerglide iron is designed with many active steam holes to deliver 50 percent more steam throughout its soleplate, including at the tip and along the center. Its steam burst button is positioned ergonomically under the handle, and the steam function performs vertically for use on hanging garments. The iron has a pointed precision tip, an extralarge water inlet for easier reservoir filling, and an auto-off warning light. (; $44.99)



Photos: (p. 18, top; p. 19, book images) Mike Yamin; all others, courtesy of the manufacturers.

lear plastic Folding Rulers by Fiskars come in two sizes and are designed to help maximize storage space. Made from 3-mm-thick clear acrylic, the rulers have precise line intersections and two-tone markings for improved visibility. The 8-inch-square ruler folds diagonally into a triangle. The 6-inchwide by 24-inch-long ruler (shown) has 30-, 45-, and 60-degreeangle lines. It folds along two “hinges” to a 6-inch-by-8-inch size. (; $16.99 and $24.99, respectively)

The Smuggler’s Daughter


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Fabric • Buttons • Patterns


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Textile links Interlocked fabric or ribbon strips creates a bold trim


any children fold and weave gum wrappers into zigzag chains for bracelets, and you can find handbags, wallets, and other items made in the same way in trendy shops. You can translate this clever weaving technique into an embellishment using ribbon or fabric strips. These simple woven chains can be used as applied trims, edgings, or insertions. Create a single zigzag chain, or link two or more chains into a wider woven band. When joining two or more chains, the edges may nestle together for a basket-weave effect, or the peaks of the zigzags can be butted, leaving open areas between the chains that resemble geometric cutwork. In the dress at right, two chains were nestled together, embellished with beads, and added as an overlay between bodice panels. The best materials are ribbons that have prefinished edges. Choose crisp, lightweight ribbons that hold creases well, such as rayon seam binding, or satin or organza ribbon. Lightweight, stiff fabrics cut or torn into strips are also an excellent choice, although the edges will ravel. Using nonraveling fabrics, or cutting a manmade fiber with a hot knife to melt and seal the edges are easy ways to control raveling. Alternatively, you can make slightly frayed edges a part of your design concept, as shown at right. Anna Mazur is a couture sewer, handbag designer, and innovative embellisher living in Avon, Connecticut. Two nested zigzag chains create a dramatic trim. Use fabric strips with frayed edges for extra texture. Pattern: Marfy 3786. Fabric: plum silk corduroy,



Calculate yardage

Weave a chain

The amount of ribbon or fabric required for a woven chain depends primarily on the strip width. Wider ribbon or fabric strips require fewer links to create a chain in a specified length, while narrower ribbon or fabric strips require more links for a chain of the same length.

This technique goes faster if you set up an assembly-line system for cutting, folding, and pressing the ribbon or fabric strips. Use pins to hold strips in place while pressing. The strips shown are 1⁄2 inch to 5⁄8 inch wide and 7 inches long.


To determine how much ribbon or fabric you need, make a sample from 1 yard of ribbon or one cross-grain fabric strip torn in the desired width. Once all the links created by the ribbon or fabric are joined into a chain, measure its length. Generally, each link strip should be cut eight to nine times longer than its width. For example, if the ribbon or fabric strip is 3 ⁄4 inch wide, the strips should be 6 inches to 7 inches long.

CUT AND PRESS THE LINKS To make fabric strips with wispy edges, clip the fabric at intervals of the desired width and tear across the grain at each clip. Tear as many strips as needed. Remove stray threads from the edges. If you’re using ribbon, cut the length needed to complete the project.



Here’s a simple formula to help you calculate roughly how many link strips 1 yard of ribbon yields: 36 ÷ (ribbon width x 8) = number of link strips For fabric strips (torn on the cross-grain): (Fabric width) ÷ (strip width x 8) = number of link strips per full fabric strip


You can make the links wider or narrower and longer or shorter than described in this general guide. You must allow for the fabric or ribbon turn of cloth for the desired effect. If the fabric or ribbon is thick, the strips may need to be cut longer. If you want frayed edges to have room to “breathe,” the strips are longer. For example, the strips used to form the chain embellishment on the dress at left were 1⁄2 inch to 5⁄8 inch wide by 7 inches long. The whole embellishment required 72 inches of woven chain. That is more than the formula, in this case to avoid crushing the fabric strips’ frayed edges.

Press the long fabric strips or ribbons to smooth the fibers and remove creases. Cut each strip into shorter strips, to the length you determined when testing. For faster cutting, make a template from cardstock.


Fold a strip in half, short ends aligned, wrong sides together. Press the fold. Open the strip and fold each short end to meet the first fold; press. Fold in half again. This “link” has a single-fold end, two “legs,” and a double-fold end.


Fold in half.

Open, then fold the ends to the center.

web extra

To learn how author Anna Mazur adapted Marfy 3786 for the woven-chain insertion, visit

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Fold in half again.

AU G U ST/ S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 6




WEAVE STRIPS Pick up two links. Hold link A in your left hand by the double-fold end and link B in your right hand by the single-fold end. Slide B’s legs through the folds of A’s legs. Snug their single-fold ends together; this creates a right angle. Secure the links with a pin if necessary.


Slide C’s legs up through the folds of B’s legs, snugging them together as before. This creates two opposing right angles.


Single-fold ends Double-fold end





Slide D’s legs down through the folds of C’s legs to continue the zigzag shape. Continue with all the remaining links, snugging them together and pinning to secure them as before. If the chain suddenly forms a square, a link has been inserted in the incorrect direction. Weave as many chains as necessary for the intended embellishment.


JOIN CHAINS To join two chains for a basket-weave effect, nestle the zigzagged edges together. Use a blunt tapestry needle and a thread that blends with the fabric to secure the links together. Pass the needle through the fabric folds, zigzagging from chain to chain.







To join two chains for an openwork effect, align the zigzag points, butting them together. Tack the points together with tiny stitches. If desired, accent the joined points and the free zigzag edges with beads.




Photos: (p. 22; p. 25, bottom left) Jack Deutsch; all others, Mike Yamin. Stylist: Jessica Saal. Hair and makeup: Styling credits: earrings—

Single-fold end

Double-fold ends

Support the trim Whether the links are made from fabric strips or ribbons, permanently stitching them together and to the garment makes the embellishment more durable. You can use a sheer or opaque fabric underlay, or the garment itself, to stabilize the chains. Hand-baste the chains to the underlay (or garment) as desired. Then, sew the chains in place by hand using tiny fell stitches hidden under the links. Alternatively, sew the chains in place by machine, catching just the zigzag points in the stitches.


Hand-baste the links to the fabric underlay . . .

Permanently secure the links together and to the underlay. Sew a tiny stitch in the center of each square through all layers; use thread that matches the link color. For extra decoration, add a seed bead or crystal to each stitch.


. . . then hand fell-stitch or machine-sew (shown) across the zigzag points.

CREATIVE WEAVING IDEAS Rainbow-colored organza fabric torn into frayed-edge strips creates a playful aesthetic.

• Create a lacy effect by butting the points of two chains together and stitching a bead at each point along one edge. • Use a single color throughout. • Use a single color and mix in a random accent color or place the accent color strategically to form a pattern. • Combine different colors throughout: Two colors can create a checkerboard effect; three or more colors can create a repeat or be used in random combinations. • Manipulate a rainbow-effect fabric, as was done for the dress at left. • Use printed fabrics for a kaleidoscopic effect.

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Install a Folded Nylon-Coil Zipper

Free Project and Pattern: Mobile Phone Wallet

In this new Threads Essential Techniques video, we demonstrate something unique about nylon-coil zipper teeth: They work in either direction. This folded-zipper technique is useful in bag and garment applications.

Learn how to upcycle jeans into a cell phone wallet from Threads author Dana Finkle. This handy carrier has plenty of room for holding cash, credit cards, and a mobile phone. It even features a zippered pocket to carry change or other items you’d like to store securely.

Fold one side of the zipper to make a clever purse closure. When the zipper is folded, its teeth still interlock.

Your necessities are safe and handy in this easy-to-sew accessory.

All-New Videos from Louise Cutting! Industry Insider Techniques, Vol. 6 has just become part of Insider access. Now members can watch the newest videos in this popular series. In these installments, sewing instructor and Threads contributing editor Louise Cutting shares 19 industry secrets, including how to match prints across shoulder seams, sew and place vertical buttonholes, and line an unlined jacket. To watch these videos and past volumes of Industry Insider Techniques, log in or become a member at With a Threads Insider Membership you get access to:

• 80-plus sewing tips and techniques • Tablet editions and digital issues • Our exclusive Threads Insider pattern database

• Exclusive downloads of our popular articles

• Special member discounts and more! Follow along as Louise Cutting shares professional sewing solutions.

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The Threads Annual Index can be found at

Photos: (top right) Dana Finkle; all others, Gary Junken.


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Au g u st/ S e p t e m b e r 2 0 1 6




Smoothly shaped edges Inventive pressing tips for tight places


haped edges enhance a simple garment wherever you place them: at the hem, on the collar, or along a center front. The secret to a successful shaped edge is in the pressing—specifically, how you trim the seam allowances and press them open. The example shown below and on the back cover has three-lobed shapes that resist standard pressing techniques. You want the rounded sectors to have fluid, graceful curves, free of angles and lumps. Perfecting these edges isn’t difficult. In fact, there’s a foolproof procedure for excellent results. Judy Neukam explores alternatives to traditional sewing techniques in her studio in Omaha, Nebraska.

Wooden cooking implements and large beads make handy pressing tools. Use a muslin sample of your garment to test the objects’ shapes and sizes.

Vintage jacket detail

web extra

To see a video on pressing shaped edges, visit



Test thread and stitches Use a fine, strong thread and stitches that are short enough to make smooth curves but long enough to let the edge flex.

Grade the seam allowances Make one seam allowance 1⁄8 inch wide and the other 3 ⁄16 inch wide. Narrow allowances don’t always need to be clipped, but if you must clip, stagger the clips so one side buffers the other.

Graded seam allowances

Staggered clips

Press the seam allowances open You can press with the tip of a standard iron, with a mini iron, or with steam and finger pressing. Always use a press cloth. To support small, curved shapes during pressing, you need to invent pressing tools. Try items like those shown on the facing page and listed below.

Cover the work with a press cloth, and press the edge over a wooden bead.

Spoons: Look for wooden or metal ones with the same curve as the edge. Dowels or wooden spoon handles: These reach into long and narrow places. Beads: Drop them into the shape and press and roll them to open the seam allowances smoothly.

Photos: (p. 28, bottom right) Jack Deutsch; all others, Mike Yamin.

Manage thick fabrics carefully Bevel the seam allowances by holding the scissors at an angle when trimming. If needed, catchstitch or fuse the seam allowances open after pressing.

Complete the fInal press Turn the edge right side out. Center the seam along the edge so the opposite side does not show. Press it flat on a padded surface; the padding helps prevent ridges.


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Marfy 3786, dress (

Combine fabulous fabrics and trim in this slim-fitting, knee-length dress. It has a

three-piece front bodice, an angled waist seam, and loose tucks on the skirt front. The

V-shaped bodice panel is intended for a sheer fabric. The one-piece dress back has waist darts and a center zipper. The fashion illustration shows front bodice darts, but they are

not on the pattern. The bust shaping is achieved through the bodice panel seams. Marfy patterns come without instructions, or seam or hem allowances, but this design is easy

to sew. Marfy recommends “masculine” fabric, such as tweed or wool suiting, juxtaposed with silk organza or chiffon for the bodice panel, and a substantial trim. (Sized European 42-48 for busts 34.5-39.5 in. and hips 34.5-41 in.) ▲ —Tested by Jenny Freedman, Soquel, California

STYLE TIP: If a sheer bodice panel isn’t

your preference, use an opaque silk instead.

McCall’s 7328, pants (

Check out these wide-legged, pull-on lounging pants for around the house or at the

beach. On three of the four views, the left pant leg is oversized, and the excess width

wraps from the back, over the left front to past center front at the waistline. The overlap is sewn into the waistline seam, and there is a right side-seam pocket only. The fourth view offers symmetrical pant legs and side-seam pockets. Details include a separate elastic waistband casing and machine-stitched hems. Make these in cotton gauze, challis, crepe de Chine, lawn, stretch velvet, or lightweight fleece. (Sized Misses’ XS-XXL [4-26] for hips 31.5-50 in.) ✚ ●

Marfy 3786 in woolblend tweed and lace trim from Mood Designer Fabrics, New York.

—Tested by Alania Sheeley, Pegram, Tennessee Steven Fleck T186_PA_2 M7328 View A+B

360° Threads Insider and tablet exclusive



Steven Fleck T186_PA_2 M7328 View C

SEWING TIP: To add depth to the wrap detail, make view C with a darker contrast fabric for the left front.

Photos: Jack Deutsch. Illustrations: Steven Fleck. Stylist: Jessica Saal. Styling credits: (p. 30) bracelets—stylist’s own, shoes—Ivanka Trump(; (p. 31) clutch—Kate Spade (, shoes—Seychelles (

Steven Fleck T186_PA_7 Marfy 3786

Steven Fleck T186_PA_2 M7328 View D

LOOK FOR THESE ICONS ON THE PATTERN REVIEWS ■ Petite options ✚ Includes sizes 24 and up ● Fast and easy

▲ Challenging techniques

★ For knits

Downloadable pattern

Every pattern shown has been sewn and evaluated. We keep a close watch on fashion trends and select patterns that reflect the latest looks. Each one is then sent to a talented tester, who sews it in muslin to evaluate the proportions, style, and pattern instructions. —Compiled by Anna Mazur

New Look 6394, shirts (

The mix-and-match details on this versatile blouse pattern are fun to contemplate.

The five views offer two lengths and have bust darts, curved hemlines, and a pleated

or darted back. The neckline choices are a convertible collar finished with neckline and

front facings, or a band collar with a self-faced front placket. This pattern is suitable for cotton, cotton blends, tissue linen, linen blends, and synthetic fabrics with drape and a comfortable hand. (Sized Misses’ 8-18 for busts 31.5-40 in.) ● Steven Fleck —Tested by Sandy Hulshizer, Georgetown, Texas T186_PA_5

Steven Fleck T186_PA_5 New Look A6394 View C

Steven Fleck T186_PA_5 New Look A6394 View B

New Look A6394 View A

Steven Fleck T186_PA_5 New Look A6394 View E

Steven Fleck T186_PA_5 New Look A6394 View D


Understitch the collar edges to maintain a sharp periphery.

Fashion Patterns by Coni: CS1501 Skirt Master Patterns ( Sewing expert Connie Crawford knows sewers look for design options. This pattern is all you need to suit many body types. Each style is finished with a waistband and a lapped centerback zipper, but finishing details are open to interpretation. The instructions explain how

slopers are a starting point for design. Our tester noted that the waistband pieces are marked incorrectly. The center-front and center-back labels are switched. On-trend materials include Steven Fleck

T184_PA_4_second draft brocade or denim for straight skirts; cotton prints or challis for A-line or circular views. May 10th, 2016

Steven Fleck T184_PA_4_second draft May 10th, 2016

Steven Fleck

T184_PA_4_second draft ●10th, 2016 (Sized Misses’ 6-20 and Women’s 1X to Steven6X Fleck for waists 29-65 in. and hips 34-76 in.) ✚May T184_PA_4_Second draft

May 10th, 2016 —Tested by Norma Bucko, Danbury, Connecticut

New Look 6394 in cotton twill; CS1501 skirt in metallic jacquard from Mood Designer Fabrics, New York.

SEWING TIP: Fit your skirt sloper, then trace it onto durable oak tag CS1501 View B

CS1501 View D

or manila paper for future use.

CS1501 View A

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CS1501 View C

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pattern review c o n t i n u e d Ralph Pink: Ariani Dress (

This bias-cut, sleeveless dress has a band collar, self-lined flounces edging the neckline and the front armscyes, and a center-back zipper. Check the layout diagram carefully, as our

seamstress found errors. The seam allowance information is not in the instructions; it is

below the cutting key on the pattern. Our tester realized that a side-seam notch, a helpful match point on a bias seam, is missing on the lower back pattern piece. The armhole and

neckline flounces are inserted between the shoulder seams. However, the neckline flounce extends beyond the shoulder, making it impossible to add the armhole facing. It is best to sew the flounce shoulder seams separately, then tack the flounce to the shoulder seams

(Sized 0-12 [4-16 UK] for finished busts 32-42 in. and hips 34.5-44.5 in.) —Tested by Janith Bergeron, Barrington, New Hampshire

Steven Fleck T186_PA_1 Ralph Pink Ariani Dress

SEWING TIP: If you want the

grain to form a chevron at center back, flip over one back pattern piece.

Vogue 9157, jacket (

Consider this wardrobe staple: a classic double-breasted, lined coat in two lengths, hip or

above the knee, and convenient separate upper front pattern pieces for bust cup sizes A, B, C, and D. The style has a shaped collar band with a hook-and-eye closure, two-piece raglan sleeves, front princess seams into the neckline, a raised waistline seam, back princess and center-back seams, and statement buttons. Optional details include a curved collar, and a

detachable partial belt at center back. The sewing difficulty is moderate, but a beginner can certainly tackle this design with the guidance of a more experienced sewer. Melton, tweed, and gabardine are obvious fabric choices for this classic look. Steven Fleck

T186_PA_6 (Sized Misses’ 6-22 [A-D cup] for bustsVogue 30.5-44 in. and hips 32.5-46 in.) Patterns V9157

View A —Tested by Sandi Barrett, Marlborough, Massachusetts

Ariani Dress in silk shantung and silk chiffon from

Steven Fleck T186_PA_6 Vogue Patterns V9157 View B

Steven Fleck T186_PA_6 Vogue Patterns V9157 View C

SEWING TIP: For crisp corners, do not pivot. Sew each side separately to the raw edge, intersecting at the seamline corner.



Photos: Jack Deutsch. Illustrations: Steven Fleck. Stylist: Jessica Saal. Styling credits: (p. 32) earrings—stylist’s own, handbag—Cynthia Rowley (, shoes—J. Reneé (; (p. 33) watch—Fossil ( bracelet—, handbag—Marc Jacobs (, shoes—Chiara Ferragni (

when the dress is completed. Linen is suggested for the dress and chiffon for the flounces.

Butterick 6286, retro suits (

This 1944 design, updated from the Butterick archives, has extended, padded

shoulders. The slim cut, however, reveals an hourglass shape. Horizontal seams

divide the jacket bodice into three sections. View A has a double collar as well as

contrasting flaps in the horizontal seams. View B has a single collar. On both views, the jacket lower front and back are shaped with vertical darts. The below-knee,

semifitted, unlined skirt is shaped with side-front seams and back darts, and closes

at the side with a lapped zipper with a shield, or a placket and snaps. The supplies list includes batting for custom-made shoulder pads, but it does not specify the type or weight. For fashion fabric, select light- to medium-weight wovens. (Sized Misses’ 8-24 for busts 31.5-46 in. and hips 33.5-48 in.) ▲ —Tested by Leslie Ashcraft, Tijeras, New Mexico Steven Fleck T186_PA_4 Butterick B6286 View A

Steven Fleck Fleck Steven T186_PA_4 T186_PA_4 Butterick Butterick B6286B6286 Skirt A Skirt A

Steven Fleck T186_PA_4 Butterick B6286 View B

SEWING TIP: For a 1940s

touch, make bound buttonholes and use vintage buttons.

Cashmerette: Washington Dress 1301 (

Designed for bust cups C through H, this is a great-fitting A-line dress. It is a pull-on style

with long sleeves, a scoop neck, knit bodice, sleeves, and yoke, and a woven skirt. It is fast and easy to assemble, so once the sizing is worked out, let your creativity take hold as you can

make many fabric and color combinations. The detailed, well-illustrated instructions come in

a booklet form. For the bodice, select a light to midweight knit such as jersey or ITY (interlock twist yarn). For the yoke, use a heavier knit such as ponte or scuba. Options for the woven

skirt include mid- to heavyweight woven fabrics. This dress will look just as great when made entirely out of a knit.

★ (bodice and waist yoke)

(Sized 12-28 [C-H cup] for busts 40-58 in. and hips 42-58 in.) ✚ ● —Tested by Margrete Olsen, West Hartford, Connecticut Steven Fleck T186_PA_3 Cashmerette Washington Dress

Butterick 6286 jacket in linen from

STYLE TIP: Look for a dressy metallic knit or underline a stretch lace to create a fantastic evening version.

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Amazing, Adaptable Linen Strength and beauty unite in this ancient fabric BY JULIANNE BRAMSON

Flax has been used to weave linen textiles for thousands of years. Harvested flax plants, and then their fibers, undergo multiple stages of processing before being spun into yarn. Flax educational kit,




inen is one of the oldest textiles in the world. Scientists have found that as early as 30,000 years ago in the modern Republic of Georgia, people made a linen-like fabric from flax fibers. Flax was domesticated and linen first produced in ancient Mesopotamia. Egypt was home to one of the earliest recorded linen industries with records dating back 4,000 years. For those thousands of years, linen fabric was valued for its durability, beauty, and comfort-enhancing properties. It has been used for outer clothing, undergarments, and bedding throughout history, and it continues to have a strong appeal for modern sewers. The term “linens” once referred to tablecloths and napkins as well as to lightweight undergarments such as shirts, chemises, lingerie (a word also derived from linen), and detachable shirt collars and cuffs—for centuries made almost exclusively of linen. Garment interiors were traditionally linen, as well, hence the word “lining.” Linen is a cellulose-based material processed from the stems of the flax plant, which yields long, fine fibers 5 inches to 21 inches long. Shorter flax fibers are called “tow.” The long, combed, better-quality flax fibers are called “line.” Line fibers can be wet-spun into yarn, while tow fibers must be carded before dry spinning into yarns.

F l a x’ s Q ua l i t i Es l E n D va lu E to Fa b r i c

Flax is one of the strongest plant-based fibers. It has a natural luster that can be increased by flattening the spun yarns with pressure during finishing. Its high natural absorbency and quick-drying characteristics lend linen fabric the cooling, moisture-wicking properties that make it the best choice for hot-weather clothing. Open-weave linens allow greater air flow and increase the cooling effect. Rayon and cotton fabrics are absorbent as well, but they do not dry as quickly, which can make them feel clammy instead of comfortable. The flax fiber’s heat conductivity is five times as high as that of wool and 19 times that of silk; it permits heat to escape quickly, enhancing the cooling effect. Linen is ideal for travel, especially to tropical climes, because of its durability and tendency to take on an appealing, softly rumpled appearance with frequent wear. Linen’s smooth, lint-free surface helps the fabric repel dirt and dust. The fabric is resistant to insects and to damage by ultraviolet rays, so it’s a good choice for curtains, upholstery, and furniture covers. Linen’s lack of elasticity makes it ideal for use as a painting canvas, embroidery foundation, or upholstery; once stretched to its limit to cover a frame, the fabric won’t stretch further or spring back over time and ruin the work. This lack of recovery after stretching is one of the factors that make it susceptible to wrinkles, however. w w w. t h r e a d s m a g a z i n e . c o m

Linen’s durability makes it a good fabric for creative experimentation. Pattern: Project 5 from Bias Cut Blueprints by Julianne Bramson and Susan Lenahan. Fabric: linen,

A vintage tablecloth’s natural-colored linen provides a beautiful and stable foundation for hand embroidery.

Linen becomes softer and more luxurious with every washing.

damp and hang it to finish drying, or iron it when damp. Linen can handle the highest setting on domestic irons, and ironing enhances its natural luster. m anY var i Eti Es to c h o os E From

Like many fabrics, linen can be damaged by mildew, perspiration, or bleach, although the fiber is more resistant to damage and deterioration caused by chlorine bleach than other fibers. Constant creasing in the same place tends to break linen threads; wear can show up in collars, hems, pleats, and any area that is creased during wear and laundering. D u r a b i l i t Y E Q ua l s E a s Y l au n D E r i n G

Always prewash linen in the same manner the finished garment will be washed to shrink the fabric and remove sizing and manufacturing residues. However, if the linen is loosely woven or the garment has interfacings that should not be washed, dry-clean instead. Linen can withstand frequent, vigorous washing at hot temperatures. It is strongest when wet and has only moderate initial shrinkage. Also, linen improves in appearance and softness with each washing. To quickly soften the fabric, throw it into the dryer with some old tennis balls. Although linen can withstand high temperatures, it becomes brittle and prone to breakage if it is overly dried. Instead of tumble-drying it, take it out of the dryer while it is still slightly 36


There are many types of linen, with different uses—even for wallpaper. Linen’s comfort, longevity, and ease of laundering contribute to a well-earned reputation for use in high-quality and luxury garments. It can be manufactured into woven and knitted fabrics. Linen comes in a variety of weights, from sheer to heavyweight—gauze to upholstery. I prefer the lightest weight of 2.8 ounces to 3.5 ounces per square yard, often referred to as handkerchief or blouse weight, for blouses and dresses. Lightweight linen can be sheer in light colors. Medium-weight fabric is 5 ounces to 7 ounces per square yard, is often referred to as middle weight, and is great for lightweight jackets and pants. Heavier-weight fabrics that are more than 7 ounces per square yard are best for more structured garments such as jackets, coats, handbags, and for home decorating. High thread-count, plain-weave, and jacquard-weave fabrics are best for table linens, while looser, plain-weave and twillweave fabrics are best for garments. Linen knit, mostly available in blends and in very light weights, is used by fine clothiers for exceptionally comfortable casualwear for warm weather. This includes knit tops, shirts, and dresses. Unless a stretch fiber (such as Lycra) is blended, however, linen knit has poor stretch recovery; take care to avoid stretching out your favorite linen knit T-shirt.

Gauze weight

Handkerchief weight

Medium weight

Heavy weight

shop p i n G Fo r li n En

or slubs in its weave. Typically, high-priced, Nowadays, most shops that carry garfinely woven linen fabrics used for home ment-appropriate fabrics also stock linen décor have few slubs, if any, in their weaves. However, most linen fabrics used for garin various garment weights. Because quality can vary, buy linen from a merments exhibit some slubs. Some fabrics are chant/retailer you trust. more slubbed than others, but slubs should When shopping in a brick-and-mortar not be considered an indicator of poor qualstore, evaluate the fabric’s hand, drape, ity, as they don’t compromise the fabric’s and body. Remember that, when washed, integrity. They are often considered part it becomes softer and looser. The softer of the aesthetic appeal of a natural product. Slubs are more likely to be a sign that the fabric is on the bolt, the better it works in a garment. Smoother fabrics give the flax fibers were cut shorter in order to a refined look while more textured fabrics process them with equipment designed to Some linen fabrics exhibit slubs in their give a rustic appearance. process cotton, which is less expensive. weaves. Slubs are not necessarily an The most important indicators of linen Most online fabric stores list the indicator of poor quality. quality are a smooth, low-lint surface and fabric’s weight and its suitable uses in the product description. When possible, lustrous yarns that seem to glow from within. These are characteristics of linen that will continue to magnify the fabric swatch image online and look closely at the soften over time without damage and wear like iron for decades. fabric’s surface to evaluate the weave. One of my favorite online sources for linen is; it’s a great place to look Investing in high-quality linen will pay you back with years of comfortable, stylish wear. at many linen weights and styles. Visible lint indicates a blend or a lower-quality linen yarn. Request a swatch before a large purchase, and when in doubt, s Ewi nG m Eth oD s : th E bas ic s order a half-yard cut and wash it to see how it performs. Linen garments are best constructed on a sewing machine, Due to the nature of the flax fiber and the various ways it although seams may be finished on a serger. Linen is an easy can be processed, linen fabric often has small irregularities fabric to sew, press, and work with, but depending on the weave, it may require careful seam finishing. For centuries, linen was used for undergarments and clothing accessories, such as these reproduction 18th-century pockets.


Linen can handle the highest iron heat setting. The fabric is strongest when wet, so don’t let it get too dry. Linen presses best with steam and high heat. Seam finishes

Linen frays when cut, whether it has a tight or loose weave. On tightly woven linen, a pinked edge may be sufficient, but other linen weaves require a different seam finish. It’s best to finish linen seams so that the raw edge is encased, AU G U ST/ S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 6


Purposely wrinkle linen and create three-dimensional texture . . . . . . by wrapping the fabric around buttons and crumpling it before allowing it to dry.

Wash and dry linen several times with towels or jeans to soften the fibers and create a rumpled look.

especially on the straight grain, which frays easily. My favorite seam finishes are a French seam, a serged three-thread overlock, or Hong Kong binding. Get c r eative with l i n e n

There are many ways to enhance linen’s natural beauty. You can soften it for a casual aesthetic and reduced wrinkling, add surface designs, and even take advantage of its tendency to wrinkle to create textural interest. Soften for reduced wrinkles

There is no way to prevent linen from wrinkling altogether, but you can get it to wrinkle less, which gives the fabric a soft, relaxed look. Wash and tumble-dry linen two to three times with towels or jeans to soften the fibers. While crisp linen has an undeniably sharp aesthetic, a linen shirt looks best if it is not too pressed. My stylist friend and fellow Threads author, Ruth Ciemnoczolowski, has an industry trick for a great-looking linen shirt: Iron the shirt perfectly, then toss it in the dryer for five minutes. I think this also reduces its tendency to develop deep wrinkles during wear.

usually a stable, plain weave and the smooth fibers allow the fabric to shape to the body when placed on the bias. When purchasing linen for a bias-cut garment, choose lightor medium-weight, loosely woven, soft fabrics. If you can see light through the linen, the weave is loose enough to use for bias garments. A looser weave allows the warp and weft threads to move against each other. Crisp, tightly woven linens don’t drape well on the bias. To enhance linen’s bias drape, soften the fabric by washing and then machine-drying with several tennis balls. Check the fabric surface after each laundering. If it starts looking rougher or the slubs are more pronounced, the fabric is as soft as it is going to get before it starts to be damaged by heavy laundering. After the garment is constructed, launder it gently and remove it from the dryer while still slightly damp, and hang it to dry. Em b r ac e th e wr i n k l es

Linen’s smooth, lint-free surface makes it ideal for showcasing stenciled, silk-screened, or painted work. Linen’s absorbency makes it easy to dye as well. Fiber-reactive dyes give the best results, with vibrant colors and minimal fading.

You can use linen’s wrinkling to artistic advantage by manipulating it for a sculptural mushroom or “crumpled paper” look. This technique uses buttons, vinegar, and rubber bands to force the fabric into high textural relief. It works best with lightweight linen with body (enough to support the texture). Crumple the fabric in your hand; if it leaves hard wrinkles, then it can support this technique. You can combine it with simple crumpling, even on the same fabric cut. This is a great texture for linen skirts, blouses, dresses, and tunics.

Explo r e b ias- c ut ga rm e nts

Wrap buttons

Linen is a fantastic choice for bias-cut garments, because it’s

Use round, flat plastic buttons, from 1/2 inch to 11/2 inches in

Add surface designs



Photos: (p. 35; p. 36, right; p. 39, right) Jack Deutsch; all others, Mike Yamin. Stylist: Jessica Saal. Hair and makeup: Styling credits: (p. 35) earrings—stylist’s own, bracelets—, jeans—; (pp. 36 and 39) earrings—stylist’s own.

Linen is a classic canvas for printing and painting.

Softened linen easily shapes to the body, making it an excellent choice for bias-cut garments. Patterns: Project 6, FunnelCollar Blouse, and Project 1, Bias-Tube Skirt (with godets), from Bias Cut Blueprints by Julianne Bramson and Susan Lenahan. Fabrics: top,; skirt,

diameter, with smooth edges (sharp edges may damage the fabric). If the fabric is a light color, use light-colored buttons to prevent transferring dye from the buttons to the fabric. Wrap sections of slightly damp fabric over the buttons, and secure with rubber bands. Space the buttons as you like. Crumple

Lay the fabric on a flat, smooth surface and wet it with a mixture of one-quarter vinegar to three-quarters water. Scrunch the loose fabric with your hands, keeping the crumpled folds even. If the fabric will not stay crumpled when released, dampen it more. Continue until the entire piece is evenly crumpled. Wrap the crumpled fabric with rubber bands. Dry

Place the bundled fabric in a warm location, such as near a heater vent, and let it dry completely. Untie and enjoy

Remove the rubber bands and buttons. As you wear the garment, the texture will loosen over time. Your body heat, moisture, and gravity will pull out the wrinkles and threedimensional “mushrooms.� Washing the garment also releases the textures. You can retie and recrumple after washing and even choose a different effect. Julianne Bramson is owner/designer for Fashion In Harmony Patterns and coauthor of Bias Cut Blueprints (Fashion In Harmony, 2014). She holds a degree in home economics from California State University, Sacramento. w w w. t h r e a d s m a g a z i n e . c o m

Very narrow piping creates a fine edge on collars and hems, and it helps define garment style lines. Pattern: Simplicity sewstylish 1699. Fabric: Sea Island cotton (black); cotton jacquard (white); 1 and â „16-inch gingham cotton, all

Diminutive Details

Discover sophistication in youthful embellishments bY Vau n e P i e r c e




elicate details from heirloom sewing, while used most often for special children’s clothes, can look stylish and sophisticated on women’s garments. Daintily proportioned bias bindings, petite piping, and miniature rickrack are some of the elements used when sewing clothes for children and infants that translate beautifully to grown-up blouses, dresses, sleepwear, and more. At about half the scale of standard piping, binding, and rickrack, the miniature versions offer refined embellishments for edges and seams. Working such fine details also conveys a sense of artisanship because of the care

and skill necessary to incorporate them into garments. For petite piping and tiny bias binding, use finely woven, lightweight fabrics. These small-scale details are ideally suited to very small fabric prints, such as tiny gingham or geometrics, miniature polka dots or flowers, or narrow stripes. Follow along and learn a few heirloom sewing techniques that can add subtle sophistication to your garments. Vaune Pierce teaches smocking, embroidery, and heirloom sewing techniques for children’s and adult’s garments.

Petite piping What I call “petite piping” is a narrow variation on standard piping. It’s refined and dainty and adds subtle detail to edges and seams, as shown in the peplum top at left. Use it to add understated interest and a bit of body to garment hems, collar edges, or any seamline. You’ll need an 1⁄8-inch-circumference filler cord. If you choose an all-cotton cord, make sure to preshrink it before using it as piping filler.

make the PiPing


Calculate the bias strip width. Use this equation: (2 x seam allowance) + cord circumference = bias strip width. To cover a 1 ⁄8-inch-circumference cord and have two 5⁄8-inch seam allowances, the equation looks like this: (2 x 5⁄8) + 1⁄8 = 13⁄8 inches.

Cut the strips. When cutting, pay attention to the fabric print or pattern: Center the print on the bias strips so that when the fabric is folded around the cord, the print is displayed.


Prints and patterns are centered.

Use a cording or pintuck presser foot on your sewing machine. It should have a groove that fits the cording size when wrapped in the piping fabric; the groove can be larger than the cord. A five-groove pin-tuck foot (shown) works well for 1⁄8-inchcircumference cording. Play with the presser foot and cord with a fabric scrap wrapped around it to determine the groove that fits best.


web extra

For video tips on getting great results with piping, and for more details on the garments shown, visit

A five-groove pin-tuck foot assists in sewing corded piping. continued

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au g u st/ s E p t E m B E r 2 0 1 6

▸ ▸ ▸


Test the machine needle position. Assembling and attaching the piping requires three stitching rows, each positioned a bit differently. The first secures the cord inside the bias strip. The second attaches the piping to the first garment section and runs closer to the cord than the first stitching line. The third stitching line joins the second garment section to the first garment section and runs alongside the cord.


Assemble and sew the piping. Fold a bias strip around the cording, making sure the strip edges meet and the cord aligns to the centered print on the strip. Pin or clip to secure, then sew, running the fabric-wrapped cord through the presser-foot groove.


Bias strip

Filler cord

First stitching line

Second stitching line

Third stitching line

Pipe an edge Position the petite piping along the edge, right sides together and raw edges aligned. Using the pin-tuck foot, sew the piping to the blouse, placing the stitches just inside the piping’s stitching row. Gently press the stitches.


Use a bias strip to face the hem. Make the bias strip width three times the hem allowance width. The strip length is the hemline circumference plus 1 inch. Position and pin the bias strip, wrong side up, over the stitched piping, aligning the seam allowances. Leave the strip’s excess length free by 1⁄2 inch on each end.




Sew petite piping to a hemline, placing the stitches closer to the cord.

Sew the bias strip to the hem, using the pin-tuck foot. Stitch through all layers, and position the stitches snugly against the piping cord. Press gently; take care not to flatten the piping.


Turn the hem, piping, and bias facing allowances to the wrong side. Press carefully to avoid flattening the piping. Turn in the extra 1⁄2 inch at the bias facing ends, and fold the facing’s raw edge under the seam allowances. Pin the facing in place and press.

4 5 42

Machine-edgestitch or hand-sew the facing to the garment’s wrong side. Press one last time.


bias strip



Turn the bias facing and piping flange to the hem’s wrong side and press carefully.

Tiny bias binding A very fine bias binding creates a 1 ⁄4-inch-wide outline along garment edges, as shown on the vintage-style blouse at right. It also combines well with petite piping for a slightly more built-up edge; use the same or contrasting fabrics for this treatment.

A narrow, exposed bias binding in contrasting fabric creates interest and a clean finish on the garment’s edge. Pattern: Decades of Style 5003 1950s Collar Confection Blouse. Fabric: handkerchief linen, Robert Kaufman London Calling cotton lawn, both

create and aPPlY the binding Trace the pattern piece, and remove the seam allowance from the edge receiving the binding. The binding outer edge rests on the garment stitching line. Cut the garment section, along with lining and interfacing if required.


Cut the bias strip. Make it 11⁄8 inches wide—four times the finished width (1⁄4 inch x 4) plus 1⁄8 inch for turn of cloth. Cut it 1 inch longer than the edge to be bound. If the garment edge is curved, use steam and slight tension on the bias strip to shape and press it into a curve.


Pin the garment section and its lining or facing wrong sides together, if applicable. Place the bias strip, wrong side up, along the garment section’s right side, matching the raw edges. Leave 1⁄2 inch of the bias strip free at each end. Sew the bias strip to the garment section using a 1⁄4-inch-wide seam allowance.



stitching line

Bias strip (Ws)

Sew the bias strip to the garment’s raw edge, right sides together.

Press the bias strip toward the seam allowances. Press the remaining raw edge under by 1⁄4 inch, wrap the strip around the garment section’s edge, and pin.



Sew tiny fell stitches or slipstitches to secure the binding to the garment section’s wrong side. Conceal the stitches under the binding edge. Press the edge gently.


WS Hand stitches are hidden under the binding edge.


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Incorporate petite piping

Petite piping is a charming addition to a tiny bias binding at a garment’s edge. Use it to add dimension or contrasting color or pattern.

Baby rickrack Narrow (also called “baby”) rickrack is between 3⁄16 inch and 1⁄4 inch wide. Added to collars, plackets, cuffs, hems, or seams, it creates a charming, fine scalloped detail or a beautiful applied trim, as shown on the draped jacket on the facing page. Where and how it is sewn determines how it looks on a garment.

Insert in a seam

If sewn centered over a stitching line before joining garment sections, one edge of the rickrack peeks out of the seam like scalloped petite piping. When the seam is pressed, the rickrack edge faces the direction opposite to that in which the seam allowances are pressed.

A baby rickrack seam insertion adds texture and contrast.

Decorate a hem

Sew baby rickrack to the right side of a garment to cover the hem allowance stitches. Place the rickrack atop the stitching line and either whipstitch by hand with decorative thread or embroidery floss; or use a machine straight stitch with matching thread to secure the rickrack to the garment. When sewing it by hand, I like to use DMC Coton à Broder no. 25, which is a nondivisible, round thread and a bit heavier than sixstrand cotton embroidery floss.

Cover a hem stitching line with baby rickrack by whipstitching it in place.

You can also use baby rickrack along a hemline. Before turning the garment hem, center the trim on the hemline’s right side. Shift the sewing machine needle one position to the right (toward the hem allowance), then sew the rickrack to the garment. Moving the needle helps compensate for the turn of cloth when the hem is sewn; it ensures half the rickrack shows at the hemline, instead of less than half.

Add baby rickrack to a garment hem for a tiny scalloped edge.



Photos: (p. 40; p. 43, top right; p. 45, top right) Jack Deutsch; all others, Mike Yamin. Illustration: Rosann Berry. Stylist: Jessica Saal. Hair and makeup: Styling credits: (p. 40) earrings—stylist’s own, skirt—Sanctuary (; (p. 43) earrings—stylist’s own; (p. 45) dress—, necklace—

To combine petite piping with a tiny bias binding, make the piping as described on pages 41 and 42. Trim the piping seam allowance to 1⁄4 inch to match the finished bias binding. Apply the bias binding using a pin-tuck foot when stitching and using the piping cord as a guide. Before folding the bias binding over the seam allowance, clip any curves if necessary. Hand-stitch the bias binding in place on the garment’s wrong side.

Applied with hand whipstitching, baby rickrack becomes an upscale trim for chic garments.

Finish a seam allowance

Add baby rickrack to a seam allowance edge as a secret pretty finish. Align one edge of the rickrack to the right side of the seam allowance’s raw edge. Stitch the rickrack to the seam allowance. Turn the seam allowance edge to the wrong side, pressing along the fold to reveal half of the rickrack. Edgestitch to finish. For the best finish, use an edgestitch foot, place the blade in the seam ditch, and move the needle position one or two spaces to the left.

Embellish a placket or cuff

Pattern: Vogue 1440. Fabric: wool-blend twill,


Baby rickrack is a sweet trimming to add to button plackets and cuffs. To apply the rickrack, use either a hand whipstitch with embroidery floss or a machine straight stitch, as described earlier. To use a machine stitch, attach a presser foot that has a groove on the bottom that matches the rickrack width.

Create a braided trim

Weave together two baby rickrack strands in different colors; the opposing scallops naturally nestle together. Then use the “braided” trim to embellish a garment. Machine-stitch down the trim’s center to apply it to a garment, or sew it in place by hand with simple embroidery stitches. I like to use French knots or granitos stitches (“little grains” in Spanish). Stitch through all of the same-color diagonal scallops to secure the trim; this creates an alternating stitch pattern.

outline a motif Baby rickrack can be shaped with steam to follow a motif’s curves. Use a water-soluble fabric glue (I like Jillily Studio’s Appliglue; to keep the shaped rickrack in place without pins, then stitch it in place by hand or machine.

Weave two strands of baby rickrack together for a braided trim.

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Tame Fabrics with Tissue sew with a tear-away layer BY ABBY RIBA


ne of my favorite sewing notions is tissue wrapping paper. It works as pattern paper, of course, but I also use it at the sewing machine and serger. When you’re machine sewing, a layer of tissue provides support for flimsy fabrics and mitigates lateral shifting, whether you’re straight stitching or serging. I recommend purchasing tissue paper variety packages during the various holiday seasons, so you have many different colors. It’s important to match the tissue to the fabric and thread, so any small paper fibers left in the stitching don’t show. You’ll be set to sew fine seams in delicate fabrics of any hue. Try using it when sewing narrow hems, too.

For smooth, even seams and edges, incorporate tissue when stitching. Pattern: Vogue 1508 (shown reversed). Fabrics: silk georgette and chiffon,


Abby Riba, a past president of the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals, is a custom clothier in Florida.

Classic French seam

Narrow serged seam

This method improves on traditional French seaming by adding a line of stitching and using tissue to back the fabric during stitching. A higher quality finished seam is the payoff for taking extra steps. The instructions assume a 5⁄8-inch-wide seam allowance.

This seam relies on a serged, rolled-hem stitch. It’s supple and quick to sew, as it takes just one pass through the machine. A tissue underlay is the key to a clean, consistent result. This technique works well for rolled hems, too.

Sew the first row. With wrong sides together, align the fabric cut edges. Place a color-matched tissue paper strip beneath the layers, align its edge to the cut edges, and pin. Sew the seam with a 3⁄8-inch-wide seam allowance. Gently tear away the tissue.

Prepare the seam. Cut tissue strips 11⁄2 inches wide, and draw the seamline along one edge. To calculate the proper seam-allowance width, subtract the serger’s cutting width from the pattern’s total seam allowances width. With right sides together and edges aligned, secure the tissue strip to the underside of the work with pins or temporary spray adhesive. Be sure you can see the marked seamline through the fabric layers.


1 Tissue

First stitching line


Sew the second row. Pin the work to another tissue strip, and sew 1⁄8 inch to the right of the first stitching line. Leave long thread tails. Remove the tissue, and trim the seam allowances very close to the second stitching line. Press the seam allowances to one side.

Photos: (p. 46) Jack Deutsch; (p. 47) Mike Yamin. Stylist: Jessica Saal. Hair and makeup: Styling credits: earrings—stylist’s own, necklace—, pants—


Complete the seam. Turn the work with right sides together, placing the seam on the fold. Pin the work to a tissue strip, and sew the third and last row with a 1⁄4-inchwide seam allowance. Remove the tissue. For stability, leave the second stitching row in place. If you prefer greater flexibility, remove it by pulling the thread tails.


⁄8 inch




Marked seamline on tissue (beneath)

Second stitching line

Serge the seam. Set the serger for a rolled-hem stitch. Stitch slowly, with the knife cutting exactly on the seamline. Remove the tissue from the completed seam.

2 WS

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Rolled-hem seamline

Final stitching line

⁄4 inch


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Drape a Knit Bodice Block A personal pattern helps you design a variety of knit tops B Y LY N D A M AY N A R D


omfortable, well-fitting knit garments are the go-to choice for many people because of the freedom of movement they offer. Despite the forgiving nature of knit fabrics, good fit can be as challenging to achieve in knit garments as in wovens. The ambitious sewer intent on creating a wardrobe of polished knits should consider developing a personalized knit block. I’ll show you how to drape a knit bodice block that serves as a foundation for designing T-shirts, camisoles, tanks, and other stylish tops that fit and flatter. There are other ways to develop a knit block, but draping one is easy and fun, and you’ll gain a new set of skills while you do it. Draping your own knit bodice block also means you can incorporate extra fitting details that you might not expect in a knit top, such as bust darts, back waist darts, or a shaped



center-back seam. Even in a knit garment, darts may be necessary for the best shaping and fit. Darts are included in the draped block because the fabric used has minimal stretch. We will transfer them out later. Draping a knit bodice block is best done with a partner. Find a friend who also wants a personalized knit block, and spend a day fitting each other. Developing the knit bodice block is the first step toward designing your own perfectly fitting knit tops. Next, you’ll need to draft a knit sleeve block, which will be explained in Threads no. 189, Feb./March 2017. Lynda Maynard teaches at San Francisco City College and SergeA-Lot in San Francisco; Cañada College in Redwood City, California; and the School of Sewing and Design in Tacoma, Washington.

Mark the draping lines The subject should wear a well-fitting, supportive bra made from smooth fabric, under a close-fitting, high-neck tank top or lightweight, short-sleeve T-shirt. Mark the subject’s key body lines using 1⁄8-inch-wide fashion draping tape. Follow the body’s landmarks, not the top’s seamlines.


Mark the neckline. Place tape at the base of the neck where a crew neckline would rest.

Outline the armhole. Locate the shoulder point by finding the hinge between the arm and shoulder. Run your fingertips firmly down the subject’s shoulder line toward the arm. There is often a slight depression in the bone at the shoulder point. Starting at the shoulder point, wrap the tape around the shoulder joint from front to back by following the crease between the arm and torso and ending high under the arm.





Mark the shoulder seam from the neck point to the shoulder point. The seam should run along the top of the shoulder without dipping toward the front or back. To check the placement, position your eyes at shoulder level; the seam marking should not be visible from the front or back.


Define the side seam. It should divide the body in half visually and run perpendicular to the floor. Begin the tape at the underarm point (the bottom of the marked armhole) and extend below the full hip level.


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To mark the center front, run the tape from the base of the marked neckline to below the full hip level. This marking also divides the body in half visually and should be perpendicular to the floor.


Mark the center back from the base of the neck to below the full hip level. Make sure the tape line is perpendicular to the floor.



To prepare for draping, Lynda marked the neck, armhole, shoulder, side seam, and center-front lines on the her model. Then she marked the center-back line.

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Prepare the fabric

Make the first drape in a light-colored ponte knit with about 25 percent stretch. Ponte is weighty and more stable than jersey knit, which makes it easier for first-time drapers to handle and to achieve a more accurate block. From about 2 yards, cut two pieces in a manageable size for draping. Mark the pieces with a Sharpie marker before you begin pinning them onto the subject. Measure the subject from shoulder seam, over the bust, to the full hip. Add 6 inches to 8 inches to the measurement and cut the ponte fabric to that length. A fabric piece 32 inches to 36 inches long works well for most people.



For the fabric width, measure from side seam to side seam at bust level. Add 4 inches to the measurement, and cut the ponte to the needed width.



Measure from the shoulder seam to the bust apex. Add 3 inches to 4 inches to the measurement. You’ll use this length to mark the bust level.


On the fabric right side, mark a line down the lengthwise center, parallel to the selvage. This denotes center front. The fabric’s stretch goes around the body.

Mark the bust level. Measure down from the fabric’s top edge the amount calculated in step 3. Mark a line perpendicular to the center-front line at this level.

Width = Bust-level, side seam-to-side seam width + 4 inches Shoulder seam to bust apex + 3 inches to 4 inches

Bust-level marking


Center-front marking

Cut a second piece of fabric to the same dimensions. This is for the back drape. Set it aside.


Drape the bodice

Only half of the garment’s front and back are draped. You’ll need lots of pins and a permanent marker while draping. Because a knit’s stretch can’t provide the shaping required for all bust sizes, this process incorporates a bust dart for the best fit. You may decide later to retain the dart in the finished pattern or transfer it out and substitute easing to retain some shaping and fit. Align the fabric’s center-front line and bust level to the same areas on the subject. Pin the fabric’s center front from the neck to the hem; leave the fabric free at the bust level.


Pin the marked fabric on the subject along the center-front line from the neckline to the hemline.



Slightly stretch the fabric across its full width at bust level. Temporarily pin it at both side seams and near the underarm. Smooth the fabric over the bust and up to the neckline. Anchor it with pins or double-sided tape.


Stretch the fabric slightly across the bust, and pin it at both side seams.

Continue smoothing the fabric to the shoulder. Clip the fabric as necessary to allow it to mold to the body, but avoid making deep clips to preserve the seamlines. Clip down to within 3⁄8 inch of the marked neckline. Temporarily pin the fabric to the opposite shoulder, and clip the neckline on the opposite half to achieve a smooth fit on the draped side (A).


With a permanent marker, dot-mark the neckline on the fabric from the center front to the shoulder line. Cross-mark the neckline-shoulder line intersection for a precise corner (B).

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Smooth and pin the fabric over the bust to the shoulder. Dot-mark the shoulder seam from neckline to shoulder point (C).

Clip the fabric to within 3 ⁄8 inch of the neckline to encourage it to shape to the body. Dot-mark the neckline and the shoulder after smoothing the fabric to those areas.



With the fabric slightly stretched across the bust, excess fabric forms a fold near the armhole. Pinch and pin the fold together into a dart, angling the take-up down (D).




Evaluate the front drape for fit and adjust as necessary.

Starting from center front, smooth the fabric over the upper chest to the armhole. Clip the fabric as necessary. Pin and dot-mark the armhole (E). Make the marking as high under the arm as possible.


Smooth the fabric from center front over the midsection to the side seam. Take care not to overfit the abdomen. Pin and dot-mark the side seam (F).




Stand back and have a look at the front drape. Double-check the placement of all markings; make sure the draped bodice fits smoothly and with no excess stretching. If you are satisfied, unpin the drape from the shoulder, center front, neckline, and side seam. Leave the dart pinned.



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Drape the back the same way as the front, omitting the side seamto-side seam stretch.

Prepare to drape the back. Mark the center-back line on the fabric. Measure from the shoulder line to about shoulder-blade level on the subject, add 3 inches to 4 inches, and mark a line at this level perpendicular to the center-back line.

Drape the bodice back. Don’t stretch the fabric across the back as you did in the front. Don’t drape any back darts yet. When the back drape is complete and you’re satisfied with the fit, remove the drape from the subject.



Clean up the drape and test the fit

Test the drape’s fit and refine its markings before transferring it to pattern paper. You’ll need straight and curved rulers.

DEFINE THE MARKINGS Place the front and back drapes on a worksurface. Dot-mark the bust dart before removing the pins. Using rulers to guide your drawing, connect all the dot marks on the drape.


Fold the front drape in half along the center-front line. Transfer all the seamlines (neck, shoulder, armhole, dart, and side seam) to the unmarked side. To do this quickly and easily, pin along all the marked lines, including the intersections, through both layers. Flip the piece over and draw in the seamlines as marked by the pins.


Pin along all marked seamlines to transfer them to the front’s opposite half.

Connect all dot markings on the drapes.



Add 1-inch-wide seam allowances to all seams, and cut away the excess fabric. Open the bodice front and lay it on the table.




Complete the back drape. Repeat steps 1 through 3.


On both halves of the front drape, mark 1-inch seam allowances, and cut away excess fabric.



Baste the front and back drapes together at the shoulder and side seams. Pin the bust darts closed, angling the take-up down.



Try on the test garment, and refine the fit as necessary. Make sure the seamlines are properly positioned and the dart placement provides a smooth bust fit. Correct seamlines as necessary with pins (A).


Pin waist darts into the back to refine the fit, if desired.

Try on the basted drape and double-check the fit.

Add back waist darts if desired. If extra fabric blouses or sags at the lower back, you may want to pin in a long, narrow vertical dart at center back for subtle shaping (not shown). For more fitting, pin a fish-eye dart on each side of center (B). These will be transferred to the back and side seams on the paper pattern.


Transfer to paper and finalize the pattern

Once the fit is finalized, use the drape to create a pattern. You’ll need pattern paper, a pencil, transparent tape, a new permanent marker color, and a needle-point tracing wheel.

TRACE AND TRUE Remove all basting stitches from the drape. With a new permanent marker color, redraw any seamlines and darts that were changed or added during the fitting. Tape the front and back drapes to pattern paper. Use a needle-point tracing wheel to trace all the seam markings on half of the front and back drapes.



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Trace the drape markings onto the pattern paper.

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Square the angles where the side seams meet the underarms and hems. Square the intersections of the neckline with center front and center back, and square the intersection of the shoulder seam and armhole. These intersections should form 90-degree angles for 1 inch to create smooth, rather than disjointed, transitions. Leave the neckline-shoulder seam intersection as it was draped.


True the side seam, if necessary. Fold the paper to align the two dart legs; fold the dart take-up toward the hem. Run the tracing wheel along the side seam and over the dart base. This ensures dart legs of equal length and creates the proper side seam shape.


If you’re keeping the bust dart, true the dart ends at the side seam.

REMOVE THE DART For a block without a dart, transfer the dart value out. Draw a vertical line from the hemline to the dart point. Cut along the line. Then cut along the lower dart leg to—but not through—the dart point to create a hinge. Slide the lower dart leg up to within 1⁄2 inch of the upper dart leg; the cut vertical line spreads. Not closing the bust dart completely leaves about 1⁄2 inch of ease in the bust fit. Tape a piece of paper under the vertical opening.


Draw a line at the opening’s bottom edge, connecting both sides. Along the opening’s length up to the hinge point, connect both sides with more horizontal lines spaced 11⁄4 inches to 11⁄2 inches apart. Measure each line and note the numbers.


To remove the dart, slash the pattern from the hem to the dart point and partially close the dart.

Remove the width added along the spread opening from the side seam. At the hemline, measure in from the side seam the amount added by the spread at the bottom as noted. Mark a dot. Continue measuring in from the side seam and marking dots along the length of the spread opening, using the line measurements from step 2. Connect the dots with a ruler or design curve. For clarity, X out the original side seam.


Measure the width of the wedgeshaped opening at several points along its length.

Original side seam Reshape the side seam to match the measured widths along the vertical opening.



Photos: Dean J. Birinyi Photography.

Reshaped side seam

Measure the side-seam length from the underarm point to the hemline; compare it to the back side-seam length. Remember, 1⁄2 inch of the front side-seam length represents the remaining ease from the removed dart. The front side seam is 1⁄2 inch larger than the back. When sewing the block and designs created from it, remember to ease this excess front length into the back side seam from the bust level to the underarm point.


Redraw the front hemline; it is now slightly curved. This will not be apparent when the garment is on the body.


REFINE THE BACK Change the center-back foldline to a center-back seam for more precise fitting. If you pinned a dart at center back, carve out its take-up at the pattern’s center back. If you pinned fish-eye darts in the back drape, transfer them to the center back and side seams to maintain their shaping effect. First, mark a grainline on the pattern parallel to the original center-back marking. Then draw a vertical line through the dart’s center.


Center back

Mark a vertical line through the dart center to assist in measuring the dart take-up.

Measure the dart take-up along its length. Remove the amount on the inside of the vertical line (closer to center back) from the centerback seamline.


Remove the amount on the outside of the vertical line (closer to side) from the side seam. If the back side seam is more curved than the front, split the difference by making the back side seam a bit shallower, and carving out a bit on the front side seam.


Center back

Remove half the dart take-up from the center-back seam, reshaping the seam to match.

Reshape the side seams to remove the dart take-up.

ADJUST THE BLOCK FOR A STRETCHIER KNIT The bodice block pattern created from the ponte knit drape is the first step toward designing knit tops. To design a top from a knit with more than 25 percent stretch, such as jersey or ITY (interlock twist yarn), you’ll need to sew the knit block in the stretchier knit first and refit it to allow for greater negative ease. Then, pin out the desired

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amount at the side seams. Transfer the changes on the stretchier knit mockup to the original block or make a fresh one. Now you have a stretch-knit bodice block with built-in negative ease. Stay tuned for Lynda’s follow-up article on how to draft a knit sleeve block in Threads no. 189, Feb./March 2017.

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Couture Zipper Fly A precise designer method BY CLAIRE SHAEFFER

Hand basting, shown in the dark thread, controls the fabric and aids in accurate zipper placement and machine topstitching.


any pant designs today, from jeans to traditional trousers, use fly zippers. Everyone who sews has a favorite method for setting one. I like the following technique best. I first saw it on a pair of Yves Saint Laurent couture pants, and I’ve seen it on many other couture designs by Dior, Chanel, and Valentino. In this procedure, the fly opening is machine-topstitched without the zipper. Then the zipper is sewn into the opening by hand. This may seem silly, but it works well for most fabrics, especially very thick ones. On the overlap, it eliminates the problem of machine topstitching over the zipper teeth at the

bottom, and provides greater control and accuracy at all stages of the zipper insertion. If your pattern doesn’t have an extended facing for the fly, you can add one by drawing a line parallel to and 1½ inches from center front. On women’s pants, fly zippers usually lap right over left and are particularly attractive when worn with blouses with button closures at center front. Jeans flies for men and women typically lap left over right. Claire Shaeffer shares insights on couture construction methods in workshops, books, and videos.

Prepare the opening Mark and stabilize the garment sections for the zipper installation first. Follow this method for a smooth, flat fly. Thread-trace the center front and waist edge on the pant fronts. Mark the foldline for the underlap extension on the left front at least 5⁄8 inch from the center front. It can be up to 11⁄4 inches away. With a deeper lap, the placket lies flatter and the zipper won’t peek out on tighter designs.


Center front

Center front and overlap foldline

Prepare foldline stays. Use seam binding or a 3 ⁄4-inch-wide strip of lightweight silk. I prefer the selvage from a lightweight silk such as organza, chiffon, or china silk. The selvage is easier to handle, but the stay can be on any grain. Wet the stay and press out the stretch.



Underlap foldline LEFT FRONT (RS)

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Try a wider stay. If the stay fabric has no selvage, you can cut a wider stay and center it over the foldline.

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Apply the stays. Measure the foldlines on the pattern, not the fabric, which may have stretched. Mark this length on each stay. Lay one stay on each fly extension, aligning an edge with the basted foldline. Catchstitch the stay edge to the foldline.



Turn under the fly extensions along the foldlines. Baste 1â „4 inch from the folds and at the waist edge. Press. The right front should lap over the left at least 5â „8 inch, or the amount added for the underlap in step 1.





Foldline Catchstitches Basting Foldline




Center front

Stitch the front sections together. With right sides together, sew the crotch seam from the bottom of the opening to about 2 inches from the inseam. Press the seam allowances open. Avoid clipping the seam allowances; stretch the cut edges instead to open them fully.




Topstitch the overlap side. On the right front (overlap), threadtrace or chalk-mark the fly topstitching line. With the right side up, machinestitch on the marked line, stopping at the crotch seam. Pull the upper thread to the wrong side and knot the thread ends.



Foldline Basting Topstitching

Edgestitch the underlap. On the left front (the underlap), stitch close to the folded edge. Press the opening.


Center front


WS Center front

Sew the crotch seam.



Underlap edgestitching

Attach the zipper With the garment opening stayed, topstitched, and pressed, you are ready to install the zipper. This process is accomplished by hand, giving you full control of the zipper placement.


Center front

Zipper basting line





Permanently sew the underlap side. Open the zipper and, with the right side up, use very short running stitches to sew the zipper to the underlap. Close the zipper.



RS Photo: Mike Yamin. Illustrations: Rosann Berry.

Baste the zipper to the overlap. With the garment right side down, baste the edge of the remaining zipper tape to the overlap extension, keeping the right front free.



Baste the zipper to the underlap. Place the closed zipper right side up under the underlap edge, so that the zipper stop is 1 â „4 inch below the waist seamline and the zipper teeth are close to the folded edge. Baste the zipper in place.

Align the fly opening. With the garment right side up, lap the right front over the left, matching the centers. Baste or pin through all thicknesses close to the fold.

Center front


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Permanently sew the overlap side. With short running stitches, sew close to the teeth to attach the zipper to the overlap extension. Insert a cardboard strip between the layers to avoid catching the outside fabric.



Running stitches

Basting stitches

RS Add the finishing touches. Remove all basting stitches. Fell-stitch the zipper tape edges to the fly extensions. If you cut the zipper shorter, hand-overcast or bind the zipper’s bottom end.



Fell stitches



Running stitches


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Simple Stitches, Complex Designs Explore the elaborate motifs of Yemenite Jewish embroidery BY I N D I A H AY F O R D


n ethnic embroidery style with 2,000-year-old roots is surprisingly timeless—and surprisingly easy to learn. Originally used by Jewish embroiderers in southern Arabia to decorate traditional clothing, headwear, and bridal costumes, the intricate patterns of Yemenite Jewish embroidery adapt beautifully to modern fashion. With threaded needle, a little imagination, and a handful of stitches, today’s hand embroiderers can transform anything from a plain T-shirt to an evening dress into a work of art.


Archeological evidence places Jewish communities in Yemen by 400 BCE. Over the next two millennia, Yemenite Jewish social status and civil rights depended on which government held sway. After the Muslim conquest of Yemen, Jews were severely restricted in many aspects of their lives, including the jobs they



could hold. In response to restrictions on their business activities, Yemenite Jews perfected skills in various trades, including silversmithing and embroidery. Artisans took design inspiration from landscape and architecture; eventually a woman’s village, region, family, and social status could be identified by the embroidery colors and patterns on her clothing. When violence against Jews in Yemen escalated sharply following World War II, the new state of Israel organized a massive rescue operation. In 1949 and 1950, almost 50,000 Yemenite Jewish men, women, and children flew to Israel on statesponsored airplanes. Their arrival in Israel stimulated enthusiasm for Yemenite Jewish arts and crafts. Cottage industries emerged, and even haute couture designers such as Ruth Dayan and Esther Zeitz adapted ethnic embroidery to appeal to contemporary tastes by modifying traditional designs and by substituting modern synthetic fabric and thread

Couched gold thread, paired with rich, jeweltone cotton thread, mimics an intricate filigree necklace. Pattern: Butterick 6173. Fabric: linen,

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for the traditional cotton and linen thread on wool, linen, or cotton fabric. The resulting style became popularly known as Israeli Yemenite embroidery, and it was taught in schools throughout Israel. Despite this early enthusiasm, Israel’s passion for everything Yemenite faded. As an embroidery instructor and historian, I became interested in Middle Eastern embroidered costume. By the time I began researching in earnest in 2007, examples of Yemenite Jewish embroidery and the more common Israeli Yemenite embroidery were difficult to locate. So were embroiderers familiar with the styles. Upon discovering an online notice for a Yemenite Jewish festival in Boulder, Colorado, I called to ask if festival workshops included one on embroidery. “No,” said the organizer. They had a few pieces of embroidered clothing to display but no one knew how to do the work. Thus I got the honor of teaching Yemenite Jews their traditional embroidery.

Textiles and thread The materials for Yemenite Jewish embroidery are readily available. I recommend making a sampler and cleaning it the way you plan to clean the finished garment. This reveals any problems with shrinkage or dyes that bleed.


Light- to medium-weight woven fabrics such as cotton, wool, linen, and silk are suited to this technique. On lightweight fabrics, apply a gauze or organdy backing to support the embroidery. When embroidering clothing, consider putting designs in reinforced areas such as faced necklines, cuffs, yokes, and button plackets.


Thread choices vary from six-strand cotton embroidery floss to precious gold and silver threads (, which are couched with cotton floss or fine sewing thread. DMC size 8 pearl cotton ( is an excellent choice for most work. It comes in a wide range of dependably colorfast hues, is inexpensive, and is easy to handle. It looks similar to thread used in traditional Yemenite embroidery. Make sure that thread care methods are compatible with fabric care methods, especially when using genuine gold and silver thread.


My favorite needles are John James chenille needles in size 26 (


The complex patterns of Yemenite Jewish embroidery and Israeli Yemenite embroidery can be broken down into relatively simple embroidery stitches, including satin, herringbone, Cretan, chain, blanket, fly, web, and variations of each of these, along with needle weaving and couching. The materials and tools required are even simpler: fabric (commonly called “ground” by embroiderers), thread, a needle, and scissors. I’m excited to share what I’ve learned about this beautiful and versatile embroidery technique, and get you started on a creative journey. India Hayford lives in Casper, Wyoming, where she directs a belly dance troupe and writes about embroidery, wildlife, and horses.



Closely spaced chainstitch rows outline sections of a purchased chambray shirt in bands of high-contrast color.

Keys to stunning results Some practices used in Yemenite Jewish embroidery differ from those taught in European-style embroidery, but they have stood the test of time because they work well.


Projects are traditionally done “in hand,” without hoops or frames. If you prefer to use an embroidery hoop, wrap the inner ring with white bias tape to cushion the fabric against the stiff hoop. Remove the hoop when you are not actively embroidering.


Don’t leave a needle stuck in the fabric between embroidery sessions, as it can damage or distort the fabric. Store it properly in a pincushion or a needle book.


Traditional work is done without traced patterns or guidelines, using garment edges as a guide for the first stitching line. Subsequent design elements are built upon this original line. More complex motifs may be traced in thread, pencil (make sure it’s sharp), or chalk. Assume that marks are permanent, and make sure they are covered by embroidery.


The materials used in Yemenite Jewish embroidery are simple and lovely: colorful pearl cotton and gleaming metallic thread.

In this embroidery style, knots aren’t traditionally used to start and end a stitching pass. Instead, take three small running stitches along the design line, where they will be hidden by the completed embroidery on the fabric right side. At the beginning, the pattern stitches sewn over the running stitches anchor them. At the end, anchor them with an extra backstitch. That said, knots are reliably secure; if they’re nicely hidden and won’t rub against the skin, feel free to use them.


A caveat for perfectionists: Handmade stitches are usually not as uniform as machine stitches. Slight irregularities in appearance are part of this ethnic embroidery’s appeal.

A sampler (right) helps you develop attractive stitch combinations. On a garment, the stitch rows typically follow an edge or seamline.

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The basic stitches The beauty of this art lies in combining easy stitches into intricate-looking borders and motifs. Practice the basics, then experiment with creating border and medallion patterns. These five stitches can be used in countless groupings, for linear designs or medallions.

Borders and medallions These are just a few design possibilities. Experiment with your own original combinations. Adjust the size, angle, and spacing of the stitches to create different effects, and play with thread hues to develop interesting color contrasts or gradients.


Couching stitch

Blanket stitch


Fly stitch

Web stitch

web extra

Learn to sew these stitches with our exclusive videos at



Combinations of chain, blanket, herringbone, and needle-woven stitches result in widely different medallion looks.

Photos: (p. 61) Jack Deutsch; all others, Mike Yamin. Illustrations: Rosann Berry. Stylist: Jessica Saal. Hair and makeup: Styling credits: earrings—stylist’s own.

Blanket-stitch variations

Chain, blanket, web, and couching stitches were combined to embellish the blouse on page 61.

Chainstitch lines and zigzags are filled with blanket and herringbone stitches.

Couched silver threads brighten chainstitch rows.

Linked and separate chainstitches, with blanket and fly stitches, make a fencelike border.

Deep red chainstitches flank a thick gold cord, couched in matching red thread, for a serpentine motif.

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Cowboy Pockets A Western-inspired detail adds a “smile� to any garment BY GILBERT MUNIZ

Piped breast pockets with embroidered arrowheads add a touch of whimsy and the opportunity for contrasting color. Pattern: BurdaStyle magazine 04/2011-108. Fabric: Liberty of London poplin,




o Western-style shirt would be complete without the iconic smile pockets made popular by yesteryear’s cowboys and cowgirls. These unique details are also stylish additions to contemporary garments, such as blouses and shirtdresses. Applied to any garment, these curved openings elevate pockets from under-the-radar elements to attentiongrabbing Western whimsy. I’ll show you how to make curved, piped pocket openings in any size that suits your garment. As with any pocket technique, practice makes perfect, so make a few samples before you begin a final project. Arrowheads at the pocket ends complete the

Western aesthetic. You can appliqué or embroider the arrowheads, or use another appliquéd or stitched shape to finish the pocket ends. Try colors and prints for the piping and consider arrowheads that contrast with the garment’s main fabric, or go monochromatic for a more modern look. For tips on sewing ripple-free piping, read “Essential Techniques: Perfect piping,” by Judith Neukam in Threads no. 179 (June/July 2015). Gilbert Muniz is a designer, patternmaker, and teacher in the Houston, Texas, area.

Make a curved-pocket opening You can make decorative pockets in any size. For functionality, make the openings wide enough for your hand to fit through plus wiggle room (3 inches to 5 inches). Make the pocket before assembling the garment. You’ll need fabric for the pocket piping, 1⁄8-inch-circumference cord, an adjustable zipper foot or a cording/piping foot, fusible interfacing, template paper, a pencil, and tailor’s chalk.

DRAFT AND MARK THE OPENING Determine the pocket opening length. On the garment section’s right side, mark the pocket opening termination points (A). On the wrong side, fuse interfacing to the pocket opening area, between and extending past the termination points (B).





Termination points


Termination points

Make the pocket template. Copy the termination points onto paper. Connect the points with a straight line, and find the line’s center point. Mark 1⁄4 inch below the center point and draw a smooth, shallow curve from one termination point to the center point; use a design curve if necessary. Fold the paper in half, matching the termination points, and copy the curve to the opposite half. Draw a short line at each termination point, slightly angled as shown; these are the pocket-opening termination lines.


Mark the piping cord circumference above and below the curved line. For example, for 1⁄8-inch-circumference piping cord, draw lines 1⁄8 inch from the curved line, following the shape. This ensures the pocket opening accommodates both piped edges with some open space in between. Cut the shape.


Piping cord circumference Termination point

Center point

Pocket slash line

Termination line

⁄4 inch


Fold along the center, and copy the curve.

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▸ ▸ ▸


A On the garment section’s right side, match the template to the termination points. Make sure the curve dips toward the garment hem. Trace the shape onto the garment with chalk (A). Then hand-baste the marked termination lines for about 1 inch above and below the pocket opening (B).







MAKE AND APPLY THE PIPING Align one piping strip stitching line to the pocket opening’s lower edge, on the right side. The piping flange should face into the pocket opening. Because pins can warp the curve, it’s best to baste the piping in place; or guide the piping by hand. Stitch slowly and as close to the piping cord as possible, starting and stopping precisely at the basted termination lines.


Repeat these steps on the pocket opening upper edge. Take care to keep the lower piping flange free as you stitch.



Carefully guide the piping along the lower seamline.


Cut the pocket opening. Stop 3⁄4 inch from each termination point, and cut a triangle-shaped notch. The notches should end precisely at the stitched termination lines.


Turn the piping flanges to the wrong side and clip to smooth the curves. Finger-press the edges and manipulate the corners so that the upper and lower piping just touch at the pocket ends. Make sure the clipped triangles are turned to the wrong side. Press from the back with a hot iron, taking care not to flatten the piping.


From the wrong side, stitch the piping ends in place following the basted termination lines. Make sure to catch the clipped triangles in the stitches. This keeps the pocket ends clean and smooth.

6 68


Cut the opening and clip a notch at each end.

RS Turn both piping flanges and clipped notches to the wrong side, clip the seam allowance curves, and stitch across the piping ends.

Photos: (p. 66; p. 69, right) Jack Deutsch; all others, Mike Yamin. Illustrations: Rosann Berry and Stephani L. Miller. Stylist: Jessica Saal. Hair and makeup: Styling credits: earrings—stylist’s own.

Cut the piping fabric into 1-inch-wide bias strips. You’ll need two strips per pocket, each 11⁄2 inches longer than the pocket opening. Cut two cord pieces the same length. Fold the strips around the cord, and pin. Stitch close to the cord using a cording foot or an adjustable zipper foot.


Finish the pocket On fitted women’s shirts, pocket bags are 3 inches deep or less. Finish the pocket opening ends with stitched arrowheads. You’ll need lining (it will show in the pocket opening), double-sided fusible web, embroidery floss, and a crewel needle.

ADD THE POCKET BAG Cut a lining rectangle the pocket width plus 2 inches and double the desired depth. Fold the piece in half, with the right sides together and short ends aligned. Center the pocket template opening at the short ends. Trace the template’s curves onto the fabric. Add a 1⁄4-inch-wide seam allowance above the marked edges, and cut off the excess.


Align one pocket bag end to the opening’s upper seam allowance, wrong sides up. The curves oppose each other. Use a zipper or cording foot to stitch as close as possible to the piping stitching.




To close the pocket bag, stitch the sides closed. Start at each pocket end, sewing over the clipped triangle to the bag’s bottom fold, curving the stitching line toward the bottom fold. Press. Finish the pocket bag sides as desired.


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Traced template curve


Attach the remaining end. Align the bag’s curved edge to the lower seam allowance. Stitch as closely as possible to the piping stitching. Clip the seam allowances, and fingerpress the seams before pressing with an iron. Finish the pocket opening seam allowances.

Traced template curve


“Smile” pockets, embroidered arrowheads, and pearl snaps add Western flair.


Decide the arrowhead size, and draw and cut out a paper template. Use the template to mark the arrowhead’s outline at each pocket opening end. Fuse interfacing onto the garment’s wrong side at each pocket opening end. Use embroidery floss and a hand-sewing needle to fill in the arrowhead outlines with satin stitches. AU G U ST/ S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 6


essential tech n i u es

Invisible zippers are truly out of sight when you install them properly. Pattern: Vogue 1382. Fabric: bamboo, author’s stash.



by Daryl lancaSter

Invisible zipper insights A pro’s machine setup and sewing sequence


hough the zipper was invented more than 100 years ago, the invisible zipper has been around only since the late 1960s. The closure was innovative: It looked identical to a seam, with only the subtle teardrop-shaped pull to show that a zipper was present. These days, it’s standard in ready-to-wear and is preferred by many fine dressmakers, myself included. The first invisible zippers were clunky and inflexible, but today’s versions are supple and comfortable to wear. They’re also easier and quicker to insert than a regular slot zipper, with no topstitch-

ing involved. Read on for my tried-and-true method of inserting an invisible zipper. You’ll find out which presser foot and sewing sequence I feel is best. I’ll also share a tip on matching fabric patterns or seamlines that intersect the zipper. You’ll discover that a zipper can be attractive and invisible at the same time. Daryl Lancaster specializes in making high-quality garments from handwoven fabrics. She teaches across the country. Find out more about her workshops at

Choose a presser foot For a truly invisible zipper installation, you need to place the stitches right next to the zipper coil. Hence, you need a presser foot that enables you to position the needle appropriately, without flattening the coils. There are a couple of options.


I prefer this zipper foot, and it is shown in the steps that follow. It is narrow and adjustable, so you can set it exactly as you want it relative to the needle position. This gives you maximum control and visibility as you install the zipper. It’s less common to find this foot style with contemporary sewing machines, but you can purchase a generic version to fit most machines. Set the foot so the needle is flush with one edge, not recessed in one of the needle notches, and the “ski” rides close to the coil.

adjustable ski-style zipper foot needle notches


These specialized feet have grooves on the sole through which the zipper coil passes during stitching. The needle goes through a central hole. Some sewers prefer these feet, though they offer less visibility and less maneuverability near the zipper bottom. On the plus side, they keep the needle properly positioned in relation to the zipper coil. Generic plastic and metal versions of this type are readily available, but if your machine’s manufacturer offers a metal foot specifically for invisible zippers, I recommend it; they’re sturdier and enable more accurate stitching.

Generic metal invisible-zipper foot

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plastic invisible-zipper foot

plastic invisible-zipper foot

bernina invisible-zipper foot

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essential techni ues


Insert the zipper An invisible zipper is inserted into an open seam; the most challenging part of installing it is properly orienting the closure on the separate garment pieces. Note that an invisible zipper is slightly longer than its standard counterpart, e.g., a 7-inch standard zipper is replaced by a 9-inch invisible one. That’s because, due to the zipper structure and installation, the bottom inch or so always remains closed.


Garment right half (RS) Place the zipper on the garment’s right side, with the coil and seamline aligned.

Position the zipper. Lay the garment’s right half right side up. Place the zipper right side down along the zipper opening edge, with the tape on the seam allowance and the coil aligned on the seamline (A). If you want to add a hook and eye at the top of the zipper, place the zipper’s top end 1⁄8 inch to 1⁄4 inch below the top raw edge. If there will be no hook and eye, align it with the raw edge.


First z ipper side

Garment left half (RS)

Set the foot and needle positions. Install the presser foot, and position it to the left of the needle. Place the fabric and zipper under the foot, with the coil to the right of the foot. Set the needle just to the left of the coil. Apply a sticky note or opaque tape to the sewing machine bed as a stitching guide, aligned to the fabric’s left edge. You don’t need to pin or baste the zipper.


Sew the first zipper side. Begin at the zipper top, backstitch to secure, and stitch toward the bottom. Stop when the foot reaches the slider, and backstitch (B).



Stop stitching when the presser foot reaches the slider.

Sticky note


Sec ond zip per sid e

Garment left half (RS)

Position the second zipper side. Place the garment half with the zipper attached on top of the remaining half, right sides together and raw edges aligned. Fold back the top layer, and place the remaining zipper side right side down on the opposite section’s right side. Align the coil along the seamline (C).


Garment right half (RS)

Align the second side exactly even with the first.



Photos: (p. 70) Jack Deutsch; all others, Mike Yamin. Stylist: Jessica Saal. Hair and makeup:

Prepare the zipper. Unzip it, and roll the coils away from the tapes, pressing firmly with a warm iron. This exposes the ditch along which you will sew.


Adjust the zipper foot and needle. Move the foot to the right of the needle, and place the zipper and fabric under the foot. Set the needle just to the right of the zipper coil. Use the stitching guides on the throat plate or a sticky note or tape as a guide.


Sticky note

Sew the second zipper side. Backstitch at the top and then stitch down, stopping when the foot touches the slider (D). Backstitch securely.



Complete the seam With the zipper in place, you can sew the rest of the seam. Align the seam. Close the zipper, and arrange the garment halves with the right sides together and raw edges aligned.


Sew the seam. Reset the zipper foot and needle so the needle is to the right. Place the needle about 1â „2 inch above the bottom of the zipper stitching line and as close to the zipper stitching as possible (E). Backstitch, then sew down the seam toward the hem; the seamline should be parallel to the zipper stitching. Stitch to the garment section bottom. Press the seam allowances open.



Zipper stitching line


Zipper stitching line

Anchor the zipper tapes. Open each seam allowance and machine-sew each zipper tape to its corresponding allowances. This stabilizes the area and prevents a hole from forming just below the zipper opening.

Seam below zipper


Anchoring stitches

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matching across a zipper If your fabric has a distinct pattern, such as a horizontal stripe or plaid, or if a seam intersects the zipper, as at a waistline, you need to take extra care to match both sides. After sewing the first zipper side, close the zipper and mark the zipper tape and the match point on the garment. Machine-baste the second zipper tape to check for accurate placement before the final stitching.


Intersecting seam

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Sweater rescue Advice for invisibly replacing knit stitches


ver the years, I’ve made, sewn, and repaired many knit garments. Knits of a sufficient gauge, whether machine- or handmade, are easy to repair. If the stitches are big enough to see and replicate, they can be replaced. These are my tips for “reknitting” a hole, and you can apply them to fix any sweater-weight knit garment or yardage. The example is a vintage Valentino cardigan. It’s wool with sequin embellishment, and I found it at The Fashion Exchange Consignments in Newtown, Connecticut. There was a significant hole on the upper right bodice, but I felt confident I could make the fix. You, too, can repair holes in a favorite knit.

Moths munched on this designer sweater, but it can be saved.



Photos: Mike Yamin. Illustration: Rosann Berry.

Sarah McFarland is editor of Threads and an avid knitter.

Harvest and prepare materials Examine the garment’s wrong side to find places to withdraw yarn to repair the hole, without creating a new hole. Check seam allowances, facings, and bindings. I found repair yarn in the pocket bag seam allowance. Using an iron setting appropriate to the fiber, press the repair yarn. It’s much easier to work with if it has no kinks. Work over a fabric that contrasts with the knit garment. Wrap

Make a repair

the fabric securely around cardboard or poster board. Use this surface beneath the work to see the hole and the stitches around it more clearly. I used muslin beneath this dark gray sweater. Carefully clean and neaten the stitches around the hole. Moth damage typically leaves wool bits. Pluck them out with tweezers. If the hole was the result of a snag or pull in the garment, use tweezers to gently shift yarn back into tightened stitches.

Waste yarn

Square knot

Repair yarn (shown lighter for visibility)

Working on the right side, use waste yarn and a darning needle to initially fix the hole. The waste yarn is easy to see and adjust. For waste yarn, use cotton crochet cord in a contrasting color and similar weight to the garment yarn. Leave a long tail at the start. Next, replace the waste yarn with the repair yarn you harvested from the garment. Join the yarn ends with a square knot near the darning starting point. Gently pull the waste yarn, drawing the repair yarn into the replacement stitches.

Complete the fix Once the repair yarn has replaced all the waste yarn to repair the hole, untie and remove the waste yarn. Use tweezers to adjust the repair stitches until they blend into the garment. Pull the yarn ends to the wrong side, and tie anchor knots at each end. Snip any excess yarn and save it, in case you need it for another repair.

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Replace the knit stitches, and the damage disappears.

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Joi Mahon Custom clothier is always teaching, always learning


oi Mahon, or “Designer Joi” as she is also known, designs garments with a unique flair. Her designs are whimsical, creative, fun, and wearable; her methods are easy to grasp; and her approach to teaching is relaxed and supportive. In addition to running her fashion design studio, Joi teaches sewing, design, and patternmaking techniques. She has published two books on pattern fitting and fashion design, has two Craftsy classes on fitting, and she teaches the topics at sewing events. Joi is a 2009 American Sewing Expo Passion for Fashion Challenge winner, and she designs patterns for McCall’s. She has gained a devoted following among home sewers, and rightly so. Joi recently spoke to Threads about what makes her tick as a teacher and what drives her as a designer. Learn more about Joi at Joi Mahon, a.k.a. Designer Joi, teaches and writes about fitting and fashion design.

Threads: Did you always want to be a fashion designer? Joi Mahon: Yes! I remember being 5 or 6 years old. I always

it’s the whole process. Whatever I’m designing, I have to look at

comics and look at the clothes and draw them. And there were

as a consultant to a major hunting clothing manufacturer. I

played with paper dolls, and I’d get the “Betty and Veronica” pages of garment sketches that you could color in and send

away to enter in a contest. I’ve always loved clothing. I started

sewing at age 6 or 7. I took one 4-H sewing class, and it clicked.

When I was a teenager, I met a men’s tailor and I apprenticed

with him all through high school and into college and that’s how my professional career started.

TH: Why do you like to be a part of both the home sewing

my customer and for whom I’m sewing; I can apply my design

skills to any market. A lot of people don’t know that I freelance helped them develop a product line and measuring system, and to reevaluate their sizing standards. They came to me for my

creative skills in determining interesting details and seaming so

the garments look modern, fresh, and unique, and still work well for the intended purpose.

TH: How did you develop your fitting method? JM: The short answer is: by doing it. I don’t teach stu≠ that I just

world and the professional sewing and design world?

read in a book. Having worked in men’s tailoring and women’s

groups. The young person and the more mature sewer have

clothing. So when I started pattern drafting, draping, etc., I

JM: Sewing is now cool and fashionable, and it transcends age di≠erent aesthetics and apply fashion di≠erently, but they

are equally interested. They love to sew because it’s fun and

trendy, and to fit themselves. I love helping them achieve their

visions. I also love product development, from idea to research

to sourcing fabrics to creating something for a customer. For me 76


alterations since I was 14, I learned how to fit ready-to-wear

added those skills into the patternmaking process. My fitting process depends on breaking down the body and the pattern

into small sections; measuring the sections on the body and on the pattern; and adjusting the pattern to match the body—all before sewing a muslin. It’s simple, fast, and e≠ective.

Photo: (p. 76) courtesy of Craftsy-Sympoz, Inc.; (p. 77) courtesy of the McCall Pattern Company.

Stephani L. Miller is special projects editor.

TH: What do you love about teaching? JM: I believe in giving back. No matter who you are, no matter

how basic or advanced your skills are, you always have some-

thing to teach. It’s really rewarding when I can share my tricks and tips with people, and that helps them love sewing more. I

don’t care what age I teach, but I do love new sewers especially. They don’t know the rules yet, so they have no inhibitions.

TH: What is your focus in your McCall’s pattern collection? JM: When I create the designs, I put a lot of thought into the

fit aspects. Because I teach my own pattern-fitting method,

I include unique markings on the patterns that relate to the methods taught in my book Create the Perfect Fit (Fons & Porter, 2014) and my Craftsy class “Fast-Track Fitting.”

McCall’s Designer Joi patterns, clockwise from left: 7025, 7089, and 7048 (out of print).

TH: What aspect of pattern design do you like most? JM: I love all aspects, but I want to point out that as I create my

patterns I create them from scratch for each design. I don’t use a

block and just copy. I want each design to be original, and as I am


can be modified by the customer, creative ways they can change

We asked Joi, “What is your favorite . . .”

with sleeve designs that are fashionable, comfortable, and easy

Design method? Draping, because it’s 3-D.

draping the design, I’m thinking of ways that fitting elements

the fabric, etc. I have two new McCall’s patterns (7245 and 7280) to sew. I designed them with the sewer in mind. Design is not

just about creating a cute sketch—it is really important for me to think of the consumer first and design for them.

TH: What is the most important thing you’ve learned after 19 years as a teacher and designer? JM: It might sound a little hokey, but I think there’s a point

Fabric? I love wool. Sewing technique? I love linings, but not traditional linings. I love to quilt linings, embroider linings, and use nontraditional fabrics.

always has something to teach you.” No one person has mas-

Sewing notion/tool? Tailor’s chalk, tailor’s beeswax, silamide thread, and an industrial iron.

thing to learn or try; you’re always learning.

Women’s garment type? Dress coats and ball gowns.

where you realize you’re never “there.” My motto is: “You always have something to teach somebody else, but somebody else

tered every technique or fabric there is. There’s always some-

TH: What’s next for you? JM: I’m working on the program for the second annual Designer

Closure type? Chunky snaps and grommets and laces.

Joi’s Sewing Holiday in July ( I’m creating a line of embroidery designs for John Deer’s Adorable Ideas and

have new sewing patterns for my McCall’s Designer Joi collec-

tion. My new book, Designer Joi’s Fashion Sewing Workshop (Fons & Porter, 2016), was released in February, and I’ve launched a

DESIGNER JOI’S TIPS FOR SEWERS I answer fitting questions there that come up

• Don’t feel like you have to learn or perfect anything in one day. • Try new techniques and challenge yourself. • Don’t get discouraged.

new blog on pattern fitting, called “Perfect Fit Blog,” at Dress

over and over again. Sewers can submit their questions about pattern fitting, and I will answer them on the blog. w w w. t h r e a d s m a g a z i n e . c o m

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Au g u st/ S e p t e m b e r 2 0 1 6


reader’s Retro-Style Summer Dress By Jennifer Boyd

Jennifer Boyd of Nashville, Tennessee, has been sewing since she was a

child. She still uses the first pincushion she ever made. Despite her interest,

she didn’t get into more advanced techniques until a few years ago when she

was inspired by sewing blogs, books, and magazines. The technique that Jennifer

said changed her sewing forever was the full-bust adjustment. For this dress, Jennifer chose a cotton floral print to make version A of Butterick 6019 by Gretchen

“Gertie” Hirsch. Following an online tutorial by Gertie, Jennifer made a full-bust adjustment to the pattern and created a built-in bra by adding underwires

and boning to the top. She included two interfacing layers with fleece sand-

wiched between them to help support the bra. The halter strap is attached with buttons that make it removable and adjustable. She lengthened the dress by 2 inches and used horsehair braid at the hem for structure and

better twirling. Jennifer said she appreciated Gertie’s directions for shirr-

ing the bodice. Find more information about the dress and other sewing projects at Jennifer’s blog,

Silk and Embroidered Tulle Dress by Vera Waldman

Vera Waldman of Ashland, Ohio, has been sewing since age 10.

After her children were grown, she took two classes that gave her confidence to draft patterns like the one for the dress

at right, which she sewed for her daughter, Sarah. At Susan

Khalje’s couture sewing school, Susan helped Vera fine-tune the design and assemble the bodice. The outer layer is forest green embroidered tulle; the inner bodice layer, with

a sweetheart neckline, is lime green silk charmeuse, silk

organza, and china silk. The sheer sections are underlined with coffee-dyed silk organza. The neckline and armhole

edges are trimmed with forest green tulle. The skirt is silk

charmeuse over two layers of china silk. The zipper is hand-

picked. There is no back seam for the zipper, so Vera used Susan’s

technique of creating a long, vertical dart for the zipper opening.

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The garments shown are from the Reader’s Closet Gallery on our website. For a chance to be featured in a future issue, upload images to Be sure to include a brief description of your inspiration and techniques.



closet W H AT H AV E YO U B E E N S E W I N G ?

Donna Karan-Inspired Jacket By Mary Funt

Mary Funt of Setauket, New York, loved the photos of the Donna Karan jacket on the Vogue 1440 pattern envelope. Typically, she said, Vogue

Photos: Mike Yamin.

patterns fit her well. In her first muslin of this jacket, though, there

was too much ease throughout and the slim fit with a slightly defined waist was lost, so Mary redrafted much of the pattern. She changed

the grainline to bias for one pattern piece, enabling her to use steam to better shape the waistline. She omitted piping from the seams.

She narrowed the collar and front drape to a better proportion for her figure, raised the armhole, and drafted a slimmer sleeve. Mary also

reshaped the sleeve cap for less ease in the back and more in the front. The jacket is constructed from lightweight cream wool bouclĂŠ and

underlined with silk organza. Instead of binding the seam allowances,

she lined the jacket with crepe de Chine. Chenille yarn was hand-sewn as trim; it was soft enough to allow her to apply it to both front edges

without creating stiffness. She wanted the collar to stand higher at the center-back neck, so she added a pad-stitched wool felt undercollar to

provide support. More details about this jacket and other sewing projects can be found in Mary’s blog,

w w w. t h r e a d s m a g a z i n e . c o m

AU G U ST/ S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 6




Proper sequence for pattern adjustments


I need to adjust a dress pattern that’s too large. It’s a vintage shirtwaist style with an interesting shirred feature at the front vertical darts. It fits at the waist and below, but the bodice needs to be reduced. It’s too wide in the shoulders, too big around the bust and across the back, and it is too long from the shoulder to the waist because I am small-busted. What is the correct sequence of adjustments?

—Jeannette Reginald, Fishkill, New York


have a question? Send it to us and we’ll find an expert’s answer. Threads Q&A PO Box 5506 Newtown, CT 06470-5506 or via email: ThreadsQ&

Threads contributing editor Judith Neukam sets our reader on the right track for fitting her charming retro pattern. The sequence of steps is always the same. First, correct the shoulder slope, then adjust the length before adjusting the circumference. In this example, the waist and sleeve circumferences remain the same. The front bodice dart’s shirred section is cut on the bias. In this example, the bodice is shortened above the dart point so it does not influence the shirring. The sleeves don’t need alteration because the bodice changes make only minimal changes, if any, to the armscye.


Adjust the shoulder slope. Vintage patterns

usually have a greater slope than today’s patterns, so you may need to raise the shoulder point. To do this, follow the instructions in “Prepare Patterns for Fit,” Threads no. 178 (April/ May 2015). Adjust the pattern, and trace a copy of the adjusted front and back necklines and shoulder seams; you will use these as templates later.




Adjust the bodice length. Measure well-fitting clothes to determine the desired length from shoulder to waistline. On the front and back bodice patterns, cut a line perpendicular to the grainline between the waist-dart point and the base of the armhole. Place this line at the same level on the front and back. Overlap the cut edges to establish the desired bodice length. Tape the pieces together, and true the side seams.



True the side seam. Overlap.

Overlap. True the side seam.


True the shoulder seam with the template.

Copy the revised patterns onto fresh paper. They now have the correct shoul-

der slope and bodice length.


Adjust the front width. The alteration

shown narrows the shoulder and reduces fullness in the bust, without changing the dart size or waist circumference. Again, measure the shoulder seam on a well-fitting garment to determine the desired length. Cut a straight line from about halfway along the curved dart leg to the center of the shoulder seam. Pivot the side shoulder toward the center front until the space between the shoulder point and the neck point is the desired shoulder length. Tape the pattern together, and use the shoulder slope template you made in step 1 to true the shoulder seam to the correct slope. Extend the lower grainline through the upper section, and cross out the original upper grainline.


Illustrations: Rosann Berry.

Adjust the back width. Cut a straight

line from the base of the outside dart leg to the center of the shoulder seam. Pivot the side pattern piece toward the center back until the shoulder length is correct. Tape the pattern sections together, and true the shoulder seam with the template.

w w w. t h r e a d s m a g a z i n e . c o m


FRONT New grainline Pivot and overlap.

True the shoulder seam with the template.


BACK Pivot and overlap. Center back

AU G U ST/ S E P T E M B E R 2 0 1 6




Requiem for Frostline kits

—Cathy Kerr, via email


Bruce B. Johnson of and author of Frostline of Colorado (Blurb books, updated 2012) has delved into the quiet disappearance of the kit manufacturer, and he shares the following: In the late 1990s, home sewing online forums were full of confusion and worry about Frostline Kits. Was the company alive or dead? Were the products in the catalogs any good? Was the company scamming sewers? This went on for a number of years, so I set out to discover the facts. The germ of the idea to manufacture and sell outdoor-gear kits began in 1959 when oilfield geologist Dale Johnson (Editor’s note: no relation to the author) partnered with Gerry Cunningham, a well-established inventor and supplier of advanced climbing and backpacking equipment. Cunningham was already selling kits, but Johnson felt they were not user-friendly, so he eventually parted ways with Cunningham. By 1966, Johnson had incubated his own plans for gear kits and issued his first catalog, a fourpage, hand-typed brochure that offered seven kits: down jackets, booties, and a rain parka. He told me the company became so successful that it doubled in size every year for 10 years; issued its first color catalog in 1972; reached $14 million in sales by the late ’70s; and, around this time, was purchased by the Gillette Corporation (of razor fame). Dale retired from the company in 1979. Many home sewers became familiar with Frostline during its boom years from the late ’60s through the late ’70s, when the company’s catalogs had expanded to offer more than 100 kits. But what happened to Frostline after that? The kit market collapsed during the early ’80s, taking with it the Gillette-owned Frostline and numerous imitator kit companies such as Altra Kits, Sundown Kits, Holubar Carikits, Plain Brown Wrapper Kits, and EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports) Kits. But in remote western Colorado, a small group of sewingloving investors bought Frostline’s name and remaining equipment and attempted to make a success of it. This new Frostline, based in Grand Junction, Colorado, issued catalogs, had a tollfree number, and struggled for years, at one point in the early 1990s even bragging that it was now a subsidiary of the McCall Pattern Company. But business never thrived. The tiny company was on the brink of bankruptcy in 2000 when Bob and Cathy



Flowers rescued it, issuing a glossy, 35-page catalog in 2001, which was to become the last-ever Frostline catalog. By about 2008, it was all over, with a whimper. Home sewers were never able to get a clear message about exactly when the company finally was defunct. Enthusiastic DIYers have been left sad, nostalgic, and frustrated over the fact that no comparable kit company has come to life to fill the gap. And some of them still use Frostline gear that’s more than 40 years old.

Illustration: Rosann Berry.


Back in the 1970s, my friends and I used to make excellent outdoor gear from Frostline Kits. We sewed everything from down parkas to backpacks and gaiters. I can’t find these kits any longer and wondered what happened to the company.

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Au g u st/ s e p t e m b e r 2 0 1 6


closu res

by Tenley Baker

Sewing in secret


y daughter asks, “Mommy, are you gonna sew something?” I tell a lie. A white lie. “No, dear, I’m just cleaning my messy sewing desk. Why do you ask?” “Because every time you clean, I know you’re gonna sew something new!” She’s absolutely right. I am going to sew. It is two weeks before Christmas and I plan to make soft, Granny Smith green, flannel pajamas as gifts for my daughter and middle son. However, first, as usual, I must deal with my towering mess. I long for a photo-perfect sewing room. My sewing desk sits in the basement beside where the children play. The chaos on the desk tells a story even my 6-year-old can decipher. The piled fabric remnants and pattern envelopes give away the last projects I worked on—one of which was the bright green pajamas for my eldest son last spring. When he opened them on his birthday, his siblings declared that they each wanted a pair. Part of my mess now includes green thread clumps and a seam ripper that reveal the difficulties I had with a seam, and green flannel bits mixed in a collection of machine parts, elastic pieces, pins, and bobbins.

After decades of sewing, I wonder: Why do I leave a trail of debris in the wake of my sewing accomplishments? I must have wondered aloud because my daughter intuitively responds, “Mommy, why don’t you just tidy up as you sew? That’s what we learn at school. Tidy up before you start something new.” As I reflect on my daughter’s perceptive observation and advice, I realize the self-imposed challenge I face. How will I sew their gifts without inviting questions? Surely, they will see the evidence. Not wanting to engage in more white lies, I resolve to complete the project with stealth. Each day, I steal time to sew when the kids are upstairs or outside. I sneak into the basement and quietly cut, pin, and sew. To keep my activities undercover, I put the pins away in their box, the tools in their drawer, and the thread and fabric scraps in the trash when I finish for the day. I cover the sewing machine

and slink back upstairs. My absence goes unnoticed, and I’ve left no evidence. The project takes days, but I finish in time, on Christmas Eve. The next morning, my children unwrap their pajamas with delight and surprise. “When did you make these, Mommy?” my daughter asks, clearly confused. I know what she is thinking. At the end of a wonderful Christmas Day, I find myself in the basement with a gift that I unwittingly gave myself. I have a pristine sewing space. My tools are organized and safely in their drawer. There are no threads or pins lying about. My machine is covered. Everything is ready, waiting for my next creative urge. With gratitude to my daughter’s wisdom beyond her years, I know I must now, and always, sew as if I’m doing it in secrecy. Tenley Baker sews for her family in Ayr, Ontario, Canada.

HAVE A SEWING STORY TO SHARE? Email it to and you could be our next Closures author.



Illustration: Megan Piontkowski.

. . . I’ve left no evidence. The project takes days, but I finish in time, on Christmas Eve.

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Up Close


omen’s suits from the 1940s are often rich with design

details that enhance garment lines, flatter the wearer’s

silhouette, and inspire the talented dressmaker or tailor.

This ensemble is a fine example. A shaped front opening, fastened with embossed metal buttons, sets the tone for a distinctive and

stylish outfit. The success of a shaped edge always depends on perfect pressing to ensure a bulk-free, flat finish. See page 28 to master the intricate edge.

From the Collection at Western Costume Company Photographer: Jack Deutsch Text: Judith Neukam

Threads | Aug- Sept 2016  

Amazing, Adaptable Linen: Strength and beauty unite in this ancient fabric | Discover sophistication in youthful embellishments | Explore th...