Darts are “Control Freaks”!

by Ramona on June 26, 2015

As I finish up the next series for ASG, it comes to mind all that I have learned over the years regarding sewing. I’ll never, ever, forget the day the light bulb went off in my brain. In that instant it seemed everything came together all at once. It was in a college class on pattern drafting and darts.

When working with patterns, do you think about the darts? Sometimes we think a pattern is “missing” darts when in reality they are there but just in a different form. Where could they be hiding? Well, that is an open ended question.



Of course all who sew know what darts look like: two legs of equal length that come together and get sewn from the wide part to a point.


Bodice front 2

What is the purpose of those darts? Why they are “control freaks”! They control fabric in one area of a garment to transition the fabric into another, larger area of a garment. For instance, the bust is larger than the waist, and the waist smaller than the hip (well, in theory until age and gravity take over!) Darts are used to control the fabric in the smaller waist area while transitioning the fabric to the larger area; hence, the dart “intake” is taking up the larger portion of fabric at the waist and transitioning it by sewing from the wide part of the dart to the point where it will point to the area where the larger amount of fabric needs to be released over the bust or over the tummy or toward the widest part of the hip back.





Darts control fabric. It’s that simple! So how do they aid us in designing? Darts, to me, are the greatest asset to the designer. Darts can be rotated to any area as long as they point to the fullest part of the figure; darts point to the fullest part of the bust no matter what position they are in.




Misses' Vintage 1950's Blouses


A bust dart can be rotated to the shoulder, to the armscye, to the center front of the bodice, really anywhere 360° around the bodice. That said, just because it can be done doesn’t mean it should; it depends on the overall image the designer has in their head and the fabric being used for the design.





Misses' Top with Neckline Variations



Darts can control fabric in many ways. In addition to being a common or standard dart, it can be moved into a seam such as a princess seam or a yoke. It can be moved to the shoulder for gathers or various forms of tucks.








Darts can also be “released” so the fabric just falls like in an over-sized shirt.





The next time you press the new pattern you’ve purchased, really take a look at the design lines of the pattern and notice where the darts are. Are they traditional darts or have they been moved to another area for design purposes? Remember, darts are used for fitting, so they should “control” the fabric in the place needed and point to the fullest part of the bust in the bodice. If you feel they’d be better elsewhere in the design, just move them!

Sew ‘til next time…enjoy the journey of sewing!


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I’m T-R-Y-I-N-G!

by Ramona on June 18, 2015

As the first half of this “new year” is coming to a close, I was going back through some of the blogs for this year. At the beginning of the year, I vowed (like many of you I’m sure), to get organized, stay organized, and finish up some of those unfinished projects sitting in bins. So, how are you doing? Me? Yet again, not so well. I don’t know whether to laugh it off or scold myself for not doing as I intended.

As always, life gets in the way. I start off the year full of promise and good intentions. I have to work. I’m doing some extra projects to earn some extra money—those take priority. I decide the house really does need to be cleaned every now and again. As the weather turned nice there was the weeding to be done, the garden to be planted, the dog and cat need tending, laundry to be done….and gee, my husband does like to eat every now and again! I’m laughing as I write this because he cooks half the meals when I’m spending days, nights, and weekends working (I’m not complaining–my work to me is almost like getting to play all the time!)

S3830002I was talking with a friend last month and she reminded me she did order the comic boards for folding the fabric after I wrote the post at the beginning of the year. I needed to order a couple of other things from Amazon, so I ordered the boards a couple of weeks ago and I took just an hour last weekend to get started re-organizing some things. When working on projects I’ll often order a yard of fabric not knowing exactly how much I’ll need and then I’ve got extra to put in my stash.

S3830003I used that hour to start working clearing the fabrics off  the ironing board and cutting board. I had them neatly folded, but I re-folded them and wrapped them on the comic board.


S3830007Wow! I was surprised how much I got done in just that hour….and it was FUN! I felt like I was putting together my own little miniature fabric store!
As you can see, now I can readily identify what I have on hand. It is easy to search for a color or pattern.






S3830009Using a clear tub I can sort them as I wish by solids and prints. I can see I need more tubs. I like the smaller sizes and I think I’ll be able to sort seasonal fabrics in separate tubs to be further organized.




Right now, I’m working on a series that is taking every extra minute I have (I MUST have it done by the end of the month) so this has been put to the side until the weekends after conference. I’m anxious to get back to it and perhaps the second half of this “new year” will allow extra time for re-organization of my work space…..I can dream, can’t I?

Sew ‘til next time…enjoy the journey of sewing!


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Check the Tools!

by Ramona on June 9, 2015

As I work on the next series for the ASG website, it reminded me of something I wanted to pass along to you.

Picture4When working with patterns, whether drafting from measurements or altering a commercial pattern, many measurement tools are used: French curve, tape measure, 36” ruler, L square, cutting board, etc. Because these tools are manufactured there can be variations in their accuracy one to the other.

Long ago, while working in my custom dressmaking business, I came across the issue of measurement variations with tools while doing some work for a client. I had taken her measurements using the cloth tape measure. When I altered the pattern she had given me I used a fiberglass tape measure, the cutting board, and the ruler side of the French curve. I don’t remember exactly how it occurred, but while double checking measurements before cutting the fabric (you know—the good old rule of measure twice, cut once) I found I was a good ½” off (really 1” because the fabric was folded in half) and thought I had paid great attention to detail in measuring for accuracy. I remember re-measuring, then checking and checking yet again coming up with different measurements.

I recalled having measured with a cloth tape measure but working the pattern with the French curve ruler and fiberglass tape measure. I had come up with different measurements between the three tools. I laid all three, one atop the other so all the measurement increments were visible, and discovered to my astonishment that all three tools had different increment marks! It was astonishing to me this had never been mentioned in all the schooling I’d had (or maybe it was and I happened to be absent those days).

Take a look at the differences in the current tools I use.

Picture1Here is a photo of the cutting board with the fiberglass tape measure on top. I removed the metal tab at the beginning of the tape measure so I could lay the edge of the tape measure right at the beginning mark on the cutting board. At the 1” mark on the cutting board, the tape measure is slightly less. But at 18” take a look. The tape measure is almost 3/8” longer than the same mark on the cutting board! Needless to say, I never use a printed cutting board for measurements but only use the grids for aligning fabric.


Picture2Now compare the wooden yardstick to the cutting board. The same type of thing except the yardstick is only about 1/8” longer; not as much as the tape measure but still enough to make a difference.



Picture3And here is the tape measure compared to the yardstick. In the beginning the measurements are accurate but then at about the 3” mark it starts to vary. At the 19” mark it is off about 1/8” or so.

The moral of this story? Check the tools being used for pattern alteration one against the other for accuracy—all those 1/8”s add up either positively or negatively! You don’t want a surprise during fitting of having an inch less fabric (or more) than you planned on for ease. Usually, but not always, the more expensive the tool the more accurate the tools will be. Do check every single one, though, and be consistent in using the same tape measure that is used in taking body measurements for the pattern alterations.

Sew ’til next time…enjoy the journey of sewing!


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Guest post by Anne Marie Soto, editor of Notions, the ASG publication available with membership in the American Sewing Guild:

Here’s hoping that our cover story, “Modern-day Heirlooms,” will inspire you to take a new look at a traditional sewing technique. Originally, heirloom sewing was done entirely by hand. But clever sewing enthusiasts developed less labor-intensive methods that can be done on the sewing machine, all without sacrificing the delicacy of the final project. You can be an heirloom purist, creating an entire garment exclusively with heirloom techniques, or dabble in the techniques, using them to apply a bit of trim or to add textural interest to your general sewing. I love trying out new sewing techniques . . . I hope my enthusiasm is contagious!

ASG’s TAG (Teach Another Generation) and Junior Member initiatives keep getting better and better. It is wonderful to see how many chapters are reaching out to teach young people to sew. This issue’s Sew Young section includes reports on the activities of two chapters. One, the Sarasota/Gulf Coast, Fla. Chapter, is a veteran at teaching kids to sew. In addition to the 4-H Sewing Camp which they have been running for the past six years, they also participate annually in their County Fair, introducing children and adults to the art and life skill of sewing. The second, the Kokomo, Ind. Chapter, developed their first TAG event last summer—a two-day program (repeated twice) aimed at second through fourth graders. It was such a success that they plan to do it again this year. Previous Notions’ stories inspired Kokomo. Perhaps their success will inspire your chapter.

Are there impediments that keep you from sewing as often as you would like? Is clutter a culprit? “Taming Your Creative Clutter” by ASG member Deborah Sumner is full of ideas for getting sewing room chaos under control. Are your challenges cognitive ones brought on by the natural progression of age? ASG member Beth Calvo, a retired certified rehabilitation counselor, offers a wealth of advice in “How to Keep Sewing at Any Age.”

If you have knowledge you’d love to share with your fellow ASG members or comments about what appears in Notions,  I’d love to hear from you. Email me at editorial@asg.org.

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Upcycle Denim

by Ramona on April 24, 2015


Good Morning!

I’ve been pondering all week what I should write for this week’s blog. Then a friend emailed me wondering what to do with her old jeans; she doesn’t want to give them away because she doesn’t feel they are good enough, but she said she’d rather re-purpose them and get in some much needed sewing experience.

She is a beginning sewist. She has some limited garment experience and this year her goal is to take apart some old garments to get experience working with different fabrics. I think this is a fabulous idea. It gives an opportunity to learn about fabrics. She is already familiar with the characteristics from having worn the garments she now wants to re-purpose them. She wants to just cut the garments apart, learn about what needle to use, how the fabric needs to be supported with interfacing, what stitch length would be best, and just have an enjoyable time learning and not worrying about perfecting a garment. I reminded her to make a notebook and keep notes about what she learns so she will have that information as a jumping off point when she works with the same type of fabric again.

I spent some time one evening this week scouting out some websites to give her ideas on how to re-purpose her jeans. I thought perhaps you’d find some ideas you might like to use as well. As I was searching, I also came across this information on the Levi Strauss website: 3,000 year old jeans!

old jeans








Please, if you find any others, share them on our ASG Facebook page. It’s always fun to see what others are doing and how creatively folks use their discarded clothing. Do you see anything on any of these sites you think you would like to create?

Sew ‘til next time…enjoy the journey of sewing!


These are the links to the websites; because these links are to other websites, please be careful not to accidently click on any ads you don’t want to view. Here are a couple of things that caught my eye, but there are a lot of ideas available by clicking on each link.

wall art








napkin rings








lunch bag














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I definitely hit a chord with readers of this blog last week and our ASG Facebook page this week. It seems pattern alteration is a skill continually and eagerly sought yet it can be all but blood curdling. Which end of the spectrum are you on?

As I continue to work on this Understanding Pattern Alteration series, I’m finding out more about the thoughts of others (ASG members and non-members) on this subject. Books seem to be as much of a conundrum as pattern alteration itself. There was a very nice discussion on a couple books mentioned on the ASG Facebook page this week. As an educator what I try and do is show different resources available and give insight into their content. There are so many good books on the market from college level text books to those written by professionals who also happen to advertise with ASG and teach at our conference. Each has their own take on techniques and how the approach to garment fitting and pattern alteration is accomplished. Each has great value to the home sewer depending on what a sewist is looking to learn. Some books–such as college text books–can be out of range of the budget for many, but on the other hand they are meant for a person studying the craft for entry into the manufacturing end of the clothing profession.

Other books have the insights of those who have worked professionally with individual clients. Their take is different because the customer is different. Whereas college text books are meant for learning about the process in the manufacturing and retail end of garment sales, books written by a person who works sewing for the general public making custom garments will no doubt have a greater body of experience in pattern alteration with different styles and variations in fitting the human form from petite to tall, flat bottoms to larger busts, and protruding shoulder blades to high hips and so on. In some ways I think their experience is greater because they work with all sizes, shapes and personalities versus a pattern maker drafting for a fit model and the pattern made from a “block” of last year’s best- selling style to be graded to fit the general population of the store’s clientele.

Still other books are written specifically for those wanting to learn to draft patterns beginning with a sloper. These books are sometimes used at the college level, but they are affordable and give insight not in the other books. For instance, Connie Crawford’s book “Patternmaking Made Easy” was used as one of the textbooks in a class I taught in  college. Connie  has also worked over the years developing sewing patterns for the Butterick pattern company. Personally, I find her patterns for the most part work well for me with the addition of the length throughout the pattern pieces—an easy fix. I know how to alter the pattern to fit the style of garment I choose to sew. I can use her commercial pattern as a “block” and then use the book she has written to draft pattern pieces to re-style the pattern as I’d like.

Palmer/Pletsch books go hand-in-hand with pattern company alterations. They have worked with McCall’s for years developing patterns. I especially love their blazer pattern. After I altered it to fit I was able to use the pattern to create blazers in many different fabrics only having to alter and finesse the fit for the fabric being used.  As I age and my shape (choke-choke) changes, I can use their book to alter the pattern to fit the new variation of me and then just sew away with confidence.

Nancy Zieman has written many books and when she was at our conference last year as the keynote speaker, I got to spend a few private moments with her. I thanked her for helping to enhance my skills through her TV show (I’ve been watching since her very first show). Her updated method of the “pivot and slide” technique I found to be easy to duplicate with excellent results for those clients wanting me to sew for them without the true “custom” price I would have had to charge if I were to draft a sloper and create each and every pattern from scratch.

I think there is a time and place for it all. There is no one “right way”. The book to choose is one which is within the budget and will give the outcome sought for what is to be accomplished. Is it to work in manufacturing? Is it just to learn how to make some simple alterations? Is it to have a large body of knowledge to be able to sew for other people using commercial patterns? Is it to be able to create a true custom business by creating individual slopers and drafting each and every garment from the ground up?

I have enjoyed learning all there is to learn about pattern drafting and pattern alteration (I thank my geometry teacher, Mr. Smith, for introducing me to the love of all things parallel, perpendicular, drawing angles, working with graphed x and y axis, and using those pretty color pencils to accomplish it all!) It’s an on-going journey of learning and exploring. Each time a new book comes on the market I want to scope it out to see if there is a new take on an old technique giving rise to an easier way of doing pattern alterations with even better results.

Expand your library of sewing resources to fit the type of sewing you like to do and what you are trying to accomplish with your sewing whether simply a once-in-a-while hobbyist to a custom dressmaker with a private clientele. There is a book out there to fit the knowledge you seek and they all are of great value to your pattern making skills.

Sew ‘til next time….enjoy the journey of sewing!



Here is a sampling of books and DVDs I have purchased over the years as my resources for custom dressmaking and teaching. Please click on the book to be taken to the link at the Amazon website or other website to read about the book and its content.


S3720003 S3720004 S3720005 S3720006 S3720007 S3720008 S3720009 S3720010 S3720011 S3720012 S3720013 S3720014 S3720015 S3720016 S3720017 S3720018 S3720019 S3720020 S3730001 S3730002






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Personal thoughts on Pattern Fitting

April 10, 2015

I’m working on a new series for ASG: Understanding Pattern Alteration. There is such a huge body of knowledge that goes into this subject. I posted thoughts earlier this week on our ASG Facebook page: “My mind has been active thinking about different pattern alteration concepts–why are there so many, do they all have very […]

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Sewing and making a Kransekake

April 2, 2015

Earlier this week I posted on the ASG Facebook page about what I had accomplished last weekend: ”…and the rings baked for the Kransekake. This has prompted thoughts for this week’s blog. I know you must be wondering how making a Kransekake relates to sewing–but trust me, it does!” It turns out making a Kransekake is […]

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Accolades to a good machine Dealership!

March 27, 2015

What is it about the anticipation of a “new toy”? You know what I mean: new machine on order! I was gifted some money specifically to purchase an electronic cutting machine. What JOY! A new machine!!! Just like shopping for a sewing machine, I look at what features are on the machine and I look […]

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New! ASG Online Classes

March 13, 2015

ASG is pleased to announce that the next section of the embroidery series is posted on the ASG.org website for members (not a member? Join here!). We’ve gotten such a wonderful response on the beginning series we thought we’d continue on. Members are telling us that they’ve learned things they were not taught when purchasing […]

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