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It took me years and years of sewing before I finally learned what a princess seam was.
Princess seams are flattering to almost all figure types. They will enhance your waist, if you have one, or give you a waist if you don’t. They add another vertical line in your garment which elongates the figure (most of us can use all the vertical lines we can get!).
Here is a line drawing of Petite Plus Princess Seamed Blazer – 202.
Notice the seam between the Center Front and the side seam on the jacket front and the seam between the Center Back and the side seam on the back? It is slightly curved at the top end.
This seam is the “princess” seam.
It follows the general hour-glass curve that is the ideal womanly figure type every woman wants to achieve.
This is one type of Princess Seam. Because it intersects with the armscye (or armhole) seam at the top, I will call it the arm-hole type of princess seam.
Here are some line drawings from Butterick dress pattern number 3114 with a shoulder type of princess seam. The intersection of the princess seam occurs not at the arm-hole but at the shoulder seam.
The slimming, hour-glass effect of the princess seam is basically the same for both types.
With just a little altering, it is possible to change an arm-hole type of princess seam to a shoulder type or vice-versa just by re-drawing the princess seam and slightly changing the connecting pieces to adjust seam allowances.
On either type of princess seam, the actual princess seam is meant to run up-and-down directly across the apex of the bust. In a well-fitted garment, it will. For many women this means adjusting the amount of curve in the seam as their bust often is placed to one side or the other or above or below the “curviest” part of the seam (the widest part of the bump on the side piece).
Adjusting a princess seamed pattern is a little bit challenging but can be done and, if done correctly, is an incredibly attractive look.
The best advice I’ve found about altering these seams is to pin-fit the pattern and, while on yourself or your dressform, unpin part of the princess seam to allow it to spread if more fabric is needed or pin snugger if less is needed. If it is too tight, unpinning that princess seam, just over the bust, actually shows you whether more fabric is needed on the side front or on the front piece so you can add it where it is needed. Make sure you are wearing a great bra so your bust is held within the width of your body frame.
This is a better method than just adding half of the total amount needed to both the side front and the front piece. For example, I find that I usually need very little added to the front piece and much more added to the side front. If I just added half the total amount to the side piece and half to the front piece, the seam would not lie directly across my bust apex.
As opposed to a princess seam, here is a line drawing of Buttrick pattern #5065 showing the jacket shaping done with darts and tucks instead.
Here is a quick review of Practical Sewing: Step-by-step to perfect dressmaking and home sewing by Ann Ladbury and published by Rand McNally & Company in 1976 (ISBN:528-81039-1 [Hardbound]/528-88198-1 [Paperback]).
This book is another “must-have” resource for any sewists library. It includes very comprehensive coverage of a wide variety of sewing-related topics for any level of experience, from beginner to advanced sewists.
The table of contents (page 5) reads as follows:
- The Basics of Sewing
- Sewing Machines
- Hand-sewing Equipment
- Fibers and Fabrics
- Hand Sewing and Stitches
- Machine Stitches
- Perfect Dressmaking
- Sleeve Openings and Cuffs
- Fitting and Altering
- Sewing for the Home
- Curtains and Shades
- Table Linen
- Bed Linen
- Decorative Sewing
- Embroidery Equipment
- Crewel Embroidery
- Machine Embroidery
- Canvas Embroidery
- Drawn, Counted and Pulled Thread Work
- Machine Faults
- Natural Fibers Chart
- Manmade Fibers Chart
Inside this book you can learn how to read patterns, see how to sew a wide variety of hand and machine stitches, and learn specialized techniques used on various parts of a typical garment.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a great sewing resource. Once again, don’t let the age of the book fool you. Everything in it is still applicable to modern sewists!
I don’t think this book is in print anymore but there are a few used copies available on amazon.
**Note: Once again, I have no affiliation with anyone who makes money from the sales of this book but I am a huge fan!
Yesterday I finally got the voice-over and editing done on this video. It is now available on youtube. In spite of the lack of a camera person, I think it turned out OK. What do you think? All feedback is welcome.
I’m not putting a picture with this post – you’ll see why in a bit.
As I mentioned in previous posts, many women, like me, have “mirror blindness,” that is, we can’t see ourselves objectively in a mirror.
The best way I’ve found to overcome this problem is to look at a picture or video instead. That way I see myself the way everyone else sees me.
I wanted to learn what my best colors were for when I was shopping for clothing or fabric to make clothing. So here’s what I did . . .
I took a few pictures of myself in my underwear. These pictures were not meant to be seen by anyone but me!
I uploaded them to my computer and opened them in a photo editing program. I created a new layer overtop the picture and made an empty block in the rough outline of a dress. If you are not very skilled with your photo editer, any shape of block will do. I moved the block to where my neckline is and made it large enough to cover my body.
Next I played with the colors on my computer. I filled the shape in with various colors from the color palette to determine which ones I liked and which I didn’t.
As I changed from color to color, I kept track of what looked good. By the time I finished, I had a palette of colors I liked and a group of them became clear to me. I learned that I look best in jewel tones. Regardless of the actual color (blue, pink, red, etc.), I found out that my colors are those that are intense and clearly distinct. No more muted or earthy colors for me!
Interestingly, my favorite color has always been yellow; the color of the sun. That also happens to be one of the colors I look best in.
I also love purple; opposite on the color wheel to yellow.
By using modern technology (the computer), I was able to do a “color draping” in the privacy of my own home and create a palette of colors that look great on me.
Print off your color palette and carry it in your purse with you for when you’re shopping. Then you won’t be running around the fabric store looking for a mirror!
This also helps tremendously when shopping for fabric or clothing online!
Like most sewists, I love shopping for fabric. Set me free in a fabric store and you can generally pick me up in a week or so.
However, I live in a remote area with only 1 local fabric store and they cater to quilters. Almost every bolt in there is 100% cotton. Great for quilters. Not so much for other sewists.
If I travel the 2 hours to the city, there are a couple of stores but they are relatively limited and expensive. And those are all the choices I have.
Shopping online has opened up a whole world of fabric for people like me. Now I can sit in the comfort of my own home (in my jammies, if I choose!) and browse beautiful fabrics from far away places.
The trouble is, many of us fabric-aholics need to feel the fabric to know what we’re buying. Although we can overlook that colors can be slightly misrepresented because of varying computer displays, the feel of the fabric is nearly impossible to demonstrate over the internet.
I hate buying something I am not sure about. I could order swatches. Most online fabric stores offer this service. But that means waiting and I’m impatient.
After sewing for 20+ years, I still didn’t know my cotton lawn from my wool gaberdine. I didn’t know enough about fabric to be able to purchase wisely online. But I knew enough to buy a great book to help me!
Enter Sandra Betzina’s More Fabric Savvy (ISBN-10: 9781561586622/ISBN-13: 978-1561586622) published by Taunton Press. (I borrowed the picture from Amazon. Go there if you want to click to see inside the book.)
This book is my “Online Fabric Shopping Bible”!!
Inside, you will find pairs of pages dedicated to each type of fabric. There is a fantastic picture (which you can almost feel) and TONS of information about each fabric, including how to clean, how to sew it, what type of needle and thread are best, fabric characteristics, special tips for handling, what garments it is best suited for, and much more.
Every sewist who wants or needs to purchase fabric online NEEDS this reference book while browsing! You can purchase it through Amazon.
I have no affiliation with Amazon, the author, publisher, or anyone else who makes money from sales of this book. It’s just another tool I love.
PS. One online fabric store I highly recommend is Gorgeous Fabrics. I have no affiliation with them either.
Many sewists recommend using sponges for pin cushions but I found something better and cheaper.
I bought this kneeling pad at the Dollar Store for $1.00. It cuts easily with a sharp utility knife. It is dense enough to hold pins and needles securely but soft enough to push them in easily.
Cut it to the size, shape, and thickness you want. Cover it with fabric if you want to jazz it up a bit.
You can make a bunch of pin cushions from just one pad. And for only $1.00!
I was reading some more of the great sewing tips in Deepika Prakash’s book (ISBN-13: 978-1-58923-502-1), published by Creative Publishing International, Inc. in 2010. I came across this GREAT tip for measuring crotch curves.
I’ve struggled with this measurement for years. I bought a flexible curved ruler to measure with. I even had my hubby make a homemade dressform of my lower half. But this is a much simpler method. I don’t know why I never thought of this before!
The secret is regular kitchen aluminum foil.
In the book it suggests taking a length of foil long enough to reach from the waist in the front, between the legs, up to the waist in the back. Then you roll that length lengthwise into a “snake” and gently bend it to conform to your body curves. A helper can mark with a sharpie where your center crotch is and where the snake reaches the front and back waistline.
Carefully remove the foil, cut off the ends at the points where it reached the front and back waistband and you have a perfectly conformed crotch curve.
In addition, especially for plus sized women, you might want to sit down with the snake still on, since our crotch curves lengthen when we sit. Make your pants for this longer crotch curve and they will always fit you when you sit as well as when you stand/walk.
Personally, I find that lots of ready-to-wear pants are a bit short in the crotch for me. When I put them on, the front waistband pulls down noticeably about 1″ or so, making the waistband form a V shape on my front. Not a good look.
By having the crotch curve marked at the center, you can see if you need to add more length at the front or the back. Our bodies are not always symmetrical from left to right but, especially plus sized bodies, are often very uneven front to back. Some of us are bigger in the front and some in the back. Only add fabric where your body actually needs it.
The other part I always had difficulty with was finding my “center”. Then I realized that the crotch center determines where the pants inseams will lie. Since I want the inseams to run down the middle of my inner legs, I had my helper keep that in mind when marking the crotch center on the snake. Now everything hangs where it should!
If you need a laugh, read on . . .
So I’m working away on the grey jacket yesterday.
I attached the front facings, snipped to the stitching line at the top button notch and the collar notch, then understitched to hold the seam allowance to one side. All went perfectly.
Then I attached the fronts to the back at the shoulders and pressed the seam allowances open. The next step was to stitch the side seams but . . .
When I tried to pin them together, they looked funny and didn’t match at all. Then I realized that I’d sewn the fronts to the wrong sides!
I was trying to match an armhole to a side seam. What a rookie mistake!
So, feeling rather foolish, I’m blogging about it to let the world know about my embarrassing mistake.
Thank goodness for seam rippers!