• Singer Perfect Plus

    Sew a Mix-and-Match Wardrobe for Plus and Petite-Plus Sizes


    Kathleen Cheetham presents 4 enclosed patterns, step-by-step construction, and fitting instruction. Readers can create a wardrobe of versatile and stylish garments--which can be adapted for office wear, casual wear, or evening wear, just by varying the colors, fabrics, and finishing details. Never have to say you have nothing to wear again!

  • The Pocket Stylist

    Behind-the-Scenes Expertise from a Fashion Pro on Creating Your Own Unique Look

    Professional fashion advice for all body shapes and sizes!

  • Pants for Real People: Fitting Techniques

    Any sewer will benefit from the fitting techniques featured in this informative DVD, a companion to Pants for Real People: Sewing Techniques . 

    Sewers will learn how to buy the right-size pattern, fine-tune it before cutting, and then tissue-fit it. 

  • Pants for Real People: Sewing Techniques

    This informative guide illustrates how to sew great pants that flatter any fit. 

    The tips and techniques within this useful reference include how to prepare and cut fabric, mark darts, sew zippers, pin-fit the fabric, press seams, and attach different styles of waistbands. 

    This DVD is a must-have to follow up the fitting DVD.

  • Big List of Sewing Blogs

    Big list of Sewing blogs - I'm in, are you?

Another Great Sewing Book

The Complete Book Of Sewing

The Complete Book Of Sewing

Reed Books Canada
The Complete Book of Sewing
A practical step-by-step guide to sewing techniques
by Chris Jeffreys
Copyright 1996 Dorling Kindersley Limited, London
ISBN: 0-433-39840-X

Yet another book I borrowed from the library and MUST have in my own collection. I need another book like a hole in the head but I’ve already ordered it.

Just to give you an idea how comprehensive this excellent book is, here is the table of contents from page 4-5:

  • Introduction
  • Tools for the Techniques
  • Patterns
  • Fabrics, Threads, and Notions
  • Basic Stitches
  • Seams
  • Interfacings and Interlinings
  • Darts, Tucks, Pleats and Gathers
  • Necklines
  • Collars
  • Waistlines
  • Sleeves and Cuffs
  • Hems
  • Edges, Fastenings
  • Pockets
  • Professional Techniques
  • Mending
  • Glossary
  • Index
  • Acknowledgments

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’ve got 20+ years of sewing experience under my belt. I should just about be able to WRITE a book like this.

However, I found stuff in here I’ve never seen in a sewing book before. Mending? Custom tailoring? There’s even instructions on how to make your own frog fasteners! There’s lots in here for every sewer at every experience level to learn.

This copy is hardcover, 9 x 12″ and the pages are slick and beautifully laid out. The pictures and diagrams are clear, well-labeled and modern. The only negative thing I found with this book is that it’s heavy but with over 300 pages of great information, that can be overlooked!

If you can only afford a few sewing books, make sure you include this one in your references!

**I have no affiliation to anyone who makes any money from the sales of this book. I am just a fan.

Sensible Fashion Advice for Plus Sized Women

Aside from finding clothes, or making them, that actually fit and flatter, many plus sized women face another unique challenge. We don’t look at ourselves objectively.

I can’t look in the mirror and decide if an outfit looks good or not. Perhaps it’s because I don’t like the way I look so much that I avoid looking in mirrors as much as possible. Perhaps I’m “mirror blind”. I don’t know the reason. However, if I see myself in a picture or video, I see, more objectively, what others see.

This is a problem, especially when shopping for clothes. The problem extends to shopping for clothes, patterns, accessories, shoes, make-up, hairstyles, glasses, etc. whether online or in store.

Bigger Ideas from Color Me Beautiful

Bigger Ideas from Color Me Beautiful

I’ve come across another great book. This one is titled Bigger Ideas from Color Me Beautiful; Colour and Style Ideas for the Fuller Figure by Mary Spillane, published in 1995 by Judy Piatkus (Publishers) Ltd. (ISBN 0-7499-1565-X).

You might think that 1995 would be too dated to be helpful in 2011 but, in this case, you’d be wrong. Although some of the fashion pictures are a little outdated, most of the advice is not.

I’m either going to have to buy this book or take lots of notes. Since I do custom sewing for clients and specialize in plus sized clothing, I’m thinking I should just buy the book.

For years, I have struggled to identify my body type. I am short and fat. That’s all I really knew. I thought I had a defined waist and my shoulders are only slightly narrower than my hips but did that make me an “hourglass” shape? From the waist down I am 1 or 2 sizes larger than from the waist up. Does that make me a pear shape? I carry a lot of weight around my middle. Does that make me an apple shape?

Each shape has a different set of guidelines that are recommended for dressing it the best. Until you can definitively decide, “I am a  . . .”, how do you dress your body?

I suspect that, like me, a lot of plus sized women struggle to identify their body types and, if they, too, suffer from “mirror blindness”, how can we possibly decide what looks good or bad?

I’ve basically always bought clothes based on what would go around my fat torso, my fat arms, my fat legs, and, if I was lucky, I might only have to shorten the sleeves or hems. If it was comfortable, I liked the color, and it would go around me, that’s all I required from a garment.

This book helped me to see that I am, indeed, an hourglass shape. Plus sized, still, but an hourglass nevertheless. Before all you other shapes decide to hate me because I have the sought-after hourglass shape, keep in mind that I also don’t have the shapely limbs that apples have, meaning sleeveless tops and dresses are out and most skirts and dresses are out. As my waist is high, at elbow length, belts are really not comfortable and as I’m short, wide belts are definitely out.

This book not only has sections to define the best looks for all the different shapes, it also has specifics for “Little but Large” women like me. Petite Plus in other words.

It also includes sections on hairstyles, makeup, and even accessories (how does the shape of your earrings affect your face?)!

If you are one of the many plus sized women who struggle with finding the best clothing shapes and your own “style”, I’d highly recommend reading (or even buying) this book.

I have no affiliation with anyone who makes money from the sales of this book.

Finally, a Really GOOD Beginner Sewing Book!

Sewing Machine Basics; A step-by-step course for first-time stitchers by Jane Bolsover published in 2010 by CICO Books (ISBN: 978 1 907030 73 4).

Sewing Machine Basics Book

Sewing Machine Basics Book

Borrowed this book from the library but I’m going to buy it in spite of the facts:

  • I’ve been sewing for over 20 years.
  • I know a lot about sewing.
  • I have way too many books in general and limited storage space.
  • I have way too many sewing books.
  • I no longer buy books until I have borrowed them from the library and decided I must to own them.
  • I’m not a wealthy person.
  • I don’t buy stuff just to buy it (I’m not much of a shopper – at least not offline)
  • I don’t need the 7 full-size pull-out patterns included in the book.

So why, then, am I going to buy this book?

Good question!

I’m just that impressed.

Want to know how to thread a sewing machine? Check page 13.

Want to know how to insert a bobbin? Check page 14.

Want to know how a sewing machine works? Check page 12.

Want to know what kind of sewing machine yours is? Check page 10.

Easy to read and understand.

Full of clear photos and diagrams.


I have NO affiliation with the author or publishers or any other people who make money from the sales of this book. In fact, I don’t even carry it in my own store. But I hope to soon!

Next time I teach a beginner’s sewing class, I will include a copy of this book for each student.

In fact, a copy of this book should accompany every sewing machine sold!

I just think it’s that good.

Note to author: Well done, Jane! I’m a fan.


Can bras be made by home sewists?

While my favorite garments to sew are blazer-type jackets, my 2nd favorite has to be bras.

A few years ago, I took a bra-making course in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. In the class, each participant was measured carefully for a bra and was able to purchase a set of patterns drafted by the instructor in their own size. Then each student crafted their own bra with help from the instructor.

I learned that I’d been buying C cup bras and really needed a D or a DD cup!

It is estimated that 80% of women wear the wrong size bra. I was one of them.

Because bras depend on two interdependent measurements, the sizing can be difficult to understand.

One measurement is the cup size. The other is your body circumference just below the bust.

For example, I was wearing a 44C for many years (yes, I’m a plus size). I learned that I was trying to squeeze my DD’s into a too-small cup size in an attempt to get the bra to fit around me. I actually only needed a size 42 or even a 40! But I needed a larger cup size to cover “the girls” completely. By going to a D size cup, I only needed a 42 size band. If I could fill out a DD cup, I only needed a 40 band!

As each cup size goes up, the band size goes down.

Of course, each bra manufacturer makes a slightly different fitting bra. A DD size cup doesn’t always fit me consistently. Sometimes I find there is extra fabric in the cup that my “girls” just can’t fill. Then I try a bra with a D cup but I go to the larger band size as well.

A bra should feel quite tight around the band. That is where 90% of the lifting support should be. Many women depend almost entirely on the straps to provide the lift and that just makes a bra uncomfortable and cut into the shoulder flesh. That’s not the way bras were intended to work.

Not only that, but making your own bras can cost as little as $10 per bra! Consider that most women need at least 2 or 3 bras and replace them once or twice a year, you can save a WHOLE lot by making your own!

A gain or loss of as little as 10 pounds actually can change your bra size!

What do you need to make a bra? You must have a zig zag sewing machine. Most are these days so that’s no biggie. You need the supplies and patterns, of course, and you need your accurate measurements. That’s it.

And once you’ve made a couple of bras, you will see they are easy, fast, and better fitting. You, too, will get “hooked”!

Here are some more tips on bra making.

Buy bra making supplies here.



Favorite Sewing Machines

Anyone who reads my blog will be aware that my personal favorite sewing machine is Mom’s vintage White model 782 (which I now own – Wahoo!) but I’ve read that the machine that does the very BEST straight stitching is actually the Singer Featherweight machine. I hope to own one of these one day. And I’m not the only one who drools over these sewing machines too. Here is another opinion about the Singer Featherweight Sewing Machine.

You can buy a Singer Featherweight Sewing Machine here.

Can a Sewing Needle Penetrate Glass?

I came across an amazing slow-motion video this morning of a man throwing a sewing needle through a piece of glass. Although not really on topic, it’s VERY cool and you have to check it out! Scroll down to see the video . . .


How to thread a sewing machine

Here is my video about how to thread a sewing machine. I use the White 782 machine in this video and I show you how to wind the bobbin, how to insert the bobbin into the bobbin case, and how to insert the case into the machine. Then I show you how to thread the machine in preparation for sewing.

How to thread a White 782 Sewing Machine

Murphy’s Laws of Sewing

I have been reading again . . .

1000 Clever Sewing Shortcuts & Tips Book

1000 Clever Sewing Shortcuts & Tips Book

What can I say, I love the library!

This book is called 1,000 Clever Sewing Shortcuts & Tips; Top-Rated Favorites from Sewing Fans and Master Teachers by Deepika Prakash (ISBN-13: 978-1-58923-502-1), published by Creative Publishing International, Inc. in 2010. On page 8 I came across Murphy’s laws of sewing and I just had to share them.

  • When you are two inches away from the end of the last seam in your project, you will run out of bobbin thread.
  • You will break your last needle five minutes after the local fabric store closes.
  • Buttonholes on your practice piece will go like a dream. The first one you do on the real thing will be a mess!

I’ve had days like this. Have you?

The Skirt from Hell – Client Ordered

I’ve been extremely busy sewing over the last week. I had a client ask me to make a skirt for her in time for a social event. She originally wanted a two layer skirt with the outer fabric being one she’d ordered off the ‘net but that fabric didn’t arrive quickly enough so she went to a fabric shop and found another that she liked. Originally, the pattern she wanted was the “Flirty Skirt” from the Petite Plus Pattern collection in Kathleen Cheetham’s book. This fabric was a brown floral silk-look 100% polyester. She instead chose to have this made from McCall’s pattern M5396, but she wanted it floor length. No problem, right?

McCalls Pattern M5396 Size AA

McCalls Pattern M5396 Size AA

I started by altering the size 12 pattern to her measurements (about a size 30). That wasn’t too difficult or time consuming. I had it done in about an hour and a half.

Next was cutting the pieces. Being a silky type of fabric, of course, it was difficult to straighten and cut this fabric. This took a lot of time, patience, and pins! I left an extra 12″ at the bottom of each piece so I could lengthen the skirt to the length the client wanted. BUT, I wasn’t thinking straight. Having never made this pattern or one like it, I never thought about leaving extra fabric at the bottom edge of the godet (gore) pieces. Since they are cut on the bias, there really wasn’t room to add that much to the bottom of each without cutting the fabric single-layered and I didn’t have enough fabric to do that on the bias but the hem doesn’t look straight across on the pattern front so I thought it would be OK. Cutting done, or so I thought, I headed to the sewing machine. The first step was to insert the side zipper. I began reading the instructions and then realized I was short two side panels (the pattern says to cut 4 of these (I misread it) rather than the usual 2 – of course, these are the largest pieces in the pattern!) so, back to the cutting table…

In the scraps, I found one piece large enough, when single-layered, to make 1 side panel. The other I had to piece two scraps together for. That was OK. I would hide the extra vertical seam in the side back on the zipper side and, since the skirt was quite full, I was sure it wouldn’t show.

I seamed the pieces together and cut the missing two side panels. At least I remembered to do them mirror images so they wouldn’t both be for same side!

Back at the sewing machine, I followed the instructions for inserting the zipper. This was straight-forward. The zipper bottom was to line up exactly with the point of the top of one of the triangular godet pieces. No problem – except the zipper end caused this light fabric to buckle slightly. I didn’t like that bump but there is no “forgiveness” in this fabric so I couldn’t do anything about it.

No problem except that my very sharp scissors caught a tiny bit of fabric while snipping threads! I now had a 1/4″ cut in the fabric about 1.5″ below the waistband to try and hide! Quickly I grabbed my No Fray and soaked the cut, setting it aside to dry. Then I found a small scrap of the same part of the pattern and made a circle of No Fray around it too. When both were dry, I used a tiny piece of fusible web for hems and fused the patch on. I trimmed around the patch as much as possible. I hope it will not fall off during washing.

When finished, I realized that my fabric pieces were already fraying badly from handling. I knew they would fray right back to the seams and, eventually, fall apart completely if I didn’t serge them.

Switching to the serger, I next serged around all the edges of all the pieces, including the pieces I’d just sewed the zipper onto. Serging after already having inserted the zipper was a bit of a challenge! There was another 2 hours (or more) gone!

Attaching two side panels together for the left and right sides was next. At this point I realized that if I put the side zipper on the left side as per instructions, the seam from the piece I had to seam together to cut that 4th side panel would be in front. I decided the zipper could be on the right side instead, putting that extra seam on the back of the skirt.

Next was to attach the remaining godet pieces to the front and back pieces. Lining up the tops of the triangular godets with the large dots and stitching them on was no problem. Then attaching all the pieces to each other from the large dots upward was no problem too.

I was to attach the waistband next. At this point I realized I’d cut 2 waistband pieces when only 1 was required. I decided that a tiny 1/2″ wide waistband would look out of proportion on this large skirt so I would seam the waistbands together at the top edge resulting in a 1″ wide waistband. Luckily I’d cut these pieces using the selvedge edge of the fabric for one straight edge. I serged the 2 together along the other long edge.

Stitching the longest straight stitch around the top edge of the skirt to ease (or gather) it to fit the length of the waistband, I pulled the bobbin threads from one end then the other. This took a lot of time as well because I lined up the waistband 1/2″ from the end (to leave seam allowance for stitching across the end of the waistband), not thinking ahead that I would need to leave more than that on each end for overlapping and adding the hooks and bars! After pinning the waistband to the skirt top, I realized that I’d added 5 inches of extra length to the waistband for these overlaps and the waistband, as I had it, would be way too big. Dumb, dumb, dumb!

I added more gathers, adjusted them, and repinned the waistband. At least I hadn’t stitched it on before I realized my mistake!!

Taking a deep sigh, and crossing my fingers (not literally), I stitched on the waistband. I stitched both ends down and turned the waistband. So far, so good. I didn’t want to topstitch the waistband because the thread was not the best match for this big floral print so I ended up slipstitching the inside of the waistband. It took me until 3:00 am to do it but it looked great!

I still had 1 day to do the hem.

In the meantime, the fabric the client ordered from eBay had arrived. It is a very sheer multi-colored silk organza. She wanted this as the top layer of the Flirty Skirt and was off to buy fabric for the bottom layer. She wanted all these skirts completed before the event so she could choose which to wear. I still had to adjust the pattern (1 piece, thank goodness) and cut out both layers of the Flirty Skirt.

She purchased the only lining fabric our local fabric store had in a color that would be OK for the under skirt of the Flirty Skirt. She couldn’t get the stretch lining because the store didn’t have any. Sad.

Back to the hemming. Because I didn’t have enough of the brown floral polyester fabric to extend the length of the godet pieces, and I didn’t realize that the skirt also needed those pieces extended to lengthen it, I ended up having to cut off the extra 12″ I’d added to the front, back, and side pieces. It turns out that, except for the curvy bottom of the godets, the hem is supposed to be straight. I carefully marked from the bottom of one godet to the bottom of the next, working my way around the skirt. Then I serged across these pieces to cut them off at the original length.

I decided that, since this polyester fabric wouldn’t hold a crease when pressed and couldn’t take a very hot iron or it would melt, I would just double fold the hem up at the top of the 3/8″ serging and hem it there. I was trying to make it as long as possible since I couldn’t make the overall skirt as long as the client wanted.

Hemming this skirt took a whole day!

Testing on scrap pieces, I tried a zig zag hem, a straight hem, and a blind hem. Because the thread didn’t match well, I didn’t like the look of any of them. I decided to try mono filament nylon thread as it is less visible. Here is my experience with it! My solution was to fill a bobbin less than 1/2 full of this thread so it didn’t explode!

After much testing on scrap and as much error as trial, I finally decided to just topstitch the hem using monofilament thread in the bobbin and needle. It didn’t look great but I was under time pressure here. The client wanted at least one skirt ready for 9:00 the next morning!

At 1:00 am, I finished the hem. Whew!

The next morning, I called her to let her know it was ready. She came to pick up her skirt and, upon trying it on, she noticed that it hung funny. The zipper side was noticeably shorter than the left side. I don’t know how this happened. I was very careful cutting, marking, and piecing. The only thing I can think of is that, because I enlarged the pattern, perhaps it needed a longer zipper?

She decided to wear it anyway and was otherwise happy with the skirt overall. I, on the other hand, was quite disappointed. With my knowledge and experience, I should not make such a rookie mistake. At least it fit her . . .

I didn’t charge her on pick up. The skirt actually took me 4 days to sew because of the fabric difficulties, my inexperience with this pattern, and my own stupid screw-ups. I definitely learned a lot during this process. Should the client have to pay for my learning process?

I’m thinking that I will not charge her at all for the sewing time on this skirt. Perhaps just for the pattern alteration time since that is the only part that I did properly.

As the client was in a hurry when she picked it up, and I didn’t really want to remember this skirt, I didn’t even suggest taking a picture of it!

After completing these skirts, I have decided I will no longer accept 100% polyester fabric to do any sewing for clients. There is just no point in putting in days of sewing time with cheap quality fabric!

I doubt I will ever sew this McCall’s M5396 pattern again.

Now I need to sew the double layered Flirty Skirt. At this point, I am not looking forward to it. :(




2nd box of attachments for White 782 Sewing Machine

The same day the other box of attachments arrived in the mail, the 2nd box I’d bought off eBay also arrived.

Black Metal Attachment Box

Black Metal Attachment Box

This one, I knew, was a hemmer set. The box is black in color, shows some wear, and is made of metal. Painted on the top is the word “Attachments” bordered by a scroll outline.

Hemmer Set in Box

Hemmer Set in Box

When I opened the box, there was a jumble of metal items inside but as I organized them and placed them properly, I found that this box was actually designed to store these attachments in a set manner so they are easy to find when needed.


White Sewing Machine Ruffler 2

White Sewing Machine Ruffler 2

As well as a complete hemmer set with 5 different sizes, I also discovered another tucker

White Sewing Machine Tucker 2

White Sewing Machine Tucker 2

, another quilting guide, another narrow hemmer foot and another ruffler attachment. As well, there is a cutting guide and a gathering foot.

Since this box of attachments cost about $5.00 plus shipping, it too was a great deal!! The ruffler and the tucker each normally cost about $50.00. I have no idea how much the hemmer set would normally cost.

This just goes to show how, if you know what you are looking at, some excellent deals can be found on eBay!

I am waiting for a White buttonhole attachment to arrive. I found it advertised on kijiji.com for $5.00 plus shipping. I don’t know what these attachments cost these days because you really can’t buy them new anymore. After ordering a Singer one (and I don’t have a Singer machine), I learned that buttonhole attachments are not universal. This Singer one won’t fit my White, my Babylock, or my Elna machine. However, I have also discovered that all feet and attachments that fit my Elna 2004 also fit the White 782. They share bobbin types as well, although the Elna can also take a plastic bobbin. Haven’t tried one of them in the White machine yet.

It is nice to know that feet and attachments can be interchanged between them though. That means 1/2 the storage will suffice.