Category Archives: tutorial

A French Machine Sewing Primer & Pattern

I’m excited to announce that I have a new sewing primer available in my Etsy shop.  I have been busy working on a FMS (French Machine Sewing) primer geared towards those that want to learn how to do FMS but have very little or no experience and are intimidated at the idea.  The primer offers detailed instructions with pictures that I hope will allow the novice to muster up the courage and work with these beautiful laces!  I have finished up the primer and included not only instructions but I have also have included a sweet bonnet pattern to work on as a first project.

While working on the primer, I pulled out my beautiful vintage laces and thought that this was the perfect project to use them on.  I managed to find a box full of smaller pieces of vintage laces last year at an estate sale.  Some of the lace pieces are absolutely exquisite and made of the finest threads I’ve seen.  I cleaned the laces and have been saving them for something like this.  I hope that you can see the detail on the first and the 6th (from the front, just after the ruffle).  In person, these are breathtaking!!!  This will make a gorgeous baby bonnet for a very special baby!!!  I stitched these delicate and fragile laces to some silk organza for stability.  Because of the delicate nature of the lace and the age of them, I had to hand gather the ruffle for the front.  I believe that the ruffle is a coordinating lace for the 5th lace – they both have identical ovals stitched and the netting thread is identical.

Can you tell that I am excited to finally have a project to use these pretty laces on!!!

It is my hope that those who may have been afraid to try out FMS techniques will have the confidence to not only make a sweet bonnet, but move forward and create other beautiful heirloom garments as well.

If you’ve been on the fence about heirloom sewing, this may be the push that you need to start something beautiful!  The pattern can be found in my Etsy shop.

Happy stitching!!!


How To Change A Neckline Tutorial

Like so many seamstresses, I have a plethora of patterns that I have secured over many years of sewing.  My sewing is primarily for children and mostly for girls.  Styles change, but the basic lines of classic styles don’t change much.  Most changes are seen in the size/style of collars and sleeves.  Dresses in the 50’s sported sweet tiny collars and small sleeves while the 90’s had large collars and huge sleeves.  I’m pretty sure that a beach ball could have been stored in some of those sleeves!  LOL!

One of the more significant changes that I’ve observed  recently has been in the comfort factor of children’s clothing.  Most children are used to the comfort of knit clothing.  The result of that is that children find anything with a true neckline to be uncomfortable and it is perceived as too tight.  This became obvious when I gave dresses that our youngest daughter wore to the granddaughter’s to wear – the classic style would still work, but they said that the neckline was too tight.  Children’s necks have not gotten larger, they have become used to less constrictive clothing.  I believe that this has also resulted in seeing fewer collars on the dresses that the little girls are wearing.

With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to share ways to adjust the neckline of a dress/blouse.  While it is a very simple process, many find alterations of this kind to be intimidating.

The first thing that should be done is to trace the bodice front and back pieces of the garment on paper so that the original is preserved.  Once the bodice is traced, remove the seam allowance and cut the pattern pieces at the finished neck – shown in blue.

Once the seam allowance has been trimmed away, the neckline can be redrawn to whatever shape is desired.  Decide on how much to remove from the neckline.  It doesn’t have to be exactly the same from front to back, though it can be done that way if desired.  The following drawing shows the neckline only slightly lower in the back but gradually increasing at the front (shown in pink).  It is imperative that the amount removed at the shoulder seam is EXACTLY the same on both the front and the back bodices – shown with the green arrows.  Once the neckline looks good to you, remove the excess paper beyond the  newly drawn line (pink).

Double check the new neckline by placing the front and the back bodices together at the shoulder seam (pieces will overlap) and ensuring that they align.  Remember that some patterns allow a little ease in the back shoulder seam while others don’t.  Check the original pattern pieces to see if the shoulder seams on front and back are an exact match – if they are, then they should also be an exact match with the neckline alterations.

Now it is time to decide on how the neckline will be finished.  If a bias band will be applied around the neckline, then the pattern is ready to use just as it is.  The finished neckline will be covered with the bias band.

If a plain neckline, piped neckline, or collar is desired, then a seam allowance needs to be added to the neckline edge on both the front and the back bodice pieces.  A 1/4″ seam allowance is a good choice for a neckline seam allowance.  You can add up to 3/8″ for a seam allowance, but more than that is undesirable.

I have been leaving collars off most dresses I make, however, if a collar is desired, it can be drafted at this point.

Don’t feel limited to limit the neckline change to just lowering the neckline slightly, try some other neckline adjustments and have fun with them.  There’s no limit to what can be done – a lower, scooped neckline, a sweetheart neckline, a square neckline, etc.  If you don’t feel confident in the redrafted neckline, test the newly designed bodices with a muslin or some scrap fabric and try it on the child to ensure that the new neckline is pleasing.  Cutting and stitching up a bodice take much fabric or time.  It is better to test it out and ensure that all was done correctly and the finished results are pleasing rather than to being disappointed with the results of the finished garment.

I hope that this has inspired you to consider pulling out some of the patterns that aren’t being used because of the dated styles and getting creative with some simple pattern redrafting!  Of course, adding your own heirloom touches will make it special!

Easter will be here soon – it’s time to get started!

Keep on stitching!!!!




Another Dress + Zip Tutorial

Another day, another dress!  When I delivered the last dress to Ella, Eva was very downcast that she didn’t get a dress (in spite of the fact that she told me she didn’t like it and didn’t want it the day before!).  So, since she requested a purple and pink one just like Ella’s (the C’est Dimanche Roma remake), I had to make one for her as well.  It’s a fun dress, so I was happy to make something that she actually wanted!!!  She hasn’t been a fan of any of my creations lately – only the dolly dresses.


I drafted the dress in a size 5, did some stash diving to find a purple and pink floral for her – she wouldn’t want “dainty”, but rather something bold.  I found a suitable purple and orange.  I hope that will suffice – there’s some pink in there!

I chose a contrast center panel for this dress – just to break up the busy print.  I am happy with the choice as well as the bright orange piping.  With fall right around the corner, I decided to add sleeves to this dress.  Keeping with the lines of the dress, I chose to draft a straight sleeve and piped those and lined them with the contrast used on the front panel.

Because I wasn’t thrilled with the button back option of the first dress, I decided that this dress would get a zipper.  I find a zipper to be a much more practical option than buttons all the way down the back – especially since this will be a play dress.  Trying to minimize the opportunity for a wardrobe malfunction!  Eva is one busy and wild girl, so wardrobe function is important.

I had Livvy and Liam over yesterday afternoon, so I got Livvy to try on the dress.  I think that it is a bit big on her – I made a size 5, and it’s a perfect fit on my size 5 mannequin, but Livvy is still 4, as is Eva.  I may have to make a size 4 pattern and sew some 4’s for Livvy and Eva.  Isn’t she cute!!!  I think I’ll add a narrow sash to the back so that it can be snugged in and worn now.  Pardon the cell phone picture!  LOL!

There are 3 different zipper choices that could be made – invisible, lapped zipper or centered zipper.  I didn’t have an invisible zipper, so opted for a lapped zipper back.  I think it’s a nice, clean finish and almost invisible.

When I learned to sew, we were taught that the centered zipper looked “cheap” as it was used on the mass-produced garments seen in less expensive stores, while lapped zippers were seen in better clothing.  I don’t even know if these distinctions are even made anymore, but in my mind, a lapped zipper looks better.  I’m happy with the results and it will make dressing quick and easy.

I know that so many seamstresses (both new seamstresses as well as seasoned ones) have a fear of zippers, so I thought I’d share my easy application that I’ve used for many years. (I had to use cell phone pictures, but I think they are clear enough)  When I learned to do zippers this way 20+ years ago, it was such a game changer for me.  I hated the basting, etc. that was taught in home ec classes and was never happy with the end results prior to this method.  I have chosen contrast fabric/zipper/thread so that it will be easy to see.

Choose your zipper, place it next to the seam area and with the top of the zipper even with the upper edge of the fabric, mark along the seam where the bottom stop of the zipper is (the metal part at the bottom).  Sew the seam below the mark with a 5/8″ seam allowance.

Press the seam allowance open.  Then press open the 5/8″ seam allowance on both sides above the stitched seam.  A seam guide works really well for this task, giving the fabric a nice crisp crease while measuring at the same time.

With the zipper foot on the machine, place the top edge of the zipper even with the top edge of the fabric and place the zipper seam allowance underneath the fold, placing the raised edge of the zipper right against the folded edge of the dress fabric.  Stitch very close to the folded edge (1/8″ or slightly less).

After taking the first couple stitches, leave the needle in the fabric and raise the zipper foot and carefully open the zipper past the zipper foot area.  Continue stitching along the folded edge.  After a couple of inches have been stitched, leave the needle in the fabric, raise the zipper foot and close the zipper.  Put the zipper foot back down and continue stitching until you reach the bottom of the zipper, where you placed the mark.

At the bottom of the zipper (make sure that you are just PAST the metal stop), leave the needle in the fabric, raise the zipper foot and pivot the fabric/zipper 90º.  Take the other side of the seam allowance and place the folded edge right on top of the stitching line and lower the zipper foot.  Hand crank the wheel of the sewing machine for 4 – 5 stitches.  You want to be just on the other side of the zipper.

Then raise the zipper foot, pivot the fabric 90º, lower the zipper foot and begin stitching back up towards the top of the fabric, keeping the stitching line evenly spaced from the folded edge (use masking tape to aide with stitching straight if needed) and with the folded edge staying exactly on top of the previously stitched line (you want to JUST cover that line of stitching).

When you approach the pull tab of the zipper, put the needle down into the fabric, raise the zipper foot and open the zipper.  Place the seam allowance of the fabric so that it is aligned with the seam allowance of the zipper.

Continue stitching keeping the foot the same distance from the folded edge and stitch to the end of the fabric.

With my contrast thread, you can see that I got a little jag over when I opened the zipper foot – I was hurrying rather than being careful.  Of course, with matching thread this wouldn’t be visible.  However, the goal is to keep everything perfectly even.  😛  It took me less than 2 minutes to put this zipper in – it took longer to stop and take the pictures during the process than it did to stitch the zipper!

As you can see, the lapped zipper is even, the stitching line is covered by the fold of the lap.  When a waistband or facing is sewn to the top edge, it leaves a beautiful finish.

If you’ve been afraid of zippers, give this a practice try – you’ll be amazed at how easy zipper installation is using this technique.

What’s next in the sewing room?  Maybe another pattern draft, though I have pulled out and washed some knits that I may give a try sewing.  😃