A drink from the fire hose 

(picture from here)

I’ve been at the Rocky Mountain Sewing Expo the past 3 days taking classes on fitting, with a couple of sides of construction and a nod to drafting.  I’m kind of just staring at my machine, trying to figure out where to start, I’ve picked up so many things.  I will try, for myself, as much as you, dear readers to condense my learnings, which I’m going to try to put into application like yesterday.

What I learned:

1.  What you don’t know about sewing is a lot.:  But I do know more than I give myself credit for.  I’m saying this realistically, not negatively.  I’m pretty bowled over by the depth of the knowledge that my teachers unloaded on me this week.  Holy cats.  I want to teach sewing someday?   I need a lot more experience.

2.  FBA’s don’t work for me:  I’ve been suspicious for a while of FFRP’s method of FBA’s.  I get plenty of room upstairs, but the method adds width at the hip and, worse yet, the waist…totally not where I need it.  For my Mom, this is a perfect method.  She needs extra room in the waist and the hip, but for me it distorts everything.  Remember this top?  I’ve lost maybe 5 pounds since I made it, but I seriously should not be able to pinch out 3″ on each side and still be comfortable.  The problems I had with this top (see waist darts) taking out extra room in the waist…it was from the alteration, not the original side seams as I thought.

What’s the solution?  The wonderful Lorraine Henry kept saying over and over again this weekend “When you alter any part of your pattern, it should not affect any other part of the pattern.”  This makes total sense, but how many alteration methods actually preserve the rest of the pattern?  She gave us all a quick blast of the seam method (there’s a little intro on it in this Threads article), which basically has you cutting into patterns along seam lines, adding hinges and pivoting things out where you need extra space.  The beauty of all of this is that the seams themselves are totally preserved, so there is no distortion in your final product, meaning there’s less distortion in your fabric too.  It’s so simple, and it makes so much sense.

3.  Pattern sizing, oy!  Dearest Cynthia Guffey talked at length on Saturday that you should buy patterns not based at all on your high bust but by the size that fits your neck and shoulders the best.  Her logic is that it’s easier to alter for waist/hips/bust if you need to than the neck and shoulders, plus, your garments hang from there, so give yourself the best chance of success and start with neck/shoulder bits that are closest to your measurements.  Looking at me, she said I should be sewing from an 8 or a 10 at the max, not the 12 that I have been using.  What? Really?  Of course my ego is happy over this, but I’m not really sure what to make of this one–I need to mess around with it.  Now that I think about it, looking back at the last couple of projects that I’ve made, there’s a noticeable amount of space around the neck and I’ve had to fuss to make the shoulders work for me.  Back to the drawing board…

4.  Princess seams are your friends:  One of the other things Cynthia Guffey kept saying was that if you have a particular fitting concern, you should pick styles that give you the most opportunities to make changes to address that.  So, for example, I can sew tops with just one dart at the side to fit my bust, but that’s going to be a big weird looking dart (and they are every time) because ALL of the fullness has to be dealt with in that one location.  In contrast, princess seams give you multiple chances to split up that fullness, the end result being a much smoother transition between the fullness and the remainder of the seam and less of that Eat-At-Joe’s look that you get from side bust darts.

5.  “God gave you a finger before He gave you a blending stump”:  My 7th grade art teacher, Mrs. Gast told us this one day…her point being that if you needed to blend your shading in a little corner, use your finger before you bust out your little paper cone blending stump.  It was a long time ago, but that phrase stuck with me.  Not surprisingly, something like that is true with sewing.  I have two hands, therefore I don’t really need to use my walking foot.  Peggy Sagers went so far as to say that walking feet are pricey gimmicks.  Instead of relying on my walking foot to be the extra guide to move the fabric under my needle evenly, she said you should be holding your fabric taut behind your work while you are guiding the fabric in front with your other hand.  I think I’ve noticed that the people on Project Runway sew like this too, and I’ve been curious about it.  I haven’t tried it because I’ve been worried that I’d bust a needle, but after playing around with this a little, I’m pretty shocked at how well this works.  The tension problems I usually have disappeared.  I have the most even, nicest looking hem on my latest project that I’ve ever made.  Not only that, the ugly shine marks that I get on my fabric from the walking foot are gone because I’m just using my favorite basic foot.

I picked up a lot more this weekend, but I will save that for later posts in the contexts of projects.


  1. I would love to take this class. I know I would learn so much. Thanks for sharing some of the things you’ve learned.

    I wanted to let you know that I will be accepting my award sometime within the next couple of weeks.

    I just posted my first “What I’m Wearing” post. I’d love to know what you think and if you think I should do more of these.

  2. WoW!! It sounds like an AMAZING time!! I agree with you about what we DON’T know…but also, we’ve managed to learn and grow as sewists! 😀 I love that most of the “common sense” tricks we’ve figured out have been good…but I also worry about learning things the “wrong” way, and then having to UNlearn it! But it is all a wonderful adventure, and I appreciate having you throwing it out there for me!!

  3. Sounds like a wonderful conference! I hope to someday take some classes or conferences to learn more. For now, I’m reading online and practicing. Thanks for sharing!

Write A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.