Welcome to part two of this series! In this post I’ll be covering the basics of grading up–or enlarging a pattern. This is perhaps the most often requested, since a lot of vintage patterns in smaller sizes survive. But if you need to grade down, then never fear–that is the next installment!

One thing I want to say before I get started is that this is my own method for pattern grading and this is by no means comprehensive. If you want to learn more indepth methods to grading, there are a lot of textbooks available that I’m sure get into more nitty gritty details and techniques than I have time to cover. But for grading up a few sizes, this is a good option for the home sewist.

That brings me to another thing I want to point out: this is a method that is best suited to grading up a few sizes at a time. Any more than 3 sizes, and you risk distorting the pattern edges. If you need to go from say a vintage size 10 (30″ bust) to a vintage size 20 (40″ bust), I’d suggest grading first up to a size 14 (34″ bust) and then to a size 20. Trust me: the larger the gaps between the pieces, the greater the risk you¬†accidentally¬†loose the edge integrity and throw off placement for things like darts. (Don’t forget you’ll also need to lengthen the pieces during the grading process, which I’ve touched on at the end.)

Final point (and then we’ll get started, I promise!): As I said in my previous post, grading does not negate the need for a fitting muslin. Grading is simply enlarging (or reducing) the pattern. It does not magically make it fit your body perfectly (unless, of course, you are one of those lucky people who can fit a pattern straight out of the envelope–how I envy you! hehe!). So grade, make a muslin, and fit. ‘Nuff said.

Begin by tracing your pattern–I never cut my original pattern to grade (especially vintage patterns), as I want to keep the original intact. I went over what I use in the previous post for tracing my patterns. Essentially, I lay the piece on my cardboard cutting mat (I usually iron it gently and on the lowest, non-steam setting first), and the transparent paper over top. I trace all the edges, markings and grainlines. Be sure to label each piece too! Cut them out once they’re traced.

For the example pattern, I’m going to say that we’re grading from a 32″ bust/24″ waist/34″ hip to a 36″ bust–a 4″ difference. We’re going to be doing an even grade (I’ll go over some of the basics of uneven grading later on in the series), so the overall grade will be 4″ resulting in a 36″ bust/28″ waist/38″ hip. Here’s where you’ll need to do a little math!

Take that grading measurement–4″–and divide by 2. This measurement (in the example it’s 2″) is what we’ll grade over the entire 1/2 of the pattern. (Meaning that most patterns have a half bodice front, half bodice back, etc.–it’s essentially half a dress!) Since we have a front and back piece for the bodice, we’ll divide this 2″ by 1/2 again to reach 1″. This 1″ is the total grade for the front or back. (So when you have graded your pieces and make a complete bodice, it’ll have been graded 4″ overall.)

We’re almost done with the math! Take that 1″ and divide it by 3. I never divide evenly, since it gets a little cumbersome. Generally I’ll do a 3/8″-1/4″-3/8″ division for a 1″ grade. You’ll see where these measurements go below. Write this down somewhere, since you’ll use this on each front and back piece to reach that overall 4″ grade.

This is the pattern I’ll be using as an example for the instructional portion of this post. It’s fairly simple, and I feel showcases the basic principles of pattern grading the best. Scroll to the bottom for a few more schematics of other pattern types too!

One thing I almost always do on pattern tracings prior to diving them (otherwise referred to as “slash and spread”) is make a horizontal line across the pattern. Your pattern may already have this in the form of a lengthen/shorten line, but if not, it’s a good idea to draw one now as it helps match things up once you’ve cut the pattern apart.

This shows the basic dividing lines for most bodice patterns: from neckline to waist, shoulder to waist, and underarm to waist. Note on the back pattern piece rather than going straight from the armhole down, I angled the line. This is because a straight line would have ended above the waist, which we also want to grade up. Note I also tend to avoid cutting in the middle of a waistline dart. Of course, your pattern will probably vary–but once you know the basics of where to place your lines, you’re set. I have rarely deviated from this configuration in the years I’ve been grading by hand–usually it works for the majority of styles.

To go along with our example grade (4″ increase overall), these bodice pieces have been cut along those dividing lines and spread the appropriate amount we calculated above. I tend to spread less over the shoulder to waist slash. Why? Because adding too much to that area tends to give a pattern “linebacker shoulders”. If you have to do a Full Bust Adjustment, wait to do that until after you’ve graded the pattern–don’t try to “cheat” and add it at this point!

This is how I usually set up my cutting board while I slash and spread the pattern pieces: a piece of paper underneath, and the graded piece (slashed and spread) pinned overtop. I tend to just retrace the entire piece. But you can also tape additional paper underneath if that’s easier. It really just depends on the size of the grade!

The last thing you need to do after you grade the pattern, as you’re tracing (or after you’ve taped in other paper), is to true the edges of the pattern as they’ve probably gotten a bit jagged with all this grading! This just means to connect with a smooth line one point to another as above in red (on the front piece). Cut out your new pattern piece (if you’ve traced, making sure you’ve transferred all darts, grainlines, etc.) and you’re done!

For more grading examples, click the “more” link below. { click here to continue reading this post }

June 22, 2012 · 76 lovely thoughts
posted in sewing,tutorials · tags: , ,

05.18.12 | pillow diy

Happy Friday, friends! I’m excited I finally have a little DIY for you (hopefully soon there will be some garment sewing DIYs coming…) Remember my pep talk post recently about decorating and getting started on covering up those ugly, beige accent pillows? I finally did just that! I’ll show you the fruit of my labors first and then there is a mini how-to further down for those who might be curious about the process. (Apologies in advance about the rumpled slip cover; it only stays un-rumpled so long with SH and the puppy!)

05.18.12 | pillow diy
05.18.12 | pillow diy

A nice little perk-up, no? I originally had grand plans for making plain pillow covers and stitching vintage hankies on, but SH deemed that idea a little too girly. (And since it’s his sofa too, I figure he gets say!) So I scaled it back a bit from the pinks, reds and exuberant florals I had wanted to use, and used an old tablecloth instead. Now, before my fellow vintage lovers want to bop me over the head for cutting up a vintage tablecloth: this one had some serious stains that would not come out despite my valiant efforts. So it had officially been banished to the “cutter” pile. I ended up using the four corners to avoid the worst stained portions, and like the effect of the oversized print and minimal color scheme.

The back of each pillow is a simple overlap style made out of an inexpensive canvas dropcloth from the hardware store, and embellished with a button from my stash. For days SH can’t take the vintage-pretty florals any longer, we can flip the pillows around to reveal the button placket backs. Clever, no? Now I just need to use the couple of smaller pillow forms my mom gave me during the winter and make some smaller accent pillows… It’s all about breaking up the massive size of this sofa!

05.17.12 | pillow diy

If you’d like to know how I made these (they’re super easy–I made all four in about the space of an evening!), be sure to click through the post-break below.

{ click here to continue reading this post }

May 18, 2012 · 17 lovely thoughts
posted in around the house,tutorials · tags: , ,

05.07.12 | earring diy

I’ve had a couple requests both here on the blog and on my YouTube channel on how I convert clip or screw back earrings to pierced. It’s super easy and when I recently was converting a pair I picked up at an estate sale (I did a show and tell video here), I thought I’d document how I did it. I’m sure most of you already know how to do this, but I thought it’d be a fun Monday DIY to kick off the week. So if you’ve got some old clip earrings that you never wear (I live in fear of one slipping off unnoticed and getting lost!) and would like to add a pierced post back to, then read on!

One thing I would like to note is that it would be a good idea to determine if by converting you are devaluing the item prior to doing this. All of the earrings I’ve converted have been unmarked costume jewelry or Fakelite, but remember by altering a designer piece or highly sought after material (like Bakelite) you could be damaging the collectible value. If that doesn’t matter, then no worries!

I think so far, these white flower earrings are my favorite I’ve thrifted. I’ve worn them a lot the past week, and adore how large they are. I usually wear a lot of dangly sort of earrings, but I’ve rediscovered button styles of late… Just another thing to keep my eyes peeled for in thrift stores!

Do you prefer clip back earrings to pierced? Would you consider converting a vintage pair of clip/screw back earrings?

May 7, 2012 · 31 lovely thoughts
posted in tutorials · tags: , ,

Tilly posted last month about storing vintage patterns, and as I had been mulling over a post on this topic lately, I thought it was high time to delve a bit into this myself! I have gotten a number of questions over the years regarding how I store both my new and vintage patterns, so hopefully this post will be useful to a few readers.

Let me preface this by saying that no one method is entirely perfect or right. Just because I tend to take a more “Preservationist” viewpoint (as Tilly aptly called it), doesn’t mean that everyone must, or I somehow am looking down my nose at those that don’t follow that method (I detest Vintage Sewing Snobbery!). So if you find an aspect helpful in this post, then I couldn’t be more pleased! But if it just doesn’t work for you in any way, then I’d love to hear about your personal method of storage.

Let’s start chatting a bit about my beloved vintage pattern collection, shall we? It grew quite a bit recently thanks to my grandmother’s patterns joining the stash. Which means that once again I’m running out of storage space. But this is what method I used up until the New Year… All my patterns are stored in sturdy, cardboard banker’s boxes. For several years I used plastic boxes I picked up at Target, but the collection outgrew those quickly, and Target was no longer selling a similar size. So back to banker’s boxes it was! These are great though, because I can line up the smaller (Simplicity, Butterick) patterns side-by-side, and double stack them as demonstrated above.

The patterns themselves are currently divided up by category. Dresses, suits and outerwear, sportswear (bathing suits, shorts, etc.), children’s patterns, etc. When my collection was smaller, I had things divided up as early vintage (1920s-1940s) and later vintage (1950s-1970s), and then subdivided by style. But this became a bit of a storage nightmare, as I don’t have that much room for that many boxes.

Within the boxes there are patterns loose without plastic slips, a few in large sandwich bags, and some in archival envelopes (which I bought from Ebay so long ago I don’t have any specific link to share!). Generally the ones in the archival envelopes are older, more fragile patterns. At the moment not everything is bagged, and honestly, I’m not too worried about it. Unless I start noticing something is disintegrating or there are bugs eating away at the paper (silverfish are my enemies), it’s not too much of a bother. The only real advantage to having everything bagged is that I can take the pieces and instructions out of the envelope, which means I’m not in danger of ripping the envelope when I try to repackage the pieces!

I do trace many of my vintage patterns, most often because they’re either too fragile to handle (especially in the case of my 30s patterns), or I need to make fitting changes and having a tracing to work with means I don’t wreck the original lines of the pattern. But again, this often depends on the pattern. For some later vintage patterns that I know will fit or are really simple lines, I don’t bother! But once I have a tracing, I do keep it in a separate box with all my other self-drafted and fitted tracings. Storing them with my vintage patterns got too cumbersome, although I do keep a slip of paper in many of the patterns noting I do have a tracing. (Otherwise I’ll retrace it!).

But what about modern patterns? It’s a fairly similar approach–sans archival envelopes. Patterns are generally kept in boxes, but organized by pattern company. This is because many of the patterns I own that are modern are indie companies, and I like to be able to access those easily. Cut patterns are often placed in a large sandwich bag, along with any tracings I did to alter the pattern. It’s a fairly easy method, but keeps things organized enough for me to easily find what I’m looking for.

What else do I do? I’ve used a pattern organizing software in the past (full disclosure: the software was provided to me to test drive) and also scanned pattern envelopes to add to my own image files. The latter tends to work best for vintage patterns, and allows me to virtually go through my collection without having to pull all my boxes out! But it is time consuming, which is why I am still working on cataloging everything.

So that is how I store all my patterns, for the curious! I know it may sound very organized to some, but I am such a scatterbrain otherwise, it would result in Pattern Chaos (which would make me unhappy!). When I got married and moved I had no order to my pattern storage, and remember finding vintage patterns I had forgotten I had! Now that doesn’t happen very often, which means I can utilize the patterns better than I did before. Which means better sewing productivity for me! Hooray!

February 20, 2012 · 37 lovely thoughts
posted in tutorials · tags: , ,

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial
02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

I know Valentine’s Day is not on everyone’s “favorite holidays” list, but I think regardless of your stance on the day, you’ll love this little tutorial I’ve got for you! I dreamed up this idea months and months ago, and it’s been languishing in my sketchbook, waiting to come to life. I finally gathered up all the supplies and picked out a sweater from my wardrobe that would be worthy of embellishment. I love how this turned out, and dare say I’ll be wearing it at times other than Valentine’s Day…

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

*Other Ideas for Garments to Embellish (Or, Sweaters Aren’t the Only Option!)

  • blouse (try making the design smaller and simplifying the arrow lines and using this on the collar!)
  • skirt (apply near the hem of a flirty little, knee length skirt)
  • felt beret (stitch on for a bit of color and whimsy!)
  • cloth handbag/tote/bookbag
  • tshirt (would look so fun stitched to the back, upper sleeve or even near the hem on a tshirt!)
  • tweed blazer (for a bit of romantic-preppy)

**Tear-Away Stabilizer: I used a pre-packaged stabilizer I picked up at the fabric store. But you could also use tissue or tracing paper. I find, however, that the pre-packaged stabilizer is a bit easier to work with when embellishing a knit fabric.

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

Begin by printing out this pattern. Make sure your printer’s settings are set at 100% scaling. Of course, if you’d like the motif smaller or larger, you can adjust accordingly. (It’s a good idea to print the motif off, and see how it relates to the scale of the garment you’re embellishing.)

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial
02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

Trace the motif onto the stabilizer. Set aside for now. Using the printed motif, cut around the heart. Pin to the felt and cut a heart from the felt.

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

Pin the heart to the sweater where you’d like the motif. (I chose the left upper chest, but you could do this on the back, hem or even an upper sleeve!) Using a doubled thread to match the felt, begin stitching the heart to the sweater using a running stitch. As you stitch, pick up a bead with the needle and attach to the front of the heart. This way you’ll outline the heart with beads as you stitch it down!

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

With the stabilizer-traced motif, pin to the sweater overtop the felt heart, aligning the traced heart to the felt one. Baste with a single thread the stabilizer to the material.

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

Using a doubled thread to match the metallic beads, begin outlining the arrow. To do this, bring the thread up through the front of the material, pick up a few beads (3 or so) and bring the needle down through the fabric with enough space to allow the beads to lie flat. Bring the needle back up where you originally started this stitch, and run the thread through the beads another time. Pick up a few more beads and repeat. Essentially you’re backstitching the beads to the sweater so they’re extra secure! Be sure to tie off the thread at the back of the sweater well whenever you run out of thread.

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

I found with beading the arrow on my sweater, it was helpful to work in sections: the long, straight lines first, then the arrow tip, then the tail.

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

Once you’ve beaded the arrow, it’s time to remove the stabilizer! Carefully begin tearing away the stabilizer from the beading. Go slowly, so you don’t accidently rip any of the beads out. You may need tweezers to help pull out some of the small bits of stabilizer.

02.06.12 | cupid's arrow tutorial

That’s it! Super easy, isn’t it? This is a great project for an evening–it only takes a few hours. Just remember when cleaning the garment you stitched this on that many felts don’t have stable dyes, and will shrink easily if machine washed. So probably gently handwashing or dry cleaning your garment when needed would be the best option (always test a small scrap of felt if in doubt!). I hope you enjoyed this, and of course I’d be more than delighted if you made it up and sent me a photo of how it turned out!

February 6, 2012 · 39 lovely thoughts
posted in tutorials · tags: , ,