Thursday, May 31, 2012

Five Points Jazz Festival Flash Mob by cmDance

Check out this super fun flash mob in Denver that my husband and I were a part of. Swing dancing is so energetic and happy I can't help but love it! So you can spot us - I'm wearing a grey sweater with big white hearts and some skinny mint jeans and my husband Chris is wearing a striped blue and white t-shirt and brown shorts. Let me know what you think :-)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Dog Ate My Pattern Piece!!!

My cheeky little pit bull/Rhodesian ridgeback puppy literally just ate one of my pattern pieces! Turned my back for one minute and there he was running off with it tail in the air happy as could be. He thinks he is such a comedian - although it is a little bit like Benny Hill me chasing the dog round and round the kitchen table! So anyway just as I managed to catch him he swallows the whole thing. Luckily it was just for a shoulder pad, phew!

Here is a picture of the thief in question.

I think he learnt sitting on chairs from our two cats! 

I have learnt my lesson and all pattern pieces are now tidied away. Hmmm maybe he is helping me to be more organised in his own way......

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Making a Muslin is Essential Trust Me!

When you get a new sewing pattern it is always very tempting to jump straight in and cut it out of your expensive fabric - WAIT!! I know at first it may seem like a waste of time, but trust me I have found making a muslin actually saves time and a massive headache! Its a fabulous way of ironing out any fitting issues and also practicing any sewing techniques you not that familiar with. All in all a great thing to do and who doesn't want a perfectly fitting garment!


- Use a similar cheap fabric to your chosen fabric which has the same drape and cling
- Always iron the muslin or cheap fabric first before cutting
- Only cut the main pattern pieces i.e not the facings or collar  
- Make the seams slightly larger than the pattern in case you need to make it bigger
- When sewing use a long stitch so you can unpick seams easily if needed


Muslin or similar cheap fabric
Sewing machine
Measuring tape
Dress form is optional 

With my dress I only cut the top section pattern pieces because the skirt is flared so I will not have any fitting issues below the waist. I also decided to add the sleeves. Here is my first version. 

I finished the neckline with a quick narrow hem and I used an old zip to make sure it fitted correctly. As you can see it is a little high - well it is for me anyway! Everything else is fitting correctly so only the neckline to change. Phew! 

Lowering a neckline

STEP 1: Try the dress on yourself (or the person who will be wearing it) stand in front of the mirror and mark with chalk roughly where you want the neckline to be. 

STEP 2: Unpick the finished seam. To make sure the new neckline is symmetrical fold the the top in half along the center front ensuring the shoulder seams line up. Then get a different colored chalk and mark a curve the size of your seam allowance above the original chalk mark. For example my seam allowance was 5/8 inch. 

STEP 3: Cut along line and keep the cut off somewhere safe. Now re-do the narrow hem or whatever seam finish your neckline requires. Try it on! I noticed straight away that I now had a lovely gaping neckline! 

Right time to fix it....

STEP 4: Pin the excess fabric together so the neck fits how you want it. Put the pin close the center front. 

STEP 5: Take the garment off the mannequin or you! Then measure from the pin to the edge of the fold and multiply that amount by 2. For example mine was 5/16" which multiplied by two is 5/8". 

Now to back to the pattern....

STEP 6: Pin the cut off you saved in a safe place to the corresponding area on the pattern for both the front and back. Make sure the top of the fabric piece and pattern are aligned. Cut the pattern in the same shape as the fabric. 

STEP 7: Mark with a pencil roughly 3/8 away from the center front at the neckline. Measure the amount you want to lose from the neck from this point and mark. In my case this was 5/8. Then draw a line to the bottom of the center front from each mark. 

STEP 8: Cut along the line closest to the center front stopping just before you get to the bottom. Then close the gap by taping the lines together. This will make it uneven at the top but that can be smoothed out easily by adding a little bit of paper and continuing the curve. 

Now to test our new pattern piece.....

STEP 9: Cut out a new front piece from the muslin or cheap fabric (you won't need to cut a new back piece because you already trimmed it to the new shape). Unpick the old one from the front and replace with the new one (I told you those long stitches would come in handy!). Finish the neckline seam in the normal way. 

STEP 10: Try it on and voila a lovely new lowered neckline! 

Muslin made and fitted properly! On my next post I will go through a few sewing techniques that you might find useful that I use to create this dress. For example, gathering and how to do a narrow rolled hem. If you have any techniques you want me to include or questions about this post please add a comment. Thanks for reading and happy blogging! 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Custom Sizing a Sewing Pattern

So you've decided to make yourself a dress, bought the pattern, fabric and notions, but you don't fit the specific sizes on the pattern. This is a common problem as barely anyone fits into the size categories perfectly.

With the 1940's pattern I am lucky because all the sizes are correct apart from the bust, which is 2 inches too small. In this post I'm going to describe as best I can how I correct the pattern pieces for my size.

Pattern Grading

When I first started making clothes pattern grading was always a massive headache, but I've finally, after a lot of trial and error, found a method that works. The book I use is Concepts of Pattern Grading by Kathy K. Mullet. It describes the basics of grading and has great diagrams that show you where you need extend or reduce the pattern so it stays in proportion. I don't actually use the same method of pattern grading as described in the book, but the diagrams are very useful.

For my dress I need to increase the bust by 2 inches so I will be using a 2 inch grade rule for this post. If you need to alter your pattern by a different margin I highly recommend buying the book to see other grade rules.

I have made my own diagrams so sorry for the bad drawings! They look complicated but will become simple - I promise!


Graph paper
Clear sticky tape
Pattern Pieces
Grade rule diagram

The front bodice......

I have split the grade diagram above into 7 different sections to make it easier to explain and transfer what I'm doing to the actual pattern. This is a basic bodice which doesn't look exactly like my pattern but the points and sections are still the same and the same rules will apply. In my case I only need to alter the bust so I will need to alter 4 pieces; 2 for the front bodice, 1 for the back and the sleeve. For this post I will be going through how I adjusted one of the front pieces.

Here goes:

STEP 1: Stick together enough graph paper so can you fit the front pattern piece on completely with the center front along a straight edge. Then pin the pattern piece to the paper and trace around the edge making sure to mark notches and circles.

STEP 2: Remove pattern from graph paper. Using the grade diagram above label key points on the pattern from A through to G. I don't have a dart on mine so left out F.

STEP 3: Now we are going to take each point and move it accordingly. I am only adjusting the bust on my pattern so will not be moving E or G, but if you need to you on your pattern just follow the same principle. To make it easy to see what I'm doing I marked the lines from the grade diagram on my pattern. It looks a little distorted because I actually have gathers in my front section. For your pattern you should be able to do a similar thing paying attention to key points on the pattern compared with the grade diagram.

This is where the graph paper comes in, when moving points use the grid on the graph paper to keep points in line. For each point you need to look at the lines below and to the right and move it according to the amount shown on the lines. I will go through each point so you see what I mean. All measurements are in inches.

Point A - has no lines to the right so doesn't move in that direction.
            - has one line below it labeled 1/8 therefore it moves 1/8 upwards. (If you were decreasing the pattern size point A would move down by 1/8)

Point B - one 1/8 line to the right so moves left by 1/8
             - two 1/8 lines below it so it moves 2/8 upwards

Point C - two 1/8 lines to the right so it moves left by 2/8
             - two 1/8 lines below so it moves upwards by 2/8

Point D - two 1/8 lines and one 1/4 line to the right so it moves left by 1/2
             - one 1/8 line below so it moves upwards by 1/8

STEP 4: Join the dots! I usually use the originally pattern piece here to get the shape right.

STEP 5: Mark on all the notches and circles and your graded pattern is finished!

 In my next blog I will be making the dress from muslin to check the pattern actually fits and will go through how to adjust the pattern for any fitting issues. Please feel free to comment, I'd love to know if this was helpful. Thanks for reading and happy blogging!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Going Vintage with a 1940s Dress

Next month my husband and I are going to a 1940's Ball and I can't wait!! There will be swing dancing, old airplanes, vintage cars and 1940's drinks and food. The only problem is I don't happen to have a 40's dress - so here is my next project!


I normally make my own patterns from scratch but I wanted to get a genuine 1940's style that someone would have worn back then and thought the only real way to do that is to buy a vintage pattern. I found this pattern on Etsy at a store called Old Clothes and I instantly fell in love with it. I am going to make the short sleeve version with the back girdle. I love the dropped waistline on the back and the puff sleeves, hopefully it will suit me! 


To make the dress look as authentic as possible I wanted to use red rayon crepe, which was a very popular material at that time. However, after spending almost a whole day searching in fabric stores and online with no red rayon crepe to be found, I settled on using a polyester crepe. The downside to polyester is that it retains a lot of heat but on the upside it looks almost identical to rayon so it won't change the overall style of the dress. I took a few photos of the fabric so you can see the color and texture of crepe.

Polyester Crepe

Close up of the fabric

Pattern Grading

Unfortunately, the size of the pattern is too small so I will have to do some grading to make it slightly larger. Apparently a size 16 in the 1940's was a 34" bust and 37" hip! My bust is 36" and my hips are 38", so luckily I won't have to do too much. I will be grading the pattern next week and will be posting tips on how to do it with a few photos of what grading should look like. It is a lot easier than you first think trust me!

On my next post I will take you through the process I use for pattern grading and following that I will show you how I put the dress together with various sewing techniques. Please subscribe to keep updated!! 

Happy sewing!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Past Designs

Here are a few of my previous designs....

Pleat Front Linen Sun Dress

Red Cotton Skater Dress

Cotton Nude Peter Pan Shift Dress

Tailored Turn-up Shorts

Black and White Peter Pan Jersey Dress

The beginning

Hello! I have decided to let you all in on how I create items for my Etsy shop, Unique 1985, and what exactly goes into making a new item. Each item is generally different and sometimes I get ideas from fabrics, other times its a picture I see or I adapt patterns that already exist into something new and fresh. With each item I create I will explain how I got to the final product including some new sewing tips and tricks. I am a self taught sewer so sometimes I do things a little differently! Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think of my posts! Have a fabulous day and thanks for reading, Sarah
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