When sleeves won’t ease in…

indigo sleeve

If it’s not going right, setting in sleeves is one of the most irritating parts of garment construction for me. How about you? There are several helpful techniques to assist in this process, including crimping and ease stitching. (Here’s another good post about setting in a sleeve. This post is about re-drafting the sleeve to have it better fit the armscye.

First you measure the armscye at the seam allowance on the front and measure the sleeve at the seam from the shoulder to the underarm seam. (Either measure from the seam allowance to the seam allowance or subtract out the seam allowance.) Record the distance of the seam lines for each area. If you have a plain sleeve that sits on the shoulder, you could have 1/2″-1 1/2″ total ease (or 1/4″ to 5/8″ in the front). In my case, I had 1″ to ease in the front, which can be difficult in a more structured fabric (such as Liberty lawn).

Measure the armscye and sleeve for the back and record those measurements.

Determine how much ease you want to remove. In my case, I decided to remove approximately 5/8″ from the front and 5/8″ from the back.

I drew a line from the shoulder point to the hem, and the line was on the straight of grain. Next, I marked 5/8″ on either side of the line (to remove that amount from the front and back). At this point, you could make the lines into a dart; however, I think it’s much easier to sew a seam than a dart. (Is that lazy or couture? You decide! lol)

I cut on the new seam lines and added in the seam allowance. Then I labeled the pieces to make sure I knew what was a front and a back! Et voila – a sleeve with a seam that is easier to set in. Also, in the “year of the sleeve”, this drafting gives easy options for making design changes, such as the split sleeve above.

Another advantage of this type of sleeve is that it can be cut out of smaller pieces of fabric. You may need to do that some day when you get a short cut for some reason.

add seam allow

Tribute Month Sewing

Considering all fabric choices, pattern choices and sewists I follow, picking one person for a tribute is a challenge. However, it’s got to be Carolyn of Diary of a Sewing Fanatic for a variety of  reasons. First, she had a great set of patterns that worked for her, and then she needed to start from scratch because her body transformed (me, too, but in a different way). Second, she takes patterns that fit and adds details from photos or designer inspiration (me, to). Third, she loves to wear dresses (me, too). Finally, she has a substantial fabric resource center (mine is not quite comparable, but I certainly have my share). Also, I am happy to say that I briefly introduced myself a couple of years ago at the Sew Expo in Puyallup, and Carolyn was so gracious.

This is a self-drafted dress based on a princess seam woven pattern. The sleeves are inspired by a Pinterest image (as split sleeve that joins at the bottom with a button). The fabric is a Nani Iro double gauze that I was going to give away, but I decided to give it a try. It was in the give-away pile because of the color, which seems like an dark, potentially drab color for a warm climate/summer dress. However, I keep reading about how double gauze is really comfortable for the heat, so I decided to give it a try.


Thank you, Carolyn, for inspiring me to be the best sewist I can be!


Precious fabric Indigo dress

I think we all have precious fabric, something we hesitate to cut because it’s so important to get it right. indigo sleeve.jpgFor this project, it was two pieces of indigo. I bought one of them (that became the skirt below) at A Verb For Keeping Warm and dyed the other one to coordinate. I was delighted to have these pieces to use and spent a lot of time figuring out what to do with them. I adjusted a pattern to use and cut out the fabric. I sewed to the point where I could try it on and check for fit. And then… I noticed the fabric was scratchy on my back! I wondered if this was just a fluke.

So I decided to finish the dress; at very least I could see how the dress design looked on me. And I think it’s good in terms of the proportions. (Confession: the dress is unhemmed in these pics.)  I like the bodice closure. I’m not sure about the split sleeve. It looks like it could use some interfacing or something to help keep its structure. The dress was still scratchy when I took these pics on a cool morning.

The point of the dress was to make something I could wear in hot, humid weather for some upcoming trips to Hawaii and Thailand. I could line the dress, but then the purpose is defeated. I could wear it in more temperate climates, though.

I’ll post how I used S1878 to make this design, just for reference. I find it’s much easier to take a pattern that fits and make design adjustments rather than starting over with fitting adjustments each time I get a new pattern.

Thank you, Readers

FullSizeRenderThank you for stopping by! Writing this blog is a labor of love, and I hope that you are getting useful information that will help you sew for a post-mastectomy body. I started writing in May, and have had readers from the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Ecuador, South Africa, Netherlands, India, Taiwan, Lebanon, Belgium, New Zealand, Austria, Greece, France, Denmark and Israel. This is a strong reminder of the power of the internet to connect us!

Please be sure to leave a comment or send a message (brendamarksstudio at yahoo dot com) if you would like to share your journey or have suggestions for topics you’d like to see.

Keep on sewing!

Fall down seven times, get up eight

bubble dress

You may have seen this pic on Instagram where I asked if this fabric is weird or weirdly good. The consensus was that the fabric was good! When you look closely, you can see bubbles that are textures, not just the printed ones. It’s an odd fabric, for sure. I like it, but… after just a few minutes of wearing the partially completed dress, and asking my husband for his opinion, the dress started irritating my skin. My back was feeling scratched, and not in a good way. I imagine my scars would have started to feel irritated, too, if I left the dress on.

This is the first attempt at a wearable dress from the S1878 pattern with princess seams, and the fact that it’s not wearable is disappointing. Truly. I put a lot of time into getting the pattern ready to go and cutting this bubbly fabric out (and the fabric wasn’t cheap, either). Then I’ve ended up with a wadder .

indigo trySo, what’s a girl to do? My answer is usually to figure out the next project. My goal is still to create a lightweight woven dress to wear in hot weather. I searched throug reasonable options and found some indigo pieces that I dyed last summer. Until now, they have been too precious to cut, but it’s time to move forward!

The top piece is one I dyed last summer at a shibori and indigo class with Judilee Fitzhugh. That was a fun class, and I was able to get fabric that coordinated with a piece (the bottom) I picked up at A Verb For Keeping Warm. (As an aside, indigo is challenging to match/coordinate. The indigo pigment will be a different color depending on water quality, temperature, etc. So, creating a coordinating piece was amazingly good luck.)

I draped the fabrics in different configurations (side-by-side, striped in different directions, etc.) and decided I like this arrangement best.

sketch 1

Next I drew a very basic sketch with some ideas for the dress. I noted some ideas that may or may not work, such as adding some sashiko stitching, overlapping the bodice, and cutting and stitching the fabric together before cutting out the skirt. This bodice and skirt sketch is different from the princess pattern I’ve developed (the bubble dress above), so it means pattern adjusting. I may need a nap before tackling this…









Flat style – Dress embellishment update


Here’s one of my recent makes “in action”. This is a gratuitous pic of my Scooter, who is stubborn enough to stand on the armrest regardless of how many times I command, “step back”.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve worked on finishing the bodice-embellished dresses that I wrote about. Here’s an update of how things have gone.

The stencil dress turned out really well. For this project, I first stitched the front together and the back together. Then I taped off the stencil area,  and it was easy to rotate the stencil and fill in the bodice.

Because of my surgery area, and the thin fabric of the dress, I wish I had extended the stenciled area further down, but I like and wear the dress. It’s very comfortable on warm days, and we’ve had plenty of those in the past few weeks.

Yes, I’m barefooted around the house most days in the summer…


stitch dress topAnother project I worked on was stitching the bodice of a blue-grey dress. My thought was to make a garment that coordinated with the Kandinsky jacket, so I picked out embroidery floss that were colors from the jacket. After I sewed the front seams, I started stitching from the princess seam both toward the side seam and toward the center.

After a few inches, I noticed that my stitching lines would likely become skewed and might look odd as they met in the center of the dress, so I decided to incorporate some horizontal stitching to join the two vertical areas. It worked pretty well.


I think the dress looks good on its own and good with the jacket on top. Mission accomplished, with one caveat. I think the jacket needs to be shortened a few inches.

Adding shoulder princess seams to a plain front (S1878)

In this post, I’ll be explaining how I added princess seams and flare to the skirt of S1878, but this process can work for a variety of patterns. Adding princess seams might be a bit time consuming, but it’s not difficult. Adding flare to a skirt is also fairly straight forward. The basic concept is to figure out how much total flare you want to add, and then figure out how much you’ll want to add to each seam. I’m working with two patterns here, S1878 (sorry it’s OOP, but you can often find it on ETSY or Ebay) and Tessuti’s Bella dress. (You may be interested in how I eliminated the bust dart from S1878.)

First, I copied S1878 onto Swedish Tracing Paper. (The link is just for convenience; I am not an affiliate.) I really like this stuff, but I know my sewing teacher likes tissue paper because it drapes and behaves more like fabric when tissue fitting. I like Swedish Tracing paper because it’s durable, and I use my patterns over and over. You may want to experiment with what works best for you. Just for reference, I copied S1878 with seam allowances.

To add the shoulder princess sback shoulder seameams, I started with the back. I had darts in the back, and that gave me an easy point of reference for drawing the vertical princess line.

In the first photo, you can see the dart that I drew in. I marked the spot approximately in the middle of the shoulder seam.  I used a hip curve ruler (like this – again, no affiliation or compensation) to line up the curve from the top of the dart to the top of the shoulder. You may be able to see my note to eliminate 1/4″ at the shoulder, which is a common dart. After I drew the line at the shoulder, I eliminated 1/8″ on each side of the line. The bottom of the shoulder princess line is just the end of the dart to the hem, drawn parallel to the straight of grain.

I cut on the princess line and removed the area inside the dart, so the pattern curves gently in at that spot. Then I cut long pieces of tracing paper, taped them to the cut line,  and added seam allowances to both sides of the princess seam. I don’t have a good photo of that.

front shoulder seam

Next I added the princess seam line to the front. I like the curve on the back, so I laid the front on the back and copied the line from the shoulder to the top of the dart.  Then I drew a line parallel to the straight of grain down to the hem.

I cut on the princess line and added a seam allowance to each side.

So now the pattern has a center front, side front, center back and side back pieces. As I mentioned in my last previous post, this allows me to distribute the flare of the skirt. I like the amount of the flare of the Bella dress, but I don’t like it concentrated at the sides of the dress.

The next step is to determine how much flare to add and where to add it. To figure this out, I layered my new pattern on top of the Bella pattern, matching the shoulder seams. (I had done this before, so I had an approximation of where the patterns line up.) I measured the difference between the patterns at the top, middle and bottom of the side seams, and I made a note of the measurements.

add side seamNow for a little math, but don’t worry! I’m not a math whiz, and I could do this. The first measurement photo shows 1 1/4″ difference between my new pattern and Bella. I know that instead of just one side seam (Bella), I have two additional seams to join center front and side front. That’s four seams. So, I divide 1.25 by 4 and get about 3/10″, which I translate into 3/8″ (because we sew in 1/8ths and I figure a little more ease is easier to deal with than a little less). In the middle, I’ve got about a 2 1/2″ difference, and I divide that by 4 to get 5/8″ on the nose. At the bottom, I have about a 5″ difference, which is 1 1/4″ when divided by 4.

To add the flare, I taped tissue to the side, marked spots at the top (3/8″), middle (5/8″) and bottom (1 1/4″) and drew a straight line.

side seam saThen I added flare to the princess seams. After adding the flare, I added the side seam.







The final step is to cut out a toile and evaluate how things went. I’m happy with the flare and how it works in a cotton lawn. I like the even distribution of the flare in the skirt, and I think it will be even better in a fabric with more drape. The only issue is with easing in the sleeves. Liberty cotton lawn doesn’t like to ease, but I think adjusting the pattern will save me some frustration later, regardless of the fabric. In a future post, I’ll show how I add a seam to help with the ease situation.