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.



Comparing patterns to make decisions

One of the questions I that often rolls around my head is how to decrease challenges and increase enjoyment, particularly when I’m sewing. I like sewing to be fun (in addition to clothing my body). Toward that end, I try to use the work I’ve put into a pattern I’ve tested to help me make decisions about a new pattern.


For example, I wrote about Simplicity 1878, a dress that has been tissue fit for me (with Marla Kazell’s help), and I am using as my woven block/sloper. The technical drawing shows flare in the skirt (indicated by vertical lines), but I’ve become skeptical of technical drawings. One person’s “perfect flare” is another person’s “overwhelming cascade” or “disappointing lack of style”. So, I thought I’d compare S1878 with Tessuti’s Bella dress.  I have made a toile of Bella out of cotton lawn and know it is close to – if not spot on- the amount of flare I’d like in a skirt. (This is a personal preference only. I like enough flare so that I can sit in a car with a seat belt for an hour and get out feeling fresh, not crumpled.)


I matched up the center front and shoulder seams of each pattern. (As an aside, Bella has 1/2″ seam allowances, and S1878 has 5/8″ seam allowances, which should be taken into account when aligning the patterns. Also, S1878 has a center front seam with flare, so I matched up the true center front.) It’s clear to see that the Bella pattern has close to 4″ of  additional flare at the side seams. I can measure how much flare that is added at different points along the side seam of the Bella pattern to help me make decisions about modifying S1878.

My plan is to copy S1878, add shoulder princess seams, and add flare onto each panel. I like the flare in the Bella dress, but I’d like it distributed around the garment. Adding flare only to the sides seams means that the drape will concentrate there. (Or I could cut the Bella on the bias, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish.)

In previous posts, I have touted my love for shoulder princess seams. This originated when I was sewing for a DD bust, and sewing a good dart that large was a challenge. Sewing a princess seam is much easier to get a nice dart since the dart is transferred to the seam line. I also like the long line, particularly with plain fabric. For those of you who sew a lot of plaids or stripes, the pattern matching may be too much of a bother on so many seams.

The point is that it can be helpful to using an existing pattern (that you have made and understand the fit) to evaluate a new pattern. You can compare sleeves, hem width, ease, etc., and this process can help you avoid wasted time and fabric if the new pattern doesn’t suit your preferences.
















SBA for Simplicity 1878 (OOP)

As I’ve mentioned, I’m working on making a knit and woven dress slopers/blocks to fit my new shape. I’m pretty happy with my knit sloper, so it’s time to work on the woven version. There are not many commercial woven dress patterns that don’t have a bust dart, but I found Simplicity 1878, a Lisette pattern, that looked like it could work. I took it to my sewing teacher and we were able to make a few pretty simple adjustments to make this work for me. I’d like to show you how, because this looks different from other SBA’s, but it’s not.

First, here’s the line drawing of the pattern from the instruction sheet. I’ll be adjusting the front to eliminate the horizontal seam at the yoke/bodice. You can use this same process and leave the seam if you want.


You can see that the top/yoke and the bottom are very similar shapes at the seamline, but there is actually a 5/8″ dart put in that seam. So, how do you eliminate it if you don’t need it? There are probably several approaches, but I’ll show you the one we used.


Here’s our end result.

final result

Here are the steps for how we got there.

draw lines

Draw lines from the middle of the arm scythe to the bust point (where it would be if you had one), and from the side seam to the bust point. The line from the side seam should be perpendicular to the straight of grain. Draw a third line parallel to the straight of grain that connects to the bust point.
cut leaving hinges

Carefully cut – first cut up the vertical line to the bust point and over to the arm scythe, BUT leave a hinge at the seam allowance (usually 5/8″). Cut from the arm scythe in to the hinge. Next cut from the side seam to the bust point, leaving a hinge there, too.

overlap and tape

Overlap the pattern pieces to remove the bust dart. In this case, it’s 5/8″. So the overlap of 5/8″ is at the side seam, and then adjust so the rest of the pattern is lying flat. Once everything is flat, tape the pieces together. You will lose some length on the side panel. That’s ok (that length was to go over the bust, but I don’t need it any more.)

true up the top

True up the pattern. You will likely need to do this to the bottom/skirt piece as well.

Now I have a pattern that fits! I will probably not use this pattern as-is. First I’ll trace it and modify the neckline because it doesn’t work well for me. (I’ve tried it several times in the past.) I’ll change it to a nice V-curve – my combination of a v-neck with a curved bottom. Second, I’ll add shoulder princess seams and some flare to the skirt. And I’ll add side seam pockets.

I’m thinking of using Tessuti’s Bella dress for inspiration. Stay tuned.

Near miss

On the heels of a post about why I sew, here is a near miss. Sometimes the theory of what should work doesn’t translate into reality. At least I’m not thrilled with this make.

near miss.JPGYou may recognize the top of this dress from a post about embellishing.

My myopia strikes again! The design doesn’t show up from a distance unless I’m in perfect lighting. Also, I think that the stitching technique stretched out the top of the dress. See the vertical wrinkles near the neckline? I could take it in because I put in shoulder princess seams (all bow to shoulder princess seams and how they allow for adjustments!). However, I don’t know if it’s worth the effort.

I think this color is ok on me, but it’s not great. I think it probably should be darker, like the colors of the shadows. Or something. (I’m wondering if I should be wearing warmer colors although I’ve always worn cooler colors. See my color analysis “game” on Instagram.) Also, if I dyed the dress the darker color, the fabric would then completely match the color of the stitching/embroidery. The stitching detail would disappear.

On a positive note, I think the overall shape of the dress is good! It’s comfortable. The neckline is great. The length looks a bit long in the photos, but that could just be my photo skills because it hits above my knee in the mirror. I learned a lot from making this dress!

Overall, it looks like the negatives beat out the positives, so I think this one is off to Goodwill.

Why I sew my own clothes

Over the past few days I’ve attended a workshop taught by Pia Best focused on ecoprint and indigo. Several women there wore clothes they had dyed or stitched or sewn, and it was fun to see their self-expression. This experience reminded me about why I sew my own clothes – I’d like to wear items that feel unique (but not costume-y) and that fit my body and my lifestyle. I also just adore cloth – feeling it, stitching it, dyeing it, etc.


One of my major goals of the workshop was to create cloth to sew a dress. I knew that I’d like some ecoprint and also some plain fabric in the dress. Some ecoprinted clothes that have an all-over design look over the top, almost like cammo.

IMG_8619One piece I printed, pictured at left, was a great outcome. It’s got interesting colors with the orangish eucalyptus and a lighter blue background. It will make a beautiful bodice.

I indigo dyed darker blue pieces to use for the skirt part of the dress. They will cooordinate but not match exactly, which is great.

So, I got to use beautiful fabric with a nice drape and hand to dye and print. Then I’ll get to sew it into a dress that will fit my lifestyle. That’s  the joy of sewing for me!

Why do you sew?




Flat style – Inspired by…

paint suppliesIn a previous post, I mentioned that I’m aiming to bring some interest to the upper part of  my outfits. I typically wear dresses, so this means the bodice of a dress. Toward that end, I’ve been searching Pinterest for a variety of ideas for surface design. My goal is to use the plain fabric I have and the dyes, paints, stencils, and other supplies I’ve collected over the years. (Does that happen to you, too? I buy something with the intent of using it and then . . . well, things change.)

As an aside, we are planning to move to a different house in the next two to three years. I’m thinking about what the possible implications are for my sewing room. I think I’d prefer to pack my fabric and supplies as clothes instead of fabric. I’m also thinking about if I haven’t used something by then, maybe it’s past it’s expiration date. This is not a commitment; it’s just something I’m wondering. : )

Here’s how things are developing into what I’m calling a “soft geometric” style. To me that means shapes that are abstracted and also are not formal. First I’ve shown the inspiration with a link when it’s available and then my interpretation.

I found Tone Poem on Pinterest and followed the link to the ETSY store where there’s lots more great stuff! I really liked the simplicity and impact of the white stitching on the dark background and the emphasis on the bodice of the dress. My interpretation included using colored embroidery thread (that coordinates with a jacket) and a dark – but not black –  background. The stitching you see here took about two hours, so you’re seeing a work in progress. I think I will also stitch the front to this point, make the dress, and then finish stitching as time allows.

This second inspiration piece was also on Pinterest, but I couldn’t find the original image. (The Pinterest reference indicates it’s from Asiatica, but it doesn’t look like a typical piece from that store, which is totally drool-worthy.) In any case, I went through many experiments to figure out how to free-motion embroidery stitch using my Singer 301. I like the results on the front, but the tension on the back leaves something to be desired. I reinforced the stitches on the back with a sheer interfacing in hopes of keeping the design in good shape.

The final inspiration is from Pinterest, and the reference leads to a 404 error at Trendy Road. Again, I like the emphasis and contrast near the face, and I interpreted this with a stencil that I’ve had for a long time. It was satisfying to be able to find a great application for it, and the dress is coming along really well. You can see from the image at the top of the post that I took the time to make samples with different paint, but then I realized I was sampling on the wrong fabric! Oops. That error was particularly ironic since I rarely sample or practice before  going straight to the project.

I’ll be sure to show the finished dresses on Instagram. : )

What inspires your sewing and design choices?