Pattern Review (PR) is an amazing resource! The community of sewists has come together to build a terrific place to look for information, and today I want to share a few ways I have used the site to find information and inspiration for my current (flat) sewing projects. (Please note that images/screenshots are used with permission from PR founder, Deepika. Thank you!)

How to search the site

IMG_4488.JPGIf you are looking for a specific term (such as “mastectomy”), use the search box in the upper right hand corner of the homepage (where the aqua star is on the screen shot). Think about a variety of terms to search because the search widget is looking for the exact term you put in.

Your results page will look different depending on if you search for a pattern or other items. If you search for a pattern, at the top of the search results page, you will see number of ways to refine your search, which could be helpful. At the bottom of the results page, you will see links to patterns or forum posts that match your search terms. Here’s an example where I searched for “archer” and now I can narrow or refine the results by selecting  dress, rating, body shape of the reviewer, etc.-


I have looked at the forum threads for mastectomy sewing, and they are very helpful and supportive. I encourage you to post a question for any sewing issue that you might have if you’d like some advice. (As a point of information, there are PR members who sew for a post-mastectomy, unreconstructed body, and a majority of the ones I’ve seen use prosthetic breasts.)

Additionally, if you are looking for a pattern with a specific feature, such as shoulder gathers, you can search for it using the search box as illustrated above or post to a forum for suggestions.

Using Pattern Reviews

Another way I use the site on a regular basis is to look at pattern reviews of a specific pattern on a variety of body shapes. From that information and a technical drawing, I can usually figure out if a pattern will work for me.

Also, I can use the search function if I want to see what a Grainline Archer dress looks like on people who say they have a rectangle body. I can click on a variety of reviews to see what sewists have to say about the pattern and how their projects went.

You can also find a member who has a similar body shape to yours and look at all of the items they have sewn. While few “flatties” are posting there, there are women who are small chested who post and can give you ideas of what a pattern may look like on you.

How do you use Pattern Review? Please add any tips you have in a comment!




Flat style – what to wear to treatments

teal 1While the major and difficult parts of my treatments for breast cancer are over, I still need to get Herceptin infusions every three weeks until late October. Today I’ll  focus on what I want to wear to treatments. This is a dress based on my basic knit sloper. Sorry, I don’t have a pattern number for you for this exact dress, but Burda 6496 is close. I have a Power Port that is used to administer the treatments. The nurses say that they can work with pretty much any neckline except for a turtleneck, but I want to avoid having my neckline stretched out. So, one of the first considerations for a top to wear to treatment is that there is some opening that allows access. I used an Alabama Chanin idea and attached snaps to close up the front instead of trying to make button holes.

teal 2Another consideration for me is a dress that I can sit in and not have lap wrinkles when I stand up. For this dress with a straight skirt, I made a faux wrap front. The skirt is attached to the bodice with a empire seam. The bottom panel of the skirt goes a little more than 3/4 of the way across the front. The top part of the skirt goes 3/4 of the way across the front, and it ends about where a princess seam line would be. This amount of overlap has done a good job of keeping me covered when I’m sitting or walking, even in a windy situation.  (As an aside, I noticed that the sleeve cap had too much fabric when I reviewed these photos, and I just stitched out the excess by taking an additional 1/4″ seam allowance.)

teal 3The next consideration was a personal challenge, not related to treatment. In the past, I wore lots of solid fabrics, and I’ve decided to work on adding a creative element to my makes. In this case, I added stenciling by using a fabric pen (Pentel gel roller for fabric, but I think they are discontinued. Boo.) to trace around an Alabama Chanin Stencil, Magdelana. This is a pretty and intricate pattern. Each skirt panel took me about an hour, and the bodice parts also took about an hour. I have a lot of time invested in this project!

I’ve taken several Alabama Chanin workshops, and one of the things that Natalie Chanin shared was that she works on making designs that are interesting to view from a distance, from middle ground and from close up. I think her designs are wonderful, and I’m sure it would take me hours and hours to design something with these design principles. That’s why I’m willing to pay for her stencils and use them.

teal 4The final reason I made this dress was because my favorite infusion nurse, Margo, challenged me to it! We were talking one day about sewing, and she said, “The next time I see you in here, I want to see you in a dress you made.” The way I figure it, if someone is coming at your chest with a needle and has a reasonable request, you should try to oblige. I’ll be wearing this make to my next appointment. : )




Flat style – Recovering from Myopia

I’ve got a problem that I’m still working on solving, and it comes from my efforts to be an optimist. I focus on what I like or what is going well in a situation, and sometimes that means I miss the bigger picture. That’s not good. Case in point:

liberty fabric.jpg

This fabric, in my mind, would be great for a travel dress. It’s not too light in color and would camouflage any spots, right? I love the blue/green colors, and the red dots are interesting. The flower shapes are not too fussy. Except that this is how it made up into a dress:

It should work as a lightweight dress for warm weather, but the theory is not panning out in reality. The print is tiny and it’s too dark for what I wanted. I got expert advice from folks on Instagram and my husband. This is not my best look. However (yes, here’s the optimist again!), I learned several things from this experiment.

I need to zoom out and take a view from another perspective instead of looking closely at a small print. I need to choose prints that compliment my features and are in proportion with the rest of me. I need clothes that have creative and/or interesting details.  I need to look at what has made me feel good when I’m wearing it and figure out how to replicate that.

No wonder good stylists get paid a lot of money. This isn’t easy! (Yes, I’m working with the talented Anne Whalley, but she’s not in my sewing room every day. One of the goals is to help me learn from my mistakes and figure out how to make good decisions on my own.)

Flat style – sashiko inspiration

sashiko10When I knew that I was going to have a double mastectomy and no reconstruction, I went looking for style ideas. I anticipated that my body was going to change pretty dramatically, and I was wondering if my style might need to change a bit, too. My “go to” outfit had been a solid color fit and flare dress, usually with a jacket or cardigan (on an 8-shaped body). I wondered if I would look more of an H-shape after surgery, and in fact I do. (Note – I strongly advocate that you wear whatever you want to! These are just my thoughts. : )

I searched the web (as one does these days!) for style inspiration. One of the common suggestions is to “look for gentle draping, soft ruffles, asymmetrical designs or patterns” on tops or dresses.  I was hooked by the idea of pattern on a dress bodice.



I’m a long-time sashiko fan. In part, I am drawn to Japanese design with it’s balance of simplicity and complexity. One of the ideas that has intrigued me for a long time is the pattern that morphs or is incomplete, such as the images above. What has stopped me until now? The books typically have a small sample of the pattern and you have to use graph paper and enlarge the image. However, I found a site that is offering free printable patterns! ( sheet one and sheet two.) That made my plan seem attainable.

Additionally, I pinned this page with a variety of tutorials at some point; it was also niggling the back of my mind.

There are many methods for transferring the sashiko design on to fabric, and I used washaway stabilizer for my project. I’m outlining the steps here:

Gather supplies

  • washaway stabilizer such as what is used in machine embroidery
  • sashiko thread and needles (mine were from Stonemountain and Daughter)
  • fabric
  • pattern to trace
  • pencil or Stabilo aquarellable “pencil”

Create a pattern


Download a pattern from (link above) and paste the image into MS Word. Size the image so that the circle is about 2″ across.

Determine the shape of my bodice front and back to understand where the stitching would be on the dress.







sashiko8Put tracing paper over the pattern and drew intended design, using the inspiration of incomplete patterns as a guide. (I also eliminated the straight lines in my design.)

Transferred the pattern onto the stabilizer, using the Stabilo pencil. (A regular pencil didn’t work so well.)


Stitching onto my dress

sashiko13.jpgCut out my dress and basted the sashiko pattern onto the bodice.

Used directions from Sarah as best I could to follow the rules for sashiko stitching. It was a challenge since I was stitching onto knit fabric and I chose a curved design for my first one!







Sneak peek at my back bodice


The design is tilted, but I decided to go for it. The front will be more like the traditional horizontal/vertical axis.

Small bust adjustment for darts and more

In my previous post, I demonstrated how to create a small bust adjustment for a shoulder princess seam design because I couldn’t find a detailed description on-line (or in books). However, there are other types of bust adjustments that I can link to.

Dart SBA – the bodice has a dart and you want to reduce the dart

Dartless SBA – the bodice has no visible dart and you want to reduce the width of the bodice

Arm scythe princess seam SBA

Gathers at the bust SBA

Shoulder princess seam SBA – surprise – a deep search found this. This is an alternate method to the one I showed

How to do a Small Bust Adjustment for a Shoulder Princess Seam

Last year in October, I was well versed in how to do a full bust adjustment in many different types of bodice styles, but now I need to know how to do a small bust adjustment (SBA). I searched for tutorials and in my books, and the directions for a shoulder princess seam are scarce. (I found a brief description at Tilly and the Buttons.) There isn’t even an example in Fitting For Real People! I was shocked about that. So, here’s a tutorial. Basically, you cut the same lines as creating a full bust adjustment, but you overlap pattern pieces instead of spreading. Note – you may not need a shoulder princess seam for fitting, but I think it creates a very nice line and use it on all kinds of garments, including knit shirts.

sba1aThe first step is to mark lines on the side front panel pattern piece. The lines should point toward the apex. In my case, I guess at where that would have been. The line from the armhole should be approximately 1/3 from the side seam to the shoulder. The line from the side seam should be approximately where a bust dart would be.





sba2aThe second step is to cut along the lines. Cut from the bottom of the vertical line up to the apex point and then over to the arm scythe, leaving a hinge at the arm scythe seam allowance. That hinge is just an 1/8″, but it’s very important. The other cut is from the side seam to the apex, leaving a hinge at the apex of 1/8″. (These are the directions that are the opposite of a FBA, but I think that the cut from the side seam to the apex is unnecessary. We will not be changing this area.)




sba3aNow you can see that the hinges allow you to overlap the pattern pieces. Overlap the pieces so that the cut line from the arm scythe cut moves up and overlaps the main pattern piece. Avoid overlapping at the bust dart area (because this would affect the side seam).





sba4aYou can also see that as the pattern cuts are overlapped, there is width and length reduced in the pattern. Removing the length from the left side of the side and the  front pattern piece is no problem. You can cut that off since you don’t need it to go over the bust.






However, you may need to add width back to the pattern piece. You can do that by cutting up the side seam allowance (leaving a hinge at the point where the side seam and arm scythe meet) and moving it out to the side. Add tissue and tape the seam allowance back. Cutting away the seam allowance and taping it back after adding tissue ensures that your front and back pattern pieces will still fit together.




sba6a.JPGIf you have an extra where the side panel has overlapped the seam where it joins the center front, just true that up to the original seam line.

Finally, I would be remiss if I forgot to mention that you now need to adjust your grain line! That will likely be parallel to the seam line that attaches to the center front panel.

Disclaimer – I’m not a patterncutter. I have done this adjustment and it works. It makes logical sense. but I’m not a professional. Please leave a comment if you see that I’ve made an error here. The sewing community is a place where we learn from each other! : )




Drafting a knit bodice pattern that fits

When we last saw our heroine (me – lol), she was in a Lady Skater bodice, and it looked ok. At this point, it seemed like the next thing to try was drafting a bodice to see if I could get a better fit.

After a quick web search, I found directions on a site that seems quite reputable, Madalyne. Since my sewing teacher was out of town, I went to a local shop, She’s The Cats Meow Bridal, and Suzette took my measurements. (She was very helpful, and I recommend her shop if you live here and need her services!) I took in my iPad and used  the diagrams on Maddie’s site to gather measurements – WFullSizeRenderarning! If you do this, read the words, too. You need more measurements than are in the photos. Additionally, you will likely need the directions for the back bodice, too.

I followed the directions and drafted a bodice the best I could. From my point of view, it turned out pretty well considering this was my first try ever at pattern drafting!

A sloper has no ease and is a starting point for developing a pattern.  I just wanted to see the shape of the pattern and compare it to my existing patterns to see if they had a bust dart rotated to the arm scythe or somewhere else. Upon comparison, the sloper was a very similar shape to the Lady Skater front bodice. This is when I started to figure out that the sleeve was the problem. I adjusted the sleeve and my back-sliding shoulder seam went away.

While I didn’t use the directions at This Is Moonlight, I trust them. You may find them helpful if you want another idea about how to fit “the new landscape” as my surgeon put it.

My plans are to use this basic bodice to create all kinds of style lines and interesting patterns to make knit tops that fit. I’ll be showing you my methods.

In the mean time, Marla (my sewing teacher) returned, and we met to fit a woven sloper. We used OOP Simplicity 1878 (Lisette’s Diplomat dress) since it had a very small (5/8″) bust dart, which was easy to take out and had a minimal effect on the fit of the rest of the pattern.  I highly suggest this pattern if you want a good basic dress that is easy to fit.