Emma’s Stitching News

Hi Sewing Ladies,

We just changed our clocks forward and we are headed for Spring! Are you Northerners ready for some warmer weather?

I get a lot of questions from my friendly sewing ladies and I am going to share some of my answers with you, as you may have some of the same questions. Please feel free to send me your questions, and also your helpful hints, and I will share them all with my friends.

Pattern Info

SewkeysE Pattern Sizing & Style

I get a lot of questions about my pattern sizing relative to that of other patterns. On my website there is a pattern sizing sheet with some info about my patterns and their sizing.

I drape my patterns on real people, and each size is a different real live person, I do not grade my patterns. I have been asked by so many ladies why the pattern companies have not changed their sizing for a long time, even though the public has changed. We also live longer than we used to, which causes our bodies to go south. I asked Pati Palmer what her thoughts were on this subject, as she is a major fitting guru. Her answer surprised me, until I thought about it. McCall’s asked her the same question, and her answer to them was not to change their base. She felt that many people use their patterns and are used to their base and know what they have to do to make the McCall’s patterns fit. If McCall’s changed, then all of the sewing ladies would have to start at square one with how they fit any new patterns they might purchase.

The shoulders on my patterns are farther forward than a commercial pattern (McCall’s, for example), and mean for them to end at the armhole and not go down into the arm. Even my pattern shoulders may not be forward enough for some ladies!

View earlier newsletter with shoulder fitting information here
View printable diagram of shoulder fitting information here

I have been asked about my styles compared to other private pattern makers’ styles. The best way to think about that is to look at the different private pattern makers. I will use two, Peggy Sagers and Louise Cutting. These ladies have wonderful taste, beautiful clothes, and great pattern designs. Now look more closely at each lady. Peggy is tall, very slim, with an hourglass figure. She dresses in a very young edgy style, and her body and her attitude carries that for her. Louise is tall and also a very attractive woman, but she is very different from Peggy. Her styles are more mature and more flowing. She also has great clothes and they always look just beautiful on her as she glides into a room or down an aisle. 

Now, think of yourself, as I am going to look at my self. I am shorter than both Peggy and Louise, therefore some of Peggy’s styles would look too edgy for my figure, and more young than my personality. Louise is tall and can carry the flowing, whereas my short 5’ 4” height and size 8-10 figure might look like I was wearing a beautiful and stylish tent! I would need to shorten the trunk, and bring the sides in. 

Remember that most private pattern designers usually will not design something that they would not wear and which would not fit their personality. Also they are the first person that that first garment goes onto, so it will look great on them. Look for a private designer that has your desired style and a similar shape, and that designer will require less alteration because the designer is more like you.

Special of the Month

Three Patterns for $20                      

So-o-o lets talk about my patterns. 

I am adding more information about each pattern on the website over the next couple months. One addition will be the backs of the pattern that show the line drawings and the fabric yardages and the notions needed. If I have more than the pattern cover picture, I will add those pictures so you can see some of the different things I have done to change up the basic pattern.

View Patterns Special of the Month Here

Fit Tip

A woman asked me about my Claire pattern: could she put darts in where there are none? She can have darts, but they have to be designed into the pattern. Take a junk piece of fabric that is similar to the fabric you wish to use for your garment. Do not use muslin to make “a muslin,” as you never wear muslin — you wear all types of other fabrics. If you do your fitting in muslin, but the actual fabric is soft and drapey, or a knit, it will not have the right fit or look. 

Once you have cut out your junk fabric try-on, baste stitch (5.0 stitch length) the shoulders and pin the front to the back, starting under the arm and going to about the bra band. With a larger bust line, a curved dart (commonly called a French Dart), that comes from about the waist and at the seam line and curving into the lower bust gives a great look. Pin in the bust dart. This will give you a strange seam line that you will eventually have to fix. You may have to put it on and take it off a couple times to get a good look doing this by yourself. If you have a good sewing friend ask her over for lunch to help you do the fitting. It is very hard to fit yourself as you can not walk around yourself. 

Once you have the dart to your taste, mark, and transfer to the pattern. On the pattern, fold the dart toward the waist and make it compatible with the side seam, so it will sew together well. Then you need to make the front side seam compatible with the back side seam. By putting in the dart you have shorted the front side seam, so make sure the side seams will sew together properly. One thing this dart will do is flatter the side/waist area and also bring in some of the extra fabric under the bust line.

I have corrected the Claire so she does not have a pregnant look. It takes time to do this. It involves taking small, slim darts from the hemline up towards the bust across the front of the top. You have to be very careful to not disturb the grain line. With the real live Claire we altered the pattern by taking four very slim tucks (Do Not Touch The Fold Line) and then tried the muslin on to see the effect. We did this two times to get a closer fit through the lower part of the top. You need to get the bust, the armhole and shoulder to the right size before you start the tucks under the bust line. 

Always start the fitting from the shoulders and work down. It can sometimes be a long process, but once you have a simple round neck top pattern customized, it can become the master that you use to fit all your other patterns. When I first learned fitting I would still buy patterns to use as guides to how I wanted a look but I made that new style from my personal base and my fit was already there.
Don’t forget you can always put in darts from the hemline to bring the top in as well if you like that look.

The Princess line is a great line and a lot of the ready-to-wear garments use that as a fitting and design tool. Just remember: since it has so many lines that can be used to get a better fit, don’t take too much out at one location, and of course, be very careful of the grain line.

Click here for printable version of this image.

Knit Tip

I was reading a magazine article on knits and was concerned about the author’s recommendations as to how to sew knits together. The recommendation was to use a stretch stitch or a zig zag stitch to stitch the garment together. The stretch stitch is a stitch on your sewing machine that does three stitches forward then two back. When Stretch and Sew first started back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, that was ok for some of the double knits that seemed more like a flack jacket type of material. Nowadays, many of the knits are much more delicate, sheer and lightweight. If you use the stretch stitch, it is stitching at 2.5 stitch length or less and with an active knit the fabric will rip away from the seam line. The seam line will still be intact but the fabric will have a tear.

You can do a zig zag but the seam tends to look like it has tiny potholes and I don’t care for the look. I prefer to use a 3.5 stitch length to do seams on my sewing machine with a walking foot, and then on the edge use a multi-stitch zig zag to finish the edge. Or, if you own a serger, baste the garment together first with a 5.0 stitch length on your sewing machine and then place the left outside needle  of the serger at the seam and do a four thread overlock that will cut the seam to 1/4 inch and encase the raw edges. Do not take a garment to a serger without basting first. The Serger is a much stronger machine than a sewing machine and it does not have a walking foot.

Cover Stitch Tip

There are a number of ways to do a Serger cover stitch or sewing machine double needle stitch. 
First, always always stabilize with one of my stay tapes. You don’t want the power of the feed dogs pushing one side harder as this can cause a ripple. The Stay Tapes prevent this type of movement. 
For the sewing machine, there are many widths of double needles. I tend to use the stretch double needles (sizes 2.5 & 4.0) since I teach and sew with knits. I usually use a one-inch hem on most of my garments as it gives a more finished and dressy look. On the wrong side of the fabric baste (5.0 stitch length) my SewkeysE one-inch Knit or SSI Stay Tape with the fuse side up. If I am not using a Serger cover-type stitch I clean finish the edge of the hem with a four-thread overlock stitch, but with a cover stitch, the 4TOL is not needed and starts to bulk up the hem with extra stitching. Steam fuse the hem in place and then top stitch at 3.5 stitch length with your double needle. For the one-inch Double Sided Stay Tape just steam fuse it to the wrong side of the fabric, remove the paper and fuse up the hem.

For the Serger you can use either two or three needles, both look good. Use lightweight needles for knits in the 70/10 or 80/12  range. In my own Sergers I use the 75/11 stretch needles but I make all the machine repair guys cringe when I say that. They have every right to cringe, as most ladies do not remove those lightweight needles before sewing on a heavy tapestry bag… and then those guys get to repair all the problems. I sew only with knits, so I can get away with doing this — plus I have several Sergers and two are set aside for heavier sewing. Use the same techniques for this as for the sewing machine using the one-inch Stay Tape.

I use one-inch Stay Tape mostly for hems, unless it is for a short sleeve or a circle skirt where a 1/2 inch Stay Tape would look better.

Before you try any of this on your garment, take a scrap of leftover fabric, put the one-inch Stay Tape on the extra fabric, steam fuse in place and test your top stitching to see the results. Practice until the top stitching looks good. As your needles have more separation, you will find that you may start to have a tunneling effect. If this occurs you may like the look and keep it as a design effect, or if you don’t like it, try putting water-soluble tear away or tissue paper on the throat plate side of the fabric. That should reduce any tunneling.

Now, for which one-inch or ½-inch Stay Tape to use. Double sided - for a very sheer, not-seen look. SSI - for a not-really-seen-or-felt but gently interfaced look. Looks and feels like gossamer. (The white can also be dyed with Tsukineko inks in a tea cup.) Knit - this is the most often used, as it stabilizes and still will give a soft stretch because of its four-way stretch. 


  • I expect to be at the Space Coast ASG on April 1, 2017. I would love to see all you sewing April Fools there. Contact Titusville Space Coast, FL Chapter of the ASG for info.
  • I will also be at Sarasota/Gulf Coast, FL Chapter of the ASG on April 22, 2017. Contact Sarasota for their info. If you live in either area or may be traveling to a location near by please come and join the fun.
  • This Spring I will be at the American Embroidery Conference  in Palm Beach Gardens, FL on May 3-7, 2017.
  • I will be teaching at the American Sewing Guild National Conference in Orlando, FL in July 28-31, 2017.
  • I will be teaching at the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals in October 18-24, 2017 in Orlando.

Thank you for joining me for my fourth Emma’s Stitches Newsletter and I look forward to hearing from you about things that help you or things you want to know.

Emma Seabrooke

Copyright © 2017 Emma Seabrooke, All rights reserved.

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