Category Archives: Tutorials

A Non-Tutorial on Grain and Fit Check

Thea was over this weekend to give me my remedial lesson on how to find the grain in fabric.  Until now, I have just been matching selvedges, working with a lot of knits and just plain hoping my fabric was on grain.  To be honest, things have worked out so far, but I didn’t want to chance ruining my new silk twill border print dress.  I didn’t want to spend all that time making a beautiful garment only to have it twist on me due to being off grain. 

So Thea showed me how to fray the fabric until you find the straight grain all the way up and down the fabric, meaning no threads left that are shorter than the entire width of the fabric.  Even matching selvedge to selvedge, my fabric was off grain by almost  a whole inch on one side!.  That could have put a serious twist in how my dress would have hung on my body and there would have been serious shouting!  😉  

To fray the fabric, you pull threads one at a time from one selvedge to the other side until there are no more threads to pull.  This is an easy method, but it takes a long time…  I think fraying this fabric took me at least a good 1/2 hour, maybe even 45 minutes.  And you have to find the grain for each pattern piece you cut out.  That’s a serious time commitment my friends.  But as I said earlier, it is important to cut out your fabric on grain.  Good prep work in the beginning means smooth sailing and wearing later on, so it’s worth it to put in the effort now and have no regrets later.

There is another method, but it takes some practice.  Snip into your fabric at the selvedge and pull one thread all the way out.  The difficulty with this method is not breaking the thread before you have pulled it all the way out.  Ask me how I know.  🙂   I was discussing it with Claudine over email yesterday and she suggested cutting as you go so if your thread breaks you can find it again.  Great idea!  I will definitely use that helpful hint in the future as this method is way faster than fraying the fabric.  Actually it was Claudine that started me worrying me thinking about grain issues in the first place.  Here’s an example with a pulled thread…

Ok, once you’ve found your grain, you need to adjust your fabric so it’s on grain and then you cut out your fabric!  How do you do that you ask?  Well, you use your handy dandy quilting ruler or some like thing.  Fold your fabric over enough to fit your pattern piece on it and then measure down from the pulled thread or fringe equally all across the width of your fabric pinning as you go to maintain integrity.  It’s as simple as that!

And voila!  You will then have fabric that’s perfectly on grain and ready for cutting!

Now, I need your opinion please.  I pulled a 5 hour sewing sweatshop last night and got a significant amount of my second Butterick 5147 dress done.  I basted the side seams and now need to determine if I need to make any tweaks.  Working with a non stretch fabric is very different for me especially in such a fitted dress.  Wow!  I think it might be too fitted now in the back and waist.  Here are some pictures of it basted and unhemmed.  Please let me know if I need to release the side seams a little. 

Happy sewing everyone!  And happy universal holiday too!  (it’s my birthday today and I’m going to wear my Christian LaCroix skirt)  🙂



I have been procrastinating the start of my Knip Mode skirt a la Cidell by researching FBAs (Full Bust Adjustments).  There is a plethora of information out there on the interwebs and frankly, I’m drowning.  Each tutorial I read brings up more questions than answers for me.  (Is this sounding like a trend to you? Because it is to me.)  Karen’s probably going to say that I am thinking about it too much.  I have found two methods so far that are promising (i.e., I understand them).   But I still have some questions.  

Let me back up a bit and tell you how I came to the conclusion that I need to add an FBA to my tops.  Remember when I started my TNT (tried and true patterns) project a couple of months ago with the failed pencil skirt and drape neck top disaster

NL 6901 Muslin


NL 6807 Muslin


My teacher Thea saved the day with two of the muslins.  I really like the fit of my pencil skirt now (please don’t notice that it hasn’t yet been put into production yet though).  Tuesday night I tried on my NL 6901 muslin again and the pendulum has swung back into the hate territory.  This muslin is not salvageable.  Since I had to cut off the binding due to not being able to rip the stitches out, the neckline is too huge.  Overall the size is too big, yet too small in the bust.  The armscyes are huge.  I think I need to go down one maybe two sizes to get this to fit correctly.  However, since the bust area is already too small in this size, I now know that I need to do my first ever FBA.  

Which leads me to all the research I’ve been doing this week on FBAs.  I’ve found tons of tutorials for FBAs using darts for woven tops.  I even found a tutorial for wrap bodices.  Specifically I need an FBA tute that does NOT utilize a dart and is good for knits.  I found a cheater one on Debbie Cook’s site that I think my work, but I am wondering if it would make my armscye too big.  Hmmmm…  I guess I just have to put the big girl panties on and try it, right?  *big breath* 

One question that needs to be answered first though is, how much of an FBA should I make?  Most patterns are drafted for B cups.  I am well into C cup territory.  In all my research, I have yet to find the amount per cup you should add for going up one size.   Do any of you, my lovely readers, have any suggestions as to where I can find this information?  My newbie sewist intuition is 1 inch, but who knows, I could be off by a mile.  

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to.  What have you been up to?


Ms Choize commented on the tutorial I posted today on how to lengthen a bodice and pointed out that I had forgotten to include changing the facing pattern to match the new length of the bodice.


Here’s the updated tutorial.

Thanks Ms Choize!

A Beginner’s Tutorial to Lengthening a Bodice

As promised here is my tutorial on how to lengthen a bodice for those beginners out there who are just like me (i.e., one who needs a little more direction than a shorten/lengthen here marking).  Oh, I may be the only one who needs this tutorial?  Oh ok.  Well then, here you go Elizabeth… 

Step 1: Determine how much length you want to add to your bodice.  In the case of this Vogue 8379 wrap dress, I want to add 1 inch (in reality, now that I’ve made up this dress, I know I need to add at least 1-3/4 inches and maybe even 2, but I started taking the pictures before I realized that.  So this tutorial will depict a 1 inch lengthening alteration to the pattern).  

Here’s your lovely pattern unadulterated and unmolested.  See how cute it is in its pristine state?  Note the Shorten/Lengthen line in the bottom third of the bodice.  That is the place, dear friends (or dear self since I may be the only one in need of this tutorial), where you will cut your pattern piece apart.  Now go ahead and cut. 

Back bodice

Front Bodice

Ok, now here’s where the fun begins.  Because why should it be all simple and easy?  Noooooo.  Let’s make it hard and complicated.  All right, it’s not that hard and not that complicated.  I don’t want to scare you off, but you should know that it’s definitely not a 1 or 2 step process.  

Step 2: Place tracing paper or equivalent behind your newly cut and separated bodice pattern pieces.  Position the pattern pieces so that they are 1 inch (or whatever your determined measurement is) apart and tape them to your added tracing paper.  Are we done you ask?  Surely you jest! 

Step 2: add your additional length

Step 3:  Now comes the really fun part!  We need to connect the top portion of the pattern to the bottom portion.  If this bodice was just a rectangle, we would just draw a vertical line joining the top to the bottom and we’d be all done.  But this bodice is not just a rectangle.  So we need to join the top and bottom without doglegging the side seams.  Here’s my first attempt at dealing with the dogleg problem.  I folded over the difference in width between the top and bottom on the bottom portion and then drew the lines in.  Sounds simple enough.  Even looks elegant.  Is it right?  NO!  Why?  Because you have just decreased the size of the waist of the bodice and now the bodice won’t be the same size as the skirt portion that attaches to that bodice portion.  

Incorrect method of lengthening the bodice

So what’s the correct method?  We need to break out the ruler or any straight edge and blend the difference between the top and the bottom.  To do this, add another piece of tracing paper vertically from the bottom of the arm hole to the bottom of the pattern piece.  Now place the ruler/straight edge at the top of the side seam at the arm hole and then move the ruler so that it also meets the bottom of the waist.  and draw a straight line from those two points.  Now you’ve preserved the integrity of the waist size while increasing the length of the bodice.   If you would be so kind to notice, my addition to the side seam is almost miniscule. 

back bodice final alteration

closeup of final bodice side seam blending from arm hole to waist

Step 4:  If there are any markings that moved because you lengthened the bodice, now is the time to correct them on the pattern  so that they fall in the same place on the altered pattern as they did on the original pattern.  In this pattern’s case, I needed to transfer the markings for the slit opening on one of the side seams.  So I measured down and inch and marked it the same distance away from the side seam as the original marking (see pictures above). 

Are we done now?  Surely we are, you think.  BUT NO!  We are not done yet.  There is more than one bodice piece.  We just corrected the back bodice piece, and now the front must be altered as well. 

Step 5: Since Vogue 8379 is a wrap dress, the changes to the bodice are treated slightly differently.  We no longer need to preserve the width of the dress, so blending the neckline to waist is not necessary.  I just added to the width of the waist to maintain the sweep of the neckline/wrap.  

final altered front bodice/wrap

close up of the altered bodice front pattern

Step 6: Since I added approximately a 3/4 inch to the front bodice/wrap, I need to add that same amount to the front skirt wrap.  You could take it out of the front facing which is 2 inches wide, but that wouldn’t be totally kosher.  My teacher Thea pointed out that the facing is 2 inches wide for a reason, to weight the front of the wrap and keep it from flipping outward.  Since I am 100% against facing flippage, I heeded her advice and widened the front skirt/wrap by 3/4 an inch, adjusting the facing marking as well. 

final altered front skirt/wrap pattern

Close up of altered skirt front

Note the tracing wheel marks where I marked the 2 inch facing correction.  The red line to the left of the tracing wheel marks is the original placement of the facing line.  

If this dress was not a wrap dress, I would not just add width to the bodice willy nilly.  I would need to employ the same method I used on the back bodice of blending from the arm hole down to the waist (or bottom) of the bodice pattern to maintain the original waist length.  Most likely the neckline would be unaltered by the bodice length change on a non wrap bodice.  And then I would not need to alter the front skirt pattern at all.  

So there you have it (or at least I do since I am the only one needing this tutorial), how to lengthen a bodice.  Since this is my first tutorial, if any of the more experienced sewists have differing opinions or flat out think I’m wrong, please speak up.  I used to be an opera singer and know how to take constructive criticism (well maybe not on my love life, but for other things, sure!).  If any of the beginners have questions, please let me know in the comments. 

Happy lengthening and sewing to you all!

ETA:  Ms. Choize reminded me that I completely forgot to include in my tutorial that you need to lengthen the facings as well.  Major OOPS!  Thanks, Ms. Choize!  Here is how you alter the facing to match the lengthened bodice:

Step 7: Now we must alter the facing to match the lengthened bodice.  Cut the facing apart somewhere in the bottom third of the pattern.  Add the additional length you’re adding to the bodice, in this case, it’s 1 inch and tape it all together.  If there are any markings that need transferring lower to match the original pattern, mark the altered pattern appropriately. 

Altered front facing

Close up of altered front facing

Et voilá!  You are done lengthening your bodice!  Phew!