New 1920s Pattern: Baltimore Dress Sew Along January 24 2017 2 Comments

New 1920s Pattern: Baltimore Dress Sew Along

Well, It's been a busy end of 2016 and a busier beginning of 2017. We are releasing THREE new Decades Of Style patterns: the Baltimore Dress, the Sugar Coat and the Isabella Dress! These 1920s inspired patterns can be made for everyday wear or lush evening wear. We have been wanting to take the time to grow our 20s pattern collection and are happy to start the new year with a small wardrobe of them. We'll talk more about our new patterns in the coming weeks, but for now we're going to focus on the first dress in this new release trio.

The Baltimore dress is a loose fitting sleeveless frock with paneling at the front hip which allows for color blocking and fun with directional prints. Lighter weight fabrics like silk chiffon or crepe, rayon, voile, handkerchief linen are recommended because of the loose fit and amount of ease in this dress. You can use medium weight cotton, but the drape will be more stiff, especially in the front skirt panel.

Unlike the E.S.P. dress, our model did not need to do a Full Bust Adjustment on this pattern as it is a loose fitting dress. We did, however, take it in at the center back to adjust for sloping shoulders and a small back width. Our model wanted a softer, slinkier look than the muslin provided which is better suited to her curvy figure.

We chose a lightweight cotton/silk print for the main part of the dress and a Robert Kaufman Radiance (cotton/silk blend) for it's drape and satin finish as the contrast. The central design detail in this pattern is the paneling in the front, the "X" if you will. This dress has a 3/8" seam allowance, which is considered generous in vintage clothes. This is to minimize bulky seams, especially at the "X".

What is tricky about the "X" is the seams are all on the bias. If you are working with a stable woven, like a medium weight cotton (otherwise known as quilting cotton) the bias does not move around too much. But when you are working with a lighter weight fabric like a chiffon or a voile the fabric distort and stretch easily on the bias. Hence, the use of fusible stay tape. We recommend Design Plus' Straight Fusible Stay Tape because it comes in a 3/8" width but it is also available in black and white and on the bias (if you are going using it on necklines or armholes). It also comes in a super fine weight which is ideal for chiffon and rayon challis. You can make your own stay tape from any woven or non-woven fusible interfacing, you just have to cut thin strips. The stay tape keeps the fabric from distorting and keeps the threads from fraying. We still recommend finishing your seams, even with the stay tape.

After cutting your pattern pieces you must begin by cutting and fusing the stay tape to the seams in the "X" (Front Skirt, Side Front Skirt, Bodice) and the Front Yoke. as well as stay stitching the neckline on the Front Yoke.

If you transferred your markings onto your fabric before ironing the stay tape, check to see that they are still visible. If not, mark them again. The markings at the points are particularly important because it ensures you start and stop your stitching accurately, giving you a precise "X" with no bubbling or wonkiness.

When sewing the Front Skirt to the Side Front Skirt, you must start and stop at the markings at the point. Then, when you attach the Bodice to the Side Front Skirt, do the same, taking care not to sew through the seam allowance of the side front-front skirt. The seam allowances must be left lose, not sewn to one another as it will effect the drape.

See how the seams just touch. That's what you want. Then when you press the seams and clip the necessary bits, you get a beautiful "X". The alphabet never looked so good.

Next post: using bias for a French binding of the armscye and neck.

E.S.P. Pattern Hack: 3/4 Length Sleeves November 15 2016 1 Comment

E.S.P. Pattern Hack: 3/4 Length Sleeves

The E.S.P. Dress is one of our most versatile patterns because once fitted, the pattern can be a base for many different variations. We have covered how to alter the gathered skirt into pleats, shorten the sleeves and even make the dress sleeveless on previous posts. Now that the weather in the Northern hemisphere has turned colder, it's a good time to hack this TNT pattern for fall and winter.

We have had a few requests on our blog regarding making the short, wide raglan sleeve into an elbow length or 3/4 sleeve. When Harts Fabrics in Santa Cruz invited us to write a guest blog tutorial for Sew Your Hart Out September, it was the perfect opportunity and venue for it! If you missed the tutorial back then, here it is!

Cotton + Steel via Harts provided us with a lovely Les Fleur Birch Floral rayon by Rifle Paper Co. This fabric is like buttuh, both the hand and drape. 

To alter short sleeves into a longer sleeve using the slash and spread technique, you’ll need these supplies: 

Clear 2” ruler, we like Collins’

Pattern paper - it must by transparent enough to see the printed pattern through it so tissue and architecture paper can also work


Pencil and pen

Paper scissors

Fabric for muslin/mock-ups

Begin by tracing the sleeve pattern in your determined size - see our post on measurements vs. muslins for more information on determining your size. Transferring all markings and cut it out. We will not be changing the armscye, so all of the pattern alteration will take place below that. To begin, use the ruler and draw a line  - Line 1 - across the sleeve, perpendicular to the grain and at the bottom of the armscye. 

Draw two more lines 1” apart from the top line - Line 2 and 3. Line 3 should be right before the sleeve bottom begins to curve. Cut along these lines. You now have four pattern pieces. We labeled the pattern pieces 1-4 to make sure we didn’t mix them up. 

Slide a piece of pattern paper underneath pieces 1-4. To determine your desired sleeve length and circumference, take measurements from any existing garment that is a good fit for you. (Measure the underarm seam for the length and the circumference of the opening at the bottom of the sleeve.) We apologize, but now you have to do math. Start with your desired finished sleeve length and subtract 3. Then divide that number by 3.

You will be inserting that amount between each section to achieve your desired length.

We spread the pieces 3 3/8” apart and taped them to the paper underneath. It is easiest to measure and tape one piece at a time. Tissue paper tears easily, so you may want to use artist rather than painter’s tape. Trim any excess paper from back and sides. 

Now the pattern piece is longer but still a really wide bell sleeve. Draw a line from the sleeve dart to straight down the pattern piece past Line 1. This will be your guide to reassembling the pattern piece after you’ve tapered it. To taper the sleeve, first cut away the pattern piece at Line 1 and set aside the top section. Divide the remaining piece into five by drawing four lines approximately 4” apart that are parallel with the grain line marking.  

We’ll mark these pieces alphabetically. Now things start to get fun. Now you will need your finished circumference measurement that you got from an existing garment. Measure the width of the sleeve pattern at line 4 (minus the seam allowance) and subtract the finished circumference from that. Then divide that number by 4. This gives you your overlap amount. Cut along the vertical lines separating pieces A-E, keeping 1/8” at the top uncut. Overlap the pieces at the bottom by your overlap amount. For this project we overlapped by about 2” between each section and taped them together. 

On top of a new piece of paper, align the top part of the sleeve with the newly tapered bottom part of the sleeve using the line you drew as a guide. Tape down the pieces in place to the new paper so that the new paper fills in the voids created by tapering the sleeve. Trim excess paper. 

To eliminate the curve at the bottom of the sleeve, draw a line that runs to each edge at the bottom. We add a piece of pattern paper that is the same width and 1” long to create the hem allowance. Flare out the hem allowance at each side to match the flare of the sleeve above. 

Now it’s time to test our pattern with a quick muslin of the top. We used a lightweight rayon for our muslin. We marked on our muslin a curve at the outside elbow to make the sleeve hang more elegantly. We transferred those changes on our newly altered sleeve. 

Then a last muslin to make up and check our sleeve. Perfect. Be sure to bend your arm to test the fit at the forearm. If you find you need to add a little bit of width to the sides at the forearm, slide that pattern paper under and add what you need - sometimes just a 1/4” on either side is just enough. 

The E.S.P. dress comes together easily. The only changes we made to the order of sewing the dress was to hem the sleeve before attaching them to the dress. Turn up the fabric 1/2”, press, then turn up another 1/2” and press, pin and sew. 

The finished dress is breath of floral prettiness! Thanks for sticking it through our long tutorial. The E.S.P. dress is really wonderfully versatile and fits even full busted beauties with proper adjustments. We did a Full Bust Adjustment and Sway Back adjustment on this E.S.P. dress as well. Details on how to do these can be found on on our E.S.P. Dress Sew Along Week 1 post. We’d like to thank Harts for letting us guest blog for giving us a chance to create this tutorial! 

E.S.P. Dress: Getting It Done July 26 2016 1 Comment

E.S.P. Dress: Getting It Done

Just when you were thinking the E.S.P. dress was going to be an eternal UFO (unfinished object), here is the last installment of the sew along. We could go on and on about the fun things you can do with the E.S.P. dress, but we released a new pattern, the Cats Cradle dress, and we want to get to that sew along as soon as possible. Lets run though one more pattern adjustment that you can make and a few details of finishing the E.S.P.!


Sleeveless E.S.P.

A bit more work but a fun alternative for hot summer days. You will not be needing the bodice facing pieces for this adaptation.

Things you need:

1 yard of 1" wide bias. We prefer to make our own bias as purchased bias tape can be hard to manipulate. Feel free to use some fun contrasting fabric as no one will see it... unless you want them to.

2 yards of 3/8" - 1/2" ribbon or make your own tie. 

Cut the bodice front and back with an additional 3/8" at the top of the neckline. Stay stitch the armscye a scant 5/8" from the edge.

Sew your bodice darts, attach the skirt to the bodice front and back. Measure 9" from the top of the bodice back down the center back and clip into the seam allowance, about 5/8" (to the seam line). Turn in the seam allowance 1/4" then again 3/8" and sew down. Or, if you have a serger, overlock the center back seam and turn and sew it down. The zipper will now start 9" below the neckline. Insert the zipper to the center back.

Trim the armscye seam allowance 3/8". Now, fold the free edge of the bias about 1/4" and press (the pressing really helps here). Attach the bias, right sides together using a 1/4" seam allowance, to the armscye, trimming any excess at the ends. Grade the seam allowance of the bias. Then turn bias along the seam line toward the inside of the bodice and stitch 1/8" near the fold. Need a super detailed tutorial on this technique? Victory Patterns has a lovely tutorial on bias finishing edges which can be applied to making a sleeveless dress.

Fold and iron neck line of the bodice front and back 1/4", then again 1/2", pin and sew down, sewing a scant 1/8" from the hem line. You have just made your neckline casing.

creating casing

Now thread the neckline casings with your ribbon having it start and finish at the center back. 

Finished sleeveless E.S.P. dress

Finishing Your E.S.P. Dress

If you are finishing the dress without any adjustments, you'll be attaching the facings and hand tacking them to the seams. While some find facings fidgety, we like the vintage technique of hand tacking. You could hand tack them all around, using a prick stitch if you really don't like loose facings. Using a slip stitch to sew down the facing at the zipper make the stitching invisible.

hand sewing detail

Hemming the skirt is simple as it is all straight (no fussy curves here). The E.S.P. is meant to be hemmed 2" for a 23" skirt. You are welcome to make it longer or shorter as desired. 

To accessorize, we made a sash from our leftover fabric. Check out Tanya's tutorial on making a self fabric belt at the Curvy Sewing Collective. Also, check out gMarie Sews' tutorial on lowering the neckline if you like to show a little bit more skin. We'll come back to the E.S.P. dress in the future to show some other fun pattern adjustments but we REALLY want to get to our newest pattern the Cats Cradle dress and the fabulously easy trick to sewing its lovely ribbon cage work!


E.S.P. Dress Sleeves: Sleevie Wonder June 22 2016

E.S.P. Dress Sleeves: Sleevie Wonder

Okay, starting to get a hang of this writing thing. 

Now that the bodice is fitted and the skirt is gathered or pleated to your liking, we can get the sleeves done. The E.S.P. dress has slightly flared raglan sleeves that hit about mid bicep. Tanya, from Curvy Sewing Collective, looks AMAZING in this length of sleeve. We LURV all of the E.S.P. dresses she has made.

You may find that you want a different sleeve for a slightly different look. Here are some options.

Shortened sleeve

Our model found the sleeve length did not work with her proportions (she felt it made her bust seem wider). So, to let the bust "stand out on its own" (her words) we pinned up the sleeve to a length she liked (about two inches shorter).

(Gratuitous photo of adorable corgi a blatant an attempt to increase readership)

We then transferred that adjustment to the pattern so that she will always have a shortened sleeve option.

Elastic band sleeve

If you like the sleeve as it is but want an easy change, try adding elastic to the sleeve hem. We used a 1/4" elastic cut to 1 inch larger than the bicep measurement (14") and used a 1/4" seam allowance (don't sew the ends together yet). If the elastic is too tight, you're feel like you've got a tourniquet on your arm, so test the band to make sure its comfortable.

Iron the sleeve hem up 1/4".

Now, iron the sleeve hem an additional 1/2". Pin and sew the hem close to the folded edge leaving 1" on either side of the side seam.

With your casing all but finished, attach a small safety pin to one end of the elastic and draw it though the casing. Sew the elastic ends together with a big zig-zag stitch. Finally, sew down the 2" of the casing at the side seam.

You now have a slightly gathered sleeve.

(Glamorous movie star scarf and sunglasses enhance the awesomeness of this sleeve option)

Next time: Cap sleeve and sleeveless

E.S.P. Sew Along: OK Pleats For Real This Time June 01 2016

E.S.P. Sew Along: OK Pleats For Real This Time

Okeedoke. Onto the topic of skirt fullness and pleating. The E.S.P.  pattern has a skirt softly gathered at the waistline a ratio of 2:1 fullness. This means for every one inch of the waist measurement, there are two inches of skirt. 

Gathering the skirt at the waistline creates a certain amount of bulk depending on the ratio and the heaviness of your fabric. To achieve the luxurious look of a fuller skirt without added bulk at the waistline, PLEATS!  Pleats might have a bad rep for being harder to do than straight gathering.  And yes, there are more steps to the process but it is TOTALLY doable even for someone newer to sewing. 

Our preferred fullness ratio for a pleated skirt is a 3:1. To get this number, we measure the waist edge of bodice front after the darts are sewn and minus the seam allowance, and then multiply that number by three. For the Skirt Front on the size 40 we need a piece that is 19" x 3 or 57" wide. For each Skirt Back, we need pieces that are 10" x 3 or 30" wide. For the length, you can work from the pattern piece (it is just at or above the knee so if this is too short for your taste, use the skirt length from a pattern you like.)

We cut our Skirt Front piece at 57"x 25" and our two Skirt Back pieces at 30"x 25" each. Next, we transfer our skirt markings (pocket position on the side seams and zipper position on the center back seam). We will be doing one direction knife pleats, but there are lots of pleating options. The Yellow Spool has a very clear tutorial on three different pleats: knife, inverted box and box.

For this dress, we made fewer pleats that are fairly deep. This is not a surgically precise way of making pleats. But it doesn't matter because no one will be measuring the pleats on your dress when you are finished. The goal is to make them appear uniform. If they are off by 1/8" or 1/4," it won't be noticeable. If free wheelin' gorilla pleating sets off your OCD, then the math version is to divide the waist front measurement by the number of pleats you want (this gives you the depth of each pleat.) Repeat for the back using an even number so you can have the same number of pleats on either side of the center back zipper. 

Laying out the skirt front (right side down), we first marked the seam allowances.

Measuring from the seam line, we place a pin at the distance our our chosen pleat depth of 1 1/2" (Pin A), followed by a pin at 3" (Pin B) Repeat this configuration all the way across the Skirt Front piece and the two Skirt Back pieces. 

When you bring Pin A to Pin B, you will get a knife pleat that is 1 1/2" deep. 

The pleats should abut one another with no spacing between.

There was a bit of unpinning and redistributing to get the fabric worked down to the waist line but any unevenness is not noticeable.

Other gathering and pleating options:

From left to right: 2:1 gathered, 3:1 gathered, 4:1 box pleated (too much fabric to gather), 3:1 pleated changing direction at the Center Front (box pleat) and Center Back (inverted box pleat).

Next up: Sleeves!

E.S.P. Dress Sew Along: A Week Late And Not About Pleats May 17 2016 5 Comments

E.S.P. Dress Sew Along: A Week Late And Not About Pleats

 Art history nerd joke mash up of Magritte and pleats for the header image. Apologies to the art sensitive!

Man! This "blog voice" thing is tricky! Last week's post really had an overwhelming "Wah wuh. Wah wah was wuh." feel to it. That's the teacher from Charlie Brown in case you couldn't tell. The teacher from Charlie Brown is not the voice we want so we'll keep working on it. 

We said we were going to talk about pleats in this post but we lied. We're going to talk about cutting your pattern on the cross grain instead. Here we go!

Our fabric has stripes running perpendicular to the selvage (aka railroaded stripes). Cutting the pattern on the straight of grain would give us a horizontally striped dress. Our model said, "Um. Nope." to horizontal stripes, so we'll cut on the cross grain.


The biggest difference between the cross grain and the straight of grain is the cross grain has more "give" to it. You can see for yourself by pinching two points on the cross grain and stretching it slightly. Try it again of the straight of the grain and you should see a difference. The cross has more stretch; it should bounce back, as the "give" is due to the tension in the threads when it is woven. Threads has a very informative article on changing your grain direction for different design effects as well as a detailed article on how grain lines "behave".

You can see the difference between the two. The drape of the straight of grain is softer and falls closer to the dress from. The fabric draped on the cross grain holds a shape further out from the dress form. Some recommend increasing the circumference of your garment by an inch if you are cutting on the cross grain. It all boils down to personal preference and the specifics of your fabric and pattern. You might notice a garment cut on the cross grain feeling a bit constricting across the back and shoulders. 

Our fabric has an unusually stable weave and there is actually not much difference between the cross and straight grain regarding "give" and drape. So for this project, cutting the bodice and skirt on the cross will have little affect to the drape and fit of the dress. 

 Ok. We're still figuring out how to pace things so we'll end it here this week. Next week, we'll talk about increasing the fullness of the skirt and how we gorilla pleat the skirt.

Pleating  Tutorial Sneak Peek


E.S.P. Dress Sew Along Week 1 May 04 2016 2 Comments

E.S.P. Dress Sew Along Week 1

First off - progress report on the search to establish the "voice" for our blog. actual progress made on that front. We are fast giving up hope of every nailing this down entirely.

So - on to the sew along part!  The key to making the E.S.P. dress look beautiful and feel comfortable is a well fitted bodice. A muslin, also known as a mock up or toile, is our preferred way of determining what changes have to be made to the pattern, if any, to ensure a proper fit. Yes, this does delay the gratification of finishing the dress for a while, but it is SO worth it! A properly fitted dress is a revelation. You will feel amazing and proud as you say "This beautiful and comfortable dress? Oh yes, I made it."


Our model's measurements are Bust 42", Waist 35", Hips 45". At first glance, it appears that the size that best matches those measurements is 42 (our sizes are labeled based on bust measurement). But our model is a DD cup so this changes EVERYTHING! Our patterns are sized and graded based on a B cup, as is the majority of commercial sewing patterns. If your bra cup size is a C cup or larger (regardless of your band size) you will most likely need a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) to make the bodice fit properly. If you your bra cup size is LARGER than a B – use your high bust measurement to select your size and go from there.

The FBA is positifvely magic as it adds exactly what you need, where you need it to fit your curves. And believe it or not - it is EASY. If you have no pattern adjustment experience, don’t be scared. Check out our favorite FBA tutorial at the Curvy Sewing Collective (whom we love love love, BTW, and you will too when you see all of the amazing information and body positive posts). They make understanding and learning the FBA so easy and clear. Adding the FBA to your sewing skills will be life changing – we kid you not! If you prefer having someone talk you through it, look at Sewing Parts Online's video. It also covers a Small Bust Adjustment (SBA), which helps those with an A cup get rid of a baggy bodice. Need to do a SBA? Use your bust and waist measurement to select your size. There is a written tutorial on the SBA by which is very helpful.

As per the FBA guidelines, we selected the pattern size based on the model’s high bust measurement, 40” . Then we did the FBA on the size 40. We placed the sleeve piece over the bodice front to determine the shoulder and mark a point 1/3 of the way down the armscye for the FBA.

Besides adding the fullness to the bodice, now is the time to move the darts to correspond with the bust apex. Again, we'll defer to the Curvy Sewing Collective for a tutorial on lowering a bust dart and Itch to Stitch, which covers moving the waist dart, as well.

 Below, we have the results of a WHOLE LOTTA muslin sewing! The first and second row of photos show the muslin sewn directly from the pattern with no alterations. The third row is the muslin with all the pattern adjustments. 

See the difference? The size 40 is too tight at the bust (pulling at the bust line in front and back). The size 42 fits the bust but the waist and neckline are too big. The size 40 with the FBA fits the bust "like a glove, but on my boobs," to quote our model. 

You may notice there is some extra fabric at the lower back. To fit the lower back, we did a Sway Back adjustment. Tanya at the Curvy Sewing Collective (broken, happy record) has a quick tutorial on this adjustment. Also, the size of the dart can be increased to remove the excess fabric from the bust side. And this is why we love making muslins!

Muslins don't require having all the seams finished and facings sewn on. Just put the essential pieces together and try it on. 

If you are new to sewing, this is a great time to practice your marking and dart sewing techniques. Check out these tutorials on marking and sewing a dart by Lucky Lucille and Threads magazine (if you prefer videos).


Next week: The pleated skirt variation.

Who am I and what am I doing here?! April 24 2016 12 Comments

Who am I and what am I doing here?!

Welcome to the inaugural Decades of Style blog post! We've read up on how to blog and we learned the first and MOST IMPORTANT thing about writing a blog is to establish your “voice.” We don’t know what our “voice” is yet so when we figure it out, we'll let you know immediately *wink*. In the meantime, we'll be posting some information about the E.S.P. dress and we hope you enjoy!

Why are we finally doing a blog now after nearly a dozen years in business? We are always late to the party! (Joining social media and offering PDF patterns in the last 18 months - but better late than never, right?) We’ve been having so much fun on Instagram and we don’t want to lose touch with anyone as the app “improves”. We feel this is the perfect time to create a consistent place to share information on a platform that is not vulnerable to the whims of social media algorithms. We are going to show you inspiring pattern variations which are better suited to blog format rather than Instagram or Facebook. 

Ah, memories! The first time we were mentioned in Threads magazine. We're in the BIG LEAGUES! And look! It includes pictures of two of our discontinued patterns (a 1920's jacket and 1940's dress). The 1930's Kitchenette Pajamas and 1950's Wrap Blouse are still available.

Our blog will cover basic sew alongs of our patterns as well as tricks and easy alterations to achieve a different look. Our sew alongs won’t cover the nitty gritty of every step in the sewing process. Why? Because the internet already contains thousands of tutorials, videos, articles, and blogs on how to sew a dart, armscye, hem, put in a zipper, and everything else! We'll show you what we do for any chosen task, but chances are it won’t be that different from all the DIYs already out there. Sharing sewing information is great and we'll include links to our preferred and/or wildly different tutorials or informational blog posts that you might enjoy (like have you seen Oonabanoona’s 12 Things I've Learned About Sewing? Hi-larious).

Striped E.S.P. dress

E.S.P. dress with striped and tufted fabric from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics

To kick it all off:  a sew along for the E.S.P Dress!! We’ll cover how a Full Bust Adjustment really improves the fit for anyone with C cup or larger bra size. We adapt the gathered skirt pattern into a pleated skirt and increase the fullness by 50%. We’ll cover changing the direction of your pattern layout to "on the cross grain" (this will change the direction of the stripe on your finished garment.) And finally, a few words about the sleeve length just for comparison.

So at least we answered half of the title questions! You can subscribe to our blog using the RSS FeedBurner feed by clicking on this text. You can also sign-up to our e-newsletter at the bottom of our page.  Look for the sew along to start the first week of May!