July 24, 2017

“Why doesn’t it fit?!”: A Sewing Checklist

One of the great joys but also great frustrations of garment sewing is learning how to fit your clothes. Sometimes you can think you did everything perfectly, and yet your garment still doesn’t fit – and it can be particularly challenging when you’re new to sewing, and have no idea where to even start!

So I thought I’d make this checklist that you can go through next time you’re struggling with fit. You can also download the checklist as a one-page document (at the bottom of the post) that you can keep on your computer or print off and tape up in your sewing area next time you want to smash your machine and throw it out of the window! Make your muslin, and then if it doesn’t fit, go down the checklist to identify your problem. Do you have more ideas to add to the list?

“Why doesn’t it fit?!”: A Sewing Checklist

1. Did you take your measurements at the beginning of the project?

It’s always a good idea to take your measurements at the start of every single project, because most of us fluctuate quite often (and sometimes quite dramatically), and it’s easy to make the mistake of assuming you’re the same size as before. My top tip is that if you’re making a woven or fitted garment, make sure you are sitting down when you take your waist and hip measurement, because most of us – especially those who are curvy – get bigger when we sit down. If it’s a knit, stretch woven, or there’s tons of ease, you should be OK with standing measurements. Always make sure you wear the same undergarments when you’re measuring that you’ll use when you wear the garment – different bras or shapewear can affect measurements significantly.  Unsure how to take your measurements? Here’s a guide.

2. Did you choose the right size?

Picking the right size in a pattern is essential to getting a good fit. There is a lot of variation between sewing pattern brands as to the amount of ease, and the numbering systems, so here are the steps to go through:

  • Take your measurements and write them down.
  • Look at the Body Measurements Chart, and circle where your bust, waist and hip lie – don’t worry if they’re in different sizes, they probably will be.
  • Look at the Finished Garment Measurements Chart (on Cashmerette Patterns this is on the envelope, but on some pattern it’s printed inside on the tissue). This shows you how big the GARMENT will be, i.e. how much wiggle room you’ll have (also known as “ease”, but that’s less fun than wiggling). Compare where you fall on the Body Chart and the Finished Chart. Does the size of the garment make sense to you based on your body size? For instance, if your bust is 48″, and the finished garment bust is 55″ but the garment is meant to be fitted, you can see it’s probably going to be too big, and you might want to go down a size. You might also find although theoretically you have to grade between sizes you actually don’t, because there’s enough ease. For instance, I’m generally a size 18 except for a size 20 waist, but if there is enough ease at the waist (seen in the Finished Garment Measurements Chart) then I might be able to make a straight 18.

Once you’ve identified the bust, waist and hip sizes you need to make, you can then either make that straight size if you’re lucky enough to be in one, or you can grade between sizes. Here’s how to do that.

3. Are you the same height and cup size the pattern is designed for?

First up, are you the same height that the pattern’s drafted for? If you are, and you have fairly “average” proportions, probably no action needed. However, if you’re significantly taller or shorter, or if you have different proportions to average (e.g. a very short torso and long legs), you  may need to lengthen or shorten the pattern. Most patterns are drafted for 5’5″ – 5’6″, but there are exceptions. Here’s a chart of pattern company heights.

Most patterns have “lengthen/shorten” lines that you can cut, and then slide the pieces closer or further away depending on if you need to reduce or add length. Note, proportions are important: you can be 3″ taller than a pattern is designed for, but if all the length is in your legs, then a top might fit you as-is. Or, you could still have a very short torso and have to reduce the length of a top, even though you’re theoretically taller than the pattern. The only sure-fire way to know if the length will fit you is to measure your body and measure the pattern pieces and compare.

Second up, do you have the same cup size that the pattern’s drafted for? Most commercial patterns are designed for a B – C cup, but there are now companies that go up higher, with Cashmerette Patterns going all the way up to an H! Here is a guide to help you identify the cup size of pattern companies. Here is a guide to help you identify the cup size of pattern companies. 

Why does it matter? If you have a 48″ bust measurement, you will get a very different fit if you have a wide back and a B cup bust, or a narrow back and an H cup bust. Also, the bust size the pattern is designed for dictates things like the size, shape and height of darts and princess seams, and if you’re not the same size as the pattern, it’s unlikely to fit you correctly.  If you are bigger than the pattern cup size, you can do a Full Bust Adjustment. The technique for doing an FBA varies depending on the type of pattern you have. For video step-by-step tutorials on multiple types of pattern, you can take my Fitting For Curves video class. More tutorials are available on the Curvy Sewing Collective. 

4. Did you print and/or cut out the right size, and use the right seam allowance?

If you are using a downloadable PDF pattern, one of the most common mistakes is printing it at the wrong scale. Even 10% wrong will result in a dramatically ill-fitting garment! Cashmerette Patterns have a 1 inch grid across the back of every page: make sure you print the first page and measure the square before taping together. Also make sure the squares are fully printing around all sides of the paper. Other patterns often have a test square on the first page that you can measure to make sure you got the correct scale.

If you are using a printed pattern, you’ll either be tracing or cutting your pattern pieces, following the dotted lines marking your size. First, make sure you’re on the right dotted lines – they can be hard to see! Also, not all pattern pieces are nested in the same: you might assume that the outermost lines are the biggest size for instance, but that is not always the case.

Finally check you used the right seam allowance. Bear in mind they vary between brands and often also within the same brand between garments. All Cashmerette Patterns have the seam allowance printed on each pattern piece (1/2″ for wovens and 3/8″ for knits) but for some patterns you’ll need to look in the instructions for guidance. Sewing 5/8″ rather than 1/2″ accidentally can radically affect the fit of your garment.

5. Did you use the right kind of fabric?

It’s important to use the right type of fabric for your garment, because using the wrong one can dramatically affect fit. All patterns explain what type of fabric you need (woven, knit, stretch woven etc.), and many of them will also provide additional fabric guidance, such as a stretch chart which we have on all knit Cashmerette Patterns, or a weight guidance (e.g. a heavy knit vs. a light knit).

Broadly speaking, there are three types of fabric which are the most common:

  • Non-stretch wovens. These fabrics don’t typically stretch at all (just a little bit across the bias), and include fabrics like cotton lawn, linen, silk and non-stretch denim.
  • Stretch wovens. These fabrics are still woven, but have been blended with a stretch element like lycra, in order to stretch (though typically not as much as a knit fabric would). These include fabrics like stretch denim and stretch sateen.
  • Knits. These fabrics are produced using a knit stitch (like knitting if you look under a magnifying glass!) and are typically very stretchy. These fabric types include jersey, ponte, ITY.

Critically, you cannot make a knit garment out of a woven (without radical changes which are unlikely to be worth the time and effort!). You also cannot tissue fit a knit. It is possible to convert some woven garments into a knit (typically by going down a few sizes) but it’s also a bit of a gamble, and may result in an ill-fitting garment.

6. Are the style lines in the right place?

Even if you’ve followed all the guidance above, you may end up with some of the garment style lines in the wrong places, which mean that you need to make adjustments. Here are some things to watch out for:

  • Are the shoulder seams on the top of your shoulder? If they’re not, you may need a forward or back shoulder adjustment.
  • Is the point where the sleeve meets the shoulder at the tip of your shoulder? If it’s falling off the shoulder (and it isn’t designed to look like that) or if it’s pulling on to your shoulder, you may need to do a wide or narrow shoulder adjustment.
  • Is the neckline at the right width and depth for you? This one’s really easy to fix in most garments! Here’s how. Is the neckline gaping? Here’s another adjustment for that.
  • Are the bust darts or princess seams in the right place? If they’re not you may need an FBA/SBA, or to move or rotate the darts or seams.
  • Is the waistline hitting at your waist? Patterns are designed to hit at various waist heights, and sometimes the instructions will tell you, but sometimes you have to deduce it from the pattern illustrations and photos. Regardless, you can position the waistline wherever you like, typically by lengthening or shortening the bodice.
  • Is the hem at a length you like? That’s an easy one! Just shorten or length as needed.
  • Are the back darts or seams flat against your back? Remember, you need some wiggle room in your garments so your clothes are never going to look like totally smooth plastic Barbie dolls! But if you have a lot of pooling fabric in the small of your back, you may need a sway back adjustment (for if your back is very curved), or you may need to add more room at the bum (if the fabric is getting caught there).

You can learn lots more about this in my Fitting For Curves online video workshop.

6. Where is it too big or too small? Where is it gaping or pulling?

If you’re confident you got the basics right, and now you’re looking to diagnose where to make changes, look at where the garment is too big or too small, or where it’s gaping or pulling. These are the most basic observations, but they often tell you what you need to do, whether it’s making a different size, grading between sizes, or using one of the adjustments above.



July 11, 2017

Launching the Australia & New Zealand Curvy Sewing Retreats!

G’day, ladies! I’m thrilled to announce the launch today of my Cashmerette Curvy Sewing Retreats in Australia and New Zealand in February 2018. We are indeed launching a long time in advance, but it’ll give us time to get prepared, and, basically, we’re too excited to wait!

Retreat at Stitch Sew Shop, Alexandria VA

There will be three retreats, in Sydney, Melbourne and Wellington. There are a very limited number of places available, so if you’re interested, we definitely suggest you sign up as soon as possible. We are going to have waitlists for those who don’t sign up in time, but please note we can’t guarantee you’ll get a place if you’re on the waitlist.

Retreat at Gather Here, Cambridge MA

All of the retreats will be two days of fun, sewing and fitting, with me, and my ever-capable assistant Carrie. Based on our first retreat in Cambridge, USA, I’m sure we will all have a ball!

Retreat at Gather Here, Cambridge MA

Here’s what some of our previous attendees have to say about their experience:

I had a lovely time, and it was my favorite of all the sewing retreats I’ve attended. I hope I get a chance to do it again!” – Jessica

The Cashmerette Retreat was a fantastic experience!  I learned so many techniques to personalize patterns to fit me perfectly.  It also introduced me to a wonderful group of sewists and together we learned to fit patterns in a supportive and friendly environment. I am so happy that I attended! ” – Dawn

For all the retreats, you should fit into the existing Cashmerette Patterns size range (size 12 – 28 and cup sizes C – H), and we won’t be able to grade patterns up or down for you. Not sure if you fit? Check out our sizing chart. Please also read our retreat policies before signing up.

Read on to learn more about each retreat – there are some differences between each location:

Cashmerette Curvy Retreat Sydney (UPDATE: Sydney is now sold out)

  • Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th February 2018, from 10 – 5pm.
  • We will be hosted at Bobbin & Ink, located at  412 Parramatta Rd, Petersham.

Photo source

The focus of this weekend will be on fitting sewing patterns to your figure. Pick any Cashmerette Pattern to make – you’ll get a free pattern included in the retreat price – and I’ll help you make your garment with construction tips and fitting advice. I’ll also do demonstrations of common fitting adjustments during the weekend – and am happy to take requests!

The retreat includes the use of sewing machines, sergers and all your tools, provided by our hosts, Bobbin & Ink. We’ll send you a list of supplies to bring with you before the retreat.

This retreat is suitable for all levels of sewist – and it’s ok if you’ve sewn other things but not garments before, or if you’d like to try to sewing a new garment or new fabric type.


Cashmerette Curvy Retreat Melbourne

  • Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th February 2018, from 10 – 5pm.
  • We will be hosted at the church hall at St. Georges Anglican Church, 296 Glenferrie Rd,  Malvern.

The focus of this weekend will also be on fitting sewing patterns to your figure. Pick any Cashmerette Pattern to make – you’ll get a free pattern included in the retreat price – and I’ll help you make your garment with construction tips and fitting advice. I’ll also do demonstrations of common fitting adjustments during the weekend – and am happy to take requests!

As we are going to be hosted in a church hall rather than a sewing studio, you will need to bring your sewing machine and tools with you, for your personal use. We’ll also be emailing the group to co-ordinate irons and ironing boards. The church hall will be equipped with a large table for each participant.

This retreat is suitable for all levels of sewist – and it’s ok if you’ve sewn other things but not garments before, or if you’d like to try to sewing a new garment or new fabric type.


Cashmerette Shirtmaking Retreat Wellington

  • Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th February 2018, from 10 – 5pm.
  • We will be hosted at Made Marion Craft, located at 1/100 Tory St, Te Aro, Wellington, NZ.

The focus of the weekend will be on sewing and fitting a shirt or shirtdress from Cashmerette Patterns: choose from the Harrison Shirt, Harrison Shirtdress, or Lenox Shirtdress. Come with your pattern pieces already cut out, and over the weekend I’ll give you personalized advice on getting a fantastic professional finish, and how to fit as you go. I’ll also be in touch before the retreat to give you a personal sizing consultation!

Note: the format of this retreat is a little different to our Australia retreats because the studio space is smaller. But I have no doubt we will have a great time making our shirts and shirtdresses!

The retreat includes all the sewing tools you’ll need to make your garment. You can bring your own sewing machine, or use one provided by the studio – we will contact you before the retreat to confirm which option you choose. You’ll also be provided with a shirtmaking supplies list (for interfacing and buttons) to purchase directly from our hosts, Made Marion Craft.

The retreat is aimed at advanced beginner or intermediate level sewists. It’s ok if you’ve sewn other garments but not a shirt before!



It’s no exaggeration to say that Carrie and I are bouncing with excitement about the trip and meeting you all! We also plan on having a few meet and greet/fabric shopping events while we are over – watch this space for more information closer to the time.

July 11, 2017

How to save on a sewing machine with Amazon Prime Day

If you haven’t heard, Amazon have their own version of Black Friday every year, called “Prime Day“. It’s actually a day and a half, and it gives pretty big discounts to people who have an Amazon Prime membership. If you’re wondering if Prime membership is worth it for you, here’s a great little calculator. You can also get a 30 day free trial of Prime.

I am a HUGE user of Amazon Prime, but the reason I’m mentioning it today, is because there are some great sewing related offers for Prime Day this year!

The offers roll out during the day, so I’ve highlighted the time (Eastern Standard Time) that they’re going live – until then, the discounts aren’t announced, but they’re usually pretty great. As a caveat: I haven’t used all these machines and tools, so definitely do your research and read the reviews before buying, and double check other sites to compare pricing. Also note that they have a limited number of products in the Prime Day Sale before they go back to regular pricing, so if you want to buy, you need to do it pretty quickly!

Save on sewing machines

Beginner/introductory sewing machines

When you start to sew, you don’t need tons of bells and whistles on your machine – a straight stitch, zig zag and buttonhole will be fine! Here are some great beginner machines, which would also be good for children and teenagers.

Singer 7258 – $190 reduced to $107.49

  • 100 stitches
  • 7 automated buttonholes
  • Includes zipper foot, buttonhole foot, blind hem foot and more
  • 4.5 stars on Amazon with 2,445 customer reviews
  • This machine has many 5/5 star reviews on, including this one by KSmithSews (link).

Singer 1304 – goes on sale 6.50am EST July 11 (Currently $69.30)

  • Basic model: 6 stitches including straight and zigzag
  • Automatic 4-step buttonhole
  • 3 feet: basic, buttonhole, zipper
  • 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon with 613 reviews

Brother XM1010 – goes on sale 1.20pm EST July 11  (Currently $101)

  • Has all the basic stitches, a free arm (useful for sleeves!) and comes with feet including zipper and buttonhole
  • 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon with 52 reviews


Brother 1034 D. Goes on sale 8.30pm EST July 11 (Currently $216)

  • This is a super popular entry-level serger, which will do a 3 or 4 level serger/overlock stich
  • It has a removable free arm which is great for hemming sleeves, and a differential feed dial to adjust for waviness or fabric stretching out.
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon, with 3,025 reviews
  • This serger has lots of reviews on, including this most recent 5 star review.

Embroidery and Sewing Machines

Singer SE300. Goes on sale 8.20pm EST July 11 (Currently $781)

  • 200 built-in embroidery designs, 6 alphabet options, 250 stitch options.
  • 1o presser feet, two hoops
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon with 7 reviews

Singer XL-580 Futura Embroidery and Sewing Machine. Goes on sale 10.10 am EST July 11 (Currently $1,423)

  • This crazy beast has 215 sewing stitches and 250 pre-programmed embroidery designs
  • It includes a knee lift, endless embroidery hoop and connects to your computer with a USB
  • 3.5 out of 5 stars on Amazon with 140 reviews

Rotary cutting mats

Paragon Cutting Mats. Goes on sale 7.50pm EST July 11 (Currently $29.99)

  • If you use a rotary cutter, then a cutting mat is a must! The mats are often incredibly expensive, so these look like a great deal.

Sewing books

This is a more general offer, but you can get $5 off a $15 book purchase (not including eBooks) when you use the code PRIMEBOOKS17 (expires 11.59pm PT, 12 July)

Here are my top two recommendations:

The Curated Closet. Want to define your style and just be more… stylish? I highly recommend the Curated Closet! You can read my review here.

Fit For Real People. This is my absolute favourite book for fitting, period. The ONLY book that I think all sewists should have on the shelf at all times.

What do you think – will you be scoring any amazing Prime Day deals this year? I’m still pondering an Instant Pot….

July 7, 2017

Webster Top & Dress Sewalong Day 6: Finishing Touches

We made it to the final day of the Webster Top & Dress sewalong! The last few finishing touches are a little difficult to capture in photographs, so feel free to ask questions in the comments if things are confusing!

Start by trying on your dress to figure out the ideal length of the back straps. It’s helpful to have a buddy for this part, but if you’re sewing alone, pin the straps to the back first, try it on, and adjust as needed. Pin the straps in place over the gaps in the back facing seam diagonally across the back. The straps should lay reasonably flat but allow for freedom of movement as well. Take the top off and mark the point where the strap meets the dress with a pin or chalk on the strap.

Insert the end of the strap into the opening in the shell-facing seam, keeping the strap twisted and lining up the length determined in the last step with the edge of the shell.

Now, to sew this strap in place, turn the Webster inside out and flip up the facing so you can see the end of the strap sticking through, sandwiched by the seam allowances of the shell and facing.

Pin along the length of the gap, making sure to catch the end of the strap. Then you’ll sew along the 1/2″ seam allowance to close the gap and catch the back strap. Here’s the same view as above just rotated so you can see the facing as well:

Flip the facing down and make sure you’ve caught the strap and closed the entire gap. You can also complete the under stitching of the facing at this point.

Repeat these steps with the second strap, again being careful that it doesn’t get twisted.

Finally, we’ll anchor the inner facing so it doesn’t flip out. Start by giving the whole neckline and both armscyes a good press, making sure the facing is laying flat. To secure the facing, we’re going to stitch in the ditch from the right side of the shell, sewing a short line of stitches in the valley created by the side seams and back seams.

Stitch in the ditch on both side seams and the back seam. If you want to topstitch around the neckline as shown in View B, press the facing again and topstitch around the whole neckline at 1″ from the opening, pivoting at both front and back V points.

Give your Webster one final press and you’re done! Congratulations on making a swishy and silky new summer top or dress! Share your makes with us using #WebsterTop and #WebsterDress; we’ll be sharing a roundup at the end of the month!



July 5, 2017

Webster Top & Dress Sewalong Day 5: Side and Back Seams and Hem

We’re making great progress on our Webster Tops & Dresses! Today, we’ll be sewing the side and back seams and hemming the lower edge. On Friday, in our final installment, we’ll be securing the straps and facings to finish our Websters.

First, let’s sew the side seams. This step is essentially the same if you’re making the top or the dress, but if you’re making the top, you won’t need to worry about lining up the hem band seams.

Pin one side seam with front and back pieces right sides together, matching notches, facing seams, and hem band seams if you’re making the dress. Sew, finish the seam allowance, and press towards the back. After you finish the seam, press the facing down to the inside of the shell, wrong sides together, over a ham.

Repeat this step with the other side seam and the back seam. When pinning and sewing the back seam, make sure to pivot at the facing seam allowance in order to get a sharp V at the center back. Press the seam allowance to once side and give the whole shell a good press.

We’re going to go slightly out of order now and hem our Websters so we can just do a few finishing touches next time. If you are using silk or another slippery fabric, the easiest first step is to sew a line of stitching 1/4″ from the bottom edge. This will serve as a guide when folding and pressing and also creates a line of punctures that can help the fabric fold cleanly.

Press the whole bottom edge up by 1/4″. Then press the bottom edge up by another 1/2″ and secure using pins or Wonder Tape, which would be our recommendation. Topstitch the hem from the right side at a scant 1/2″, making sure to catch all of the layers underneath. Give the hem a good final press and make sure you maintained the curve.

That’s it for today! Next time, we’ll finish our Websters! Make sure to share your makes with us using #WebsterTop or #WebsterDress!

July 3, 2017

Webster Top & Dress Sewalong Day 4: All-in-one Facing

Today we’ll be tackling the Webster Top & Dress’s all-in-one facing; which can be a bit fiddly but leaves us with a beautifully clean finish! Make sure you’ve sewn the shoulder seams of the outer shell and the facing, but not the side or center back seams.

Lay the shell out with the right side up just as you did when basting on the back straps. Place the facing on top, lining up the neckline with right sides together. Pin around the neckline, leaving a gap where indicated on the pattern. (This is where we’ll attach the other end of the back straps later.

Sew around the whole neckline, stopping and restarting at the two gaps. When you get to the point of the V in the front, leave the needle down and pivot the fabric to get a nice sharp point.

Snip into the seam allowance at the point of the V, right up to but not through the stitching line, to allow the facing to lie flay when finished.

Flip the facing out so both the right side of the dress and facing are visible. Press the seam allowance towards the facing and understitch the facing to the seam allowance 1/8″ from the seam you just created to help prevent the facing from rolling out. Make sure to leave the gaps you created in the last step unsewn!!

Now for the bit that makes this an all-in-one facing. Flip the facing back on top of the shell, right sides together, and align the armscyes. Pin and sew carefully around both armscyes, making sure the back straps are out of the way and not getting caught in the seam.

Next, we’re going to turn this right side out, which is a little tricky with an all-in-one facing. Starting from the front of the facing, reach in between the shell and the facing through the opening at the shoulder and pull the back through the opening until it’s all the way through. Repeat with the second side.

Press the facing flat, rolling it slightly in at the edges to prevent it peeking out, and congratulations! You’ve successfully sewn an all-in-one facing; your neckline and armholes are all finished!

That’s it for today! Next time, we’ll sew our side seams and center back seams and hem our dresses and tops.

June 30, 2017

Webster Top & Dress Sewalong Day 3: Hem Bands, Shoulder Seams, and Back Straps

Welcome back! Today, we’re going to sew the hem bands, if you’re making the dress version of the Webster Top & Dress, sew the shoulder seams, and prepare the back straps.

Skip this if you’re making the Webster Top…

Let’s start by sewing the front hem band to the front of the shirt. The front hem band is symmetrical, so line one of the long edges up with the lower edge of the front piece, right sides together, and pin, maintaining the slight curve of the front bodice. Sew at 1/2″ seam allowance, finish the seams and press down towards the hem.

Attach both of the back hem bands to the two back pieces in the same way, easing the curves together to avoid any tucks or gathers. Finish the seam allowances and press them down towards the hem band.

Webster Top friends can join us again now…

Next step is to sew the shoulders together of both the outer front and backs and the facing front and backs. Sew each set together at the shoulders, right sides together, making sure the armscyes line up. Don’t finish these seams, simply press them open.

Next, let’s prepare our back straps. Start by pressing one back strap in half along the long edge, with wrong sides together. Open the strap back up and fold one edge over to the wrong side to meet the central crease and press.

Fold the other long edge up to meet the central crease and press. Fold in half lengthwise along the original crease and press. Edgestitch along the open edge and repeat these steps with the second back strap.

Finally, let’s attach these straps to the back of our Websters. Lay your Webster out flat with the right side facing up and pin the back straps to the backs, matching the strap and the angle with the guideline on the pattern piece. Baste the straps to the top at 1/4″ seam allowance.

That’s it for today! Next time, we’ll attach the all-in-one facing! Let us know if you have any questions in the comments, and we look forward to seeing your projects! Share them using #WebsterTop or #WebsterDress!


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