Archives 9/2-9/8 2005-2010

I’m doing something a bit different today; I’ve signed up for a  sewing class called Tricks of the Trade (Or Avoiding that Homemade Look) being held at a local boutiquish fabric store called Nob Hill Fabrics (in Albuquerque). For research purposes that is. I called the instructor in advance for approval to say I was willing to pay the class fee just to sit in to see what sorts of things people wanted to know these days, to assess skill levels among students and all of that. It should be interesting; the class touches on a lot of my hot buttons (sleeves, bagging, zipper insertions etc). For what it’s worth, I plan to be a good student (keep my mouth shut) and follow along as per the instructions (again, keep my mouth shut). Should be fun, no? I hope the instructor who doesn’t know me from Adam, doesn’t think I’m there to copy her methods. While there is always something new to learn, she told me by phone that she uses the window pane method for bound buttonholes. Just between you and me and in my experience -your mileage may vary- modifying the welt pocket tutorial for buttonholes is more reliable and less work.  Now I have to go find a machine with all its constituent parts to cart to the class; easier said than done. And a coat; it’s gotten nippy here.

So that’s the short term plan for my weekend. To start yours off, here’s this week’s edition of the archives. Hope your weekend is productive, relaxing and happy.

September 2, through September 8, 2005
Hazards of selling close to delivery dates
Why are you here?
Costing components and mark-ups
Invisible zipper tutorial pt.1
The Consignment Trap

September 2, through September 8, 2006
Rain rain go away pt 2
Buttocks bras, caffeine lingerie and sizing surveys
Knock yourself off
Timing of seasons
How many collections to produce the first year?
Getting into your first trade show
Naming a product line
Do not ship samples to anyone who wants them!

September 2, through September 8, 2007
It all starts here 7
Children’s wear design
Trade show success and expectations
Returns policies
Saks: Excessive chargebacks
F-I Fashion Week: Vintage Lane Bryant

September 2, through September 8, 2008
Are you a victim of a hanger fix?
Trade show review: Lingerie Americas Magic 8/2008
How to know your patterns have been corrected
Trade show review 1: POOL 8/2008
Pop Quiz #478
Trade show reviews misc: 8/2008

September 2, through September 8, 2009
Kamali has moved production to the US

September 2, through September 8, 2010
Fit used to be so much better?
If your sales aren’t as good as your product
Premium denim, sustainability & Levi’s
Refine My Line

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  1. Kathleen says:

    They say practice makes perfect. In this case I say process makes perfect. Case in point, I haven’t made a bound buttonhole in 30 years -when I had to for school and believe me, we didn’t do it like this. So, I thought I’d do one in advance of the class. See the photos of the making of this bound buttonhole step by step. Like I said, I used the welt pocket process and it’s the same.

  2. dosfashionistas says:

    Thanks for the refresher on the bound buttonhole. That is exactly the way I learned to do them, wherever it was I learned it.

  3. Marie-Christine says:

    Somehow, I think the part about ‘what people want to learn’ is more closely appreciated (more geographically all-encompassing) with a survey of what classes are selling at patternreview and burdastyle.. You don’t really need to know what bad methods may be being taught, do you? Just teaching a good one ought to be enough :-).

    I’m sorry to say I feel constantly aghast at the influence of what classes being taught have over what people think they need to do though. Bound buttonholes are always lovely, but perhaps not necessary on pajamas? Interesting too how French women right now are making tons of Liberty lawn stuff, but when US women approach the same thing they feel obligated to line and underline the same fabrics, just because they’ve read that’s how ‘couture’ works. Likewise, you don’t catch the Japanese lining their linen. I almost got tossed out of the Marche StPierre after a load of US tourists showed off how they were buying the wonderful and cheap linen, and how they were going to line it -all-. “We should just refuse to sell to them at all. I’d just as soon make a linen coat for my dog as waste it like that”. In fact, most of anything East of the Rockies gets fully as hot as humid as Nice or Tokyo ever gets, so a nice light-as-air single layer of Liberty should theoretically appeal most. But fashion I’m afraid applies just as much to method as to what you wear, and gets just as irrational :-).

  4. Reader says:


    I’ll look forward to your report. I consider myself a “self-sewer,” not a “home sewer” because I’ve been taking classes at FIT. I have noticed over the years, though, that people in the “sewing community” don’t always agree or respect each other. All I can do is pick and choose the best methods for myself.

    What is the “window pane” method? On the Cutter and Tailor forum, Claire Shaeffer said she thought it was pathetic when people were taught to sew that way. I’ve been taught to make welt pockets in three different ways. Some day I’ll have to try your method with the jig.

    I live in New York. A few months ago I took a class at a very nice local quilt store. The class was fine. But on my way out, I saw a child’s dress displayed for a class on kids’ clothing. The topstitching was incredibly sloppy, making it look very homemade. I felt like saying something, but it’s not a class I’m likely to take there so I kept my big mouth shut. :-)


    I love the French blog Japan Couture Addicts, which features French women who are using mainly Liberty of London to make garments from Japanese pattern books. The clothing is lovely and very casual. I’ve bought some Liberty myself. If I make a dress or a skirt, I’m definitely underlining it. Tana lawn is too light and insufficiently opaque to be used as is in any kind of garment I’d consider wearing beyond the beach. The same problem exists with many linens. I don’t it’s fussy at all. It’s a lot simpler to underline or line than to worry about a slip.

  5. Liz C says:

    I’m eagerly looking forward to whatever you post here on your blog, Kathleen. Please do post something here.

    As a “housewife sewer” who found you 2 years ago, I know how awful “home sewing” construction methods are. I’ve learned so much from your blog (and the year I was in the forum), my sewing has improved and I spend less time on it. Petty of me, but I really enjoyed your posts where you pick apart the so-called “experts.”

  6. Susan Wright says:

    I just read the description of the class Kathleen is attending this weekend. Wow! That is a lot to cover in 3 hours! I’m sure I’d retain very little. I need to “do” to retain.

  7. Donna says:

    Bottom line a lot of sewing just can not be done on a home sewing machine. Clever work arounds are the only way to get even close to a professional look. I do hope you do a follow up.

  8. The class was an interesting experience, very laid back and relaxing. Leslie was a good instructor, well prepared with pre-cut samples and instruction booklets on hand for each participant. She had lots of examples of her own finished products (she has a lovely eye for proportion, color and style). I would generally describe the content as complimentary to what Threads magazine and experts known only in home sewing would describe as “couture”.

    Reader: She ended up not doing the pane method (using 2 layers, sewing a little window all the way around and turning it, then sandwiching two folded lips from behind it) but one she called the “railroad” method which is identical to what C.Schaeffer/threads mag et al teaches. This method is (comparatively) time consuming and requires much greater operator skill. I would not say the “railroad” method is optimal because I have a lot of skill yet still came up with a crappy result. I prefer the process I describe in the welt pocket tutorial because someone with no skills can be successful on their first try. Really, this is an ideal example of “process makes perfect” rather than practice. If the process is optimal, one’s pre-existing skill is less important. Obviously people who assign themselves brownie points for skill may not like that but in real life with money riding on the line, you can’t afford ego, only consistent results.

    Anyway, I was a good girl and did the first sample like Leslie said. The second one I did my way as best I could (compromised by having to use the pre-cut samples) but it came out much much better. Leslie came over and gave me the thumbs up on the second sample, saying “practice makes perfect!” She didn’t know I did it my way (see photos of the two compared). For all I know, she’s calling her friends today to tell them she taught an industry pattern maker in her class who couldn’t even do a bound buttonhole! [I’m tempted to time both bound buttonhole processes. The railroad method has a lot of muda, pre-stitching that you will have to remove or undo later.] I was a bit distressed that the inset area was not to be fused (kept my distress in check but did ask and she emphatically told the class not to do that). She was also aghast when I said I didn’t know what underlining was (I was the only person who didn’t). I explained that our definitions are different; for us, underlining was a process not a product.

    Leslie said that someone who was just learning to sew, would be overwhelmed and that they wouldn’t have the skills to do all of this stuff. Later on when I had her at my elbow, I said this was completely possible, that it was possible if you had well engineered processes. I said that Mr. F-I who can’t sew, made a lined zip front vest with double welts -perfectly- as his first sewing project. To prove it wasn’t a fluke, he made another one exactly like the first. I don’t think she believed me. I’ll show her his samples if she comes by my shop. I keep them here, I don’t let him wear them anymore since they’ve become great examples of what abject beginners can do.

    Susan: The teacher was pretty crispy near the end of class, it was a long day for her (she’d done one earlier in the day). Other than we students sewing bound buttonhole and invisible zipper samples, the rest was instructor demonstration. I don’t know how much the others picked up on, I would think it is hard to learn to bag a jacket by looking at a sewn sample without going through it step by step. Since lined garments are my strength, I didn’t want to look too closely because maybe I would forget to shut up. It was pretty much the threads mag/home sewing expert way of doing things. Namely, lots of effort, lots of integrity and lots of required skill. Whether effort, integrity and skill are applied as efficaciously as they could be is another story but only a heartless desgraciado would find fault with their motives, dedication or discipline.

    I have finished writing my de-briefing (I do that for every class altho I’m usually the instructor) which I will post tomorrow.

  9. Underlining is a process, not a product. It’s when you cut and sew the self and lining as one.

    Since making a pair of linen pants that quickly wore holes between the thighs, I always line my linen pants. They last much longer that way.

  10. Matthew Pius says:

    Following Alison’s comment – I’m definitely a home sewer, but I always thought that bound buttonholes were something only found on coats or other heavy garments – maybe on women’s blazers (though I don’t think I’ve ever seen them on men’s).
    But I see that the samples are done on what appears to be a light-weight cotton or maybe linen? Do people do bound buttonholes on things like shirts/blouses? I’m trying to think of why one would do it that way – and this is from someone who will often do buttonholes by hand because I don’t like the way my machine makes them.

  11. Kathleen says:

    I could see contrasting fabric bound buttonholes on a nice blouse as long as it weren’t overdone.

    Bound buttonholes on a coat are an elegant solution design-wise but also if you don’t have a machine that will make a nice buttonhole.

    The problem I have with bound buttonholes is a clean machine sewn finish on the facing side. You can (with finagling and if the holes aren’t too close together) finish the long sides of the box by machine but the end of each hole closest to the CF edge requires hand sewing.

  12. April says:

    Matthew’s question about the use of bound buttonholes reminded me of a passage I recently read in a vintage sewing book, “Simplified Systems of Sewing and Styling” by Doris Anderson (on amazon: ) You know how these old sewing books are so amusingly strident?! It says “Worked buttonholes should rarely be used in women’s garments, except for very mannish tailored suits. . . Worked buttonholes are used in men’s wear and in some children’s garments.” She went on to state that the buttonhole attachment for the machine could save time for men’s pajamas, shirts, and children’s wear.

  13. Matthew Pius says:

    April, that’s fascinating. I’m picturing frustrated housewives making tiny bound buttonholes on housecoats and nightgowns…
    Kathleen – is there any reason (other than bulk) why the holes in the facing behind bound buttonholes could not each be faced with a small rectangle of fabric? I’m picturing a stitched rectangle, clipped to the corners, then the small fabric turned fully to the wrong side of the facing and pressed, leaving a neat rectangular hole. Obviously, this would have to be done to the interfaced facing prior to attaching it, and would require very precise marking of the buttonhole positions.
    Of course, you well know that required hand-sewing is not a deal-breaker for most home sewers.

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