The Pellon Albatross Around My Neck

Here in San Francisco a happy thriftshopper can often come across leftovers from Levi’s sample room. Does that mean she has to buy them? No, no it does not. So what kind of person ends up with a 10-inch roll of 3.5″ Freudenberg (manufacturer of Pellon) fusible interfacing? Shamefully, I am that kind of person.

I have had this thing kicking around my house for years. That is despite my never using Pellon interfacing because I love the stuff that Pam sells over at Fashion Sewing Supply.

Want some? And what is your sewing/crafting albatross?



I can’t seem to build up any excitement for the chapter 10 dress. At first I was so proud of myself because I found such a good match for the book illustration:

With Butterick B5315, which even has the old-fashioned button front and side zipper combo. View A is totally the same pattern

Good match, but

Unfortunately, I hate it.

Omigod so boring

And I haven’t helped matters with my fabric choice. I didn’t want to use a broadcloth because I don’t wear broadcloth ever. I am of the opinion that broadcloth is to be taken literally — it is cloth that makes me look very, very broad. So I wanted to go with a nice drapey rayon challis, but all I could find were obviously designed for men’s summer shirts, the sort Tony Soprano would wear on vacation to Waikiki. I found one that didn’t actually have palms on it, in the shades of blue I like, and I bought it thinking I could make it work. But now I think it will indeed look like a giant belted cheap Hawaiian tourist shirt, which is not what I am going for:



I might hate this as a dress

…and besides, I haven’t bought a turkey and company is coming to Thanksgiving. And I should probably be getting all that sewing stuff off the dining room table. And out from under the dining room table. And, you know, covering every inch of the dining room around the dining room table.


But here is something exciting — almost like an official plaque commemorating my commitment to The Bishop Method of Clothing Construction:

PB150050Check it out, yo! The Dritz EZ Hem is OFFICIALLY BRANDED. And I have it. I want to have my name and url engraved on a box of them and give them out as business cards.

But seriously, what do you think of this dress/print combination? With a sweater and tights worn in cool Fall and Winter months? Be honest.

B5147 Dress, sewn and worn!





Holy cow, I just read the pattern description again I bet I cut out view D, the gentle A-line calf-length dress, not view C, the one-inch-below-knee sheath. What is WRONG WITH ME? That explains so much. Sigh.

I spent the whole time thinking, ‘Great Scot, how odd that this dress comes down to my calf when I only added 2″ in length and I am 5’10! And also how very odd that I am having to pin out so much excess at the sides. It is almost as if this knee length sheath dress were in fact a mid-calf length gentle A-line!’ I am so very, very special.

I Find It Only Fitting



Hey, did you miss me? I was so exhausted by all that zipper sewing that I had to convalesce for a few days, under strict doctor’s orders to do nothing but eat my children’s Halloween candy and watch Good Times reruns, and give nary a thought to sewing, zippers, fit, or grain.

Post-zipper intensive care

But now I’m all better. Or I was, until I turned to Bishop and saw this:


Eeeeeeeeek! Because fitting is terrifying, and endless, and impossible, and makes strong seamstresses cry.

But it turns out  Ms. Bishop says not to worry my pretty head about it just yet. Right now, as a beginner, all I have to care about is this:PB150053

Do my boobs fit? Does my gut fit? Does my butt fit? Is it the right length through the bodice? Then I am good.

What a relief!

I decided to make a simple sheath to try out this theory. Ms. Bishop’s take on fitting is unusual to me, because instead of slash and spread or any other familiar technique, she has you slide the unslashed pattern around the fabric. Like, if something is too short through the bodice, you cut out the armscye and neck and the part of the bodice that is right for you, then you slide it down the (in my case 2 inches) you need, then repin and start cutting again. Crazy talk!


See, if you need another 3/8″ at the waist, just unpin that part and pivot that part of the pattern piece over 3/8″. She swears that because of the magic of Grain Perfection this will work fine.


Or if the whole thing needs an extra inch, slide it over that extra inch and cut. Grain Perfection will protect you.

Big boobs?


Cut from A to D, then make a chalk mark that marks how much you need to add to the front. Slide the piece up to it and cut the rest.

Whether such madness works or not will have to be determined another day, because I chose to test fitting using a prewashed and predried wool crepe that is now so spongy as to be, in effect, a knit. So all bets were off, everything was huge when I basted it together, and I wound up fitting it using a dressform and pinning to fit on myself.

But I will tell you one thing for sure:
My lapped zipper kicks serious ass!
22 inches, baby, and it alllllllll works.The top stitching is wambly even though I marked it with chalk. Maybe I will give the tape another try.

You will note that I gained confidence in taking in the waistline when I added the extra 3/8″ at the hip the second time. The first try I just sort of gently graded to the hip while the right side veers madly from my small waist to my ginormous butt and thigh width. When I finish stitching the lining to the zipper and putting in the hem I will take some pictures of me in the dress.

For now, more shots of zippers and darts and lining not peeking out.



Although this is a very simple dress, I can assure you I would NEVER have made it this well were I not following The Bishop Method. Excelsior!

Lap It Up, Baby: mastering lapped zippers

Heck yeah, I know how to live it up on the weekend.

Rather than flail around looking for more online instructions and advice on lapped zippers, I went through all of my sewing books and tried each and every method I already owned. I had a LOT of lapped zipper techniques to learn from. Here is the rundown:

Singer Sewing Essentials

This is the Singer Sewing Essentials method, and oh my criminy those women love to baste. Baste the zipper opening closed, baste to the left, baste to the right. I did this one twice and still had the lowest success rate with this method — big gap at the zipper pull and lookit:
I still managed to miss a little bit of the inside of the placket. Time consuming and inconsistent results. My least favorite method.


2. Coats and Clark Package Instructions

Several people suggested using the instructions that come with Coats and Clark zippers and I can see why — nice results! True, my topstitching goes wonky toward the zipper pull but that is operator error (well, they suggested optionally marking your stitch line with tape and I didn’t do that. They don’t specifically say to eyeball it but they don’t say not to either. Maybe we can share the blame. Anyhoo, a very nice zipper though maybe the placket is a little wider than necessary. I definitely approve.

3. Guide to Fashion Sewing

Now check this out! My favorite by far was in a book I almost didn’t bother looking in, Guide to Fashion Sewing by Connie Amaden-Crawford (Note, I used an older edition). This method is quick with excellent results. You don’t even baste the zipper opening, you just press it, then fudge the left seam allowance about a quarter inch so it will be sure to tuck under the placket. Then you stitch the closed zipper to the left, pin the right side over it, and topstitch a half inch from the seam fold. DONE. Suck it, tricky lap zippers, I conquered you!!!

4. Pat Moyes’s Instructions Sheet

I think the most elegant version was the one I made using the instructions I got from Pat Moyes at Apparel Arts in San Francisco. It uses a lot of measuring and marking but not a ton of basting. In this method you use chalk or a tailor’s pencil and mark your stitching — that ‘L’ shaped stitch line for the placket is marked but also the stitching lines inside. That way there is no chance of missing the inside of the placket. No matter what method I end up using in future I will add this approach to it. Note I still had the jog at the zipper pull. This is a slimmer placket, which I appreciate.

And this entry wins the Miss Congeniality Prize:


5. Keep it Sew Simple by Laurie Pat McWilliams and Constance N. Torres

You sew the placket first! Without the zipper!! See:

You baste the zipper opening, and press the seam allowances open, per usual. Then, and here’s the crazy part, you topstitch the right side 3/8″ inch from the zipper opening fold. Then you open the basting stitches and tape the left side of the zipper to the wrong side of the fabric and stitch it with a zipper foot. I had a problem with this because I wound up stitching through the tape, since I couldn’t see itBut that can be avoided next time.

Next, on the right side, you put the other side of the garment over the zipper, covering your stitches, and tape the fabrics together. Then sew the seam allowance to the zipper as close as possible to the topstitch on the wrong side.This method took only a couple of minutes and it looks really good. The underside is totally covered by the placket (not true of the very time-consuming Singer approach) and since the placket is sewn shut first, it solves the problem that led me to Lapped Zipper Intensive in the first place. I am really impressed.

This exercise has convinced me of several things, namely:

  • Don’t Baste Your Time. None of the baste-heavy methods produced results superior to the non-basted ones. Basting can be replaced by careful measuring and/or careful marking, neither of which require extra time at the machine or pulling out basting! Also, sometimes I messed up even with the basting but I never messed up when I measured/marked.
  • Wider is better. Seam allowances of 3/4″ to 1″ are necessary for good results in lapped zippers (for me anyway)
  • Pressing is sewing. Even the zipper opening can be left unbasted if you use good pressing. Pressing took the place of basting in the most efficient techniqes.
  • Mark your stitch lines and peek. Careful marking of stitch lines in lap zippers takes out all the guesswork. Also, don’t forget you can flip it over, peek inside, and otherwise guarantee that you will be catching everything the way you need to before you put your project under the needle.
  • Tend toward being ‘open’-minded. I would say these techniques were split 50-50 between those that had you sew with the zipper closed and the teeth directly on the zipper opening, and those that had the zipper open and lined the teeth up slightly beside the opening. My favorites tended to use the open zipper (the exception was the placket-first technique).
  • Pulls go down. I could be wrong, but it seems to me that every method that had me leave the zipper pull up ‘to reduce bulk’ wound up gapping at the pull when I finished. The methods that had me leave the pull down managed to cover the pull.

But my most pleasing discovery was that with enough practice I could learn to sew a lapped zipper overnight!

Sewing with patterns project #4 Done!

Looking awfully pleased with myself for a lady taking her self potrait with a cell phone on her lunch hour in a public restroom.


Bust dart lines up reasonably well. Armhole reasonably not gappy. Unreasonably blurry, I apologize — couldn’t find the usb cable for my real camera. I told you — I’m messy!

Here it is, the Jerkin Project Completed! Butterick 4515 turned out to be a really good choice for the lesson, went together just fine and it contains nothing to conflict with Ms. B vision.

It’s a Dead Doyenne fabric, some poly content based on a burn test, smells wooly when steamed, doesn’t wrinkle much and is a bit sheer so I made a slip in a matching lining fabric I had on hand.

A few thoughts on the pattern — I sewed the medium, adding about an inch extra to the hip. Note I am a 5’10” slightly on the wrong side of 175 pounds, so this dress is generous (as I am finding all of the Butterick Fast & Easy patterns to be).

I also added 5 inches in length, so I would say this is drafted for a woman who is 5’5″ in heels.

The armhole  worked out great even though it was drafted for a sleeve – -probably because the pattern was designed for knits so the hole wasn’t cut low.

Here’s a blurry bathroom picture of the jacket I’m wearing it with to make it work-appropriate:


True confession time — I followed the instructions on the video I posted yesterday and they were great BUT  I still wasn’t 100% successful with the placket — 22 inches is a lot of territory and let’s just say mistakes were made. So finally I gave up and sewed up the center back seam and pull this over my head to get dressed.

I definitely won’t move on to the next project until I have gotten the zipper right. I’m going to do a little remedial zipper therapy first.

Do you have any favorite zipper blogs, posts, books? What about best zipper horror stories? Please share them in the comments!

Chapter 8, Where Edna Got Distracted

I won’t judge. #8 is the last chapter before The Bishop Method of Clothing Construction gets into the nitty gritty of pattern fitting and interesting sewing — the stuff she wanted to write about. And there are 3 projects in chapter 8, so by the time she got to project #3, the jerkin, Ms B was OVER IT. I get it. She phoned it in. It happens.

Because half of this chapter MAKES NO SENSE. You read the paragraph from the zipper part yesterday — paraphrased as, “Look, just turn it over and put that part over there. THEN SEW IT. GOD.”

Then as far as I can tell she has you leave the the facings unsewn to the garment for, like, an inch on each side of the underarm and maybe shoulder seams (I forget exactly) because she wants you to do something tricky when you join the sides and shoulder seams. But then she forgets to tell you the trick, and if you follow the instructions to the letter you just end up hand sewing the unsewn bits and leaving raw trimmed seam allowances at the shoulders. And while you search for answers she is rolling her eyes like GET OVER IT, I REMEMBER WHEN YOU WERE PLEASED WITH YOURSELF FOR SEWING A PONCHO. A PONCHO YOU LEARNED TO SEW THANKS TO ME!!! Because in my imaginary world Edna Bryte Bishop writes like Kanye.

If you want to see the sort of persnickety lapped zipper instructions I assumed Ms B would teach, here is a lovely example:

Remember my facings adventure? Reader Kay once again set me straight, and I followed her instructions and they worked out just fine. Yay! I mean, I’m still not allowed to interface so they are very, very floppy facings — but fine. And they don’t make me look like I am smuggling a boob bib under my dress thanks to Kay’s fix. Thanks Kay! Good lookin’ out, sister!