Free downloadble PDFs: Planning, Evaluating, Using Color and Garment Support

I think having a digital library is just as important as having one in real time. There may be times when you are not at home and need to look something up or refresh your memory. This is when I find the many PDF files I’ve downloaded from university extension programs of great value. These brief guides focus on the essentials of the topic they present and are easy enough not to overwhelm the reader.

Here are some guides available from New Mexico State University, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. I’ve grouped them according to topic. The guides for Judging Clothing and Fashion Feasibility present a good overview and checklists of points to consider when planning a project. The guides on colors and interfacings are also provide a good overview on these topics.

Recommended Reading Before Beginning a New Design Project

Judging Clothing Projects
Guide C-103
Susan Wright, Extension Clothing and Textiles Specialist
URL to download PDF:

Clothing Construction Standards
Guide C-214
Susan Wright, Extension Clothing and Textiles Specialist
URL to download PDF:

Fashion Feasibility
Guide C-312
Revised by Nicole Lujan1
URL to download PDF:

Quickly pick-up some tips on the best support and finishing for your garments

Selecting Interfacings, Underlinings and Linings
Guide C-208
Reviewed by Constance Kratzer, Family Resource Management Specialist
URL to download PDF:

Consider the ways colors work together and determine what is best for you before shopping for fabrics

A Guide To Color
Guide C-316
Susan Wright, Extension Consumer Education and Health Specialist
URL to download PDF:

Determining Personal Colors
Guide C-315
Revised by J. Wendy Brown and Andrea Rojas
Cooperative Extension Service • College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
URL to download PDF:

Secretary Blouse-Photos of the Dart Tucks and Interfacing Considerations

For sewing instructions of the Dart Tucks see this posting. Vertical Dart Tucks are usually higher up than the ones in the Secretary Blouse.  The length can be about 2″-3″ above the waist and the fullness released higher up. I decided to stick with the illustration from the vintage pattern envelope because for this style, the tucks are more to control the fullness slightly above the waistline and then from the waistline to the hem of the blouse.  At this point it doesn’t look much like the vintage pattern envelope illustration. I took a narrow belt to see how the blouse will look when it is tucked into the skirt.  Now I can see the purpose of the tucks–to gently control the fullness but not so much that the blouse is form fitting. I think that the four dart tucks at the back also provide a nice control to how the blouse is shaped when belted or tucked into the skirt. I’m using a poly-cotton batiste for the interfacing.  For the back bodice I applied it along the neckline. Before sewing the shoulder seams I placed the bodice on the dress form to check the hang of the fabric.  At the back it looked fine. The first time I basted the interfacing to the front bodice, I did so by placing so that the shoulder line matched the shoulder line of the bodice.  The facing did not have the interfacing applied to it.  What happened was the front lost a bit of the drapey quality I think makes this blouse look so pretty when tucked in.  So I flipped over the interfacing and applied it to the facing instead. When the facing is folded along the fold line, the support is there but the front of the blouse along with the tucks retain a soft, drapey look. This is what I mean when I say that your fashion fabric will “talk” to you and tell you exactly what you need to do.  This is one of the benefits of taking the time to observe what is going on at each stage of the garment construction. The same principle can also be applied to collars.  Sometimes a collar will look better if the top collar is interfaced instead of the under collar.  There may even be times when the top and bottom collar require interfacing.

Secretary Blouse: Sewing Dart Tucks

The Dart Tucks on the Retro Glam Secretary Blouse are widest at the top and narrowest near the hem. Here is how I prepared them for sewing. I prefer not to use a backstitch because it tightens up the stitching line and sometimes can be too heavy for a light-medium weight fabric. I’ll show an alternative to back stitching on the machine.

For photos of the completed Dart Tucks and some considerations when using them please see this post.

Continue reading

Secretary Blouse: Seam finishing

The fabric I chose for the blouse is working out very well. The one quality I had to consider as I’m working with it is how to handle the way it shreds. Threads begin to come loose from the cut edges very easily.

Zig-zag stitching would work on a medium weight fabric but not this satiny polyester. The zig-zag stitch proved too heavy. I experimented with some scraps. A French seam looked very nice but I worried about it working out because of the shredding.

I decided to go with a compromise. I decided to zig-zag the seams closed and pink the edges. This stopped the shredding. All seams will be pressed toward the back.

This is not a couture finish nor is it a high quality finish. I am ok with it because it suits the needs of this fabric and works out in all ways. When pressed the seams are not bulky and from the outside the seam is smooth.

Sometimes it is necessary to come up with a compromise that works with the fabric you have selected. This is why it is good to have a wide variety of reference books to get ideas from. It is also good to experiment on scraps and find the right finishing. The time spent in experimenting on scraps will save the fashion fabric from extra handling.

Sewing the Secretary Blouse-Part 1: Cutting, Marking, Thread Tracing

When one drafts their own patterns they also need to develop skill in other areas of the process such as layout, cutting and marking. At first it’s uncharted territory but with careful planning the entire process can be developed to suit your needs and guarantee good results.

Before buying fabric, I complete all fittings and needed alternations to the pattern. Then on the floor I measure off the width of the fabric when folded by laying a tape measure across the floor. I begin to lay out the pattern pieces for the kind of fabric used considering any special needs such as pattern direction or nap. When all the pieces are laid out I use another tape measure to measure the length of the layout. This gives me an idea of how much yardage I may need.

For cutting I wait until I’ve actually bought the fashion fabric. Then I cut a scrap and try out the cutting shears and rotary cutter. I also examine the weight and the texture and try different marking methods.

The poly fabric for the Secretary Blouse is proving very easy to work with. It pinned well and was easy to cut using the rotary blade.

1. At the French Fashion Academy we were taught to lay the pattern on the right side of the fabric. I’ve no idea why we never used the wrong side of the fabric but I do find that I get a better result for the marking when using the dressmakers tracing paper.

Seams and notches are not added to the paper pattern. Instead the seams are marked 1/2″ or more (depends on the fabric and whether or not it shreds) out from the pattern using a clear plastic ruler and tailor’s chalk.

Instead of notches markings on the pattern indicate matchpoints such as the dots I use for the front and back armhole and on the sleeve to indicate easing and the part of the armscye the sleeve is eased into. When marking I simply make a small “x” at that spot using the tracing wheel and dressmaker’s tracing paper. Other times I might mark the spot with a small, loose hand stitch using basting thread.

Whenever possible, I use a rotary cutter and self-healing cutting mat. The results are much better than using the cutting shears.

2. The Dressmaker’s Tracing Paper is folded in half with the shiny side up and placed between the layers of the fabric. Marking in this way from the right side ensures that the tracings are done at the same time.

3. This is how the Dressmaker’s Tracing Paper marks look from the wrong side. The beautiful part of this kind of tracing paper is that the markings vanish once the seams are steam pressed open.

4. It’s a good idea to use different colors of cotton basting thread to differentiate stitching lines and grain lines. Here I’ve selected orange thread for the crosswise and lengthwise grain lines. The basting for all stitching lines will be done in light yellow thread. This helps me to remember what threads to remove after stitching and which ones stay in until the garment is completed.

5. After cutting, marking and tracing the grain lines, I next pin and baste the dart tucks before sewing. I check out how things look by pinning each piece to the dress form. This also gives me an idea of how the fabric will behave during construction. So far I’m pleased with the way the fabric is taking to the dart tucks and the horizontal dart at the bustline.

This Secretary Blouse has 4 dart tucks in the back and one on each side of the front. They are widest at top and taper to a very narrow width at the bottom. I’ll treat how to sew such dart tucks in the next posting. The tapered dart tucks are used in lieu of a blouse yoke to give better shaping under the sheath skirt that is part of this outfit. Many vintage blouses from the 1950s have either a blouse yoke below the waistline or many vertical darts or tucks running from waist to hem to help reduce bulk under the skirts and provide a flattering fit to the blouse.

Sheath Skirt with Kickpleat: Links to all postings in this series

To create the 1950s Style Sheath skirt with Kickpleat

How to Take Measurements

How to Add Style Ease for a Skirt Pattern (excludes Circle and Half-Circle Skirts)

Basic Skirt Front Drafting Instructions

Basic Skirt Back Drafting Instructions

Basic Skirt Front-Alteration for Misses Size 4

Fitting Toile with alterations-Misses size 4

Secretary Blouse and Sheath Skirt Fabrics Selected

I’ve decided to use a print for the Secretary Blouse. When I bought this fabric I did not consider whether or not the bow will be noticeable. I was more taken by the striking colors and print. I also liked the weight: just right to hold the vertical tucks of the bodice in place as well as support the gathers for the blouse sleeves.

100% polyester medium weight blouse fabric for the Secretary Blouse with Pussycat Bow.

It’s always so safe to go with neutral or pastel solid colors for blouses. Every detail will show up and the outfit can be enlivened by some jewelry with a retro feeling to it. For me, though, there is a tendency to do the quirky and I will deliberately NOT choose the solid color because it seems so boring.

In order to draw the eyes upward and focus attention on the neckline and bow, I’m thinking of adding a very pretty pair of sparkly earrings, just a little bit larger than the kind of post earrings favored today, to add a kind of 1950s feeling. I don’t think they will be pearls but I’m considering something in a jade or serpentine green with clear crystals as part of the earring.

50% Rayon and 50% Polyester Garbardine, medium weight, for the Sheath Skirt with Kickpleat at Center Back.

I fell in love with this spruce green poly/rayon blend Gabardine for the sheath skirt. It is a medium weight and has a beautiful drape. I think it would work just as well for a flared or circle skirt. I’m going to line it with a medium weight satin skirt lining to add to the body needed for a smooth fitting sheath skirt.

Sheath Skirt and Secretary Blouse fabrics together.

I’m very pleased with this combination but have already begin to consider what kind of buttons I should use for the blouse. Since the Pussycat Bow is the focal point of the design I do not want the buttons to detract the eye from the bow. At the same time plain old fabric covered buttons, in the same fabric as the blouse, seems dull. I think this is one time I’ll have to wait until the blouse is almost finished before making the buttonholes and buying the buttons. I think at that point I’ll put the blouse on the dress form with the bow tied. Then I’ll use buttons I already have and see how they look. I have some black and I could try fabric covered buttons using the skirt fabric.

It’s a lot of extra work but I really love the entire process and look forward to sharing it with you.

Since I am preparing to move next month the cutting and sewing will be delayed until I’m settled in by early – mid October. Between now and then I will post a few book reviews about sewing books and books about vintage patternmaking techniques.

Hope everyone enjoys the rest of the summer.

Note: I purchased these fabrics from the Fashion Fabrics Online site. When I have to stay within a very tight budget for a project I purchase from them. Many selections can be color coordinated with other fabrics available. They will match up linings, zippers, threads and interfacings for you. I also like that swatches can be ordered. I look forward to the day when I can also make garments with 100% natural fibers, too. It would be nice to find a site offering natural fibers at reasonable prices with the kinds of matching services that the Fashion Fabrics Online site has.