Perfect tailored sleeves

Create a smooth cap on your jacket sleeves for a figure-flattering, professional finish.
Nothing is more aggravating than an unplanned pucker on the top of your sleeve.  Yet apparel makers can create jacket after jacket with smooth sleeve caps.  How are they able to do this without hours of handwork?
The best way to find out is to go inside top-of-the-line jackets and see how the professionals do it.  The secrets are so simple and straightforward, you’ll wonder why you didn’t think of it first!
Let’s think about why shaping the shoulder is important.  A well-made sleeve cap is a thing of beauty in itself.  And it boosts the appearance of the wearer.  You are making the jacket, not buying it off the shelf.  That means you can control how flattering the jacket is to you – or your client.
A jacket sleeve should extend ½” from the shoulder tip, then fall straight down.  This puts your shoulders in proper proportion to your neck, head and the rest of your body.
Plus, it’s good camouflage!  If you’re like me, your shoulders are sloped from spending hours at the sewing machine, then hours at the computer swapping e-mails about sewing.  The right size and thickness in the shape squares up the shoulders and hides the roundness at the top of the arm.
It also helps to hide if one shoulder is higher than the other.  I call this the “books, bags and babies” syndrome.  A shape can balance the height.
If you practice yoga or lift weights, you still need a shape to support the sleeve cap and seam.  You just need less.
Some words about sleeves
A sleeve cap is the curve at the top of the sleeve.  It can have as little as ¾” ease for a blouse in smaller sizes or 1½” ease for a coat in larger sizes.
Ease is the difference between the measurement for the sleeve cap and that for the armhole.  It pushes the sleeve away from the shoulder tip for a proper fit.  But it’s the source of puckers.
Your sleeve pattern could be symmetrical, asymmetrical.  Symmetrical are easiest to sew.  Most two-piece sleeves are asymmetrical.
Prepare the sleeve
1.  Sew sleeve pieces together.  If your sleeve is symmetrical, don’t sew the side seams.  Sew the following steps “in the flat.”  If not, sew together all seams and do the following “in the round.”
2. Gather the sleeve cap between the front and back notches.  That makes the sleeve cap and armhole the same length.  Use one of the following favorite factory methods.
– “Crimp” on light to medium-weight fabrics. Keep the stitching within the seam allowance.  Use a regular stitch length.
Place your finger in back of the presser foot as you sew and push.  The fabric “piles up” against your finger.
Try the sleeve in the armhole.  If you need less ease, snap a thread.  If you need more ease, pull the bobbin thread or stitch another row of crimping.
Light fabrics take a regular-length stitch and light pressure.  Heavier fabrics take a longer stitch with more pressure.  If the fabric is very heavy, you may have to do two rows, or —
– Use bias strips. Measure the sleeve from notch to notch over the sleeve cap.  Cut a 1”-wide strip of bias to this length.  Place the strip against the wrong side of the sleeve cap.  Line up raw edges.
Sew from the shoulder tip down to one notch, stretching the bias strip as you sew.
Then sew from the shoulder dot down to the other notch.
Leave the strip in as you attach the sleeve to the garment.  It gives your sleeve cap extra support.
3. Place the gathered sleeve cap on a ham or rolled up hand towel.  Pin in place with glass head pins.  Steam and shape the cap with your hands.  Don’t remove it until it is cool and dry.
4. Sew the sleeve to the body of the garment with the sleeve toward the feed dogs on the machine.  The feed dogs help ease in the sleeve even more.  I call this putting the sleeve “to the dogs.”
Sew symmetrical sleeves from at one side of the sleeve cap to the other.  Then sew the side seams from the bottom of the garment to the bottom of the sleeve.
Asymmetrical sleeves start at one notch and sew around the sleeve cap.  Overlap the first stitches with the last stitches.
Reinforce the base of the armhole between the notches:  Stitch on the sewing line a second time.  Trim the base to ¼”.  Steam the sleeve allowance toward the sleeve.
Support your sleeve cap.
Buy a shoulder pad.  It will fill out and flatter the shoulder line from your neck to your sleeve.  About ½” or thinner works best with today’s fashion tastes.  Better yet, make one.  It fits your shoulder better and gives you exactly the shape you want.
Cut a sleeve head from polyester fleece or cotton felt. The sleeve head fills out the sleeve cap seam, hides any ripples in the seam allowances and lets the sleeve hang smoothly.  Make it the length of the shoulder pad’s armhole edge and 1-3/4” wide.
How to make a shoulder pad
1. Pin the jacket’s front and back pattern pieces together at the shoulder.
2. Copy the armhole along the cutting line from front notch to back notch.
3. Draw another curve.  Start one inch from the neck stitching line at the shoulder seam.  Blend the line to front and back notches.
4. From this pattern, cut graduated layers of polyester fleece or cotton felt.  Make as many layers as needed to give the desired firmness, height and shape.  Use three layers for most jackets.  More if you have sloped shoulders or need to balance your shoulders’ height.  Maintain the same curve at the armhole edge for all layers.
5. Cut a layer of hair canvas or other firm interfacing the full size of the pattern to give firm support across the top.
6. Stack all layers with armhole edges even, largest layer uppermost.
7. Curve the layers.  Put the hair canvas to the dogs.  Beginning at the top center, sew a few stitches 1” apart in a zigzag shape.  Stitch the entire pad to hold a curved shape.
Sew the shoulder pad and sleevehead to the sleeve cap seam
1. Sandwich the sleeve cap seam between the shoulder pad and the sleeve head.  Center the shoulder pad on the body side.  Match the armhole edges.
2. Fold up by ½” one long side of the sleeve head.  Center it on the sleeve side.  Place the fold next to the stitch line, fold side up.  Pin in place.
3. Check the position on you, your dress form or your client.
4. Place the garment in the sewing machine with the sleeve head up.  Lengthen the stitch length to 3.5 (8 spi).  Sew from notch to notch through all layers, 1/8” away from the fold.
5. Turn the shoulder right side out and smooth the garment over the shoulder pad.  Pin.
6. Repeat on the other side.  Make sure your shoulders match.
7. Attach the peaks of the shoulder pads to each shoulder seam allowance with a short zigzag stitch.  Loosen the tension to allow the stitch to move as the wearer moves.
8. Stitch a 2”-long piece of ½”-wide rayon seam binding or selvage to the seam allowances to join the jacket to the lining. This keeps the two together but allows movement.
Voilà!  Time to celebrate the beauty you have created!  Then sign up for Britta’s tailoring class.

Can’t get enough of that stretchy stuff

Enjoying our 1-minute tutorials on Instagram @portlandfashioninstitute?  Wish you know more about which elastic to use where?  Here is the inside story about stretchy things.

Most elastics are made from a rubber-core yarn covered with cotton, synthetic or a blend of fibers. They may occur as a single yarn or as several yarns braided or woven together.  Be sure to check the content when buying.  Avoid acetate elastic. It quickly loses its spring.

Single yarn (elastic thread) – Used for hatbands, button loops, shirring (as in shirring elastic for smocking, waistbands and café curtains.)

 

Braided – Identified by the lengthwise, parallel ridges that give these elastics a strong grip. Braided narrows when stretched. Use for casings rather than for stitching to a garment.  Great for mask-making.

 

 

Braided – Chlorine-treated for swimwear. Retains shape well. NOTE: Don’t use elastics with rayon for swimwear. It stretches and loses its shape when wet!

 

Woven (Knit) – Softer and easier to work with. It retains its width and curls less than braided so it’s easy to stitch it to the garment.  Other types of woven elastic:  Buttonhole (to allow growth in kid’s clothes), Drawstring (for men’s swimwear), Foldover (for performance).

 

 

Picot – Woven/knit elastic with a scalloped edge. Stitch to tricot, knits or silk to make a waistband for half-slips and other lingerie.  Choose plush for bras; it has a soft, brushed side that is kind to the skin.

 

 

Non-roll – Has vertical ribs to keep it from bending in half. But when it bends, the crease is permanent. Has less stretch than Braided or woven. Use only in casings. Best for children’s wear when the waist and hip measurements do not differ much.

 

 

Shock cord – A round or oval covered elastic cord used in casings for the hood, waistband or bottom band in outerwear. Other elastics for outerwear and activewear include foldover and binding.

 

 

Clear elastic – The latest from the garment industry. You can stretch it to 3x its length and it retains its spring for years. You can zigzag it on. You can serge it, cut the edge and it won’t unravel. Use it to ease in the sleeve cap for heavier fabrics, in hems for push-up sleeves and in swimwear. Use it for shoulder seams and behind buttons and buttonholes in knits.

 

Put your newfound elastic knowledge to use in one of PFI’s sewing class:  Beginning Sewing, Apparel Construction, Lingerie.  We’ll show you the right way to sew it.  Find out who invented elastic, who was first to use it in clothes and when.  Hint:  It replaced whalebone corsets!

Need to pick up a few yards?  We have what you need at PFI Supply, right next to the PFI school.  Order yours here.

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Five Must-Have Notions (in our humble opinion)

We all have a basic sewing kit: Tape measure, seam gauge, chalk pencil and marking pen, glass head pins with pin cushion and, yes, a seam ripper.

But there are some tools I have in my top drawer next to my sewing machine because I use them all the time. The first four give that special finishing touch that take my garments a step up to a professional look. My number one is like my right hand. I can’t live without it.

I joke about these five favorite notions so much that one of my students said, “You should write an article.” So here goes:

#5 – Fray Check. Also known as seam sealant. Put a line of it on the back of your buttonholes before cutting them and you will indeed keep the cut from fraying. Also use it to secure serged ends, such as the corners of napkins. Sergers can’t backstitch. So think of Fray Check as a substitute. I’ve washed my napkins dozens of times and the corners still hold.

 

 

#4 – Buttonhole punch. Don’t use a seam ripper. Spend the $10 and get one of these instead. Even better when it comes with a small hunk of oak or self-healing pad. My industrial buttonholers have what I call a “guillotine” on them to cut open the buttonhole. This punch does the same: A nice, clean cut with smooth edges.

 

#3 – Steam-a-Seam. It’s a fusible web. You may have seen these as Stitch Witchery, Heat N Bond. Steam-a-Seam also comes in sheets and rolls. But you should choose the two-pack of 1/4″ wide “Steam-a-Seam Lite.” Fuse your knit hems before stitching them. It stops them from rippling. Or be like many of today’s apparel manufacturers and just fuse. It’s strong. It doesn’t leave a mark or edge. And like I say, we’ll have another Ice Age before your hem comes out.

 

#2 – 1/4″ Wash-Away Wonder Tape. Sometimes I slip and call this basting tape because that’s what it does. It bastes your seam before you sew it. But basting tape is skinny, stays in unless you pull it out and turns hard and yellow over time. Wonder Tape goes away in the first washing as in “I wonder where it went.” It holds such things as pockets and bias curves on necklines and waistlines in place before you stitch them. And it doesn’t gum up your needles.

 

#1 – Gingher blunts. Officially, they are 4″ safety point scissors. But I like the name “blunts” better. I keep them on a retractable leash clipped to my collar. This way, whenever I need to clip a thread, I know where they are. I used to use pointed nippers but they kept poking holes in my clothes. Now I wear the blunts nearly all the time: During class or at the grocery store after class when I’ve forgotten to take them off. But what the heck. You never know when you’ll have a sewing opportunity. And it’s a wonderful conversation starter.

These are my top five. By the way, these aren’t ads, just my personal experience.

Number 1 isn’t likely to change. But I could be persuaded on the other four. So let me know: What are your five favorite notions?

PS — Want to make the cute rollup jewelry and notions roll in the top picture?  Visit PFI Supply’s free patterns page here.

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Vanishing Higher-Ed Hasn’t Put a Damper on These Portland Fashion Schools

 

In 2018, the Art Institute of Portland—the only college in the city offering bachelor’s degrees in apparel design and fashion marketing—closed its doors, shifting the balance of local design education options. The school, well known for its fashion alums (including no fewer than three Project Runway contestants) had been through a tumultuous few years, with the nationwide chain of colleges forced to grant $103 million in loan forgiveness on top of a $95 million multistate lawsuit settlement to students for consumer fraud. Since then, Portland has also seen the closures of the 112-year-old Oregon College of Art & Craft, which offered a smattering of experimental design courses, as well as other non-fashion Portland-area mainstays Marylhurst and Concordia.

But the great higher-ed vanishing hasn’t put a damper on advances in the local fashion scene. Nike, Adidas, and Columbia all continue to operate design studios here that employ hordes of fashion folk. There’s three-year-old Sneaker Week, an annual footwear event that brings in industry kin from all over the country. And, prepandemic, of course, local fashion shows were continuously popping up with new names and design collectives, like “The Ones” on E Burnside, which lets newbie designers share space alongside veterans of the fashion world.

A look from PFI student Chuck Ryan’s final collection.

The question, in the absence of higher ed, is where are all of these people learning their craft?

Across the river in the Hollywood District, Portland Fashion Institute caters to that seeking-a-toehold-in-the-industry demographic, but also embraces Portland’s indie days of yore with a program that runs students through not only the ins and outs of things like sewing knits and Optitex computer patternmaking, but also business classes on how to run your growing design empire. PFI founder Sharon Blair was a full-time instructor at the Art Institute of Portland before leaving to found her own school in 2010. That move, she says, was about taking her years of education experience plus the perspective from running her own small clothing line, SKB, to students for a fraction of the cost. Despite having several of the same instructors helming classes, the accredited school is vastly more affordable than the Art Institute, where the final tuition hit $485 per credit hour vs. Blair’s zero-debt vision. At PFI things clock in around $30 an hour for a sewing class and just $55 per patternmaking class, even with access to the expensive computer programs.

The commonality among all the schools? Each one gets students trained for a future career with classes that are faster and cheaper than traditional colleges, all with access to industry professionals that value time on the floor over textbooks.

9 steps to perfect pant fit

Creating pants that fit seems to be the goal of every clothing sewer.  That’s our goal for you two.  There are nine simple steps to get there.  You can start with one of the five PFI patterns that best flatter you (we have dress pants and jeans for men too!).  Then visit our blog page on “Four Fast Flat Fell Seams” to choose the one you like for a professional look.  Best of all, take Britta’s Pants, Jeans and Overalls class to learn the skills that will get you to your goal every time.

#happysewing!

POC Design Scholarship Contest announced

Five things to know for Friday, including why, exactly, Black is Beautiful

By  – Managing Editor, Portland Business Journal

Looking great

The Portland Fashion Institute and Bloom Beauty Collective have announced a design scholarship contest that’s open to area high school juniors and seniors who are persons of color.

The winner will get a year of PFI fashion design classes, valued at nearly $20,000, as well as the chance to intern at a local apparel company.

“This is a challenging time for the apparel industry,” said PFI owner and director Sharon Blair in a statement. “But crisis creates opportunity. Right now the world needs forward thinking in fashion design more than ever.”

Have a beautiful, fashionable weekend, Portland.

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Fashion Career Help Offered

Sharon Blair, of Portland Fashion Institute, and Bloom Beauty Collective, a Black-Indigenous-People of Color production and talent agency, have announced a fashion design scholarship for teen students of color, valued at nearly $20,000. Candidates have until Tuesday, September 1 at 5 p.m. to submit an application.

The contest is open to high school juniors and seniors in the Portland and Vancouver area who are persons of color. One winner will be chosen. That winner gets one year of fashion design classes valued at nearly $20,000 at the Portland Fashion Institute, located in northeast Portland.

The winner also gets a chance to intern at a local apparel company. The goal: To build skills so the winner can launch a business or create a portfolio for entry into a top fashion design college of their choice.

The winner will be announced at a Bloom Beauty Collective 2020 event. Classes start in September.

With 25 manufacturers and nearly 250 related companies, Portland is a center for the apparel industry.

“This is a challenging time for the apparel industry,” says Portland Fashion Institute owner and director Sharon Blair. “But crisis creates opportunity. Right now the world needs forward thinking in fashion design more than ever.

“We’re looking for candidates who can lead the way and tell us where they think the world of fashion is going. We believe we can find that among the many talented people in an underserved sector of our region,” says Abibat Durosimi, founder of Bloom Beauty Collective.

Candidates submit their ideas and details for a clothing line through a three-minute video to info@pfi.edu. Entry forms are available at www.pfi.edu/scholarship.

Latest fashion trends from London, Milan & NYFW & how to use them

We like trends. Not because it makes us want to run out and shop. Instead it gives us a fresh look at the clothes in our closet and find new ways to mix and match. It lets us perk up an existing capsule wardrobe.  If you want something new, we say #makersgottamake Do it yourself. Choose the right fabric. Make it fit. Do it once. Do it right.  It’s the sustainable thing to do.

So here we go. Perhaps you have something to rediscover or something new to bring life to your ensembles.  For example, old favorites such as animal prints, jumpsuits, big shoulders, yellow and lovely lavender made dominating comebacks. Try:

Beige
From Soybean to Desert Sand, shades of beige painted the runway like a rainbow of light browns.  Chicago Harper by Josh Buck


Mutton Sleeves

An intense 80’s revival with big sleeves and bigger silhouettes hit NYFW. Don’t want to go that far? Try mutton sleeves. We just patterned a pair in knit in our latest Pattern 4 class.  Cocoon Jacket by StudioSKB

Shirt Dress
Always a reliable staple, the shirt dress is ideal for professional fashionistas and stylish savants. Try it in trending color: yellow.  Day Dress PFI pattern #1551

Stripes
Stripes came in all widths. Stripped down, vibrant colors, pin stripes paired with chunky stripes, parallel prints running perpendicular to perforated patterns — stripes are in.  Lancaster Dress by StudioSKB

Slip Dress
The slip dress returns as a runway favorite. Although the original slip is simple, designers have gotten a little more playful for 2020.  Try it in trending lavender. Lingerie PFI pattern #7010

Animal Print
Animal print, electric and eclectic, lit up the runways this season. From cheetah and leopard in a variety of neon to zebra and sequins, there was enough fashion to fill a forest.  Davis Blouse by StudioSKB

Overalls & Jumpsuits
The blazer dress, wide-leg pants, and the leisure suit all had their day on the runway. Although these garments continue to walk the walk, the new “it” garment is the jumpsuit. A pair of pants that doubles as a shirt, chic as can be and comfortable to boot, the jumpsuit is perfect for every occasion.  Parker Jumpsuit PFI pattern #2051 (left); Marianne Jumpsuit PFI pattern #2015


Patchwork

Patchwork and prim, designers have spliced styles together to create a couture collection of textiles and fabrics.  A great way to recycle your fabric stash.  Fusion Jacket by Chuckslab

Structured Necklines
There was a lot of structure this season, from big sleeves (as we’ve seen) to skirts and blouses. But the true artistry was in the necklines, subtle and stylish. Fontaine Jacket by StudioSKB

That’s it. Everything old is new again. Shop your closet. Sew something wonderful to add joy and we’ll see you in 2020.