Sunday, August 12, 2018

73: Efficient Feed Dog Usage

The presser foot and feed dog work together to
feed the fabric through the machine
 as the seams are sewn.

Effective understanding and use of feed dog speeds the sewing and enables professional results. 

The presser foot and feed dog work together to feed fabric through the machine as the seams are sewn. 

However, the two work differently making several procedures, such as sewing to match and easing in fullness 
easier to do.

The feed dog moves up, then back as it
pulls the fabric through the machine.

The feed dog moves up, then back as it pulls the fabric through the machine.

The presser foot lifts slightly, then lowers, allowing the feed dog to pull the fabric back as the fabric is sewn together.
The presser foot lifts slightly up, then down as the
feed dog moves the fabric back through the machine. 

Because the presser foot does NOT move back, if one does not have full control of the sewing the top ply of fabric will move slower through the machine than the bottom ply of fabric. 

Sewing notch-to-notch solves this problem.

Snip the center of notches
printed on home sewing patterns
so as to be able to align the
two  plies of a seam as the plies
are sewn together.

To prevent the lower ply being sewn faster than the top ply, snip the center of notches that are printed on home sewing patterns. This makes it easier to align the two plies of a seam as it is sewn. 

There are times when allowing the bottom ply to sew faster than the top ply speeds sewing.

Allow the feed dog to ease in the sleeve cap's fullness
as the sleeve cap is sewn into the armhole.

Easing Fullness 

Allowing the feed dog to ease in a sleeve cap's fullness speeds sewing. Pin the notches, then pin in the ease. Sew the cap into the armhole before the side seams are sewn. Then sew the side seams. Finally sew the armhole closed where it is still open at the underarm. 

In this diagram
the bottom ply is
shown slightly extended
to the right to
illustrate how the
bottom ply is laid
slightly behind the top
ply before the
seam is sewn.

Sewing to Match

Holding the bottom ply slightly behind the top ply, enables perfect matching.  

In the diagram on the left the bottom ply is shown slightly extended to the right to illustrate how the bottom ply is laid slightly behind the top ply before the seam is sewn.When sewing to match lay the plies edge-to-edge with the bottom ply laid slightly behind the top ply.

Used in the industry, first test with sample fabric, just how much to hold the bottom ply as the fabric moves through the machine.

Three important considerations:

1. The garment must be cut to match.
2. The two plies of fabric must be cut on the same angle to the grain line.
3. The fabric cannot be basted or pinned.

The amount of the bottom ply that is held back varies with different fabrics, but is usually no more than 1/16 of an inch, making the fabric look as if it is about to be miss-matched as it approaches the needle.

As the fabric moves under the needle, the feed dog will pull the bottom ply in, causing the fabric to match perfectly. 

Your comments are most welcome - Laurel

Look for the article about seam allowance modification that I wrote for Threads Magazine. It will be in their 199 issue that will be on the newsstands in late August (2018). 

Pattern making books, sewing books and sewing classes:

Phone: 215 884 7065
© Laurel Hoffmann, 2018.  

Sunday, August 5, 2018

72: Sustainability

The fashion/ textile industry is second largest industrial polluter on the planet 

Only to the oil industry pollutes the planet more  

This is a huge concern for the fashion industry and was a major topic at the Texworld USA and Apparel Sourcing USA trade show at NYC Javit's Center, last week (July 23-25, 2018)
Americans discard 40 pounds of
clothing a year. Buying better, using
longer is one solution to this problem.
Learning to sew quality clothing
 is another. Quality, custom sewn clothing
made using high-end industrial
procedures, is comfortable,
a delight to wear,
and will still look new
30 years later. 

Some of the reasons for this problem:
  1. Insecticides used in growing cotton result in Texas cotton farmers experiencing a high rate of cancer.
  2. Many chemicals used to produce synthetic fabrics are toxic
  3. Polyester fibers are made from oil - clothing made from these fibers stain easily, causing the clothing to be quickly discarded
  4. Many chemicals used in the finishing of fabrics are toxic. One can smell these chemicals when one enters a clothing or fabric store
  5. After 50 washings to remove the chemicals, some may still remain
  6. Dyes can be toxic
  7. Consumers buy cheap clothing, which has a short life
    Color analysis enables better selection of wardrobe
    items, and the ability to create a wardrobe
     that requires fewer pieces.
    More information
  8. Not all manufactured clothing is purchased, creating waste
  9. Global transportation of fabrics and manufactured clothing requires considerable energy, adding to the pollution
  10. The average American discards 40 pounds of clothing a year.
  11. Land fills are filling up with discarded clothing
  12. An excessive time frame is needed for discarded synthetic fabrics to decompose
Sustainability comes up over and over again in the fashion feeds. Here is one I received recently:

Prada will host a conference on sustainability titled “Shaping a Sustainable Digital Future”,in partnership with the Yale School of Management and the Polytechnic University of Milan’s School of Management. Set to take place on November 20 at the Prada Foundation in Milan, this is the second event in Prada’s “Shaping a Future” series of cultural conversations. Launched last year, the initiative aims to bring academics and businesses together to discuss how to build a sustainable future.

  • “‘Shaping a Sustainable Digital Future” will explore the large impact and implications of digitalization on business and societal sustainability”, said Prada in a statement. Representatives from several businesses and institutions will take part in the discussions, which will be attended by the business students from both partner universities.
Fit is one of the main
reasons so much clothing
is either not purchased
or is discarded.
Far too many manufactured
 pants pull in the crotch.
A custom fitted pants pattern solves that problem.
Drafting & Fitting Pants and Skirts

shows how to draft to
prevent pulls under the crotch.
  • But you don’t have to study at Yale or the Polytechnic University of Milan to watch the conference, as it will also be live-streamed on Prada’s website. More information about the live-streaming, as well as the event's program and speakers, is to published on Prada's website soon. ##
At the trade show's seminar, Consumer Engagement and Shifting Consumer Preferences, Bruce Thomson, Co-founder and CEO of Bright Label, discussed how he is working to bring transparency to manufacturers' clothing labels. 

As stated in his seminar's description he said: Increasingly, brands are investing in sustainable sourcing, certified materials, and transparency; meanwhile, consumers, especially millennials, are demonstrating a greater desire to know more about how their clothes were made before they buy.  Texworld USA Summer 2018 - Seminar Series Schedule.

Your comments are most welcome - Laurel

Look for the article about seam allowance modification that I wrote for Threads Magazine. It will be in their 199 issue that will be on the newsstands in late August (2018). 


Phone: 215 884 7065
© Laurel Hoffmann, 2018.  

Saturday, July 28, 2018

71: Producing a Fashion Line in America

Santa Clothes, a make-believe line
of high-end children's 
clothing I designed
while auditing a class at Jefferson University.

The How to Produce a Fashion Line in America in 2018 and Where American Manufacturing is Headed seminar was the primary reason I attended the Texworld USA and Apparel Sourcing USA trade show at the Javits Center in New York City, Wednesday, July 25, 2018.

The  seminar was terrific! Now I'm going to share what I learned with you!

The panel:

The moderator was Christine Daal, Fashion Business and Career Coach, Image Consultant plus Stylist from Fashion Angel Warrior LLC.

The panel consisted of three representatives from three companies:
Laura Dotolo, managing principal at Clutch MadeAnthony Lilore, Ambassador plus Sustainability All-Store from Restore Clothing; and  Eric Beroff, President at Spoiled Rotten USA, Inc. 

All four companies help entrepreneurs with producing a line locally. 
If I were to decide to produce a line, I would engage one of their companies. I found all of them to be knowledgeable, supportive, eager to answer any and all questions, and wonderful to work with.

Advantages/disadvantages of producing in the USA

The panel pointed out the advantages of producing clothing here in the USA including:
quality control, communication, small minimums, faster speed to market, and greener results/less pollution.

Some garments are too expensive to produce in the USA because they are too difficult and too laborious: garments with hand beading, T-shirts for $20, garments with no seams, polo shirts with knitted collars, garments with many pieces.

Keep it simple when producing in the USA

Engineer for efficiency. Make something simple, and make it here in the USA.
The USA is about innovation.
  • Small number of pieces in a garment.
  • One or two items - a line of clothing is not a good idea
  • Reduce the number of colors, fabrics, and trims.
  • No lining if possible
  • Minimal garment details
  • Reduce the number of sizes
  • Quantity - the lower the quantity, the higher the cost
  • Be organized and prepared - if you need a lot of help, the factory may not want to work with you.
  • Do online inspections, if possible find a factory that does all under one roof
  • Remember that human beings are making 90% of your product

What you need to know about manufacturing your product

  • You need to take responsibility for your business
  • Manufactures take big customers' orders first - four to six weeks may not be enough lead time
  • Have to be put on the manufacturer's schedule
  • Not all factories are honest
  • Not all factories made good products - ask to see samples of their work
  • Do research, see if the factory can make your product
  • If you have a wide range of products you probably won't find a factory that can do everything
  • Most factories are not vertical - they don't do everything start to finish (Clutch Made DOES offer this—and this is what sets Clutch apart)
  • A lot of factories don't do the cutting in house because they can't afford the space
  • Don't quit your day job
  • Prepare a budget
  • Don't make the mistake of thinking manufacturing is easy
  • Forget about designing socks - USA is one of the world's top manufacturers of socks -their  huge orders mean you won't be considered
  • Most factories want to make a sample, even if you supply one. They want to know first hand just what is involved in making your product

Red flags

  • If the factory can start right away they aren't busy enough
    (Clutch Made can get most people started right away, as they offer Design Consults, tech packs, sourcing, sample making, social media, production: so there are other avenues in the process which are extremely necessary to get started on—so this is NOT a RED FLAG for the platform that they offer with their factory services.)
  • Ask for the factory's certification. If the factory isn't certified, look elsewhere.

 What you need to get an estimate from a factory

  • Go to a consultant - go with the consultant to the factory she recommends. Many factories won't see a start-up unless with a consultant
  • Find out if the factory can make your product
  • Set up an appointment to see the factory - don't show up unannounced
  • Ask What is your specialization?
  • Show a sample - it can be someone else's sample - to give the factory an idea of what you want made
  • Prepare a tech pack which should include Specs - the product's measurements, yardage, number of pieces, choice of fabric; and a sketch of the product
  • Don't ask the factory to sign  a non-disclosure agreement (NDA)
  • Have a list of questions, follow up with a thank you email
  • Don't make crazy demands
  • Take responsibility for your business
  • Ask questions - keep it moving
  • Don't ask for price points on many designs - just one price point will give the idea of costs
  • Ask right in the beginning, What happens if many of the garments are damaged?

How to work with the factory

  • View your relationship with the factory as a partnership
  • Be in the factory to make sure the garments are made correctly
  • Get samples, either while in the factory, or ask the factory to send samples

A concept board used to present ideas of possible garments
that a buyer might consider for sale in her store.
Showing concept boards to buyers before making samples
saves time and effort. Buyers have bought garments directly from
established manufactures' concept boards before any of the garments were
cut and sewn.

Thanks for reading.

Your comments are most welcome - Laurel

Look for the article about seam allowance modification that I wrote for Threads Magazine. It will be in their 199 issue that will be on the newsstands in late August (2018). 



Phone: 215 884 7065
© Laurel Hoffmann, 2018.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

70: The Prom Dress

Shira, the evening of the prom.

Shira wanted something really special for her prom.
She designed her gown.

Always test! The canvas' seam had to be lapped
 as it would have caused ridges in the bodice if sewn
 the traditional way seams are sewn.
The canvas fits Shira, the reason it doesn't fit the form.

Designing the Bodice to Fit

Drafting to fit, then testing in muslin is essential
if the bodice is to fit the bust correctly.
Using canvas to support a strapless bodice works well. But there are cautions. The bodice pattern must be fitted to the model's bust. The seam line on both sides of the seam must be EXACTLY the same length, and MUST be tested in canvas, as shown in the picture, before making the actual canvas bodice. The seam allowance should be 3/8 inch wide. Make sure to test the seam, as shown in the diagram above, before cutting the canvas bodice. 

Sewing the canvas requires a machine that can handle stiff fabric. The seam sews best if it is clipped before it is sewn, then lapped as it is sewn. Sew up to just before the bust point. Then sew in from the armhole into the previous seam. Finally stay stitch the seam allowances in place.   

The result is a custom-fitted bodice that stays perfectly in place.

The lace was sewn to two plies of tullenette to give the lace the
stiffening it needs. This enabled the lace flowers to stand in relief.

Sewing the Lace Embellishment

Inexpensive lace was used to create the separate sleeves' embellishments. The edges of the lace was trimmed away. the lace was then sewn to two plies of tullenette (see picture on the left, above). The lace was then cut in half. One half was laid over the second half. The top half's flowers were gathered and pearls sewn (with a beading needle) into their centers. The top half's flowers were sewn to the bottom half's flowers.
The finished lace before it was sewn to the sleeves.
Finally the lace surrounding the top half's flowers were cut away and discarded, allowing the top flowers to stand out in relief.

What's happening:

  • Still working furiously to hopefully have Grading to Fit, and its sequel, Grading and Sewing a Blouse ready for sale by the end of this year, hopefully sooner. 
  • My new, professional website should be up by the end of July, or sooner. 
  • Look for the article about seam allowance modification that I wrote for Threads Magazine in their 199 issue that will be on the newsstands in late August (2018). 

Thanks for reading.

Your comments are most welcome - Laurel


Phone: 215 884 7065
© Laurel Hoffmann, 2018.  

Monday, June 4, 2018

69: Why learn sample making - sewing as done in industry?

Several years ago I was talking about skill levels and the need for fashion education within the  membership of a sewing group I had joined.

I asked a close friend and member, Pam, I have sold a higher percentage of books to the membership, than any other market. Yet the local members never take any of the courses in my program. My courses are written for cottage entrepreneurs. I can't understand it. I can see that various members have problems with their designing and sewing, and they talk about it, and I am sitting right there! I know exactly what to do to correct the problem, but no one asks me ANYthing. WHY?       

Pam replied, That's because they think industrial has nothing to do with them.

Now I don't consider myself to be naive, and I know that many who do custom sewing are not impressed with what is on the mass market, but this was new information to me. I was stunned!

Pam then told me that I should tell them even though they don't ask me.  Pam can do that because she started the group and was working in haute couture. The members related to  that. They saw her as someone to look up to and respect.

But I was reluctant to do that as I have learned that people can be very sensitive about their sewing. Some would prefer not to know, or think they do know, even if that is not the case. They get upset and feel put down if information is volunteered. Many are convinced that home sewing is far superior to industrial - which may be true if you are looking at the worst on the market. 

But what I have seen the industry produce, having been fortunate enough to work with high-end garments and people so skilled what they produced was incredible, is way beyond anything most people imagine of the industry. Overall the industry is hardly down and dirty - although there is plenty of that as well.

The truth is, the procedures used in design rooms to produce high-end clothing are the procedures any professional would use whether working in an industrial design room, sewing for wealthy clients, or sewing at home for oneself and/or family. 

That is why my program is open to home sewers, design room personnel, students, anybody who wants to learn more about sewing. It is open to everyone because all need to learn the same skills. All students should learn high-end because that is the most difficult. Once those skills are in place, students can easily figure out how to produce the product less expensively. In the industry bottom line determines the level of quality. High-end requires the least machinery to produce, and is the easiest to produce in the home, but the skills must be in place, of course.

Here is an example of sample making: Whe I wrote this I had almost finished a new blouse. It was a black poly no-wrinkle faille with white daises - in other words, although I love silk, I chose fabric I could live with and that required low maintenance. First I traced the commercial (home sewing) pattern, then drafted in additional bust darting, finally I custom graded the pattern to my coordinates, which eliminated any fittings. The book that shows how to do that should be on the market before the end of this year (2018).

The blouse was then cut to match sandwiched between tracing paper. The blouse has long sleeves, self-fabric corded mandarin collar and cuffs, black frogs (I had them so I didn't make them), lingerie straps, French seams, and armhole seams bound with self-fabric. The hem is hand-rolled. To accommodate the frogs, the lappage is 1/4 inch less on the right than on the left front - in the industry a standard procedure with buttons as well, especially with jackets. This blouse is typical of garments I worked on when I was in the industry. I made it at home and you can too!

The website at is currently being professionally upgraded, the new website should be online the middle or end of June, 2018.

Grading to Fit's over 400 pages is an encyclopedia of grading information.
It includes the information you need to know to choose your correct pattern size, correct its fit, and determine
grading coordinates you can use to eliminate most fittings.

Grading and Sewing A Blouse
shows how to prepare home sewing blouse patterns and then grade them to fit,
enabling you to produce truly professional clothing like that sold in the better, high-end stores.  

I'm working furiously to hopefully have Grading to Fit, and its sequel, Grading and Sewing a Blouse ready for sale by the end of this year, hopefully sooner. 

An article I wrote for Threads Magazine will be published in their 199 issue that will be on the newsstands in late August (2018). 

Bye for now, thanks for reading - Laurel


Phone: 215 884 7065
© Laurel Hoffmann, 2018. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

68: Philadelphia Flower Show - 2018

The Philadelphia Flower Show's theme this year is Wonders of Water.

Held in the Convention Center in Philadelphia, it is the largest indoor flower show in the world.
In spite of a blizzard the previous day, which caused electrical outage of thousands of businesses and homes in the region, and local train stoppage, the flower show opened, Saturday, March 3, as usual, to record crowds. My friend and I drove, taking detours to avoid fallen trees, so as not to miss the preview Saturday morning that was open to members of the Horticultural Society. When we left at noon the first floor of the Civic Center was packed with people waiting to enter.

Today, Wednesday, March 7, we are in the midst of a snowstorm. People who have bought tickets for today have been told the tickets will be good any of the remaining days of the show. My guess is that most have gone, thinking the crowds may be less.

Here are pictures and videos:

As one entered the scene was of rain forest and its scents and sounds.

Water gardens were everywhere.

An example of problems caused by climate change. The sign is enlarged below.

Climate change was addressed
The enlarged sign, shown in the photo above.

 More ponds
The show is huge! Here is a display featuring a boat.
Beautiful displays present new ideas. Here a glass table is set with glass wear, in a pond with floating gardenias. 
Many arrangements are also presented. I found this one quite unusual.

Below is the explanation for this huge display.

Smaller exhibits were also on display. 

Here an outdoor garden is presented.

The shopping is also fabulous. One finds items at the Flower Show that one can find nowhere else. And one meets people, often people with very interesting stories to tell.

This is Maryam, who sells beautiful hand-made tapestries, shawls, and bags from India, China, and Morocco.  -
I bought garden door mats from marveled over the beauty of hand-crafted jewelry made by Colleen Toland  - -  and her daughter, Lisa Toland - both of whom are from California. 

I bought a broom that sweeps decks, a hot-pink t-shirt that says We Can Do It! with Rosie the Riveter on the sleeve, and for my daughter, roses from the Krempt Florist.  Roses are incredibly inexpensive at the show. Unfortunately I do not have the web addresses for these exhibitors.

If you subscribe to Threads Magazine, look for my ad in the marketing section of the magazine.
My new, professional website should go up in a couple of days.


Phone: 215 884 7065
© Laurel Hoffmann, 2018. 
All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

67: Choosing your bra size

The following information should help make determining bra size easier. 
However, because bust shapes, bust positions on the body, and bra styling vary, the precise bra size cannot be determined without a fitting. 

Measure your bust circumference loosely,
measure your chest circumference, under the bust, as tight as possible without indenting the skin.

Measure your bust and your chest circumference

Take two measurements, the bust circumference and the chest circumference. Wear only a bra. If one wears even a tight knit undergarment it can add an inch to the circumference.

The bust circumference should be measured loosely, hold the tape measure around the full of the bust as loose as possible, but just tight enough so that the tape does not fall down.

The chest circumference should be measured as tight as possible without indenting the skin. 

Add five inches to give the bra size’s circumference measurement. 
Bra companies determine a woman’s bra size by first measuring the chest under the bust, 
then adding five inches to give the bra size’s circumference measurement. 

 Cup size nomenclature is related to bust circumference.
The same cup size in the next largest bra or pattern size is given the previous letter.
 For example: The size C cup in a 34 bra is a size B cup in a 36 bra.
The size B cup in a 36 bra is a size A cup in a 38 bra.

Determine your cup size

If your bust measures the chest size plus 5 inches, your cup size is a C, the average cup size in each bra size. 

For example: A woman with a 31 inch chest adds 5 inches to determine that she wears a bra with a 36 inch circumference. If her bust measures 36 inches she wears a C cup. If her bust measures one inch less – 35 inches, she wears a B cup; one inch more – 37 inches, a D cup.

The Relationship Between Home-sewing Pattern's and Bra Sizing

The commercial pattern companies use the same system, but traditionally draft their patterns with a B cup. Their sizing charts give a bust measurement two inches larger than the chest measurement – an AA cup size, but because the pattern’s bust measurement is four inches more than the chest measurement the pattern’s true cup size is a B. 

This information is from Grading to Fit, a book currently in progress that hopefully will be on the market before the end of the year.

Keep watching, the website at is currently being professionally upgraded, the new website should be online in early March, 2018.

Bye for now, thanks for reading - Laurel


Phone: 215 884 7065
© Laurel Hoffmann, 2018.