Sunday, April 28, 2013


Are you, like most women, using the try on until one fits method when you shop for bras?
The following information should help make determining your 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. 

© Grading to Fit, ISBN 0-966323-4-5,  Laurel Hoffmann, 2009.

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. If the bust measures the chest size plus 5 inches, the 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.

© Grading to Fit, ISBN 0-966323-4-5,  Laurel Hoffmann, 2009.
The cup size is directly related to the chest circumference. As shown in the above chart, the same cup size is given a smaller name if it is used with the next larger chest circumference. If a 36 bra’s C cup size fits well, but the bra’s circumference is a bit loose, it might be better to try a 34 bra with a D cup size as the D cup in the size 34 bra is the same size as the C cup in the 36 size bra.
The commercial (home sewing) 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 – which would be an AA cup size, but because the pattern’s actual bust measurement is four inches more than the chest measurement the pattern’s true cup size is a B. Confusing, but I guess they've done it that way for so long changing the measurements on the pattern packet would be even more confusing.
The pattern companies also say that pattern sizing should be determined by the bust size. But unless you are a B cup this doesn’t work. One’s pattern size is better determined by the chest size, measured under the chest. Then, if extra room is needed over the bust that amount needs to be drafted in.
If the bust is smaller than a B cut, the difference needs to be removed. If you are large busted choosing your pattern size by your bust measurement puts half the extra bust measurement in the back of your pattern. It also throws off all the other pattern's measurements. So you wind up with a pattern that is too big all over. If you are small busted the pattern may fit the bust, but the pattern is too small everywhere else.

If you’ve read down to here, thank you! Here is a little present, the link to the Great BritishSewingBee.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


This post is a continuation of Posts 8 and 10, presenting my search for a sewing machine for my gifted young student. I’m looking for a machine that is affordable, has the features she will need in the future, and that will serve her well, providing her with many  years of pleasurable sewing.
I contacted Customer Service Representative Pam Brown at to ask for suggestions on what machine would be a good choice for my student. This is an excellent on-line sewing machine store where I shop when I need sewing machine items.
Contact Pam by e-mail or phone: 800-401-8151 x 128.
Pam replied, After listening to the features you want on a machine for your student, and the level at which she is likely to be sewing soon, I have a recommendation for her. It does have a straight stitch needle plate available ($76), and you can take off the ankle and use low shank non-snap-on feet. Pam recommended the Juki Exceed HZL-F400 Quilt Pro Computerized Sewing Machine.
After checking out this machine I believe this is the best home lock-stitch zigzag sewing machine on the market today. If I needed a new machine, this is the machine I would buy for myself. This machine has all the features, listed in my previous posts that I would like my student to have on her machine. It is perfect for someone doing high-end designing, drafting, and sewing. The problem now is whether my student will continue to be highly interested in sewing as this machine would require an investment of almost $1000.
It also has features listed below that would be wonderful for my student to have, some of which are also on the Bernini. But the Bernini is more expensive and cannot use the low-shank feet. I admit that I’m biased toward Juki machines, having been very impressed when I have sewn on their industrial machines.
Knee Lifting Lever. The presser foot can be raised and lowered with the knee-lifting lever. Presser foot lift is up to 12 mm when the lever is used.
Foot Control. The new HZL-F series trims both needle and bobbin threads automatically. Just press the heel side of the foot controller. With this feature you can concentrate on your project while automatically cutting the thread.
Powerful Feeding. The HZL-F400 has powerful feeding thanks to a special steel feed dog and improved presser foot construction. Heavy material projects, such as hemming denim jeans, can be sewn with ease.
Sensor Method Buttonhole. Using a unique sensor method, HZL-F series sews beautiful buttonholes regardless of the type of material and overlapped sections.
Buttonhole. There are 16 types of buttonholes are available for your needs.
Now it is possible to adjust the cutting width of buttonholes in 3 steps.
Easy Bobbin Thread Winding. An independent motor winds the bobbin thread.
Presser Foot Pressure Adjustment. The presser foot pressure can be adjusted for better sewing results according to the type of materials to be sewn.
Sewing Speed. Up to 900 SPM (stitches per minute).
Stitch Width Control. Up to 7mm.
Stitch Length Control. Up to 5mm.
Weight.21.6 lbs.
Bye for now,
Laurel published school
Contemporary Fashion Education, Inc.
Laurel's Design Room Techniques book that presents sewing procedures used in high-end designing departments is available for sale at
P:215 884 7065, F:215 884 3727, C:610 908 7222

Sunday, April 21, 2013


This is a continuation of the 8th Post, Shopping for a Sewing Machine. 

I visited Steve's Sewing Center, an excellent place to buy sewing machines and vacuum cleaners and explained that I was shopping for my gifted young student who needed a really good sewing machine. 

Steve’s is where I go to have my machines repaired. They offer dependable, expert service.

The machine pictured above is the 380 model. It looks like the 350PE, but is slightly more expensive version and has additional stitch patterns and similar extra features I feel aren’t necessary.
I told the sales person at Steves about my student and what I felt she needed in a sewing machine. I was shown  a variety of sewing machines.

The machine that I especially liked is the Bernina 350PE. It has almost all of the features I listed on my 8th Post, plus an especially nice feature I had never seen on any machine before – one can sew without using the pedal.
With the exception of standard, low-shank feet it has all the features I would like on my student’s machine:
1.       All medal parts
2.       Zigzags
3.       Blind hems
Has an automatic buttonholer that is easy to use

5.       Has a feed-dog that drops so the machine can sew on buttons
6.       Is portable
7.       Is fast, but also sews well at a very slow speed
8.       Uses standard, low-shank feet
9.       Has a straight-stitch plate to prevent fabric from jamming down in the race.
10.     Has screw-on feet - When sewing at high-speeds it is better to have everything screwed on  tight - I don't trust the snap-on feet I've used them and I don't like them very much.
11.     Can wind a bobbin as it sews
12.      Has a straight stitch plate.
13.     Can be set so that when one stops sewing the needle is either down in the fabric, or up out of the fabric
14.   A knee pedal that lifts the presser foot would be nice

 I have crossed this machine off the list for two reasons:

1.  Unfortunately it does not have standard, low-shank feet. Bernina machines use only feet designed by the company specifically for their machines. This could cause a problem for my student. Low shank feet are becoming the standard feet used with home sewing machines. It is unlikely that my student would take this machine anywhere. So if she were to visit someone, or take design lessons in school, she, like sample makers in the industry, would probably want to take her sewing machine’s feet with her so she could use them on the machine at that location. The foot problem also makes me nervous. Bernina machines are currently the Cadillac’s of the home sewing machines, but I have seen a prior, highly-regarded  home sewing machine company loose its status. I don’t want anything about the machine to create a potential problem down the road.

2.  The other concern is the price. This machine costs just under $1400. That’s a lot of money.

So I’m still shopping.
Laurel published school
Contemporary Fashion Education, Inc.
Laurel's Design Room Techniques book that presents sewing procedures used in high-end designing departments is available for sale at
P:215 884 7065, F:215 884 3727, C:610 908 7222



Friday, April 19, 2013


I need some new clothes. When I design for myself I almost always make monochromic 4-piece go-anywhere ensembles: pants, jacket, blouse, skirt. Today I decided to make an orchid ensemble and a gray ensemble. I'm starting with the blouse. Since the gray blouse fabric doesn't need to be matched I first laid it out over tracing paper. Then, since the orchid silk has a slightly perceptible horizontal woven stripe and also is more delicate, I spread that fabric on top of the gray fabric. The orchid fabric is being cut so the horizontal stripes will line up around the finished garment.

In the above picture you see the first two patterns in the process of being cut. On the left is the cut left front side of the blouse. The center line is the lappage line. The front is designed to fold back over itself causing the front of the blouse to self-line. On the right is the right side of the blouse, not yet  cut. The two front patterns are different. I have drafted the right front so that the blouse, when buttoned, will have 1/4 inch extension from the edge of the button. The left side's lappage extension is  1/8 inch wider than the right side's lappage to provide modesty under the buttonhole.

Although each pattern is exactly the same on either side of its lappage fold line, each pattern is being cut on the open. Cutting on the fold is dangerous. If the pattern's fold is at just a slight angle to the underlying fabric's fold the look of the entire garment can be ruined. The front pattern has a princess seam. It sews to a side front piece which I'm also planning to self-line.

Cutting slippery fabrics such as those in the picture above is much easier and far more accurate if the fabrics are cut sandwiched between tracing paper. Granted it ruins the shears, but they can be sharpened. After all the goal is to have beautiful clothing and this is one of the steps to that achievement. Tracing paper is available at art supply stores.

More later,

Laurel's Design Room Techniques book that presents sewing procedures used in high-end designing departments is available for sale from
P:215 884 7065, F:215 884 3727, C:610 908 7222

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I have a young student who needs a sewing machine. So I will be blogging from time to time about the sewing machines on the market as I search for the perfect sewing machine for her. 

It’s been awhile since I have shopped for a sewing machine, so it is the time to see what is on the market. She needs a lockstitch zigzag machine. A lockstitch is a machine that sews forward and back. It has a bobbin case that holds a bobbin wrapped with thread (centered diagram).

 The zigzag  allows the machine to overlock (finish) the seam allowances (left diagram ) and, because the machine can sew zigzagged seams (right diagram), a lockstitch zigzag machine can also sew knits.

 I would like to find a machine  for her that:

1.       Has all medal parts
2.       Zigzags
3.       Blind hems
4.       Has an automatic buttonholer that is easy to use *
5.       Has a feed-dog that drops so the machine can sew on buttons
6.       Is portable
7.       Is fast, but also sews well at a very slow speed
8.       Uses standard, low-shank feet
9.       Has a straight-stitch plate to prevent fabric from jamming down in the race.
10.     Has screw-on feet - When sewing at high-speeds it is better to have everything screwed on  tight - I don't trust the snap-on feet I've used them and I don't like them very much.
11.     Can wind a bobbin as it sews
12.      Has a straight stitch plate.
13.     Can be set so that when one stops sewing the needle is either down in the fabric, or up out      of the fabric*
14.   A knee pedal that lifts the presser foot would be nice*

I am very happy with the machines I own, and wish I could find her one like the ones I have, but they are no longer on the market. The new machines do have features that, while I don’t need them, I would like my student to have. I starred those features in the above list.
Here are the machines that I own and use:
 My principal machine is a 269 Pfaff (above) that is a cross between an industrial and a home sewing machine. It is a lockstitch zigzag. It was probably built in the fifties. It’s fast and sews like a dream. I LOVE this machine.

I also own two portable lockstitch sewing machines. One is a 2000 Hobby lockstitch zigzag (right)  that I bought probably 30 years ago. I use it in the classroom to demonstrate how to use the zigzag. This machine is slow. I've never liked it much, but it is useful to have when teaching.



Its biggest problem is that it has a zigzag plate, but does not have a straight stitch plate. The straight stitch plate prevents the fabric from jamming in the race (photo on the right).

My second portable (left) is a featherweight lockstitch that was manufactured in 1941. This fabulous little machine is available on E-bay. But it doesn’t overcast, make machine overcast buttonholes, or sew on buttons. Attachments can be bought to allow it to do that, but they don’t really work all that well. So this machine is off the list for my student.


I also have an Elna 686 (above).  This is a secondary machine that one buys after one buys a lockstitch machine. It's a four-thread mock-safety which can be converted to two or three-thread for overlocking (the home sewing industry calls this type of machine a “serger”. )  I don’t use it very often because I tend to sew mostly wovens which I clean finish with lining.  When I do overcast I zigzag a small finish on the seams like that used in high-end French couture (shown at the top left of this post). I find zigzagging  faster and easier. When I sew knits I sometimes use my Elna.  The four-thread makes a great seam in knits.

More later,


Wednesday, April 10, 2013


My daughter brought the bride home from college to share Thanksgiving with us in 2000. It was the beginning of a wonderful friendship between the two young women and our families. The bride is from Morocco. This past Saturday we attended her wedding to a Pakistani. It was a joyous event.  
The wedding reception was held on the 17th floor of the Baltimore World Trade Center. Here my husband and son are looking down at the specular view.  Soon the sun set, back-dropping the beautiful d├ęcor of the room with lights from the harbor.

The bride and groom wore Pakistani wedding attire. They sat on a platform and greeted their guests. I have never seen the bride look more beautiful.
Many pictures were taken. Above is a picture of the happy couple with his parents.
On the right is a picture is of the groom’s extended family. Later his nieces, seated in front, entertained the couple with dancing. A picture of them dancing is below the professional dancers directly below.



A belly dancer also performed.  In the picture on the left she is balancing lighted candles on her head as she dances.
We all had a wonderful time. 
Below on the right  the bride’s mother and one of the bride’s co-workers are enjoying each other’s company.

Everyone took many, many pictures of the couple and the guests. Everyone was wearing beautiful ethnic costumes from their native lands.  In this picture I am showing the bride’s mother the picture I just took, shown on the right. On our plates you can see some of the Middle Eastern food we had for appetizers. A buffet dinner followed. The food was delicious!

Many guests stepped up on the platform to talk with the couple as I am doing here. I am so happy about this wedding. The couple is well matched. They are a wonderful couple.
Just before the couple cut the cake they changed into western bridal clothing.
The groom then presented the bride with wedding rings and matching earrings and necklace.

Just before it was time to go home my husband took this picture of our son, daughter, and myself. I had been so busy taking pictures of the couple and their guests I almost forgot to have pictures taken of us.
Here are a couple more pictures you might enjoy. Above on the left the bride models a Moroccan wedding dress that she was given several years ago. I understand it has since gone out of style. On the right is my favorite picture of the couple. They are having a private conversation. It is obvious that they are very much in love.
Bye for now,




Friday, April 5, 2013


My daughter needed an evening bag that matched the formal ensemble I had made for her to wear to the wedding reception. So I made one with the scraps left from her skirt. First I found an evening bag I had that would hold her camera and that would look well with her outfit. The black bag in the picture on the left is the bag I copied. The silvery thing in front of the bag is a clear glass ball button that I sewn on the front of the copied bag to allow the bag to fasten. The black bag has a magnetic snap. I had a magnetic snap, but the instructions looked like putting the thing into the bag was going to be too much of a hassle. So in the copied bag I sewed a loop into the flap so that the loop would button over the ball button. 
In the picture above you can see the patterns I drafted from the copied bag’s measurements. The bag I was copying was heavily stiffened. Fortunately I had some very heavy stiffening left over from a picture hat I had made several years ago.


I was going to line the bag with left-over China silk, but when I exampled the bag I was copying I realized the same fabric had been used to make the inside as was used to make the outside of the bag. So I self-lined the bag. Here the pocket is being sewn into the bag’s lining. The copied bag had a fold in the pocket, so I copied that as well. The ruler is lying across the bottom of the pocket which has not yet been sewn.

The strap was made from covered cording. I cut the bias 1 ¼ inches wide from the left-over China silk lining from my daughter’s skirt. Note that I cut it between tracing paper, the only way to cut slippery silk with any success.
I turned the entire width of the bias cording inside with the tubing. I'm still amazed that the fabric allowed me to do that.

In this picture I am hand sewing the last seam inside the bag.  Other than that exception and the hand sewn button all sewing was done on the sewing machine.


Edge stitching finished the bag, forcing it to maintain its shape.

Here is the finished bag with the original bag I copied. published books school
Facebook: Contemporary Fashion Education, Inc.
P:215 884 7065, F:215 884 3727, C:610 908 7222

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Spring courses in Laurel's program start next Saturday April 13.  Here is the schedule and the course order form for the upcoming classes.  View posts 1 through 4 below this post to see some of the techniques students will learn in Grading & Sewing a Blouse and Jacket course, the sequel to Fitting Home Sewing Patterns/Grading to Fit 
Laurel's pant course, Drafting & Fitting Pants and Skirts, starts next Saturday April 13. Each student drafts a custom fitted skirt and pair of pants. The pants are drafted in three steps:

1. The students first produce a custom fitted skirt pattern from their waist/hip measurements. All information for cutting and sewing the skirt are in the second of the two textbooks that support this course.
2. Then the crotch area is drafted. Vertical and the horizontal measurements are used to ensure that this area will fit. Charts enable students to quickly determine how to draft the area.

Two books support the course. Step-by-step diagrams enable even novices to produce professional garments from their drafted patterns.
3. Finally the pant legs are drafted. The pant patterns are then checked with a muslin.
All fit problems are addressed. Because department stores' fitting rooms rarely have three-way mirrors many people are unaware that their pants pull in the back crotch area. This is because pant manufacturers often skimp on fabric by cutting the inseams too shallow. The problem is easily corrected as shown in the diagram above on the left. 
During the course students learn the sewing skills they need to produce professional skirts and pants at home. These skills are contained in Sewing Pants and Skirts, the second of the two course books. Included are step-by-step instructions for sewing fly zippers, both the left-lapped - used in men's clothing, and the right-lapped - used in women's clothing. These are the procedures used in industry by zipper setters who set up to 500 zippers a day. Note in the diagram above on the right that the seam into which the zipper is set is sewn AFTER the zipper is set.
On the right Paulette models her pants. Her pant pattern was the first pattern she had ever drafted.
If you are interested in taking this course, here is the schedule for the upcoming classes and the course order form. The schedule and order form includes the information needed to register for the Blouse/Jacket course.
If you decide to take the pant course please call Laurel at 215 884 7065 or e-mail her so she can have your course materials ready for you the first day of class.

Holy Martyrs church in Oreland, Pennsylvania.
The program is now taught at Holy Martyrs Church in Oreland where Laurel is renting classroom space for her program. The location is one mile from the Fort Washington turnpike exit, has a huge free parking lot, and is two short blocks from the Lansdale/Doylestown train station. A pizzeria, restaurant, and bakery are within a block. published books school
 Facebook: Contemporary Fashion Education, Inc.
 P:215 884 7065, F:215 884 3727, C:610 908 7222