The Scientific Seamstress

I’m CarlaC, the Scientific Seamstress, and I’m so honored to be guest posting here today!  SewBaby has recently added downloadable e-patterns to their lineup of wonderful sewing products including Scientific Seamstress and SisBoom e-patterns.  I’ve been working with these types of patterns for several years now, and really love the versatility and convenience they offer.  If you’ve never sewn from an e-pattern, you are probably wondering how the process compares to using a traditional paper pattern.  I’m going to take you through the basic steps:

1) Select and purchase your pattern, just like you would a paper pattern. Instead of a physical package, you will receive an email that contains one or more .pdf files as attachments.


2) With a single click, your PDF is opened with Acrobat Reader.  If you don’t already have the software on your computer, you can download it for free from

3) At this point, you have your instructions in front of you.  As with paper patterns, it is a good idea to read through all of the instructions before sewing. Many e-pattern users get the instructions right off the
screen, scrolling through the pages as they work.  Others prefer to work from a print-out (I’ll give some ink and paper saving tips below).

4) The next step is to print out the pattern pieces.  For small  accessories and tiny children’s clothing, a whole pattern piece often fits on one page.  For larger patterns, the pattern pieces are split into multiple pages.  Simply print the needed pages, and assemble as indicated on the pattern pieces.

5) The rest of the process is just like sewing from a traditional pattern – cut, sew, and enjoy!  And the best thing is, you can print the patterns again and again, in exactly the sizes you need (and you never have to worry about losing a piece, either)!

About Carla:
Carla Hegeman Crim, founder of Scientific Seamstress LLC, is a molecular biologist turned patternmaker.  She is a work at home mom with a sweet little boy named Louie and a chef husband named Delmar.  Although she was born and raised in the South, Carla has lived in Upstate NY, New England, the Midwest, and is currently planted on the East Coast.  She has a B.S. in Biology from Virginia Commonwealth University, a Ph.D. in Plant Physiology from Virginia Tech, and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University.  She is a self-taught seamstress who has been experimenting with fabric since she was a wee little girl.  When her son came along, she decided to stay home with him and build a business out of sewing.  For the first few years, she focused on elaborate clothing and furniture designs for collector dolls.  She had many requests for her patterns, and began publishing them in 2006. Currently, her “sewing lab” is working on two different product lines:  Scientific Seamstress ePatterns, which are good basics with a touch of boutique whimsy, and Sis Boom ePatterns, which are collaborative works with renowned fabric designer Jennifer Paganelli.  Between these two series, there are offerings for all ages, sizes, and tastes.

Smplicity's Khaliah Ali Vest pattern

This vest is from Simplicity 2635, Khaliah Ali Plus Size sportswear pattern which includes tunic, dress, vest and pants.  This is a lined vest, and the construction is pretty nifty. You sew everything together except for the side seams, turn it, and then sew the side seams of the lining and the outer fabric in one shot. It's hard to describe, but the Simplicity people have done a good job in illustrating it.

I have decided that I really like vests! I made one last fall, and found it to be a great piece in my wardrobe that was less constricting than a jacket, but offered the same tummy camouflaging benefit, as well as just enough warmth. The one that I had made was rather short, so I was looking for one that had a longer line, and this pattern fit that requirement.   I like all of the Khaliah Ali patterns- they are very stylish and flattering for a larger figure. This vest pattern has princess seams in front and back, faux welt pockets, as well as a nicely shaped hem front. There is a tie and a little shaped hem.. So, there are really lots of nice features to this one.  

I used a silk/rayon blend from Vera Wang for the outer fabric, and a rayon/poly lining for the interior. The silk is luscious and weighty. I only had a small piece of it, and thought a vest would be a great way to use it.  I don't think I'll sew this one again, but I do recommend it. For me personally, I don't think it is quite as flattering as the Simplicity 2556 pattern that I made before, so I will probably go back and lengthen it instead of making this one again.

This one if part of my Spring Wardrobe Plan in navy, white and dove gray. I'm making progress! So far, I've got 2 skirts, 2 blouses, 1 knit top, one jacket and one vest completed.

Making Blouses that Fit

I hardly ever find button front shirts or blouses in RTW that fit.  They are usually either too short for my orangutan arms, or if I find a blouse that fits in the bust, the shoulders are way too big.  So, I decided to try making my own with Simplicity 2758.  This is one of the Threads Collection patterns that has multiple cup sizes.  However, even with the multiple cup sizes, I think choosing the size can really be a challenge.  If I would have gone with the sizing on the envelope, I would have made a size 18 allover with the D cup front.  What I did was make a 14 in the neck, shoulders and back, and then only used the 18 D cup for the front.  It fits absolutely to perfection- I can't tell you how THRILLED I am. 

But why use two sizes to make one blouse?  It turns out that if you take your high bust measurement, by measuring tightly above your bust, that is really a better measurement for choosing the neck and shoulder size from a pattern.  Then you measure the widest part of your bust for choosing the pattern size at the bust level.  Or you can stay with the same pattern size at the neck and shoulder area for the whole body, but alter the bust to fit.  Confused yet? Don't feel bad- it has taken me YEARS, maybe DECADES to figure this out.

First, I had to realize that pattern sizes don't correspond to ready to wear sizes.  I really think that a lot of people get turned off to sewing when they learning that their pattern sizes are bigger numbers than store bought sizes.  Ready to wear sizing has changed considerably over the years, due to vanity sizing.  Pattern sizing has not.  You have to learn to forget about size number comparisons when it comes to sewing, and just focus on the facts- let the ego go!  There are no size tags, and NO ONE WILL KNOW!

Then I had to learn about the high bust/full bust difference for people who wear a C cup bra or larger.  Now, there are exceptions to the rule in the pattern world.  Sandra Betzina's Today's Fit patterns are designed for fuller busts, and with her Vogue pattern line, you really can choose the pattern based on your full bust measurement.  I LOVE Sandra's patterns, and have all of them.  And a lot of independent pattern companies, like Hot Patterns and Colette Patterns are also designed for curvier figures.  You can also change any regular pattern using a Full Bust Adjustment.  There are some great illustrated views of how to do this on various styles on Debbie Sewing Tips page

Back to the project- the first blouse that I made was a navy blue stretch cotton.  I was so thrilled with it, that I decided to make a night out blouse too out of a crazy 70's silk print that I've had in my stash awhile.  Here it is:

I feel like I've gone back a few decades when I'm wearing this one, but it is SILK!  And it FITS!  So, if you don't like it, TOUGH, I DO!  Can you tell I've had a couple of glasses of wine tonight?

Anyway the pattern is fantastic.  Get it if you want a blouse that fits. Or if you don't like this style, Simplicity, McCall's and Vogue now have a nice selection of multiple cup size patterns.

Think Spring Skirts

Although we aren't predicted to break above 30 degrees for the whole next week, focusing on my Spring SWAP has been taking my mind off of cold weather.  I used Simplicity 2451 to make both a navy blue and off white skirt.  I have to say, this is a superb pattern.  I loved everything about it- the pockets, the slight curve at the bottom, the wide curved waistband.  And I would rate it as an Easy pattern for beginning sewists.

It's always difficult for me to know what size to choose because my waist measurement is two sizes above my hip measurement.  Usually I'll cut the waistband one size larger, and that works out.  But with this one, the waistband is curved with pockets, and I thought it best to make it up as designed for one size.  So, I started with the size 16 (this is equivalent to a 12 in ready to wear).  This is the white one.  I lined this one, and it feels so luxurious going on.  It was a little loose, so I decided to make the blue skirt in the size 14 (about a size 10 in ready to wear).  This one fit like a glove- snug but not too snug.  I wouldn't want to wear it out to a big dinner, but on salad days, it will be perfect.  So, luckily I say both fit! 

Both fabrics are tone-on-tone cotton jacquards.  They are sturdy, yet comfy, and are very easy to sew with.  I've had these fabrics for about a year, so I'm going to enter them in the stash contest which is going on for another 6 weeks if you are interested in joining me.  A great incentive to dig into that stasth and sew.

Logo Ideas Round two

Choosing a new logo is proving to be more difficult than we thought, so we've added a few new ones to the mix.  Please vote in the poll at the right for your favorite!

#1.  Original Logo with an updated color and font. 

#2.   A Sprig of Heart flowers:

#3.  Lotus Heart Flower:
#4.  Stitched Heart:

Vote for a new SewBaby Logo!

SewBaby is coming up on it's 16th anniversary, and I'm thinking she could use a little facelift!  Here are some logos that we're considering.  Please help us choose!  There is a poll at the right, but please also feel free to give feedback in the comments section.





The Incredible Shrinking Jacket

Sometimes things don't turn out like you envsion when you are sewing for yourself.  You can either pitch it (which I've done plenty), or like Tim Gunn likes to say, you can "make it work"!

I bought 3 yards of this beautiful Vera Wang Ribbon Faille fabric, and thought it would be the perfect overcoat for Spring.  I couldn't wait to make it, even though Spring is weeks away, so I chose the simplest pattern that I could, and made it in an evening.  It looked good to me that night, but like a drunken sailor, the next day, it just looked awful.  I don't blame the pattern- the pattern is just fine.  And the fabric is just fine too.  Just not that pattern and this fabric together.

The fabric is really, really light- it weighs virtually nothing, so it doesn't drape like this particular pattern needed.  It just kind of sticks out.  Imagine the styrofoam packing fabric that you get wrapped around dishes, and you'll get close to what this fabric weighs and how it would behave wrapped around a body.

So, it was a bad marriage between fabric and pattern to begin with.  But, I thought, this marriage can be saved!  All I need to do is make it shorter- so I chopped off 6 inches, and rehemmed it.  It just made the bad marriage even worse- it added 20 years and 20 pounds.  Uggh!  So, I literally ripped it apart.  No careful stitch by stitch ripping- just big rips at all the seams.

I gave up on the idea of an overcoat for Spring- I mean, what was I thinking?  This fabric couldn't keep out the Midwestern winds and rain.  I looked to my trusty Burda magazine for inspiration and found this short little Chanel like jacket pattern in the February 2010 issue.

Luckily, I could fit all of the Burda pattern pieces on my ripped out pieces.  I liked my pockets with the ball and trim fringe, and just reduced them 2 inches in both directions. I ditched the buttons, and added 4 yards of blue braid around the perimeter of the jacket to give it some more weight.  For the lining, I just used a lightweight ivory satin.

SO,  this jacket took me WAY longer than it should have, but I'm pretty happy with the end results.  Good thing, as the only other thing I could do to shrink it is to make it a vest!