How to Add a Center Panel to a Basic Bodice Dress

Blue Italian Organdy Dress

A center panel can add such a lovely and unique design element to a garment. In this how-to from our March/April 2012 issue, Pat Goldman and Susan Newberry of Chadwick Heirlooms will show you how you can adapt any basic bodice dress pattern to include a center panel. The concept is easy - you simply need to remove the middle section of the bodice pattern and replace it with a long rectangle cut from straight grain fabric.

The center panel pictured here on the Blue Italian Organdy Dress has six 1/4-inch tucks edged with 1/4-inch lace edging. Once you determine the finished width of the center panel for the size you are making, add 1 inch for seam allowance and 1/2 inch for every tuck you wish to stitch (3 inches in this case). Allow at least 1/4 inch at the top and bottom edges for attaching entredeux. TIP: You may want to give yourself a couple of inches extra length, as you can always trim to fit later.






Basic Construction:
• The back of this dress remains unchanged from the pattern. Follow pattern as directed for back.

• Prepare center panel: Sew tucks, lace and embroidery to center panel. Finish top edge with entredeux and set aside.

• Sew new side bodice piece to back bodice pieces at shoulder seams.

• Prepare sleeves with lace edging and sew to bodice arm curve before stitching side seams.

• Stitch side seams of bodice and sleeves.

• You should have two front skirt pieces. Sew a front to each side of single back skirt piece. Sew a placket in center back skirt. Run gathering threads in top of skirt on each side of placket.

• Gather skirt to fit bottom edge of bodice (side front/back bodice). Stitch and finish seam. Sew entredeux to neck edge, and down entire front bodice and skirt on both sides where center panel will be inserted.

• Make sashes (cut approximately 5 by 35 inches): Stitch gathered lace edging to one end of each sash. Roll and whip a tiny rolled hem on each long edge of each sash.

• Pleat ends of sash and either baste to front side seam of dress over waist seam before center panel is inserted, or hand stitch under last tuck after center panel is inserted.

• Sew center panel to entredeux on front of dress.

• Remember to mark where the panel should end at neck in same spot on both sides so that it ends up perfectly straight across the top.

• Sew lace edging to entredeux along neck and across top of center panel, mitering front corners.

• Trim center panel even with skirt along bottom edge. Sew entredeux to bottom edge.

• Create a fancy band of two lace insertions and a lace edging, then attach to entredeux to finish skirt.

• Sew buttons and buttonholes to back bodice.

For more sewing ideas, check out our new 2012 Sew Beautiful Collection CD. This CD includes all seven issues of Sew Beautiful magazine from 2012 - the six standard issues plus our special 25th Anniversary Edition. These issues are complete with printable patterns, project templates, sewing tips, technique tutorials and endless inspiration!

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful,
Cyndi & Amelia

How to Use a French Curve

French curve template

Do you know how to use a French curve template for drafting or altering patterns? We ran across the following tutorial in the February/March 2014 edition of our sister magazine, Sew News, and just had to share! Written by Marla Stefanelli, the article appeared in Sew News' May 2003 edition, and was republished as part of the magazine's new "Best of the Basics" column in which tried and true sewing advice is salvaged from past issues.

French curves are used in drafting patterns or making pattern alterations. Invented in the late 1880s, the French curve is used by mathematicians, engineers and sewists alike. Technically a French curve is a drafting tool used to connect points in a smooth curve. It's used for garment pattern drafting and alterations, especially for necks and armscyes when trueing and blending seamlines.

Drafting 101
Trueing a line is the process of straightening seamlines to establish correct seam lengths. Blending is the smoothing, shaping and rounding of angular lines for a smooth transition from one point to another. Trueing and blending are often done at the same time.

Easy Alterations
For most home sewing, the fashion curve is used mainly for pattern alterations when fitting, changing or adding new design lines. Choose a fashion curve to make the following four pattern alterations:



When cutting out and lowering a dart and lowering to match your bust point, the sideseam becomes uneven. Use the ruler edge that closely resembles the pattern line to draw a new, or "true," cutting line (Fig. 1).



Use a slash-and-spread method to add width to a pattern piece, using the long curved edge to draw the new cutting line at the outer edge (Fig. 2).



When your body curves where a pattern line is straight, add a curve to the pattern. Measure your body and mark the corresponding point on the pattern. Then use the curved edge to connect the points (Fig. 3).



To lower the neckline, mark the desired depth on the pattern. Then place the ruler so it intersects the original shoulder cutting line and aligns with the new mark; trace the resulting curve (Fig. 4).

TIP: When drafting an especially long line, flip the ruler over to draw a line evenly from both sides of the seam to achieve a smooth symmetrical line.

Click here to find out how you can discover more sewing tips and tutorials from Sew News.

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful,
Cyndi & Amelia

Sewing in Red, White and Blue

June / July 2014
Dear Readers: After much analysis and discussion with our team, we at The Martha Pullen Company have made the difficult decision that Sew Beautiful magazine will publish its last issue this summer. For a generation we have provided the very best information and instruction you - our readers - demand. Due to changes in the market, and the magazine industry, and after seeing a decreasing number of subscribers over the years, it was no longer economically viable to publish the magazine. We instead will put our resources, energy and talents toward new and growing areas of The Martha Pullen Company business including the Internet Embroidery Club, our live - and new online - events, our popular Martha Pullen Company Online Store and more. (If you are a subscriber, you will receive information directly from us regarding your remaining issues.) 

We will strive to continue to inspire and instruct you in support of our shared passion, and our website, blog and community will continue to live on and be fostered. Though the magazine is closing, we'll turn our focus to offering you exclusive project kits, new products in our online store, live and online sewing education events, etc. We will also regularly provide you with new content on our website. Watch for more to come as we refocus and redouble our efforts to better serve you!

With that being said, we still have two more wonderful issues of this beloved magazine - the first of which we have a preview to share with you today. Its theme is "red, white and blue sewing." Of course in heirloom sewing, our version of red, white and blue isn't always the bold primary versions teamed with the starkness of white. For us, pastel blue, a wash of pink and an ivory hue are just as appealing as their more patriotic partners. Below, take a sneak peek at some of our favorite vintage-inspired designs this issue has to offer:


Cherry Dress & Whitework Embroidery in Blue

Cherry Dress - This pattern from Laurie Anderson is a classic. It's a button-front design with knife pleats in front and back, and piping trims the sleeves and Peter Pan collar. A clever buttonhole functions to close the dress down the front and decorates it too, with cheery sets of button cherries.

Whitework Embroidery in Blue - Traditional whitework embroidery doesn't necessarily require working with white threads. In fact, the term "whitework" refers to the stitch techniques contained in the design. In this tutorial, Wendy Schoen demonstrates a variety of whitework stitches in the perfect shade of baby blue. Follow her steps for a satiny fluidity where thread paths are practically undetectable.


Nolan's Tug Boat

Nolan's Tug Boat - Hand embroider a romper with this precious tug boat design from the 2014 Martha Pullen Internet Embroidery Club's "Heirloom Baby Designs" collection. I (Cyndi) knew I had to share a hand-stitched version of this darling motif with our readers as soon as I saw it. While machine embroidery may save time, I find there is just something so relaxing and therapeutic about handwork.


Pocket Pets Diaper Set & Grant's Vintage One-Piece Romper

Pocket Pets Diaper Set - The adorable puppy pockets on this outfit are sure to captivate tiny tots, but it's the unique couture finishes (like the bias gingham rouleau trim on the shaped yoke) that sets this design from Debbie Glenn apart.

Grant's Vintage One-Piece Romper - Our free pattern is a unique, wrap-around design Laurie Anderson reworked from an antique garment. This little classic suit is so simple to construct, you may want to make one in red, one in white and one in blue!

Visit our online store to read more about our June/July edition!

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful,
Cyndi and Amelia

How to Sew Spaghetti Bias Scallops

"Polly" design by Paige Pettie Alexander

Paige Pettie Alexander found inspiration for her "Polly" pattern while thumbing through the pages of Martha Pullen's The Vintage Collection book. A sweet and simple (yet very unique) romper caught her eye and inspired the remake featured in our new special edition, Sew Beautiful: Heirloom Sewing Favorites for Summer. The dress can be made at minimal cost - just the fabric and four buttons - and the romper suit design suggests all sorts of fun ideas for mixing and matching prints. Both patterns, "Polly" and "Baby Polly" are available through Paige's company, Pintucks & Pettiecoats, but the scalloped bias tubing embellishment is a great way to trim numerous sewing projects. Read below to learn how to recreate these spaghetti bias scallops on your next project:

NOTE: If you do not want to make your own spaghetti bias tubes, you can purchase it by the yard in a variety of gingham checks, prints and solid colors.

1. To make super skinny bias from your own fabric, cut 1-inch widths of bias strips. Do not cut strips any longer than 15 inches, as it makes it too difficult to turn. Fold each strip in half with right sides together. Pull to stretch the bias as you iron, making it even skinnier.

2. Sew a precise 1/8 inch from folded edge of fabric while gently stretching as you sew. TIP: Use a machine foot with a guide blade and set your needle position 1/8 inch from blade. Run fold edge along the blade as you stitch.



3. Trim seam allowance to a scant 1/8 inch (Photo 1).

4. Cut one end of bias tubing at an angle. Use Dritz Tube Turner to turn tubes inside out. When turning fabric tube, only pull 1- to 2 inches off end of turner at a time or it will bunch up. Press tube with seam on one edge (Photo 2).

5. Using water-soluble marker on right side of garment fabric, mark perpendicular lines 1/2 inch or 3/4 inch apart for spacing scallops. (I used 1/2-inch perpendicular lines for scallops around neckline, armscyes and shoulders, and 3/4-inch perpendicular lines for scallops around hemline.)


6. Use Dritz Wash-Away Wonder Tape to temporarily hold scallops in place. This is a 1/4-inch-wide double-sided, water-soluble tape. Apply tape directly along raw edge of fabric within seam allowance. Position bias tubing so that tube seam runs along outside curve. It will appear flatter and smoother this way. Each scallop will be an individual piece of tubing, but use a longer length of tubing than is required to shape and apply scallop onto tape. Place pieces with curves facing garment and cut edges facing raw edge of fabric shaping them within drawn sections (Photo 3).

7. After each scallop is applied to tape, cut off tubing even with raw edge of fabric (a rotary cutter and ruler makes this easy).

8. Cut bias strips 7/8 inch wide for the bias facings. Press under 1/4 inch to wrong side of one long edge of facing strips.



9. Place flat edge of facing over scallop tubes long edge of garment with right sides and raw edges even and finger press to tape to hold in place. Stitch a 1/4-inch seam allowance (Photo 4).


10. Press seam toward garment with facing and scallops extended from seam (Photo 5).


11. Pin folded edge of facing to wrong side of garment and hand blind-stitch to secure (Photo 6).


12. Turn to right side and press (Photo 7).

Be sure to check out Heirloom Sewing Favorites for Summer for more inspiration. This special issue is filled with more than 40 summer sewing ideas and five full-sized patterns!

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful,
Cyndi and Amelia

Fun With Template-Smocked Polka Dots

"Seeing Spots" by Annette Drysdale (Issue #96)

Last week, we shared a bright and cheerful butterfly smocking plate with you; this week, we'd like to talk about a different method of smocking - template smocking. This type of smocking is an alternative to following a picture smocking graph to create a design. The shape to be smocked is traced directly onto the fabric. Follow this how-to from our friends at Australian Smocking & Embroidery to create cute template-smocked spots:

What You'll Need: 
• Circle template
• Fine tip water-soluble fabric marker
• No. 8 crewel needle
• DMC stranded cotton thread in colors of your choice

How to Smock:
NOTE: Before you begin, backsmock all rows (bodice pictured used 24 full-space rows) in mirror image cable stitch using two strands of thread. (Backsmocking helps stabilize the pleats in areas where there are no surface stitches; it involves smocking rows on the wrong side of your pleated fabric with thread the same color as your fabric.) The spots are worked using stacked cables to fill in the shape with four strands of thread. Each spot is outlined by a row of chain stitch using three strands of the same color.



1. Using a circle template and a water-soluble fabric marker, mark a circle onto the pleats.

2. Beginning at the center of the circle, work a row of cable stitches across the shape.



3. Continue filling the lower half of the circle using stacked cables.

4. Fill the second half of the circle in the same manner.



5. Bring the thread to the surface at the edge of the cables.

6. Work a row of chain stitch around the cable circle, stopping one chain from the end.



7. To finish the circle, slide the needle under the top of the first stitch as shown.

8. Completed template smocking spot.

After your first dot is finished, continue to the next! Stitch your dots in the same color, or mix it up for a bright ensemble. The garment pictured above features a white bodice covered in red, green, blue, pink, purple and yellow template-smocked dots.

Be sure to check out Australian Smocking & Embroidery magazine for more sewing fun. Each issue is filled with patterns, project ideas, techniques and endless inspiration!

Sew On, Sew Well, Sew Beautiful,
Cyndi & Amelia