Ask Linda

Linda Lee
Ask Linda

Linda Lee is the owner of The Sewing Workshop Pattern Collection, a group of patterns for distinctive garments using innovative sewing techniques. As a licensed interior designer and member of ASID since 1974, Linda has written 13 books.Visit for more information.


Waist or Hip?

When selecting a skirt or pants pattern, do you go by the waist or hip measurement?What about elasticwaist skirts and pants?

When selecting the correct size for skirts or pants, refer to the hip measurement.This is the rule for any design, from fitted-with-darts to elastic-waist styles. Alter the pattern to fit your body by enlarging or reducing the waistline.Most patterns are multi-sized, so it’s easy to move from size to size as needed.

When connecting multiple sizes, it’s helpful to have good drawing tools such as a metal or plastic hip curve, a Fashion Rule or French curves in order to draw smooth lines. Research “fashion rulers” on-line to find several sources for good rulers to use in pattern work.


Curves Ahead

Can you tell me how to alter patterns for a rounded upper back?

This is a common problem that’s difficult to discern unless you notice that your garments always hike up at the back hem or that there are strain lines from the back neck to the back of your arms.As we age and also work at computers and sewing machines, our spines curve more than average, so an adjustment should be made to lengthen the upper center-back area of the pattern.

Measure from the center-back neckline to the fullest part of your back curve. At that point on the pattern, draw a horizontal line from the center-back fold or seam to the armseye.

Spread the pattern apart the distance needed for your body.The more curved you are, the greater the distance will be.The average spread is from ½”- 1” wide. Place some paper behind the slit and tape the slashed pattern edges to the paper (1).

Straighten the center-back fold or seam.

If the horizontal spread is more extreme than average, the neck opening will increase significantly.Make a vertical slash from the first slashed area to the shoulder seam center.

Redraw the neckline to its original shape and size.Add a dart at the shoulder-line slash to return shoulder seam length to its original measurement (2).


Slash & Stitch

I’m working with a vintage pattern that requires a slashed neckline opening.The pattern also has a rounded collar.What should I use to bind the opening edges and attach the collar?

When there’s a collar and keyhole opening in a garment design, create facings for both the collar and the slit opening.

Make a pattern for a neck facing that follows the neckline shape and is no wider than the collar so that it won’t show beyond the collar edge when finished. End the facing pattern about ½” from the center front.

Make a pattern for the slashed opening that is 3”-wide and 1½” longer than the opening with a curved lower edge.

Interface the facings as needed. Stitch the front-neck facing pieces to the back-neck facing. Finish the neckfacing and keyhole-facing outer edges.

Pin the finished collar to the garment neck edge with the collar wrong side to the garment. Pin the keyhole facing to the garment center front over the collar with right sides facing. Pin the neck facing to the neckline with right sides facing, sandwiching the collar between the facing and the garment.

Mark the slash line on the keyhole facing wrong side. Pin frequently along the slash line to hold it in place.

Beginning at the center back, stitch around the neckline. Pivot ¼” from the center front.

Stitch parallel to the marked slash line. About 1” from the lower point, taper the stitching. Pivot the stitching at the point, sew one stitch across the bottom, and sew back along the slash line. Pivot at the neck edge and continue to sew the neck facing to the garment (3). Shorten the stitch length near the slash point.

Slash through both layers of fabric from the neck opening to the slash-line lower point.

Understitch the neckline and opening as far as possible (4). Trim the neck seam. Turn the keyhole and neckline facings to the garment wrong side. Edgestitch, topstitch or simply press the edges for a clean finish.


Valance Balance

How long should a valance be in proportion to a window?

Every window situation and valance shape is different, but as a general rule, most valances are installed approximately 8” above the window opening, depending on what treatment is underneath.The finished length for straight valances is usually 12” to 18”. The more exotic valance shapes can vary from this length depending on the design.

If you’re in doubt about what length to use, make a simple paper valance and tape it to your wall or window. Stand back and study the results. Move it around until you’re satisfied.Valances that are too long interfere with light and the view and visually shorten windows. If you like the recent trend of a deeper valance, consider mounting it further above the window opening.



© F+W All rights reserved.