Sandra's Solutions

Sandra Betzina
Sandra's Solutions

Sandra Betzina designs patterns for Vogue under the Today's Fit label, writes a fitting column for Vogue Pattern magazine, is the author of More Fabric Savvy, Fast Fit, Power Sewing Step By Step and Sandra Betzina Sews for the Home, has produced nine instructional DVDs and conducts week-long sewing retreats in San Francisco. For more information, visit or call (415) 876-2434.


Shopping List

Make a master list to save time when you visit the fabric store for supplies for a jacket project. Include:

• Fashion fabric
• Matching thread
• Interfacing
• Lining
• Scrap of cotton fabric for a back stay
• Buttons
• Backing buttons
• Silk organza for facing openings
• Press cloth
• 2”-wide mohair bias strips for the sleeve cap
• 70/10 HM or HJ needle and cotton thread for sewing the lining
• Tissue or medical examining paper to avoid slippage during cutting
• Assorted extra machine needles
• Heavy thread for hand picking or gathering
• 1⁄2”-wide fusible tape
• Shoulder pads
• Basting thread
• Fabric marking tools
• Tape for pattern alterations
• Wiggam for stabilizing the hem and hiding the hand stitches
• Brass weighted chain for the hem
• Dental floss or beading thread for sewing on the weighted chain
• Enough time to enjoy your project!


Mark the Dot

Is marking the dots on a pattern important? Not if you don’t mind ripping out the seam numerous times. Dots are very important because they often indicate pivot points on a seam.When a dot marks the inside corner of a seam, staystitch for about ½” on either side of the dot. Clip into the dot on the diagonal.The clipping allows the seam to spread and accommodate the outer corner shape on the corresponding pattern piece.Stitch the joining seam with the clipped corner on top. Leave the needle down when you reach the dot. Pivot the fabric to match the outside corner on the corresponding pattern piece.

Shoe In

Most seamstresses love shoes almost as much as they love sewing. If you have feet in a hard-to-find size, check out this resource:MARMI, NewYork City Flagship Store, 519 Madison Ave., or on-line at and

Seams Correct

Burnout velvet is a cross between velvet and chiffon.When sewing a burnout velvet garment, you may be tempted to use French seams because the fabric is semi-transparent. However, this seam-finish choice is not suitable because the French seam will become too bulky.The most subtle choice is simply a 4-thread serged seam.

Chain Gang

Brass weighted chain helps a coat or a jacket hang close to the body. It also helps garment wrinkles fade out after wearing. Stitch the chain by hand to the seam that attaches the lining and hem allowance. Use dental floss or beading thread for the hand sewing; the chain metal will cut regular thread.

Pattern Play

Is it possible to mix patterns like the pros? Absolutely, says designer Thakoon Panichguili.“If the jacket has a bold, largescale print, keep the print in the pants low-key.” When mixing prints, stay within the same color family or repeat similar shapes in different scales.

Against the Grain

Some fabrics are printed off grain, which can be a disaster if you attempt to cut them with the print running horizontally or vertically.To check if the fabric has been printed off grain, tear a 1” strip across the grain or pull a thread. If the print goes off the fabric near one end, you have a problem.The best solution is to cut the flawed fabric on the bias in order to obscure the mistake.

Shrink Factor

While polyester or rayon and lycra knits shrink just a bit, bamboo knits shrink 20%, so make sure to buy enough fabric for that cute knit top. Preshrink the fabric before you cut it out. 


Post a comment
To comment on this article you must be logged in. Not a member?


Alterating a Prom Gown
I need to alter a prom gown by adding fabric to the waist and and right under the bustline. How can I do this without taking it apart?
Sandras Solutions
Loved all the hints you gave, but the question about mixing pattern, makes me wonder about mixing pattern pieces. Would like to see an article about that. Thanks
© F+W All rights reserved.