Sewing Slang 101

Sometimes I look around on blogs to see if other people have the same sorts of problems I do- unsatisfactory projects, projects that I have been “working on” for a while, when really they have just been sitting there while I pretend that they are going to finish themselves.  It’s nice to see that yes, these types of things do happen to other people, and no, I am not a terrible freak.  Sometimes people are using acronyms or terms that I have to figure out.  So, here are a few sewing terms that I’ve come across:

UFO-Unfinished Object- Something you start, but never finish, and mostly forget about.  I don’t think I’ve been sewing long enough to have any of these.  Maybe it’s a project that is a bit too advanced for you, maybe you just got distracted by life, or maybe its a project that you start, and then decide that you don’t like the look of.

Who knows, maybe you’ll actually finish these someday?

gm4style at could tell you a thing or two about realizing something isn’t going to look nice after you have already started it, or wondering why you ever started it at all.

PHD– Project Half Done- You haven’t forgotten about these, but you might not be progressing as quickly as you’d like.  Once the energy and enthusiasm of starting a new project wane, it might be difficult to actually finish the project.

I have a couple of these- the pillow i need to hand stitch closed (ug, hand stitching = boring), the other pillow that traumatized me because of zipper problems-but I will get to them when I have time, or when I am ready to deal with my trauma.

The Domestic Diva started trying to finish her UFO’s and PHD’s over the summer- I wonder how far she’s gotten?

wadder– something you finish, but hate.  Ha ha, I already have one of these,  the Easy Breezy Wrap Skirt from  Sew Everything Workshop.   I’m going to blog about this later, but let’s just say that this skirt has already made its way to the landfill, and good riddance.

A pin on the table is a pin on the floor– Wrong told me this saying.  Put your pins in the pincushion, not on the table!  You know they are going to fall on the floor, and sooner or later, someone is going to find them by painfully stepping on them.

Smiling Dog
I love you. Please don't leave sharp things on the floor for me to step on.





Cheater’s Guide: Shortening Shoulder Straps on a Dress

shorten shoulder straps on a dress
My first attempt at shortening shoulder straps for a petite fit

Since I am petite, I often find that many clothes don’t quite hang right.  Of course I find that regular-length pants are much too long and always need to be hemmed.  Thankfully I have started to become comfortable with the idea of hemming my own jeans.

On some tops and shirts, the shoulder straps are simply too long.  This means that the cut on the front of a shirt is sometimes much too low. Its not just a matter of too much cleavage- its really a matter of avoiding an unflattering fit. I ran into this problem when trying on a dress for an upcoming wedding.  The dress (Donna Ricco ‘flourishing floral’) fit well everywhere except my chest.  Because the straps were too long, the top portion of the dress just looked weird.

shorten shoulder straps for a petite fit
Shortened Shoulder Straps

I decided to alter the dress myself. But to be honest, the thought of cutting the shoulder straps is too much of a commitment for my novice sewing skills.  I was afraid of ruining the dress just through my inexperience.  I decided to alter the shoulder straps in a way that would at least be salvageable if I made a terrible mistake.

So instead of cutting and resewing the shoulder straps, I simply pinned the center of the straps right side together and baste stitched it in about half an inch, resulting in shoulder straps that were shortened by about an inch or so each.

shorten shoulder straps for a petite fit
Shoulder Straps Altered for a Petite Fit

There is an extra flap of strap fabric inside of the dress on my shoulders, but it lies securely flat when I am wearing the dress. I used baste stitches so I could check to make sure that the altered length of the straps would be okay. Once I tried the dress on to make sure that it fit better, I stitched the length permanently.  Since the dress is a satin polyester, I used a thinner needle than for my regular cotton sewing projects.

I bet that any experienced sewer would be horrified at my shoddy workmanship.  But the dress fits better and I feel good knowing that once I am a more experienced sewer I can fix it permanently, and actually alter it the right way.

Of course, eventually I will need a better way to alter shoulder straps. This complete guide to altering ready to wear clothes by Craftsy shows how to get professional quality results when you want to shorten a shoulder strap, even if the dress or top has a lining.

Online Sewing Class

Make a Muslin

My latest project (Simplicty 2040 Pajama Pants) is going horribly.  I am making the small size, but they are HUGE! Its too late to go back now, so I will just finish them I guess.

I have decided to start making muslins to practice on before using expensive fabric.  Sewaholic posted a muslin guide that I am going to use whenever it seems like I might mess up a sewing project horribly… so far that is every project I’ve ever tried.

I will be on the hunt for some super cheap fabric to start making muslins with…

How to Sew an Orignal Hem on Jeans

I’ve been trying to keep this a secret, but I think its time to confess: I am short. Being of the petite persuasion, I feel like I have spent a fortune getting my jeans hemmed. And the cost of getting my jeans hemmed has skyrocketed! Last time I got my jeans hemmed at the dry cleaners it was a ridiculous fourteen dollars! And that wasn’t even for keeping the original hem. Although that particular dry cleaner clearly charges an outrageous amount and is not interested in getting any repeat business, the average cost of original hem for me at more reasonable dry cleaners is a rather hefty ten dollars.

How to Hem Jeans with the Original Hem
Sew the extra length inside of the pant leg, but keep the entire factory hem unsewn

I am happy to report that I successfully hemmed my own jeans with the original hem. And it was actually pretty easy. I found a couple of blogs with tutorials to get me started: Dacia Ray and Denim Blog.

I didn’t actually follow the instructions to the letter.  The length of my jeans doesn’t need to be measured… as long as they fit its fine!

Sew Original Hem on Jeans by Sewing Next to the Factory Hem
Sew Original Hem on Jeans by Sewing Next to the Factory Hem
I simply put on the jeans (after washing and drying a few times to make sure that they won’t shrink any more), and then I folded the bottom up to the length that I wanted.

I sewed on the inside close to the factory hem but not on it at all.  This left the factory hem showing after the pants had been turned right side out, and a flap of extra fabric on the inside.

Confession:  I left the fabric flap on the jeans for a couple of wears so I would be sure I was happy with the length.

Once I was sure the length was right, I cut off most of the extra fabric.  I left enough on to keep it easy to work with on the sewing machine. This left two raw edges that I had to finish.  Using an overcast stitch, I finished the edges.  No the overcast stitch didn’t come out looking perfect… but it will hold!   And if it doesn’t I can simply try again, since I no longer have to be afraid of hemming my own pants.

Please note:  Unless you are my mother or my husband, I will not hem your pants for you.

Cut off extra fabric to hem pants and keep the original hem
Trim the extra fabric in a very straight line if you are sure of the length
Overcast Stitch Foot
Finish the fabric with an overcast stitch or similar


I was at the fabric store yesterday (I got some purple moleskin for the Cuddle Up Cardigan and some pink satin for Tender is the Nightie from “Sew Everything Workshop” by Diana Rupp). Both fabrics were on sale, yay!) when a woman asked me if I sew. She is a longtime sewer who had just discovered the profusion of make-your-own dress form guides online. She was very excited about this discovery, since making your own dress form based on your own body lets you do the real customization you want- customizing based on your body, so you look your best! Basically, you put on some old clothes, have a friend wrap you in duct tape, cut off the duct tape, then stuff and mount the resulting dress form. Brilliant!

She also said that she feels like more and more people are starting to sew. This gave me a chance to say that Wrong and I decided to start sewing as a way to rebel against the decline in clothing quality.

By next year, my sewing skills will have improved enough for me to make a costume for the dog. I'm thinking some sort of European baron.
Yes! She said that she thinks clothing quality has declined, too, and also said that women’s clothing used to be mostly permapres- yes, like the permanent press setting on your washing machine- but nowadays permapress is used mostly on men’s clothing. Permapress helps prevent wrinkling. She feels that since clothing styles move through cycles, permapress is due for a comeback.

It’s nice to feel vindicated by learning that other people are disappointed by the poor quality clothes manufacturers are putting out now, and to feel like Wrong and I are part of a larger movement of people who are just learning to sew.

As a side note, since Halloween is coming up fast and people are very busy making costumes, the store was crazy- at least a third of the thread was out of stock, the fabric cutting area had dozens of bolts waiting to be put away, and it was pretty crowded. I couldn’t even come close to finding matching purple thread for my cardigan, and buying black lace for my night-gown was impossible. Oh well, I am going to do black contrast stitching on the cardigan, and try for some black lace at a different store.