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Monthly Archives: December 2012

  • Portlandia!

    The Entire Fit Class with Marta The Entire Fit Class with Marta

    Marta Alto Fits the Lovely Zana Marta Alto Fits the Lovely Zana

    I just returned from a transformational trip to Portland, Oregon. I was on a Palmer/Pletsch “Sewing Vacation” at Portland’s Fabric Depot.

    My Sewing Vacation guides were Marta Alto and Pati Palmer, the brains behind the Palmer/Pletsch method of sewing. Marta and Pati have been teaching and perfecting their methods of teaching fit since the early 1970’s. They are amazing artists and scientists who know how to spread their wisdom with flourish.

    If you love to sew clothes but have not heard of Marta and Pati, check out their books: “Fit for Real People” is the best one to start with.

    Meeting Marta and Pati on the first day was like meeting celebrities. Half of my classmates screamed at the site of our lovely teachers.

    My first 4-day class with Marta and Pati was called, simply, “Fit.”  We learned to fit bodices with darts and bodices with princess seams. Each of us first made a sloper, which is a tightly fitted darted bodice. Marta and Pati took our high bust measurements to determine what size we would each start with. We then learned which alterations we would need to make the sloper fit us. Every one of us needed a Full Bust Adjustment – no surprise that women who suffer from gaposis want to learn to make shirts that fit. Almost all of us needed a High Round Back adjustment from years of working at computers and sewing machines! Other alterations included low round back, broad back, and waist length.

    After we perfected our slopers in pattern tissue, we selected garment patterns and got help fitting them to our bodies. Marta and Pati helped me fit Simplicity 2724, which Sunni, the blogger behind,  A Fashionable Stitch calls, “The Naughty Secretary Dress.” I altered the pattern, which needed fewer and smaller changes than my sloper (phew!). After I altered the paper pattern, I sauntered out to the Fabric Depot fabric nirvana area and selected a sweet floral cotton lawn for the bodice, and rich navy blue velveteen for the skirt. I cut out the altered pieces and pinned them together in fabric. Pati moved the pins around, gave me some tips, and the dress was ready to mark up for sewing! I will sew it up soon and post some pics.


  • We are all princesses

    Marta Alto Alters a Princess Seam Marta Alto Alters a Princess Seam

    The Pants Class hard at work. Pati Palmer Photo The Pants Class hard at work. Pati Palmer Photo

    The front of my first Oprah Shirt The front of my first Oprah Shirt

    The back of my first Oprah Shirt The back of my first Oprah Shirt

    A close-up of the fabric A close-up of the fabric

    See how well it fits in the critical area? See how well it fits in the critical area?

    My sewing vacation continued…. Next, we learned about princess seams. Princess seams can either extend from the shoulder in a vertical line to the bottom of the garment, or they can extend from the armhole in more of an arch down to the bottom of the garment. Princess seams are great for women with full busts. The shoulder princess is best if your bust is full. I love that Pati and Marta use terms like “full bust” instead of “big boobs,” and “flat derriere,” instead of “no butt.” (Guess what my alterations are!) They do a beautiful job with language to remove any judgment from their statements. In our culture, where no one feels that their body is perfect enough, being with Marta and Pati felt like being in an oasis of self-acceptance.

    We all fitted McCall’s 6076 to our bodies. Pati and Marta call it the Oprah Shirt, because McCall’s sold a boatload of copies of the pattern after Oprah discussed the beauty of a princess seam on her show. I selected the shoulder princess and had to make only one-inch worth of bust adjustment to make it fit! I agree with Oprah about the princess seam!

    Pati and Marta imparted loads of information, and we used it however we wanted. We each had our own gridded cardboard table on which to alter our paper patterns. There were also cutting mats available for cutting fabric. Plus, the class was at FABRIC DEPOT, which is a giant fabric store in southeast Portland. The Depot has massive amounts of wools, cottons, rayons, silks, lining fabrics, high-quality notions, books and patterns. Plus we got a THIRTY PERCENT discount on everything we bought while we were taking the class. Plus, the lovely, and perfectly put-together, Pati Palmer was willing to shop with me and put together outfits. As someone who only has a Jo-Ann’s in her town, I could barely breathe. Over the next few months, you will see all the lovely fabrics I bought sewn into well-fitting clothing for 

     I bought a few pieces of fabric to sew for my daughters. I’m not completely selfish.


  • Why Create "A Perfect Commotion" ?

    Easter the cat loves underlining using Gertie’s method Easter the cat loves underlining using Gertie’s method

    My first Sencha top from Collette My first Sencha top from Collette

    I often feel the clothes we wear convey too much about us: where we live, how much we earn, how artistic we are, even how we feel about ourselves. And, simply donning pieces of fabric sewn into garments can be traumatic. Clothing can make us feel too big here, or too small there, when, really, we are just ourselves. For these reasons, I love Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Swan.”  Clothing can be seen as bondage, but also as wings that carry us where we want to go. Beauty is a perfect commotion of silk and linen that helps us change our lives.

    One year ago, I was at the quilting fabric shop selecting fabric for a baby blanket for my daughter’s teacher. I was drawn to an intriguing book with a turquoise and peach cover: The Colette Sewing Handbook, by Sarai Mitnick. I leafed through the book. It was full of information on how to alter paper patterns to fit anyone. The book also contained patterns to make captivating clothes with names like Licorice and Biegnet.

    I loved sewing my own clothes in high school and college. Why had I stopped? I stopped because the process of buying nice fabric, sewing up a garment, and then trying it on led to ill-fitting, funny-looking, clearly handmade clothes. The Colette Sewing Handbook had instructions for assuring the garment fit properly before cutting the fashion fabric. I was instantly obsessed with learning how to manipulate patterns and fabric to fit.

    One year, many books, and many garments later, I have learned much about myself, fit, women, and fashion. I have experienced the satisfaction of creating my own clothes. I have only just begun.

    Join me on this journey to create a wardrobe that fits body and soul.



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