with special guest Pamela Leggett of Pamela's Patterns
Please welcome Pamela Leggett of Pamela's Patterns!
I was very lucky to be introduced to the legend that is Pamela Leggett recently and I was even more delighted when she agreed to be a guest on the Sew Mindful podcast to share some of her many years of sewing wisdom.
And she even brought a special offer with her just for you valid until the 1st November so read on to find out more about that too.
Pamela Leggett is the founder of Pamela's Patterns, and a renowned sewing teacher, who has shared her sewing wisdom through a wide variety of channels. If you are a Threads Magazine or Craftsy subscriber, you may have seen Pamela's workshops and teachings featured in their articles and platforms.
Pamela has been teaching sewing since the 1980s. She specialises in pattern fitting, sewing with knits and using overlockers or sergers. And her passion is to help people create garments that fit and flatter them.
Because there's so many topics that Pamela has experience in, I've split our chat into two parts. So this is part one, and that means you get a cheeky little bonus next week with part two.
Who is Pamela Leggett?
"My name is Pamela Leggett and I'm located in Vernon, Connecticut, and I am a pattern designer and an instructor, and now kind of an inventor of sewing tools as well.
My main focus started with this part of my career as a pattern designer. And it's not something that I had ever done before. And I just did it because I wanted a better pattern right out of the package for my customers."
Pamela has taught sewing all over the USA including her own studio. She now also delivers some classes virtually for those of us outside the USA that want to learn with her.
When I was first introduced to Pamela it was from a recommendation about her patterns after doing the blog and podcast episode on t-shirts.
My sewing friend, Mary, emailed me to say her favourite t-shirt pattern was #104 The Perfect T-shirt pattern by Pamela's Patterns. She said "These are really great patterns, and have other expansions with neck and sleeve variations. These are super great for anyone that doesn’t quite have the perfect figure, but wants to look smoother in their outfits!"
I loved that comment and obviously wanted to find out more so when I got the chance to talk to Pamela I asked her about how and why she started creating her own patterns.
"When I started fitting people with these commercial patterns (McCall's, Butterick, Simplicity & Vogue), which were all kind of based off of the same block, but all had different types of ease and like wearing ease and design is incorporated in them, I just felt like the same seven adjustments came up every time.
I really felt like if I could make a pattern that when it went together it was more three dimensional, that I would have a better chance of having patterns fit people better. And so basically that's what I started doing based on my Palmer Pletsch training and fitting people in tissue."
So she began to create patterns for her customers which then evolved into her business. Some of the pattern adjustments that she builds into her patterns include:
small adjustment for high round back
slight forward shoulder adjustment
more room in the waist and hip
separate additional front pattern that includes full bust adjustment
hand grading for larger sizes
"As patterns get larger in size, in commercial grading, the arm holes are going to get longer and the shoulders are going to get wider.
Now, I don't do commercial grading, so I do it all by hand. I'm kind of a dinosaur when it comes to all of this. I do everything by hand. I don't do it on a computer or with a grading system or anything.
I kind of picture in my head what my customers look like. And what I've noticed is that, you know, it doesn't matter if you're a size... six or a size 16, your shoulders are still about the same width."
While she was teaching she found that tools that she wanted to use with her students were either no longer available or they didn't exist in the format that she needed so she began to create her own range of tools to help her and her students in their dressmaking.
This ruler is designed from the armhole curve for her knit pattern slopers. "So when I'm designing my knit patterns, the armhole curve for a knit is different than an armhole curve for a woven.
Where the ruler for a woven armhole almost looks like the number six, the knit one is much less curvy so trying to use that really curvy ruler for the armholes of a knit you couldn't really do it all in one go."
As well as using it in her own designs, she also wanted a tool for her customers because one of the key fitting measurements or fitting challenges is armhole depth.
"I wanted also to be able to show people how to shorten the armhole and then true it back up so that it looked like it originally did. And this armhole curve ruler really did the trick by being able to true it up as well."
The next tool that Pamela wanted to create was a tool that could help people measure the stretch of a knit fabric and also allow them to check the recovery.
"I developed this stretch ruler, which you hold the fabric in between two arrows and then you pull on it, , to see how much stretch it has. So it will have the percentage increments so that you can see exactly how much it stretches."
As well as measuring the percentage stretch, when you let go of the fabric you can check if it goes back to the original measurement. If it doesn't then you might choose not to use that fabric as your garment's likely to stretch out of shape when you wear it.
There's a lot of quilting rulers that are one inch by six inches, but with Pamela's version, if you are working on a light colour fabric, you use one side of the ruler with dark markings.
When you're working on a dark colour fabric, you flip the ruler over, to use the other side with light colour markings. So you can clearly see the markings no matter if you're doing light or dark!
"All of my rulers are actually manufactured by a small woman owned company called Stitch Buzz, and you will see a lot of her really cool rulers on her website. She makes my rulers for me, and I love working with her."
Wearable Pin Magnet
If, like me, you end up with lots of pins in your mouth or stuck in your clothes as you try things on, adjust them and struggle to hold everything at once then Pamela might have the ideal solution for you.
She developed her wearable pin magnet in conjunction with another female run business called SewTites.
This magnet attaches magnetically to your clothes and has strong enough magnets to hold plenty of pins.
Pamela's preferred method of teaching fit is based on the Palmer Pletsch method of fitting the pattern to your body before you start cutting anything out.
This method, also known as tissue-fitting, can be a bit challenging if the paper the pattern is printed on is not very robust or too thick to work with.
This non-woven "fabric" is see-thru, has a wonderful lightweight drape and is easy to draw on. It's ideal for tracing digital and paper patterns, tissue fitting, and design work.
"I found a couple of woodworkers that could make those products and to my specifications, because for me, when I'm shipping things out, they have to be easily shippable without breaking and so forth."
I have a pressing clapper and seam stick in my toolkit and use them regularly as they are great for getting that professional-looking finish.
Pamela's tips on testing for fit
Pamela trained in the Palmer Pletsch Method of fitting because she found that was teachable as a step by step process.
The idea is to cut out the paper pattern for the size you need, pin it together (as if you were sewing it) and then fit that to your body. Patterns are usually cut on the fold or as a pair so this means fitting one half of the body at a time.
The aim is to make adjustments to the pattern before you cut anything out and to reduce the need to create a toile or muslin.
The process starts with prepping the pattern around the armholes and neckline so you can fit it to your body.
Position the armhole
Pamela explains that fitting starts with the position of the armhole. "I know right now the styles are going you know, more like the 80s, 90s, where we're having some more dropped shoulders and deeper armholes and so forth. And, certainly there's a place in fashion for that.
But a classic style would be a more fitted armhole with a shoulder that fits at the end of your shoulder and an armhole that is maybe just an inch or two below where your body is. And that gives you a lot of range of motion. In other words, when the armhole is cut like that, you can move your arm all the way around and feel comfortable."
This might seem a little counter-intuitive as you might think a looser armhole would be an easier fit but that's not actually the case.
Check the back neckline
Next check to see if the back neckline comes to where it should. If it's too low that could mean you need a high round back adjustment to create more length at the centre back.
Check the back width
Some of us have a broader back, maybe from more muscle in this area. Check if the centre back line comes to your centre back. If it is not wide enough you may need a broad back adjustment. If it's too wide you may need a narrow back adjustment.
Check the bust fit
Does the centre front of the pattern come to your centre front line? Is there enough fabric to go comfortably over the bust and if there are darts are they pointing to the right place? If not you might require a bust adjustment to suit your cup size and position.
Test as you go
"You don't do everything at once with this tissue fitting method. You actually do a few items, say maybe the high round or low round back, the broad back, the arm hole adjustment, and possibly looking to see if the bust is big enough to go over your particular cup size.
Then you would take that tissue off your body, you would unpin it all, and do all of those adjustments."
Details of how to do the adjustments can be found in the book The Complete Guide to Fitting by Palmer & Pletsch*.
"Then you would pin it back together. And then the next things you would check is, say the width of the garment, is it big enough to go around your hips or your tummy?"
How is the shoulder sitting? Is the shoulder sitting so that the end of the shoulder seam is to the center of your arm or is it going backwards, which is very typical, which indicates a forward shoulder adjustment."
One of the last things to check is how does it hang at the back. Is it hanging straight down or moving to one side or the other? This could indicate a sway back adjustment is needed or a flat bottom adjustment.
As you go through the process and try the pattern on each time, the fit begins to feel better until you are ready to cut it in your fabric.
Pamela explains, "With my pattern since I've done a lot of those adjustments already, in the instructions, it will give you some simple adjustments to look at before you cut out your fabric, and then all along the way it will tell you, okay, sew your shoulder seams, pin in darts if there are any, and check that. And if it's not okay, this is what you do."
I am definitely an advocate of sewing as little as possible to allow you try the garment on and test the fit as you go. It is much slower to unpick than it is to sew, so test each section then you can make small adjustments as you go along which definitely saves you time when working with new patterns.
Pamela's Special Offer!
All of Pamela's patterns are available in digital format and all bar three are available as paper patterns as well.
Just for you, Pamela is giving 25% off her patterns valid until 1st November 2023. Just use the code below at checkout to get your discount:
Offer code: SEWMINDFUL25
Don't miss out!
If you'd like to listen to my full chat on this topic with the lovely Pamela, click the button below or look for Sew Mindful on your favourite podcast app:
In this episode you'll hear:
00:02:30: Introducing Pamela Leggett
00:04:34: Pamela's Tools
00:11:11: Pamela's Patterns
00:14:40: Common fitting issues
00:18:47: Designing for real figures
00:22:14: Tips for testing fit
00:29:10: Testing as you go
If you do try the Pamela's Patterns or tools then please do get in touch and let me know what you think.
And remember to come back next week for the 2nd part of our chat with more tips on fitting solo, a secret resource for you to get your hands on and Pamela's least favourite part of sewing. And if you would like more help with any of the aspects mentioned in this article or this podcast episode then I would love to hear from you so do please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for taking the time to read this article and I hope you find some useful tips that you can apply.
Connect with Pamela Leggett
If you'd like to connect with Pamela, she would love to hear your feedback or thoughts too. Website: https://pamelaspatterns.com/ Instagram - @pamelaspatterns: https://www.instagram.com/pamelaspatterns
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Thank you so much for listening and for all your support. x