Articles Q&A

Alteration classes?

added April 2006

Good Evening Leanna,

Saw a link from an embroidery board I'm a member of and they had a subject on ordering body forms. Someone refered us to a link on how they could be made inexpensively with duct tape and came across your site.

I'm interested in learning more about alterations and offering them with my embroidery business. I would also like to do basic sewing services of hemming, repairing (if possible), and small sewing tasks until I can get more educated on how to do sewing maybe professionally. I have looked at your site and followed your links and read pretty much all of them in a skimming matter.

Do you know if local colleges offer "sewing" courses (not quite sure what the correct terminology is for learning how to sew) or should I just dive in and buy some patterns, materials and supplies and just GO FOR IT!

Any advice would be helpful. I'm sure you get this question quite frequently, but I would like to maybe go into the bridal industry and doing alterations or maybe learning how to make simple dresses. I know the pattern makers offer such patterns, because I have seen them in their pattern books but haven't looked to see how difficult it could be to make a dress. I'm really interested in making quinceanera dresses, similar to the wedding dresses and sometimes can get more elaborate than wedding dresses. Anyway, I imagine you know whay type of dresses they are.

Sorry rambling on. I just wanted to see if you could direct me into getting more educated on learning basic sewing and alterations.

thanks and hope to hear back from you, Ruth

Most technical schools have sewing courses, but usually not how to alter store bought clothing. There are a few books but they are not very useful. That's why I'm trying to develop the teaching DVD's. It's a long hard task doing it all by myself so it's going to take some time to get many done. So far I've just got the one about Bustling. IF the summer is slow I should have a few more by the Fall.
Return to Topics

Bridal Alteration Books?

added March 2006

You are amazing. I have been altering wedding gowns and bridesmaids dresses for several years and have never been able to find books or information on line that is as complete and easy to understand as your web site. I've had no formal training with wedding attire but have just "jumped in". Your web site was extremely helpful to me this evening as I pondered over a bustle. I see you are in Cincinnati - just down the road from me in Dayton. Do you have any suggestions on books, videos or other training/classes that are available and would aid me in altering wedding gowns? At this point I work a full time job and do alterations of all kinds in the evenings and weekends. November will bring retirement for me and sewing will become my part time job. I'll be ordering your Bustle DVD in the near future. I can't tell you how much I appreciate you sharing your knowledge. Your entire web site is terrific and informative.


I have not found any good books on bridal alterations. There are a few out there on regular clothing alteration but they aren't any good to me. There is one nice book on Bridal Couture by Susan Khalje, but it's focus is on construction. That's why I'm trying to do the series of dvd's. It's a long hard process because I'm learning about videotaping and editing on the fly. I'm doing everything myself, other than the cover art which a friend of mine is doing in trade for me sewing for her.

It's always great to hear my site is helpful to someone.
Return to Topics

What's a "sloper"?

added November 2001

I have been sewing for 14 years and I haven't taken any classes other than in high school so I'm not up to date on the terminology or the latest gadgets. I've been visiting tons of sewing sites and I see the word "sloper"a lot. Can you please tell me what a sloper is and how it is used? Thanks so much for your help. Angela

Odd term isn't it? A sloper is a basic pattern that fits your measurements. The basic sloper is a simple dress pattern with a waistline seam where the bodice has one horizontal and one vertical darts. The sleeves are simple set in type. The straight skirt is usually darted twice in front and at least once in back. You can also have a pant sloper and a one piece dress or pant/jumper type.

A sloper is used to design garments by the flat pattern method, where the design elements are made to the flat sloper to create the finished pattern. This is apposed to the draping method where pieces of fabric or tissue paper are skillfully placed on a dress form to make the pattern pieces.

Once you have a sloper fitting you rightly you usually replicate it in poster board to make it easier to design with.

Return to Topics

Formal Pattern Training

added March 25, 1999

I feel that I need formal training in sewing and patternmaking before I can start a business in it.  I would enjoy hearing from you and your thoughts on a home sewing business.

When you can, it's wise to get all the formal teaching possible! I wish I had been able to go to a design school, but mine only offered basic Home Ec.

My thoughts on home sewing business are mixed. I like it and it fits into my lifestyle, but it's certainly not for everyone. There are very few who have made fortunes running a sewing business from home, so if money is a big part of your thoughts it's probably not the route you should take.

Actually, I have been working a part time job out of the house lately to even out my income flow and get me out doing something new. I like the change of pace. Alterations can get so very boring, even when sewing is the love of your life.

You will have lots of input though your classes and teachers and you certainly don't have to make any choices now. I like working at home, but if I had the opportunities you will be offered in the next few years, I may be doing it differently.

Return to Topics

Instruction Books on Alterations

added March 19, 1999

I noticed  that you mostly do ladies alterations---do you know of a good instruction book on alterations? I am a small female and have to alter a good many of the clothes I buy. Any help in this area would be apreciated.

Unfortunately, I have not read one I can recommend yet. There are several out there, but it's just very hard to teach alterations because each garment is different in constructions so there are not many hard and fast rules to follow.

The Taunton press, whose books have always been great, does have some new books out that I've seen in Threads but have not had a chance to get yet. You might like to check them out.

If any of you have some good books you know of that deserve a free plug send me a note at Good Books and I'll list them here.
I just bought a new book called Fit for Real People by Patti Palmer and Martha Alto.  It's amazing!! it shows how to fit patterns to any body type ...with actual pictures!! I highly recommend it!

I have really enjoyed using Mary Roehr's books:  Altering Men's Ready to Wear and Altering Women's Ready-to- Wear. There is an alteration book by Richard and Verna Fuller: Fitting and Alterations For Men and Women Illustrated.  The information is very good however the photo illustrations are very poor sometimes impossible to see.
Really, there doesn't seem to be many alteration books available.

The two books I love is Altering Men's Ready-to-wear and Altering Women's
by Mary A. Roehr. ISBN 0-9619229-1-5 and ISBN 0-9619229-0-7. 
THE BEST.  I started my alterations business with these manuals.  They are
spiral and easy to use.  I have highlights and notes in mine.  Nanc


Return to Topics


What training have you had?

I did go to college and have a BS degree in Home Economics, but am sorry to say that I hardly ever use what I learned in my sewing classes there. I often say that I wish I had majored in business instead of Home Ec.

I credit my proficiency in sewing to a lady I worked for a few years after I graduated from college. She had an alterations shop and was more
than willing to teach me anything I wanted to learn and then some. The shop was set up in one large room so the people sewing could see the
people fitting while they worked. That was wonderful because when you picked up a garment to work on, you already had an idea of what was
needed because you saw the fitting. The only rule was that when you went to get a garment to work on, you had to pick up the next item in the
line-up for that day, even if you had no idea how to do that operation. Then you could ask for instruction and get an instant lesson. I learned
soooo much! But mostly I learned how to figure things out for myself. I was taught to pay attention when I took a garment apart, make the
necessary changes and then put it back as I found it. With more experience I learned the subtle ways to put things back together better
than I found them.

I learned things in that setting that I could never get in a classroom or from books. Though I have since taken classes and bought many books,
I will always be grateful for that experience because it set me on the right track.

Return to Topics

Leah's Notions - "Being Self-taught"

An article written for the Sept. 1997 issue of Tangled Threads

Have you noticed how many sewing professionals describe themselves as "self-taught"? It seems I've been hearing more of this lately. Take David Page Coffin for example. He bought a sewing machine and checked out a library book to teach himself to sew and now he is an editor at Threads Magazine and travels all over teaching his innovative shirt making techniques. Could he be where he is today if he had been taught in the conventional way the conventional techniques to product the conventional garments?

I used to have a room mate in college that drove me crazy with the way she sewed. It was partly because I was studying flat pattern design at the time and my teachers demanded accuracy and precision which were things I understood and felt comfortable dealing with. Contrastingly, my roomie would buy this crazy fabric in the morning, cut it out with no pattern and sew it up in the afternoon, and then wear it to dinner receiving compliments all evening. Her lines were crooked, her style odd, and her precision nonexistent. But she refused to be bound to any pattern's instructions, or designer's ideas of fashion and therefore developed this wonderful creativeness that most of us can only wish we had.

I think being self-taught is a good thing because it starts you out depending on your own mind to figure out how to construct something instead of relaying on set methods. It's so much easier and more natural to these people to be creative in their thinking so they can produce
neat, new ways to sew things. It is just this quality so many of us are looking for when we go to sewing shows and take the classes. We want to
be inspired into being creative. So we sit in the class and learn the neat, new technique from the self-taught teacher hoping that some of
their creativity may rub off on us.

So for those of you who feel inferior because you don't have a college degree or any other formal sewing training, don't put yourself down. You
have a natural ability for creativeness that the rest of us struggle to achieve.

Return to Topics

Leah's Notions - "Why Conventions"

An article written for the Feb. 1996 issue of Tangled Threads

I've often said that whenever a learning opportunity presents itself you need to take it, even if it's not for your specialty. You never know what neat alterations tips you might pick up in a home decor class. So, following my own advice, I decided to go out of town to attend a convention. I went all the way to Canada to the Creative Sewing and Needlework Festival. I was destined to learn something because of the 14 categories of needle arts on the survey from sewing to spinning to tatting, I'd done a little of each. I signed up to be taught some Cool Tricks from Kenneth King, Flat Felling from David Coffin, and how to hinge my seams from Judith Rasband. But what I ended up learning this time was not on the schedule of classes.

Conventions are great things for business professionals. You can take some time off, get out of town, meet other people who have the same problems and joys you do, and hopefully learn some new innovation in your field of endeavor. It's a great way to take a tax deductible vacation. It's not what I'd call relaxing- more like invigorating. And the speakers are always encouraging, "You can do this too !" To which I usually respond , "Ya, I bet I could." or "Now why didn't I think of that?"

I've always thought of myself as a Jack of all trades, but Master of none. And I'm a Sewing Professional simply because I make money sewing, not because I'm particularly good at it. I'd always admired those Sewing Professionals who can teach a class with style and flair. It makes learning enjoyable and memorable. Somehow I viewed these people as being on a pedestal, out of my reach. But at this Convention, sometime during my third day, it dawned on me that a lot of what they were teaching was stuff I'd been doing not thinking it was anything fantastic or special. It forced me to rethink how I see myself.

The new Self Help trend that's been popular touts that a good self image is all you need to succeed in life. I'd never really put much stock in that because I felt that the ability to learn was the key to success. Well, new I think it's a combination of both for what good is a lot of know how if you don't have the confidence to go out there and use the knowledge you've got ?

Return to Topics

I Have a Theory - "Be A Continual Learner"

An article written for the May 1995 issue of Tangled Threads

Have you ever thought to yourself, "There's got to be an easier way to do this?" I must ask myself that at least once a week. The longer I sew the more it amazes me how little I know about what I'm doing. Don't get me wrong, I do sew quite well and I do have a college degree. What I'm trying to say is that I have to continually learn new techniques and processes to keep myself of value to my customers. The world of fashion is ever changing and we have to keep up or else we will loose clients to those who put in the extra effort to be continual learners.

Someone once said that when a person stops learning he starts dying. Always being open to new leaning experiences makes a person not only a more valued worker, but a nicer person to be around in general. It's important to be confident and know your stuff in front of the customer, but you're cutting yourself short if you think that you have learned everything there is to know about your work. Just ask anyone who you see as being successful. I'm sure they will tell you the secret is to never stop learning, and always be on the look out for new learning opportunities.

Return to Topics

Teaching vs Mentoring

An excerpt from the quiltropolis sewinglist

Two years of sewing were mandatory when I went to high school. The sewing classes were at best a poor joke. Boring is a kind word for the class. I managed to flunk, and did so as a protest.

How did I learn? By taking apart worn out favorite ready to wear garments. My husband calls this "reverse engineering". Each time I did this I asked myself how could I improve the garment, what could be done to give a better fit, what was done to speed the manufacturing process. I approached sewing "Well, if a garment worker who does not know English could make this, then I should be able to figure out how to also".

I have been told that I know all of the short cuts and none of the basics, but cannot remember when I made a garment that I was not proud to wear.

I am now ready to really learn to sew, but have not found a good teacher in my area yet. If you know of some good sewing teachers in Orange County, Ca. please let me know. It is now time to learn the basics.

Thanks for bearing with my rant.

"Basics"? My dear, you just may know more "useful" stuff about sewing than I do with my collage degree!!!

There is very little I was taught that I actually use today. Most of the things I do are from self teaching like you did, passed on tips from other sewing friends, reading books, and going to a sewing convention here and there.

You seem to be very much like me in the way that you have the ability to teach yourself. You may benefit from taking a class, as long as it is from some one who knows more than you do and knows how to teach others. This is a rare thing to find. There are tons of sewing "instructors" out there, like your home EC teacher, but few true "teachers". Even rarer to find is a "mentor", which is about the only way I can learn from a person. Otherwise it is more productive for me to just study on my own with a book.

What I mean by mentor is some one who guides you to the thing you want to learn, not just telling it to you. So you are really finding it out for yourself with a little guidance, instead of simply following the instructions of a teacher. This is better because you develop the ability to apply what you are learning in your own way so you can use it in other situations.

I have long wanted to enroll in my nearby collage design school because I didn't get that at my school. I have had several friends who know my work well advise me that it would be a waste of my time and money. They have kindly told me that all I lack is a few technical factors I could easily get from certain books that have been written.

Maybe you can find some one who will be a good mentor for you, but if you can't, just ask a sewing friend to honestly evaluate your work and suggest exactly where you need more knowledge. Then go find some where to learn just that.

Return to Topics


Got any questions or comments?

HomePro SSI
General Stuff To Do | General Stuff To Avoid Doing | Marketing | Welcome to My Sewing Studio | Reputation is Everything | Here Comes Your Bridal Customer | The Customer is Always Right | Legalities | Money Matters | Time Management | Wife, Mom, Entrepreneur | Tips & Tricks | Educate Thyself | Silliness?  | Sewing Related Links
Main SSI

Got any questions or comments?

The Bridal Studio Beautiful Bustles The Home Pro Studio Duct Tape Double Dress Forem Studio

This site created and maintained by: Leanna Studios
Copyright 1994 by Leanna Studios. All Rights Reserved.