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Dear Eunice Farmer: I'm retired and finally have time to sew. I have trouble understanding pattern sizing. It is so different from ready-to-wear. How do I begin?

-- Andrea W.

Dear Andrea: First, there is no similarity between the sizing of patterns and the sizing of ready-to-wear. If you check, you will also find that the more expensive the garment, the smaller the size will be (helps our ego). It's usually best to chose a pattern closest to your bust measurement; the waist and hips are easier to change. Because of the styling, your size could vary. In other words, a very loose-looking garment might require a smaller size; a pattern with no visible ease might require a larger size.

It's always worth the extra time to make a duplicate pattern out of muslin or any old fabric to ensure accurate fitting. Once you know your pattern changes, you could possibly eliminate this step; however, fabric can make a big difference.

Eliminate the zipper

Dear Eunice Farmer: When looking for a simple jacket to make, so many of the patterns have a zipper for the front closing. I prefer to have no closing so it will look more like a sweater. Can you tell me how to eliminate the zipper?

-- Nadine T.
Dear Nadine: I have selected Butterick 4028, sizes 6-22. It features several types of closings, but you can eliminate the zipper and keep the jacket open if you prefer. Simply add a facing to the center front seam and finish the edges with braids, or keep it simple with no trim. You will find the princess lines very flattering. The pattern shows several versions -- with and without a collar -- and can be worn as a cardigan jacket over pants or a matching skirt.

Hemming by hand

Dear Eunice Farmer: When I hem by hand, I always see an indentation of the stitches from the right side. I make tiny stitches. What am I doing wrong?

-- Valerie
Dear Valerie: You are making the same mistake that many sewers make: You are pulling the stitches too tight. Always keep the thread fairly loose, and it will "give" with the stretch of your fabric. I have always found that my students who do a lot of hand embroidery have a tendency to pull the stitches too tight. Try keeping your thread loose, and I think your problem will be solved.

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