Susie’s Home Ec
>> Susie Bright is an amateur dressmaker and a professional writer.
She blogs at
None of us were eager to confess or trying on muslins in every single pattern size to
our vacation plans. We were vague with discern our best fit. We took the dressmaker’s tour
family and friends — “Oh, yes, seven of Chinatown. We ransacked a closet of garments
days on the coast ... sightseeing … you know” — Betzina had sewn so we could check out dozens of
even as we packed queen-size suitcases full of different designs on our figures. She measured each
fabric and notions. one of us, and drew “maps” of our basic alterations
Civilians don’t understand. We are the few, the that we could apply to every pattern we work on.
proud — the nine women who signed up for a week- Are you drooling yet?
long, round-the-clock sewing workshop, hidden I think Betzina realized early in her career that, as
on the 10th floor of the Marines’ Memorial Club much as people might love to spend hours on a unique
in downtown San Francisco. buttonhole, no one wants to soldier for days on a sew-
Our guru? Sandra Betzina, the legendary designer, ing project that they can’t even pin over their chest in
teacher, and author who can sew, teach, create the end. Sewers are rightfully fearful that without “fit
fashion, and write it all down with equal parts insurance,” without the confidence that they’ve cut
aplomb and grace. Every year she offers a series the cloth to make it right, it’s demoralizing to make
of seven-day sewing camps. ill-fitting garments. The paper patterns you buy are
Each Christmas, as other friends talked about only a general outline — they all have to be tailored to
flying to Hawaii or surfing off the lip-of-whatever, you. This is why so many people hide out in Home
I’d sigh, and whisper, “I wanna run away and go to Dec, because every time they make something for
sewing school.” their body, they end up crying in the mirror.
Finally, I wrote the check and signed up. Reader, But as they say, knowledge is power. My mirror-
I was petrified. “I’m a mediocre seamstress! I don’t shock days are over!
know what to bring! I’ve never run a machine Let me use my own pattern alteration session with
besides my own! I’m a fraud!” Betzina as an example. I already knew that I had to
But the real story behind my case of nerves was adjust patterns for my height, and to make a full-
that I had never planned a vacation to do exactly bust adjustment. I knew that pant patterns, which fit
what I pleased, to minister to my devotions. If you’ve me in one spot, were disastrous in another.
ever discounted your passion for your craft and art, Betzina showed me how both my bust curve and
or said, “I never have time to sew anymore,” then my tall-factor could be addressed by lengthening
you know the kind of hole I’d been digging. small amounts in three strategic places, instead of
Our small class occupied a big meeting room one big slash. She showed me how my upper chest
of a grand postwar residential hotel and theater needed a smaller adjustment where the sleeve
dedicated to Marine veterans. Betzina passed out meets the bodice, and drew a line on my paper
her custom-made boxes of See’s chocolates, and sloper to show the way.
we sewed our asses off. Many of us do desk work these days. Betzina
Every day (and night) was filled with working like points out how our work posture, and aging, lend
elves on our own projects, taking in impromptu and us a bit of a hump in our upper back, just below the
planned “clinics” on special techniques and fabrics, neck — ugh! It pulls your bodice out of shape, and