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Turn to tunics for a flattering soft look

Question: I love the long tunics you have been featuring. However, my hips aren't small, and I find that the straight look is not too flattering on me. Any suggestions?

Answer: I have found a perfect new tunic pattern that is actually A-line and has a flattering soft look that flares out from the hips to the hem. Look for Butterick 3090 sized 8-24, in hip or mid-calf length. You must choose a soft, lightweight fabric that will move gracefully.

This pattern can be casual or dressy, depending on your choice of fabric. You might also decide not to use the conventional facings. Instead, finish a single layer of fabric with a narrow bias binding of self-fabric. The pattern features short, three-quarter length or long cuffed sleeves. Once you make one, you will want to make more to mix and match with your wardrobe!

Classic, simple coat

Question: I would love to make a classic, simple coat for next winter. I have seen more coats than ever this winter, but I don't want to make one that will instantly go out of style. Any help you can give would be welcome.

Answer: This is a great time to consider making a winter coat for next year. You can find fabulous fabrics on sale, and you needn't rush your work. I have selected Butterick 3336, sizes 8-24, for several reasons: First, it has raglan sleeves _ much easier to slip over jackets and sweaters. Second, it is a very classic style. Make it short into a car-coat length or the newest long style.

You will notice that the edges of this coat feature top stitching. I can't recommend this too strongly. With heavier fabrics or fleecy ones, it is difficult to keep the edges of the garment nice and flat. Machine top-stitching will do the trick. Stitch about { inch from all the outer edges for a sharp, neat look. I guarantee this pattern is a winner.

Experiment with embroidery

Question: I'm having fun with my new embroidery machine, but I have a slight problem that I know you can solve. If my embroidery design has lots of stitches and ends up with a rather heavy design, it seems to pucker and not lie flat.

Answer: You will find that most of your problems with embroidery machines are caused by the stabilizer you use. This is an education in itself, and you must experiment on your fabric and design before you begin.

For a heavily embroidered design, you must hoop your stabilizer and possibly use two or three layers to avoid puckering. There are so many different fabrics to work with and so many designs that it is impossible to tell you about any one that will always work perfectly. Please be patient and experiment for perfect results.

Shoulder pads are good

Question: What is your opinion about shoulder pads? I have always hated them and instantly remove them from ready-to-wear.

Answer: The size of shoulder pads is dictated by the fashion design. Today's fashions don't call for extra-large shoulder pads. However, I firmly believe that all garments should have some type of shoulder pads. They add support and shape to the garment, and are definitely more flattering to every figure. If you have square shoulders and feel that they are too large, simply change the shoulder pads to a very small pad. They make a huge difference.

Fitted pants, faux suede

Question: I'm in love with the new faux suedes that are now available, and are so much less expensive than the first ultra suedes. Can they be used for pants?

Answer: Ultra suede had a cross-grain stretch, which made it perfect for pants. Some of the new inexpensive faux suedes don't have a cross-grain stretch; therefore, they wouldn't be perfect for very fitted pants.

There are so many faux suedes on the market, almost all of them slightly over $20 per yard. I have found many that have the cross-grain stretch; these would be perfect. Also, there are many double-sided suedes that also have the correct stretch you need for pants.

Informal wedding dress

Question: I'm getting married early this summer in an informal daytime wedding (not my first). I know you can find just the right cocktail-type dress for me.

Answer: I have found a lovely two-piece dress for you. The top is cut on the bias and forms a beautiful cowl neckline. The skirt features the new circular-type ruffles (or flounces). The hemline is asymmetrical, dipping much lower in back _ a new and flattering detail.

I see this lovely two-piece dress in a soft crepe or delustered satin to achieve the soft cowl neckline and the ruffled hemline. It's a perfect cocktail dress. Look for Kwik-Sew 2756, all sizes included. If you can't find Kwik-Sew patterns in your area, you may order them direct by calling (888) 594-5739.

Look for these new looks

This is a resume of the looks you will see in fashion for the spring-summer season, as seen at the Designer Press Showings! I always try to generalize and not dwell on the many outlandish designs called fashion that are seen only to call attention to the publicity they get. Many of these are not accepted by those of us who like real clothes for real people.

There is an abundance of softness created with sheer fabrics. Sheers also lend themselves to lots of fullness, ruffles and unconstructed clothing.

The vest is the big news. You will see the vest detail in daytime as well as evening wear _ short and long, tailored and soft. It's a perfect accessory for the layered look.

There is a great return to the ethnic influences from India, Africa, Mexico, Santa Domingo, Spain, Greece, etc. There will be great splashes of color, prints and lots of ruffles (the half-circle kind that form flounces).

From Africa, the safari-type jackets appear. Look for them in linens. There doesn't seem to be any end to animal prints; they abound everywhere. From Greece, the toga or draped goddess gowns appear once again in soft fabrics that drape beautifully. Peasant blouses will be seen, worn both on and off the shoulders. There's the "night-gown dressing," very full and feminine with lots of fabric, looking more like the bedroom.

Lastly, look for PJ dressing for at-home or beyond. The drawstring pants in cotton began with teens and were soon copied by designers for everyone who loves a different casual look.

This week's winner

Each week, a reader wins a prize for sending in a helpful sewing hint. This week's winner is Edna Woodard of Fredericksburg, Texas. She will receive a new pressure-sensitive tape measure to apply to any sewing surface or work area. It will not tear, shrink or stretch, and it has inches and centimeters clearly marked. Her tip:

"Whenever I purchase washable fabric, the first thing I do is zigzag the cut edges before I prewash the fabric. No more raggedy ends; much easier to work with!" (My thanks to many of you who sent in that same suggestion.)

Eunice Farmer is a nationally recognized authority on sewing.

King Features Syndicate

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