Pamela Leggett

Pamela Leggett

Pamela Leggett, owner and designer of Pamela’s Patterns built her career around sewing and fashion.  She never imagined doing anything else.  Born and raised in Michigan, her first memories are of sewing with her Grandmother on a treadle sewing machine. By the time she was twelve, she could put a garment together without help.  By age 14, she was sewing for others, mostly doing alterations. She has become a designer, teacher and author with a national reputation.  She is also the coordinator/ instructor for the Palmer/Pletsch East School of Sewing.

Pamela says, “My first job as a teenager was in a shoe repair shop. I was just supposed to be a cashier, but every chance I got I was back in the workroom trying out the really amazing machines. Through school, I worked for sewing machine dealers and fabric stores.  My senior year was spent apprenticing with a Japanese tailor as part of a work/study program.”

In 1978 with the optimism of youth and a huge collection of vintage clothing, Pamela opened a boutique in the resort town of Saugatuck, Michigan. She soon realized her shop needed another source of revenue.  She brought in retail fashion and her own designs. She also did alterations, custom clothing, stage clothing for rock bands, home dec and bridal, which she continued to do long after the boutique closed.

blog-4Pamela and her first husband moved to Connecticut in 1980 to start a family.  Her most prized possession was her Viking sewing machine. When it broke down, she rushed it to the nearest sewing machine dealer. When the owner of Manchester Sewing Center quoted a price for the repair, she was shocked.  Since she had always worked for dealers, she’d never had to “pay” for a repair.  She couldn’t afford to have it fixed.  The owner could see how upset she was.  He said, “I’m going to fix your sewing machine and you can pay me when you’re able.” She cried all the way home because he had been so kind.

A year later, that man — Aaron Cheerman — called her out of the blue. He was expanding his store and wanted her to teach classes. She told him she had never done anything like that.  He said he was not worried, she could do it. As a matter of fact, he believed she would be great. Pamela says, “To this day, I have no idea why he even remembered me.  But that phone call was a turning point. Mr. Cheerman became my employer, business teacher, mentor, and biggest supporter.” Pamela managed the store for 22 years. Manchester Sewing Center spawned an amazing number of sewing educators and pattern designers. J Stern Designs, Gail Patrice Design and Anna Mazur, (Pattern Review Editor for Threads Magazine) all started teaching at Manchester Sewing.

Teaching became a new focus in her life.  She loved to develop sewing classes about sewing machines, fashion, tailoring and proper fit. For several years in the late 80’s, Pamela and two of her sewing students started a fashion company called Tuesday’s Original Wardrobes. Their target market was the entertainment industry in the Hartford CT area, and they sold their line to the likes of Gayle King (Oprah’s best friend!).

In 1985, Pamela got her first serger, but she was not impressed.  It seemed like there were so many things it could NOT do. The seams on knit fabric would stretch out, inside curves puckered, and serged seams weren’t strong enough for woven fabrics.

Frustrated, she took a serger class from Patsy Shields at a Sulky conference. “I could not believe the things she did with a serger!  Patsy turned the knobs, she fiddled with tensions, and I realized this machine required a different set of rules.  It was an epiphany for me and I was hooked. I was determined to find out exactly how a serger worked.  I wanted to understand every element of this wonderful machine so I could explain it and teach people.”

Pamela Leggett's Serer Tips
Gaining confidence about sergers became Pamela’s new mission. The development of differential feed rocked her world!  Pamela enjoyed learning about and mastering each new improvement in the technology, and she cannot imagine sewing without a serger!! She does almost all of her seaming with a serger — and all her finishing work with a sewing machine.

Pamela became fascinated with the possibilities of decorative work with a serger. She loves flatlock and calls it the “two-for-one stitch” because you get ladders on one side, and loops on the other — both beautiful stitches. She developed new concepts which became the basis for her very popular series of flatlock serger classes.

In 2000, Pamela started writing serger articles for Threads Magazine based on her popular class, The Serger Workshop.

In 2005, Pamela moved to the Philadelphia area with her second husband, Bill, and became the manager of Steve’s Sewing in King of Prussia.  Pamela says, “Steve’s is an amazing store with a talented staff and very loyal customers.  I am blessed to have a store of this caliber to call my home.”  She teaches garment, fit and serger classes at least two days a week, unless she is traveling.  She also enjoys purchasing and displaying the fashion fabrics (which are selling very well!)  She organizes and presents a Serger Club event every other month.

 

Pamela Leggett's Serger Patterns

Some of Pamela’s Patterns.

 

Pamela created her first patterns to use in her classes.   Although she never intended the patterns to become a business, after Threads Magazine did a feature on Pamela’s Patterns, she learned how to run a pattern business — super fast!

The tag line on Pamela’s Patterns is “Designed to fit and flatter women with REAL figures!”  Her patterns are made for women with curves and fluff and scallops — all the things that happen as our bodies mature.  As a Palmer/Pletsch Fit Specialist, Pamela is able to assess the most common alterations needed for a mature figure and put them into her patterns.  They have a much more realistic fit than commercial sewing patterns.

A peek into Pamela Leggett’s sewing studio.

A peek into Pamela’s studio.

Pamela’s sewing studio and warehouse are attached to her home.  This is a good and bad thing.  It is very convenient, but bad for a workaholic! Her studio was featured in Threads Magazine a couple years ago, and is very functional.  It contains her office, shipping center, design and workroom.  Pamela’s Patterns are sold internet retail, wholesale and to distributors.  She has an assistant who does most of the shipping and website work.

Melissa Watson, Pati Palmer & Pamela Leggett

Melissa Watson, Pati Palmer & Pamela

Like she’s not busy enough — Pamela is also the instructor and coordinator for the East Coast branch of Palmer/Pletsch.   Steve Chubin, owner of Steve’s, hosts the Palmer/Pletsch School of Sewing four times a year. People from all over the country come to Philadelphia to attend Pamela’s classes in Fit, Pant and Knits. The April and May 2015 workshops sold out very quickly.

Pamela says, “Sewing has brought wonderful people into my life. Outside of my family, teaching sewing is my greatest joy. It is such a blessing to be involved in the lives of women who sew.  They are the most generous, giving, thoughtful, funny and creative people on earth.”

Pamela’s favorite sites:

www.pamelaspatterns.com
www.palmerpletsch.com
www.stevessewandvac.com

Free Motion Embroidery with a Spring Needle

Are you curious about free motion embroidery using a spring needle? Have you always wanted to try it, but weren’t sure how to set your machine?

Spring needles combine the function of a darning spring on the needle itself. Available in a variety of sizes, this needle is a dream for free-hand machine embroidery or monogramming in a hoop without a foot. The instructions below can be applied to any of the spring needles. While there are a variety of spring needles available, this blog will concern itself with Free Motion Embroidery using a SCHMETZ Embroidery Spring Needle.

Here’s what needs to be done to prepare your machine for free motion:

  1. Lower the feed dog as described in your machine manual. (With some machine models, you cannot lower the feed dog; in that case, you need to cover the feed dog with the cover enclosed in the accessories box.)
  2. Remove the presser foot.
  3. Lower the presser foot bar.
  4. Insert the Embroidery Spring Needle and thread it.
  5. Use a straight stitch.
  6. Start with the tension set at normal. Stitch on a scarp (the same as your project).
  7. Remove the fabric from the machine and check the tension. You should have a good stitch top and bottom as shown below. If the top thread is pulling to the back as shown, raise the upper thread tension to a higher number. Continue to increase the tension until the stitch is balanced.

Remember: You removed the presser foot and lowered your feed dog. You are now regulating the length of the stitched yourself by moving the fabric manually. Do not move the fabric too fast. The machine speed should be uniform: not too fast, not too slow. Experiment which speed suits you best. You may need to practice for a while until you achieve even stitches.

Stabilizer may be needed depending upon the weight of your fabric.

Tips:

  • Always take a few stitches in place when beginning to sew until your machine reached the proper speed. Continue stitching, e.g., with stippling and other designs.
  • Try free motion embroidery with satin stitch:  Use the zigzag stitch. Begin stitching as before to get the feel for it. You have to move the fabric very slowly to form the satin stitch.
  • Use multi-colored threads for a special effect.

Click HERE to view SCHMETZ Spring Needles.

 

SCHMETZ Chrome Stretch Needles

 

SCHMETZ Professional Grade Chrome Stretch Needles

The needle of choice when sewing with stretchy knits. The needle has a medium ballpoint. The short and narrow eye and deep scarf are specially designed to prevent skipped stitches. SCHMETZ Stretch preforms well on fabrics with elastic, Lycra® or Spandex.

PS: Did you know Spandex is an anagram for “expands”?

Available in sizes 75/11 and 90/14.

Click HERE for more information.

 

Judy Kessinger – FitNice

Was there a time when you enjoyed sewing your clothes? Chances are you were a Stretch and Sew customer. Chances are also good that your recent attempts at garment sewing have been frustrating. Why? Because manufactured patterns give you directions to sew but never to fit.

We’ve all been there. But don’t give up! There is hope! Judy Kessinger’s company, FitNice, is the MISSING LINK. She has the answer to making clothes you will love to wear. Casual, comfortable and sophisticated, but not couture. She keeps it simple. FitNice is ALL ABOUT THE FIT! All you need is a personal pattern — which you can use over and over again to make any number of garments.

Judy Kessinger was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. Her grandmother was a large woman who made all her clothes. Judy was always impressed by how good she looked. Ironically, it was a very small person who inspired Judy to start sewing. “My daughter weighed 5 pounds when she was born. Preemie clothes did not yet exist, so I started to sew tiny baby clothes.” The first time someone complimented her cute little dress, Judy was hooked. She began sewing for herself and Stretch and Sew became her happy place.

The business started in the basement with jogging shorts.

Judy was an x-ray technician and loved her job. But after her third child was born, she decided to be a full-time mom. Several years later, she met another Judy, Judy Drury, at church. The two of them wanted to do something together, but they weren’t sure what direction to take. They both loved to sew and that became their focus. They started a fabric store named Judes’. But their retail adventure didn’t last long.

Judy K. had the bright idea to approach Hancock Fabrics about teaching classes. During her “pitch,” she told the District Manager that they were excellent teachers, and he should give them a chance. To prove themselves, she said they would teach “for free.” Never mind the fact that the two of them had never actually taught a class together. Judy K. said, “How hard can it be?” So they prepared a lecture about sewing notions, calling themselves “The Two Judy’s.”

First and last VHS video, Christmas in July,
Judy Drury and Judy Kessinger.

At that first class, they were expecting an audience of 10 or 12 people. But instead, 100 women showed up. Panic set in. Judy K. looked at Judy D. and said, “You talk to me, and I’ll talk to you.” Their presentation was a trunk show, a Smother’s Brother’s comedy hour, a sewing demonstration…and a HUGE hit!

After that show, the District Manager called Hancock’s home office. For the next 25 years, the “Two Jude’s” traveled all over the country. They taught various classes — notions, fashion sewing, Christmas in July, home dec, etc. “It was the best job in the world. We were doing what we loved, and seeing the country on somebody else’s dime.”

Because she was teaching sewing, Judy felt it was important to wear clothes she sewed. She could never understand why ladies bought so many patterns since they all started with the same three pieces: front, back and, sleeve. Judy figured if she just worked with the front, back and sleeve, she could achieve the perfect, comfortable fit. So that’s what she did. She created her own “Personal Pattern.”

For years, she used those three pieces to make her wardrobe: tops, jackets, dresses, and coats.

If a friend asked about what pattern she was wearing, Judy was always happy to share her “three pattern pieces” philosophy: front, back, and sleeve. She would help them create their master pattern. One day, a friend said, “You should make a business of this.”

That was her light-bulb moment … and FitNice was born.

Click HERE to read more about Judy and her FitNice program.

 

SCHMETZ NEEDLE EYE COMPARISON

That’s not just a little piece of steel making your machine stitches. German engineering designs, calculates, tests and inspects the SCHMETZ needle. Take for instance the eye, did you know that needles have different eye shapes?

SCHMETZ Needle Eye Comparison

The most popular needle, the Universal, has an eye that is 40% the width of the blade. Really! There are three other needles with larger eyes, the Embroidery and even more pronounced is the elongated eye of the Metallic and Topstitch needles.

Now what does a larger eye mean? There is less friction on the thread as it passes through the eye. Ever sew with a thread that breaks or tends to shred? Guess what, use a needle with a larger eye. If you have old thread or maybe a poor quality thread, use a needle with a larger eye. The thread and needle work hard and fast. Help them out when you can with a larger eye.

Universal Needles

Embroidery Needles

Metallic Needles

Topstitch Needles

 

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