Drafting Sewing Patterns

Another sewing blog, with an emphasis on making patterns for garments.

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Downsizing a Coat

How do you feel about doing alterations?  About as much fun as a wet week-end in Margate?

So, round of applause please, for the simple fact that I’m getting to grips with trying to size down a coat. (OK. I do know that at least one reader performs daily miracles on ill fitting clothes, but the flesh is weak here. I need all the encouragement I can get)

Unpicking  was time hungry.Why did I make it so thoroughly in the first place! I decided to see if there was any way of not unpicking the bound buttonholes, and left the hem in place  in case I can get away without redoing it.

Then I got lucky, finding an overgarment block already drafted in the size needed. Here, I’m checking out if the top front bodice will fit on, dart moved to the waist position.

Quick Check on Bodice

Non sewers assume that if a garment is three sizes too big, there’s surely enough fabric, but where the armhole curves in is critical. Happily this is a super close woven wool I bought at Crescent Trading and the snips into the armscye curve haven’t frayed. I’m going to have to stitch right up to a couple of them. You might be able to see in the  photos below that the new armhole and wider bodice turnings make for almost no turnings space at the corner where the pin is in the bottom picture. My new fitting line curves in right through the original turnings.

Close Call on Underarm Seam

Armhole Shape

I roughed out the required flared shape, drawing in slash lines from hem to shoulder in the pattern and cutting through, but not opening them up until the pattern was positioned on the front and back pieces, so I could arrange the flare in situ.

Flare Arranged in situ

Tailor’s tacks

Then another rare event occured – I marked round with tailor’s tacks.

Tailors Tacks on Armscye

This is a method of marking through 2 layers of fabric at once, having the added advantage of showing up on both the right and wrong side of the work. They’re especially handy where you can’t use the width of your turnings as a guide to the stitching line, on  interior shapes, or like here, where you aren’t going to trim away the fabric accurately along the seam line at cutting out, because you’re squeezing your pattern out of an odd shaped piece or maybe haven’t decided on the final lines.

Other advantages of this marking method are:-

it’s done first on the cutting table with the work flat so pattern and fabric don’t shift

you’re not left with chalky marks on your fabric.

Tailor’s tacks are easy – use double thread and make a running stitch but leave a loop each time the needle comes to the top.

Gently pull the two layers apart so that the loops become a ladder and snip through the stitches between the layers.

Stitch Ladder

You get a line of single stitches on each side.

Downside – a lot of  thread bits to pull out later. The best tip I have for this is to press sticky tape along the seam and rip it off. It takes most of the threads with it, like wax strips on leg hair. Try this for unpicked stitches stubbornly clinging in a seam too.

Next rare event – I tacked the seams.

Seams Tacked

You can probably see that there’s interlining in. I didn’t want this to shift about under the machine. Hand tacking holds much better than pins.

While I’m raking out the trad methods, do you know this little tip for keeping tacking straight on long seams with less measuring and pinning?  Hold the thread from the needle as a straight line between  the first stitch and the pin, mark or tape measure you placed on the stitching line, using it as a guide as you make a few stitches, then repeat.

The needle’s at top right here, the long loop of thread from its eye is held out to make the line to stitch along. A useful dodge when you want to avoid a lot of pins or marks, yet need tacking to hold the pieces e.g. long bias seams on a sheer or satin.

Tacking Tip

It’s surprisingly quick and accurate when you get the hang of it.

I hit a snag . The original sleeve head wasn’t the same shape as the overgarment block.

Sleeve Head Shape

If I lower the block to draw a new line, I lose length, and there’s not a lot of hem.

The length round the sleeve head is quite similar though. I decided to wing it with the original shape. Here it is set in, as yet no shoulder pads or sleeve heading. I’m hopeful.

Sleeve Set In

The hem is looking ok too, phew!

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Zero Gravity

It’s been a while. I’ve sewn stuff of course, but life feels weighted heavily towards Pandemonium and light on Pattern.

3 of the garments sewn below :-

Dress in Patterned Sheer

This was for one daughter. The bodice had extra length to create a bloused effect, some of the bust dart was transferred to the wide neckline and the top of the sleeve pattern was removed before slashing and spreading the sleeve to add some fullness. Ties are threaded through the waist and the neckline/sleeve top. Its a moderately sheer fabric, most likely a poly, which has been in stash forever. It has some woven stripes of different widths running through it, these being less sheer and having a slight sheen, but not true satin weave. Despite its synthetic origin, the fabric is pleasingly soft.

The seams were double stitched and zigzagged to finish. You’re probably wondering why I didn’t french seam, and the answer is a combination of laziness and fear of fraying. This way I got to trim the excess last. Why didn’t I overlock? Laziness and lack of overlocker spools of navy.

The next two also were not for me, and I unwisely tried to get a quick shot of them on before packing them off. They don’t fit and I’m not sure if you can get as good an idea of the shape as would have been shown if I’d photographed them flat, but here goes:-

Bloused Top

This is cut to have a bloused top, set onto a peplum which is open at the sides, with ties drawing the waist in (tying each side). It has no CF seam, the turn back revers are faced back finishing at the point on the CF line. This is tricky but not impossible, you just need to take very narrow turnings on the slit, shaping the stitching in to a point at the bottom. The sleeves are ‘grown on’ as cap sleeves. This fabric is beautiful but the colours aren’t showing up wonderfully on my monitor. It’s a crisp, lightweight silk which I bought as a remnant scarcely bigger than half a metre, from a shop on Bethnal Green Road.

The last one fits me not at all! The fabric is a shiny rayon of a lovely violet colour and quite a decent ‘hand’, not harsh. What might look like tragically bad sleeve heads are part of a cut with a lowered, squared armhole and narrowed bodice piece. Those darts miss their mark by a mile on me, but should home in on DD. I haven’t used this cut for decades, last sewing a similar top in the mid 70s. I really liked that top and am hatching a vague plan to recut this pattern to my measurements. If it gets done, I’ll try to furnish a better account of the pattern adaptations.

Really Not Fitting

In my defense for the lousy shots, it was baking hot and I didn’t bother to check them out on the screen before sending the clothes on their way, so no secnd chances.

I also made, I think four dresses, but have no pictures of these.

Zero gravity? Events are making me feel as though I’m weightless floating in a capsule hurtling to a world I won’t recognise. Any other disoriented stitchers out there?





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Skirt Draft 3

The first full scale version of this pattern is sewn up. Notes on grain follow.


The piece on the top right of that photo is the front skirt main section, and the CF is parallel to the selvedge. Its top edge joins to the right hand side of the yoke piece which sits on the top left in the photo.

This yoke piece is aligned so that the CB is parallel to the selvedge, which makes the front section off grain.

The piece at the bottom of the photo wraps around from the back to the front. On the right is the part joining to the lower edge of the back yoke (left side of top left). That lower skirt piece has the CB aligned with the selvedge.

Moving left on the lower skirt piece, where you can see my pin tin, there’s the largest flare insert. It comes about 3/4 of the way across the back, so mid left leg.

The next insert adds more flare in the left of the back skirt, and as the piece curves upwards you can see the last insert which adds a small amount of flare to the side seam, matching the flare on the opposite side.

The triangle poking upwards in this lower skirt piece stitches to the front ( above in photo), where you can see a triangular chunk missing out of the front skirt.

In velvet, I get some shading in that front triangle which has cross grain (weft)where the main skirt part has straight grain (warp). Mrsmole suggested a check –  a print with a definite stripe or check would show the cut well.

I made this up in an Aldrich 12 which usually fits me more or less out of the bag, but two  elements are in play – first, the block is for wovens. I could probably take some ease out for stretch fabric and jersey. Second, pretty much every skirt pattern or trouser pattern is baggy on me just below the pelvis bone. To partly adjust for this I took some in, but as the asymmetrical yoke falls below this level on one side I took a sneaky dart in it. This will need to be removed from the pattern for subsequent makes. I’m hoping to try it on my daughter who has similar measurements but a more classic shape before changing the pattern .

Now a hasty sewing room shot.

Skirt, first ‘toile’

You can just about see that the piece wrapping round from the back to the front at the hem shades, an effect which I quite like, as it defines the cut. At the top left in the photo is the front piece of the yoke wraping round from the back, this also is off grain. In this fabric the skirt has marginally too much ease on me. It’s a style that doesn’t lend itself to fit changes after cutting, but it is wearable as is. I stitched a zip in the side at first, then found I could slip it on anyway. Zip ripped out the waist was set  onto a strip of very stretchy black jersey . I’d toyed with the idea of defining the lines on the skirt with an insert, but like the simple shade change of the altered grain.

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Skirt Draft 2

Still working on the mini toile, I altered the half scale pattern. First the lines drawn, taking the top line across to the side seam.

Skirt Draft

Then a bit wider flare at the side seam, taking it higher on the leg.

Adding Flare

The other side falls mid panel and needs a piece adding to match the flares on the other side.

Equivalent Flare

An increased amount of flare put in to the back piece.

Increase Flare in Back

The top panel is made with the darts closed and the side seam overlapped. This leaves the waistline a bit wider and high hip a bit narrower than the block. The waistline can be drawn in to the waistband, I’m figuring the fabric will stretch enough to deal with the relative tightness at high hip, without adding in anything at the side. This piece has to be redrawn with the curves smoothed out.

Darts Closed

Sewn up the back still looks as though there hasn’t been enough flare added in to create a definite effect at the 3/4 position.

Back Half Scale

I cut and roughly tacked in a wedge.


Wedge Added

This looks better – on to a full scale trial.

Surprisingly, the pattern drafted from a 12 Aldrich block (round about 36″ hip) fits on a metre, even when you have to respect the nap.


I know what you’re thinking. “What kind of idiot pattern tests on stretch velvet”. The same kind of idiot that buys up several colours when it’s cheap on a market stall, including the last metre of a nice grey, with no clear idea what to do with it.


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Drafting a Skirt

I’m working on a draft for a skirt. This is the first try (half scale)

Front Skirt

Back Skirt


You might be able to see what I did.

a. Use front and back straight skirt block cut as whole, lengthened to midi with hipline and kneeline marked as well as CF and CB

b. Draw a diagonal line from the front waist to hip, continue this diagonal across the back skirt, and continue it round to the front, finishing on the hem

c. Shape the side seams in to a slight ‘hobble’ and back out from knee level to a side flare

d. Cut along the diagonals, join the F and B top parts, closing the darts and side shaping

e. Join the bottom sections and add in some flare in the back skirt on one side

These are the pieces.

Skirt Pattern

Sewn and put on the stand shows me I’m not there yet.

I want to change the position of the diagonals a little and make the flare in the back skirt more pronounced, or possibly work in an inverted pleat so that there’s a definite fullness. I want to raise the level that the side flare starts. I don’t like how this hangs, but it might be the fabric I used for the toile. I’ll try taking it from a mid thigh position next time, moving the front diagonal to finish at the side seam instead of at a three quarter point, and raise the diagonal on the back a little.

How does the half scale help? Though a less complete rough than you get in full scale, it’s a lot quicker and cheaper in fabric to test the plan. Taking the measurements carefully can still give a pretty good idea about where to place features in full size and how much to add or subtract from the pattern block for shaping and flare.

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Silk Denim

I bought some silk denim mail order from here . I like the jeans pattern I ended up with after the marathon pattern tweaking effort, but wanted a change and after much Pinterest browsing decided to try a wide leg style for this fabric. The two rtw styles I liked had leg widths of 23 and 26 inches, which gave me a good guide. I’ve styled the pattern with Italian pockets in the front and bound pockets in the back in place of the classic jeans style. They’re cut high, the body ending 3cms below natural waist, and a shaped band rising above the waist sewn on, belt loops to carry the belt at the waist.

Wide Leg Jeans

Jeans Back Pockets

They’re almost finished, just got to buy some fasteners for the waistband and get a pink belt to match the top stitching.

The silk has a twill weave, the yarn is quite slubby and thicker, so the effect is a slightly tweedy surface rather than the smoother or tougher look of cotton denims. It keeps it’s shape while cutting and stitching, but I suspect would bag at the knees in a narrow leg style more than a cotton denim.

I was keen to get started on these after marathon strimming session in the garden and cut them out without pre-washing the fabric. Then I took the scraps from the crotch curve, cut a paper template and washed and dried them. This one got a hot wash, and you can see it shrinks appreciably.


The other got a cool wash, still shrunk, but much less. The colour didn’t bleed. So, the horses bolting and shutting stable door thing.

The strimming takes me a long time, partly because of the size of this rocky hillside I call a garden, partly because I try to avoid smashing down the wild flowers that pop up in abundance. Pink and white campions, bluebells, borage, foxgloves, forget me nots and many more push through the grass and attract the bees – as beautiful as the flowering shrubs we planted. I’m trying to enjoy it while we still can, while waiting for the Brexit axe to fall. Yet, this morning, this! Dare we hope.



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Cowl Top Draft and Nostalgia

I redrafted a pattern for the cowl top that’s become a wardrobe standby.

Cowl Top in Silk Satin

This for a daughter who has lost weight, so the originals no longer fit her.

I’ve made many of these and blogged a few times and get asked where to get the pattern.

It’s a simple pattern adaptation, you don’t need to buy one if you have something like a block or basic pattern to work from. Here’s the method I’m using:-

This is a basic block in a 34″ bust with a small FBA adaptation built in. I’m starting with a version with all of the dart suppression moved into the waist. On the left the dart is in an underarm position, on the right all of it is moved to the waist.

Dart Moved to Waist

If you work from a pattern rather than a block, don’t forget that the bust point is likely to be an inch from the dart end on your pattern. This photo shows where you need to draw construction lines.

Slash Lines

A horizontal line goes from CF to the bust point. The neckline is drawn from mid shoulder to a point on the CF (mine’s halfway betwen the base of the neck and the bust level). Two curved lines next – shoulder point to CF and midway of the new shoulder to CF. Here’s how the lines open.

Open Slash Lines


I’ve closed about half of the original waist dart, opening the horizontal slash and cut and opened the other two slash lines so that the new neckline is horizontal, at right angles to the CF. There’s scope for changing the depth of cowl or length of shoulder – change the position of the neckline diagonal in the adaptation.

Front facings

This adaptation is placed onto the fold of some pattern paper so that the original CF lines up with the fold and the neckline lies at right angles to it. Ignore the little bits which hang over the edge of the CF line. After it was traced round I folded the pattern paper on the neckline and traced through the shoulder to draw the front neck facing in, and traced off the armhole shape to get the armhole facings.

Pattern and facings

That photo is from my original post “Gone Natural” and shows the shape of the whole pattern.

I went to London immediately after finishing this cowl top, and managed to get to the Paolozzi exhibition,  a huge nostalgia shot for me. As this is a sewing blog, I should mention that there are some textile works, prints and drawings and some ceramics, but for me it will always be the sculpture with its uncompromising impact.

A few gallery shots –

Paolozzi Exhibition

Paolozzi Exhibition

Paolozzi Exhibition

Paolozzi Exhibition

Paolozzi Exhibition

Paolozzi Exhibition







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