Drafting Sewing Patterns

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

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Flopping Burda

You may remember I had warm feelings about May Burda Style? They are cooling.

115 looked promising for me.

Burda Hopeful

Burda Hopeful

Though it has sack-like elements, in the photo it looks as though it’s designed to fit at hip level, thus good for inverse pears.

The fabric requirements are light and fluid jersey. I was tempted to cut it on the bias in a nice blue silk, this one –

Top Left, Blue Silk

Top Left, Blue Silk

but after the size issues with 108, last post, decided to play safe and cut it in this –

Textured Oyster Jersey

Textured Oyster Jersey

My first choice from stash was a red stretch viscose jersey, but there wasn’t enough. Its a simple pattern, but quite fabric hungry, see the pieces:-

Pattern Pieces

Pattern Pieces

I went down a size, cutting a 38, but the pieces still didn’t fit side by side.

The pattern makes up in an hour, but I’m swimming in fabric. I could hack five inches out of the hip width and still have it skimming rather than hugging. My impression is that for both of the jersey dresses I’ve tried so far, Burda has used a wovens block. There is wearing ease and some. Back to self drafting I think.

With half a nod at MMM, this is the jersey lace skirt made earlier.

Jersey Lace Skirt

Jersey Lace Skirt

Far too chilly to wear with its lace top.

Cardigan Front

Cardigan Front



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Burda Unwrapped

It’s been a roller coaster ride with Burda May 2016 108 wrap over dress. I tried to get some liquid-look metallic jersey like the sample but google drew a blank. I went for a 95% viscose 5% elastane jersey from Tissus net after seeing it in a dress on a french sewing blog.  I settled on a print in mainly browns with a hint of blue, based on what I imagine to be photocopied fragments of old jeans and other denim clothing. Not glamorous like the original, but maybe ok for a casual rendition.

Print in Browns and Blue

Print in Browns and Blue

It’s a bit richer in colour than it shows on my monitor, russet in parts.

First Misgivings

As I normally draft my own stuff, sizing isn’t an issue. While others sweat through several ‘muslins’ or toiles, I’m feeing smug about fit issues – my blocks take care of all that. Not this time. The draft is for taller women (I’m 5’4) . Ok,  reduce the pattern length, but where is a note of the CB to waist measurement they’re drafting to? Measuring the pattern isn’t much help either, the magazine sample clearly shows that it’s designed to be a blousy top, draping over the waist. I took out 2cms bodice length, later hacked off another 2-3cms .

Burda is reputed to fit well, without too much ease, and I didn’t downsize. The first hint that this might be a mistake came when I looked at the camisole pattern in my size – and scrapped it. There was at least 12cms too much width.

Quick Slip

I’ve had a hankering to make full length slips of simple design in dress jerseys, working on the theory that sometimes you need a layer uncluttered at the waistline, and capable of being revealed if you need to peel off. Think going from freezing cold shopping street to coffee and cake in John Lewis for example. There was plenty of this fabric, my own jersey block was quickly extended to make this item.

Slip or not

Slip or not

The construction was -bust darts, stitch side seams leaving four inch slits, cut strips of jersey, stitch round neck and armholes, press turnings to ws and mock cover stitch with double needle, finish hem and side slits with mock cover stitch.

Another Puzzle

I took about 8 cms out of the bodice width . It’s still pretty baggy, but the skirt, which I left alone, was ok for width and a bit too short for length. I borrowed 3cms from my hem allowance.  I’m in the inverse pear team, and would have expected a too snug top and baggy skirt. Designed for women a few inches taller than me, wouldn’t you expect too much length in the skirt?

Wrap Good and Bad

The underwrap of the skirt works well. It’s cut right across at the top, joining in the side seam, but curving away from the side seam at hip level. This means it stays decent but doesn’t bind on your legs with too much fabric. The bodice wrap is a bit crackers. The V neck continues part way, with a grown on facing, but the wrap doesn’t go to the waist. As the top is blousy, what chance of it staying wrapped ? I’ll probably add a concealed fastening or two inside and dispense with camisole or slip.

The waistline feels a bit bulky in this fabric, with several layers, the top of pockets, and pleats in the seam, and elastic attached to the seam allowance. Were I to make this again, I’d try a channel between the bodice and skirt made from two strips of fabric, with the elastic threaded through. This could give a more comfortable and snug fit at the waist.

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Stalled Projects

Why do some projects get sewn up in a few days and others sit half done on the end of the sewing table muttering imprecations and gathering dust?

I started this coat last Autumn, when the weather was just cool enough to need a top layer, but still warm enough to consider an edge to edge style.

The Big Idea was to make the coat Chanel style, not using interlinings and interfacings, but keeping it light like a cardigan by quilting the outer layer to the lining piece by piece. The quilting was going to be decorative, with birds swooping down the front. Swallows were all drawn up and ready to fly.

Then it fell at the first fence. The bubbly surface texture of my wool didn’t sit well with the quilting. The stitches just got buried, whatever thread combination I tried. I gave up and  went for a loose lining.

The original design had a neckline raised at the side, cut away at the centre front. I ditched this too after a toile. That left a decision of the edge treatment and leather binding seemed the best bet. With that half done, impetus went the way of the weather. It’s ok battling on with long winded techniques if the end product stands a chance of being the thing you thought it would be, but when the swallows flew south they took a fair chunk of enthusiasm with them.

Through gritted teeth I got to grips with finishing it this week.

Edge to Edge Coat

Edge to Edge Coat

Closes with Frogs!

Closes with Frogs!

Probably Get Worn Open

Probably Get Worn Open

Not the coat I intended, but still not bad. I’ve gained a useful coat and space on the machine table.

Do you find it hard to complete projects when it means a compromise?

It’s the first of May.  MMM 1 for those brave enough to sign up. Reading a few blog commitments it struck me that until I slung the coat on, I was all rtw. Quite unusual, for me. Ten year old jeans ex Asda sale, five year old cashmere jumper ex TKMaxx with, hey! hand embroidered flowers over the moth holes, positively ancient silk top ex Patra Selections and silk scarf from an Oxfam shop. Sorry to let the side down ladies.

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May Burda Style

I treated myself to May’s Burda Style whilst in the papeterie this morning. I’ve no actual need of any more patterns, but after a two and a half hour wait on hold to parley with French administration at the sous prefecture I felt the need of an indulgence. It was that or pain au raisin from the boulangerie next door. It came down to which vow to break, carb reduction or stash reduction. Besides, I like to get something with my lottery ticket, so as not to give the impression that I’m just in there for a desperate last ditch gamble.

I didn’t even bother to flick over to the page of line drawings to see if there was any originality before splashing out. Lunch was beckoning.

Let’s see what’s in store.

116 is a racer back sleeveless, dartless top. Do you need one of these? The back has a soupcon of detail. You make a strap add it to the front and thread it through a loop made in the top at the back, which gives a touch of drape. I don’t know why you don’t just extend the front pieces instead of an extra strap, probably fabric economy.

104 is a short jacket with french darts and a two piece sleeve, double breasted. There’s a back yoke, with inverted pleat, giving it a slight swing back look. I think this looks a little clunky as a short summer jacket.jac

They’ve paired it with culottes (110), which have a scalloped yoke at the top – lost in the stripes.culotte I’m not bowled over. The legs are cut straight. Culottes work better if there’s a flare and/or pleating, so that they hang like a skirt.

Don’t worry it gets better.

Next up there’s a sixties shape dress, 105, waist seam, some pocket flaps inserted meaninglessly, and a side seam pocket, boat neck, short sleeves. stripSound enough if you don’t need an FBA (the bust dart is moved to the waist position, which becomes horrendously huge if you take larger cup sizes). It’s rather ruined by being made up in deckchair stripes, as is a spaghetti strapped sundress.

Things are looking up by page 14, where you get a pretty short sleeved blouse with an overlap at the front neck and an inverted pleat, teamed with some useful shorts.101 The shorts are the last we see of those horizontal stripes. They’re rendered ten times better in broderie anglaise on page 45 where they get teamed with another handy blouse in batiste.102

Here’s the line drawing of the blouse, nothing amazing, but useful and adaptable.blo

107 is described as a masterpiece, probably because the skirt has diagonal and curved panels outlined in piping. I spot another side seam pocket, the bodice has french darts.


111B and 106 get styled as a matching set, giving separates the look of a dress with a twenties feel. Despite having seen a few similar skirts with panels hanging like a casually tied scarf belt over the years, I’m tempted.


The racer back top gets rerun as a jumpsuit and again in a short playsuit version, both winners if you can cope with the underwear challenge. It shows up in a dress too. Burda do like to stretch their ideas.


They must have been peering into my sewing room as I ran up my dog walking pjs because 119 is just the thing, elastic waisted easy trousers. This issue is a fair balance between basic and a bit more challenging.

Another ‘masterpiece’ comes in short and long. Nice enough for anyone’s soiree without being too difficult to fit or sew.


108 hits the easy but elegant spot, if you happen on some really nice jersey. Sensibly, they suggest making it with a strappy camisole to cope with wrap gape.


115 comes as both a top and a dress, and could be another summer days staple, its open batwing sleeves offering some upper arm cover.

dj The dress is on the same page as a leather jacket, interesting for its simplicity. I’m puzzled about the collar arrangement. You need a leather, suede or fake which is ok on both sides, the whole is cut with raw edges, no facings. (editing – on closer look at the layout the front is faced)

There’s a lot of lovely lace in this issue, used with some simple pattern shapes to good effect. The stuff used for this skirt would make me throw the fabric fast to the winds, but I haven’t tracked it down yet.skirt


Sometimes Burda really messes up their fabric selection, but deckchair stripes aside, they’ve done the patterns proud this time.

This lace is used horizontally in a simple dress, then vertically in a poncho. Just right.


The child’s top would be nothing special except for the wonderful lace. It’s such an easy make, perfect for a Mum in a hurry.


Burda plus size offerings are quite often good, this time being no exception. A shawl collar cardi, and some jogging pants – quick and easy. I like the fact that they used linen for the pants and trimmed them to match the cardi. They look relaxed and cool but not sloppy.


This linen dress is a good basic, having princess seams in the bodice should make fitting simpler.


I like this as a top.bucketIt reappears less successfully  in striped jersey as a dress. I’m not sure why the dress bunches up unflatteringly under the bust on the same model.

stripe Probably one of the fit flops we get used to from pattern companies. Another fit flop is a sundress, that could be perfect if they’d FBAd just a little bit and lengthened the strap.

The plus size “masterpiece” is a jumpsuit. I really like this in linen.


On the whole I got the warm fuzzy feeling of 6.50 Euros well spent.**

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Stuff and More Stuff

Anyone kondo-ing? Several posters on a sewing forum , me included, are trying to reduce fabric stashes. Maybe you’ve been spring cleaning? It’s in the air and it has me pondering the role of stuff.

There was still the tail end of rationing when I came into the world. Stuff was in short supply. Mum went food shopping with a small basket, popping from little shop to little shop. I peered up at the high shiny wooden counter as sugar was weighed out and tipped into a blue paper bag. Cheese was sliced and wrapped while you waited.

Clothes had been rationed too. Learning to make clothes was predicated on new fabric being a somewhat precious, rare thing.

The upside of this way of life are obvious. Frugality, making do, doing a lot with a little, and best of all, not being the custodian of great piles of stuff.

The downside is how limiting it is when trying to create something and can’t lay hands on what you need to carry out the Big Idea.

Now, in these relatively stuff stuffed times, how do you decide when enough is enough, what you will not buy, save or stash? The dictum to have nothing in the house you don’t love hits a snag in my sewing room. Do I love my hoard of zips, every one? No, I hate them all. It’s frustrating to have to put a project on hold for lack of a zip, but they are nasty, scratchy, awkward to insert things prone to breaking. No love there.  Do I have boxes of uselessly small scraps saved precisely because I love the colour, pattern or texture? Yes. They are the stuff that dreams are made of, but the dreams are taking over.

Maybe utility should  be the critical factor in allocating space? What about the Murphy’s law of clear outs?  Anything you chuck as useless will be needed next week. I weeded my self drafted patterns two or three weeks ago, and of course, promptly had to redraft one for the gardening trousers. I wouldn’t care, but I’d kept it for about 12 years.

How about you, hoarder or super organised minimalist in the sewing room? How do you choose what to keep for its possibilities, and what to sling to make better use of the space?




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Sheer Magic

How many sheers lurk unused in your fabric hoard? Do they weave fairy dust into chiffon, with a good dose of something more potent than oxytocin? They must. It’s guaranteed that I’ll bond instantly with the stuff and pay no thought to the tedious  job of finding a good match in underlining in the right weight.

Obviously, you are probably thinking, I just need a SamCam wardrobe adviser, a snip at £53,000. Such a fashion hound could sniff out the right underwear to blend tastefully and discretely with my diaphanous creations. Why fret over a decency preserving lining, invest in a drawerfull of matching slips and let the sheer do its thing unfettered. Honestly, that is probably fine if you don’t need the kind of underpinning that comes with ugly inch wide elastic straps and strange ridges and metallic bits that set off airport scanners. But I notice that the trim style icon Kate takes no chances. If this sheer front panel isn’t underlined I’ll eat my hat.

kate dress

To get to the point, sheer purchase indiscipline is evident in my sewing stash.  I couldn’t remember when I bought this black patterned sheer with tiny sequins, but it felt like at least a decade of folding and unfolding had gone into its storage, so this week I had a to hell with it moment.

Sheer with Sequins

Sheer with Sequins

I grabbed the pattern most likely to fit one daughter and fiddled with it slightly, making the short A line skirt into a flared midi, and cut it out.

The best I could find for mounting the bodice part and making a part lining for the skirt was another sheer, black with small printed silver dots.

Bodice in Sheer

Bodice in Sheer

That’s the back of the bodice, the front also has waist darts and a side bust dart.

If you’ve never set about mounting one fabric on another, I have only one major tip. Tack like fun. It’s tempting, when you want to get the show on the road, to imagine that the layer you have on your cutting table, on which you placed the pieces already cut out in the top layer, will cling like a baby monkey hanging on to its mum as she swings through the trees, and a few pins will do. I actually read the phrase ‘pinning can be basting too’ on a forum recently. Uh huh.

Tack all round the edges after you’ve smoothed the layers, tack round darts and anywhere that might have a structural function. Do this with the fabrics flat on the table before lifting them at all. Don’t be tempted by the thought of doing the tacking on a tray in front of the tv. You’ll thank me for this when you set in the zipper. Nothing beats the glow of smugness when you don’t get bubbles between the layers and it goes in first try, zero unpicking.

Invisible Zipper

Invisible Zipper

I finished the seams like so.

Trimmed seam

Trimmed seam

Trim away two layers of top fabric, snipping off any sequins in the seam allowance, and one layer of underlining to 5mm.

Seam Finish

Seam Finish

Trim the other layer of underling to about 1cm. Wrap it round the 5mm bits and stitch it down to the seam allowance. Press the seam wrapped edge underneath.

I still wasn’t loving the project. Would the fabric look naff, cheapo sequins sewn seemingly randomly to the print underneath? And, big question, would the flared skirt hang right?

Designing a flare is easy in theory. You slash and spread the pattern or block where you want the folds to fall. In practice, how it falls differs with  fabric. Would this end up with the dreaded side pokes, or waves wrapping round the legs? I ‘drafted’ this one on the fly – slashing it until I’d got to the full width of the fabric without much mental processing. It’s not my size but I just had to slip it on to check.

Sheer Magic

Sheer Magic

Doubts shelved. The mirror shot tells you little, but sequin oddities, and  flare worries vanished. Sheer magic, swishy, filmy, fun. Who cares if it was cheap, it feels like a $million.





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Drafting a Yoke on Trousers

See how I steered clear of punny titles? Blurry sewing room shots and the yokes on me. There, got that out of my system.

Most trouser patterns now come with a centre front fly opening. Maybe you want to change this to a side or back opening? Maybe you want to change the way the waist shaping is arranged, darts into a yoke or shaped band?

You can do this with just about any pattern. A typical trouser block or basic pattern has some shaping on the side seams, a single dart in each front, and two darts in each back. The front and back centre lines shape in to a greater or lesser extent, depending on style.

Half Scale Trouser Block

Half Scale Trouser Block

Sometimes the front dart has been incorporated wholly or partly in a pleat, as in the Vogue pattern I altered recently.V2981 This pattern already had a yoke of sorts – a shaped band in lieu of a waistband, set lower than the true waist. The pattern designer will have drafted the original shaped band like this:

Darts Folded Out

Darts Folded Out

Pin the darts closed, draw in the band where you want it. Cut along the band line, tidy up the curve, add seam allowances.

To judge by the number of questions from beginners on sewing forums, there’s confusion about darts. Darts start at the waist and end in a point at the widest part of your anatomy.

Darts and seam shaping are just simple maths. The difference between the hip measurement plus ease and the waist measurement plus ease is the amount to be reduced. Blocks and patterns work to a standard of measurements, and a standard position for the fractions of that reduction -shaped side seam, shaping back and front centre, two darts in the back and one in the front. Seven positions to share the reduction amount.

This assumes everyone to be the same form, but in practice you might need more or less of the reduction at each of these positions, and you might need to move the position of darts and even side seam to get the best fit and look. Side seams get drawn as a steady curve, even though the body underneath might have a lumpy wave shape, out at high hip, in a bit, then out again at the pelvic hip joint for instance. Smoothing out the shape is usually more flattering. Darts are drawn as a triangle for convenience, but can be shaped as a curve if this gives a better fit.

It’s better to fit a pattern with the full complement of seams and darts and transfer the new fitting lines to your pattern before changing the style to a yoke.

The basic arrangement of darts and side seam  to reduce the fabric between the hips and the waist gives flexibility for fitting, yokes not so much. If you don’t need a front dart, or have to extend the side seam at the front waist because of a larger tum, this is better done on a toile before making design changes . Changes to the height of the front and back waist are also common. You’re aiming for a trouser waist which is parallel to the floor. First fitting might find it dipping at the front or climbing high in the back or vice versa.

Once the fit is sorted you can draw any shape yoke through the closed darts and smooth out the shape when you’ve separated the pieces. The yoke can leave the tail end of darts. These can be dealt with in various ways  – kept as small darts, or pleats, eased in, measured and the extra fabric taken out at the seam. The key is to walk the pattern before adding seam allowances so you can iron out discrepancies.

Yoke Shape

Yoke Shape

If you want to move a fly front pattern opening to the side or the back  you just need to identify the centre front in your pattern and knock off any fly extensions. With an invisible zipper you won’t need anything more than basic seam allowances. Add extra if you intend to do a lapped zipper.

For some styles you can omit the side seam and just have a shaped dart instead, taking in the space you can see between the front and back blocks in the first picture. I did this for some linen trousers,  putting an Italian pocket in using the side seam dart. On the right of the photo you can see the point where the side seam would be, and above it the back leg of the ‘dart’.

Linen Trousers

Linen Trousers

Below, a quick make, trousers with the waist shaping created with elastic. To do this from a classic pattern, you ignore darts, and draw the side seam straight up from the hip. Check the waist measurement will go over your hips.



These gardening trousers have inseam side pockets and a pleated patch pocket on one side for my secateurs!

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