Waffling about Pattern Making Again

This week I played around with the overshirt pattern and made it into a shift.

The fabric is a soft blue silky something or the other from stash depths – about the colour of Petula’s overdress in this clip.   La Nuit N’en Finit Plus might be my theme song.

My dress has side slits too. I added a pocket in the right side seam, changed the classic underarm dart to a shaped french dart, made the neckline work as both closed with slit and turned back and redrafted to the measurements of a daughter who often gets to be my pattern guinea pig. I’m slightly regretting the last decision in this list as now its done I quite like it – and the sleeves aren’t as impractical as you might think. They stay put by your sides when your hands are in the washing up bowl.  It almost, kind of,  fits me …..hmmm. Would make an excellent hot weather frock.

Blue Dress

Blue Dress

Neckline Fastened

Neckline Fastened

If anyone reading this doesn’t know how to work a slit opening like this one, it goes like this:-

1. Mark the cutting line (I usually use one or two rows of close stitching).

2. With facing piece RS together over the slit, stitch each side of the marked line, leaving the smalles space you dare between them. Use a small stitch length. Bring the stitch lines to a Vee at thebottom but take one stitch across (i.e. don’t do ‘needle down and swivel).

3. Snip right in to your stitch line at the Vee end, dabbing on fray check if you’re nervous. Turn the facing in.

To insert a rouleau loop like the one I put at the top, you need to have it positioned between the two layers, raw edges to the centre. Its easier if you stitch or baste it in place on your garment layer first.

During  web browsing breaks, I came across another of those comments on indie pattern makers, this time in the ‘why don’t they design something different’ vein.

True enough, there are a lot of patterns  travelling well trodden paths. My guess is that making a ‘different’ design is a lot more work, and might have limited appeal and a short life.

To illustrate this point let’s list what went into the shift dress above. Let’s say I already had the basic dress block in the size I needed (I did). Below are the processes and in brackets next to them the decisions involved. Its the decisions that take the time.

Trace round front and back blocks. Draw new neckline front and back checking shoulder widths and plunge. (Worry about bra strap clearance? How deep a plunge? Will it work as a turned back shape? Fastening?)


Draft neck facing (How much depth of facing to guard against facing flip? Will too much create ugly bulk?)

Draw in hemline and position of side slits (Length? Depth of slit?) Draft pocket (Position, size?)

Swivel Bust dart to new position  drawing curve for it (Length? Shape of curve?) Recut side seam to incorporate bust dart fold. Measure dress girth (Need zip?)


Trace round sleeve block twice. Draw Front overlap curve on one.Draw back underlap curve on the other (Position? Shape?). Slice off pieces. Slash through to get bell shape (How much flare? Where to position flare?). Re trace as single pattern piece.

Slash across new sleeve piece to get more fluting on vertical line of front overlap curve, open, trace. (Position and amount of flare?) Draw in new grain line.(Will that work? Drape nicely or twist awkwardly?)

sleeve pat

This shift dress is a fairly simple but not totally standard item. There were quite a lot of steps. Each decision is a shot in the dark, unlike when you churn out a totally textbook pattern. Experience reduces the number of trial garments, but sometimes you just guess wrong. Don’t get me started on fabric requirements. If your design is one of the basic shapes, a long list of fabrics will work with it. Make even a little foray into difference and the fabric can make or break it. That’s only the beginning – still grading or drafting different sizes and tidying up and checking the patterns to do.

I struggled to dream up a sewing hook for this non sequitur.



Uncovered in our wood-box. Isn’t it marvellous?




About jay

I design and draft patterns
This entry was posted in Designed by me, Opinions Questions Rants, Pattern Making and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Waffling about Pattern Making Again

  1. fabrickated says:

    You make the point very well about how hard it is to draft a great pattern. I really like how this blue dress has turned out. I also appreciated the notes on slit openings. Just considering the Marfy free blouse pattern which I think has such an opening at the back neck. Great post – not one word of waffle.


    • jay says:

      Marfy make patterns I like – leaving you to work out the nitty gritty of construction but good drafts from nicely planned blocks. Have you bought a catalogue? That usually has some freebies in it – but it works out quite pricey with postage unfortunately.


  2. I’ve certainly done my share of moaning about seeing the same basic shapes over and over, but your point is well taken about how expensive and risky it is to veer outside those boundaries. I suspect I am going to wind up drafting my own patterns eventually (and then I’ll have something new to moan about!)

    The dress is so lovely and the color is gorgeous. And I had to laugh at your comment about the sleeves and the washing up–that was exactly my first thought when I saw the sleeves. 😉


  3. mrsmole says:

    Are those paper wasps? We have those in our garden and they are real busy making those paper structures. The sleeves are quite something…Gothic/renaissance fair almost if done in black lace but they work very well with the blue fabric too. Not sure I would wear such a nice dress to do the washing up though!!!Love your sequence for making a front slit…I too take that one stitch across at the point…no pivoting for this girl! Great job!


    • jay says:

      I’m not sure what kind of wasps they are, but they do make those incredible structures to lay their grubs in. If I wasn’t bored with the sleeves by now I’d try them as a double layer of habotai – the fine floaty stuff. Leaving them free at the edges and just stitching them together into the armscye of course, but black lace would be a pretty good look for the drama queen in one.


  4. I was sold when I saw the blue. Blue is my favourite. Just the other day, my sister and I were looking at vintage Butterick patterns when I noticed that all three were the same, pretty much. All dresses with flared or gathered skirts and long sleeves. ‘why don’t they design something different’ 😀


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