Rough Draft of Squared Armhole

I’m doing a re-run of the style I made in violet rayon, this time for me.

There’s at least a couple of ways of doing this draft. I’ve photographed the main stages in  one .

First the disclaimer. It’s a quick and dirty piece of pattern making. If you’re wondering why the paper is bumpy, it comes off a roll of the stuff sold to cover trestle tables for a street party, large family gathering or Moules Frites in the town square. Tends to rip, but ok for patterns that are getting one use.

Here’s the back and front block with a squared armhole drawn and the old one sliced off. The new shoulder point is 5cms in from the original and the new underarm point is 7.5 below the original. The bottom armhole line is 10cms. These measurements aren’t set in stone, and the shape can be varied of course.

Squared Armhole

Next the sleeve. To compensate for the missing part of the bodice, and to make some gathers over the sleeve head and armhole seam, the sleeve is enlarged.

Sleeve Block

My somewhat battered sleeve block has the Top Line (the one that goes between the two underarm points) extended 10cms each side, and the Centre Line extended 5cms .

Shape Sleeve Head

The bodice has been placed on those new underarm points and a T-junction going through the new top point to start the sleeve head draft. It’s going to have to fit into that square armhole.

Underarm Seam

A new provisional underarm seam is shooting off the bodice underarm points, and blending in roughly at the Elbow Line. I’m having the sleeves 3/4 length, so this is a good moment to lop off the excess. Now the Blue Peter stuff. ( the scissors and glue opportunity, if you weren’t  British child and have no idea what I’m waffling about)

Slash and Spread

The vertical slash lines are to put some gathers into the sleeve. The odd stuff at the top is to give the sleeve a bit of extra ease in the underarm area, like a gusset in a tighter kimono cut. About 7.5 cms length has been added there, by swinging out that squarish section that fits into the bodice.

New Sleevehead

The new sleevehead is raised 2.5cms, and the new sleeve shape drawn, not forgetting to shape the bottom edge.

Cuff Edge

The cuff edge of a sleeve dips in line with where the elbow will bend and curves up on the other side.

That’s the basic sleeve/armhole adaptation I’m using. There’s still a fair bit to do on the pattern – decide on the cuff arrangement, move the bust dart to somewhere more stylish, reshape the bodice side seams and replan the waist shaping, decide on the neckline, collar, buttonstand and pick a fabric.




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Coat Collar

The coat re-make is finished bar pressing, which will be left until I can check the hem for its position and level.

It’s a classic swing coat style with a central inverted pleat in the back.

Swing Coat with Back Pleat

There’s a couple of angled pockets with a velvet piping.

Piped Pockets

The collar is astmmetric and can be worn a few ways, here it’s open. It’s a style I’ll probably repeat, informal and adaptable.

Collar Open

Collar Buttoned

The bad weather version’s above, or I suppose if it was really freezing you could hitch it all the way up and tie a scarf round for good measure. This photo is to show the neckline shape that the collar is stitched to.

Neckline Shape

In the spirit of full disclosure, laziness crept in and I didn’t resize the collar to match the now slightly smaller neckline, but gathered it a little in the back neck over the inverted pleat. The collar shape is pretty much a strip with an angled outer edge.

Collar Shape

Also, while I’m confessing, you’ll notice that the button stand is huge. The original plan was for bumper buttons, but when they were tentatively positioned they looked silly. The extra wrap was appreciated for wind protection, we took the decision to leave it with the smaller, but still quite significant buttons.

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Neat Handstitching Tip

This week I set the lining into the coat I’m remaking and attached the collar. I needed to make some shoulder pads, and re-attach some little ‘tapes’ of lining to hold the bottom of the armhole seam to the top of the side seam. These had got lost ripping down the coat.

The collar has a top in velvet, the turnings are quite bulky. I’m prick stitching the turnings to the coat body fractionally below the seam to help them to stay in place and not pop up. This stitch is simple to do and shouldn’t show in such a thick wool, but in case it is visible I’m keeping it evenly spaced.

Some people do this by drawing a couple of lines on one finger or on a thumbnail, but getting the digit lined up seems to interfere with my rythm and slow the stitching down. So, FWIW here’s my tip for even spacing.

Spacing Handstitches

I have a strip of scrap fabric with a couple of different machine stitches along its edges. I’ve pinned it along the collar edge, and the stitching row is going in just below it. The needle is coming up every second zigzag. You can’t see the stitches on the right, because that’s the point really.



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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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