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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Getting the Ducks in a Row

It’s always a judgement call how closely you fit clothes. The jeans in natural denim (last post) are a tad baggy on my legs, in fact I can grab a good 6 cms each side just below the pelvis without feeling any strain. Translated to the flat pattern, this amount makes quite a strange line down the side seam, and is positively weird at the top of the inseam.

Fitting books don’t dish out a lot of advice for ‘thin bits’. Leichty, Pottberg and Rasband, surely one of the most comprehensive guides, has 21 conditions of the hip area which might need adjustments, and ten leg quirks. ‘Thin legs’ comes last. The advice is, unsurprisingly, to take in the amounts evenly on the side seam and inseam and blend in at the hipline to the original line.

The devil is in the detail. The bagginess starts higher ( femur head) on me, and I don’t want the lower legs ultra tight. I’ve got a few rtw jeans which hug the legs and are fairly narrow, in a stretchy but not heavy denim. They’re passable but tight on the tum and waist. I bought and chucked out one pair of ultra fitted ones, designed by Gok Wan for you know which supermarket. Fit was ok but peeling these off at bedtime was just too hard on the intervertebral discs.

Enough waffle – the shape of this pair in black needlecord is a compromise between smooth fit and pain free existence, with a nod to a reasonable pattern line. I’m happy.

Black Needlecord Jeans

I battled the freezing Easterly wind in front of my frost blasted hydrangeas for this unclear shot, so I hope you can see that they’re slimmer, though a bit too long with the slip on flats.

Here’s the altered back pattern next to the card block.

Back Jeans Pattern

See the odd side seam? The crotch curve is moved towards more of an L shape too.

Front Jeans Pattern

Same on the front.

Despite vowing not to buy any more fabric, I failed to resist getting this from Les Coupons de Saint Pierre

Silk Denim

Its a medium weight twill weave matt silk fabric denim style, and was 30 euros for 3 metres, plus postage. Denim, but silk.


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Jeans Toile from Hell

There’s always one isn’t there? One garment that dedicates itself unrelentingly to showing you up.

I’ll draw a veil over most of the seam ripper moments – the times I forgot what seam allowance I’d used on the pattern and substituted a different one, the forgetting completely to attach the yoke to the back and wondering why the back leg was coming out shorter than the front, cutting the waistband a wee bit short and the zip guard a wee bit wide,  that sort of thing.

Yet why did my inspiration to top stitch in mink brown look so perfect in the sample and utter cr*p on the front pockets ? And why then did the double thread mink brown resist plain old ripping out, and the stitches nestle firmly into the twill, needing removing surgically, stitch by blasted stitch? And especially, why, why didn’t I see the bright red blobs of melted ironing board blanket on the sole plate until I’d slammed the iron down on the RS of the front crotch seam?

I should have known. The fabric was just not meant to be. Here it is, demonstrating its wonkyness.

Wonky Grained Denim

Husband got shanghaied into helping to straighten it. I used it when the angle of distortion had about halved, but it’s a heavy unweildly quality I might struggle to wear.

This toile (last post) has a waistband on now and is doing home on the range service.

Wearable Jeans Toile

I made some alterations to the pattern before cracking out the natural denim, to get a bigger front waist and reduce straining at front high hip. Usually, I need to take fabric out of the back seam, lowering the waistband in the back. I could see the tell tale folds in the back legs, but with the part above the hip not fitting well I couldn’t see how much to change it.

I  let a bit more into the front pattern.

Adjust Waist on Jeans

The extension for the fly is on the left and the pocket curve on the right in this photo. It’s plus  1 cm at the CF, shifting the fly extension over, and 1cm by the pocket, where the red x’s are.

I made minor adjustments to the crotch seam, lowering it slightly, by about 0.7 cms.

Here’s the result after a couple of hours scraping at melted red blobs with a fingernail.

Jeans toile

The good news is that the waist now fits brilliantly. I’ve drafted a shaped waistband, this is pure comfort.

Less super – the legs are a smidge baggy, and I do indeed need my usual half inch taken at back waist, to lift them up.

Back Sag

You might spot the tell tale back leg sag in that shot. Here’s one that shows where the fabric wants to fold on itself under the waistband.


You can also see there that though the waist fits like a glove, there’s still an element of strain about three inches down in the front, where the carbs roost.

This from the the comprehensive wrinkle guide in ‘Fitting and Pattern Alteration’ by Liechty, Pottberg and Rasband is the remedy for the saggy legs.



Slice some out of the back height so that the hip line grain sits on a horizontal, and the wrinkles should go.










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Wearable Toile ?

I’m making these jeans semi-properly, on the chance that they will fit without too much alteration. There’ll be a bit of skimping and short-cuts in case they’re waaaay off and end up as dusters.

The zip went in à la Shoben and Ward. It’s inserted with the pieces flat, and gets done first. Thanks to a comment on Catherine Daze’s blog I learn that there’s yet another flat insertion method, featured in Threads .

I like to have a zip guard though. Maybe it would be easy enough to add one, but I’m not sure about the extra bulk of interfacings on each side of the fly facings. In a heavy denim would you want this?

And, thanks to a forum member at The Sewing Place, I’ve just watched a video with another flat zip insertion method . This one, I’ll try one day, also her way with front pockets, not the same as mine below.

Front pockets after the zip.

Pocket Facing Stitched

Snipped and Understitched

I cut the pocket/corner front as one, in the mauve fabric. In heavy denim it’s usual to make the pocket in a lighter cotton, but this saves a stage.

Pocket Self Neatened

Stitching the pocket WS together with the pocket facing, then clipping, turning and stitching again as a french seam gives a nice strong, neat edge to the pocket.

Back Pockets next

Back Pockets

The yoke provides the shaping that would otherwise be in a waist dart.

Plain Seam at Side

Time to try them on

Toile Fit

Not as bad as expected, but the 1cm at the waist was on the optimistic side. Time to revise the pattern.


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Jeans Again

Its been a while since I made jeans, and I need to check if my jeans block still gives me an acceptable fit. I’ve compared measurements with my rtw pairs. It’s fairly close. The rtw have no ease on my hip measurement, but they’re made in stretch denims. The block has a couple of inches which should be about right.

The questions are – will there be too much length in the back crotch curve, and will there be enough space in the front waist, both changes which don’t show up in basic measurements but need a toile.

I’ve some remnant strips of pale mauve furnishing cotton with a woven pattern in stash, and a second hand zip . Do you rip zips and buttons of old garments before chucking them? This one’s a bit mauled, but the colour isn’t bad and the length is ok.

I’m cutting them at urchin length, or possibly pedal pusher length.

The Battered Zip

The chalk line you can see at the top of the piece on the right is where I’ve deviated from the pattern on a hunch. 1cm is added to each CF waist to accomodate the weight I’m still hoping to lose. Will it be enough? Hmmm.

You’ll have spotted that I’ve cut a grown on fly.



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