Archive for October 2010

Oversized tops

October 30, 2010

My big problem with most wardrobe schemes is they don’t fit my lifestyle. I rarely wear jackets or skirts or dresses. I feel the cold and need clothes for a casual active life. What I do wear is pants with many top layers including big shirts, tunics, and vests. My clothes are most like the Sewing Workshop layering wardrobe (my post) – very top-heavy as I need things in the proportions :  2 bottoms, 4 tops, 8 layers.

In mid-winter, I most need very loose fitting tunics/ big shirts that will go over the top when I’m wearing half a dozen sweaters. It must be possible to wear thermal long johns without looking like a bag lady. . .

These big tops do need to be in flattering colours and my style and with good length proportions, but with little reference to my body shape, which is deep beneath. There may be a waisted pear down there somewhere, but in mid-winter I look more like an apple 😀  

I’ve been thinking I ‘ought not’ to wear these ‘big’ styles because a slim fitted look is current. So wearing big garments would show my eye for style is stuck in the 80s to 90s.

But happily there are new oversized patterns. I did assume these proportions are intended for wear with leggings (the big top – narrow bottom proportion), but many of these patterns include straight legged pants. So perhaps I’m not the only person on the look out for this shape !

I’ve restricted this to patterns with more than 10 inches ease at bust level. There are many good tunic patterns (especially from independent pattern designers), but most of them are somewhat fitted at bust level then widen at hip level. Good for warmer weather, but not what I’m looking for here.

– – –

There are a couple of older big top patterns in the BMV catalogues.

Butterick 5481 is for a big shirt-tunic.


Vogue 8525 is a cut-on sleeve Vogue Woman pattern that has been around for a while.


But otherwise, interestingly, most of the current Big 4 patterns with these proportions were issued in the last few months. So this is a good time to be looking.

What is more modern about these styles is that most of them have cut-on, or occasionally raglan, sleeves rather than dropped shoulders.

Simplicity 2289 is a new pattern by Patty Read.


While for a Very Easy sloppy tunic there’s Vogue 8698.


I don’t think I would wear this myself. I’m a practical person and don’t like big sleeves or cuffs that drape into everything I’m doing. . .

Butterick 5524 is one I’m thinking of making. This would work for me better as those sleeves are not full length.


For knits there’s McCall’s 6205.


And McCall’s 6242 is a new ‘smock’ style for knits. I would definitely leave off the tight hip band !


There are many other new patterns which are generous in the upper body but tight on the hips. . . especially patterns with deep dolman/ batwing sleeves. So not for me ! In fact there are probably more new patterns for people who are larger above than below the waist. Sorry I haven’t picked them out 😀

– – –

There are also many suitable ‘ethnic’ styles.

Butterick 5494 is a new caftan pattern that looks fun.


I might make this ‘circular’ caftan as it makes me laugh, even though sadly it looks rather droopy made up. In fact it looks as if it’s as impractical to wear as floaty style kaftans. A new version of this type is McCall’s 6125.


I think I would constantly worry about knocking things over with all that extra fabric below my arms. Though I can see it as a fun beach or pool-side cover-up, made in a sheer fabric.

Most of the older patterns for generous sized tops are ‘ethnic’ in character.

Such as the classic caftan in McCall’s 4002.


Or a smock as in Stof & Stil 22013.


I love this type of smock style for warmer weather, but am not sure it would look good layered over thick sweaters.

Following on from that, there are many suitable styles among Folkwear patterns, particularly in the Caravan section.

And there’s Sewing Workshop’s Hudson top.


The related Shapes pattern line has several possibilities. Though I might have to fiddle with some of those to get them to look good on my sloping shoulders.

And there are half a dozen classic fleece top unisex patterns from McCall’s (see the end of the men’s section), as well as from Green Pepper and other companies that specialise in casual patterns.

– – –

So there’s no shortage of pattern possibilities for making this sort of cover-up style. As each of the Big 4 has issued a ‘big top’ pattern this summer, it even looks as if they might be coming back as a ‘current’ though minority taste for proportions.

Well, I haven’t actually seen anyone round here wearing one of these, let alone in Elle or In Style. Hmm. . . But this is a big gap in my wardrobe, whatever the fashionistas may say.

UK Elle this month is all about flared coats and military styling. While it’s the In Style party issue. If you really can’t manage a skin tight lace sheath or being covered in grecian draping – how about a Chanel styled vest over a sheer blouse worn with pants (limit the sheer to the sleeves if you like). A much easier and warmer option 😀

– – –

Patterns and links available October 2010

Types of weaving/ types of loom : simplicity

October 23, 2010

Someone on a sewing board recently described her enjoyment of weaving. Though I love sewing, for peaceful relaxation I need a repetitive activity that can be done without much thought. As I’ve had to give up knitting for manual dexterity reasons, I wondered if weaving would be restful and productive.

But when I tried to find out about weaving from the internet, it all seemed very confused. Many different types of weaving, many different types of loom. No clear descriptions anywhere of all the different sorts. Often the only surveys on the internet are in very intellectual language with no pictures and no explanation of technical terms. Even the retailers expect you to know what you want (both looms and yarns) and what the words mean.

Of course there may be books which do what I’m looking for, but I haven’t got easy access to them. There certainly are books which claim to be bibles of the topic but which actually only cover one type of loom. Lots of books and DVDs available (for one specialist list see books and DVDs).

The great internet resource is that weavers are generous on YouTube. Many little videos about different weaving processes.

So here is what I’ve been able to make of it. From my earliest notes, it’s obvious I started out very confused ! so I hope this is not positively misleading. . .

I haven’t included many pictures. I have linked to videos, as it’s much easier to understand when you see the processes in action. Once you know some of the words, and start searching, it’s easy to find out a lot more.

There’s so much to say, I’ve divided this in 3 parts :
– simplest methods.
– weaving on a simple frame.
– speeding up : beyond the Frame Loom.

– – –

Basically a way of interleaving strands to make a surface.

Basket weaving
If the strands are stiff enough to be self supporting, then you can do basket weaving and make mats – not what I’m going to talk about.

If the strands are floppy, then they need to be supported in some way while they’re being interwoven. Hence all the looms, pegs, pins and other weaving tools.

Basically there are two main types of interwoven strands :

Woven – interwoven strands at right angles.

”weaving-wiki” Wikipedia

Knits – interwoven rows of loops.

”knit-wiki” Wikipedia

There’s also bobbin lace, crochet, tatting etc. which I’m not going to go into.

– – –

Finger knitting
Knitting looms – loom knitting

Here are some techniques which do wind yarn under and over, in a weaving sort of way, but you end up making knit loops. Some of the tools are called looms. (Not the same as ‘knitters looms’, which are a type of rigid heddle loom, see last post in this group. . .)

The most basic method is just to use your fingers. Here’s a video about finger knitting.
This is sometimes called finger weaving – though there’s something else called that, see later !

Stands up surprising well to being done very badly 😀 though you do need to do 4 or 5 ‘rows’ before the result makes any sense.

It’s a similar process when you use pegs on a stand instead of your fingers.
As a child I used to do ‘French knitting’ over 4 nails hammered into a wooden cotton reel.

Now you can buy looms for doing this. This is usually what you get if you buy a child’s toy said to be a loom.

Here is a video about the basics, and here a video which shows how to produce a variety of stitch types.

book : Loom Knitting Primer by Isela Phelps

For making wider knit fabric with smaller stitches, you need a knitting machine, which has a row of hooks instead of pegs. This may be called a loom. Basically setting up and finishing off on a knitting machine are a bit fiddley, but making an area of fabric is very quick. Here is a video about basics. Similar price to a mid-range sewing machine. I tried some machine knitting a long time ago, but as I was an enthusiastic and fast hand knitter at the time, it didn’t have much appeal. Perhaps I should get the machine out and try again. But machine knitting is another direction I’m not going to go into here !

– – –

Kumihimo braid

A japanese method of weaving multiple strands into a braid, using a template sometimes called a loom.

photo source

Here’s a clear video of the process.

Using one of the original smooth circular wooden tools needs skill. Using a foam device as in the photo and video, with slits round the edge, it’s much easier to make an even braid. That shape is for solid braid. There are also square discs for flat braids.

Many different braiding patterns, with different numbers of strands. Several books.

This looks like a lovely restful thing to do, but I’m not sure I would find much use for solid braid. Bag handles, belts, jewellery. Originally used for holding samurai armour together. Possibly the flat braids could be used to trim clothes. If you really get into this, you can use quality silken strands or narrow ribbons and include beads, to make braids of great beauty.

– – –

So, now we get to ‘woven’ fabrics.

”weaving-wiki” Wikipedia

There are two key words which keep coming up :


Warp (long sound) – the lengthwise threads.
Weft (short sound) – the thread that winds under and over, to and fro across the warp.

There is a way of weaving without supporting any of these threads.

But really the development of weaving is the story of finding ways of supporting floppy yarns so it’s easy to interweave them to make fabric.
There’s one way (that I’ve found) of supporting the crossways weft threads, while the warp threads lie loose.
Most looms are for supporting the lengthways warp threads while the weft threads are woven to and fro between them.

– – –

Finger weaving

Basically, this is doing the whole weaving process with some strands hanging free or lying loosely on a surface. Warp and weft strands are not clearly different. Here’s a good video.

Ingenious. This is a North American tradition, and there are several books. But with my shaky hands, it’s not a calm and restful thing for me to do. . .

– – –

Weaving sticks
Peg looms

I’ve only found one method of weaving which supports the weft, the strand that’s woven to and fro.

photo source.

Basically, the warp threads are attached to the ends of the sticks.
Then you wind the weft thread in and out of the sticks, and push the windings down onto the warp strands.

Here’s a brief video.

This is fun to do. Basically a way of making flat braid. So the results can be used in the same ways – belts, bag handles, hair bands, bracelets, sewn together into scarves, bags, soft hats. . . I think the result is a bit heavy and bulky to use as trim on clothes, except perhaps for outerwear. Also it doesn’t bend into flat curves well, so can’t be used to trim round a curved neckline for example.

For a wider fabric there’s a peg loom. Used like weaving sticks, but the sticks are held in a stand, so you haven’t got to hold 20 sticks in your hand at the same time.

Here’s a peg loom with the warp yarns set up.

photo source

Here’ some weaving in progress, weaving with fabric strips rather than yarn.

photo source

Several books on peg loom weaving, and on rag rug making by this method. Also good for bags and cushion/ pillow covers.

– – –

The vast majority of weaving methods have the tension on the warp threads.

My second piece is planned on the simplest ‘frame looms’, for rag rugs, tapestry, and knotted rugs. Then what most people think of as looms.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a simple ‘rigid heddle’ loom and am having adventures making a very wobbly scarf 😀 It isn’t anywhere near as easy as it looks – watching an expert doing it is a bit misleading ! definitely a craft skill involved.

But this isn’t suddenly going to turn into a weaving blog 😀 I’m just recording what sense I’ve made of it all, in case anyone else is looking for what I wanted to know. . .

– – –

P.S. If you’re really peeved that I haven’t said anything about sewing or style, have a look at the Palmer-Pletsch newsletters for their ideas on which patterns are best for which body shapes.

– – –

Links available October 2010

Independent pattern designers – a new generation

October 16, 2010

I’ve been bewailing the retirement of famous independent pattern designers such as Lois Ericson and Shirley Adams. But actually there’s a strong new generation emerging, providing us with patterns in current silhouettes and modern fabrics.

Interesting how this piece has turned out. I didn’t deliberately put North American designers in some style categories and European ones in others. I only noticed that in a late draft. My own style groups of course – you might not agree ! Not something for everyone, but useful alternatives to the Big 4.

I haven’t seen examples of all of them, but give some comments on quality.

– – –

Casual classics

J. Stern Designs – Jennifer Stern for tees and jeans, with highly recommended instructions.

I haven’t found a source for these in Europe.

– – –

Soft casuals

Onion (Denmark)
Onion patterns in English

Stoff&Stil (Denmark, ship only to Scandinavia and Germany)
Stoff & Stil site in English.

Ottobre magazine (Finland)
Pattern magazine with instructions in English. Dots ‘n Stripes is a UK source, and gives access to full information about the styles in each issue.

Farbenmix (Germany) – like Ottobre this is mainly a company for children’s patterns, but there are some for Mum too.
Farbenmix site in English – look under Patterns > Women.

– – –

Soft and chic

Hot Patterns – English designers working in Florida. Issue most enticing videos about their patterns.

Colette Patterns

Both these pattern lines available in UK from Sew Box.

– – –

Brilliant prints

Patterns mostly from fabric designers who also issue home dec and bag patterns, with a few garment patterns in current casual styles.
Small ranges of clothing patterns, aimed at crafters and sold in quilt shops.

The new way of using many fabrics in one garment is not to use areas of patchwork but to use a different fabric for each pattern piece.

These are the pattern companies I’ve found available on-line in the UK, no doubt there are more.

Amy Butler

Anna Maria Horner

Bettsy Kingston

Lila Tueller – list of patterns at bottom of right hand menu

Sew Liberated
Book : “Sew Liberated” by Meg McElwee – ideas for appliqué. Despite the cover this has few clothes.

Serendipity Studio
Book : “Sew Serendipity” by Kay Whitt has patterns for basic skirt, peasant top/dress, jacket (both with raglan sleeves), with variations. Here’s a video which shows the character of the book.

These patterns are available on-line in the UK from :

Gone to Earth has patterns by : Amy Butler, Anna Maria Horner, Colette Patterns, Favorite Things, Indygo Junction, Lila Tueller.

Saints and Pinners has patterns by : Amy Butler, Anna Maria Horner, Colette Patterns, Bettsy Kingston, DIY Couture.

Backstitch has patterns by : Amy Butler, Anna Maria Horner, Bettsy Kingston, Colette, Sew Liberated.

Nerybeth Fabric and Crafts has patterns by : Amy Butler, Anna Maria Horner, Lila Tueller.

Sew Box has patterns by : Serendipity Studio, DIY Couture.

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Lively lycra

Christine Jonson – pioneer of patterns for lycra fabrics.

I haven’t found a source of her patterns in Europe.

Jalie – Canadian designers of sporty fashions and of patterns for active sports.

Many sources in Europe including Habithat (UK), and Sewing Patterns (Netherlands)

– – –

New Cool

Multisnit (Denmark)
Wide range of styles, many current ‘street’ to boho. Traceable pattern sheet and brief sewing instructions in Danish. Buy in English from Fjoelner.

La Mia Boutique (Italy) – Pattern magazine like Burda in approach, mostly patterns up to max bust size 38 – 42 inches, a few for ‘taglie forti’ and children, some crafts, recipes, beauty tips, brief instructions in Italian with no diagrams. Fashion forward, edgy or ‘street’ styles.

La Mia Boutique, 12 issues a year, is available from :
UK subscription
Italy subscription

Burda Easy magazine (not published in English) also has ‘street’ styles. Some sources of this in my previous post on independent pattern resources.

DIY Couture – (UK) cool and edgy as presented in dark colours. I think these could equally well be made in bright prints/ gentle pastels/ denim and white, for other looks.

Very different. Not a tissue pattern but a 60+ page booklet of photos and diagrams explaining how to cut the fabric and make up, with variations. Obviously a lot of thought and ingenuity has gone into presenting these patterns in a fresh way so they are easy and fun to make, with many variations.

– – –

Luxe Boutique

Au Bonheur des Petites Mains (France)
Au Bonheur site in English

Schnittquelle (Germany)
Schnittquelle site in English

– – –

New generation of instruction books

There’s also a new generation of instruction books, by writers who emphasise how to develop a basic pattern into your own ideas.

I’m happiest with following detailed instructions for techniques, such as in “Sew U” by Wendy Mullen. Her original book is on skirt, shirt, pants. There are now also books on knits, dresses (very mixed reviews), and jackets and coats (patterns tiny). She gives many ideas for variations. Good on techniques for simple pattern changes, sewing instructions not always clear.

It’s this creativity that’s the focus of a flood of books on simple sewing.

A book on very simple pattern making is “Design-it-yourself clothes” by Cal Patch. See Amazon reviews for limitations. Preview of some styles here.

There are several books that tell you how to make a skirt in an afternoon from an old curtain, using rough quick techniques. Or cut up something from a charity shop. I know many people enjoy this, but I’m not like that myself so I’m not the right person to give advice.

Here’s a marvelous blog from someone who does just that to get a New Dress a Day !

– – –

And a new generation of sewing magazines

Many European countries have their own version of a magazine like Burda, with the focus on patterns. Or some pattern lines.
In the UK no one publishes a magazine like that, for some reason, or has a big pattern line (that I know of).

Our new sewing magazines are a bit different. They do provide a main pattern with many variants, but also a mixture of smaller projects and ideas for childrens’ clothes, home dec, toys, embellishment, re-purposing and so on. Magazines for the internet generation, many URLs on every page.

Sew provides a tissue paper pattern with each issue, with instructions for several variations. Instructions for sewing main pattern are minimal with no diagrams. Instructions for small projects may be better, but often assume wide crafting and sewing experience.

Sew Hip has a traceable pattern sheet and diagram patterns. Good instructions with diagrams. Their site is for subscribing only, doesn’t give the flavour of the magazine.

Cloth is a magazine in this style that’s just started, and I haven’t seen an issue yet.

I also like “Sew Stylish” from Threads magazine. Articles on basic technique for beginners. Each issue has an associated Simplicity pattern plus many suggestions for making variations. Difficult to get hold of in Europe, and Threads mailing charges are ferocious (and their site crashes my browsers).

– – –

So fashion sewing is still strong, it just may be in a different form than people like me expect (brought up with very strict criteria for quality workmanship). The emphasis now is on creativity and fun rather than invisible hand stitching!

And for people like me, who are not much interested in ‘being creative’ in our sewing, we can still take pleasure in patterns from people who are in touch with modern attitudes and styles.

– – –

Links available October 2010

Beyond the classics : Vogue patterns issued September 2010

October 9, 2010

What if the classics don’t nurture your soul ? The September 2010 issue of Vogue patterns shows there’s a lot more going on in fashion. Some of these are patterns to set my heart racing with my love of interesting cuts.

– – –


A classic with added seam interest and many places for adjusting the fit. A pattern for lovers of the pencil shape, Vogue 8697.


– – –

No need to wear an LBD

Several simple sheath dresses in this pattern group, but my attention is grabbed by a lovely collection of designer cocktail dresses, all the way from the beautiful minimalist bias cut of Tom and Linda Platt Vogue 1208


to pretty gathers and flounces from Rachel Comey Vogue 1209.


– – –

Blouse/ shirt

Another classic pattern with many places to adjust fit. It fills a gap in the Vogue basics, a yoked style with princess seam shaping, multi-cup sizes, 2 collars and 3 sleeves, Vogue 8689.


– – –

Tunics, big shirts and knit tops

These didn’t appear in a classic work wardrobe, but happily there are some here, as many of us wear them.

A magnificent subtly sculptural big shirt from Chado Ralph Rucci. (with pants) Vogue 1215.


A couple of interesting ’boutique’ styles from Katherine Tilton, a loose tunic, Vogue 8690


and a waist fitting style, Vogue 8691.


Vogue say this will work for a triangle shape, but I think it’s definitely one for the slim of hip !

While for a Very Easy sloppy tunic there’s Vogue 8698,


– – –


Yes there is a vest, paired with leggings, by Alice + Olivia, Vogue 1214.


Again, I think this would enhance a small butt better than it would conceal a large one. . .

– – –


Well, if ‘boyfriend’ jackets don’t go far enough for you in the direction of drama, how about this stunning one from Laroche, which might possibly be described as a blazer ! Vogue 1211


There’s also a boxy shape blazer as part of Claire Shaeffer’s Couture series, Vogue 8692, an unusual shape for her.


As I’m not a blazer person, I’m more interested in the non-classic styles.

There’s a shawl collar flared shape with an interesting cut from Marcy Tilton, Vogue 8693.


I’m not at all sure how this would work for the pear shaped. I think for myself I would level the hem. I don’t need fabric arrows pointing to my thighs. . .

And a Very Easy generous cascade collar jacket for knits, Vogue 8696.


– – –


If the thought of a camel hair classic coat makes you shudder, have a look at these possibilities.

A complex cut for a flared shape from one of my favourite designers, Lynn Mizono, Vogue 1216 .


(She also has a pattern for boxy shape hats ! Vogue 8704.)

A flare shape with funnel collar and interesting princess bodice seaming from Sandra Betzina, Vogue 1212.


But do level the hem so it doesn’t look droopy. . .

And one from the designer with a gift for unusual coats, an embellished multi-fabric coat with scalloped detail from Koos, Vogue 1213.


This makes me think of both inner cities and frivolous fun in the snow.
Vogue seem to be saying all these patterns are right for all body shapes. I’m not convinced this coat would be flattering on very unbalanced triangle or inverted triangle.

– – –


Some evening wraps from Elizabeth Gillett NYC which, as usual for her, look more interesting than most, Vogue 8694.


Plus a pattern for scarves and a frilly version of this season’s ubiquitous neck ring, also wearable as a bolero, Vogue 8702.


Easy to copy ? Make you own fancy neck ring. The measurements given are 15” x 29”. 29” must be the flat measure, not around the ring, so you need at least 58” length of fabric. The fabric quantity given is 3/4 yd (27 in.)/ 0.70 m, so presumably it’s cut across 60 in./ 150 cm fabric, and not double thickness. Do some experimenting.

– – –

Tempting though it would have been, I’ve nowhere near mentioned all the patterns in this issue.

And for wardrobe patterns, there’s the famous Miyake pattern Vogue 1476, which has been available for nearly 20 years, with its interesting rectangle pattern piece coat, excellent big shirt, and peg top pants (omit the huge pockets!). It’s at last going out of print. So grab it while you can.


– – –

What about a wardrobe from these patterns ? There’s not a full wardrobe that would work for my casual life or my pear shape, but I can see a small but effective grouping for someone more elegant than me :

For Dress to Impress, there’s the Platt dress, Laroche jacket (worn with a camisole), pencil skirt, Alice + Olivia vest, Chado Ralph Rucci shirt and pants.


I think the Koos coat could make a good addition to this group 😀

For a more casual and layerable look, how about the knit jacket, one of the classic blouses, a Katherine Tilton tunic and some Lynn Mizono pants. (I could wear these.)


That would make :
1 dress
2 jackets, 1 vest/ top
3 tops
1 skirt, 2 pants

Definitely only a dream plan !

– – –

Patterns and links available October 2010