Archive for February 2011

Oriental style – Kimono

February 26, 2011

The ethnic style for the coming season (summer 2011) is ‘oriental’, according to the UK Elle magazine March issue.

Meaning the Japanese kimono and obi belt, and the Chinese cheongsam. This all got a bit long, so I’ve put the cheongsam in a later post.

Make from a border print or a chinese brocade. Also many oriental style prints available in quilting cottons. The Japanese use luxurious silks to make kimonos for special occasions.

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The classic kimono has a straight neck band, straight armhole, straight side seams perhaps with long slits, and big deep sleeves. So they’re simple to make, and often used as a beginners pattern. The simple shape also means they’re a popular starting point for embellishment.

Cut-on sleeves are sometimes called kimono sleeves, but that isn’t what is meant here.

If you prefer a Big 4 pattern, there are several from Simplicity.
Simplicity 4080 is a pattern for a geisha costume.


Simplicity 4134 (left) and Simplicity 2940 (right) are more fashion oriented versions.


Japanese kimonos are traditionally cut in rectangles, using every scrap of what may be very expensive fabric.

For authenticity, try a Japanese pattern book. In Japanese, but the instructions have many illustrations. This book includes photos of how to wear kimonos, and how to tie the obi belt – simplified for modern wear.

There are two main western books in English. For focus on the clothes, try Make your own japanese clothes by John Marshall. Or Jenni Dobson’s book for kimonos used as the background for embellishment and art-quilting.

Do a book search for ‘kimono’ as there are some stunning books with photos of historic garments as works of art. And everything I’m saying is very simplified, as in Japan there are different styles of kimono for different purposes and with different names. Here’s a summary.

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Independent patterns

There are many kimono styles from independent pattern designers. Here are a few with different approaches.

Folkwear 113 (left) is for a kimono and Folkwear 143 (right) is for a michiyuki, meant to be worn over a kimono.


Folkwear have several other patterns like the kimono, in their Asian section.

Deborah Brunner’s Ragstock patterns are similar in approach to a traditional kimono pattern. She doesn’t give you a tissue pattern. She tells you the size to cut fabric rectangles, then to cut sections off them to make the pattern pieces needed. Here are her Kimono (left) and Wrap shirt (right).


Other similar Ragstock patterns are the Sashiko vest (left) and Signature jacket (right)

(not correct relative sizes)

(Sadly these patterns are no longer available, but I’ve left them in for ideas.)

Or how about retro patterns from a time when kimonos were high fashion. In the 20s, fashionable women were celebrating being able to wear loose clothing for the first time. EvaDress has kimonos from that era, dated about 1923 (left) and 1924 (right).


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Obi belt

For a touch of oriental style wear an obi belt, traditionally tied round the kimono. In a very simple western version, it’s just a wide fabric strip.

Here’s a video on how to tie it.
The instructions for making one that she refers to are here.

Not at all the same as tying an authentic Japanese obi belt, which involves many yards of fabric and special supports and is considered an art form.

– – –

Sashiko quilting

Or for another taste of the orient, add some Japanese embellishment.

Japanese sashiko stitching traditionally has large white stitches on a dark blue ground. Here’s a clear tutorial.

The Folkwear 113 kimono is embellished with sashiko quilting.


There’s full information about sashiko quilting supplies, patterns and books at Shibori Dragon (about a third of the way down the home page).

Sashiko is not as heavy as western quilting, as it just uses 2 layers of fabric, no wadding/batting.

Here’s a stunning example of sashiko on a garment, the back of a jacket pattern from Betty Gant (sadly no longer available).


– – –

I love the relaxed easy styling of the kimono shape and have collected a lot of information, so this got a bit long. My planned post on the Chinese cheongsam is much shorter !

P. S. YouLookFab has 2 posts on wearing a short kimono layer with casuals, here and here.

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Patterns and links available February 2011

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P.S. 2017. Kimonos are now very current, so there are many patterns for them. Here are just some :

Independents :
Burda Style, 121,06/2011
Ralph Pink Amayo Drape
Sewing Workshop Ikina
Sewing Workshop Plaza
Sew Over It kimono

Big 4 :
Butterick 6176
Simplicity 1318
search ‘kimono’ at Simplicity for many more, both fashion and costume.
Vogue 9115

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The power of the boring

February 19, 2011

Here’s the power of simple items to add flexibility to your wardrobe. By instantly adding many more different outfits. Of course this is classic wardrobing advice. But I find it helpful to be reminded.

People who like ‘statement pieces’ won’t be happy with this idea 😀 Nor is it much use to people who live in such warm climates you never wear added layers.

Following on from my post about some basic wardrobe capsules with trendy styling for the coming summer, here’s another group of quiet soft casuals. This is my favourite capsule from the new Vogue January 2011 patterns :


shirt Vogue 8716.
top Vogue 8710.
vest Vogue 8713.
jacket Vogue 8714.
pants Vogue 8715.

From these I could make 3 outfits of 2 pieces :
top with pants
shirt with pants
jacket with pants.
(If you use a vest style with front closure so you can wear it without a top under, that would add another look.)

A choice of pieces to layer over the top – big shirt, vest, or jacket, which give very different looks. So that adds 3 more outfits. 6 different ones in all. Layer vest over shirt, 2 more outfits.


I’ve only shown the basic looks which include the top and no third layer vest, or the drawings get a bit big !

In an ideal layering wardrobe (see my take on the Sewing Workshop version) the jacket layers over the vest layers over the shirt layers over the top. To give the maximum number of different combinations and levels of warmth. But that isn’t possible with this particular pattern group.

If you made a second version of any of these layering pieces, their style elements are so distinctive it might be obvious you were wearing something similar, even though the colour or fabric had changed.

But if you add another tee and pants, the number of different outfits increases dramatically.

This shows the power of the boring.

Add a second top in a clearly different colour/ print/ texture. That adds 5 more looks, so the number of outfits goes up from 8 to 13. The diagram only shows the 8 outfits which use the tops. There are also the 2 made from the shirt or jacket with the pants. And the ones with vest over shirt.


Add another pair of pants. The 16 basic combinations are in the diagram, plus 4 from the shirt or jacket worn with a choice of pants, and more from vest layered over shirt.


(The added top and bottom can of course both be the same colour/ print/ texture.)

You’ve added 2 simple garments, making 7 items in all. And the number of combinations has gone up from 5 items making 8 outfits to 7 items making at least 25. A powerful example of the effectiveness of supplying yourself with basic co-ordinates.

(P.S. As an extreme example of this, see Janice of The Vivienne Files make 208 outfits from 33 garments.
And another post from 2015 at Vivienne Files on getting 45 outfits from 9 garments which shows photos of all the outfits (good for travel).
3 second layers (which can all also be worn alone)
3 tops
3 bottoms
18 2 item outfits
27 3 item outfits.)

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Even for very simple items with almost no added style elements, you choose your own best colours, and the silhouette/ neckline/ sleeve and body lengths, etc. that are right for you.

And this approach to increasing the effectiveness of your wardrobe needn’t fill you with gloomy despair at its lack of creativity. Have a look at Marcy Tilton’s gallery of what she has done with her Vogue tee patterns (many pages of them). And her CD on fitting, making and decorating tees.

Or Shirley Adams’ Alternatives 500 pattern with multiple different version of a shell.

There’s an almost infinite number of ways you can embellish and add interest to a simple top 😀

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Patterns and links available February 2011

A note on the FBA

February 12, 2011

Some time ago I wrote about adding fabric wedges below the waist, especially so there’s enough fabric to cover a large front or back.

The best known reason for adding a fabric wedge above the waist is the Full Bust Alteration. (Lots of possibilities on the upper back and sleeves too, but I’m not going to talk about them here.)

I don’t need an FBA myself, so have no practical experience. It’s a bit silly for me to comment. But I am intrigued by it as an alteration so have been noticing information. Here’s some of what I’ve found, in case it’s of use to anyone.

There’s a list of links about the FBA by Debbie Cook at Pattern Review.

Adding enough fabric for larger cup sizes is not just a matter of adding length and width to the front pattern piece. A good FBA adds a wedge starting from the armhole, so the added fabric is in the middle of the pattern.

Here’s an example of the wedge in position, and it’s relation to the added length and width.
Before – left, after – right.

(wedge about 2 inches)

The photo shows the usual FBA, described in detail in Palmer and Alto ‘Fit For Real People’ p.140 onwards, and also in many McCall’s Palmer-Pletsch patterns. Palmer-Pletsch also have a DVD : ‘Full Busted ? Sew Clothes that Fit !’‘.

Basically, slit up from waist to bust point.
Then angle across to the armhole stitching line at the notch.
Armhole not shoulder, as you may not want to increase the width of the upper pattern. Some people with larger cup sizes may like to open up a wedge to the shoulder as well.
Spread horizontally by the amount needed to go round the bust.

There’s no way of knowing beforehand exactly how large a change to make. It depends on your shape and your personal preferences – how much ease you think looks and feels right for you.

Also slash across to the centre front, and lower the separated section until the waistlines are level. This adds needed length to the front.

(Red lines are new dart stitching lines. Larger cup sizes may look better with the ends of the darts further from the bust point.)

I’m getting more comfortable with the idea of slashing up muslins – it’s the reason we use the cheapest possible fabric ! Write on them, cut them up, keep them for reference. And I’m more patient with not getting fit right at first try.

Bigger darts put more curve in the flat fabric. You’ve added fabric at the centre of the pattern piece, but don’t want the side and waist seams to be longer. The added wedge of fabric also changes the shape of the armhole and the angle of the side seam.

McCall’s fitting pattern 2718 has different front patterns for 5 cup sizes. To make the armhole difference clear, here’s a tracing of the stitching lines for A cup (black) and DD cup (red). (Size 14, the shoulders and necklines are the same.)


The DD front pattern is wider, and the bust dart deeper. But also the armhole shape has changed, and the angle of the side seam. Notice the ‘scoop’ of the armhole – the lower edge of the armhole isn’t horizontal. The changed armhole shape introduces a wedge of fabric from the armhole where more fabric is not needed, to the centre of the pattern, where it is.

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Some people who need a larger front pattern also need a larger armhole and sleeve head, or wider shoulders. But not everyone does. So those are separate adjustments.

If your cup size is larger than B (the size commercial patterns are made for), but your shoulders are not large, the pattern shoulders may fit you better if you buy patterns according to your upper chest/ high bust measurement, not your bust. Vogue size charts for Misses include the upper chest measure, but the Women’s chart doesn’t. I e-mailed them to ask about this, but they didn’t reply.

Debbie Cook’s list of links mentioned before includes several links about choosing pattern size by high bust or full bust measurement.

Ann Rowley prefers to buy her patterns by bust size and do a narrow shoulder adjustment, rather than buying by chest/ high bust size and doing an FBA. Here is her tutorial on the narrow shoulder adjustment.

Ann explains her choice by relating it to her own measurements. You only need to do an FBA or narrow shoulders if your shoulders are small relative to your bust. From Ann’s post, it looks as if the best method depends on :
– if your hips are smaller, like your shoulders – buy pattern by chest/ high bust and do an FBA,
– if your hips are larger, like your bust – buy by bust size and do a narrow shoulder adjustment.
If you’re interested in this, it’s best to read Ann’s comments about why her approach is best for her measurements, and her suggestions for other body shapes. This may be another area where you need to try both to see which is best for you !

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The standard FBA method works for tops with fitted armholes and front shaping darts. Debbie Cook has written tutorials for doing FBAs on different styes of tops, which are here.

And there are many other special cases. Do a web search to get over 3,000 links with examples and suggestions to explore !

I hope you don’t have much difficulty with getting a good fit 😀

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P.S. Here’s Imogen Lamport’s advice for people with large cup sizes on how to look good.
And here’s a post from her on layering tops with a large bust.

P.P.S. More resources :

Silhouette patterns are for B, C, D cup sizes.

Butterick patterns (A to D).
Vogue Custom Fit patterns (A to D).
Simplicity patterns for cup sizes A to D

McCall’s 2718 fitting pattern has front pattern pieces for A, B, C, D, DD cup sizes. (Buy by above-bust chest measure, which is on the Butterick and Vogue fitting charts though not the McCall’s one).

Here is blogger Shams’ fitting advice for people she calls the ‘uber busty’ (larger than D).
And here’s her resources for the busty.
The Curvy Sewing Collective has a series of posts about big darts starting here.

Connie Crawford has a series of master patterns for cup sizes from A to I :
basic bodice sloper with darts
shoulder princess
armhole princess
Video intro to these patterns on fitting for cup size.
Plus a video intro on
using these patterns as a starting point for making your own designs.
The videos refer to the basic sloper with darts (CS1201), but apply to the other master patterns as well.

Step-by-step detail about doing an FBA or an SBA on an existing pattern, from Colette Patterns here.

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Links available February 2011

Looks for Spring/ Summer 2011

February 5, 2011

Here are some capsules as examples of styling with a touch of trendy for summer 2011. The styling suggestions come from the editorial and ads in the March issues of UK Elle and In Style magazines, as well as US Vogue

This post is in three sections, each with one key example :
– crisper shapes styled in many ways,
– softer lines,
– my personal reminder that you don’t need to be trendy to look good !

Choose your own group of patterns. Many current styles are basic classic shapes, made trendy because they’re in this season’s colours, prints, and trims. How about styling your own core patterns in one of the top looks for the summer.

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Here’s a casual grouping from Cutting Line, as a starter example for simple styling changes.

(not correct relative size)

Clockwise from top left : Cutting Line : My Hearts a Flutter shell/ Easy Ageless Cool shirt/ 2 x 4 tunic/ Fun with Fabric jacket/ Easy Ageless Cool pants/ Relax a Little skirt.

If ‘oversized’ doesn’t look good on you, think of closer fitting but similar styles for tops and bottoms. Or your own TNT basics.

And blazers and jeans jackets are both current, if you prefer them to a softer style jacket like the Cutting Line one. Perhaps recent patterns Butterick 5568 (upper below) for a pretty choice of blazers, or jeans jackets from Butterick 5616 (lower below) :


These patterns can give many different styles by changing colours, prints, and trims. How about these colour and print choices for this season :

– Make your whole capsule in black with touches of grey and ivory for edgy minimalism.

– Head to toe white or soft white. A new type of city minimalism (as in Seeing the light).
UK In Style magazine March issue says ‘white is the new black’. Hmm. Some people have amazing ability to keep white clean. And some of us look dreadful in black, some in white. Wear them if you look good. Not to worry if you don’t, there are many other current looks.

– Choose tans and khakis, chinos and twills, for a ‘safari’ look.

– Or all in denim blue (not stiff fabric). Very current casual – try light/ medium/ dark blue in the same garment. Or the cheerful casual of denim with gingham, or denim with large florals.

– Or all navy, an even newer blue.

But you haven’t got to wear a monochrome look. How about :

– Colour blocking of strong pink, bright yellow, primary-like green, orange, chartreuse, as well as primary blue, and purple, with clear white, This is not the old colour blocking of several colours in one garment. Each garment is a different strong colour. Much easier to manage. The coming summer looks as if it will be a good season if you like strong clear colour.
(see on Hyper Color)

– Large (hand sized) florals widely spaced on white background, a hot climate ‘Tropicana’ or ‘desert island’ look.

– Or head to toe closely spaced prints – abstract or floral.

Those three are ‘rich beach’ looks for the coming summer.

– Louise Cutting herself uses fabulous and subtle designer wools, silks and linens to make ‘Easy Luxe’ garments from her patterns.

For high fashion accessories, choose big bags and totes, and thick platform soled high heeled shoes. With the same attitude to colours and trims as your clothes.

Or for your own style, trim and embellish with your favourites – lace or fringe, ‘statement’ buttons, bows and ruffles, glitter, embroidery or appliqué, braid or ribbon, tucks and insertions, studs and grommets, bias or leather strips ? A little or a lot ? (I got a ruffler foot for Christmas, and expect I’ll be adding ruffles to everything 😀 )

– – –

In contrast here’s a softer possibility, as it’s mainly in knits, from the December – January 2011 issues of La Mia Boutique pattern magazine. (Italian subscription). This could look edgy in blacks and greys, or pretty in light muted pastels.


Although the main silhouettes are the same as Eileen Fisher’s key winter capsule (see previous post), the style details give a very different effect.

Or find similar patterns but for wovens. Add long floaty skirts or maxi dresses.
( on Midi is the message)

Make a popular look for the coming summer by using light fluid fabrics with floral prints, or white batiste, with added frills, tucks, lacing, and heirloom stitching.
( on Lace embrace)

You can also do ‘mixed’ styling, combining blazers or jeans jackets with frills and soft fabrics instead of crisp classic shapes.

In the UK magazines there are two key types of floral print for the coming season :
– hand-sized flowers spread widely over a white background. Used brightly in more classic shapes, as in the previous capsule.
– 1-2 inch/ 3-5 cm size flowers, closely spaced on more fluid fabrics. Perhaps more gentle muted colours, with a hint of transparency. A ‘Garden Party’ look. Often used in softer, more flowing, frillier styles.
But you can use these muted shades in solid/ plain fabrics and softer classic shapes as well.

For more abstract all-over prints see on the Prints revolution.

Ideally, hold a print up against yourself and look in a mirror. Is the print in scale to your own proportions and the effect you’re looking for ?

– – –

Apart from the blazers and maxi skirts, most of the trends are about colour and print, rather than shape. So you can apply them to any somewhat-classic shape that you like. There are a couple of other ‘shape’ trends :

This season’s retro style is the 70s, which calls The Yves standard.

The season’s big (literally) pant shape has high waist and relaxed leg. See We wear the pants.

(P.S. According to You Look Fab Angie’s review at the end of New York Fashion Week, the same trends continue in Fall 2011. Except she doesn’t mention white or prints, and she predicts pants will be ‘tapered’.)

– – –

And here’s a reminder you haven’t got to be trendy to look good.

If I force myself to choose a basic capsule for my own use from one designer, rather than being distracted by my fascination with style and cut and instructions, I keep coming back to Loes HinseTextile Studio.

(not correct relative sizes)

Textile Studio (pink) : Tank Top Shell, Mandarin shirt, Florence jacket, Soho pant.
Loes Hinse (white) : Boat Neck top, Cowl Neck top, Tango skirt.

A soft quiet group if made in my favourite natural neutrals with touches of texture. Another monochromatic look, but not one that’s currently fashionable. Though it’s often found in ’boutique’ styles. This pattern group could of course be made in current monochromatics, or bright colour blocking, or the season’s florals and laces. Loes Hinse’s Hepburn pants have the high fashion shape. But most of this season’s trends aren’t for me, though I do like heirloom sewing on clothes. I love looking at what’s current, but wear only a little of it myself.

– – –

What about dresses ? I haven’t mentioned them, but you may love them. If you do, I expect you’ve already looked at the inspiring new dress patterns from Vogue and McCall’s. Interesting shapes which again you can vary greatly by the colours, prints and laces you choose.

Do any of these possibilities make your heart beat faster ?
Or make you react ‘no ! no ! not for me !’
Which of these trends gives you the most inspiration, or makes you feel the most comfortable and ‘in your skin’ ?

If you’re uncertain about a style, start slowly with one piece, then a 2 to 3 piece outfit, to try things out.

And as usual, Enjoy (Joy In) your Quest.

– – –

(P.S. And have a look at’s Spring Shopping Guide.
This season they actually suggest some wearable clothes 😀

P.P.S. Here’s YouLookFab’s list of trends for Spring 2011.

P.P.P.S. And here’s a link to In Style magazine’s Spring ideas.)

Patterns and links available February 2011