Archive for the ‘pattern making for clothes’ category

Changing a pattern neckline

October 22, 2016

You like a pattern except for the neckline ? or you want to try a different shape ?
Changing a neckline is quite easy pattern work.

First draw in the stitching lines on the existing pattern. It’s easy to do this with a transparent French Curve with 5/8 inch marked round the curved edge. These stitching lines show the position of the shoulder seam and the finished neckline edge.


The crucial point to identify is where the neck edge meets the shoulder seam, sometimes called the neck point.

So long as you draw your new front stitching line-finished neckline through this point, you won’t have to alter the back neckline (or vice versa).


If you want a wider or narrower neckline, draw in the new finished neckline position. Then measure how far the new neckline is from the old neck point, along the shoulder seam. Use this measure to find where to start the new back neckline.


To add the new cutting line :
– make some marks 5/8 inch from the stitching line.
The ends of both a tape measure and a seam gauge are 5/8 inch.


– Then join the marks into a smooth curve – easy to do with a French Curve.


Changing the neckline of a wrap top/ dress is a bit more complex. Here’s a tutorial.

Neckline finish

You could simply finish the new neckline with a bias binding or a bias facing.

If you want the added structure of a proper facing, that involves a bit of easy pattern making.

See instructions for making a facing pattern about 3/4 of the way through this post.

Here’s a video from Louise Cutting on how to add a back neck facing to a pattern that hasn’t got one (facings do make collars very easy to sew on).

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There’s a Craftsy class from Suzy Furrer on drafting necklines.

Again, many possibilities to think about and try out. But once you’ve decided what to do, the pattern work needed can be very simple.

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Links available October 2016

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To get to main blog, click on red header.

Choosing necklines

October 22, 2016

Do you know what is the best neckline for you ? There’s much to consider. There’s the shape of neckline that enhances your upper body. There’s the shape of neckline that flatters your face. And the widths and depths of neckline that go best with your proportions. All that before you even think about pattern making techniques for changing a neckline.

My old post on choosing and changing necklines is much visited but now rather out of date. So I’ve updated it in 2 sections.
1. choosing necklines.
2. changing a pattern neckline.

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Imogen Lamport’s advice about choosing flattering necklines covers both face shape and body shape (flatter your features). There are also many on-line recommendations on one or the other.

The neckline shape that flatters your body

If you search ‘choose neckline’ you’ll find a lot of guidance, especially about the best necklines for your body shape, your combination of neck, shoulders and bust.

Amy Herzog has good advice about necklines. She gives much detail about hand knitting, but the general ideas apply to all garments. She used to have on-line tutorials, now it’s in a book, Knit to Flatter, and a Craftsy class, also Knit to Flatter.

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What about flattering your face

To think about this, you need to be aware of the shape of your facial features – your jaw, lips, nose, eyes, eyebrows – are the edge lines straight or curved ?

The Triumph of Individual Style is a beautiful and interesting book with many reproduction art works of women. The aim is to show that, whatever your shape, someone has found it worth celebrating. There’s an interesting section on facial features, pp. 16 – 21. (The proportions of the clothes in this book are very outdated, so just look at the general principles for a wealth of helpful ideas.)

Once you’ve decided whether your features are mainly straight or curved, there’s conflicting advice about what to do with this information. Some people say the best neckline echoes the shape of your features. Others say the best neckline counteracts your features, so use curved shapes if you have an angular face, angular ones if you’re curved. Perhaps the choice between these attitudes depends on personal style, rather than there being one answer which is right for everybody.

The shapes of your face might influence for example whether you look better in a V-neckline with straight edges or with a slightly curved shape.

So do some experimenting. Cut neckline shapes from kitchen towel and try them out.

Imogen Lamport (Inside-Out Style blog) says the best neckline shape is related to your jaw shape. Your jaw shape is likely to be related to your body type (curvy or angular) but is nearer your face.

‘The Triumph of Individual Style’ says you can wear any shape of neckline, so long as it balances your face with your body. Though they recommend echoing your jawline.

Personally I agree with going for shapes that echo the curves of my features. Necklines with sharp angles seem out-of-kilter with my face. But then I prefer softer curved looks anyway. And also, I’m old enough to have ‘jowls’. I find my best neckline is the shape that echoes what my jawline shape used to be 😀 I have to be careful with a draped neckline. They look good in a fabric with enough body to fall in a curve. But if the fabric is so soft that the bottom of the drape falls into a sharper V, that isn’t good on me at all.

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Width of neckline

Gale Grigg Hazen has an ingenious suggestion about measuring necklines, in her book Fantastic Fit for Every Body. Use a transparent (quilters) ruler to measure how wide your neck is, and how far your straps are from your centre line.

”gghneck” (Grigg Hazen p.170)

Compare these measures with the pattern : is the pattern neckline wide enough for your neck ? too wide to cover your straps ?

‘The Triumph of Individual Style’ says your neckline or collar opening should be wider than the widest part of your face. For most of us that means we aren’t at our best in a jewel neckline which is close fitting round the neck.

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Depth and balance

‘The Triumph of Individual Style’ has some fascinating suggestions about flattering neckline depths, pp. 49 – 55. They suggest two ‘balance points’, for high necklines and low.

All their measurements need to be made vertical and straight, with a ruler. Not over the bumps, as you would using a tape measure.

High balance point

Measure vertically from the widest part of your face to the tip of your chin. Your widest point could be at your forehead, your check bones, or somewhere on your jaw.

I’m 3-1/2 inches vertical from cheek bone to tip of chin.


Measure that distance down from the neck end of your shoulder.

Across from there is the most flattering level for your upper neckline.
On me this comes at the level of my collar bones. I’ve long known that a neckline closely fitting my neck doesn’t look good on me.
This point can also be a good place for collar emphasis, such as the notch of a notch collar.

Low balance point

Measure vertically from your hairline to the tip of your chin.
Or, if you always wear a hair style that substantially covers your forehead, measure down from your hair.

I have a long face, and on me this is 8 inches.


Wear something that you don’t mind sticking a pin into or marking.

Measure the length of your face down from the tip of your chin, On me that comes near my bust point.
Mark that level, which is said to be the most flattering level for lower necklines.

You need to convert this to a measure that can be compared with a pattern. So measure from the neck end of your shoulder down to the pin or marker, this time using a tape measure on your body. Because of collar bones and bust, that is likely to be longer than the vertical measure down from your chin.

I’ve got prominent collar bones, and on me this measurement is 11 inches.

If this point comes low on you, you need to think what this means for you personally. With my long head, the low neckline point comes so low it would need a lot of double sided tape to be at all decent, and would be much more revealing than suits my style. But that doesn’t mean I can’t emphasise necklines to this level. It explains why I like wearing long necklaces, and deep V necks on layering tops and jackets, which are all coming down to that level.

So if you need modesty you could have a more obvious neckline going down to this point, filled to a higher level by something less obvious. And I’m trying out emphasising this level using embellishment, a corsage, or a necklace pendant.

Now I know about these balance points, I keep spotting celebrity examples. Wear your neckline below the low balance point if you want all the attention to be on your cleavage !
I think the necklines of most patterns are developed on models with long necks.

Cut test necklines from kitchen towel, or drape scarves, and see what you think. Image consultant suppliers sell sets of basic neckline shapes made from calico. You can try a much wider variety if you make your own !

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Of course, getting the best neckline shape is essential, but only the first step. Then there are collars, bias drapes, bows, ruffles, whatever. But presumably these additions follow the same principle – that they are best when they coordinate with the lines, shapes, and proportions of our bodies.

For example, big collars need to be in proportion to our overall build. (I’ve just been attracted by a large collar jacket pattern, but fortunately thought of checking my personal croquis. A deep collar wider than my shoulders, on a short jacket, would make me look like a heffalump. . .)

‘The Triumph of Individual Style’ has illustrations showing how to adapt classic collar shapes to high and low neckline balance points.
And Darlene Miller’s book ‘Your shape, your clothes and you’, has illustrations suggesting curved collars go with curved bodies and straight with straight.

There’s a class on drafting simple collars at eSewingWorkshop.

And a Craftsy class by Suzy Furrer on drafting collars, which covers many more collar types.

Lots of possibilities to think about and try.

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Links available October 2016

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To get to main blog, click on red header.

e-Book – Basic pattern blocks

July 6, 2013

Wow, on Thursday, someone made the half-millionth visit to one of my posts !

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

In celebration, here’s a ‘door prize’ for everyone.

Some of my most popular posts are on pattern making.

So here’s an e-book which combines the main posts.

e-Book on Personal basic pattern making blocks.pdf.

[Please note this was written in 2013, so many of the links no longer work.]

This e-book is a survey of methods for getting well fitting basic pattern blocks.
It doesn’t describe any of the methods in detail.
Or how to do the pattern altering to change the blocks to make new styles.

It’s based on these posts :

Introduction – from Favourite books – pattern altering
Pattern making – the formal route
Pattern making – easier fitting shells
Aids to well fitting blocks

These posts overlap a bit so I’ve combined and edited, and updated my opinions 😀

Enjoy !
I hope you find it useful.
And Thank You Very Much for your interest.

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

July 2013

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6-gore princess seam skirt pattern

June 22, 2013

The Great British Sewing Bee TV series was a good inspiration for reviewing/ developing sewing skills.

The first episode of GBSB started with an a-line skirt (McCall’s 3341).


But an a-line style is not my best choice. I prefer the way the straight of grain falls in a gored skirt.
In an a-line skirt, all the fullness falls at the side seams.
In a six gore skirt it’s distributed around 6 seams, so the drape is less strongly localised.



In these examples the flared skirt has a wider hem than the 6-gore one, but you can see the general idea – the flared skirt seam is much more on the bias.

This difference doesn’t really show on a thigh-length skirt, but I like low calf length skirts, where the difference in drape and movement is quite pronounced.

I looked at a commercial 6-gore skirt pattern, and realised it would be more trouble to adapt that to my own shape than to make a pattern from my own skirt block.

So what about making a 6-gore skirt pattern ?

Look on the web and there are many tutorials for making a very basic pattern using 6 pieces with the same shape, and elastic waist.


But, if you have a skirt base pattern, it’s not much more difficult to make a ‘proper’ 6-gore skirt pattern with princess seams – fitted over hips, with different pattern pieces for front, back and sides.
This pattern has a zip in centre back seam, so it actually has 7 fabric pieces.

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What you need to make the pattern

Skirt base pattern
Either a personal skirt block. Or a commercial skirt pattern preferably with 1-dart front and back.
Easier to start from a straight skirt pattern. With a flared skirt pattern, you don’t know if it has been altered in the hip area as part of the design.


Pattern paper – anything, even newsprint.
Easier if you use something you can trace through.
I use swedish tracing paper, which is very convenient as you can sew it to make a first muslin.
Or ordinary tracing paper.

Drawing tool. Pattern making books insist you use a well sharpened 4H pencil. Well, I’m sure that’s important for professionals. But I use a wide tipped felt pen. My body alters by more than the width of that line every time I breathe. . . I know 1/8 in./ 5 mm is important in some fit issues, but those I check on a muslin. I don’t try to get them right on the first version of the pattern.

Pattern makers drawing aids (optional). Not essential for something as easy as a skirt pattern, but they do make drawing smooth lines so much easier.
Curve. I love my battered transparent French curve, marked with 5/8 in. round the curve and also an 1/8 in grid.
But there are astonishing numbers of different types of dressmakers curves. Do a search for ‘french curve’ at Amazon to see if there’s one you like the look of.
Long straight edge. The famous ‘yardstick’, but any long firm edge will do. A 12in./ 30 cm ruler isn’t long enough for many pattern making purposes.

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Making the skirt pattern

1. Extend or shorten the skirt pattern to the length you want (red lines).


2. Mark a line down from the main dart, the same distance from CF/ CB all the way down.

Mark the grain line straight down all sections.
Mark that centre front is placed on fold of fabric.


3. Cut apart the pattern on the line, so you have 4 parts :
front centre and side
back centre and side.


Label the pieces as they’re all quite similar.

If you started from a one-dart pattern, you now have a pattern with no darts. The dart shaping is incorporated in the shape of the added seams.

4. Trace these 4 shapes on pattern paper with space around them. Smooth the curve at the point where the new seam meets the bottom of the dart.
(If you’re using tracing paper, you could trace the 4 shapes direct, without cutting the original pattern apart.)

5. Add flare to the seams (green lines)
– to side seam of centre front
– to both sides of the front side section.
– to both sides of the back side section.
– centre back – add to side seam (centre back too if you want more fullness).


(I found it much easier and quicker to make the real pattern than to learn new software to make these drawings !)

The amount you add is a design decision.
Adding 1 inch/ 2.5 cm at the hem level of each seam makes the hem 12 in./ 30 cm. wider than the hips.
Add 2 in./ 5 cm widens hem by 24 in./ 60 cm.
Add 3 in./ 7.5 cm widens hem by 36 in./ 90 cm.

No need to measure this with a ruler – just mark the amount you want on the edge of a piece of paper, and use that to get the flares consistent in size.

Use a long straight edge to draw the flare down from the hip curve to the hem level.
Or you can curve the flare outwards from about knee level, to make a trumpet skirt.

As a variant of the even flare – Lori Knowles in Practical Guide to Pattern Making page 214 suggests using different amounts of flare at different seams.

On a long skirt, she adds 3 in./ 7.5 cm to the side front seams, 4 in./ 10 cm to the side seams, and 5 in./12.5 cm to the side back seams.
Which adds a total of 48 in./ 120 cm to the hem.
A lovely idea for a dancing skirt which swirls more at the back than the front !

I did this on a smaller scale for a slimmer effect – added 1 in. to side front seams, 2 in. to side seams, and 3 in. to side back seams.
This adds a total of 24 in./ 60 cm to the hem.
With my hips, that makes a hem width of nearly 2 yards which, even at lower calf length, makes for easy walking without needing a slit.

5.b. See note about 2/3 down this post on curving a hem.

6. Add seam allowances on all the new seam lines, and hem allowance on the bottom edges (if you like to have them on your patterns).
I don’t always have seam allowances on my patterns, so I make a note on the pattern about whether they’re there.

Add reminder pattern markings, to put centre front on a fold of fabric.
And a mark to show the bottom of the zip on the centre back seam.

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A starting pattern with more darts

If your body shape is like mine, large high hips make it essential to have more darts in a fitted skirt.

Here’s my ‘hip template’. Learned to make a template for the waist-hip area from the late Shannon Gifford, in her pattern classes at Pattern Review


(back is on left, front right)

Note these templates don’t include seam allowances – much easier for pattern altering, and for tracing round. But don’t worry if you’re starting from a pattern with seam allowances. The method for simple skirts is the same.

So when I make a 6-gored skirt pattern starting from these templates, I still have 2 darts in the side back pattern piece.

I could of course divide the skirt back pattern into 4 parts, not 2, and have fun making all sorts of different flare shapes at the side back !

This hip template can be used as the starting point for both skirts and pants.
Several pattern making books use this for the upper part of a pants pattern, rather than drafting the whole thing from scratch.

And how about using the same pattern making alterations to add princess seams and flares to your basic pant pattern 😀
Alter all the seams by the same amount, so you don’t alter the ‘balance’ of the pants, how they hang from the waist.

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Waistband pattern


Length = waist length + 2 in./ 5 cm for overlap
width = 2 x finished width
Plus seam allowances added all around.

Or mark the size directly on the fabric with chalk, instead of making a pattern.

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Sewing instructions

It’s a good idea to label all the fabric pieces after you cut them out before taking the pattern off, as they’re all quite similar.

Assembly instructions for sewing your own pattern ?
For a gored skirt, slightly adapt the instructions for a pencil or a-line skirt.
Here are links to some free sewalongs.

From your first projects, you have probably sewn many seams and hems. If you also know how to sew :
– darts (if needed),
– any type of zip,
– waistband,
you won’t have much difficulty making a skirt without instructions.

So Good Luck with making your own skirt using your own pattern and your own sewing knowledge 😀

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Patterns and links available June 2013

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