Archive for the ‘speedy sewing’ category

Sew a Wardrobe in a weekend : Tops

May 28, 2010

If the Super Quick wardrobe patterns aren’t to your taste, how about patterns for individual items which the pattern companies say take only 1 or 2 hours of sewing time.

Again most of these patterns are best for people who’re rectangle shape. I made some comments about this in a previous post, and on how the rest of us can change things a bit.

The great advantage of wardrobe patterns is you don’t have to worry whether individual items co-ordinate. That also isn’t a problem with most of these Super Quick tops, as they’re mainly very classic styles.

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Here are the time-limited patterns for tops that are available or recently oop.

oop Butterick 4987 is a pattern for 2 hour camisoles.


oop Butterick 5035 has a couple of unusual shapes for 1 hour knit tops.


Butterick 5948 is a collection of 2 hour classic tops for wovens, with a choice of necklines, and body and sleeve lengths.

New Look 6807 is for 2 hour gathered knit tops


while New Look 6892 has similar 2 hour woven fabric tops.


Then there are the classic Palmer-Pletsch shirts.

McCall’s 4518 is a 2 hour shirt with convertible collar.


and McCall’s 4079 is a 3 hour shirt with band collar.


Also many of the Super Quick dresses could be made shorter as tops. And there are some patterns for tops in the quick wardrobe patterns I listed earlier.

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I chose to mention only patterns which the pattern companies give specific times for. Of course, many people have much loved TNT tops which can be made very quickly, especially if you like knits and have an overlocker/ serger.

Many people like wrap tops, which only take a little more time. But if you prefer a fitted top or an interesting collar, you’ll need quite a bit longer. . .

There is a much bigger range of tops if you include buttonholes and zips. I now realise why these processes are not in super quick patterns. It’s not that they’re difficult, it’s that they need to be done slowly to get a good result. I timed myself sewing a centred zip, and it took me 1/2 hour. Okay, I’m a slow sewer and baste everything, so many people could do it faster. Still that’s an extra 1/2 hour for one process, which really isn’t available if you want to finish a garment in 1 or 2 hours. But it might well be possible to include slower processes if you have half a day 😀

These simple patterns are not to everyone’s taste, either to sew or to wear. But they do show the processes and styles possible if you want to get something to wear quickly. And it is impressive if you can sew a classic shirt in 3 hours !

Of course these styles haven’t got to be made quickly. A very simple top, made in quality materials using lovingly crafted near-couture skills, can be a thing of great beauty. Or can be an open canvas for exhibiting your favourite art-to-wear or heirloom embellishments 😀

I’m finding it very interesting to review these super quick patterns. But I’m realising that speedy sewing is not for me. I’m getting over the feeling that I ‘ought’ to sew quickly. I’m fascinated by and enjoy reading the exploits of people who sew fast, but it’s not right for me.

Despite that, I’m planning more Super Quick Pattern posts, about skirts and pants, and vests, jackets and coats !

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Patterns and links available May 2010

Sew a Wardrobe in a Weekend : Dresses

May 15, 2010

Sew a wardrobe in a weekend. – or make 6 dresses 😀

It’s the season of the dress, and Butterick, McCall’s and New Look all think we can make a dress in 1 or 2 hours of sewing time ! Whew. . .

Of course there are many dress patterns which can be sewn speedily. I’ve just listed the ones the pattern companies say can be made in a limited time. I’ve included a few out-of-print patterns still available from BMV, to show the range of styles possible.

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Super Quick Dress patterns for woven fabrics

Butterick 5211 is a 1 hour straight dress.


At the end of the 50s, the ‘sacque’ dress appeared. A group of us bored girls at college summer school decided to make them. It was a huge change in fashion, so we would never have had the courage to do it alone. (At that time fashion was very rigid – and I don’t just mean the corsets – everyone HAD to wear the same style). We cut rectangles of fabric, and sewed round them with gaps for neck, armholes and hem. The boys were horrified, they were used to all those tiny waists and big petticoats.

This Butterick dress may look very simple and shapeless, but it’s much more subtly elegant than those rectangles 😀

oop McCall’s 5519 is a 1 hour sheath dress with pattern pieces for 3 cup sizes.


McCall’s 9172 is a current 1-hour a-line dress, with a pattern piece for adding a bust dart.


McCall’s 5855 is a 1-hour caftan.


McCall’s even thinks that if we have an extra hour of sewing time we can make a princess seamed dress, see oop McCall’s 9456 2-hour dress.


New Look 6804 is a summery 2-hour dress with a variety of straps and necklines.


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One Hour Dress Patterns for Knits

oop Butterick 5100 is a 1-hour knit dress styled as an overdress or over-tunic. The wide neckband is actually a deep cowl.


McCall’s 6074 has 1-hour sleeveless knit dresses with front interest.


McCall’s 5893 is a 1-hour empire waist dress for knits.

McCall’s 6069 has 1-hour knit dresses with a drape back and plain or drape front.


And there are a couple of more covered-up-for-winter styles :

Butterick 5397 is a 1-hour gathered scoop neck knit dress.


Butterick 5247 is a 1-hour cowl neck knit dress.


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Again I’m fascinated by how much variety designers can find for these simple styles. Easy changes to necklines and armholes, with occasional extra seaming.

Interesting to see what’s possible in limited time. But I rarely have reason to wear a dress. If I was going to make a dress, I would prefer to take more time and make one with more style elements. I like tucks, pleats and small ruffles, and waist seams give me the best fit.

I’ve only mentioned patterns which the pattern companies give a sewing time for. There are of course a lot of dress patterns which could be made in half a day by people who can do other sewing processes quickly, like adding a zip or buttonholes.

Many of these speedy dress patterns include darts. Either darts or gathered fullness do give better fit, especially if you’re a larger cup size. But there are patterns without darts, if you’re not happy about sewing them.

Here’s ejvc’s description of Nancy Zieman’s method for making darts quickly :
“Mark apex and snip legs in the seam allowance. Then, pull out a long thread from the needle. Take a few stitches [in seam allowance] to anchor and then stretch the thread to the apex mark (it forms a straight line). Sew along the thread. Very quick, hardly any marking.”

Many of these dresses are slightly flared in silhouette. If that’s not flattering for you, see my post on easy patterns and body shape for some suggestions.

Anyway there are very quick dress patterns in many styles. So pick a fancy fabric and make one in the afternoon to wear that evening. Sheers, shiny, sequins, lace, multicolour abstract prints are all ‘in’ this season. (Ah, warning, most of those fabrics are not quick or easy to cut or sew :D)

And of course it’s easy to shorten simple dresses to make a tunic or top. I’m planning another post on timed top patterns. Interestingly, most of the tops take 2 hours, not one. . .

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Patterns and links available May 2010

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Sew a Wardrobe in a Weekend : Super Quick Wardrobe Patterns

May 8, 2010

Okay, so you’re inspired to follow Sue Neall and sew a wardrobe in a weekend.

Sue Neall made 2 tops, 2 bottoms, and 2 layering pieces (jackets). Most of us would find it more realistic to aim for making one of each.
But anyway, you need patterns for jacket, top, skirt, and pants.
All to be sewn in 2 days. (Prepare patterns beforehand, see my previous post.)
So you need patterns which can be made in less than half a day, say :
– 6 hours for each garment if making 4 items,
– 4 hours each if making 6.
Of course you can make 1 slow garment and 3 ultra quick ones 😀 but that’s the general idea.

Most people who enjoy quick sewing do it by sewing knits using an overlocker/ serger. To widen the possibilities I’ve picked mainly patterns for wovens.

Make your capsule “This Year” (2014) in style by using :
colour : nudes, pastels, khakis, indigo blue, brights.
fabric : sheers, denim, sweatshirt fleece, lace, leather.
fabric pattern : striped knits, multicolour abstract prints, soft florals, african, batik, or animal prints.
trim : big patch pockets, studs and metal buttons, lace, cord or ribbon ties.

And ‘minimalism’ is ‘in’ this season, which means the simplest of styles made in high quality drapey fabrics.

Co-ordinating is easier if you use a wardrobe pattern. So what wardrobe patterns are there ?

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2018 update – few of these patterns are still in print, but it’s still worth looking at the line diagrams for ideas.

These are still in print :
Butterick 3886, jacket, camisole, pants
Butterick 4406, a sleepwear pattern which, with length variations, could work for general casual wear
New Look 6816, a 2-hour pattern for knit top, skirt and pants.
Dana Marie Sophisticated Curves
Dana Marie Easy Pieces

There are very few ‘wardrobe’ patterns these days. Pull together a group of ’sewn in less than 3 hours’ patterns instead.

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2014 update : Sadly nearly all the patterns in this post are now out of print.
The line diagrams do give you an idea of the simple shapes with few style elements that you need to choose if you want to sew quickly.

These look like the nearest equivalents available July 2014, with simple shapes and few time-taking techniques :
Butterick 3886 jacket, camisole, pants
Butterick 5170 waterfall cover up, shell, pants (oop 2018)
Vogue 8914 jacket, top, skirt (oop 2018)

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Timed wardrobe patterns

There actually are a few wardrobe patterns which the pattern companies claim can be sewn in a very short time.

oop Butterick 5225 is a Life Style Wardrobe coded Easy rather than Very Easy. Butterick say it (presumably each garment) needs 2 hours of sewing time.


oop Butterick 5229 is a 2 hour pattern which includes tunic, dress, pants and jumpsuit.


I prefer oop Butterick 5000, another 2 hour pattern. (Add a quick elastic waist skirt – I think short or long, straight or flared, would work with these tops.)


If you have even less time, oop Butterick 5226 is a 1-hour pattern for tunic, top and pants.


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Wardrobes which might take a little longer

If not using those timed patterns, it becomes more a matter of personal judgement. I think some of the Butterick Very Easy supposedly Fast & Easy patterns look as if they would take only a bit more time. I’ve picked ones with few seams and no buttonholes or zips.

oop Butterick 5045 is a VE FE pattern including cascade style jacket or vest, dress, tunic and pants.


oop Butterick 5363 is a Lifestyle Wardrobe that is VE FE.


oop Butterick 4297 includes a very easy wrap rather than a jacket.


Also look at other wardrobe patterns to see if they can be simplified. For example, oop Butterick 5472. Make that drape jacket as a single layer without facings or lining – finish the edges with narrow hems or bias binding.
Or, the Butterick 5472 jacket is supposed to be made with bagged edge-to-edge lining of fronts and back. Would that be quicker ?
And substitute elastic waist pants.


If you’d like to button up, but don’t like making buttonholes, then try cord button loops.

oop McCall’s 5298 is a scaled down version of oop McCall’s 5143, which included a thigh length jacket and full length pants – easy changes to make.


Or how about Butterick 4406, a VE FE sleepwear pattern which could work for general casual wear – shorten the robe to make jacket, 2 tops, and pants (and it’s still in print !).


Ah, these patterns both have band collars. Would it be quicker to use a bias band neck edge finish ?

Could you substitute button loops for buttonholes, or big snaps for closures, in other patterns ?

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Super Quick Knits

oop Butterick 5190 is a VE FE Lifestyle Wardrobe for knits.


There’s also oop New Look 6147 for more sporty casual knits. (Enlarge the top neckline a bit so you don’t need a zip.)


2018 – New Look 6816 is a 2-hour pattern for knit top, skirt and pants.

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Wardrobe patterns from independents

Most independent pattern designers produce patterns for individual garments, but there are a few relevant wardrobe patterns.

The Park Bench oop Central Park pattern could be the ultimate quick and easy casual wardrobe. I think the top, long vest, skirt and pants would be very quick to make, the rounded vest and jacket a bit less so. (This is a one-size pattern to be adapted to your own size, so it’s quick to sew only after you’ve sorted that out.)


There are several very easy wardrobe patterns from Dana Marie – Purrfection. Such as Sophisticated Curves.


or Easy Pieces.


Both these are still available.

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Obviously the best speedy pattern for you, and the simplifications you make, depend on what you’re happy to sew quickly. There are many other simple wardrobe patterns you can use if you’re comfortable with sewing buttonholes, darts or zips. Someone who has no qualms about zips may choose very different patterns from someone who avoids them. I get the horrors about making rows of buttonholes, but one of the wardrobe patterns said to take only 2 hours includes them.

P.S. There are now posts on quick-sew patterns for individual garment types, see speedy sewing section.

Most people who sew quickly use TNTs. If these patterns are new to you, you may need to adapt these simple shapes beforehand – so they’re more flattering for your body shape and more in your style. See my previous post.

And of course, we don’t all enjoy sewing quickly.
And we don’t all want to wear such simple shapes with so few style features. Though quality fabrics can make them special.
Though these patterns do show much more variety than I was expecting.

So choose what you want to do.
And have fun – is this how you want to spend a special weekend 😀

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Patterns and links available May 2010
Update July 2014, December 2018

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Sewing a Wardrobe in a Weekend : Pattern and Body Shape

April 25, 2010

There’s a fascinating article by Sue Neall on sewing a 6-piece wardrobe in a weekend.

The Vogue 2910 Adri pattern is oop but still available.


Sue Neall is an expert sewer. Look at that pattern : sheer fabrics, double welt seams, top stitching, lined bias cut top and skirt, skirt also has side-seam zip and shaped hem, pants with darts, curved pockets, zip and waistband. How did she do it all ? Whew, I get flustered just thinking about it !

Are there pattern possibilities and sewing processes which might make a weekend wardrobe an achievable aim for the rest of us – even for people who don’t sew knits and haven’t got a serger/ overlocker. . . ?

There are many patterns labelled Very Easy which are not also Super Quick. Although the processes are easy they’re not fast, for example simple collars. Or there are a lot of processes, such as an eight-gored skirt.

For speedy sewing, most of us need patterns with a small number of easy processes. Something like Park Bench Central Park (quick to sew, but sizing only for people with some experience).


Another problem with patterns that are both quick and easy is they’re usually straight up and down, and about half of us aren’t.

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Pattern and body shape

Styles which are straight up and down are only flattering for those of us who are straight up and down. And this is related to speedy sewing. You don’t have to be full busted for it to be well worth taking the time needed to add bust darts to most of these patterns. And do some side seam shaping : curving in for a waist or flaring out for larger hips.


Moving the pattern side seam by 1/2 inch changes the garment by 2 inches or 1 size.
Moving the pattern side seam by 1 inch changes the garment by 4 inches or 2 sizes.

Nancy Nix-Rice (“Looking Good” p. 36) comments about rectangular shape garments :
– pears/ triangles : need shoulder pads to balance shoulders to hips.
– inverted triangle : rectangles make hips look as wide as shoulders.
– hourglass : rectangles hide best feature – small waist.

Nancy Nix-Rice uses the ‘Vogue’ body shapes of inverted triangle, triangle, rectangle, and hourglass. She doesn’t separate people who are rectangular (straight up and down) from round (waist larger than bust). ‘The Triumph of Individual Style’ does. They suggest round / apple shape people need soft curved shoulder shapes rather than square ones. Big shoulders may not be fashionable these days, but fitted shoulders are. Happily so are cut-on and raglan sleeves, which have a softer effect. And are quicker to sew.

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Triangle/ Pear

Smaller above the waist, larger below. If you have a clearly indented waist, also look at Hourglass advice.

For a pear, a rectangle shaped garment big enough to go over the hips is huge at the top. That’s why shoulder pads are recommended, to stop all that spare fabric from sagging. Not a good starting point. I prefer flare at the side seams, from shoulder or underarm.


Vogue styling advice for pears usually suggests shoulder emphasis and a neat waist with full skirt. And these are not quick techniques.

Easiest to start from a-line or flared patterns. Or perhaps ones with a bit of gathering, though that’s not a super quick technique. There are surprisingly few of these patterns, considering how many there are of us with this shape.

One possibility is oop VE Vogue 8371. Those ‘handkerchief’ corners would look very droopy on me, but easy enough to cut them off.


Make a larger size and add a front opening to the sleeved version, for a jacket.
Change the length of top and skirt for more current proportions.

An equivalent is See & Sew Butterick 5203 (add a skirt), or Vogue 8542 for knits.

There are of course other a-line and flared patterns. I chose V8371 to show some of the extra steps you may need when there is not a wide choice of suitable quick patterns.

Being small busted, I look better with an interesting neckline/ front. VE Vogue 8482 with an easy drape neck is a possibility (flare the side seams).


This is an example of what keeps coming up – those of us who are not rectangular may have to do some pattern altering or change style features to get flattering patterns.

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Inverted triangle

Larger above the waist, slimmer below. It’s helpful to separate people who have large cup size but narrow shoulders, from people with wide shoulders but a small cup, and people with both large.

Big shoulders – taper a rectangle.
Big in front – well worth the effort to do an FBA, or at least add bust darts.

For people with bigger shoulders, there are Very Easy patterns which assert the shoulder emphasis with a strong horizontal line. Such as VE Vogue 8552. (possibly remove zip and centre back seam).


(I think the pockets might look good on someone with large shoulders, but less so on someone with a large cup size.)

Inverted Triangle is the body type that’s most likely to have difficulty getting into a more fitted design without an opening. See my post on size. You may be surprised by what you can get over your shoulders or bust without needing a zip. If so, you can also leave out the centre back seam.

But you are more likely to need a zip or other opening in a more fitted design. In that case, for a quickly made pullover style you might prefer drop shouldered loose fitting rectangles, like Anything But Ordinary by Louise Cutting.


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Balanced above and below a clearly indented waist.

What a pity to waste a good figure by not adding bust darts.

Nearly all patterns from the big companies have at least a little side-seam waist shaping, so increase it.

Sadly, belting a rectangle garment gives what Nancy Nix-Rice (“Looking Good Live” DVD) calls the ‘sausage effect’ – fabric bulging above and below the belt.

There are Very Easy patterns with simple princess seaming combined with cut on sleeves. Not so much extra work after the fitting is done. Perhaps VE Vogue 8512.


(Change the neckline if this isn’t right for you.)

Again see my post on size. You may be surprised how much you can narrow the waist and still get it over your head without a zip.

Or add fish eye darts at waist level. But make sure they don’t make the waist area too small to get your shoulders through.


Best to add bust darts as well, or you may get odd fabric strain lines.
Princess seams are probably much less work once the fitting is done !

It’s not very flattering for people with an indented waist to wear styles without side seams.

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More shape means more work

For us non-rectangles, it’s adding shape which takes the pattern adjusting and sewing time.
Unless we just use fabrics which fall into place to show our curves : knit fabrics, soft fabrics with little body, or cut on the bias.

Sadly, tapering or flaring the side seam gives a curved hem, which is much slower to sew than a straight one !

As there are so few Super Quick patterns for us non-rectangles, we may need to do a lot of pattern preparation :
– fitting work : add darts, change side seam shape, adjust lengths.
– adapting suitable patterns : change necklines, add or remove openings, etc.

Or use very oversized ’boutique’ style patterns, as in the Shapes pattern line. These envelop all body shapes, but are not to everyone’s taste.


Sue Neall, who sewed the 6 item wardrobe in a weekend, did her pattern altering as part of her weekend. But the only pattern adjustment she made was an FBA. For us less expert more oddly shaped sewers, there isn’t time in one speedy weekend for basting, trying on, and fiddling with the fit. So it’s either use a TNT or make a muslin beforehand.

So I think we less experienced sewers with less straightforward shapes should do our pattern preparation before the main weekend, as well as fabric preparation, collecting notions, and winding bobbins. So we just leave the cutting and sewing for the breakneck phase. Though admittedly even two express weekends, a cutting one and a sewing one, would be a super-challenge for most of us. . .

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6 becomes 4

Apart from changing the side seam shape, most ways of improving things for us non-rectangles involve more sewing processes. So while there are Very Easy patterns for us, they’re nowhere near as quick to make.

Perhaps those of us who are not rectangles are going to have to settle for making only 4 items in a weekend, and leave the 6 item wardrobes to the rectangle shapes among us 😀

It is of course ridiculous for me to be writing about speed sewing, as I’m the world’s slowest sewer. On the other hand, perhaps that’s why it’s a topic that fascinates me so much. . .

I’m planning more posts, on speedy processes and specific patterns.

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Patterns and links available April 2010