Changing a pattern neckline

Posted October 22, 2016 by sewingplums
Categories: pattern making for clothes

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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Choosing necklines

Posted October 22, 2016 by sewingplums
Categories: pattern making for clothes

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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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.

‘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.

A capsule / core wardrobe for Autumn 2016

Posted October 8, 2016 by sewingplums
Categories: current fashion

Here is what Sew Over It patterns in London think are the 5 current key items (City Break e-book with download patterns, bust 33-45″).


There’s a long (22 min.) and chatty video introducing the styles.

I think these are ‘current smart’ style, rather than classic / casual / pretty / dramatic. . . which is interesting, as most patterns from this company are vintage-style dresses.

They suggest this order of sewing difficulty :
knit top / dress, skirt,
shirt / dress
(simple style – no collar band, cuff or sleeve placket),
skinny jeans, coat.

Sew Over It claim to write teaching patterns.
If you would like more sewing support, Tilly and the Buttons have online video classes on making an easier skirt and tee, and a more difficult shirt.
Sew Over It have a video class and a free sew-along on fitting and making slim pants.

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Add items to widen the scope

Want a 6 item group of
2 tops
2 bottoms
2 layers ?
Add a moto/biker jacket, such as Hot Patterns 1207.
Goes up a level of sewing skill, though you could leave out the exposed zips and use in-seam pockets.


For my own wardrobe needs I would want a pullover top and some non-stretch pants, such as Vogue 9063.


And a slouchy top such as the Tessuti Mandy Boat Tee.


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A complete 12 item core wardrobe

Those added 4 garments shift things up from the original capsule to a 10-item wardrobe.
4 tops
1 dress
1 skirt
2 pants
2 jackets.

A commonly suggested 12 item wardrobe would add 2 more jackets or other layers, for people in a climate with that need.
If you don’t wear many jackets, you could add 2 more tops – tees in your favourite colours, or Sew Over It have several pretty blouse patterns.

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Explore the world of jacket riches !

Starting from (tee + jeans / pencil skirt) or (shirt + jeans / pencil skirt), jackets have huge potential for completely changing the style of an outfit.

As well as waterfall and moto jackets, there are many other current jacket types which would go well with the slim fit of the original capsule.
The first three can look more current at thigh / tunic or calf / duster length.

Kimono, such as New Look 6438.

Classic knit cardigan, such as New Look 6735.
Make longer and at least 2 sizes larger for a ‘boyfriend’ look.

Shawl collar woven, such as McCall’s 6084.

Bomber / blouson, such as McCall’s 7100.
McCall’s had a sew-along for this pattern.

Trench / safari / utility jacket, such as this from Lisette, Butterick 6361. Or this example from Allie Olson at Indie Sew can have a hood.

‘French’ or ‘Chanel’ Style :
Basic, Vogue 7975.
Claire Shaeffer couture, Vogue 8804.

Blazer with notched lapel collar :
Basic, Butterick 5926.
Claire Shaeffer couture, Vogue 9099.

Sleeveless coat / long vest, such as this from Sandra Betzina, Vogue 1528. Or Simplicity 8177 from Mimi G with video tutorials.
There’s an interesting selection of vests in the new patterns for this season at Butterick Fall 2016.

Most of those jackets are too fitted to wear over loose fitting tops. Here are some current styles to co-ordinate with looser tops :

Modern poncho, such as Butterick 6392. Or the group from Marfy Patterns (no instructions or seam allowances).

Oversized hoodie, such as Hot Patterns 1179.

Cocoon, such as Marilla Walker’s Fremantle raglan shape, or the Cocoon coat by Wardrobe By Me. This one from BurdaStyle 10/2013 has a sew-along video (not free).

Slouchy, such as Cali Faye Brenna.
Or the Rose dolman jacket from Marilla Walker.

Or step aside from fashion.

An unstructured jacket from Loes Hinse
or lagenlook frills from Tina Givens
might not go so well with the crisp basics in this Sew Over It capsule.

But you could go for an art-shirt-jacket by
Kathryn Brenne
Louise Cutting
Diane Ericson
Linda Lee
Marcy Tilton

Or try fabric piecing with Koos van den Akker or Fit for Art,
and quilting with Mary Ray’s Craftsy class or the Grainline Studio Tamarack with sew-along.

Well that has got us rather a long way from the practical realities of a compact wardrobe starting with the Sew Over It capsule.
If you had to choose a maximum of four jacket / layer styles which are most true to you, that make you feel at home and at your best, which would they be ?
Your choices may be very different from mine – have you got a favourite pattern company that I haven’t mentioned ?
Hmm, I managed to get my needs down to five. . .

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Some other sources of modern classic wardrobes

Tee, shirt, jeans, pencil skirt, waterfall jacket – the capsule styles are ‘modern classics’. So the Sew Over It patterns aren’t unique, though it’s good to have such basics grouped together.  StyleARC and Burda Style are also good sources of modern classic patterns.

BurdaStyle have download groups of patterns which are in the same style, for about $25. Good for wardrobes, and good value if you want to make more than 4 of the patterns. Their knits kit is a bit like the Sew Over It group, with patterns for fitted and loose tees, leggings, and woven shirt and skirt, also drafting and sewing webinars.

StyleARC patterns have pattern bundles which copy celebrity outfits.

The disadvantage of both those companies is the minimal instructions. You do need to know what you’re doing.

Sew Over It by contrast gives detailed instructions with clear photos. Many of their patterns have been tested in face-to-face classes before being issued generally.

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For maximum wardrobe versatility, use your best neutral colours for the first of each item. I like to use texture and tonal variations.
Add accent colours and prints when you make more of the items.
Change fabric types, change hem and sleeve lengths, omit collars, and the alternatives are almost endless. . .

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Patterns and links available October 2016

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US Indie patterns from UK suppliers

Posted September 17, 2016 by sewingplums
Categories: fit + patterns

Enjoy exploring indie patterns, and prefer tissue patterns but don’t want to pay huge shipping charges ?
There are 100s of US indie pattern companies. Here are the ones that are available direct from UK suppliers.
I’ve listed adult clothing only.
The suppliers don’t always carry the complete range. I’ve found it worth e-mailing them if you want a pattern they haven’t got.

There are a few pattern companies from other countries.
And I haven’t listed the UK pattern companies these suppliers stock – there are direct links to UK pattern companies in the right side menu.

There are some US pattern companies, such as Cutting Line Designs and The Sewing Workshop, whose automatic site adds on huge shipping charges. But if you e-mail them about it, they are willing to ship for a few dollars. Worth trying.

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UK Suppliers of indie patterns


Dragonfly Fabrics

Guthrie & Ghani


Minerva Crafts

M is for Make


Sew Essential

All except Habithat also sell fabrics online.
UK pattern companies – see right menu (if menu is not showing, click on red header – you will leave this post too !).

Specialist suppliers

Sure-Fit Designs UK – ‘connect the dots’ basic fitting slopers drawn to your personal measurements

Vena Cava – mainly cosplay / historic / steampunk patterns and supplies

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Pattern company : supplier

Alison Glass : Minerva Crafts

Amy Butler : Backstitch

Anna Maria Horner : Backstitch

April Rhodes : Dragonfly
April Rhodes : Minerva Crafts
April Rhodes : M is for Make

Art Gallery Fabrics : Minerva Crafts

Betsy Kingston : Dragonfly
Betsy Kingston : Backstitch

Blue Ginger Doll : Sewbox

Cake patterns : Sewbox

Cashmerette : Backstitch
Cashmerette : Dragonfly
Cashmerette : Guthrie & Ghani
Cashmerette : Minerva Crafts
Cashmerette : Sewbox
Cashmerette : Sew Essential

Christine Haynes : Backstitch
Christine Haynes : Dragonfly
Christine Haynes : Minerva Crafts
Christine Haynes : M is for Make
Christine Haynes : Sewbox

Closet Case Files : Backstitch
Closet Case Files : Dragonfly
Closet Case Files : Guthrie & Ghani
Closet Case Files : Minerva Crafts

Colette : Backstitch
Colette : Dragonfly
Colette : Guthrie & Ghani
Colette : Minerva Crafts
Colette : M is for Make
Colette : Sewbox
Colette : Sew Essential

Deer & Doe : Guthrie & Ghani
Deer & Doe : M is for Make

Eliza M : Minerva Crafts
Eliza M : Sewbox

Fancy Tiger : Backstitch

Folkwear : Habithat

Gather : Backstitch
Gather : Dragonfly
Gather : Guthrie & Ghani
Gather : Sewbox

Grainline Studio : Backstitch
Grainline Studio : Dragonfly
Grainline Studio : Guthrie & Ghani
Grainline Studio : Minerva Crafts
Grainline Studio : M is for Make
Grainline Studio : Sew Essential

Hot Patterns : Sewbox

How to do Fashion : Backstitch
How to do fashion : Dragonfly
How to do Fashion : Sewbox

I AM patterns : Backstitch
I AM patterns : Guthrie & Ghani

Jalie : Habithat

Jamie Christina : Backstitch

Laughing Moon Mercantile : Habithat

Liesl & Co. : Backstitch
Liesl & Co. : Dragonfly
Liesl & Co : Guthrie & Ghani
Liesl & Co : Minerva Crafts
Liesl & Co : M is for Make

Made by Rae : Backstitch
Made by Rae : Dragonfly
Made by Rae : Guthrie & Ghani
Made by Rae : Minerva Crafts
Made by Rae : M is for Make

Make it perfect : Backstitch

Megan Nielsen : Backstitch
Megan Nielsen : Dragonfly
Megan Nielsen : Guthrie & Ghani
Megan Nielsen : Minerva Crafts
Megan Nielsen : M is for Make
Megan Nielsen : Sew Essential

MiY Collection : Sewbox

Named Clothing : Backstitch
Named Clothing : Dragonfly
Named Clothing : Guthrie & Ghani
Named Clothing : M is for Make

Nehelenia : Habithat

Oliver & S : Backstitch
Oliver & S : Guthrie & Ghani
Oliver & S : Minerva Crafts

Papercut : Backstitch
Papercut : M is for Make
Papercut : Sewbox

Pauline Alice : Backstitch
Pauline Alice : Dragonfly

Salme : Backstitch
Salme : M is for Make

Schnittchen : Dragonfly

Sense & Sensibility : Habithat

Serendipity Studio : Dragonfly
Serendipity Studio : Minerva Crafts
Serendipity Studio : Sewbox

Sewaholic : Backstitch
Sewaholic : Dragonfly
Sewaholic : Minerva Crafts
Sewaholic : M is for Make
Sewaholic : Sewbox
Sewaholic : Sew Essential

Sew Caroline : Dragonfly
Sew Caroline : Minerva Crafts

Sew Girl : Sewbox

Sew Liberated : Backstitch
Sew Liberated : Dragonfly
Sew Liberated : Minerva Crafts
Sew Liberated : M is for Make

Sew me something : Backstitch
Sew me something : Dragonfly

Straight Stitch Society : Backstitch
Straight Stitch Society : Guthrie & Ghani

The Avid Seamstress : Backstitch
The Avid Seamstress : Dragonfly

Thread Theory : Backstitch
Thread Theory : Dragonfly
Thread Theory : Guthrie & Ghani
Thread Theory : Minerva Crafts
Thread Theory : M is for Make

Victory : Backstitch
Victory Patterns : Dragonfly
Victory : Guthrie & Ghani
Victory : Minerva Crafts
Victory : M is for Make

Walden by Colette : Backstitch
Walden by Colette : Guthrie & Ghani
Walden by Colette : M is for Make

Wiksten : Backstitch
Wiksten : Dragonfly
Wiksten : M is for Make

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These are the pattern lines on offer in August 2016

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