Pattern making for front openings : 1. zip, button band

Posted December 1, 2018 by sewingplums
Categories: pattern making for clothes

Have a woven tee pattern and want to make a blouse ?
Have a pullover layering pattern and want to make a jacket ?
Have a sweatshirt pattern and want to make a zippered hoodie ?
Have a personal bodice block and looking for easy open-front options to make with it ?

As often with my posts, my post on closed-to-open-front pattern changes kept expanding. Which is why I said years ago I was going to write one and never got down to it. . . I’ve been thinking about it ever since I wrote a post on converting open-front-to-closed !

This first post is about front openings with zip or bands and separate neckline finish.
The second post is about combined front edge and neckline facings.

There are little design decisions to make. If you’re not sure what to do – have a look at RTW – snoop shop and clothes you own – and see how they deal with it. They can be a marvellous resource for making, as well as something to wear 😀 Best to snoop shop at high end. Cheap clothing lines use least materials and quickest sewing, and home sewists usually haven’t got to do that.

Pattern skills :
– draw the fold, stitch, cut lines on fabric at specific spacings,
– understand different types and widths of bands.

Starter pattern :
Front pattern piece with centre front line CF marked from neck to waist/hip.

Pattern making courses and text books tell you how to draw your own starter pattern, called a ‘block’. Then how to alter it to make other styles.
But the two stages are separate. No need to draw or even have your own block. You can start your pattern alterations from any pattern piece. Best to use ones with few style elements, or something in common with the style you want to make.

Other tools :
– fabric marker.
– a quilter’s 6×24 ruler makes it easy to mark lines at measured distances apart.

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Exposed open ended / separating zip

McCall’s 7026

Fabric marking

Instead of placing pattern centre front on a fabric fold – add seam allowances to centre front.
Seam allowance width = width of (zip tape + teeth).

half size practice pattern from Czachor & Cole

No need to make a special pattern piece.
Place the front pattern away from the edge of the fabric, and use a marking tool and ruler to draw the cutting line onto the fabric. At the seam allowance width from the CF line.


video tutorial from Professor Pincushion

For a quality inside finish, cover the edge of seam allowance and zip tape with bias binding.

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Button bands

Two main methods of adding a cut-on button band, with a single fold or a double fold to the inside.
If your fabric is the same both sides, you can double fold to the outside.
Or add a separate band, perhaps in contrast fabric.

Choose your buttons first, as the pattern making usually depends on what size they are.

Buttons are usually placed on the Centre Front line. There’s usually an extension beyond that to support buttons and buttonholes. The extension is usually 1 button width.
That means the two fronts overlap by 2x button width.

You can of course use any size button with any width extension, but some combinations look odd. If you use different sizes – best to check the result is what you want before making the final garment.

There are surprisingly many features of an opening which relate to the button size used, so with commercial patterns it’s best to use the button size in the instructions.

Button band with single fold – like a cut-on facing

Vogue 9258

Fabric marking


Beyond the CF line on the pattern :
– measure width of front extension beyond CF – this is a design choice but is usually the width of button used.
– mark fold line.
– measure width for fold back, usually 2x button width.
– measure added amount for inner edge finish, usually up to seam allowance width.
– mark cutting line.


Add interfacing onto the fold line and fold back section, to support the fold and the buttons and buttonholes.
Finish the cut edge.
The ‘facing’ is held in place by the buttons and buttonholes.

Button band with double fold – like a hem

Fabric marking


Beyond the pattern CF :
– measure extension beyond CF – width of button.
– mark fold line.
– measure width of first fold back – 2x width of button.
– mark fold line.
– measure width of fold inside band – 2 options :
. . . . . seam allowance or less.
. . . . . 2x width of button again – so there’s a 3rd layer of fashion fabric giving extra support to buttons, instead of interfacing.
– mark cutting line.


It’s easy to sew a lovely straight line using an edge stitch foot on your machine, I think that’s my favourite extra foot !
Several ways of sewing this band.

One line of stitching

Here are 2 photo tutorials on this :
100 Acts of Sewing uses edge fold 1/4″ wide, main fold 1″ wide.


Lauren Guthrie has both folds full width.
She describes a back opening, but use the same method for a centre front opening.

Top-stitch along both folds

Seen more on shirts. This one has the band folded to the outside.

from Kwik Sew 4075

Separate band

Butterick 6465 by Connie Crawford

Pattern for band may be wider to make the added strip a special feature.

Typical pattern strip width :
s/a, 2-3 x button width, 2-3 x button width, s/a


Same length as front edge.

Front edge of main pattern piece
You’ve added to the front width by adding on the band,
so need to reduce the width at CF by half the finished width of the band.


You could draw folding, stitching, cutting lines direct on the fabric.
But you may feel more confident if you try them out on paper first.
Fold up the band pattern and hold it up on you – does the width look right ?


video from Professor Pincushion

She finishes the band by hand, using ladder stitch.
Alternative : fold the band so the edge is a smidge past the attachment seam, and machine stitch in the ditch from the right side.

Button placement

Put one button at bust point level, and spread the others out from there.
Easiest to space them evenly.

Have the garment made up enough for you to try it on.
Look in a mirror and place pins in the band where you want the buttons.
Top button – at the neck, or placed for the effect you want.
Lowest button – best to place this above your ‘hip break’ line or your top-of-sitting-thigh level, so it isn’t strained when you sit down.
(I would put the bottom of a zip here too.)

Button numbers and spacing are design decisions, for example you can put them in groups of 2 or 3, or at random spacing.
Or how about every button different ! Then the extension to use is a judgement call, perhaps the average size.

– – –

All week I’ve been adding little comments about how to finish the neckline of a front band top. And extras you can add to your button band top.
This post got much too long, so I’ve separated off those comments.
Here’s the supplement post.

Start with the simplest, if like me you get overwhelmed by too many options.
Enjoy the process and celebrate what you make 😀

– – –

This is the group of 4 posts about pattern making for front openings :
1. zip, button band (this post)
1b. adding extras to a front band
2. combined facing to front edge and neckline
2b. adding to a front-neckline facing

And here’s an earlier post on the opposite : closing a front opening.

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Patterns and links available December 2018

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My sewing style is One Pattern Many Looks

Posted November 10, 2018 by sewingplums
Categories: pattern making for clothes, personal style, specific capsules

The Sewing With A Plan rules for the contest at Stitcher’s Guild (January to April 2019) have been posted.
And to my surprise they suit my style of sewing.  

I have several sides to my sewing personality.
The theory side : I’m a pattern nerd and love knowing how patterns work and how garments are constructed. I read pattern making and sewing instructions for fun (yes, not many people do that 😀 ) I also love sewing videos for how clear they make technique, but don’t binge watch them as I tend to want to make the item and I have a big enough pile of half-finished projects without their help !
The newbie side : When I’m learning something I love detailed instructions and get stressed if I have to ‘wing it’. But once I know what to do, I can merrily ‘think outside the box’.
The planning side : I’m a ‘more ideas than stitches’ person. I can come up with innumerable ideas for a wardrobe plan or changes to a specific pattern, but I make very little. I’m much better at pulling these ideas together into blog posts than at actually making them all 😀
The practical side : My wearing and sewing are simple and easy :
– I wear a ‘uniform’ and mainly one silhouette – frilled blouse, slim pants, layer (some variety here), padded vest in deep winter.
– my sewing style is ‘one pattern many looks’. I have such trouble getting things to fit, it’s easier for me to start from a basic pattern and add variants, rather than exploring all the shapes and styles that professional pattern designers offer us.

The ‘One pattern many looks’ contest is also coming up at Pattern Review, starting November 15. I allow myself more freedom with pattern hacks than they do, especially adding/removing closures.

There are 3 sections to this post :
– my simplest SWAP plan,
– links to guides on simple pattern changes,
– suggestions for simple starting point patterns.

– – –

My SWAP for 2019

1 RTW blouse
1 pair of pants
9 variants of a TNT layer.

The SWAP Rules work equally well for someone who loves to make each garment from a different pattern, or even all 11 items as different types of garment. What freedom !
The main limits this year are in number of colours and prints. I wear mainly quiet neutral colours and prefer texture to print, so that’s no problem for me, but some people have difficulty with these limits.

My specific SWAP plan could use only 2 patterns :

1 RTW blouse
similar to the Liesl & Co Recital blouse.


1 pair of pants
such as the slim version of the Merchant & Mills 101 trouser.



9 Layers
based on the 100 Acts of Sewing Tunic No.1


This very simple shape has almost infinite potential for variations : every type of fabric, embellishment, simple pattern hacks including sleeveless and open front.

The paper pattern for this tunic comes in 2 size groups.
The pdf pattern with Sonya Philips’ Creative Bug tunic class has all 8 sizes.

Well, what’s important is the simple general concept of this tunic pattern rather than the specifics. The pdf pattern has some fitting oddities. Supposed to have 2″ underarm ease, but be sure to check the finished width and length before cutting.

There are many simple patterns like this, but most are rectangles and as I’m very pear shaped I like one with sloping sides. This one is quite flared.

– – –

Ideas and how-tos for variations on a basic

Look at your favourite stores and designers for ideas about style elements, silhouettes, proportions. But I find it easier to start with sources that tell you how to make the changes to a pattern.

My posts with ideas and links

I’ve written several posts about simple variants of a basic style.
You haven’t got to do a formal pattern making course, or work through one of those daunting college textbook pattern making tomes, to do these.

‘Pattern hacking’ posts.

Simple pattern altering, July 2017

What you can make from one top pattern, October 2009

Make everything from one pattern, November 2016

The next posts show many variations but don’t include pattern change specifics.

Workwear, simple style changes, July 2011

Autumn casuals, July 2011

Combine fabrics, embellish, November 2011

And scroll down my pinterest boards for style elements.

Out of print books

People write whole books on simple changes to basic patterns.
Some books from the 80s-90s :
Rusty Bensussen – Making a complete wardrobe from 4 basic patterns (patterns to scale up included, see later).
Borrow & Rosenberg – Hassle-free make your own clothes book (make your own patterns). Also ‘Son of hassle-free clothes’ with more advanced techniques.
Bottom & Chaney – Make it your own (no base patterns in this one).
The specific suggestions in these books do look ‘over the top’ to modern taste, but great fun and full of ideas.  Many of the styles make us laugh now, but most general pattern making and sewing techniques are still the same.

15 years after the Bensussen book, the book Easy Sewing the Kwik Sew Way had many variations on slightly more complex patterns (full size traceable paper patterns included) : a shirt-blouse, elastic waist bottoms (2 skirts and pants), plus a knit tee.

Modern books and videos starting from classic shapes

Most book writers and video presenters make their changes to intermediate level patterns – shirts, fly front pants, sheath dresses. . .

Some modern books and videos about simple pattern changes are linked in my post about simple pattern altering mentioned before.

There’s a new book, The Savvy Seamstress by Nicole Mallalieu.
This does not include base patterns, but is full of instructions for pattern making and sewing to change the style elements of existing patterns.

– – –

Simplest base patterns

Here are some ideas for very simple starting point patterns, with an emphasis on pattern lines and books that help with variations.
These ultra-simple patterns have no darts for shaping, no buttons or zips for getting into a close fit, and the sleeve can be sewn flat. Simple silhouettes with few style elements, so you’re free to add your own.

These are Rusty Bensussen’s 4 starting-point patterns :


Bensussen gives measurements for drawing the patterns on a 1″ grid. The basic top pattern is very loose fitting, so your body shape doesn’t much matter (54-56″/c140cm at underarm).

The ready-made patterns from 100 Acts of Sewing have the same spirit with modern proportions – Tunic No.1, bias Skirt, Pants No.1. Tunic good for the pear shaped.


Paper patterns from Sonya Philip’s on-line shop.
Pdf patterns for tunic and pants included in her Creative Bug classes.
Those classes include videos about making variations for each pattern.
There are photo tutorials for more variations on her site.
She also has base patterns for tee and leggings.

If you’re inverted triangle body shape, perhaps use some of the free downloads from Tessuti. These top patterns are simple shapes and makes, but have no help for beginners or guides for variations. One example, the Mandy Tee.


For rectangle body shapes there are several options, here are some.

The master patterns for top and pants from FitNice have the same simplicity, and with a big focus on pdf and video instructions for variations.

Fit For Art have master patterns for jacket, tee, pants, and many supplementary patterns with pattern pieces for other styles.

If you prefer Big 4 patterns, a couple of basics are Butterick 5948 and McCall’s 6465. Many views in one easy top/dress pattern. Add elastic waist skirt and pants, such as Butterick 3460.

Those patterns are all a simple fit and simple sew because they are ‘dartless’ and loose fitting. Getting a good close fit is not a quick and easy process for many of us, and moves sewing up to a different level involving darts, set-in sleeves, and closures such as zips or buttonholes.

People who are hour-glass body shape can of course do pattern alterations too, but a flattering base pattern might be more shaped than the ultra-simple patterns.
Perhaps start from one of the basic dress fitting shell patterns such as Butterick 5627, sizes 6-22, or Butterick 5628, sizes 16W-32W. (Single sizes. View A is the fitting shell, with zip at CF. View B is a dress, with fewer darts and zip at CB.)

Sure Fit Designs master patterns help with some fitting issues, and have detailed pattern making instructions for variations.

For other intermediate patterns, see the section above this on modern books and videos.

– – –

I’m better at ideas than getting things done 😀
And writing this has reminded me of 100s of options.
Once you’ve got a basic pattern to fit there are so many enticing possibilities for what to do with it, it’s difficult to know where to start – but it is fun 😀

– – –

Patterns and links available November 2018

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Relaxed but with more style than pyjamas

Posted December 18, 2017 by sewingplums
Categories: specific capsules

Christmas holiday (vacation) time, so how to dress slouchy but not slobby ?

Classy yet Trendy has a post on a loungewear capsule, what to wear round the house that’s one-up from pjs :
1 knit open front cardigan
6 short and long sleeved tees / 2 sweatshirts
4 leggings / 2 joggers

Many patterns for copying these knit styles. Here are some examples :
For a similar classic cardigan, tees and leggings, see Pamela’s Patterns, or Nancy Zieman’s wardrobe patterns for knits McCall’s 7548 and McCall’s 7331. Perhaps made in a larger size to get the extra ease of loungewear.
For a little more ‘artistic’, there are no leggings but a tee and more varied layers from Sewing Workshop e-pattern downloads.
For ‘athleisure’ style sweatshirts and joggers there’s a wardrobe of sweats from Jalie. (Add an open ended zip for a jacket, and make these look more everydaywear by omitting the bands at wrists, hips, ankles).

But this capsule plan would not work for me.

1. I don’t wear knits – they make it obvious I have no lumps and bumps where there should be, and many lumps and bumps where there shouldn’t be.

2. I need many layers, and layers that close up to the neck for warmth. My distribution of 15 items might be :
5 layers
6 tops
4 pants

3. I prefer more interesting style elements, rather than adding interest with prints or accessories.

With so many reasons that capsule is not right for me, it’s fortunate there are many other ways of dressing ultra-casual.

My preference for style that’s one-up from pjs would be clothes made in flannel or fleece. Here are a couple of easy ideas.

Butterick 6273, a sleepwear pattern made in soft but daywear fabrics.


Even easier : the 100 Acts of Sewing pattern group in my 2018 SWAP plan.


My slouching-around outfits often include a vest. So make sleeveless versions of those ‘jackets’, perhaps in pre-quilted fabric. While writing this I’m wearing a padded vest, a cowl necked fleece top with blouse under, and flannel pj pants (in a Christmas print 😀 ). Change the flannel pants for slim cords to go outside, it’s not quite freezing here.

The Butterick and 100 Acts patterns are two easy choices. There are many other ultra-casual patterns with more interest.
StyleARC have some good layer-top-pants pattern bundles for outfits with a slouchy look.

I wrote several posts some years ago which expand the possibilities for meeting this style challenge, and I find I haven’t changed my ideas. Some of the patterns in these posts are no longer available, but a surprising number of these easy sew – easy wear styles are still in print.

Basic comfort styles – pyjamas for loungewear
Casual chic festive wear – tops, pants – copy Eileen Fisher by using simple shapes made in high quality fabrics.

Have a lovely Happy relaxed Christmas holiday everyone,
and Best Wishes for the New Year.

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

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Patterns and links available December 2017

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Books I have 2 copies of

Posted December 4, 2017 by sewingplums
Categories: sewing technique

I moved about 2 years ago, and for many reasons have not yet unpacked my many books.

Of course it has been a good excuse to buy some sewing books that I didn’t already have ! I’ve also felt the need to have access to several sewing books that I already owned.
I prefer print versions of reference books, but for a second copy have been getting Kindle versions where available.

I’ve found it interesting to pull together a list of what I already have, hidden in a pile of boxes, and felt a need to look at so got another copy. They turn out to be mostly simple books with a generous spirit. And I’ve mentioned a few videos which supplement the books.

Basic but not usually for complete beginners – I’m relieved to find I haven’t felt a need to refer to books that tell me how to use my machine, tools, and patterns 😀 And, although I do a lot of work on muslins, I haven’t bought any repeat copies of (or new) books on fit – these days I know enough to do-it-myself by ‘reading the wrinkles’. Though no doubt I will be continuing my fitting ‘rescue fantasy’ by trying yet more video classes on pant fit. . .

My choices make it obvious my main focus is not couture technique but simple techniques for sewing and pattern altering – though they do need to give quality results. Simple garments with much potential for variation. And I know, from my pleasure in my collection of 19c sewing books, that I have an almost infinite capacity for reading multiple instructions for the same technique.

Most of these books and classes include full size patterns, or have simple instructions for making your own. Most not for complete beginners – you do need to know a surprising amount to follow even the simplest garment sewing instructions. Although many of the books are simple, this isn’t a post on learning to sew.

The easiest of all, for both sewing and pattern alterations
See how much you can do by playing with the simplest of patterns.

Wiener & Rosenberg – Illustrated hassle-free make your own clothes book (don’t know how I got a kindle version, it doesn’t seem to be available now – perhaps too many people thought it’s in the boho spirit of the book to pirate copies). Draw simple patterns direct onto fabric.

Sonya Philip of 100 Acts of Sewing – video not book – shirt and pants classes at Creative Bug. The same sort of vision as the hassle-free book but with paper patterns (pdfs).

More sewing skills

Bolsover – Sewing machine basics (I do love the tunic pattern). Home dec and clothes, paper patterns. Does start with getting to know your machine, sewing straight lines, turning corners. . .

Aoi Koda – 12 lessons – all clothes (original in Japanese, now out of print – second copy in French). I love the very visual instructions in Japanese pattern books – a little easier to understand when annotated in a familiar language ! Overlapping traceable paper patterns.

Beyond beginner sewing, techniques only

The great Vogue Sewing Book – I already had the 1984 ‘new’ edition – bought when it first came out and was hugely expensive, to celebrate getting a new job ! Now I also have the 3rd. edition metric version.

Last Christmas I got the Threads magazine archive on DVD.

Simple pattern making

Cal Patch – Design It Yourself clothes (kindle version). Draft your own patterns. The book is not very visual and has minimal sewing instructions.
I prefer her Creative Bug classes.

Both sewing and simple pattern making / alterations, advanced beginner to intermediate techniques

Kerstin Martensson – Easy Sewing the Kwik Sew way.
Paper patterns not overlapping but on both sides of paper so need tracing. Not to worry, they’re multi-style patterns so would need tracing anyway.
Pattern proportions not very current, but easy replace with others such as : tee, blouse, skirt, pants.

Alison Smith – Dressmaking (2012).
2nd copy is the shorter edition (19 of the 32 styles in the big book) – Dressmaking step by step (2015). Classic styles, and the big book has them in drab fabrics, but the photo instructions are excellent. Download patterns.

Wiener & Rosenberg – Son of hassle free sewing. Draft your own patterns.

Looking at this list makes me feel happy.
I do know this is my taste. I’m not suggesting everyone should have these books ready to hand. But it can be an interesting exercise – what are the books or technique sites that you like to have easy access to ?

😀 Hurrah for sewing in all its forms 😀

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Links available December 2017

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