Posts filed under skirt series

Pattern hack : How to add a full skirt to the Acton dress

Hello, hello, I hope you enjoyed the Acton sew-along! Today I thought I'd show you a little pattern hack. A customer got in touch to tell me she was planning on using the Acton pattern to make her bridesmaids dresses (swoon!) and wanted to know how she could go about adding a full circle skirt, instead of the standard A-line skirt (view A). I thought it would be a good tutorial to share on the blog, as I'm sure many of you would love an Acton with a full skirt, while some of you may also be interested in how you add a full circle skirt to a pattern that doesn't have a straight waist seam - and this tutorial fits the bill for both!

Getting started

To start, trace a copy of the front skirt pattern piece with seam allowance - be sure to also trace the stitch line (the grey line on the pattern) and transfer the notches, grainline and drill hole. Cut out the pattern piece. 

Take a large piece of pattern paper and draw a vertical line down the right hand side. Label line as "Centre Front."

Take your pattern piece and line up the centre front of the skirt, with the line marked as Centre Front on the paper. Tape in place (only down the centre front).

Mark in your 'Cut and Spread' lines

We will be using the 'Cut and Spread' method to add the extra fullness to the skirt.

Draw two straight lines from the top of the skirt to the bottom - roughly splitting the skirt into thirds. 

Starting at the hem of the skirt, carefully cut up each of the lines. Cut up to the stitch line, but do not cut through the stitch line. 

Cut the remainder of each line from the top edge (cutting down towards the stitch line). Don't cut all the way through though, stop a few millimetres from the stitch line, leaving a 1-2mm "hinge" to keep the pieces together (if they do accidentally come apart, just tape back in place). 

Cut and spread

Slowly open up the hemline of the skirt by swinging the section closest to the side seam out from the cut. You will see that the small hinge created will allow you to open (or close) the cut lines by the desired amount. 

Open up the second cut line (closest to the centre front) and then play around with the openings until you are happy with how much you are adding to the hemline overall (and both are opened evenly). 

When you are happy with the result, tape or glue the pieces in place on the backing paper. 

Re-draw the waistline

You will now notice that the waistline is looking a little scary! We will need to rectify that now. 

Re-draw the waistline with a smooth curve (on the stitch line). Be careful not to let the line stray too far from the original stitch line. The new line needs to be the same length as the original waistline so that the new skirt piece will still fit with the original bodice. 

Re-draw the hemline

Re-draw the hemline with a nice smooth curve. 

Trace the pattern

Take another large piece of pattern paper and trace a copy of the new pattern piece. Start by tracing the stitching line - centre front, new hemline, side seam and new waistline. 

Add seam allowance

Add seam allowance to the new pattern piece - either using the original cutting lines as a guide, or adding it yourself - 1.5cm at the side seam, 1.2cm at the hem and waistline. If you are wondering why the seam allowance sits at an angle on the side seam, check out this post

Add notches, grainline and drill hole

Transfer the notches from the original pattern, as well as the grainline and drillhole in the centre front. 

Finalise the pattern

Cut out your new pattern piece and add cutting instructions (i.e. "Cut 1 on fold"). Repeat process for the back pattern piece (opening up each cut and spread line by the same amount as you did on the front piece).

One last tip

Tip: Be sure to let your full skirt hang for a few days before you hem it. Due to the nature of a full skirt, some parts of the skirt are cut on the bias, which means they stretch (or "drop") more easily that other sections of the skirt, which means that if you hem it straight away, you are likely to end up with a wobbly hemline. Let your skirt hang and then re-cut the hemline before hemming. 

The Acton sew-along will continue tomorrow. Hope you are enjoying these posts and learning lots!


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How to : Draft a waistband for a wrap skirt

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As you may have seen, last week I showed you how to draft a wrap skirt. The post started to get a little long, so I decided that I would leave the waistband for a seperate tutorial - that I am writing today!

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The waistband required for a wrap skirt, is one of the most basic to make of all. It is rectangular in shape (with no shaping or darts) and is secured by a waist tie. Depending how long the ties are, you can either secure it with a bow at the front or back of the skirt.

Measure the waistline

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To work out the measurements for your waistband, first, measure the front and back waistline seams of your skirt.

If your pattern has seam allowance, be sure to measure the stitch line and not the edge of the pattern, for an accurate measurement.

You may notice that my pattern pieces have notches for an in-seam pocket. If you would like to know how to add a pocket to your pattern, head over to this tutorial (it's super easy and there is even a printable pocket pattern piece included at the end of the tutorial, if you don't feel like drafting your own!)

Construct the waistband

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Take the total waist measurement and divide by two (we will be making half a pattern and marking it "Place on fold" - to create a full pattern piece).

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Decide on the width of your waistband.

This is up to you, although be careful, do not make it too small, as it needs to be wide enough to place a button hole that the waist tie can loop through.

As a guide, my waistband was 4.5cm wide.

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Complete the shape of the waistband by forming a rectangle, and label the centre back on your pattern piece.

Mark notches

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Before you can complete the pattern, you need to add notches, to make it easier to sew the two pieces together. 

To do this, line up the centre back of the waistband with the centre back of the skirt, as if you were sewing the two pieces together.

Pivot

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With a stiletto or pin, pivot the waistband pattern along the waist of the skirt - as if you were sewing the pieces together - until you reach the side seam. If you need more guidance with this technique, check out the tutorial on pivoting, that I posted earlier this week. 

Mark side seam

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When at the side seam, transfer the seam location onto the waistband with a notch.

Move to the front pattern piece

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Remove the waistband from the back pattern piece and move it onto the front.

Line up the side seam notch on the waistband with the side seam of the skirt, so that you can continue pivoting the waistband on the front waistband. 

Mark the centre front

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Pivot the waistband along the skirt until you reach the centre front.

Transfer the centre front point onto the waistband with a notch.

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Continue pivoting until the end, to confirm that the waistband and the skirt are the same length.

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Extend the notches, cutting through the waistband pattern piece. You now have the centre back, centre front and side seam marked on your waistband pattern.

Add pattern markings

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You now need to add pattern markings / cutting instructions to the pattern. The centre back will need to be placed on fold, and a pair of these will need to be cut. Add notches at the centre front and side seam (and the centre back seam, when cutting).

Make the waist tie

Work out how long you would like your wait tie to be. 

A good place to start, I think, is your waist measurement plus 30cm.

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Work out the width you would like your tie to be. Remember, it will need to be slightly thinner than your waistband, so that it can fit through the buttonhole when the skirt is "wrapped."

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Take the figure you have worked out for the length of your tie, and divide this measurement by two (as we will only need to make half the pattern piece). Draw a rectangle this long, and the width you have decided on. To complete the pattern, draw a horizontal line, through the centre of the pattern, and mark as a "fold line."

Add cutting instructions (cut 1 pair - on fold) and seam allowance.

 

Mark the buttonhole

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You will also need to mark the location of the button hole. The buttonhole is how the waist tie wraps around the skirt and only needs to be marked on the left hand side of the pattern.

And you're done! I really hope you have enjoyed this tutorial.


What do you think? Pretty easy, right? Would love to know if you are drafting yourself a wrap skirt!


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Posted on February 19, 2016 and filed under pattern making tutorials, skirt series.

The Maker's Glossary : How to pivot a pattern

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Introducing 'The Maker's Glossary'

Today I am working on finishing up the wrap skirt tutorial that I posted last week, and I realised that it is about time to start some kind of glossary on this site. There are many techniques that I use in almost every pattern I cut, and would make much more sense if I could just link straight to the technique I'm talking about - rather than writing the same thing over and over (which will give me time to write more new tutorials!)

Recently, I was doing a freelance project for some lovely women that needed a pattern made. They came into my studio to discuss the project, and while they were here, they asked what my favourite pattern making tool is. I instantly picked up my tracing wheel and my stiletto, and said I couldn't choose between them. They are definitely the tools I reach for the most when I'm pattern making, and they really do make some of the processes and techniques used in pattern making much easier. So I thought I'd share one of those techniques today, which is pivoting a pattern piece. 

What is pivoting?

Pivoting is a technique used to check that seam lines match together. A ruler is normally sufficient when a seam is straight, but when it comes to curved seams, pivoting is a fast and easy way to check that the seams are exactly the same length.  It is also a good way to make sure you are placing your notches in the right place. 

What do I need?

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To pivot a pattern piece, I use a stiletto (also known as an awl), but if you don't have one of those, a sharp pencil or pin will do the trick.

How to pivot a pattern piece

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For the example, I am using the back pattern piece and waistband from my wrap skirt. I want to check that the waistband is the right length for the waistband, as well as mark notches at any points of interest (for example, side seam and centre front), to make it easier to attach the waistband when it gets to sewing up the skirt.

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Align your pattern pieces, like you were sewing the pieces together. For the example, the centre back line on the waistband needs to be lined up with the centre back on the skirt back. Remember that if your pattern pieces have seam allowance already added, you need to match the stitching lines and not the edge of the pattern. 

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Take your stiletto (or pin) and place it through both pattern pieces, at the point where the two seams no longer fit together. 

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Use your hand (or a weight) to hold the underneath pattern in place (in this case, the skirt), while you carefully pivot the top pattern, until the seams are aligned again.

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Hold both pattern pieces in place, and once again, take your stiletto, and place it where the seams diverge, before pivoting the top pattern until the seams are aligned again. 

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Continue pivoting until you get to the end of the seam (or to a point of interest). In the example, I have reached the side seam.

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Before removing the waistband pattern, I need to mark the location of the side seam with a notch.

Now, to check the front, all I would need to do, is match the side seam notch on the waistband, with the side seam on the front pattern piece and continue pivoting. 


And that's it! You now know how to pivot! 

Please let me know if there are any techniques you'd like to learn and I'll do my best to get it up on the blog.


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How to draft box pleats - Part 2

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If you are a regular to this blog you will know that earlier in the week I published a tutorial about box pleats - specifically, how to insert box pleats into the centre front (or centre back) of a garment. I was planning to also show you how to put box pleats in other parts of a garment, but the post got a little long, so I thought I'd save it for today's post.

For this example, I will show you how to add two more pleats to the front of the skirt (either side of the centre front pleat), but you can use the same method to add as many box pleats as you like. 

What is a box pleat?

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Just in case you missed the last post, here is a box pleat and an inverted box pleat. They are essentially the same, just the way the fabric is folded is opposite in each case, creating a different aesthetic (an inverted box pleat is a box pleat turned right side down). 

Getting started

To start, take the pattern you plan to add a box pleat (or inverted box pleat) to. I decided to use the pattern I drafted during the process of the previous tutorial (an A-line skirt with centre front box pleat). Trace a copy of the pattern without seam allowance.

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2. Consider where you would like to add a pleat. Make sure it is not too close to the side seam, otherwise there will not be room for the volume of the pleat when it is folded in place. In this case, I am only adding one additional pleat, but you may want to add more. Draw a line through the pattern, where you plan to place your pleat (or pleats). 

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2. Cut along the line - separating the pattern into two pieces (or more, if you plan to have multiple pleats). Label the pattern pieces if it is likely that you could get them mixed up.

Pleat width

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Now, you will need to have a think about the size of your pleat. This is totally up to you. If you are struggling to work out the width of your pleat, have a play around with some fabric (or even a piece of paper), folding different sized pleats to get an idea of how it will look. Make sure you check that there is room for a pleat this width, in relation to the centre front / back and side seams.

Create the pleat

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3. When you have decided on the finished width of your pleat, spread the two parts of the pattern piece apart, until the opening is double the width of the finished pleat. For example, if my finished pleat will be 5cm, I need to create a 10cm opening between the two parts of the pattern. Fill the gap with a piece of pattern paper and tape or glue in place.

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4. Mark a line that runs through the centre of the opening. This will become the centre of the pleat.

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5. Fold along both edges of the opening (bring the line towards you when folding).

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6. Fold in each section of the skirt pattern, lining up each fold line with the centre line of the pleat. 

Transfer waistline + hem shaping

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7. Just like with a dart, when you fold a pleat on a curved edge, you will need to adjust the edge of the pleat, so that when it is folded it will sit flush with the waistline.

With the pleat still folded (you may want to use a weight to hold the pleat in place), take a tracing wheel and trace along the waistline, transferring the shape of the waistline onto the folded paper underneath. Repeat for the hemline.

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8. Unfold the pleat, take a ruler and pencil, and join the dots created by the tracing wheel to create a smooth curve. 

Add notches

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9. Add notches to either side of the pleat, as well as the centre point of the pleat. 

Add markings to the pleat

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10. You now need to use arrows to indicate which direction the pleat needs to be folded. An arrow can be drawn from each outside notch towards the centre of the pleat. For an inverted pleat, when it comes to folding it in the fabric, the folds will need to come towards you, meeting at the centre point on the right side of the garment. For a box pleat, it will need to be the opposite - the folds come together at the centre on the wrong side of the garment.

Stitching the pleat

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Now have a think about whether you would like to stitch the pleats in place. This will depend on your fabric choice and the style of your skirt (or garment). You could consider leaving the pleats free, stitching down a few centimetres to give the pleat a little more structure, or stitch down 15cm (6 inches) or so, to really give some structure to your pleat. 

Mark a drill hole

If you would like to add some structure with some stitching, it is a good idea to mark a drill hole on your pattern, marking the end point of your line of stitching.

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11. Measuring down from the waistline, at the centre of the pleat, mark a drill hole the distance down you would like to stitch your pleat. 

12. To complete the pattern, add seam allowance and pattern markings


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Posted on January 20, 2016 and filed under pattern making tutorials, skirt series.

How to draft box pleats

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My transition back into work mode, after a much needed break, has been a little slower than anticipated. I have been concentrating on many things already this year - filling in my calendar and working out a plan of attack for 2016, catching up on emails that came through over the holiday period, and madly sampling a couple of new patterns. But.. when it comes to my blog, I have been procrastinating! Today though, I had it in my diary that I would focus on getting back onto blog content, and although it is a little painful (as I seem to have forgotten a few things over the break... What's that font called again? What line weight do I normally do my illustrations in? So it is taking me afr longer than usual to even get started) here I am, getting the blog back on track, as I have a HUGE amount of content planned for you this year, so I better get on with it, before it suddenly becomes February! 

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So, without further ado, I am going to get into the first pattern making tutorial of 2016! As you may know, if you have been following along, towards the end of year I was working on a blog series about drafting skirt patterns. I still have a few more tutorials related to skirts that I think you might like, so that's what I'll be focussing on for the moment. As I've said before, if you are new to pattern making and just wanting to dip your toe in, skirts are the place to start! They can be as simple as you choose to make them, and the fitting of a skirt is much easier than the bodice or trouser block, giving you a chance to learn some pattern making fundamentals before dealing with the ups and downs of fitting.  

Pleats

Adding pleats is a really simple adjustment that can be made to a pattern that can totally transform the look of a garment. There are many different types of pleats:- box pleats, knife pleats, accordion pleats (the fabric needs to be pleated with heat), top stitched pleats and kick pleats. Pleats can be inserted in tops, dresses, trousers and sleeve heads, but today I will be showing you how to add a box pleat to a skirt. 

Box pleats

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In this tutorial, I will show you how to create a box pleat and an inverted box pleat. The drafting process is the same, the only difference is the direction the pleat is folded when you are sewing.

Getting started

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1. To start, take the skirt pattern you would like to add a pleat to. I chose to use the basic A-line skirt block (that I have made a tutorial for here). You could choose a self drafted pattern, or even consider adding pleats to a pattern you have in your stash.

2. Take a seperate piece of pattern paper, and trace a copy of the skirt without seam allowance. Give yourself some extra space alongside the centre front as this is where you will be adding the pleat. 

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Now, you will need to have a think about the size of your pleat. This is totally up to you. If you are struggling to work out the width of your pleat, have a play around with some fabric (or even a piece of paper), folding different sized pleats to get an idea of how it will look. 

Creating the pleat

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3. When you have worked out the width you would like the pleat to be, divide that figure by two (as we are working only on half of the pattern - the piece will be cut on the fold, to create a full front piece). Now draw a rectangle half the width of the pleat (the figure you just found), and the length of the centre front. For example, if I would like to create a 12cm pleat, I will add a rectangle to the centre front that is 6cm wide.

4. Now draw a second rectangle the same length and width as the first. 

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The centre front (fold 2) and the line between the two rectangles (fold 1) will become the fold lines for the pleat.

Fold the pleat

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5. Fold along Fold 1, folding the first rectangle towards the body of the skirt.

6. Now fold along the centre front (Fold 2), folding the pleat so that it sits flat behind the body of the skirt. 

Transfer waistline shaping

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Just like with a dart, when you fold a pleat on a curved edge, you will need to adjust the edge of the pleat, so that when it is folded it will sit flush with the waistline.

To do this:

7. With the pleat still folded, take a tracing wheel and trace along the waistline, transferring the shape of the waistline onto the folded paper underneath. Repeat for the hemline.

8. Unfold the pleat, take a ruler and pencil, and join the dots created by the tracing wheel into a smooth curve. 

Mark the pleat

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9. You now need to use an arrow to indicate which direction the pleat needs to be folded. For an inverted box pleat, the centre front needs to be folded towards the centre of the pattern. Indicate the direction of the fold with an arrow. At this point you can also add the grainline and note to 'Place on fold.'

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10. For a standard box pleat, the centre of the pattern needs to be folded towards the centre front. Indicate the direction of the fold with an arrow. At this point you can also add the grainline and note to 'Place on fold.'

Stitching the pleat

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Now have a think about whether you would like to stitch the pleats in place. This will depend on your fabric choice and the style of your skirt (or garment). You could consider leaving the pleats free, stitching down a few centimetres to give the pleat a little more structure, or stitch down 15cm (6 inches) or so, to really give some structure to your pleat. 

Mark a drill hole

If you would like to add some structure with some stitching, it is a good idea to mark a drill hole on your pattern, marking the end point of your line of stitching.

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11. Measuring down from the waistline on the centre front, mark a drill hole the distance down you would like to stitch your pleat. 

ADD PATTERN MARKINGS

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12. To complete the pattern, add seam allowance and pattern markings


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Posted on January 18, 2016 and filed under sewing patterns, sewing tutorials, skirt series.

Checking patterns : Curved seams

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Hello there, I hope you are having a lovely lead up to the Christmas period, and life isn't too stressful getting organised for the silly season (my techniques is to totally ignore it, and seems to be doing the trick!).

 Image posted with permission from Yoshimi -http://yoshimitheflyingsquirrel.blogspot.com.au/2011/03/mermaid.html

Yesterday, I showed you how to draft a fit and flare skirt. Before going ahead and cutting out your skirt pattern though, there is one thing you must do... Check your patterns! For some reason this lesson took a little while to sink into my brain (although my pattern making teachers at university said it constantly) and I would just want to jump into the cutting and sewing. I paid for this mistake a number of times, so now I check my patterns religiously.

Why check patterns?

So here I am, now sounding like my nagging pattern making teachers! It is really important that you ALWAYS check that your patterns fit together correctly before going on ahead and cutting your fabric. It may seem a bit tedious checking each seam, but taking a few minutes to check your patterns at this stage can save you cutting out incorrect patterns and wasting precious time and fabric later on . It is really easy to do, and will only add a couple of minutes to your pattern making process (and could potentially save you loads of time in the long run).

When it comes to curves, the process for checking patterns is slightly different to when you check a straight seam.

To check straight seams, you simply have to place one stitch line on top of the other, and ensure they are the same length, and the transition between pieces is smooth (this is a very simple explanation, and I promise to give a more detailed explanation in the future).

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Today though, I want to talk about curved seams, as the fit and flare skirt that we drafted yesterday is made up of panels with curved seams. 

Identify the seams you are checking

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Take the patterns you are checking and focus on the curved seams, and how they fit together.

Measure or match?

I know that some people like to measure their curves (with a flexible ruler or tape measure), but I prefer to match the two pieces together as if they are being sewn. This way you can get a really good idea of how they fit together, and if any adjustments need to be made to the shape of the seam. 

Match the pattern pieces together

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1. Match the seams together, as if you were sewing them (one on top of the other). You may need to flip one upside-down (which is the case in the example) to line them up correctly.

If you are checking patterns that do not have seam allowance you can simply match the edges. If your patterns have seam allowance, make sure you are matching the stitching lines and not the edge of the patterns (this is when transparent pattern paper is very handy).

2. I like to notch my pattern at the same time that I check them. When the pieces are lined up correctly, mark a notch. Before moving on, transfer it onto the pattern underneath - a tracing wheel is a good way to do this. Curved seams can be difficult to sew - if you mark notches at regular intervals, you will make it easier for yourself later on.

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3. You will need to pivot the pattern, so that you can continue matching the seams. Take a stiletto/awl (or a sharp pencil or pin) and insert it at the point where the seams diverge. This will allow you to keep this point together, but also allow you the movement you need to match the remainder of the seam. When it is in place, you should be able to rotate the top pattern, without moving the pattern underneath. 

4. As you rotate, the seams will line up again.

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5. Once they are in line again, hold in place and mark another notch. Remember to transfer the notch onto the pattern underneath with a tracing wheel.

6. Move the point of the stiletto to the next pivot point (where the seam lines diverge again), and rotate the pattern until the seams align again. 

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7. Mark another notch. Once again, ensure the notch is transferred onto both pattern pieces.

8. Check that the seams are the same length.

If one of your seams is longer by a small amount (up to 1cm), simply trim off the excess. If the discrepancy is bigger, you will need to remove half the excess from the length of one pattern, and add the other half to the other pattern, so that they are the same length.

Check the hemline

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9. Now, flip the pattern over, and place the two pattern pieces together (as if they have been stitched together and then pressed open), to check the hemline. As you can see in the example, there is a small dip where the two patterns are joined. Redraw the hemline as a smooth curve, and adjust the pattern pieces to match. 

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10. At this point, you should also check that the angle between the centre front and hemline is a right angle. This means that when you cut the piece on the fold, you will get a nice smooth line. Check the side seam too - this should also come to a right angle. 

Check the waistline

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11. The same way that you checked the hemline, check that the waistline is also a nice smooth curved (and if it's not, make some adjustments). 

ADD SEAM ALLOWANCE

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12. To finish, add seam allowance. 


As I mentioned in the last post, if you have a style of skirt you would like to know how to draft, let me know (comment here or email me) and I'll see if I can develop a tutorial around it!


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How to : Draft a fit and flare skirt

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Over the last couple of weeks I have been writing blog posts about drafting skirts - from drafting a block to your own measurements, adding the correct markings to the pattern and adding seam allowance. Since the block was completed, I have been showing you ways that you can manipulate the pattern to create your own designs.

Last week I did a little round-up of all the posts so far, and asked if there was a specific style anyone wanted to learn how to make. 

Carol got in touch:

The skirt I would love to see as I fell in love with it when I first saw it, was from a blog post by Yoshimi. They call it a mermaid skirt. I think 6 gores with a flare at the bottom. I haven't seen a pattern like this and have a pic of it saved on my hard drive just to look at.

I was excited to get a suggestion, but also a little apprehensive about the skirt suggested. The term 'mermaid skirt' brought ball gowns to my mind... Which you may have noticed, is not really my style!

[ Image posted with permission from Yoshimi - http://yoshimitheflyingsquirrel.blogspot.com.au/2011/03/mermaid.html

But it was a lovely surprise when I found the skirt in question. It's lovely - sleek and simply, and a perfect skirt for a beginner to draft. So thank you very much for the suggestion Carol!

Drafting a flared skirt with panels

It may be difficult to see in the images, but the skirt is made up of 3 panels in the front, and 4 in the back (as the centre back has a seam for the zip). You could use this method with as many panel lines as you like, as it is a matter of preference, but I will draft it the same way as the source image.

To start this pattern, you will first need to add panels to your skirt block - which is one of the tutorials already in the series

Trace the pattern

Trace a copy of each of the pieces, without seam allowance. For the example, I will only be using the two front pattern pieces, as the process is exactly the same for the back.

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Mark flare point

1. Have a think about what point you would like the skirt to flare from. I wanted my pattern to be the same as the example from Yoshimi, so I measured down from my waist to the middle of my upper thigh, to find the right measurement for me (22cm [8 1/2in] down from the waist). Another way you could do this, is by putting on your skirt toile and marking the point you would like it to flare out. 

When you have the measurement, mark it on your pattern pieces, measuring down from the waistline. Draw perpendicular lines through each pattern piece at this point.

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2. You will be cutting through the pattern pieces at the horizontal lines. Before cutting, label each pattern piece so that they don't get mixed up.

I chose to label my pieces as 'Upper panel - side front,' 'Lower panel - side front,' 'Upper panel - centre front' and 'Lower panel - centre front.' It doesn't really matter what you call each piece - as long as you can remember what's what!

Cut pattern into sections

3. Cut along the horizontal lines so that you have four seperate pattern pieces.

Cut and spread

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4. We will be cutting an spreading to add volume (and create the flare) to the lower section of the skirt. Draw vertical lines through the the lower panels. It is up to you how many lines you would like to draw (and will depend on how many panels your skirt has), but I think 4 in the side panel and 2 in the centre front is a good place to start. Keep the spacing between the lines as consistent as possible. 

Have you cut and spread before? It is a really simple way to add volume (or remove) to a pattern. I wrote a tutorial here, if you would like a closer look at this technique

 

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5. You now need to carefully cut along each of the lines, starting from the hemline, and cutting up towards the top edge. Don't cut all the way through the piece, leave 1-2mm (1/16in) at the top to act as a "hinge" (a small strip of paper that will hold the pieces together, but also allow movement).

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6. Now it's time to spread! Carefully spread each cut line by the desired amount (this will depend on your preferences. I'd suggest 3-5cm [1 1/4 - 2in]). Be careful to spread each cut line by the same amount. You can play around until you are happy with the amount of fullness you have added. 

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7. You can now stick the lower pieces back on to the upper pieces, to create single pattern pieces. As the top edges of the lower pieces have become curved, the pieces may need to overlap a little (as seen in the example).

Trace the pattern

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8. Now take a piece of pattern paper and trace each pattern piece. Instead of the point that is created at the joint of the two pieces, draw a smooth curve. 

Add pattern markings

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9. Be sure to mark the grainline on each pattern piece, as well as cutting instructions.

The final thing to do, is to check that the seams fit together correctly. But I'll leave that bit for tomorrow!

I want to finish up by saying a huge thank you to Yoshimi for allowing me to use her images for this post! You should definitely head over to her blog for a look around - she has made some beautiful stuff, and her instagram is very nice too. 


Once again, thank you Carol for suggesting today's blog topic. Is there a skirt you would like to know how to draft? Please let me know and maybe it will be your suggestion next!


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Posted on December 16, 2015 and filed under pattern making tutorials, skirt series.

Throwback Thursday : How to draft a hem facing

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It's Thursday (somehow another week is coming to an end), which means it's time for a Throwback Thursday post! As I am still solidly in skirt mode from the skirt series I've been sharing with you lately, I thought it would be a good time to talk hem facings.

What is a hem facing?

A hem facing is a seperate pattern piece that is used to finish the hem of a garment (rather than just turning up the hem as you often do when hemming).

When should I consider using a hem facing?

A hem facing is a good way to finish a hem if you have a curved or shaped hemline (in the case of an A-line skirt or circle skirt, for example). It can also be used to finish a straight hemline if you would like to add weight to the hem (can help with the fall and drape of a garment), or just prefer this finish.

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If you have sewn The Rushcutter, you will know that I included a hem facing in the pattern, to help you achieve a lovely clean finish.

Why can't I just do a normal hem?

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The reason you cannot simply add a hem allowance to a curved hemline (left hand image) by extending the pattern beyond the side seam and centre front, as you often would to create a hem, is that when you have a curved line, the circumference of the cut edge will become larger than the hemline. When you fold up the hem (right hand image), there will be too much fabric and the hem will be unable to sit flat.

To avoid this, you will need to create a separate pattern piece - a hem facing.

How to draft a hem facing

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1. To get started, take the pattern you will be making a facing for. I am using the basic skirt block, that has been adapted to an A-line shape. You can find how to do this, by looking at this tutorial

The process is the same for the front and back patterns, so I will just use the front pattern piece for this example.

2. Decide how wide you would like the hem facing to be. Anything from 3 - 15cm (1 1/4in - 6in) is okay (this is obviously a very broad spectrum, which will depend on your design and the fabric you are using). If you want anything less than 3cm (1 1/4in), I would suggest using bias binding instead. If you are not sure of what width to use, have a look at your ready to wear clothes, to get an idea. 

Mark the width you would like your facing to be on the centre front, measuring up from the hemline. Mark this distance on the side seam too. 

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3. You will then need to mark the width of the facing at regular intervals between the centre front and side seam (every 10-15cm or so). Be sure to draw these lines perpendicular to the hemline.

4. Join the endpoints of all these lines with a smooth, sweeping curve. You have now created the shape of your waist shaping.

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5. Take a seperate piece of pattern paper, and trace off the shape of the hem facing.

6. Before removing the tracing, mark a notch close to the centre of the hem curve (if you have a very wide hem, you may consider adding an extra notch or two), and transfer onto the skirt pattern with a tracing wheel. This will help when you are sewing the pieces together later (it is not crucial if you are making a narrow skirt, but if you are making a full circle skirt, then you will thank your past-self for being so diligent when notching the hemline!)

 Transfer the grainline onto the hem facing (which will be parallel to the centre front).

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7. Add seam allowance to the body of the pattern (if you have not done so already), as well as the facing. I suggest 1cm (3/8in) along the long edges (the hem edge and the top edge) and 1.5cm (1/2in) on the side seam. You will not need seam allowance at the centre front, as the piece will be cut on the fold. For the back pattern piece, you can also cut on the fold, which will minimise bulk at the centre back seam. 

8. Add cutting instructions

Depending on the fabric, you may want to add interfacing to the pattern when you get to the cutting stage of the project - just keep this in mind.


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The skirt series - Have you been following along?

Have you been following along with the skirt series I have been running for the last few weeks?

I have just put all the tutorials in one place, so they're easy to find if you would like to complete the series step by step.

If you would like to learn pattern making, then this is a great way to start. A skirt block is the most basic of all pattern blocks, and by drafting a block to your measurements, you will begin to learn many of the principles of flat pattern making. In the coming weeks I will be showing you different ways to adapt the pattern, to transform the block to a wearable skirt... So watch this space!


If you've got a skirt pattern you'd like to learn to create, then let me know, I may be able to include it in the series!


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Posted on December 5, 2015 and filed under skirt series.

How to : Add panel lines to a skirt pattern

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Panel lines are a great way to add interest to a design. There are countless variations and it is a way to include more than one fabric in your design if you would like. I really struggle to keep a design limited to one fabric, so often add a contrast fabric with panel lines. Panel lines are also a good way to eliminate darts, without losing the fitted shape of the garment.

Now that our skirt blocks are done, it's time to have a play! In today's post I will show you the basics of creating panel lines on a pattern. This same principle can be used on all different patterns, so keep reading, even if it's a bodice or dress you're planning to add panels to. 

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I will show you how to add panel lines where the darts are on the original skirt block. With these panels, you will no longer need darts, as the shaping required will be provided by the panel lines.

Mark panel lines

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1. Take your skirt pattern and draw a line from the tip of the dart to the hemline, ensuring it is parallel to the centre front (or entre back if you are working on the back pattern piece).

2. Add notches to the line. This will help when you are matching the two pieces together later. I suggest putting one in line with the dart point and another on the straight part of the line.

Now that you have the line marked, you can cut the pattern into two pieces, or you can trace the pieces onto seperate pieces of paper (my preferred method).

Create side front panel piece

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3. Take a separate piece of pattern paper, and place it on top of your skirt block. To start, you will be tracing the left side panel. Trace down the side seam, along the hemline, up the line you drew (Step 1), along the left dart arm (being sure that the transition between line and dart is a smooth curve) and then along the waistline. Transfer the notches from the panel line, and notch the hip line on the side seam.

4. Before removing the tracing, transfer the grainline, which should be parallel to the original grainline. Add pattern information and cutting directions (Front side panel / cut 1 pair).

Create centre front panel piece

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5. Next, you will need to trace the centre front panel. Take another piece of pattern paper and trace down the centre front, along the hemline, up the panel line, up the right-hand dart arm and along the waistline. Once again, make sure your transistion from panel line to dart line is nice and smooth. Transfer the notches on the panel line.

6. Before removing the tracing, transfer the grainline, which should be parallel to the original grainline. Add pattern information and cutting directions (Centre front panel / cut 1 on fold).

Add seam allowance

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7. Add seam allowance to both pattern pieces. I suggest 1.2cm - 1.5cm (1/2in - 9/16in). You may want to add more to the hemline, but for the sake of the example I have left the seam allowance consistent. Repeat process for the back pattern, and now you have a skirt with panels, instead of darts!


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How to draft a shaped waistband

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Last week, I showed you how to draft a straight waistband for your skirt block (it will also work for other garments, such as trousers) as part of The Skirt Series I have been running for the last couple of weeks. Today, I will be showing you how to draft a shaped waistband. 

Before starting, though, I'd like to a little re-cap of a couple of things (which you may remember, if you read the previous waistband post).

two types of waistbands

Most waistbands on skirts or trousers are based on these two basic waistband shapes:

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A straight waistband - which is a long rectangle that generally does not have side seams. 

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A shaped waistband - which may, or may not, have side seams. 

SHOULD I DRAFT A STRAIGHT WAISTBAND OR A SHAPED WAISTBAND?

Either option can be drafted for the skirt block, and which is better for you comes down to individual preference and body shape. For me, I am a little too curvaceous in the lower half to feel comfortable in a straight waistband (as the top of a straight waistband tends to gape on me).

If you followed the tutorial to draft a straight waistband, you will see the first few steps are the same, so if you'd like to go back to the construction of your straight waistband, then you can! If you haven't already drafted the straight waistband, not to worry, just skip over the next two steps and start with 'Take measurements.'

Trace your pattern

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On a seperate piece of pattern paper, trace a copy of the straight waistband, without seam allowance.

Indicate the centre front and centre back.

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Using the notches to guide you, mark the points of interest (front dart, back dart, side seam) with vertical lines on the pattern.

TAKE MEASUREMENTS

If you haven't already drafted the straight waistband, you will need to start by taking some measurements from your skirt block. 

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Remember to measure along the stitch line, not the edge of the pattern.

Measuring along the waistline, on the front pattern piece:

1 - Centre front to first dart arm

2 - Second dart arm to side seam

On the back pattern piece:

3 - Side seam to first dart arm

4 - Second dart arm to centre back

WAISTBAND CONSTRUCTION

There are several ways to draft a shaped waistband, including using the waist section of the bodice block to construct, but as I have not yet shown you how to draft a bodice block (but definitely plan to in the future), I'll show you how to draft the waistband using the skirt block.

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Add the four measurements taken in the previous step together to find the length of the waistband. Remember this measurement gives you half the waistband, as the pattern piece can be cut on the fold. Draw a line as long as this measurement. 

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Decide how wide you would like your waistband to be - consider a measurement around 3 - 6cm (1 1/4 - 2 1/4in). Draw a perpendicular line from either end of your original line, the height of your waistband.

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Complete the rectangle by connecting the end points of the lines drawn in the previous step.

So now that you have the basic shape, it's time to get some markings onto your pattern piece.

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Going back to your original measurements (from your skirt block), measuring from the right hand side of your waistband, mark in each point of interest with a perpendicular line. You need to mark the location of your front dart, the side seam and back dart. You can also label each end as the centre front (right hand side) and centre back (left hand side).

And this is where the tutorial takes a turn away from the straight waistband tutorial...

Label your pattern

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Label each section of the waistband, with the following:

1 - Centre front

2 - Side front

3 - Side back

4 - Centre back

Measurements required

You will now need to find the difference between your waist measurement (where your skirt sits) and the top of your waistband.

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A good way of doing this, is by putting on your skirt toile (as you can see, my skirt is a digital one!) and working out where the top of your waistband will sit (this will depend on how wide you are making your waistband). Take a tape measure and measure around your waist at the point where your waistband will end. Take note of the measurement.

Compare measurements

Work out the difference between the measurement you just took and your actual waist measurement. Take note of this number.

You now need to divide this measurement by 2 (as you will be cutting your pattern on the fold) and then divide it by 3 (as you will be distributing the measurement evenly throughout the pattern piece).

For example, if the difference between your measurements is 6cm, you need to divide that by 2, which gives you a result of 3cm. You then divide the 3cm into 3, giving you 1cm. That number (in this case, 1cm) is the one you need in the next step.

Waistband construction

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Take that number and, on your waistband, mark a point to the right side of each vertical line (excluding the centre front and centre back), that distance away from the line. If you were to use the same numbers I used in the example above, for this step, you would need to mark a point 1cm from each vertical line. 

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Label these points as A, B and C.

Cut

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Cut down each vertical line, from the top of the waistband. Do not cut all the way through the pattern, leave a small "hinge" to keep the pattern pieces attached.

Close

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Being careful not to break the "hinge," rotate the centre back piece, until the slashed line overlaps point A. Tape or glue in place. 

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Repeat for the 'side back' piece (which is now attached to the centre back piece). Rotate until the slashed line overlaps point B and then stick in place. 

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Rotate the final slash line, aligning the cut line with point C.

As you can see, your waistband is no longer a rectangle! The top edge of your waistband is now narrower than the bottom edge. 

Trace the pattern

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Take a piece of pattern paper and place it on top of your waistband construction so that you can trace it. 

Start by tracing the centre front (and labelling it as the 'centre front'). From the centre front draw a perpendicular line at either end of the line.

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By doing this, you will ensure that you get a nice smooth waistband across the centre front and back (as you can see in the example above) - when the piece is cut on the fold.

Repeat for the centre back.

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Now, using a ruler, or a hip curve, join the perpendicular lines (drawn in the previous step) with smooth curves, creating the waistband shape.

Add notches

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Before removing the pattern from the construction underneath, mark each point of interest with a notch. These notches will make it much easy for you to sew the waistband to the skirt, without the worry of stretching the waistband. 

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It is also a good idea to add notches along the top edge of the waistband. I like to put them in a different spot to the notches on the bottom edge, to save any confusion. 

Add a side seam

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If you would prefer to have a side seam in your waistband (rather than all-in-one), at this point you should draw in your side seam.  Draw a straight line from the middle notch on the lower edge of the waistband up through the centre of the respective slash line (through the centre of the overlap).

Add seam allowance

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You should have now transferred all the necessary details from your pattern construction onto your pattern. You can now add seam allowance to the top and bottom edges, as well as the centre back. I would suggest 1-1.5cm (3/8 - 5/8in) on the curved edges and 1.5-2.5cm (5/8in - 1in) on the centre back. 

If you have added a side seam, I would suggest adding seam allowance of 1.2 - 1.5cm (1/2 - 5/8in) to this seam.

Add grainline and cutting instructions

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Mark the grainline (parallel to the centre front) and add cutting instructions (cut 1 on fold).

If you have added a side seam, the grainline on the back piece will run parallel to the centre back, and the cutting instructions will be 'cut 2 pairs'. 

You may consider fusing you waistband, but that will come down to your fabric choice and design. 


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Throwback Thursday: How to draft in-seam pockets

 Photo from  Corey , one of my lovely pattern testers

Photo from Corey, one of my lovely pattern testers

I love pockets. I really do. I like to put pockets anywhere I can as they are oh so handy for phones and keys, but also very comfortable for hands!

This is a tutorial to help you with "in-seam" pockets - a pocket that is hidden... surprise, surprise... in a seam of your garment (normally the side seam). Yesterday I showed you how to sew in-seam pockets (with french seams), so today I thought I'd show you how to draft the pattern piece as it is a very quick and easy process (both pattern cutting the pockets and sewing them) and once you have a pattern you are happy with, you will be able to use it over and over again, with minimal changes.

Tools

For this tutorial you will need the pattern of the garment you are adding pockets to, as well as some basic pattern cutting equipment: a transparent ruler, a pacer (or pencil), some scissors and a small piece of pattern paper (just bigger than your hand).

LET'S GO!

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1. Take the front piece of the pattern you are making pockets for. I will be using the basic skirt block (as we are in the middle of The Skirt Series) as an example, but you can use this same method to add in-seam pockets to any garment that has a side seam.

2. Think about where you would like your pattern to sit. A good way to do this is to put on your toile and put your hands where the pockets would feel comfortable. Mark the location with a pin.

If you don't have a toile, you can just measure down from your waist to work out a good spot. For me, if I am adding a pocket to a waisted garment, I will place the pocket 9 - 10cm (3 1/2 - 4in) down from the waist. 

Mark this point on your pattern piece. 

3. Now think about how big you would like the opening to your pocket to be. I suggest around 15-20cm (6 - 8in). Measuring along your stitch line, down from the point you marked in the previous step (the top of the pocket), indicate the bottom of the opening with another notch. 

Draw the pocket bag

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4. I think the easiest way to get a good pocket shape, is by tracing roughly around my hand. To do this, place your hand on your pattern, as if it was in a pocket, and draw around it in the rough shape of a pocket bag (have a look at the in-seam pockets of some of your own clothes if you're not sure about the shape). You don't want it to be too tight around your hand, so leave a little bit of space between your hand and the line you draw.

5. Take a separate piece of pattern paper and, using a weight to hold the pattern in place, trace the shape of the pocket (leaving enough space around it to add seam allowance). 

6. While you are tracing the shape of the pocket, you can also trace the seam allowance at the side seam. 

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7. Add a notch, roughly in the centre of the pocket opening, and then using a tracing wheel, transfer that notch onto the front pattern piece. This notch will help when you are positioning your pocket, when it comes to sewing.

8. Add a grainline to your pocket piece, making sure it is parallel to grainline on the pattern you are adding the pocket to (this will ensure that the pocket sits nice and flat, when it is sewn in).

Add seam allowance and pattern details

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9. Add seam allowance to the curve. I suggest 6mm - 1.2cm (1/4 - 1/2in) to make the curve as easy as possible to sew.

10. Add a notch to be used as a balance point on the curved seam - this helps when sewing the front and back pocket bags together.

11. Add cutting instructions (cut 2 pairs).

When it comes to cutting, you may choose to cut from your main fabric, or something lighter, to minimise bulk.

Transfer notches

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12. The last thing you need to do is transfer the notches from the front pattern piece, to the back, so that you can place the pattern correctly on the back piece when it comes to sewing. 

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13. Lay the back pattern piece onto the front, matching the side seams at the stitch line. Transfer the three notches onto the back pattern. If your pattern paper is not transparent, you can use a tracing wheel to transfer the notches. And there you have it... You now have in-seam pockets!

ONE LAST THING

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If you are creating a pocket pattern for a garment with a waistband (like the skirt in the example), you may want to consider making your pocket piece so that it sits flush with the waistline. This can give you a lovely finish, and can prevent the pocket bags moving. 

To do this, simply draft the pattern piece the same way as the standard pocket bag, but continue to curve up to the waistline. To complete, add seam allowance, notches and pattern markings. 

Download a pocket pattern

Just in-case you'd prefer a printable pattern, instead of drafting your own, I have included one for you to download (just click on the diagram above, to start the download). It is a 2 page PDF, so nice and easy to put together. If you would like some help printing it, check out my tutorial on printing PDF patterns.

Happy sewing!


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Throwback Thursday: Adding volume to a pattern

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Over the past weeks I have been showing you how to draft a skirt block, as part of The Skirt Series.

Now that it is complete, it is time to start making the pattern your own. 

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Last week I showed you how to draft an A-line skirt, by relocating the fullness of the dart to the hemline, using the cut and spread technique.

Today I will show you how to add more volume to the skirt block, using this same technique. You can use this same method to add fullness to just about any pattern piece: sleeves, trousers, blouses and jackets, and many more. 

Mark the cut and spread lines

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1. I am using my skirt block to demonstrate this tutorial. The darts have already been moved, as shown in this tutorial. As always, it is best to have a copy of your pattern, without seam allowance. It is much easier to make adjustments with seam allowance removed.

2. Draw three lines (this is only a suggestion, you could use more or less) down the length of your pattern, roughly parallel to the centre front. Space them out, with roughly even gaps between them.

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3. You will be cutting these lines, to add volume to the pattern. Wherever there is a line, this is where more fabric will be added - that's why it is best that they are evenly spaced.

4. Take your scissors and cut along the first guideline, from the hemline up towards the waistline.

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5. Do not cut all the way through the pattern. Stop a few millimeters (1/16 in) from the waistline, leaving a 1-2mm "hinge" to keep the two pieces together.


How much volume to add?

Think about how much volume you are wanting to add to the pattern overall. You may want to do this by eye (just cut along the line and then spread until it looks as though enough volume has been added), or by an exact amount. If you are just opening up a hemline, I would say that doing it by eye is fine. But if, for example, the hip-line of a pattern is too tight and you are spreading the pattern to accommodate this, then I would suggest finding an exact amount so that you don't get any surprises.

If you have found an exact amount, you will need to divide this figure by four, as the volume will need to be distributed between the four pieces that make up the skirt pattern (front right, front left, back left and back right). Then divide the number again, by the number of guidelines you have on your pattern piece.

For example, if you would like to add an overall 30cm to the hemline, you will be adding 7.5cm to each pattern piece. If I was to add this to my pattern used as an example, I would divide this 7.5cm by my three guidelines, meaning I would open up each guideline by 2.5cm.

Cut and spread 

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6. Slide a separate piece of pattern paper under your pattern, so that you will have something to stick the pattern to once you make the adjustments. Spread the hemline by the amount worked out in the previous step. Use tape or glue to secure in place.

7. Repeat process for the other lines, spreading each opening by the same amount as the first.

Check pattern

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8. Redraw the waistline with a smooth curve.

9. Redraw the hemline with a smooth curve.

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10. Check the the hemline meets the side seam and the centre front with a right angle. This will help you get a nice smooth hemline between front and back pattern pieces.

Complete the pattern

The pattern is done and you can now add seam allowance. If the pattern is a bit of a mess, with all that tape and extra paper, then simply trace a copy onto a seperate piece of paper.


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Drafting a waistband

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In the last couple of weeks I've been showing you how to draft a skirt block to your own measurements, as part of The Skirt Series. In today's post I am going to show you how to draft a waistband for the skirt. If you have just made the skirt block and need to make a toile to see how it fits, I wouldn't bother making a waistband. You are better off whizzing up a quick toile, checking how it fits, and then once you are happy with it, making the waistband.

Two types of waistbands

Most waistbands on skirts or trousers are based on these two basic waistband shapes:

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A straight waistband - which is a long rectangle that generally does not have side seams. 

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A shaped waistband - which may, or may not, have side seams. 

Should I draft a straight waistband or a shaped waistband?

Either option can be drafted for the skirt block, and which is better for you comes down to individual preference and body shape. For me, I am a little too curvaceous in the lower half to feel comfortable in a straight waistband.

In today's post I will show you how to draft a straight waistband, and then next week I will get to shaped waistbands. And then you can work out which one is for you! The good thing about drafting your own waistband, is that you will be able to use it whenever a waistband is called for, and you know that you will get a great fit every time. 

Take measurements

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To start, take your skirt block and take note of some measurements. Remember to measure along the stitch line, not the edge of the pattern.

Measuring along the waistline, on front pattern:

1 - Centre front to first dart arm

2 - Second dart arm to side seam

On back pattern:

3 - Side seam to first dart arm

4 - Second dart arm to centre back

Waistband construction

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Add the four measurements taken in the previous step together to find the length of the waistband. Remember this measurement gives you half the waistband, as the pattern piece can be cut on the fold. Draw a line as long as this measurement. 

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Decide how wide you would like your waistband to be - consider a measurement between 2 and 6 centimetres. Draw a perpendicular line from either end of your original line, the height of your waistband.

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Complete the rectangle by connecting the end points of the lines drawn in the previous step.

So now you have the basic shape, it's time to get some markings onto your pattern piece.

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Going back to your original measurements (from your skirt block), measuring from the right hand side of your waistband, mark in each point of interest with a perpendicular line. You want to mark the location of your front dart, the side seam and back dart. You can also label each end as the centre front (right hand side) and centre back (left hand side).

Add seam allowance

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Add seam allowance to the top and bottom edges (I suggest 1 - 1.5cm). You can also add seam allowance to the centre back. I usually add 2cm to the centre back, to allow for the zip. Remember that the seam allowance you use on the waistband pattern, but be the same as the seam allowances you added to the skirt block, as you will be sewing these pieces together. 

Add notches

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Add notches to the pattern. You will want notches at all points of interest on the bottom edge (side seam, both darts and centre back), while on the top edge I would suggest only notching the centre back and then one other point that is not in line with the darts on the bottom edge. This will help you know which way up the pattern should go when you are sewing. This may not seem necessary as the piece is symmetrical, but if you are using a directional print, it will help make sure you don't end up with an upside down print! When cutting I would also suggest notching the centre front on both edges. 

Add pattern details

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Add pattern details and the grainline (runs vertically through the pattern), indicating that the centre front needs to be cut on the fold.

Button extension

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If you would like your zip to run straight through the waistband like this, then your waistband pattern is ready to go and you can get sewing!

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But if you would prefer the zip to stop at the waistline and then have a button to close the waistband, you will need to add a button extension to your pattern piece (which will only take a second).

Adding a button extension

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The extension will only be added to one end of the waistband, so you will need to fold the pattern in half (down the centre front) and trace the pattern to create a full pattern piece. Do not add seam allowance to the centre back on the second side. At the centre back you will be wanting to add the button extension. The length of this will depend on the size of your button, though I would say 3-4cm should be fine. Add seam allowance to the extension and now it's done!


What are your thoughts on waistbands? Do you prefer a shaped waistband, or does a straight waistband do the trick?


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Throwback Thursday: How to use the cut + spread technique to draft an A-line skirt

cut_and_spread_inthefolds

After a few days of Rushcutter pattern alterations, it is time to get back to our skirt blocks, as it is, after all, Throwback Thursday! So Welcome back to The Skirt Series! Now that the pattern is pretty much complete (we just need to create a waistband pattern - which I will cover in tomorrow's post) I think we should have a play around with our new pattern blocks.

Once you have a skirt block that fits you well, there is just so much that can be done with it, and over the next few weeks I plan to show you some of the techniques you will need to know to transform your block into a skirt. 

One of the techniques I use the most when I am flat pattern-making, is relocating darts. So I think that is a good place for us to start! Once you know how to do it, you will be able to use this technique on any pattern that has darts.

Cut and spread

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So today, I will show you how to relocate the waist darts in the skirt block, to create an A-line skirt. 

1. To start, you will need your skirt block. I will demonstrate by showing the front pattern piece, but the principle is exactly the same for the back pattern piece.

2. Trace a copy of your skirt block, without seam allowance. 

3. Draw a line, parallel to the centre front, from the tip of the dart, down to the hemline. 

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4. Starting at the hemline, cut along this line, until you are 1-2mm from the dart point.

5. Now focusing on the outside dart arm (the dart closest to the side seam), cut down from the waistline towards the dart point, once again stopping 1-2mm from the dart point. This will create a small 'hinge,' so that the two parts of your pattern remain attached. But you will be able to open and close your dart with ease.

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6. Close the waist dart by rotating the pattern, until the cut dart arm sits on top of the inner dart arm.

7. When in position, tape (or glue) in place. You will see that, by closing the dart, you have opened up the hemline, giving the skirt an A-line shape.

Trace the pattern

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8. Take a separate piece of pattern paper and use a weight to hold it in place on top of the pattern. Trace around the pattern. You will see that the waistline has become quite angular since removing the dart, so you will need to redraw it with a soft curve. You will also need to redraw the hem with a smooth curve.

9. Add pattern details, notches and repeat for the back pattern piece.

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10. If you would like a more drastic A-line you can redraw the side seam as a straight line (this will remove any shaping around the waist). To complete the pattern, add seam allowance.

Want to give it a go yourself?

I have created a small scale version of my skirt block that you can download (just click the image above) so that you can have a play around, if you are short of time, paper or space. It is also great to have a small scale version of techniques for your reference, so that you can easily store them for reference. And there will be many more new techniques to come, so print a few copies!


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Adding pattern markings to your patterns

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For those of you have been following along with The Skirt Series, we have almost finished our blocks! We have drafted the pattern, added shaping to the darts, added seam allowance, and today we are going to finish it all off by adding pattern markings.

Pattern markings

There are a number of markings you should always add to your pattern pieces. They help you with laying patterns on the fabric correctly when cutting your fabric, and also help when sewing your garment together. 

The grainline

The grainline ensures that the pattern is placed on the fabric the right way. If the grain is not straight (and it is intended to be), you may end up with a badly fitted garment.

The grainline usually runs vertically through a pattern, although in some cases it will run horizontally or even diagonally (bias cut patterns). I like to use arrows to indicate the top and bottom of the pattern - this can help when you have a directional print or a pattern piece that is an unconventional shape. The double arrow points towards the top, and the single arrow points towards the bottom. I also like to draw grainlines so they run from one edge of the pattern to the other, this is really hand when using a striped fabric, to ensure your placement is exactly right. 

Notches

Notches are small cuts in the fabric that guide you while you are sewing (they are also commonly indicated with small triangles). If you have sewn The Rushcutter, you will know how much I love a good notch! 

Notches are used to indicate:

  • seam allowance
  • dart arms
  •  the location of design details such as: pleats, gathers or pockets
  • the centre front
  • the centre back
  • balance points

Balance points are pointers on your pattern that help you put pieces together correctly, as well as help you when you are sewing a very long, or curved seam.

For example, I tend to add a balance point (or even two or three - depending on the length of the seam) part way down a side seam to ensure that the pieces are sewn together correctly and I am not left with excess fabric on one side of the seam at the end. Balance points also help to prevent stretching the seam when sewing. In the skirt block, for example, the notch at the hip line acts as a balance point.

A notching no-no

Try to avoid notching both sides of a corner as this can weaken the fabric (as well as the pattern itself). 

Double notches

Double notches are normally used to indicate the direction a piece should be sewn in (and generally indicate the back of the pattern piece). For example, a double notch is used on a sleeve cap to indicate where the sleeve cap meets the back armhole. In a side panel, a double notch is also often used to show where the piece meets with the back pattern piece.

I also like to use a double notch to indicate the end of a zip (if I am using a zip in the centre back).

Drill holes

Drill holes are used to indicate a dart point. I prefer to place drill holes 1cm - 1.5cm up from the actual dart point, so that when the dart is sewn, the marking is hidden inside the dart.

Drill holes can be used to indicate other design features, such as:

  • placement of patch pockets
  • placement of belt loops
  • or any other design feature that is in an area where you are unable to mark a notch on a seam

Pattern instructions

Pattern instructions are your way of keeping track of, and identifying, pattern pieces.

On each pattern piece, you should include:

  • the name of the pattern
  • the name of the pattern piece
  • size
  • cutting instructions
  • number of pieces
  • date

Some of these things may seem quite obvious, but the clearer your markings are, the easier your pattern will be to use. Particularly if you decide to use the pattern in a month, or even a year! If the instructions are clear, you won't waste any time trying to remember the details of your pattern. 

And that's it! You can go ahead and make a toile of your skirt block and see how it fits!


In the coming weeks I am planning on showing you some different ways to hack the skirt block into a different design. Do you have anything you would like to see in particular?


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Throwback Thursday: How to add seam allowance to a sewing pattern

Last week, I showed you how to draft a skirt block from your own measurements, and then how to add shaping to the darts at the waistline, as part of The Skirt Series.

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Before going ahead and making a toile to see how it fits, you will need to add seam allowance and pattern markings (which will be in tomorrow's post). 

What is seam allowance?

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Seam allowance is the extra space you add around the edge of a pattern piece so that it can be sewn together.

If you do not plan to make up a toile of your pattern (in the case of pattern blocks), then there is no need to add seam allowance. When you are using a block to create a pattern it is much easier to use it without seam allowance and then add seam allowance once the pattern is complete. 

How do I add seam allowance?

I find that the easiest way to add seam allowance is with a long transparent ruler. Not to worry if you don’t have one though, you can just use and ordinary ruler and mark the seam allowance width at intervals along the seam and then draw the line through all the points.

I have two different rulers, which I find super helpful. One only shows centimetres, but also has lines to indicate the millimetres in between. This one is very handy for when I'm adding 6mm seam allowance to a neckline or 12mm to a seam.

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The other, which I have used for this tutorial, only show has a line for every 5mm. If I am using a 1cm / 1.5cm / 2cm seam allowance, then this is definitely the one I reach for, as there are a lot fewer lines to get confused by!

Before getting started

Before getting started, have a think about the seam allowances you plan to use. I know some commercial patterns use the same seam allowance on every seam, but I think you are much better off changing the allowance depending on the seam. This will help you get a much cleaner and more professional finish.

The seam allowance required will have a lot to do with the fabric you are using, and how you will be finishing the seams too. For example, if you are making a silk chiffon top, it is best to use a narrow seam allowance, so you are not left with bulky seams that show through. A silk chiffon top is a delicate piece of clothing, that is not worn everyday and is normally hand washed, so it can afford to have smaller seam allowances. But, if you are making a pair of trousers or a coat, you need seams that a stronger (particularly in places where tension is put on the seams - e.g. the crotch of trousers) and therefore need a seam allowance that is wider than what you would use for your chiffon top. 

Standard seam allowances

I have put together a table to help guide you with how much seam allowance to add, but as I said, it is up to you! If you click on it, you can download a printable version of the table. It may be handy to put up on the wall in your sewing room!

Adding seam allowance to your skirt block

This tutorial will show you the method I use for adding seam allowance to a pattern, using a skirt block as an example. This method can be used to add seam allowance to any pattern.

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Decide on how much seam allowance you will be adding (using the table above if needed) and find where the line is that indicates that width on your ruler. 

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Lay that particular line (the width of your seam allowance) along the side seam of your pattern.

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With a sharp pencil, or pacer, draw in your seam allowance, being careful to keep your ruler in place. Be sure to extend the line past the original line by a couple of centimetres (this helps when we add seam allowance to the other seams).

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After marking the side seam, it's now time to move on to the hip curve.

If the seam you are adding seam allowance to is curved (which it is in this case) you will need to mark the seam allowance with a broken line. Line up your seam with the ruler and draw a small line (in this case, two lines).

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Then pivot your ruler to you next point (I tend to do this every 1 – 1.5cm) and continue marking the seam allowance with a broken line.

For tight curves (such as the bodice neckline) mark your seam allowance guidelines closer together to ensure a smooth and accurate curve.

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Continue pivoting until you have gone around the whole curve.

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Next, on to the waistline. Before starting to add seam allowance, extend both dart arms, as well as the centre line, by a few centimetres. This will help when you are adding seam allowance to the top of the dart.

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Mark the seam allowance on the waistband, and then follow the angle of the dart, when you get to the first dart arm. Repeat for the other side.

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Continue along the waistline, towards the centre front, pivoting the ruler when necessary. 

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The centre front does not need seam allowance, as you will be cutting this piece on the fold. Just extend the centre front line a little beyond each edge, so that it can intersect with the seams on the other sides. 

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Mark the hem allowance by measuring down the centre front and side seam from the stitching line. 

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Join the points to create the hemline. 

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By this stage, you should have worked your way around the whole pattern.

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Now to do something about those broken lines. 

Draw in your curve by joining the broken lines to form a smooth curve. You can do this by carefully pivoting your ruler, using a French curve or something else round (like a large mug or plate depending on the shape of the curve). A good way to check if your curve is smooth is, with the pattern flat on a table, to crouch down and look at the curve at eye level. You will quickly see if there are any sharp points!

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Repeat for the back pattern piece. And you are done, your pattern now has seam allowance!


I would love to know if I have convinced any of you to try doing some pattern making yet?


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A tutorial: How to add dart shaping

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Welcome back to my latest addition to the blog: The Skirt Series. In yesterday's tutorial, I showed you how to draft a skirt block.

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At this stage the pattern is drafted, but it is not yet complete. There are still two things to do before we can go ahead and make a toile - we need to add dart shaping and then add seam allowance. I will cover dart shaping in today's post and then next week I'll get to adding seam allowance.

What is a dart?

Essentially, pattern drafting is the act of making something two dimensional (the fabric) fit around something three dimensional (the body). Darts are a way of doing this and are most commonly used to create shape around areas of the body that are curved - the bust, shoulders, elbows and waist, but can be used pretty much anywhere - whether purely for fit, or also as a design detail.

What is dart shaping and why do I need to think about it?

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You may have put a dart in something before and noticed that the dart has changed the shape of the seam that it lies on and is no longer the smooth line it once was. In the example, I have folded the dart, and it has caused the waistline to become very sharp and angular. This is because we have lost 3cm to the dart, which is what gave us our nice smooth curve.

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To prevent this from happening, you need to add dart shaping. This will ensure that once your dart is sewn in your waistline (or which ever seam your dart is located) it will remain a smooth line.

Let's get drafting!

Take one piece of your skirt (I will be starting with the front), or any other pattern piece that you are working on, that has a dart. Your pattern should still be on a larger piece of paper (not yet cut out).

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You will need to fold the dart, so you can predict what will happen when you sew the dart when you get to making it up in fabric. Think about which direction the fullness of your dart will be pressed once it is sewn, this will decide which dart arm you need to fold.

Generally vertical darts are pressed towards the centre front (in the case of front darts) and the centre back (in the case of back darts). It seems reviews can be mixed when it comes to more horizontal darts, but I tend to push mine up up.

Fold along Dart arm # 2, down to the dart point, being careful to fold right on the line, to make a crease.

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Working with darts on a flat surface can be difficult so move over to the corner of your table (hopefully you have a square or rectangular table like me, otherwise a big book will do the trick), placing the point of your dart on top of the corner of the table.

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Fold the dart, by placing Dart arm # 2 on top of Dart arm # 1 (this is when that crease comes in handy). You will quickly see that it is much easier to get the dart to sit flat when it is sitting on a corner.

You will see that your seam would look like if you were to sew it without adding dart shaping. Not great, right?

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Use a weight to keep your pattern in place on the corner and then take a ruler and pencil and redraw the waistline with a nice smooth curve.

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Take your tracing wheel and trace along your new seam line - particularly focusing on where the dart is folded (go over this area a couple of times to ensure the markings transfer through the fold).

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Unfold the dart and you will see the markings transferred from the tracing wheel.

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Take a ruler and join the dots to form a nice smooth line.

And there you have it, a dart with shaping!


I must say that this little tip is one of my favourites. Do you have a favourite pattern cutting technique?


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Throwback Thursday : Drafting a skirt block

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As I mentioned last week, I will be diving into the Em Makes Patterns archives every Thursday to bring you some juicy pattern making goodness. 

For this weeks Throwback Thursday post, I thought it was worth starting right at the very beginning. If you are thinking about learning to your own patterns, then the best place to start is by drafting a skirt block. 

The skirt series

This is the first post of the skirt series, and each week I will be adding more posts, so that by the end of it, you will have a skirt block made to your measurements, and also have some pattern making techniques under your belt, so that you can make the skirt of your dreams!

What is a pattern block?

A pattern block is a basic pattern drafted to specific (or custom) measurements.

It is the starting point for most patterns (when flat pattern cutting), and can be manipulated and adjusted to meet individual design preferences.

It is a good idea to transfer your blocks onto cardboard, to keep them strong, as once you have a set of these, you will be using them a lot!

The skirt block

A skirt block is a fitted skirt that sits on the waist. Generally skirt blocks have two darts in the front and two in the back, although it is common to see a variation on this (for example, four darts in the back). By drafting a skirt block, you will get to know some basic techniques, and also get a sense of flat pattern making.

Tools + supplies

To draft a skirt block, you will need:

  • a piece of pattern paper
  • a ruler
  • a pencil
  • a tape measure
  • You may also want a french curve (or plate) for drawing the hip curve. To be honest, I don't use a curved ruler very often, and would rather use a standard ruler to draw my curves. But I will leave that tutorial for another day!

Measurements required

For this tutorial, you will need the following measurements: 

This distance will depend on how long/short you would like to make your skirt block - I made mine to finish just above my knee. 

Let's get drafting!

Mark the centre back

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To start, draw a straight line down the left hand side of your pattern paper, the length of your WAIST TO HEM measurement.

Label the ends as A and B. 

This will become the CENTRE BACK seam in your skirt.

Mark the waistline

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You will need to add a small amount of ease to the pattern (which will allow you to walk/sit/dance in your skirt). It is up to you how much ease you add - but as it is a block it should be quite close fitting, I suggest adding about 5cm to the HIP measurement and 3cm to the WAIST measurement.

Take your HIP measurement and add ease to this measurement, then divide result by two. As for all symmetrical patterns, you will be making half the skirt pattern (as the front pattern will be cut on the fold, and a pair of backs will be cut, to create a full skirt).

Draw a line from A (perpendicular to the CENTRE BACK seam ie. AB) the length of the measurement you found above. Label the end point as C.

This line (AC) will become the waistline of the skirt.

Mark the hemline

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Move down to point B and draw a line, perpendicular to the CENTRE BACK, the same length as the waistline. Label the endpoint as D.

This line (BD) will become the HEMLINE of the skirt.

Mark the centre front

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Join points C and D. This will be the Centre Front of the skirt.

Mark the hip line

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Take your WAIST TO HIP measurement and mark a point this distance from A, down the CENTRE BACK line. Mark point as E.

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Draw a perpendicular line from E that intersects with the CENTRE FRONT (CD).

You can mark this line as the HIP LINE.

Mark the side seam

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It is now time to mark the side seam. 

Take your full HIP MEASUREMENT and divide by four (once agin because we will be cutting on the fold). Add 1.5cm to the result. This extra 1.5cm will move the side seam slightly beyond the halfway point - to allow room for your derriere in the back of the skirt.  

Mark this measurement on your HIP LINE, measuring from point E. 

Mark point as F.

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Draw a perpendicular line from F, that extends up to the WAISTLINE (mark intersection point as G) and down to the HEMLINE. 

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At this stage, your waistline is the same length as your hip line. This is not the case in most women's bodies, so you will need to remove some width from the waistline. This will be done by creating four darts (two in the front and two in the back) and curving the hip line at the side seam.

To do this, take you WAIST measurement and subtract it from your HIP measurement. 

With your result, subtract the width of your four darts (4 darts measuring 3cm each = 12cm). The result is how much you need to remove from the side seams. 

Take the result and divide by two (as we are making half the pattern) and distribute either side of point G, on the waistline (half the measurement on the front pattern and half on the back). Mark points as H and I.

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Join H to F with a smooth curve. 

If you have quite a big difference between your waist and hip measurements and are worried that the hip curve is too extreme, you may choose to increase the width of your darts to compensate. 

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Repeat for the front by joining I to F with a smooth curve. 

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You will need to extend your side seams slightly beyond the WAISTLINE to accommodate the curve of your hips. Extend lines from H and I by 1.5cm, at the same angle as the curved hip line so that each becomes one continuous line.

Waistline

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Join the new point (extension from H) to A with a smooth curved line. You have now created the back waistline of the skirt.

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Repeat for front pattern. Join the new point (extension from I) to C with a smooth curved line. This is now the front waistline.

Darts

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Now it is time to draw in the darts.

Mark the midpoints of both front and back waistlines. Label the midpoint of the back waistline as J and front waistline as K.

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From point J, mark a point 1.5cm towards the CENTRE BACK. From this new point, mark another point 1.5cm towards the CENTRE BACK.

If you have decided to increase your dart width, then make sure you remember to add in this width now. For example, if you plan to make the darts 3.5cm wide, then mark your points 1.75cm apart. If your dart value goes beyond 4cm, I would suggest creating two smaller darts instead - you will get a more flattering shape that way.

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These points mark the centre of the back dart, and the dart arms 1.5cm either side (to create a dart that is 3cm wide).

Draw a line that is 14cm long (this will be the length of your back dart) from the middle point. The line should be perpendicular to the waistline.

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Join the points either side to the endpoint of the line you just drew. You have now created the two dart arms.

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Move to your front waistline.

From point K, mark a point 1.5cm towards the CENTRE FRONT. From this new point, mark another point 1.5cm towards the CENTRE FRONT. These points mark the centre of your front dart, and the dart arms 1.5cm either side (to create a dart that is 3cm wide).

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Draw a line that is 13cm long (this will be the length of your front dart) from the middle point. This line should be perpendicular to the waistline. This will be the centre line of your front dart.

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Join the points either side to the endpoint of the dart centre line. This will complete your front dart.

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By this point, it should really be starting to look like a skirt pattern!

Finishing up

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Take a seperate piece of pattern paper and trace a copy of the front pattern. Remember to include all markings (hip line, dart, centre front). 

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Leaving some space between the pattern pieces (you still haven't added seam allowance), trace around the back pattern piece - once again, marking all important points. 

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And now you have a front and back skirt pattern! Add grainlines (parallel to the centre front and centre back) and label each piece.

For labelling I always use the format:

  •  pattern name
  • name of pattern piece
  • sizing information (if required)
  • cutting instructions
  • You can also add the date and whether or not there is seam allowance added

Some of these things may seem very obvious, but I'm telling you, it makes it much easier if you pick the pattern up in a few months time!

Before cutting out the pattern, you will need to add shaping to the dart at the waistline, and seam allowance. You can go right ahead and do this, or you can wait for me to show you on the blog (very soon)!


How did you go? Would love to know if you have any questions related to drafting a skirt block?


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