5 Sewing Tips from The Midnight Atelier!

sew along header

As we prepare to start sewing our Dimpsy Ts’ on Monday I though we could discuss some hints, tips and tools of the trade to make Sewing easier so you can concentrate on the good bit… Sewing up the perfect Dimpsy T!

1. The right equipment.

I cannot stress enough how having the best pair of scissors you can afford, good thread and everything you need close at hand and ready to use make the whole process of garment construction easier, neater and more professional. I like to use these Scissors, they’re not very expensive and they’re re-sharpenable so they will last you a good long while! I actually have a couple pairs because darn of they don’t get lost under fabric and I hate to get held up! Take scissors to your local Cobblers to have them re-sharpened for around £5.

Good thread is a must, don’t cut corners here! I like to use Moon Thread as again it’s relatively inexpensive, there’s 1000 meters on a spool (woop!) and it is excellent quality. Using cheap, Vintage or old thread is dangerous for your Sewing Machine. If you hold a line of the thread up to the light you will be able to see if it is ‘furry’ or not… if it looks like there is a dusty haze around the line don’t use it! The dust will come off in your Sewing Machine, get stuck to the oil in there and dry it out which causes the machine parts to rub against each other and seize up. Not good!

A few other things I can recommend, and which will make sewing up a project a little easier so you can concentrate on the details are having enough Bobbins, pre-loaded and ready to go (I thread up two or three for any projects so- you guessed it- I don’t have to stop!), a heavy Pin Cushion with lots and lots of lovely Pins- I’m a bit of a Pin Geek it would appear and I like long, thin Glass Head Pins. They’re fine enough to use on a variety of Fabrics and you can do things like sew and iron over them! Merchant & Mills have some amazing Pins, well worth checking out. The heaviness of the Pin Cushion is important to me as well, I hate it when you pop a Pin back and the Pin Cushion skitters away from you! I have several made from Vintage Glass, an added advantage being I can use them as Pattern Weights too!

2. Great Prep

how to make tailors tacks

I’m sure you’ve all gotten as fed up with Cutting Out as I have- I like to get to the Sewing as quick as possible! however; I seriously believe that if you get the Prep right everything else will run smoothly. Pin each and every corner of your Pattern to the fabric- within the Seam Allowances if it’s delicate- then at about 5 or 6cm intervals. Rest your Scissors on the table as you cut, they are ‘flat’ along the bottom for a reason, this will increase your accuracy and allow your arm to rest as you cut. If you hold the fabric in the air and cut you run the risk of the Pattern shifting despite how carefully you have pinned.

Pin all pieces first, cut everything out, then snip your Notches and make your Tailors Tacks. Pinning all pattern pieces means that you will know if you don’t have enough fabric before you cut. As you’re pinning check all of your Grain Lines are parallel to the Selvedge or the fold of the fabric. If your Grain Lines are even off a little it can really effect the hang and wearability of the final garment.

Another fantastic tip is to make sure you have everything you will need to sew to hand. Getting up and down to grab pins or a tape measure is annoying, slows you down and breaks concentration… I also have a bit of an old fashioned ritual in that I make sure I have a cuppa and give the Pattern a good read from start to finish then make a list of what I want to do… if it’s a Pattern I have self drafted, or a Pattern I have adapted, or need to adapt this really helps. If you are a new sewer this will give you a chance to flag the bits you may think you will have issues with, google them or ask your question on social media so that when you get to sew them you have some tricks up your sleeve to get through it!

3. Pattern Ponderings

pattern picture

 Unfortunately many of the Sewing Patterns we see and fall in love with, thinking they’ll look perfect on us, need some love and adjusting before they get sewn up. One way to manage this is to make up a Toile however; whilst relatively inexpensive this can get tedious, Toiling every single piece of clothing you want to make!

Another way to manage this is to adjust the Pattern before you make it up. The best piece of information I can impart is this: every Pattern company has their own set of standard Measurements and often they are up to two sizes smaller than clothes you would buy on the high street. I am often telling students that if they buy a 16 on the high street, they’ll need to cut an 18-20 from the Pattern. Which can be exceptionally demoralizing! I came to terms with this years ago, and also tell everyone that a beautifully fitting piece of clothing looks better than cutting the wrong, or smaller size ever can! Another thing to remember about Pattern Sizing is this: most Pattern Companies cut to a B Cup. I’ll repeat that (because I’m still stunned!)… a B Cup, Ladies. If you are anything like me- and the many, many people I have taught to sew, you started to make your own clothes because of high street fit issues so this isn’t all that helpful. To manage this you may need to do a Front Bust Adjustment, and I discovered this great Tutorial from Colette a while back. Whilst you’re over there, check their Patterns out as they cut to a C Cup and, being American, their sizing is generous.

To adjust the Pattern the best thing to do is make up a Toile, fit then transfer your adjustments to the Pattern. Invariable the adjustments you make will need to be managed on the majority of Patterns you make up and you will get used to making them on the Sewing Pattern before cutting your Fabric. I have a few notes on this subject here

If you’re feeling adventurous you can even learn how to create your own Sewing Patterns here, in Pattern Month!

4. Swift Sewing

When you’re working do things like pin all of the pieces together that you can, then sew them all, then neaten and iron them all in batches. This will enable you to work faster and, I have found, neater. It also helps first time or new Sewers to become used to and familiar with the various techniques without stopping to pin the next bit, and breaking concentration. I find this helpful as I can make things up for myself in my spare, in-between hours which is brilliant if you work full time. It stops me from getting annoyed that it might take me too long to create myself a new garment and demoralized when I can’t finish what I want very desperately to wear! 

Having said all of that the Dimpsy T makes up in a couple hours so you’ll be able to make up several!

 5. It’s all in the details

MCCALLS Herringbone Stitch

Ensuring you stick to the Seam Allowances, neatening Seams as you go, Understitching, Ironing and unpicking if you go a little wrong are all things you should get used to as you sew up a handmade wardrobe. As you sew more, they almost become second nature! One of the things I am obsessed with is finishing, and I’ll do some of the finishing details by hand if I think this will look better. Hand stitching down Facings, hand Hemming and making small details like the Dimpsy T’s Handmade Loop Buttonhole make your finished garment so much better, and infinitely more unique.

The instruction book that comes with the Dimpsy T has information on every aspect of this!

I hope you have found my musings useful,

Happy stitching!

Pattern Drafting Jeans Sew Along: Getting Started

I'm working hard to put ME back together one stitch at a time .... Make-Do-&-Mend Pin up

Now I know we all are excited to start whipping up a pair of Handmade Denim loveliness however; I thought that, after getting y’all pumped up about Drafting your Pattern last week I would take things down a notch and talk a little about the Fabric and Notions needed to complete this project, and give a rough schedule for this Sew-Along which I shall be posting weekly-ish.

Because we are drafting and fitting our own Jeans Pattern we can kinda choose whatever Fabric we like as we will be fitting down the line however; finer fabrics like light weight Chambray will fit differently than a heavier weight Denim so I would advise choosing a medium to heavier weight Denim for this first pair. I also like to make mine from a Denim which has a little stretch to it.  get mine from Fabric Land and theirs at something like 10% Elastane in it. This makes the Denim SO much easier to wear as it ‘pings’ back when you move instead of getting baggy, it is also a medium weight so it’s nice and easy to sew. Happy Days.

On average you will need 2.5 meters of Fabric because of the length of Jeans. Remember when cutting stretch Denim however; you will need to cut it with the Stretch going around the body.

I found this great Blog post from Pattern Review which has some fantastic information about Fabrics and Notions which is well worth a read.

Concerning Notions I sometimes like to push the boat out and, because this is a Sew-Along I am going to on the Black and Blue Jeans and treat myself to Rivets, Topstitching and proper Jeans Riveted Buttons… but more on this and so very much more later. All you need to get yourself started is the Drafted Pattern, some more Pattern Paper for all of the other bits we’ll need to draft like Pockets and Fly Fronts and about 2.5 meters of Calico for the Toile. Oh yes, there will be a Toile!!

In choosing your fabric for your Toile try to get a similar weight Calico to the Denim you would like to use. This means that all of the fitting we do on the Toile should assist in the final fit of the Jeans.

The schedule will be as follows, and starts next Monday:

Week 2 Design Decisions

This will cover making the Basic Block in to a Working Pattern as we decide what sort of Packets, Patch Pockets, length, Zip or Button Fly etc to have and draft all of the Pattern Pieces to create the Working Pattern.

Week 3 Making up the Toile and Fitting

Just exactly what it says on the tin! We’ll be making up the Jeans and fitting them, which is an excellent opportunity to try our hand at all of that pesky Top Stitching, and whether we’ll be going all fancy and double Top Stitching! It will also give us a chance to practice the Fly which can be very awkward. We’ll also be transferring any fitting issues we resolve on to the Working Pattern to make our Final Pattern.

Week 4 Treating the Denim, Cutting Out and starting to Sew

Prepping to Sew as we wash our Fabric and cutting it out, the beginning to Sew up our Denim goodness. I’ll be sharing a few tips on working quickly as I’ll be making four pairs of Jeans throughout this Sew-Along as well as tips on finishing and neatening Denim, which can be a little different from the usual as we are making classic ‘work wear’.

Week 5 Fit and Finishing

a Final Fitting session to make sure there aren’t too many discrepancies from the Toile to the final Jeans the it’s on to all the finishing details like Rivets! Yay!!

Hope this all sounds as good to you guys as it does to me, I can’t wait to get started. I’m finally going to be able to wear all of those tops I’ve been making myself!

Introducing the Pattern Drafting Jeans Sew-Along!

I have been making my own Jeans and Trousers since I was about 16-ish, and I still remember the utter satisfaction- after another failed shopping trip to buy Jeans, any Jeans!- of rushing to my local Fabric Shop, buying the only Jeans Pattern available and making my first pair that very same day. They were great, I mean I’m sure they had a little wobble in the stitching here and there but even my Mum was impressed and I literally haven’t shopped for Trousers or Jeans since.

jeans sew a long

Blessed with my Grandmothers huge hips, as well as height it has always been difficult to shop for clothing. Fat or thin I have always struggled however; I was to receive a rescue of sorts that same year I was 16 when I toddled off to Art School to study Fashion and Textiles… dear reader, I was introduced to the mystical art of Pattern Cutting.

I honestly haven’t looked back.

Not only did it make sense in a way that made me happy, I was good at it! Have you ever had this happen? The simple joy of embracing a new skill and devouring all that you can? Heaven! I soon had students from the years above me asking for help and I think this was my first introduction to sharing ideas and skills, which I also loved. At the time I was obviously going to become a leading light in the Fashion World *ahem* and despite this not happening- mainly because I realized I wanted to work on film and a few years later toddled off to a different Art School to study Costume- I still adore Pattern Cutting and I want to start sharing this more here, especially after my enormously successful Pattern Month a few years ago.

Simply because I need some new Jeans myself I thought I’d start with Drafting a Jeans Pattern, Toiling and making the resultant Pattern up with tips on how to do so, fit and I am sure all sorts of further nonsense!

Sound good? Awesome!

I’m hoping to do this over the next month or so, starting today with Drafting the Trouser Block. If this is entirely new to you, you may want to check out my Pattern Month, which is a good introduction to all of this.

First off, I shall be using Winifred Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting book, which is my bible! and, whilst I shall share some of the Pattern pages here, I do strongly suggest your buying a copy if this is a subject you are interested in. You can read more about why I think everyone should own this book here. After the last Pattern Month, I was asked frequently if I would email or post more pages from the book, but I will not due to copy right. Please buy the book, it’s brilliant!

jeans sew a long 2 jeans sew a long 3

You’ll need a Pattern Master, because these are the best tools when Pattern Drafting, along with a selection of Pens and Pencils as well as a Calculator. I use coloured Felt Tip Pens because if I make a wrong line, or want to highlight a line I can do so. I also find them nice to draft with because pencils can be a bit messy and I tire quickly of sharpening them!

There’s lots of information on how to use the above pages here, I would strongly advise reading it before joining in unless you are familiar with the Winifred Books. Firstly it is important to take accurate measurements as the Basic Blocks are to be made up to your measurements. It is imperative that accurate measurements be taken so that the Block fit as accurately as possible, with minimal changes needing to be made in the later stages of creating your Working Pattern.

For the Basic Trouser Block you need to take Waist and Hip measurements, then check which size these most closely resemble in the Standard Body Measurements Chart here. The measurements listed on the Basic Trouser Block can then be found on the Standard Body Measurements Chart. I have found that taking measurements from the Chart greatly increases the accuracy of the pattern and saves time! We will then draft the Pattern and make a Toile to make the Working Pattern and in future posts I’ll cover things like adapting the Basic Block to Fit, altering the Length and adding Style Lines.

It is not easy to measure oneself however; if no partner can be found use a mirror to ensure the tape measure is placed as correctly as possible. I have a few hints and tips on measuring oneself accurately here.

Well, as I have drafted my Basic Block already- I make this Pattern up quite a lot!- I shall leave you to Draft yours, and of course check out Jeans and Trousers you like on the internet to get an idea of what sort of a Pattern you’d like to make… retro… modern… button fly?… high waisted?… aah the choice is endless! Finally, this process won’t be too difficult I promise! If you are an Adventurous Beginner I am sure you will be able to follow along, and anyone can feel free to comment or ask questions as they need or want to.

I’ll give you a week or so to gather supplies and get drafting, I can’t wait to see what you all make!!

Happy stitching!


Free Vintage Patterns!

Have you noticed you can get a Pattern for almost anything on Pinterest? The Vintage- and even Historical- Patterns people are sharing I have become fascinated with, you can make anything so long as you know what to do with them to make them work.

From Coats to Chemises and everything in between, there are amazing War Time Make Do and Mend Patterns, beautiful 50s Dress Patterns and (my favourite for some unearthly reason!), sleeves… so many sleeves!

I have hoarded many of my favourites here, some you would need to draft the Basic Block- be is Skirt, Bodice or Dress- the make the adaptations suggested, and others need to be enlarged:

http://www.costumes.org/history/20thcent/1910s/thornton/117.jpgFree Trousseau Nightgowns Pattern

The early 1900s Skirt on the Left would be easier to make from a Basic Skirt Block, with suggested adaptations however; the Night Dress Patterns on the Right can be enlarged to be used. 

If this all seems a little daunting, don’t worry! This is simply how it used to be, and if they could do it so can we! You will need a few supplies- a Pattern Master or Ruler, Pencils and different coloured Felt Tip Pens, a Tape Measure and an ample supply of Pattern Paper however; non of this is particularly mind-bendingly difficult.

To Draft the Basic Block, refer to Pattern Month here. To enlarge Patterns, refer to my article here. There are also more resources on Pinterest for using this type of Pattern and I highly recommend giving it a go… they’re free!

When you come to make them up, I hedge my bets and make a Toile. This is a mock-up of the Garment to check everything is in working order before making the real thing. Sometimes, if I am feeling good about a Pattern I’ll make the Toile up in cheerful cheap fabric that, if it works, can still be worn. Cheeky!

Happy stitching!

Pattern Month, signing off.

So, it is all over… and what a glorious, action packed, fun Month this has been!

I would very much like to thank all who have joined in, commented and taken part in Pattern Month. Congratulations to the winners of Pattern Making Musings- but don’t forget to comment until Midnight on the 4th October on my interview with Madalynne!- and a HUGE thank you with sprinkles on to those who allowed me to interview them! IN-HOUSE Patterns, Colette, Sinbad & Sailor and Madalynne were all very gracious and enthusiastic.

The reception to everything I posted, wrote about and shared has  been so lovely that I am sure I shall soon be declaring Pattern Month again… there’s just so much more to talk about!! I sincerely hope it has inspired creativity, and even adventure in some of you. It’s so wonderful to be able to create your own designs and then make them up that I strongly urge anyone thinking about it to give it a go. Once the maths has been mastered- there’s a lot of it, sorry!- and you become more accustomed to thinking 3D whilst looking at a 2D Pattern you will be fine.

If you have been following along and created either Flat Patterns, Blocks, Toiles or even a Working Pattern or final Garment please share! It would be so lovely to see what you have come up with.

I shall be teaching a Garment Construction Course over the next month specifically designed to teach my Pattern Cutting Class how to make up their designs. I’ll be posting about their progress, and sincerely hope you share yours.

I’ll be taking a well earned break over October but November is another matter… stay tuned for exciting news! Eek!!

Don’t forget to check out Laura After Midnight exclusive Zines, and the original Pattern Month post. Find me on Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter too.

Happy stitching!


If you haven’t… get yourself a Pattern Book!

As Pattern Month draws inevitably to a close- sob!- I though I’d post some last helpful advice for people who are maybe a little newer to the world of Pattern Cutting. I really hope you have been inspired by all of my posts, interviews and the many lovely comments over the course of the month. If you are planning on taking this any further my best advice at this point is, get yourself a Pattern Book!

Obviously I can’t post the entire contents of my wonderful copy (which I inherited mine from my Mum… although I think she would say I stole it!), of Metric Pattern Cutting by Winifred Aldrich for all to see- despite wanting to!- but I thought I would post a couple of examples of what Metric Pattern Cutting contains, and why you should probably grab a copy.

First off, remember when we relocated our Dart on our Basic Block? Here are some other options… As you can see, each creates a different ‘look’ and would be useful for different garments or fashions. As you create more and more Patterns for yourself you will start to discover that certain things flatter your figure more than others. For example, an Armhole Dart look deeply unattractive on me whereas an Underarm Dart is much more flattering! If I want to put the Dart in to the Neckline I will always do it in the form of a Pleat, or series of Pleats instead of a Dart as I think this makes the fabric look less tortured. This has all been learnt through trial and error, and I am sure as many people agree as disagree!

Dart PositioningOne way of Shaping the Waist on either your Basic Block, or Toile is by fitting. Once you are a little more comfortable with Drafting however; you can start to place basic shaping in to the Block to begin the process of creating your garment. I love a series of Darts across the Back of a Bodice, my thinking is that is generates interest in a sometimes plain part of a Garment, even more I love a Fan Dart!!

Shaping The WaistOnce you have drafted the Basic Bodice Block and Basic Skirt Block you can make dresses!! Obviously the below is the Basic Dress Block, and much would need to be done to make it remotely wearable! A Pattern Book will take you through all the stages however; to create the dress of your dreams…

The Dress BlockThe true genius of any Pattern Cutting Book is in the pages which teach you to mould the Basic Blocks in to wearable garments and below are the examples from Metric Pattern Cutting for the prettiest Sleeve contained within its pages (at least, I think so!), and the Basic A-Line Skirt. Neatly and clearly illustrated, each style also comes with instructions on how to perform the Pattern Alterations. When using any of these Books, you will be able to illustrate your Design with a Technical Drawing, then select the elements needed to create the Working Pattern, with a few minor adjustments, from the Book.


A-Line Skirt

Hopefully you are able to see the potential from these snippets. Please don’t forget to comment below with your Pattern Cutting advice, successes or fails… we’d love to hear ’em all!

Remember to also comment on this weeks Pattern Making Musings to win a Sinbad & Sailor Pattern.

Happy Patterning!

Week 4: Making Working Patterns

Making a Pattern from a Basic Block is an art form, and it is at this point in the process that it would be beneficial to have a Pattern Cutting book to hand. Obviously I would recommend Winifred Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting however; there are many others out there.

I shall try to impart as much advice as possible however; I will be writing this article as if you have some help at hand in the form of a Pattern book. Towards the end of the piece I shall list some helpful websites if you do not.

Really, the hard work has been done at this point, you have a Basic Block which has been adapted to fit your form from your Toile. Now all that is needed is a little imagination and magic to create the pieces about the Basic Block to create your design.

You will need to start by creating a Technical Illustration of your design. this differs from a Fashion Illustration in that it should be a picture of what you would like to make however; it should contain all of the seams, pleats, details and information you need to work from to make the Pattern. You should illustrate both the front and back, as this is what you will be using to create your Pattern. It is incredibly important to create a Technical Illustration to work from, as it will stop any second guessing and random making up of details!


I have chosen to make a simple Top with some small design details. As you can see, I have illustrated everything I’d like to be included in the Top, with annotations to explain the finer details. The next step will be to decide which patterns I need to draft, what changes will need to be made to those Patterns and finally, what details I will need to draft to create finishing details for the garment. The easiest way to decide and start forming an action plan is to make a list:

  1. Most obviously I will need to draft the Sleeve Block, then adapt it to create the pleat at the Sleeve Head, and the Scallops at the Hem. I will also need to make a facing for the Hem as it is the easiest, neatest way to finish a Scalloped Hem.
  2. I will need to re-shape the Neckline of the Front Bodice to make it a V-Line Neck.
  3. A Collar will need to be drafted for the Front and the Back.
  4. The Front Bodice will need to be adapted to allow room for the series of Tucks I want to place at the Waistline, and a Button Stand will need to be added to the Centre Front.
  5. I’ll have to split the Back Bodice in to two sections to make the Yoke, then add in allowance for the Pleats/Tucks I want along the bottom of the Yoke.
  6. Seam allowance will need to be added to all of the Pattern Pieces as I complete them, and all will need to be annotated with Grainlines, Piece Names etc.

The following illustrations annotate how I would break down making this pattern up. Each change needs to be traced from the Basic Block- which I cannot stress enough- needs to remain intact, unharmed and unchanged! I am sure none of you relish the idea of starting from scratch all over again, which is what has to happen if you start cutting up Basic Blocks!


As you can see from the above, listing the things to do and components needed for a Pattern is very important- it’s so easy to forget something, or get a little bit sidetracked!!


There are nearly as many changes to be considered on the Back however; a lot of the time these can be simpler because there are not the fitting considerations to be made as there are for the Front Bodice.

As ever, click the images to enlarge.

If anything more complicated is to be attempted, a Pattern Book of some description will need to be purchased. They are invaluable when drafting more fitted garments, or for drafting things like Sleeves and Collars.

So, at the start of this post, I mentioned that I would be sharing some other posts on Pattern Making however; I have a confession: there aren’t many!! Burda have some helpful advice, as always, and this article will take you through making a Princess Line Dress from your Basic Block. I have shared Madalynne’s great Pattern Cutting Tutorials before but they are well worth a look as she has Tutorials on some interesting finer points of Pattern Making. A pretty straightforward Tutorial on how to lift basic Pattern from clothing can be found over at Sweet Verbena, there are  many Tutorials on YouTube which take you through the process but I am going to reiterate that trial and error are the best teachers. Until you give it a go, and make up your first pattern it will all be academic and you simply wont know if it works or not!

Happy Patterning!

Week 3: Fitting the Toile

Not wishing to sound too school ma’am-y, but I do hope you all have managed to draft your Basic Blocks, move the Dart across as well as add seam allowance to your Basic Block, cut from Calico and stitch up to form the Toile. Lovely! But now comes probably the most challenging part of creating your own Patterns… fitting!

Hopefully the majority of you will have a chum to assist you with this. If not you absolutely have to stand in front of a mirror whilst fitting yourself, so you can see the effect of any and all adjustments made.

The next step is to fit the Toile, and transfer the new fitting lines to the Paper Pattern accurately. This will mean that you now have a Basic Block which is your size… and fits!

You will need to put the Toile on, and pin up the front. Do not simply pin the front closed- you will need to pin along the Seam Allowance you added so as to have consistency when transferring to the Paper Pattern.  I had hoped to have some pictures of my class for this bit but it was far too hectic!! I also think, upon reflection, that the following will be more helpful… I always find illustrations clearer! Following the below beautiful Vintage illustrations and guidelines, slowly fit your Toile always remembering that it should not be too tight nor too loose- you have to allow room to move and breathe!

20130915_224132      20130915_224045
Left: The Bodice Block as it will look when first put on. Right: The most common place for Darts above and below the Bust, and a great place to start when Fitting however; I will try to move these Darts to a more flattering place if possible. Please see further illustrations below. 

Some tips if you are fitting yourself:

  1. Fit whilst wearing the Toile inside out… in this way all seams will be easily adjustable and identifiable.
  2. Work on a section at a time. Look at your shoulder seam- is it lying flat? then, move to your neckline- is it too tight to your neck for comfort? If so, draw where you think it should be, remove the Toile and cut it away then put the Toile back on, pin and check. Next move to the Front- do you need darts? Pinch the fabric and pin in place to see how it looks. Continue slowly in this fashion and you shouldn’t encounter too many issues.
  3. When looking at your back, you will be unable to pin this in with any accuracy if working alone. I look in the mirror, pinch in the fabric and take an estimated guess at how much that may be, then I remove the Toile and pin properly the put it back on and check if I was correct!
  4. The Bust Point will signify the positioning of the Front Darts however; when looking at the back there is no obvious place to locate them. Winifred, on your Basic Block, has used a dotted line to suggest where they should be placed and you would be wise to follow her guidance. You will need to decide when and where to finish the Dart using your own judgement of the shape of your figure.
  5. If you are intending to do this more often it would be wise to invest in a Dress Form. There’s a brilliant Tutorial for making your own here.
  6. Please view the making up and fitting of a Toile as seriously as you would making the final garment. If you haven’t followed your Seam Allowances, Grainlines or other details correctly the Toile will always fit differently from your pattern.
  7. Balance Marks play a big part in the correct fitting of a garment, and the first thing to watch for is that they are correctly placed. You Balance Marks are the Bust Line, Waist Line and Hip Line which should run at the same level about your body, parallel to the floor. The Center Front and Center Back are also Balance Marks which should lie at a 90 Degree angle from the floor. This also ensures the Grainline isn’t off doing something odd causing the garment to twist.
  8. If you find the Toile is too small pin in pieces of Calico to make up for the short fall, then add on the same amount to the Paper Pattern later.

Some of the commonest fit issues are:

20130915_223824 20130915_223926 20130915_224004

Left: Sloping shoulders, adjust the Shoulder Seam to eliminate diagonal wrinkles between neck and underarm. Unpick the seam, smooth the fabric up gently until the wrinkles are taken up and pin at the correct line. Middle: If the Back is sagging, ensure the garment is properly adjusted at the waistline then smooth fabric up from the Waistline. Pin a Tuck across the Back to determine exactly how much excess length there is. Pin the tuck in place, alter the arm hole if necessary and remember to carry the adjustment over to the Paper Pattern. Right: To correct sagging as illustrated (commonly associated with a fuller Bust), place a Dart at the side seam. 

  20130915_224233      20130915_224245

Above: Placing Darts at the Neck Line to fit the Upper Back. 

20130915_224205      20130915_224154

Left: Dart placement on the Bust. Right: alternative, and more attractive Dart placement on the Bust. 

All illustrations are from my wonderful collection of Vintage Sewing Books, and I highly recommend all of them. Uniquely they have a vast amount of Fitting advice- as Patterns were not as prevalent as they are today and Women often either made their own or adapted them- as well as information on creating and adjusting flat Commercial Patterns.

Once you are happy with the Fit of your Toile, remove it and transfer the new markings to the flat Basic Bodice Block. To do this, remove all pins and give it a light iron then, using the Balance Points Winifred has given you, measure each new fitting point and transfer. There is a wonderful tutorial on how to do this from Custom Style here and another from So Sew Easy here.

There are further resources for this stage of Pattern Making including a wonderful article by Burda, Some words of advice on transferring the markings from fitting your Toile to the Paper Pattern here, some fitting advice from Madyline here and Your Wardrobe Unlock’d have some amusing and very practical advice (albeit from a more Historical perspective) here. I have also just found a great photographic tutorial on the above here,

Finally, the below video tutorial from YouTube is enormously useful, and will take you through simple fitting, and transferring those fitting marks to your Paper Pattern in a straight forward, quick and practical way.

I do hope you find the above usable, it really is a very tricky thing finding the right fit, especially if you have also made the Pattern. Remember to look at the fabric- oftentimes it is ‘telling’ you when to place darts and fitting lines.

Remember to comment on this weeks Pattern Making Musings to win fabric and notions to make Colette’s Sorbetto Top. Also, if you are just joining us find out what this is all about here and don’t forget for some helpful advice buy a Laura After Midnight Zine!!

Happy patterning!

Week 2: The Toile

My dear readers, this weekend I have once again been felled by the ‘flu. This year has just been awful for ‘flu hasn’t it? I am still feeling quite poorly however; I was so sad to have missed today’s post I am propped up in bed, watching QI (always guaranteed to cheer oneself up!) and typing weakly whilst Fella makes me tea!!

I have decided that this week on Pattern Month will take a slightly different schedule to last week so I am treating you to this little snippet in preparation to the Fitting the Toile post which will be posted on Friday. This is in response to the wonderful comments on my Interview with Alexandra of IN-HOUSE Patterns. Quite a few people has requested information so I am going to link this post with my class and present lots of lovely photographs of fitting in action!

So, in preparation of Fitting the Toile you will need to make some adjustments to the Basic Block, cut the Toile out from Calico and sew it up.

The Basic Block is just that- Basic! Winifred has given you shaping however; it is the information needed and not the style so the first thing you will need to do to your basic block is cut out the Front and Back, then move that ugly ass dart to a more attractive location!

Now, we could all release our inner fashion designer and do something flashy like split the Dart into three, or move it some place fancy BUT we still haven’t tested this Basic Bodice Block out, so we don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves. The tried and tested way is to move the Dart to create a basic Princess Seam.

This will no doubt be familiar to many, as this is where many high street retailers put shaping. It looks nice on about everyone, is easy to construct and provides accurate shaping effectively. If you wish to place shaping any place else, it is advisable to wait until after you have made up your Toile then put all of those design elements in to your Working Pattern. What we are aiming for is a Basic Bodice Block which fits well, and will provide the starting blocks for future designs.

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Firstly, you will need to cut the Basic Block out then draw in a curved seam from the Bust Point and in to the Armhole. Remember to use your French Curves or Patternmaster to assist but it is more than acceptable to do this by eye as well.

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Next, cut along this new line all the way to the Bust Point, then cut along the left hand line of the Dart. Move the paper across so that the left hand line of the Dart lies over the right hand line as illustrated and Sellotape down. Fold any excess paper back and Sellotape as well.

There, that was your first Pattern adjustment! Wasn’t so hard was it? But wait… I’m not letting you off that easy!!

In order to sew your Toile up you will need to fold you Calico in half- Selvedge to Selvedge- line up the Grainlines, place the Back of the Basic Block on the fold as illustrated and pin both on to the Calico.

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Next you will need to draw on your Seam Allowance. I always use 1cm however; as long as you ensure the same Seam Allowance is used continuously throughout, you are free to choose whatever Seam Allowance you desire! It’s your Pattern! Of course, if you have a Patternmaster to hand you can use this to draw on you Seam Allowance. I have illustrated below an alternative as well.


Measure out your chosen Seam Allowance, and mark either side (a). Continue around the Basic Bodice Block (b), then join the dots (c). Simple, right?

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To sew your Toile up you will need to form a Dart on each side of the Basic Bodice Front, and sew the Shoulder Seams and Side Seams using your Seam Allowance.

Later this week I shall be talking about fitting your Toile, and transferring that fitting to your Basic Block in preparation of making your Working Pattern. You will need to start thinking about what Pattern you would like to design. If you are having some trouble deciding what you would like to make, I have found the best way is to find something lovely that you can’t afford! My class will be designing Tops and Shirts to keep it simple however; the skies the limit!

Well, I’m off to watch The News Room (which is excellent), drink tea and sleep! As ever I truly welcome your comments, don’t forget to hop, skip and jump over to Pattern Making Musings and leave a comment to be entered in to the hat to win an IN-HOUSE Pattern. If you are just joining us read all about Pattern Making Month here. You can also join Laura After Midnight on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Happy patterning!

Week 1: Drafting the Basic Blocks

pattern pictureFrom Practical Home Dressmaking Illustrated by Lynn Hillson

Welcome to the first Tutorial of Pattern Month!!

Firstly, you will find it useful to know the four stages of Pattern development:

1. The Basic Block. This is the Basic Pattern that is used as a basis for all adaptations. The Block Pattern is traced on to pattern paper to produce the Working Pattern.

2. The Toile, Sloper or Mock Up, which will inform the fit of the Basic Blocks more accurately. Adaptations to the Basic Block are made as a result and the Basic Blocks now will not change. Toiles can be made at any stage to check the Patterning process.

3. The Working Pattern is used to cut and adapt the Basic Block to achieve the Fianl Pattern and is your design in pattern form for the first time! Adapting the Basic Block, which is not very design lead!, to a design this pattern is so called because after a toile is  made changes will still need made to the Working Pattern until you are happy with scale, fit, finishings, pocket placement, dart/pleat/gather placement and all manner of small details. When happy the Working Pattern will then become…

4. The Final Pattern. The final, working and ready to be made up Working Pattern traced off with all markings, notches and notes on construction ironed out.

This week we shall be concerning ourselves with drafting the Basic Blocks. These are the Bodice Block, the Skirt Block and the Sleeve Block. Drafting the Blocks is the start of creating patterns to fit the individual figure, however difficult, for any style, past or present with flat pattern cutting. From these three Blocks any number of Final Patterns can be created from the humble A-Line Skirt to the most extravagant imaginings!

Firstly it is important to take accurate measurements. The Basic Blocks are to be made up to your measurements so it is imperative that accurate measurements be taken so that they fit as accurately as possible, with minimal changes needing to be made in the later stages of creating your Working Pattern.

I will take the Bust, Waist and Hip measurements,  Nape to Waist, Back Width and Chest measurements then check which size these most closely resemble in the Standard Body Measurements Chart below. You will also need your Waist to Hip, Armhole Depth, Neck Width, Shoulder and Dart measurements which you will find on the chart. I have found that taking these smaller measurements from the Chart greatly increases the accuracy of the pattern and saves time!

It is not easy to measure oneself however; if no partner can be found use a mirror to ensure the tape measure is placed as correctly as possible. I have a few hints and tips on measuring oneself accurately here.

And so, without further ado, and making sure we have a nice cuppa sitting next to us, it is time to draft the Basic Bodice Block. For this I have used Winifred again, of Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear fame. All one needs to do is follow her instructions- listed to the left- without hesitation or deviation.

A few notes:

  • 1cm = 3/8th of an Inch
  • It is extremely important to maintain precision in all details. A few millimetres out could mean the whole is several sizes too small or too large by the end of the drafting process.
  • ‘Square Up/Down’ or ‘Square Accross’ means draw down or accross at a 90 Degree angle. Try to make this angle as accurate as possible using a set square or Patternmaster. If none is at hand a piece of card can do the trick nicely!
  • Mark all Waistlines, Bust Lines and Hip Lines as illustrated.

Click to enlarge the images and print if necessary, I find it helpful to tick off each point as I go or I can get terribly confused about half way through!

PATTERN CUTTING Standard Body MeasurementsThe Standard Body Measurements Chart, with illustration showing where each measurement should be placed.

PATTERN CUTTING Basic Bodice BlockThe Basic Bodice Block, with space to note down your measurements from the measurements needed.


The Sleeve and Tailored Skirt Blocks. Click for an enlargement and to print. All Block Patterns are taken from Metric Pattern Cutting by Winifred Aldrich.

Remember to comment below with any thoughts, queries or struggles and triumphs… Good luck, brave pattern makers!

Happy patterning!