Tag Archives: adjustments

Tallulah Pattern Review – the Jubilee Dress

24 May

When I was a stroppy teenager the thought of the Royal Family made me MAD. It’s wonderful to be a lot older and able to embrace my inner hypocrite!

While most of the time I’m still not that keen on our rather odd ‘rulers’ I am enjoying the national spirit that seems to have taken over this summer.

This week I saw the Olympic torch and finished Storm’s Jubilee dress. How terribly patriotic!


This sweet halterneck was meant to be one of two dresses for her birthday, but it is sweltering at the moment so I just had to give it to her straight away.

Tallulah is dress number 2 in Jenifer Paganelli’s lovely Girls World pattern book  and is a simple breezy sundress. Perfect for a hot summer’s day (although you could always put a little shirt underneath it.


The fabric is Sweetwater for Moda – Reunion Vanilla Baby’s Bunting and had sold out at Country Threads, when I went back to buy more for the lining.

It’s an American design, but it really is like it was made for this super-British summer – shame they didn’t do a red colourway too.

Anyway, of course, I didn’t need the extra bit after all. What IS it with pattern allowances? The pattern said 1.1m of fabric and 35cm of lining. I had just 1m of fabric total and was left with plenty over. Eyeroll.

This is a very simple dress, and I really like the shape of it. Like the Mary’s Sash Dress from the same book, the pieces all seemed to fit well, although the front piece was longer than the back so I had to trim that at the end. My only mod was a double seam around the bottom hem and side vents to make it super neat.

After taking her lunch in her paddling pool, Storm retired upstairs to get out of the sun for a little jam session and some pictures.

She recently broke one of my guitar strings from playing too hard. She really gets into it…



Is it just me, or is this pure Elvis?!


OK, self indulgence over.

Oh yeah, while I’m here, remember the Ma’am Mat?


I couldn’t resist. I swear it tastes better. Happy almost Jubilee!


Buttons. And a Lisette pattern review (Simplicity 2211)

2 Apr

Do you like buttons? Me, I LOVE me some buttons.


I am quite restrained when it comes to collecting them. For ages my button collection fitted in an old Altoids tin. There are a few too many now to get in the tin, but I try to keep it reined in.

This week though, was time for a button splurge. After much procrastinating (waaaaaay too much stocking stitch for my liking) I finished my Chickadee cardigan this weekend.


I’d already lined up some stunning buttons from The Makery Emporium, which has become my go to place for pretty Japanese painted wooden buttons. I bought nine of these large chintzy ones..


…and also, some tiny ones with tropical looking orange flowers, to decorate a blouse I just finished in time for our mini heatwave.


The blouse is by Lisette for Simplicity (pattern 2211, view E) and this was a dry run for some Liberty Tana Lawn which was too perfect to risk on a first attempt. It’s just as well I did the dry run – I managed to sew the collar on inside out (duh) and had to cut it off and bodge the neckline.

And then the sleeves turned out to be smaller than the armholes, which made it kind of hard to gather them in, as per the pattern – definitely a grading error as I followed all the seam allowances exactly. Luckily my lovely repro feedsack fabric was 130cm wide, not the standard 115cm, which meant I had a little spare, so I recut a new pair of sleeves two sizes larger and used those.



Shame about the ‘wasted’ fabric. It’ll go into a quilt one day. The blouse only needs a metre of 150cm wide fabric if you fancy making it (a little more if you use quilting width).

I do have some glorious vintage glass buttons, which I bought at the first Knit Nation. They are from L Nichols, a company set up by the daughter of buttonmaker Lionel Nichols to sell off her huge collection of buttons he made in his lifetime. She releases them in collections a couple of times a year. Each set is totally unique and priced accordingly. Ahem.


Nearly two years on, they still haven’t found their perfect project. They nearly went on the feedsack shirt, but it just wasn’t quite right.

Their time will come…

Pattern writing. Warning, spreadsheets involved…

24 Jul

If I’ve been a bit quiet the past week, it’s because I’ve been busy teaching advanced knitting and sewing at The Makery, working on deadline for The Knitter, and pattern-writing whenever I’ve had a spare moment.


If you’re reading this blog, then chances are, you’re familiar with knitting patterns.

But, unless you’re a designer, or tech editor, you probably don’t get involved with the numbers side much.

This is a snapshot of what it looks like.

I say a snapshot, because this particular spreadsheet actually has 711 active cells or calculations…

My friend Jen Arnall-Culliford, The Knitter’s last technical editor (I’m dep ed, but with a tech ed’s remit, plus other fun stuff) introduced me to using Excel for pattern checking a little while ago.

It’s extremely useful for that, but arguably even more so for pattern writing in my case.

Yes, you can sort out a schematic for different sizes of the same garment with some fairly simple maths.

But add in lace or colourwork motifs, and other complicating factors, like working seamlessly, and that’s a lot of sums to do on the back of an envelope.

One of my favourite designers Ysolda Teague, recently tweeted about an Excel pattern writing tutorial by designer Marnie Maclean, and it really is excellent.

If you’re up for the challenge of writing graded patterns, Ysolda’s own sizing information is also incredibly useful.

Of course, it isn’t JUST maths (thank goodness). But it’s not surprising to me now, just how many technical editors and designers have a maths or science background.

I never thought I’d say it, but I really do heart Excel.

I’m off to Camp Bestival later this week, and will be popping in to the knitting tent run by the delightful chaps at iKnit London, so perhaps I’ll see you there!

Resizing sewing patterns – in search of my inner Joan

22 Jun

I’m off to a ‘Suburban Bohemia’ party next month and, like probably 95% of the woman there, I’m going for a Joan Holloway look. Who wouldn’t?

I’ve got a fab dress pattern (New Look 6000), but it’s not going to be quite big enough, thanks to my cake-making addiction. So I’m resizing it and adjusting it to my measurements. The fabric I’m going to use is royal blue Chinese silk, but I’ve only got just enough so I need to get it spot on…

So how to resize a sewing pattern?

(1) First make a comparison between your measurements and the pattern size and work out how much to increase at bust, waist and hips. Dress pattern measurements are based on a 1950s hourglass ideal (yep, that’ll be Joan) that isn’t around so much any more. This is why you should make a toile (a basic copy in cheap fabric)  – to finetune your adjustments before you cut out your precious fabric.

(2) When resizing a pattern spread increases of more than 1in (2.5cm) across several points, so that you keep the proportions of the design.  For example, f you want to increase the pattern by one size you’ll need to add 2 inches to the circumference at bust, waist and hips.


(3) If there are no darts in the bust I usually split the front and back down the middle, and spread the pieces apart, adding extra width at the sides and centre of each piece. If there are darts you’ll need to move them too and possibly split the bodice cross ways to add fabric there, so perhaps save a darted pattern unil you’ve done this a few times.

(4) You can use dressmakers’ paper, tracing paper, freezer paper, or even newspaper. Calculate the main measurement you need to add and use masking tape to mark it on a ruler, so that you can work around the edge of the pattern at these key points without constantly having to remeasure.


(5) Some areas, like the shoulders, or the armholes, probably won’t need to grow more than slightly – people do not get proportionately broader shoulders or wrists for example, as they get bigger.

(6) The easiest way to work out how much to increase in these trickier areas, and where is to compare the multiple sizes already printed on the pattern. If you’re going up by one size look at the differences between the two largest sizes printed on the pattern. If you’re going up by two sizes look at the differences between the third largest and largest sizes printed on the pattern, and so on. Mirror these differences to plot your own changes.

(7) Draw around the pattern, adding width in the middle and at the sides and adjusting any notches and marks in the pattern by using the mirrored difference technique (see 6).


(8) Cut out the new pattern pieces. I tape a long strip of paper down the middle to add width at centre points rather than drawing and redrawing. You can use also this method when adjusting your pattern after fitting your toile later.


(9) Then pin your pattern pieces to your toile fabric, and cut them out. Don’t worry if they look really big. This dress has side gathers so it looks absolutely enormous until you pleat the side section


(10) Baste together the toile pieces at the side and shoulder seams. If you have sleeves pin or sew these on too.  If your dress needs a long zip fastening, and you wouldn’t be able to get in and out of it sewn together, sew the seam up to the point where the zip would start and then get someone to pin it together on you.

(11) Take a long , hard, look in the mirror. Does it fit? Which bits are too tight or too loose? You can either mark on your toile with tailor’s chalk, or get someone to do it for you, but the key is to mark on adjustments you’ll need to make in the pattern so you can fix it before cutting out your precious fabric.

(12) Happy with the toile? Then you’re away! Now, just follow the pattern instructions as given and you should be OK. If you’re worried about fit then work with a generous seam allowance, which will give you room for manoeuvre. Do lots of trying on as you go. If somehow you still end up with a disaster, don’t panic. Unpick the seams (or use a seam ripper) and adjust them. It’s unlikely you’ll have to start again.

OK, my toile’s been cut out but that’s as far as I’ve got this time, so I’ll come back with more pictures another day. Wish me luck! Those pleats are scaring me a little tbh…