pattern making

The Collins Top Sew-Along : Lengthening the pattern


I have a feeling this post in the Collins Top sew-along might be of interest to quite a few of you! When I was designing the Collins Top, I really wanted a top that worked with high waisted trousers and skirts. I wear a lot of high waisted garments, and I know a lot of you do too. But if you don't, you may consider lengthening the Collins Top, to avoid flashing too much skin when you lift your arms (it's happened to all of us, right?) The pattern is drafted for height of 170cm (5'7"), with the front hem finishing close to the high hip (approximately in the position where mid-rise jeans would sit) - the back hem is lower (due to the hi-low hem design).

Lengthening a pattern is a really simple adjustment to make, but due to the panel lines of the Collins Top, it does make the process slightly (just slightly, I promise!) trickier.

There are times when you can just add some length to the hem of a pattern (when the side seams of a garment are quite straight, for example, a pencil skirt), but in the case of the Collins Top (and other patterns like it), you will be wanting to add the length to the inside of the pattern piece, so that you can keep the shape intact. If you were to just add length to the hem of this pattern, you would end up with quite a lot of volume in the hem, which is probably not ideal in a pattern that is already a trapezium shape. Due to the shape of the panels, I understand that this can seem a little daunting. But I promise, it really isn't!

Getting started

We'll start by making the adjustment to the front panels and then once that's done we'll move onto the back. To start, take the CENTRE FRONT PANEL piece and the SIDE FRONT PANEL piece. You can use the actual pattern pieces, or trace a copy if you would prefer to keep the original pieces intact.

Lengthen the pattern piece

You will notice that there is a 'Lengthen and shorten' line on each pattern piece. Take the pieces you are adding length to and cut through each of these lines - separating each piece into two. 

Take a blank piece of pattern paper (the amount you need will depend on how much length you are adding to your pattern) and mark a grainline on the left-hand side of the paper.

Now mark two horizontal lines, close to the bottom of the paper. You need to space the lines apart by the length you would like to add to the pattern. For example, if you would like to add 10cm (4in) to the pattern, space the lines 10cm (4in) apart, making sure they are parallel to each other, and perpendicular to the grainline.

Now, starting with the CENTRE FRONT PANEL pieces, line up the bottom section of the piece with the lower line, and the top section of the pattern with the upper line. Make sure the grainline (in this case the centre front) lines up with the grainline you marked on the pattern paper. Tape or glue pieces in place. 

Re-draw the seams

We now need to re-draw the panel lines to fill the gap that was created by adding length to the pattern. To do this, take a ruler and draw a straight line from the stitch line (marked by a grey line on each pattern piece) at the top of the pattern piece, to the stitch line at the hem. 

Do the same thing for the cutting line (draw a straight line from the top of the cutting line at the top of the pattern to the cutting line at the hem).

You will notice that with your new seam, the notches have become slightly displaced. Extend the original notches until they meet the new seam line. 

At this point you can either cut off the excess paper on the pattern piece, or trace the new lines to create a completely new pattern piece. 

Repeat for side panel

Repeat the process for the side panel. In this case, you will need to draw the grainline in the centre of the pattern paper. Make sure you add the same length to each piece. For example, if you added 10cm (4in) to the CENTRE FRONT PANEL, you will need to add 10cm (4in) to the SIDE PANEL. 

Re-draw the panels in the same way you did on the front piece. 

Move the notches so they are in line with the new seam lines. Cut out the piece or trace onto a separate piece of pattern paper. 

Check pattern pieces

Before going any further, check that the pattern pieces fit together properly and that the notches line up correctly. To do this, place one piece on top of the other, aligning the stitch lines as if you were sewing the pieces together (you will need to flip the SIDE FRONT PANEL so that it's right side down).

For more detail about how to go about checking that your patterns fit together nicely, you can check out this tutorial

Add length to the back panels


To add length to the back pieces, you will first need to tape the LOWER CENTRE BACK PANEL to the UPPER CENTRE BACK PANEL. This way you can make the adjustment and then re-cut the LOWER CENTRE BACK PANEL piece, so that everything remains in proportion (you don't want to add all the length to the UPPER CENTRE BACK PANEL as it would really change the design of the top). To do this, align the stitch lines of each piece, one on top of the other, and tape place.


Cut through the 'Lengthen / Shorten lines' on each piece, in the same way you did for the front pieces. Add length to each piece (the same amount you added to the front) and then re-draw each seam line. 

Re-draft back panel pieces

Measure the stitch line on the panel line. On the original pattern (before the adjustment), the panel line cuts the seam about three-fifths down the seam line, which means we need to find three-fifths of this new panel line. To do this, measure the line and then multiply it by 0.6 (three-fifths as a decimal). 

Measuring down from the top of the panel seam, mark a point three-fifths down from the top (the measurment you found in the prvious step).


Mark a horizontal line (perpendicular to the centre back) through the point marked in the previous step. 

This will be your new panel line. 

Before splitting the piece into two separate pieces, mark a double notch on the seam line. This means that when you separate them, you will have a marking for how they go back together. 

Cut through the new seam line - separating the pattern back into two pieces. 

Add seam allowance

Add 1.5cm (5/8in) seam allowance to each side of the cut line - moving the notches to meet the edge of the pattern. For more detail on adding seam allowance to a pattern, check out this tutorial.

You will notice that on the LOWER CENTRE BACK PANEL piece, the seam allowance doesn't follow the same angle as the panel line. This is so that when this seam is stitched and the seam pressed down towards the lower panel, the seam allowance will sit flush with the seam and not stick out. For more notes on this and a detailed explanation of how to use this technique yourself, you can take a look at this tutorial

Check back pattern pieces

Again, you will be wanting to check that the pieces fit nicely together and that the notches are in the right place. You may have realised that the middle notch on the SIDE BACK PANEL will no longer be in the correct position as we have added length to the LOWER BACK PANEL piece. 

A : Place the SIDE PANEL on to the BACK PANELS, lining up the stitch lines, one on top of the other. First, check that they are the same length. If they are not, have a look at this tutorial on checking and truing sewing patterns, for how to adjust the seam. 

B : Check that the notches are in line (and if they are not, move one set of notches so they are in the same position). Mark a new notch at the point where the horizontal seam in the back panels meets the BACK SIDE PANEL.

And the last thing you will want to do, is also check that the front and back side panels match correctly (do this in the same way you checked the pattern pieces above).

Lengthening the sleeves


If you would like to add length to the sleeves of the Collins Top, you can do it in exactly the same way as we did for the body pieces. Here you can see an example of this. 

I hope this helps and you are feeling less daunted about adding length to the Collins Top!

See all the posts in the Collins Top Sew-along.

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The Collins Top Sew-along : Full bust adjustment (FBA for a dartless bodice)


Welcome to the first tutorial in the Collins Top Sew-along! In today's post, we're talking Full Bust Adjustments (FBA), which is one of the most frequently used adjustments. A few of you have already contacted me about how to do a FBA on the Collins Top, so I know this tutorial will be helpful to a lot of you!

During the Acton Sew-along I showed you how to do a FBA on a princess seam, but for the Collins Top you'll need a slightly different technique as it doesn't have a princess seam (or a dart).

You will be able to use this tutorial on any pattern that has a flat front (doesn't have a princess seam or dart).

We'll be making the FBA by adding a dart to the CENTRE FRONT PANEL only. We will do this by adding a dart to the front (with the side panel and centre front panel as a whole piece) and then removing it from the side panel - leaving you with just a small dart in the centre front panel. If you like, you can then close out the dart altogether and redistribute the fullness to the hem. You can find out how to do that by looking at the next post in the Collins Top sew-along


Most indie pattern companies (including In the Folds) draft for a B cup bust. There are of course exceptions to this rule (such as Cashmerette and Colette Patterns), so make sure you check on your pattern before assuming the bust cup size.

In terms of the Collins Top, it is a loose style which means it is a little more forgiving than more fitted patterns (such as the Acton, for example) so in some cases you can probably get away with not making a bust adjustment. For example, if your bust is smaller than a B cup, it is unlikely you need to bother doing a Small Bust Adjustment. I have an A cup bust, but have not made adjustments to any of my Collins tops. Also if your bust is just slightly bigger than a B cup, it is also likely you will be okay without the adjustment. By checking the finished measurmentes, you will see that there is a lot of ease in this pattern. 

Check the finished garment measurements and go from there. 


Your cup size in sewing patterns may not always correspond to the bra size you wear. To be safe, check your measurements before deciding if you need to make any adjustments to the pattern. 


To do this, measure your high bust measurement (the area above your breasts, under your arms) as well as your full bust  (the fullest part of your chest) and then take note of each measurement, as well as the difference.

If the difference is 2.5cm (1") your bust is an A cup, 5cm (2") it's a B cup, 7.5cm (3") is a C cup and so on. 


Now, go back to your high bust measurement and add 5cm (2"). This is what your bust measurement would be if you were a B cup and therefore the size you should be choosing from the pattern.

For example, let's say your upper bust measures 81cm (32"). Add 5cm (2") to this measurement to find out what size your bust measurement falls into on the In the Folds sizing chart (and what size you would be if you had B cup breasts). 81cm + 5cm = 86cm which corresponds to a size C. Your actual bust measurement is 89cm  though - 3cm (1") larger than the cup size of the pattern. This means you need to do a FBA and add this 3cm (1") to your pattern. 

As the bodice is cut on the fold, you need to take the measurement you will be adding and divide it by two. For example, this 3cm (just over 1") mentioned in the example, will be split between either side of the front bodice - 1.5cm (1/2") on each side. 



Step 1:

Take the two pieces that make the front of the Collins Top - the CENTRE FRONT PANEL and the SIDE FRONT PANEL. The first step will be to turn these pieces into one pattern piece (removing the panel line) as this will make the adjustment much easier to manage. At the end, we'll put the panel line back in place, so there won't be any change to the design of the top (except for the addition of the dart - which can be removed later on, if you prefer). 



Step 2:

Take the SIDE FRONT PANEL piece and place it on top of the CENTRE FRONT PANEL, lining up the stitch lines (the grey line on the pattern), as if the pieces have been sewn together. If you are struggling to see the lines, it can help to put the pieces up to a window and see through the paper that way (or a lightbox, if you have one). Once the pieces are correctly lined up, use masking tape (or similar) to hold the pieces in place. 


Step 2:

Take a piece of pattern paper and trace the piece - being sure to include all pattern markings (in this case: the grainline and notches). Also trace the panel line.

Make sure you trace both the cutting line and the stitching line - this is really important. In the Folds patterns include the stitching line on each pattern piece so that it is easier for you to make alterations to your pattern. I know we would all love to be able to cut a pattern in a straight size and for it to fit perfectly, but unfortunately that's not the way it is (I even have to make adjustments to In the Folds patterns so they fit my figure properly), so having the stitch lines can help you make adjustments more quickly and easily. When making pattern alterations, I normally suggest removing the seam allowance, but because the stitch line is marked on the pattern, you can leave it on. 



Step 3:

The next step is to mark your apex point on the pattern. Your apex point is the peak of the fullest part of your breast... which basically means your nipple! This point varies from person to person, so you can work it out by holding the pattern piece up to your body and working it out, or by referring to a toile (if you have toiled your Collins Top before working on any adjustments). 



Step 5:

Take a ruler and draw a line from where the panel line intersects the armhole to your apex point. You can label this line as line 1. 


Step 6:

Now draw a line from the apex point straight down to the hemline - parallel to the centre front. This is line 2. 


Step 7:

Draw a line from the apex point to the side seam. You'll want it to meet the side seam about 5cm (2in) down from the armhole. I chose to rule the line to the first notch on the side seam. This is line 3.


Step 8:

Draw the last guideline (4) perpendicular to line 2 about 12cm (3in) up from the hemline.



Step 9:

Now it's time to start making that adjustment!

A: From the hem of the top, cut up line 2, towards the apex point. From the apex point turn and continue cutting, this time along line 1. Stop when you are about 1-2mm away from the armhole line (stitch line).

B: Cut in towards the armhole stitch line from the seam allowance, stopping about 1-2mm from where you stopped cutting in step A - creating a small "hinge."


Step 10:

Cut along line 3 from the side seam towards the apex point. Stop 1-2mm from the apex point, again creating a small "hinge."

Add width to the pattern


Step 11:

Take a piece of pattern paper (about the size of your front piece) and draw a vertical line in roughly the centre of the paper.

By this stage you should know how much width you need to add to the bust. Take this measurement and divide it by two (you will add half the extra width to either side of the front piece, so in total it equals the whole amount you need). Draw a second line - parallel to the first - this distance away from the first line. For example, if you need to add a total of 5cm (2in) to the bust, you will be drawing the line 2.5cm (1in) away from the first. 


Step 12:

Carefully place your pattern piece on top of the paper underneath.

Now that you have cut through the lines, you will be able to manoeuvre the pieces so that you can the extra width you need to add around the bust. Carefully place the pattern onto the guidelines you drew in the previous step. Line up the the left-hand side of your pattern with the first line (line on left side), and carefully tape in place. Only tape above line 4, as in a moment we will be cutting along that line.

Now, carefully spread open the cut (line 2), spreading the side of your bodice until the apex point intersects with the second line (right hand side). As you do this, you will see a dart open up at the side seam (line 3). 

Add length to the pattern


Step 13:

Cut along line 4, detaching that piece of the pattern. Move this section down until it is in line with the rest of the pattern (horizontally). Tape or glue in place. You can see that this adjustment has not only added width to the pattern, but length as well. When making a full bust adjustment you need to add extra length so that there is enough fabric to comfortably go over the breasts, without making the garment too short. 

Create a dart


Step 14:

You will see that through making the adjustment, you have made a dart at the side seam. Draw in two dart arms, one from each side of the opening on the side seam to the apex point.


Step 15:

We will call the dart arms the 'upper dart arm' and the 'lower dart arm.'

Re-draw Panel line


Step 16:

The next thing we need to do is work out what this adjustment has done to the panel line and if any adjustment to the line needs to be made. To do this, we will need to fold out the dart as if it has been sewn. To do this, fold along the lower dart arm.

You will notice this tutorial has shifted from illustrations to photographs. Unfortunately my illustration skills leave me hanging a bit when it comes to illustrating three dimensional techniques, so I thought the clearest way to illustrate this technique would be through photographs. I used a print out of one of the illustrations to keep things consistent, and hopefully not confuse you too much!


Step 17:

Take your working piece to a corner of your table. By using a corner, you will be able to fold out your dart as if the piece has been sewn. Align the apex point (the dart point) with the corner of the table, and move the folded line (lower dart arm) towards the upper dart arm. 


Step 18:

When the lower dart arm is in line with the upper dart arm, finger press (making sure the dart is sitting flat) and then tape or pin in place. 


Step 19:

You will notice that the panel line is no longer a continuous line, and it is also no longer straight. 


Step 20:

To rectify this, take a ruler and draw a straight line from the top of the panel line (the point that intersects the armhole) to the bottom of the panel line (where the line intersects the hem). This can be a little awkward to do, having the pattern still on the corner of the table, so just be careful and take your time to get it right.

Before removing the pin, take a tracing wheel and run it over the line at the point where the dart is folded (this will transfer the date shaping to the bulk of the dart). If you don't have a tracing wheel, simply take a pin and make pin points every 2-3mm along the panel line over the folded dart. 


Step 21:

Unfold the dart.

You will now have the correct dart shaping marked on your piece (so that when your dart is folded and then sewn, the dart will sit flush with the panel line).


Step 22:

Take a ruler and join the dots to finalise the dart shaping.

For more detail on the process, check out this tutorial on How to Add Dart Shaping

Finalise the centre front panel piece


Step 23:

Take a spare piece of pattern paper and trace off the centre front panel, being sure to trace the new panel line and not the original line.


Step 24:

Now, mark the dart. You will want to make the point of the dart about 1.5cm (5/8in) from the apex point (inside the dart), to avoid the dart point sitting right on top of your nipple (not a great look).  

Add seam allowance


Step 25:

Add seam allowance by tracing the original seam allowance on the neckline, armhole and hem and then adding 1.2cm (1/2in) to the panel line.

For further explanation about adding seam allowance to a pattern, check out this tutorial

Mark notches


Step 26:

Mark in your notches by tracing the original notches and then adding one at either dart arm. Add another notch on the panel line (this will act as a balance point for when you are joining the FRONT SIDE PANEL). You can place it wherever you like as we will mark it on the FRONT SIDE PANEL piece a little later in the tutorial. 

You will also need to mark the dart point. I like to mark dart point 1.5cm (5/8in) inside the dart so that when I am sewing it, I sew 1.5cm (5/8in) beyond the marking and the marking gets hidden inside the dart. 


Step 27:

Finalise the pattern piece by adding cutting instructions, marking the grainline and the centre front. You can then cut out your pattern piece, ready for fabric cutting!

For more information on adding pattern markings, take a look at this tutorial, which covers all you need to know about notches, grainlines and cutting instructions.  

Finalise the SIDE FRONT panel


Step 28:

Move back to your working piece.

Cut along the panel line (being sure it's the new panel line and not the original panel line) - separating the piece into two, so that we can focus on the SIDE FRONT PANEL.


Step 29:

Cut along the dart arms that intersect the FRONT SIDE PANEL (we will be removing the dart from the FRONT SIDE PANEL, as we only need the dart in CENTRE FRONT PANEL) to create two separate pieces. 


Step 30:

Tape the two pieces together by lining up the cut edges. You have now closed out the section of the dart that was on this panel. 

Create a new pattern piece


Step 31:

Take a piece of pattern paper and trace the new pattern piece. Your side seam is likely to be a little disjointed since making the adjustment (like mine is in the example). Re-draw the seam by drawing a straight line from the top to the bottom of the seam - on the stitch line. This is called "truing" a pattern.

Add seam allowance


Step 32:

Add seam allowance in the same way that you did on the front panel. The side seam has 1.5cm (5/8in) seam allowance and the panel line has 1.2cm (1/2in).


Step 33:

Transfer the grainline and add cutting instructions.

You will notice that we have lost almost all the notches in the process of making the adjustment. I'll show you how to get those back now. 

Marking notches


Step 34:

Place the SIDE FRONT PANEL on top of the CENTRE FRONT PANEL, lining up the stitch line - as if the two pieces were being sewn (this is when transparent pattern paper is really helpful). The CENTRE FRONT PANEL will be right side up and the SIDE FRONT PANEL will be right side down. 


Step 35:

Transfer the notches from the CENTRE FRONT PANEL onto the SIDE FRONT PANEL. Only transfer the notch from the lower dart arm, not the upper dart arm (as when the dart is sewn, the dart will be what lines up with the notch on the SIDE FRONT PANEL).

True the seam allowance


Step 36:

While you have the pattern there, true the seam allowance at the hem (so that when the seam is pressed it will sit flush with the hem).

For more detail on why we do this and how to do it, check out this tutorial on truing patterns


Step 37:

Now we can true the top of the seam allowance by aligning the top of the panel seam (above the top notch) with the CENTRE FRONT PANEL. You will notice that the rest of the seam no longer matches up. This is because of the dart. When the dart is sewn, the angle of the seam will change and match perfectly with the SIDE FRONT PANEL.


Step 38:

True the seam allowance in the same way that you did for the other end of the seam. 

Add notches to the side seam


Step 39:

Now it's time to add notches to the side seam. Take the SIDE BACK PANEL so that we can transfer the notches from this piece onto the SIDE FRONT PANEL (as these pieces will be sewn together and therefore need to match). 


Step 40:

Again, line up the stitching lines, as if you were sewing the pieces together. Transfer the notches from the SIDE BACK PANEL to the SIDE FRONT PANEL. 

Please note : If there is a discrepancy between the lengths of the side seams (which there could be due to the alteration we made to the SIDE FRONT PANEL), use this tutorial to true the seams so that they are the same length. 


And there you have it, the finished SIDE FRONT PANEL!

Now you can go ahead and make your Collins Top! The process will be the same as the instructions that come with the pattern, except you will need to start by sewing your darts in the CENTRE FRONT PANEL. 

I know that turned out to be a very long tutorial. What did you think? Easy process?

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Pattern hack : Add sleeves to the peplum top (or any other sleeveless top pattern)

You may have seen (or even already made) the Peplum Top that I released a couple of months ago in collaboration with Peppermint Magazine.

When it was first released, a number of people asked whether sleeves could be added, and I thought it would be a great tutorial to do, as I'm sure for a lot of you there are sleeveless patterns you would love to add sleeves to. This tutorial will walk you through adding sleeves to this particular pattern, but could be used for almost  any sleeveless pattern.

Why can't you just add a sleeve to a sleeveless pattern?

It's not a difficult process, but unfortunately it's not as simple as just adding a sleeve to the sleeveless top and hoping for the best. Above I've drawn two very basic tops - one with sleeves and one without. You can see that the armhole on each pattern is not the same. 

When you place one pattern on top of the other, you can clearly see this difference (which is highlighted in red on the illustration on the right). If you were to put a sleeve on the sleeveless top, without making any changes to the armhole, the sleeve would have to reach across the difference (the red area), which would leave you with an awkward looking garment and an ill-fitting sleeve. 

To rectify this, you will first need to change the armhole on your front and back pattern pieces, and then you will be able to fit the sleeve.

For this tutorial you will need a sleeveless top pattern as well as another top (or dress) pattern that has sleeves that you like the fit / style of. 

Trace a copy of the pattern

Trace a copy of your sleeveless top pattern without seam allowance (it is much easier to make alterations to a pattern without seam allowance). Mark any design features and notches.

The Peplum Top pattern has a seperate shoulder panel. To make this alteration easier, you will need to reattach the shoulder panel to the front and back pieces (I will show you how to get it back later on in the tutorial). To do this, draw a line (or fold a line) through the middle of the shoulder piece and cut the piece in half. Label each piece so you don't get them mixed up - as they are very similar in shape. 

Attach the shoulder panel pieces to the front and back of the top, so that you have to complete pieces - the front and the back. 

Take the front and back pieces from your other pattern (the one with sleeves) and place on top of the sleeveless pattern pieces, lining up the centre front / centre back, shoulder seams and side seams (as close as you can). This is when transparent paper helps!

Use weights to hold pieces in place.

Trace the pattern

With a fresh piece of pattern paper, trace the lines from each pattern piece needed for the new pattern. Begin by marking the centre front and centre back - taking the lines from the original (sleeveless top) pattern.

Next, trace the front and back neckline - using the lines from the original pattern. 

Re-draw the shoulder seam - starting at the neckline end of the seam on the original pattern (sleeveless top) and joining with the end of the shoulder seam from the second pattern (top with sleeves). This will ensure that the neckline binding still fits the neck of the top, whilst the sleeve will fit in the armhole. 

Trace the armhole curve from the pattern with sleeves - being sure to also transfer the sleeve notches. 

Transfer the side seam - starting at the new armhole and joining to the side seam of the sleeveless pattern at the hemline. Trace the original hemline. 

Before removing the pattern, transfer the shoulder panel lines onto the new pattern. 

You now have the pattern with armholes ready for sleeves!

Re-create the shoulder panels

You will need to re-cut the panel lines to re-create the shoulder panel pieces. Before cutting through the lines, add notches to the panel lines on both the front and back (you can transfer notches from the original pattern if you like).

Seperate the shoulder panels from the main front and back pieces. 

Re-attach the front and back shoulder panel pieces at the centre line, before tracing a new copy of the piece onto a seperate piece of pattern paper. Use a smooth curve down either side to remove any sharp points.

Complete the pattern by adding seam allowance to each piece. You will be able to use the original pattern to transfer the seam allowance to the hem, side seams and neckline. You will need to add seam allowance on your own to the armhole, shoulder panel and sleeve - this tutorial will help with that!

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A round-up of the most popular posts from the past 12 months

As this week is a time to celebrate the first birthday of In the Folds, I am also seeing it as a good time to reflect on all that I have done this year. It's been a very busy year, with a range of different projects and collaborations and a fair number of blog posts. I dived into my blog analytics today so that I could share the 10 most popular posts of this last year. 

I'd love to know what you would like to see on this blog in the next 12 months! Let me know in the comments or send me an email!

Notes on adding seam allowance

One of the first tutorials I created for this site was about how to add seam allowance to a pattern. If you are going to draft your own patterns, this is really something you are going to need to know how to do (and it's also a greta place to start if you want to learn some basic pattern making principles). In today's tutorial, I'd like to expand on the basics a little. I'd suggest checking out the previous tutorial first if you are unsure how to add seam allowance, and then come back to this tutorial. 

I did work experience with a local fashion designer while I was at university. One day a week I would go to her studio and help out with whatever tasks she needed help with. I learned a lot about things like how to cut fabric, how to trace patterns etc. (which have all really come in handy), but I'd say the best lesson I learned was about marking seam allowances. I remember being asked to add seam allowance to a particularly strange shaped pattern and realising I didn't know what to do when the pattern came to a point at one side. The designer I was working for told me to think about how the piece needs to sit once the seam is sewn and pressed and that should help me work it out. This now seems very obvious, but at the time it was a real 'wow' moment. From that moment on I never struggled, and it is a way of doing seam allowances that I have brought into my patterns. Over time, I have learned this is not always the way it is done and users of my pattern always get really excited about it and see it as a nice little detail in the process, that helps you achieve a really beautiful and professional finish in your hand-made wares. So I thought I'd share it with you today!

An example

Here is an example of what I am talking about from the Rushcutter sewing pattern (as the old saying goes, a picture really is worth a thousand words). This is the pattern piece for the raglan sleeve, and you will notice that at the seam where the sleeve joins to the centre front panel the seam allowance comes to a strange looking point. 

The reason for this is that, after this seam is stitched and then pressed open, with the seam allowance cut like this, it will be able to sit flush with the edge of the sleeve. This will help you get a lovely clean finish when you attach the sleeve to the armhole of the dress. 

How to do it

Take the pattern you are adding seam allowance to. For the sake of the example, I have just used the front pattern piece from a sleeveless top pattern. (which I showed you how to make last week).

Start by adding seam allowance to the straight seams. I'd suggest between 1.2cm (1/2in) and 1.5cm (5/8in).

Add seam allowance to the curves. Curved seams require a slightly smaller than standard seam allowance (as this helps when you are sewing them) so I'd suggest 6mm - 1cm (1/8in - 3/8in). If you're not sure how to add seam allowance to curves, there is information about it in my previous tutorial on adding seam allowances


What I didn't go into in the last tutorial was what to do at intersection points. It's not a problem if your pattern piece is made up of straight seams on all sides, but if, like in the example, your pattern has a mixture of straight and curved seams, you will have to add one extra step to the process.

Focus on one particular area to start. I will start with the shoulder seam. Fold along the shoulder line. This is the original shoulder line, not the seam allowance line. By folding along the shoulder line you are able to see what will happen when the seam is stitched and pressed open (which is normally the case with shoulder seams).

Take a tracing wheel (or awl) and trace over the lines that indicate the seam allowance on either side of the shoulder seam (the armhole and the neckline) for approximately 2-3cm (1in).

Unfold the pattern and you will see that you have transferred the shaping to the shoulder seam. 

Use a ruler and pencil to join the dots created by the tracing wheel. 

You will see that when you fold back the seam allowance on the shoulder seam, it now sits flush with the armhole and neckline.

Next, we'll move onto the side seam.

Again, fold along the stitch line. 

Use a tracing wheel to trace along the armhole and hem line (the seam allowance line, not the stitch line) for approximately 2-3cm (1in). 

Unfold to see the lines that have been transferred to the side seam and mark with a ruler and pencil.

Repeat process form all pattern pieces, and that's it, you're done! 

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How to : Draft a simple summer top

Summer is here for all of you lucky people in the northern hemisphere, and I thought it would be a great time to show you how to draft a quick and easy sleeveless summer top! You may wonder what I'm thinking, as most of you know I am based in Sydney, where it is currently quite chilly (well at least as chilly as it gets here), but I really wanted to start showing you how to turn your bodice block into a functional garment (as who really wants to wear a bodice block?) and I haven't shown you how to draft a sleeve yet, so sleeveless top it is!

This is a really simple tutorial and a great place to start if you are trying your hand at pattern drafting.

Where to start


Trace a copy of your front and back bodice blocks without seam allowance. Be sure to also mark both darts on each piece.

Relocate shoulder darts to the waist

Relocate the shoulder darts on the front and back bodices to the waist, using this method or this method

You won't actually be needing the darts in the waist, so you can redraw the hem with a smooth curve, removing the darts altogether. 

Trace the pattern

Trace the pattern pieces onto a separate piece of pattern paper, leaving enough space in between the pieces for alterations. 


It is likely that you will want to lower the armhole of your top for a more comfortable fit. The bodice block is designed to sit right under your arms, and I'd say for a summer top you will want a bit more breathing room. 

Decide how much you would like to lower the armhole by. Mark this distance on the side seam, measuring down from the armhole. Mark this point on both front and back patterns (this is your new underarm point). This is when it's great to have a toile (muslin) to refer to, so you can see exactly how low you want your armhole to be.

It is a good idea to reduce the length of the shoulder seam too. As it stands, it is a decent sized shoulder seam and for a summer top it is likely that you will want something a little slimmer. Remove some of the length from each side (the end close to the armhole and the end close to the neckline) to keep it balanced.

Work out how much you would like to remove from the shoulder and mark this distance on the shoulder seam, measuring in from the armhole. 

Create the new armholes by joining the points marked on the side seam and shoulder seam with a smooth curve. 

Cut along the new armhole line to remove excess from both front and back armholes (or trace off separate to create a new pattern).


For the same reason I suggested lowering the armholes, I suggest also lowering the neckline. Use the same method used for the armholes. On the front shoulder seam, measure in from the neckline and mark the point where you want your new neckline to be. Mark the same distance on the back pattern piece. Also work out how much you would like to lower the neckline by and mark this point on the centre front and centre back. This doesn't need to be the same distance - you may want a low front (or even a low back).

Re-draw the front and back necklines by joining the points marked on the shoulder line and centre front/back with a smooth curve.

Cut along the new necklines to remove the excess from both front and back pattern pieces (or trace off separate pattern, with lower armhole).

Lengthen the pattern

At this stage, the pattern is still only waist length. If you'd like a cropped tank then you're done, but if you'd prefer some extra length then keep working your way through the tutorial.

The best way to lengthen a pattern is normally to slash the pattern horizontally and then add length through the middle of the pattern, so that the hemline stays intact and the silhouette of the garment doesn't change too drastically. In this case though, I'd suggest just adding length to the bottom of the pattern, as it is likely that you will need a bit of extra width around the hips. 


Work out how much you would like to add to the pattern, and extend the centre front, centre back and both side seams by this length. 

Join the lines with smooth curves to create the new front and back hemlines.

Remember to meet each side with right angles so that you get smooth lines when you sew the pattern together. For more on this, check out this tutorial on checking patterns

To complete the pattern, add seam allowance and pattern markings and you're done! 

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How to : Move a dart (using the 'Pivot' technique)


Last week I showed you how to relocate a dart using the 'Cut and Spread Technique.' As the title suggests, this technique involves cutting your pattern piece to move the dart (and can also be used to add fullness to a pattern).

If you would prefer not to cut into your pattern (because it is a master copy, or you want to just experiment before finalising anything) it is a good idea to use the 'pivot' technique to move a dart. The outcome is exactly the same, it's just a different way of achieving it. I use both techniques in practice and it totally depends on what I am doing as to which one I choose to use. 


To perform this techniques you will need your original pattern (the basic bodice, for example), a seperate piece of pattern paper, a stiletto (also known as an awl) and a pencil.

Choose the new dart position


Have a think about where you would like to move your dart/s to. In the image above you can see some suggestions about where you could move the darts to on the front basic bodice. 

For the point of the exercise I have chosen to move the shoulder dart to the armhole but you can use this process to move either dart anywhere. 

Mark the new dart position


1. Draw a line where you would like your new dart to be placed. The dart point will need to be at the same point as the original dart.

2. Place the pattern onto a piece of pattern paper and hold in place with a pattern weight. Focus on the dart you are moving (which in this case is the shoulder dart) and the dart arm closest to the centre front - this is the point where you will start tracing around the pattern. I have labeled the dart arms 'Dart Arm #1' and 'Dart Arm #2' to help with the explanation. 

Trace the original pattern


3. Start tracing around the pattern piece from 'Dart Arm # 2' - going down the neckline, centre front, along the waistline, up the side seam and then around the armhole until you reach the new dart location. Stop tracing here. 

As the waist dart is staying where it is, remember to mark the dart point and notches so that when you remove the pattern you are tracing, you can redraw the waist dart in its original position.

4. Now it is time to pivot the pattern to remove the shoulder dart and create a dart at the armhole. Take your stiletto (or a pin or sharp pencil if you don't have one) and insert the point into the point of the shoulder dart. Remember this is not the drill hole (as the drill hole is marked 1-1.5cm from the dart point), but the point itself. In the next step you will be closing out the shoulder dart by rotating 'Dart Arm #1' towards 'Dart Arm #2.' 

Pivot the pattern


5. Remove the weight from the pattern. With the point of the stiletto securely in the drill hole, rotate (or pivot) the pattern so that 'Dart Arm #1' now lines up with the point where you started tracing the pattern in Step 3 (where 'Dart Arm #2' was originally), being careful to hold the piece of pattern paper that you are tracing onto securely in place. 

6. Place the weight back on the pattern and trace the remainder of the pattern, starting at the point where your new dart is marked and continuing to 'Dart Arm #1.'

Complete your new dart


7. Remove the pattern piece you were tracing and re-draw the waist dart (or any design features that you have transferred from the original pattern).

8. Complete the new dart by joining the opening in the armhole to the dart point with a straight line. 

Add markings + cutting instructions


9. Complete the pattern by adding shaping to the new dart, adding pattern markings (in this case notches and the grainline) and cutting instructions as well as seam allowance.

And that's it. Now you have two techniques for moving darts in your repertoire!

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Checking patterns : Curved seams


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 -

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).


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


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


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.


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.


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. 


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


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. 


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


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). 



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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Throwback Thursday: Adding volume to a pattern


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. 


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


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.


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.


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 


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


8. Redraw the waistline with a smooth curve.

9. Redraw the hemline with a smooth curve.


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


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:


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


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


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


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. 


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.


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.


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


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


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


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


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!


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


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


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


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. 


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.


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


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.


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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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.


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?


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.


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.


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. 


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


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).


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).


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.


Continue pivoting until you have gone around the whole curve.


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.


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.


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


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. 


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


Join the points to create the hemline. 


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


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!


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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How to grade between sizes


For many women, your measurements will range across several sizes, and you will need to grade between sizes after you print your pattern. The Rushcutter pattern has a lot of ease in it, and I have said already that you should really check the finished measurements before deciding you need to grade up a size at the waist or hip. But, this technique is one you can use on all nested patterns, to grade between sizes, and after saying all this, you may still feel you would like to grade between sizes for your Rushcutter!

In yesterday's post in the Rushcutter Sew-along, I showed you how to use layers to print only the size (or sizes) you need.

How to grade between sizes in a nested pattern

When your pattern is printed and assembled, take a contrast coloured pen or pencil and a ruler.


With your ruler, draw a diagonal line from one size line to the next. As you can see in my example, I have gone up from a size A at the bust, up to a size C at the hip.


If you are a size A at the bust, and then a C at the waist, you will need a sharper diagonal line.


If you do make this adjustment to your pattern, be sure to change all relevant pattern pieces, so that the pieces still fit together. 

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A tutorial: How to add dart shaping


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.


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?


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.


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).


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.


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.


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?


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.


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).


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Mark the hip line


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


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


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.


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


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.


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. 


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


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.



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


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



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.


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.


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.


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


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).


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.


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


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

Finishing up


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). 


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. 


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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