Pattern Magic Challenge

Calling all adventurous, experimental and courageous sewists! Oh, and anyone fascinated by Tomoko Nakamichi’s Pattern Magic. Have any of you made stuff based on the ideas in the books? How did it go? If you haven’t, would you like to give it a try, with a bit of hand-holding in the form of a group sewing challenge?

The Inspiration

When I bought the first Pattern Magic book, I hoped that this much praised and beautifully produced tome would throw some light on the relationship between the two-dimensional pattern and the three dimensional body. To some extent, it did that, but mostly I was awestruck by image after image of possibilites in garment design.

Some achievable, as I’d like to think these lumps and bumps on a bodice might be.

A dress for Björk, perhaps? She used to be in the Sugarcubes, you know.

Then there was the outlandish. This design of the Otoshiana almost freaked me out, bringing back supressed memories of Ring, the only genuinely creepy horror film I’ve ever seen!

I can laugh about it now, but only because I showed the book to my pattern-cutting tutor and far from being frightened, she reassured me that the pit would make a handy holder for one’s lunchtime Lucozade.

Other designs, such as the elegant Bamboo Shoots bodice, made me wistful for the day when I’d be grown up enough to attempt this pattern-drafting feat.

And as I waited for that day, guess what?! Two more Pattern Magic books came out….

Now I was taunted by even more designs of blatant originality. Like the Knots.

Some with a twist on the sophisticated and classic.

Some familiar but, er, more confrontational.

And some plain bonkers, like the Stingray. What a glorious celebration of fish and hips!

The Challenge

If you too have had enough of looking at the pictures and feel ready to try out one of the ideas in the book, then I’d love you to join me. Your project can be as simple or as complex as suits you. The only requirement is that your creation is inspired by what you’ve seen in one of Tomoko Nakamichi’s books.

Maybe you have a teen with endless legs that can accommodate the Shar Pei-like folds of the Apple Peel leggings?

Or how about incorporating a detail from the books into one of your already tried’n’tested patterns. The Pocket Vanishes?

Or one of my favourites: a modern take on the leg of mutton sleeves.

You’ve got plenty of time to decide, maybe even to practice.

Here are details:

The Deadline

Email me your images by the end of Saturday 10 November GMT. Your message should include your name, a link to your blog or picture gallery, and maybe a picture of the Pattern Magic design that inspired you (and I’ll email back to confirm receipt).

If you wish, tell me:

Why you chose that particular design,

The fabric you used,

How much drafting experience you’ve had,

Any other tidbits of info you’d like to share.

The “Catwalk”

I’ll compile our creations into a review to be posted on Wednesday 14 November.

The Button

If you’d like to display the Pattern Magic Challenge button in your blog, copy the text in the box below and paste it into a text box of your widget area.

Pattern Magic Challenge


In the meantime…

Please leave a comment below if you’d like to take part so that we can keep in touch – or, if you’ve already had a go at Pattern Magic, let us know how it went. As my blog is relatively new, I’d be very grateful if you could forward the details of the challenge to Pattern Magic enthusiasts you may know, as well as pattern-drafting students and fans of clothes that get talked about. I’ve taken part in some very lively and creative group challenges this year and though I realise that a Pattern Magic challenge might be intimidating to some people, this needn’t be an overly ambitious project. Give it a go and you never know – you might just get a sensational Christmas party outfit out of it!

“No, no hoodies. Oh, I am sorry… I thought you were wearing a hoodie”.

Viva Frida

Every year, I make myself a Feelgood Dress of the Summer.  Last year, it was the Burda 7378, now being worn almost daily during this current spell of a well-deserved British Summer!  For this year, I’d long ago earmarked Burda 7493.

I liked the tabs and buttons of View A, but felt that my chosen fabric needed simplicity so I left out the pockets and the topstitching.  Though I noticed that the pattern was marked “of average difficulty”, with a 3/4 rating, I just kind of optimistically assumed that this referred to the jacket…

The Fabric

My fabric: 2 yards of a cotton poplin from Alexander Henry via Ebay.  The print is called Viva Frida and features colourful images inspired by Frida Kahlo, her art and her life in Mexico.

There are many images of flowers and plants, there’s a Diego Rivera face in a cactus, love hearts as well as slogans saying “Amor Calor Dolor Dador” (Love Warmth Pain Giving) and “nada vale mas que la risa y el desprecio” (Nothing’s worth more than laughter and contempt).

It’s the kind of fabric you go for if you’ve always wanted tattoos but were afraid to ask.  Or if you don’t mind slightly shocked strangers stopping you in the street saying “where did you get that dress…?”  I’d used the fabric once before, years ago, to make a much loved version of New Look 6459.  But washing and UV exposure had taken their toll.  Compare the old and the new:

The Pattern Review

I was surprised that B7493 hadn’t been reviewed more widely, seeing how the model  on the envelope looked so lovely and happy wearing it….  SPR  had a couple of write-ups and these gave clues as to where the problems might lie:  

1. The waist fit 

2. The neckband

To which I’d also like to add:

3. The neckband, the Sequel.


If your figure is hourglass or pear, you might need to make a muslin as this dress is better suited to the figure with less of a waist/hip differential.  I made size 12 which left almost no ease at the hips and I reduced the waist from armhole and hip by a total of 5cm.  

Beware that the bodice and skirt (and all the side panels) join together an inch above the actual waistline.

Also be aware that since the dress doesn’t get its neckband till later, it won’t stay up when you’re checking the fit.  I considered pinning it to my bra straps but at the back I couldn’t reach.  In the end, I stuck it to myself with parcel tape.  Consider having a friend around…

On the plus side, the panels in the design do seem to create in a nice, figure-hugging effect.  And if you get it perfect, the whole thing is enhanced by tab and button.


The outer part of the neckband is interfaced, the inner isn’t.  I suspect that since it curves and is on the bias at times, it stretches.  Sewing it to the interfaced piece (already attached to the dress) will require all your intermediate sewing skills to come to the fore.  No matter how much care I took, the folded edge always seemed 2cm bigger (sewing the armholes by the same method hadn’t created any problems).  Solutions: choose the lightest interfacing and apply to both neckband pieces and press, press, press: never slide your iron.  Alternatively, staystitch the inner neckband straight after cutting.

These options came too late for me.  My solution was a couple of tucks on the inside:

But what’s that on the right?

Ah, yes, another neckband issue.  Once the dress is completely finished, you put it on and get this:

A bra strap miles away from the neckband!  Only recently at Sew Ruth’s I’d read about creating a system with which to keep straps hidden.  It seemed the only solution here, bar going bra-less.  Luckily I had tiny snap fasteners and matching ribbon in my stash but the curved shape meant I had to put four of these in: two at the front and two at the back.Though the system works, you can tell that the neckband is strained somewhat. 

Worse, it means that I’m going to need a personal dresser to clip in the back straps for me…. 


Other Pattern Modifications

Side Zip – in order not to cut up my fabric too much (and risk the graphics repeating too closely), I put the zip in at the side and left out the centre back slit.  This means that to get into the dress, I have to put it on over my head (I’m studying the Houdini method for tips on how to do this easily).  It also means that the tabs have to have buttonholes so I could put them on last.


A less than professional execution of a dress that was challenging to make and might be more challenging still to wear.  But I think it looks good as a smart summer dress.  What do you think? 

Jasmine Tea

I used to really enjoy people-watching, always secretly scanning for those who are looking good and for those who have the good fortune to be good-looking.  But something changed after I discovered Colette patterns, in particular the Jasmine.  Now I only look at women, wondering: “why the hell isn’t just one of them wearing the Jasmine top?”

I’ve become the sewing equivalent of an alienated teenager looking to others’ band t-shirts in the vain, desperate hope of finding a kindred spirit…

If I didn’t know how to sew and was at that hesitant stage of wondering if it was worth giving it a try, I think this “beginner” pattern would give me the push to buy a sewing machine.  The design features tick so many of my “must-have” boxes that all RTW tops I’ve seen recently pale in comparison.

What’s to like:

1. The broad neckline.  This accentuates one of the very few of my body parts that I’ve never had an issue with: the collarbones.  Surely a totally undersung part of the body in the female?!

2. The practicality of the necklline: the perfect balance between the suggestive and the decent.  Any higher and an average-to-large-bust might look droopy.  Any lower and the top would be totally inappropriate for bending over desks.

Teachers, try it!

3. The shaping at the waist, courtesy of the bias cut.  This is great for pears or those on the short side who often find tops too boxy.

4. The sleeves: a perfect cover-up for the upper arms.  And in creating version 2, I had the option of creating contrast cuffs (for which I admittedly have a fetish).

5. The overall effect of utmost femininity.  If like me you have quite broad shoulders, then certain girlie touches such as ruffles are a no-no.  Jasmine has all the bits that make it pretty and summery, but with no extra bulk.

Fabric Used:

a) 1.7m x 140cm of Cotton Lawn with a peacock print suggestive of Liberty.  It came from Classic Textiles (44 Goldhawk Road) at £8 per metre.  I made size 4 (UK 8).

b) 1m of Tea-Dyed Lawn. I was determined to make the collar and cuffs in a contrasting fabric and spent ages looking in vain for something suitable in blue, turquoise or green.  Then I noticed that the two pale brown colours in the peacock “eyes” were similar in shade to the tea stains on my clothes….

How to tea-dye:

I suffer from a very British addiction to tea which means that running out of it is one of my greatest fears, second only to my fear of the Sun going out then everyone turning cannibal.  You might be horrified to learn that I used a total of 10 tea-bags of the most expensive, compost-degradable kind which was the only one I had in the house at the time: such was my zeal to get the project going!

For the first half metre, I used a couple of tea-bags too many which resulted in a strong nicotine-like tinge.  It would have been fine but it wasn’t perfect so I gave it a second go, submerging the lawn in a not-too-full saucepan with 4 tea bags and a handful of table salt.  After simmering for 20 minutes, I left the dye to cool before rinsing the fabric in cold water.  This produced an almost ideal result: a soft-looking texture of some uneveneness which reminds me of chamois leather people once used to buff their cars.

The hue and softness is also somewhat suggestive of Blogstalker’s fur!

If you want to give tea-dying a go but aim for an even tone, ensure that the fabric is wet before immersion and give it enough water and space to simmer in.  The material will absorb the dye more uniformly.  But for my purposes, the patchiness is ideal as it avoids the contrast collar and cuffs looking too formal.

Fitting issues

Including my top tip for making Jasmine.  If you’re too wayward to make a muslin, consider cutting the neck facing and collar after you’ve sewn and fitted the bodice.  You might have a gaping neckline to reduce and will need to adjust the facing and collar to match.

In my experience, after making the bodice, the neckline gaped considerably even though I’d made a smaller size than I  sew usually and I absolutely did staystitch all neck lines straight after cutting, in case you’re wondering, like! 🙂

So, I made the following adjustments:

1. I took off 2 cm from the bodice front by narrowing from the widest point of the bust towards the neck.

2. I took off 3 cm from the back bodice, this time narrowing from the waistline to the neck.

3. The neck still didn’t lie quite flat so I added two back darts to the back neckhole,  each above the shoulder blades.  These were 0.5cm wide and 3cm long.

4. Now the neckline looked too narrow in relation to my aforementioned broad shoulders.  So I reshaped the neckline slightly.

5.  I then had to redraw the patterns for the facing and the collar.  I traced the neckline then copied the width of the original pattern pieces.

Despite all of the above, the top was quick and simple to make.  I’d have finished it in a day if it hadn’t been for the advice to keep it hanging overnight before hemming (this is for the bias to settle).

Other changes:

6. A minor adjustment was made to the cuffs.  I sewed the shaped edge with a 1cm (3/8″ in Colette-speak) seam allowance instead of the recommended 1.5cm (5/8″).  This is why they might look slightly bigger than in all the other lovely makes.

And what would I do differently next time?

I’d possibly make the Version 2 loop 1cm shorter.

I’d originally intended to offer this pattern as a giveaway but can’t quite bear to part with it yet.  But if you’re in the Southern hemisphere and are thinking of making Jasmine for the upcoming spring and summer, check back in a couple of months and the giveaway might just be ready. 

Colette Iris

Last year when I was stupider, I commented to a friend of mine that women of our age simply shouldn’t be seen in shorts.  “Oh, they’re fine for gardening,” said I, “in the privacy of a hedgerow of leylandii.  But not out in the open, with heels and handbags and everything…

My friend pointed out that some of our friends look great in shorts, and as for those who don’t but who still enjoy wearing them, does it really matter?

The tolerance and wisdom of her remark helped sow the seeds of my conversion.

In April, Jennifer launched her Make it, Wear It 2012 Summer Holiday challenge and I jumped on board wondering if it wasn’t time to expand my repertoire of sleeveless dresses I’d been making year after year.  Colette Patterns had just released the Iris Shorts pattern to mostly positive reviews and the drawing on the pattern envelope immediately captured my imagination.  It reminded me of Diana Rigg’s sunbathing outfits in Evil Under the Sun; it evoked wooden speedboats, Art Deco beach resorts and a liberated 1920s beach glamour (a nice collection of images, old and new, can be seen here).  Immediately I imagined them in navy, with contrast piping and buttons.  I even dreamed of extending them to full-length sailor trousers, though by this point I was also dreaming of having different, longer legs!

I had a metre of linen left over from making my daughter’s Bubble Dress and encouraged by the many images on Pattern Review, I made a first attempt.  I traced size 6 of the pattern (a generous UK 10).  I couldn’t resist View 2 thereby indulging in the making of Cute Buttons.

Pattern Modifications

a) I made the line from side waist to hip a straight one (and not a curve)

b) Linen frays quite badly, and being without a serger/overlocker, I decided to french seam as much as possible.  So, with the wrong sides together, I sewed a 0.5cm seam on all vertical joins, followed by a 1cm seam with the right sides together (this is 1/4″ and 3/8″ in Colette Speak!)  The result is a very neat finish in places such as the crotch:

But when it came to the zip and the joining of the pocket pieces to the front and side front, I wasn’t able to incorporate the french seam and so the effect is a little half-baked…

One day, I will make these with a neat finish everywhere.  It just might take me a while to work out how to do it!

c) I sewed a hook and eye to the top of the closure, partly to correct the less-than- perfect match at the top of the waistband.  Doing this has the advantage of making the shorts easier to put on: they don’t slide off you as you do up the zip!

The Back View

Far as I’m concerned, finding trousers or jeans with a flattering back view is the Holy Grail and these shorts are as good as it gets.  A big thumbs up there, Colette!

Suggested improvements

If making these again, I’d taper the legs at the side and front seam to eliminate the slight leg flare (not apparent in the pattern drawing on the envelope).

The other slight reservation I have with the pattern is that the pockets are loose (and shaped like the ears of the Indian elephant!).  When putting the shorts on, I have to check that the pockets haven’t flapped to the sides.  However, this might not happen if the shorts were made of a stiffer fabric such as poplin or one of the other recommendations.

Iris Pattern Giveaway

Fancy making your own Iris shorts?  This September, I plan to hold my first giveaway so for a chance to win my almost pristine Colette Iris pattern, check back here after the summer hols!

P.S. I’m wearing shorts again!!