Bamboo Shoot Tote

For the Pattern Magic Challenge, I’d like to make a garment featuring the Bamboo Shoot Bodice and being slightly overwhelmed by the task, I thought I’d get to grips with the design by trying it out in its simplest form: 2D.  Putting it on one side of this tea-dyed calico tote bag enabled me to make those folds and to see what happens behind the scenes (i.e on the wrong side) without the added complication of darts getting in the way.

Of all the Pattern Magic designs, the Bamboo Shoot seems to be one that’s both eye-catching and universally appealing.  It’s also simple, or simpler than it looks.  If you’re thinking of giving it a go, do!  Just be prepared to first try it out on paper, lots of it.

Drafting the 2D Bamboo Shoot Pattern

I’ve prepared this tutorial not as a definitive guide but as demonstration of what I did, should you need a bit more than the instructions in the Pattern Magic book.


Step 1 

Cut out a piece of paper the same size as the area in which you want the design to appear.  Make a note of the measurements (you’ll refer to them in Step 4).  Draw the bamboo lines, extending them to the ends of the paper (if you were working on a bodice, you’d only go as far as the bust point as the book specifies).

A note on the positioning of the lines:

The lines should intersect at 45°.  I’ve made my parallel lines 5cm apart.  If I were designing a bodice for a size 12 frame, I’d space them closer together at 4cm.  On a petite or larger frame, 3.5cm and 4.5cm might be more in proportion.

Step 2

Cut along the lines, almost all the way to the ends of the paper.  Place on a larger sheet and spread, leaving gaps of equal width (mine are 2cm).  Pin to the target paper.

Step 3

Trace around the top layer.  I’ve used a highlighter, half on, half off.

Step 4

This is where it gets interesting… and kind of fun.  Unpin the original piece.  Start folding, making long straight folds along the lines, working top right to left then down.  

This becomes similar to the process of french-plaiting hair, where you have more material to deal with the further you go down.  When the area gets too crowded, unfold and cut the paper on the fold lines.  I’ve coloured the fold lines orange to help me see where I’m going.    

Towards the bottom, the area between the fold lines can be cut away.  Refold the paper, using pins to keep the sections in place.  The wrong side will eventually look almost as neat as the right side.   

Measure the area: it should be the same size as the original piece, before you began cutting it. 

Unpin and your pattern is revealed! 

When I added this pattern to the tote, I started off with a copy of the bag pattern: 

I drew the Bamboo Shoot lines as in the process above, extending them right up to the seam allowances (if it’s easier, you can cut off the seam allowances then add them back on in the final stage).  Here’s what the pattern looked like with the middle cut out (Blogstalker enjoying himself in the role of pattern weight….)

Sewing the Bamboo Shoot

One advantage the paper pattern has over the fabric version  is that you can use pins to keep the folds in place and behaving.  When it comes to sewing the pattern, the instructions in Pattern Magic specify:

I’m hoping this gentle control of the folds will be enough for my garment to hold its shape.  It didn’t seem enough for the folds of the tote so I backed my fabric with iron-on interfacing.  Whilst this fused the folds permanently to their backing(and provided the calico with some desired stiffness), I don’t suggest doing this to a bodice as it’ll ruin the softness of the original design.  Some kind of lining will be necessary to protect (and hide) the business-at-the-back side of things.  And, I suspect, the garment will have to be one for the more delicate end of my wardrobe.

Pattern Magic Challenge

The deadline for the challenge is mid-November so if you’re feeling brave and inspired, get in touch!

Thoughts on the French Seam

It’s your favourite garment and when you take it off, would you rather see this:

Or this:

If you answered B, then maybe you’re thinking of incorporating more French Seams into your work!  Perhaps you haven’t a serger/overlocker and, like me, you’re aiming for a more professional finish.  The French Seam certainly brings a touch of couture-like neatness in return for very little effort.  It’s also:

  • Durable – so you get a second chance if you burst a row of stitching on your overtight trousers….!
  • Enclosing – useful if your fabric is light and frays easily, such as the wonderful voile

We’ll get to the downsides too!

The Tutorial Bit

It’s not rocket science but there’s more than one way of adapting the typical 1.5cm (5/8″) Seam Allowance of a commercial pattern into two lots of stitching that form the French Seam.

Option 1: 1cm followed by 0.5cm

Use the 1cm Seam Allowance guide on your machine to sew the first row.  Remember: wrong sides together.

Press (to embed stitches) and trim the seam.

Flip the fabric so it’s right sides together, then using the 0.5cm Seam Allowance guide stitch again, ensuring the fabric is folded as close to the first seam as possible.

On the wrong side, the finished seam when pressed to one side will look like this.

Advantages: neat, no bulk, inconspicuous.

Disadvantages: if the garment proves too small, there’ll be only about 1.5cm total in the seam to remake it.  

Option 2: 0.5cm followed by 1cm

Swap the Seam Allowances around, so with wrong sides together, sew with a 0.5cm Seam Allowance. Trim very carefully, aiming to take off a mere 2mm (or skip the trim).

Flip to right sides together and sew along the 1cm Seam Allowance guide.

The result is neat, if slightly bulky.  Good for medium-weight fabrics or denim.  Also useful if you might need to let the garment out later, e.g. kids’ clothes.

The Golden Middle: 0.75cm followed by 0.75cm.

How about splitting the width of the Seam Allowance exactly in half?  Sure, except that most sewing machines don’t have a 0.75cm seam guide.  Or maybe your machine has Imperial SA guides so none of the above was helpful anyway.  Well, there’s a solution…

First, adjust your stitch length to something like a basting stitch.

With wrong sides together, run some basting stitches along the 1.5cm (or 5/8″) Seam Allowance. 

Then change your stitch length to normal and sew half way along the width of the Seam Allowance.  You can eyeball this measurement.  Trim. 

Pull out the basting stitch.

Do not press to embed stitches as the fabric will puff out and those helpful needles holes will just disappear.  Instead, pin fabric with the right sides together and stitch, using the needle perforations as your Seam Guide

And voilà, the wrong side and the right.

No bottoms will be bursting out of these Bermudas!

How to Notch (and Not)

When using French Seams, beware of Notches.  Don’t cut them out like this:

Or else, you’ll end up with Fish Lips.  Which isn’t the end of the world, but still…

Knotch out instead.  The extra fabric can be trimmed away after seam number 1:

When Not

French Seams are not always appropriate: for example, you don’t French Seam Neoprene.  The seams would bulge like sausages.  French Seams are your worst enemy if you’re making a costume for a marathon-runner as even if the garment was loose, the chafing would amount to some serious wounds .  Flat-locked seams are the way to go. 

And sometimes, for example when making a pencil skirt, when an area needs to look as smooth as possible, seams that can be pressed open are a safer bet.

How do you like your French Seams?  Do you use them 
or do you think they add unnecessary bulk?  Do you call them something else?  Dites moi tout!

Iris Winner

Thanks so much for your comments on my holiday wardrobe and for entering the Iris Giveaway.  The winner of the draw is Susan.  Susan, I’ve emailed you.  Enjoy the shorts!

Nane guessed I was in Croatia.  Lakaribane, you must be a detective! 

Split was the retirement home of a Roman Emperor and later a part of the Venetian republic so the Roman and Italian influences are strong. 

The waterfalls are on the River Krka, a short drive away in Central Dalmatia.

A note to Mary: I think it’s wonderful you’ve got yourself some Viva Frida fabric.  Please let me know when you make your dress!

Marianna xx

Basic to A-Line

Drafting and making a well-fitted A line skirt is so easy that if I hereby manage to make it sound complicated, do email me with your preferred choice of how you’d like me to die and I’ll do the decent thing….

The fabric: Michael Miller “Groovy Guitar”.  Can you spot the graphics mismatch in the Centre Back Zip and Seam?  What if you look really closely?

If anyone tries this in real life, I might just turn and give them a slap 🙂


You will need

a) some big paper, e.g. newspaper or wrapping

b) 1m approx of muslin

c) Your Basic Skirt Block

If you haven’t a BSB, follow Steps 1 and 2 of my tutorial to create a Back and a Front .   

Step 1 Draw a Line

On the BSB, draw a line from the point of each Dart to the Hem.  The line should be parallel to the Centre Back and Centre Front and at a right angle to the Hem.

Step 2 Slash ‘n’ Spread

Cut along the line then cut out the Dart.  Close Dart.  Do the same for Skirt Front.

Step 3 Complete the Pattern

a) Pin or stick to paper and trace around.  Ensure that the point D  (where the Skirt Side meets the Hem) is a right angle.  Fill in the gap in the Hem.  Drop the Centre Waist by 1.5cm and join to the Side Waist in a smooth curve.

b) Add instructions: Cut on fold for the Skirt Front, Cut 2 for the Back. 

c) Add seam allowances.  Mine are 1.5cm all around because I’m hemming with bias tape (tutorial below).  If you want a normal hem, 2.5cm is a good typical allowance.

Making a Muslin

Do if you can.  There are no darts so it’s super quick: mine took 10 minutes to cut and sew and I discovered that the back fit perfectly but the front could be narrowed by 2cm which was easy and made a big difference to the final fit.

Make the Facing

I haven’t made a separate pattern for the facing.  Follow this shortcut instead:

a) Pin the pattern to your facing fabric (on fold for Skirt Front).  Cut along the top and the sides for about 10cm.

b) Using a sewing gauge or a ruler, measure to the depth of 8cm from the Waist and cut.  Do the same to cut the interfacing (if using).

3. Apply interfacing to facing pieces, sew the side seams then edge finish the lower edge (press under 1cm then zigzag).

Making up the A-Line Skirt

Sew the Sides, the invisible Zip (mine was 8″ but 9″/23cm is better) and Centre Back seam.  Finish edges: I like to press the seam allowance under and zigzag.

Add facing.  If you’re not sure how to sew the facing to the zip and waistline, follow the instructions in Step 4 of attaching the lining to Julie’s Dress

Then understitch the facing to the seam allowance.  You may topstitch if you prefer. Handstitch the lining to the zip tape.

Which just leaves the Hem.

Since the Hem seam allowance is wider than the seam, hemming an A-Line can be a pain.  But you can get round it by:

a) Sewing gathering stitches half-way down the seam allowance and easing.  Recommended for jersey fabrics.

b) Making folds in the seam allowance.

c) Hemming with bias binding.

Hemming with Bias Tape Tutorial

For my width of skirt, I’ve used 1.3m of bias made from a 5cm-wide strip folded to a finished width of 2.5cm.

Step 1 With right sides together, unfold bias tape and pin edge to edge to the hem, starting with 1cm of tape folded back.  Sew to the hem using the bias fold as your seam mark. 

Step 2 Overlap the fold from the other side

Step 3 Trim seam and turn skirt wrong side out.  Roll the outside edge inward so that the fashion fabric shows slightly over the bias tape.  Pin and press. 

Step 4 Stitch, enclosing the top fold of the bias tape. 

Looks better worn with the top untucked, I think, and perfect for a Saturday afternoon.  Which is what it took to make…. 


Colette Iris Giveaway

Prompted by Jennifer’s Make it, Wear It Summer Holiday challenge, I’ve made a gallery of my holiday wardrobe pictures.  But can you guess where I am?

Here are the Iris shorts worn during a spot of site-seeing, to give you an idea.  When I made them last month, I traced the pattern so it is intact, sized 0-18, and ready to be dispatched to one lucky reader who leaves a comment below telling me:

a) where do you think I went (I don’t expect you to guess but would be interested in your impressions!)


b) which outfit you like best.


Here are the clues/contenders:

Burda 7378 proved the most worn outfit: not too clingy in the midday 32°C+ (90°F) temperatures.  Also, I suspect the lime colour creates a welcome refreshing effect.

I swam just below that waterfall, btw!

 Here I am consoling an over-dressed doggy.

Here, I was looking out for a spotty doggie but instead found this funny-faced fella made of stone.

Also popular was my Zen Charmer skirt, worn here with the Pleated Neckline top.  I’d carried a heavy bag just before and rubbing against it, my skirt had worked its way around till it was completely back to front (no, my photographer couldn’t have cared less to tell me…).  Isn’t it infuriating when skirts do that?!

Doesn’t the Pleated Neckline match my lunch nicely?  A warning to anyone on a date: Black Risotto is not a suitable choice of dish.  The squid ink dyes your teeth black!  And that is not all…

If, on the other hand, your date is Rob Zombie

Being away from my sewing got me feeling creatively frustrated till I had the brilliant idea to draw on a wall.  Whilst wearing my New Look 6459 hybrid.

Someone called the police and I thought of a quick getaway on this bike…

But my skirt was too tight: from the waist down, the dress is a Basic Skirt Block so saddles aren’t an option…  Luckily, the local policemen, who looked young and at the same time….antiquated, were too encumbered by their uniforms to catch me.

I only wore the beloved Jasmine once: it was too hot for sleeves!

My own prize for the Feelgood Dress of the Summer goes to Viva Frida, worn just once to a reunion at my primary school. 

The colours looked deep and gorgeous at dusk and lost none of their saturation after it got dark.  Though I got home at 1:30am, I managed to extract myself from the bra diverters without too much hassle…

Can’t wait to wear the dress again: Indian summer anyone?!

The Iris Giveaway Draw

I’ll be drawing the winner on Monday 17th September.  When you comment, please ensure I have your email so that I can contact you if you’re the one! 

Good luck!!

P.S. That ghostly graffiti isn’t really my own work, you know…