Gathered Hole

If you‘re a Pattern Magician, how are you getting along?

When I initiated the Challenge, I expected to find the process of recreating one of Tomoko Nakamichi’s designs, er… challenging.  So you might be pleased to hear that halfway through the project that is the Gathered Hole Dress, I find myself tired, frustrated and wondering if it ain’t all going to hell in a handcart.  Here’s the Work in Progress: 

The dress has a gathered hole to one side of the waist and a gathered hole on each of the upper sleeves.  The sleeves worked out fine (below are some notes on creating Gathered Hole Sleeves if you’d like to see what I did).  The problem is in the hole at the waist, as modelled here by Anne Boleyn, my dummy.   

Anne isn’t a proper dressmaker’s mannequin but a display model with idealised, Miss World-like proportions.  According to my son, she looks nothing like me…  On my more substantial frame, the hole will reveal a more meaty side but don’t worry, I won’t be exposing my kidneys for all the world to see.  The dress is to have lining! 

If I can be bothered to finish it. 

When I try the dress on, it is much heavier on the gathered side that it feels weighed down and this even distorts the neckline.  Maybe the design is only meant for lighter fabrics… Any ideas for how to fix this?  I don’t like the idea of wearing clothes that feel asymmetrical: I’d be constantly tempted to tug at things in an attempt to restore balance!


Notes on Drafting the Gathered Hole Sleeve

I started off with a close-fiting sleeve block and added 4cm height to the sleeve cap.  I drew a 5cm diameter circle in the middle of the bicep (the centre of the circle exactly 5cm above the armhole line) and created 8 segments from the circle.  You can divide these further into 16 segments as in the book but make sure you number the pieces – it might help if there’s a gust of wind during “slash and spread”!  Click on the picture for a larger view.

Size of hole: If you’re thinking of creating a garment with a Gathered Hole, I recommend having some circles of various sizes and placing them against your body, or muslin, to see what size hole works best with your proportions.  My sleeve hole was 5cm across, the centre exactly 5 cm above the armhole line. 

Now, rather as in Matisse, “The Snail”, cut out and rearrange the sleeve segments spreading them slightly.  This will take a few goes.  Start from the middle if it helps.  Pin to another sheet of paper and draw around the new sleeve pattern.  You will need a very wide (though narrow) sheet of paper for this: mine was nearly 150cm.  Add seam allowances.  If, like me, you’re going to make the casing out of a separate piece of fabric, you’ll need to make a pattern piece for this too. 

Trace the edge of the hole and add seam allowances on all 4 sides to make the casing pattern piece:

Making up the Gathered Hole with Separate Casing Piece

Step 1 – Sew the seam up to the casing seam allowance.  I like to zigzag the edges first.

Step 2 – Press open, edge finish the hole.

Step 3 – Edge finish the casing (the 2 short ends and the longest side)

Step 4 – With right sides together, pin and sew the seam that will form the edge of the gathered hole.

Step 5 – I like to repeat and sew a second row (belt ‘n’ braces, me) then trim as close as possible to the seam.

Step 6 – Flip casing over and pin with the wrong sides together. 

Step 7 – Stitch, keeping close to the zigzaged edge-finish and ensuring that there’s a space of around 1cm in width for the insertion of tie into the casing.

Have you ever attempted the Gathered Hole?  Did it work in your fabric?   Did you decide to bare all with your garment or was there a modesty’s-sake base layer?!

Witch Sleeves

This Leg of Mutton Sleeves Tutorial isn’t just for witches, you know.  Maybe you’re here because you’re making the fineries of a Renaissance princess like this sweetie. 

Or perhaps you’re an 80s throwback?  Preparing for an 80s-themed wedding?  (Imagine the music!  I want an invitation!)

Or maybe you’re here because you got roped into making costumes for an Am-dram period production. 

Let’s not ask wherefores.

All are welcome here….

Close-fitting Sleeve Block

To start drafting the LoM, you will need a close-fitting sleeve block with a wrist to elbow dart.  If you haven’t a close-fitting sleeve block, you can make one to the following measurements:

1.  The sleeve cap (curved area on top) should measure the same as the bodice armhole (front + back) plus an extra 3-5cm for ease (3cm if you’re petite, for example).   The back of the sleeve  is “fleshier” than the sleeve front.

2.  The height of the sleeve should be  equivalent to the length of arm from the shoulder bone to the wrist, the measurement taken with the elbow gently bent (this provides the ease).

3. The width at the elbow should be the girth of elbow, the measurement taken with the elbow gently bent (ease again).  The elbow is half-way up the underarm seam.

4.  The block width half way between the elbow and the shoulder should be your bicep girth plus ease of 5cm.

5.  The block measurement at the wrist should be your wrist girth plus ease of 2cm-2.5cm.

6.  Copy your sleeve block, add seam allowances and make up a sleeve muslin.  Try it on and see if you need to make any adjustments.

An important note: all drafting is made on copies of the block.  Keep the original intact so you don’t have to remake it every time there’s an adjustment.

Drafting Leg of Mutton

1. Draw equally spaced slash lines in the top half of sleeve.

2. Place onto another (larger) piece of paper.  Trace around the lower half of sleeve.  Slash the vertical lines. Spread.  Pin into place.

My spread is a modest 2cm.  Click on pic below for a close-up.

3. The action of spreading will naturally result in the sleeve rising slightly in the middle.

4. But you need more rise.  Lots more.  If you’d like the sleeve to rise 3cm above the shoulder, you need to add double that, i.e. 6cm, to the top of the sleeve.  I added a measly total of 3.5cm, slightly less at the sides.  Gradually taper to original positions at the underarm seam.

5. Smooth the sides of the sleeve in the elbow region.

6. Copy the LoM then add seam allowances.  My finished pattern looked like this:

Making up

LoM doesn’t work in floppy, sheer fabrics.  If in doubt, apply interfacing.  

When I made up the muslin it looked like this:

I put it on and the effect was a bit matronly: more Lady Bracknell than Cecily Cardew.  So I tried again, aiming for fullness around and above the bicep and a closer fit below.  Back on the drawing board, I cut my slashed pieces in half and repinned the lower portion to a tracing of the elbow line and bottom half of sleeve:

I then repeated steps 2 – 6 as above, spreading only the upper quarter of the sleeve.  The second pattern, more trumpet-like in shape, looked like this on top of the first.

The muslin was more flattering.  I wonder if you can spot the difference.

Here they are together.  Version 1 on the left, Version 2 on the right.

An elbow-length version 2 in black looks lovely I think, though I could have gathered the back of  the sleeve more evenly (lumps!!).

Now I must get back to the cauldron: the kids are expecting lamb stew.

Mao Top and Jodhpurs Jimjams

After borrowing Akiko Mano’s book from a friend, I bought the French edition Jolies Tenues Pour Fillettes Coquettes.  Although my French is basic, I’m finding the book easier to use than the original because I can type any unknown phrase into Google Translate and it comes up with the English equivalent.

Well usually.  Not always.  I did freak out when “…rabattre les marges de couture vers le col…” came out of my magic interpreting machine as “fold the seam allowances toward the cervix.”   😯

But mostly it does work.  I wish I’d used it before cutting my fabric, as half-way through the project, I discovered two facts which you’ll need to know if you too can’t resist sewing from this beautiful book (but don’t actually speak the language it’s in): 

 1.  The patterns do not come with seam allowances: you’re supposed to add them….  🙄  Well I never.  This explains why the neckline and the armholes on the Bubble Dress seemed so wide! 

2.  The sizes at the top of each page of instructions are finished garment  measurements, not body measurement (see below for how I found this out :oops:).  To determine the size you require, go the page 35 (in the French book) or check here:

Size in   cm
Height 100 110 120 130
Chest size 54 58 62 66
Waist size 49 51 53 56
Hip size 57 60 63 68
Length of sleeve 33 36 40 43
Head circumference 51 51 52 53

A Note on the Fabric Used

I love good-quality shirting fabric – which isn’t cheap – so I’m reluctant to throw away DH’s work shirts just because they’re worn at the collar and cuffs.  Instead, I keep them till I have enough to sew something for my daughter.  When she was a toddler, I’d make her Betty Draper-style dresses with voluminous skirts.  

These pyjamas are made from 3 shirts, two shown above, and one plain blue.  Can you see where the released back darts of the shirt are visible on the back legs of the jodhpurs? 

If you have other ideas for how to upcycle small pieces of (usually striped) crisp cotton, please share here.  By the time I next have a shirt stash, DD will be too tall for everything but bloomers!

Pattern C: Jodhpurs-Style Trousers

These trousers are comfortable.  They can be worn all year round.  Choose colour and fabric that most suit you.”

Difficulty Rating: Advanced Beginners.  These are quick to make, though you might like previous experience of making buttonholes.  The cuff construction diagrams are minimalist but adequate.  If you’d like more pictures of the cuff-making process, see below.

Sizing: I went for height 130.  I mistakenly used the finished garment measurement to pick a hip size.  Yup, I learn by mistakes.  This has made the trousers narrower than they should be though they fit fine.

Modifications: I substituted the corded waistband with an elasticated one – it makes getting changed so much quicker.

Constructing the Jodhpurs Cuffs: a pictorial supplement!

Starter kit: all the pieces you need (8), interfaced and with the inside leg seam (entrejambe!) sewn then pressed open.  The bottom row is the facing (the inside of cuffs).  I’ve pressed in to mark the buttonhole area.  The facing has been pressed under along the top seam as in the instructions.  I’ve flipped the bottom right piece over to show the reverse.

With right sides together, pin cuff to finished trouser leg.  Pin from buttonhole marker to the seam allowance edge (1cm) on the opposite side.

Stitch.  This is what it should look like when done:

With right sides together, pin cuff facing to the cuff: pin from the buttonhole flap downwards then along the bottom seam then up the opposite side.  Leave the pressed edge on top unpinned.

Stitch then trim seam.

Turn right side out and handstitch the pressed edge of the facing to the inside of the trousers (or you can topstitch: it’s quicker).  It might be wise to have a fitting at this point and see whether the cuffs are going to be on the tight side or too wide.  You can then decide where to place the  buttonholes.

Pattern H: Chairman Mao Blouse

Would this blouse design be inspired by the famous Chairman Mao who stalks this blog, seen here sleeping on calico and pattern paper?

No, not him


This blouse can be worn over other clothes.  It is better to choose classic colours.  The centre seam construction makes it easy to sew.”

Did  you see that?  No buttons!  Not even the setting in of sleeves!  I dare say you could make this for a boy too, and  – the real Chairman Mao would surely agree – it would be a very practical, day-wear top, or substitute for a school uniform where your school doesn’t have one. 

The Centre Front Seam

Remember to cut a 4cm seam allowance for the centre seam.  You then sew it wrong sides together, press open and press under the last 1cm of the SAs. Sew this down then sew rows of parallel stitching (which I didn’t do as they wouldn’t have showed up on my stripy fabric).  Add cute detail!

Easy Sleeves

Sew shoulder seam, lay shirt open and pin gathered sleeve to it, right sides together.  Sew.

Finally, sew the side seams all in one.

Difficulty Rating: Beginners welcome!

I look forward to making this in linen next year.

Colette Lily

It didn’t surprise me to learn that the Colette team had Sophia Loren in mind as they worked on the Lily design.  With its close-fitting lines and a nod to the 1950s, this dress would perfectly accommodate a siren wiggle.  But it wasn’t wiggling I had in mind when I bought the pattern –  honest.  I was drawn to the diagonal pocket pieces, particularly emphasised in the contrast version 2, and thought it clever that they shout: “Look! HIPS!” at the same time as giving said hips a slimming effect. Like!

Fabric and Supplies Used

There’s a Colette guide to choosing the right fabric for Lily here.  My ideal would be to make it out of a hard silk crêpe in two block colours and to line it.  It’d be a dress I’d wear quite formally, with a wrist dripping in jewels, the Colosseum in the background and youths on Vespas riding by…  But this particular Roman holiday probably won’t ever happen so I decided to give the pattern a try with 1.5 metre of peacock print lawn and some scraps of tea-dyed cotton.  If it looks familiar, you may have seen it used for Jasmine which I made last summer and in which I was featured as Coletterie‘s Seamstress of the Week the other day (thanks guys!).  It‘s a lighter than recommended choice but it worked, though it doesn’t really go with the boots I’m wearing nor with the autum season we’re in! 

Much as I like it, rest assured that my new dress is  going into hibernation for a good 6 months…

The supplies list specifies a 22″ zipper which, for my height, would have reached the kickpleat.  I trimmed it to 18″ (45cm).

Sizing and Modifications

I used the “finished garment chart” to opt for a size 4 bodice joined to a size 6 skirt (in “body measurements”, I’m a 6).  I figured not much ease would be needed at the top.  Although the pieces joined up at the centre to side panel seams, there was an excess of 0.5cm on the sides:

I trimmed this away in a straight line from side waist towards the widest point of my hip which is 10″ (25cm) below. 

I call this fitting shortcut my Saddlebag Adjustment!  I had to do the same in grading pieces J and K (Skirt Side Back and Skirt Back) so that they widen from 4 waist to a 6 hip at widest point only.    

Tips and 

Pattern Pieces There are 16 pieces to this pattern, A to P.  Until the project is finished, keep them close by in an alphabetical pile.  That way, if a tailor tack slips out or you aren’t sure which way around a piece goes, you don’t have to rummage around for long.

Straps These were the most time-consuming part of the project as I couldn’t get them to lie flat against my shoulders and they seemed a bit short.  Next time, I’ll cut the pieces 1″ longer and leave wide gaps in the neckline for insertion at a later stage.    

Length Length of a skirt is a bit like salt in cooking: add to taste.  At 5’4″ (164cm), I’m not tall but even so feel that Lily could have covered a bit more of the knees, and the thread veins round the back (you can’t photo edit those in real life, you know…)  This is exactly how I felt the last time I made New Look 6459: here’s a great and flattering summer dress that with the benefit of hindsight and a few extra inches could have been the perfect dress.  Consider adding a few inches then taking them off later if not needed.