Drafting with Jo

gardenI woke today to a mini-flood in the garden. It had rained all night and then it rained on and off all day with the heaviest deluge saved for the early evening which is the time of week when I do racewalk training at the local athletics track.  As my coach worried if lightning was going to strike us, I did only 2km, splashing through the submerged innermost lane, mostly to give my young training partner Izzy (now, she is very talented) someone to chase on her 5 laps in preparation for an upcoming county championships.

1 inThe whole day felt subdued. Humidity, awful traffic and an ironic sense of an impending doom as the nation headed out to vote in the referendum. If I wasn’t such a stickler for driving smoothly (I have a hybrid car…),  I’d have driven into a man who, walking with his family, stepped out to cross the road without looking, ballot papers in hand, heading for a school being used as polling station.  ‘In or out?’, I felt like shouting after him – to find out if I should have driven faster!  😈

I’d voted days before by post, to remain. When the referendum was announced I was slightly more than half in favour that we should remain but as I listened to the arguments of both sides over the past months, my feelings strengthened to an almost certainty. This was after listening to the economic arguments and opinion from family and friends as well as due to a sense of gratitude to the EU I feel for nudging us to clean our environment. (On the other, the UK leads in driving improved standards of animal welfare which is where I wish it to influence other EU countries).

It’s been an interesting time with many people raising their political voice in a debate they feel they can understand, like voting used to be!  1t elisalex and charlotte

Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (1985 ed.)Despite the subdued mood, I had fun today as I worked with my friend Jo on drafting the Six Napoleon bodice for her.  The plan was to graft together the Elisalex and Charlotte Skirt Patterns – a process which results in what I understand is called a “Frankenpattern”. Jo and I started sewing at the same time – by coincidence – about ten years ago, starting with simple projects negotiated around raising small children (we met at a weekly mummy-run playgroup at the local community centre which we in turn organised).  I remember how surprised I was to discover I had a fellow sewist in my circle – it wasn’t so trendy then!  Not only that, but Jo told me her parents had given her the old Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, the very book I’d borrowed from Greenwich Library to teach myself with.

Toile no. 1

Toile no. 1

Jo, who’s quite a bit busier than me, has no experience of drafting but she is big a fan of By Hand London because the patterns fit her straight from the envelope. Even so, we had our work cut out for us.  The Elisalex bodice is a bit short of the natural waist and the Charlotte skirt (which has more darts than I’d have asked for!) sits low.  We had to fill in the grey area in between.  We used lots of brown greaseproof paper for tracing and Sellotape for sticking it together. The messy, parchment-like paperwork indeed looked like skin of a monster!

I love visiting Jo. Every corner of her home arouses my curiosity so that I feel compelled to go around asking ‘who made this!?’ and ‘where did you get that?’ and ‘how does this work?.  Your typical nosy foreigner basically…  Not that Jo’s home is cluttered!  🙂  Just indicative of a happy, busy, creative family life.

When Jo quickly made up the first toile on her Bernina and put it on, she shouted: ‘it fits!’  But of course, it wasn’t to be. The front looked good enough but when she turned, the back told a different story.  Masses of gaping at the neck and not enough width below the waist (the bit I’d filled in!).  The hem was a big ragged too!


As we sat in the basement kitchen for draft 2, a mystery guest, in a tuxedo, watched us nonchalantly from the garden. Jo thinks he was looking for mice among the ferns.

1 mystery guest

Toile 2 fitted better but this time there was horizontal excess at the back so we pinched out a massive 4cm swayback (Jo has a cracking figure, very shaped, with long and slender limbs).  With this sewn up in a dart, we pinned the bodice onto the dummy and carved it up using the Six Napoleon sketch as a guide as to where to place the seams.

1 bodice 21 bodice 2 back

Toile Number 2.  Cotton fabric, vintage Laura Ashley

Using pins to mark new style lines for the Six Napoleon Bodice

Using pins to mark new style lines for the Six Napoleon Bodice

bodice drawing

We cut along these lines and when I left Jo, she was pinning the pieces to paper and drawing 1cm seam allowances all around.

1 pinning the pattern piece

We’re not aiming for a close, corset-like fit for Jo.  She would like to wear this as a top only, over a skirt or with jeans.  This threw up some interesting dilemmas:

  • As a stand-alone garment, will the bodice be too short or will it provide adequate coverage over the stomach and hips?


  • The zip is to be fitted onto the longer side of the bodice.  Even so, will this opening be wide enough to squeeze into the garment?


  • Maybe the zipper should be top to bottom, like an open-ended jacket zipper?


  • In which case, can one buy a concealed zipper in this format?


  • I’ve been making my own bodice too.  After making a mistake when cutting the first pieces of the lining, I gave Jo strict instructions: cut fashion fabric right side up; cut lining fabric wrong side up.  So that they fit each other.


  • Finally… After making a mistake when sewing my own bodice and lining… In what order do we attach the bodice and lining?  Without ending up with the curse that is the infinity loop….!  Any pointers gratefully received.


To be continued…

11 thoughts on “Drafting with Jo

  1. Commiserations guys, my son just rang from Canberra with the news you will ‘exit’ the EU. Wow, this will mean huge changes for you guys not the least of which will be initial chaos and lean times. #1 son tells me the GBP hasn’t been so low since ’85 (Thatcher).

  2. The zip part is easy: turn it wrong way up (opens at the waist/hem).
    The brexit part I can only offer condolences for. There is a powerful nostalgia for “the good old days” in the air , those good-for-who? days here in the USA (which Americas ?) that make me despair.

    • Of course, re: zip (*slaps forehead!). Thank you 🙂

      Equally importantly, good luck with your own election (hair-raising, angst-ridden emoticon required)

  3. Sad sad day for UK. I was however, pleased to hear that NI as a country voted to stay in, as did Scotland – so what’s wrong with the rest of the UK?
    Anyway, such is democracy.

    For your bodice, either leave the shoulder seams to last, or else the side seams: attach the lining around the neck and armholes then close up the open seams. See my last post for a YouTube video on both methods. It’s neat.

    I’m only getting started on my 6Nap, still planning but will update soon. Great start you’ve made and how nice to have a fitting and sewing buddy.

    • Ruth, you’re a star! Thank you for that link; it seems like the rolled technique in the second half of the video might work (http://www.threadsmagazine.com/item/47720/video-how-to-attach-an-all-in-one-facing) unless the boning in the lining makes it too stiff in which case I can quickly remake but without boning: it really takes no time at all to sew the bodice once it’s drafted and the 9 pieces (or however many one is using) are cut.

      Living in a democracy is something many around the world would like to have for themselves. The current analysis of how people voted and predictions of what will happen is gripping stuff (apparently, one of the highest % of In votes came from Foyle in NI).

  4. A sad day indeed. I hope you can soldier on with the sewing and keep your spirits up. On a brighter note, the Napoleon toile is looking excellent!

  5. Excellent. An interesting story and a fun exercise to adapt an existing bodice. I put a side zip in mine (opening at the top) but found it uncomfortable. I think I am going for a CB zip, and may change the design as a result. As for Brexit it makes me sad, and angry.

  6. Progress made, I see you have asymmetric seams on the bodice too. I wish I could get the photo up more clearly on my screen.
    Brexit – too too bad. Not looking forward to the next coupleof years with much hope.

  7. I really enjoyed reading this, M. There’s a great pace to your writing and I enjoyed reading about your relationship with your friend. Unfortunately I’m not feeling very well this evening so I’m not working on my contribution! I did draft my first bodice last night though from an interesting Italian method book that Gianni sent to me as a surprise in the post! (Leave it to me to do my first drafting in a foreign language.) I think the instructions were OK and I think the method is probably derived from teh SITAM method, although there was something missing in the final step of what I was doing, so I improvised. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so to speak, so I am hoping to try a couple of toiles post haste. I hope I feel better tomorrow so can be productive again!

    All that said, maybe I’m under the weather as I was up quite late last night, compelled by the referendum results. Overall, without going too far into it, it worries me for a variety of reasons. We will be watching with interest from over here for sure. Well, off to snooze…

    • I can imagine the concern you must be feeling: I’ve become upset by friends’ posts from abroad which suggest other countries should take lead from the UK and push for their own ‘independence’ and ‘freedom’.

      Hope you’re feeling better soon!

      PS I haven’t heard of the SITAM method. I off to educate myself.

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