Sureau I

1 Sureau 31 Sureau sideI’ve been given 2 narrow metres of an interesting Indonesian batik which is virtually vintage (well, from the 1990s anyway).  Before cutting into it to make my Sureau, I’ve  made this muslin to check the sizing and assess if I can get away with a small amount of fabric.

Sureau (which means “elderberry”) is a beginner-friendly pattern from the French indie company Deer & Doe.  It should be a very quick make; however, the addition of a piped collar needed quite a few hours to make it fit after the neckline stretched through not being staystitched 🙄

The original pattern has a collarless neckline.  According to my pattern-cutting guru Adele Margolis, this is “for the young and the beautiful only”.  A collarless neckline, I quote: “calls for a firm chin, a smooth and slender neck, and a good set to the shoulders …  This leaves the majority of us out.  For us, the severity of the collarless neckline needs to be sotftened with a gay scarf [this book was published in 1959], our faithfull pearls [like I said, this was published in …. ], or a pleasing collar“.  Now usually when someone tells me I can’t wear something, I call them “the bleedin’ Taliban” but I have to admit that I find Sureau in its original somehow … raw.  It really is a pattern that requires an experienced sewist to employ some imagination.1 Sureau Pattern Envelope

1 Sureau close upThe original neckline shape is tending toward the V so I ‘scooped’ it by widening from the CF (and before drafting the collar).  The other change I made was to pleat the skirt rather than gather it.  I eyeballed this: I pinned the folds to be more or less symmetrical from the centres but I didn’t measure much.  I also shortened the sleeves to just above the elbow, then added bands. These, like the piping on the collar and the fabric of the covered buttons, are silver, which will hopefully be more dirt-friendly than white.

A word of warning about the sizing.  According to the pattern envelope measurements, I’m a size 40.  Having read some reviews of Sureau, I decided to make size 38 bust, shoulders and sleeves with size 40 waist and hips.  It’s still very roomy!

Black dresses with contrast collars and cuffs are a bit of a fetish of mine (as I’ve explained here.)  They’ve been quite popular in RTW recently; here’s a current cutie from Phase Eight.  What I love about my creation is that it goes perfectly with the ‘fangs’ necklace my son made me at school. The main fabric is fine needlecord from Rashid and perfect for those not-so-warm summer days.  In the autumn, I’ll wear it with tights, boots and a thermal vest.  And a gay scarf.

My OH pulled a face when I first wore this and said it “hangs off”: one of those double-edged comments that manages to wound both the woman and the seamstress in one.  Of course, ever since he made the remark  I’ve been cutting his meals with catfood!

Then again, having looked at these photos, I suspect I could possibly cut a size 36 bodice.  Time for making Version II.

1 Sureau

Indian Pink Dress

If it wasn’t dripping in healthy colour, I’d call this my “Frankenstein Dress” as I’ve stitched it from 3 tutorials and in the spirit of experimentation.  The Sleeves I made back in October (don’t worry, I’ve kept them in the fridge!), the Bodice is from Pattern Magic 2 and the skirt is based on Adele Margolis’ “Pegged Skirt” instructions in my favourite drafting book

A pegged skirt is wider at the hips than at the hem, the shape of a typical clothes pegA tulip skirt is a more fashionable term for pretty much the same.  If you’d like to create the tulip effect using darts for shaping and if you want to ensure that it fits you well, it’s easy enough to draft with the Basic Skirt Block as your starting point.  Tute below. 

Pegged trousers could presumably be drafted by a similar method, with the darts changed to pleats.  It’s a very eighties look though, best avoided by the less than willowy!

The fabric I used is calico, dyed Powder Pink with a tiny pinch of blue (a gloved pinch, I hasten to add: this stuff isn’t good to handle).  I was aiming for a dusky pink but got a richer, deeper shade I’d like to call Indian Pink, or maybe Honeysuckle.  I had no luck finding a matching concealed zip but eventually settled for a lapped one.  To me, lapped zips are a bit of a forgotten skill so I referred to this great tutorial.

The dress was a pleasure to make and soon as I realized I was happy with the fit of the pegged skirt, I adapted the pattern to make a full lining.  The sleeve lining was stiffened with interfacing to help retain some rigidity in the square shoulders.

Tutorial: Drafting a Pegged Skirt

Step 1 Begin with the Basic Skirt Block (make a muslin to make sure it fits you).  Draw a straight line from dart point to the corner of side and hem.

Step 2 Cut along the line and close dart.


Step 3 Draw two new dart lines in the area between the centre front and the original dart.  They should be about 4-6cm in length, depending on your size, with the inner line being longer of the two.  As for their exact position, it’s up to you.  You could draw them and place the block against you to see what looks ok in proportion to you.



Step 4 Cut out the area between the lines drawn in previous step.  Open out the two parts of the block by hinging them at the side-hem corner.



Step 5 Place pieces on a larger sheet of paper.  Separate the two major sections by a distance of 4.5cm (or 5cm for bigger sizes) in the area of the original dart point.  Place the smallest piece in the gap and draw two new darts on each side of it.  This is the fiddliest bit, but you can move the middle piece about till each of your darts has equal leg lengths.


Step 6 Fold darts toward centre and redraw the waistline, keeping close to the original and smoothing out any jaggedy bits.  Draw seam allowances and the hem allowance (notice my rubbish short hem allowance?  I ran out of paper!  Don’t do that!).  Draw a fold line to complete the pattern and cut out.

Step 7
Repeat all of the above for Skirt Back, remembering to add the centre back seam allowance in the final step (if that’s where your zip will be).

Status Sleeves, cont’d

Here’s an easy tutorial on drafting corner pleats for sleeves.  Sleeve pleats have been a frequent feature of RTW tops, dresses and jackets in recent years and are one of the many ways of adding detail and structure to a part of garment that had for a couple of decades remained overlooked. 

I’m beginning to believe that just as padded shoulders of 1980s womenwear gave the impression of power, the extra width gained from these corners pleats somehow serve to enhance the status of the wearer!  Unlike in the 80s though, the means are more subtle and the result feminine. 

The pictures show the pattern with the underarm seam sewn but the seam allowances and sleeve hem unsewn.  The drafting is very beginner-friendly: you’re just adding squares to the sleeve cap.  The method is from  Adele Margolisbook: ’Design Your Own Dress Patterns: a Primer in Pattern Making for Women who like to Sew’.  

Corner Pleat Sleeves: a Tutorial

(Sometimes, it helps to see all the steps in one.  To do that, skip to here.)

Step 1: Make a symmetrical short-sleeve block

Make a copy of the short-sleeve block (sloper). (If you only have a long-sleeve block, copy to 4cm above the elbow and checking your upper arm measurement, ensure you have about 5cm of ease around the bicep.)  Fold at the centre and trim so the front and back of sleeve (left and right of centre line) are symmetrical.   

Yes, with this baby, it won’t matter if you put the sleeve in back to front!

Step 2: Extend upwards 

Pin the sleeve block to a larger piece of paper.  Extend the centre line upwards and create a T-shape.  I raised my sleeve by 4cm but you can be more dramatic, especially if your fabric is firmer!

Step 3: Draw  points on original cap

Draw 2 points on the original cap, equally apart from the centre line.  Mine are 5cm from the middle of the sleeve.  Label A and B.

Step 4: Extend points to top of T

Extend the points to the top line, making sure the lines are at right angles to it, and parallel to the centre line.  Label points.

Step 5: Extend to the side by same amount

Extend and label.

Step 6: Complete the square 

Close up and join to new points X and Y.

Step 7: Smooth out

Redraw around X and Y to make the line smoother.  Now trace around the whole outside area.

Step 8: New outline

Your sleeve, once you’ve unpinned the original, now looks like this: yes, an apron!

Step 9: Complete the pattern

Add seam allowances, grainline, fold instructions (that is, the four points to each pleat square) and knotches.  As there are no balance lines, when it comes to attaching the sleeve to the bodice, pin to the shoulder seam first then to underarm sleeve.  The rest should fit without tucks or gathers.

Step 10: Making up

To make the sleeve from your fabric, fold C to E and D to F.  The fold should stop at points A and B.  Baste along the armscye.


You may wish to fold the opposite way, from the outer side of the sleeve towards the centre, that is, from E towards C and F towards D.

And if you do so then turn the sleeve inside out, you get this interesting diagonal pleat as on the right….

If your fabric is on floppy side and can’t support such corners, you could try interfacing.

A nice addition to the bamboo shoot bodice?

Drafting Pleats

The story so far:  in March, I made myself a top with a pleated neckline, drafted with lots of help from my pattern-cutting tutor.  Whilst far from perfect, Nicotine Surprise proved very wearable and since then, others have asked me if I’d show them how to draft something similar. 

And I said: “(Gulp) Yeah…?”

In preparation for the humbling feat, I redesigned the top and made Version 2 with 6 pleats instead of 8 and with facing instead of bias binding.  The pleats radiate outwards instead of heading towards the bust.  Also, I didn’t stitch them down as before, only forming them at the neckhole.  Once again, the process was quick and the result a much-worn wardrobe staple.

Having made Version 3, I’m still not an expert but I’ve laid out a how-I-done-it  for those who’re familiar with the bodice block and want to have a bit of an adventure adapting it into a top with some design interest and no closures.

This is by no means the definitive method of drafting neckline pleats – in fact, I’m already experimenting with another….


For drafting:

Your front and back bodice blocks with the shoulder darts moved out of the way (see here). 

Sleeve block and skirt block (not necessary for a vest top like Version 3)

Lots of paper and a little bit of tracing paper.  Numberprint Marker Paper has the virtue of being see-through in good light.  I often use salvaged packing paper from internet shopping (after a hot, non-steam press) whilst Greaseproof paper/Baking parchment is great for tracing.  See Sew Ruth for another paper tip.

Sellotape, preferrably the “frosty” Magic Tape that you can write on.

Pencil and a long ruler

Tracing wheel

For sewing

Approx 1m of fabric for a sleeveless version, 1.5m for a short-sleeved number.  Bias binding or, if making the facing, a small amount of interfacing. 

The process:

Tip on using the tracing wheel: if your tracing wheel is of the genteel variety like mine and not of the scary toothsome variety, place a couple of sheets of fabric, like a bedsheet, under your paper and your impressions will be more easily visible.

Nearly there…


When it comes to sewing the pleats, you can:

Top-stitch them.

Sew them on the inside, with the inner-most pleat the deepest.

Stitch them horizontally at the neckline and released below in Version 2 & 3 above.

Good luck and let me know how it went (it’s quicker than it looks…).

P.S. Check back here in a few weeks when I attempt to draft neckline pleats the Adele Margolis method!