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…

Sleeve Drama

1 Sleeve

1 Sleeve pattern

click for pdf link

The sleeves of my Refashioned Men’s Shirt attracted some comment, both here and on the Pinterest Refashioners board, so here’s the sleeve pattern in PDF and instructions for making it below.

The pattern has been created to fit me, and I have an arm girth of 25cm (10″). This is roughly a size 8 (not that my ass is size 8 🙁 ). When folded, gathered, stitched at the underarm seam and ready to attach to the bodice, the sleeve armscye has a stitching line of 47.5cm. This, coincidentally, makes it fit the bodice of Colette Aster size 4. But you can fit it to any other bodice if you know its armscye measurement simply by using the reduce/enlarge function of your photocopier and some mathematics.

The Formula

My PDF measurement x Y% = Your required measurement

So for example if your bodice armscye is 51cm, you need to enlarge by a percentage Y

47.5cm x Y = 51cm

51 / 47.5 = 1.073

1.073 (x100) = 107%

So print out the pattern at a 107% enlargement. Be brave; it’s easy.


Making this is also very easy. The protruding fold covering the sleeve head can hide a multitude of sins so if setting in of sleeves isn’t your forté, your luck is in! If you lack the confidence to cut into fabric, play around with a paper version first, using pins instead of stitching (to round the sleeve head, make 2-3 little pintucks; it doesn’t have to be perfect). Or cut up some rags.

1 Sleeve pattern

Step 1 – Begin by sewing 2-3 rows of gathering stitches, into and around the 1cm seam allowance

Step 2 - with right sides together, sew the short ends of the wings...

Step 2 – with right sides together, sew the short ends of the wings…

Step 3 - and press open

Step 3 – and press open

Step 4 - fold sewn section wrong sides together and align notches with the centre sleeve head notch

Step 4 – fold sewn section wrong sides together

Step 5 - align seam with centre of the sleeve head (notches together).  Sew the underarm seam.

Step 5 – align seam with centre of the sleeve head (notches together). Sew the underarm seam.

Step - pull on the gathering stitches and fold all the raw edges to they're lined up

Step 6 – pull the gathering stitches and fold all the raw edges so they’re lined up

Step 7 - with all three layers of fabric lined up and pinned or basted, you can attach the sleeve to the garment by the usual method

Step 7 – with all three layers of fabric lined up and pinned or basted, you can attach the sleeve to the garment by the usual method


1 sdThe original white shirt sleeve was hemmed with bias binding but the blue version has a cuff. The cuff has a 2.5cm finished height, is cut on the bias and interfaced.

Other ideas

  • When making the white shirt, I didn’t have enough fabric to cut the sleeve from a single piece so I had to split the pattern into 3 sections (the head and two wings). This has created interesting change of direction in the stripes which you may want to try.
  • Consider using the stripes of your fabric horizontally.
  • If you’re a drama queen (or would like to make a pressie for one), you can make these sleeves out of a soft voile then attach to a matching t-shirt, with more voile for a breast pocket and bias binding for the neckline.
  • For another dramatic sleeve variation, try my Status sleeves tutorial.



pinterest sourceThe original idea for the design came from this Pin (before any of you get ideas about me being clever; I’m just the copycat). I printed out the pattern, then enlarged it with the photocopier until I made a version that fit me, having made three toiles. I never did achieve the lavishly folded sleeve in the original picture but I’m pleased with the result nevertheless. Let me know if you uncover any more information about the source or if you have alternative ideas how to effect the lower fold.