The F Word (Frumpy…)

When I think of Vivienne Westwood – the person – the first incarnation that comes to mind isn’t the veteran punk-queen designer nor the politicized eco-warrior with campaigns close to my own heart.  Instead, I think of the famed exit she made from the premiere of the film Sex and the City.  Although citations are proving hard to find, the general consensus is that she couldn’t watch more than 10 minutes and found the clothes frumpy and boring.  I can just hear her soft Derbyshire tones uttering this, with clicks of contempt.

This is the jacket I’ll be attempting to make, in plaid, for my part in the Vivienne Westwood Challenge.1t Burda Crossover Blazer 06 2012  no121

For ages now, I’ve admired its diagonal lines, the turn back cuffs and the potential in the matching of two contrasting inner and outer fabrics.  That balance of tailoring-meets-rock n’ roll is pretty rare in sewing patterns, I think.Technical drawing burda 6 2012 #121 But, having got hold of the technical drawing, I find the design simple and boxy and it’s hard to believe it’s the same jacket.    Not so much the soldier-turned-highwayman look of Adam Ant that I’d set my sights on.  More over-starched waiter in a dull restaurant.

I’m wondering what my chances are of turning this pattern into something that looks more like this:1t Tartan jacket

When I look closely at this Vivienne Westwood design, three key features that make it different from the Burda pattern stand out:

1 There are waist darts all the way to bust point.  Ok, so this jacket is designed for a woman.  I get it.

2.  There’s a waist seam that drops down diagonally towards the side seams (another dart control?).  This seam sits a good inch higher than where most of us assume our waist to be (an inch above the belly button).  As before, this flatters the female shape to the max.

3. Finally, the asymmetrical collar, notched on one side and extended on the other.  Why did it have to be this way?  It reminds me of one of those naturally asymmetrical, sexy hairstyles that have a lot of movement.  It’s a good trick that brings the design to life.

What do you think are my chances of upgrading a $6 Burda pattern into clever couture?  I’ve got enough frumpy already.  Can you help out with links to interesting plaid/tartan suppliers that can lift this out of the ordinary?

I’ll leave you with a couple of links to blog posts where some clever analysing and copying of Vivienne Westwood design has taken place.  Here’s a clear tutorial from Orchids in May on making one of those asymmetrical and gloriously voluminous draped skirts.  I wish I had a half-scale model to practise this on, with the pinstripe leftovers in the stash.

The other post is from blogger Catherine Daze: the striped jersey dress.  Although not as dramatic as the VW original, the end result, like the skirt by Orchids in May, is accomplished, unordinary and wearable.

Encouraging signs.


Draft 2 Slashes Sleeve TopHere’s the second draft of my slashed sleeve top.  I improved on one feature: the cuffs; but I worsened two!  The sleeve head now hasn’t enough fullness and the bodice is too long.

I like to think that learning to draft is like learning to drive.  The mistakes and the failures make you better and more knowledgeable than someone who struck lucky the first time around.  I hope to find that thought a comfort when I begin draft three. 🙄

Now for the admin.  I’ll be celebrating my blog’s second birthday by smartening up this site.  The idea is that by making sew2pro more marketable, it’ll hopefully be a little less overlooked.  It won’t be an overnight change because I’m a Luddite who constantly alienates her IT staff by being destructive and unintuitive with the ways of … (*spits on floor*) technology!

So, while I knuckle down, will you please let me know by comment or email if:

– you want your blog included in my list of links on bottom right

– you recommend any sewing or drafting blogs or how-to websites for me to add to my reading list.  My blogroll is currently in the doldrums and a couple of favourites haven’t been updated in months.  Ideally I need tutorials with good visuals, or book reviews (like Pella‘s series on pattern drafting books), or guides on turning clothes-making into a profession.

Thanks 🙂

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…. 


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!