Two Peas in a Pod

It’s a fine line between being fashionable and looking like you can’t dress yourself properly.”

This damning quote came not from some enfant terrible of Brit fashion but from my own DH who during a quiet moment in a waiting room took a leaf through my Pattern Magic Stretch, saw this and laughed out loud:

What about this?  Two peas in a pod,”  I asked.  I was looking for a quickie with which to join Lisa of Only the Small for the first installment of her monthly challenge Project Pattern Magic.   

DH paused thoughtfully then said, “that would look good on really skinny people.” 

Well I made it anyway 😯 Here:

How to Make

1. Shrink the stretch bodice front pattern to 65% of original size

2. Enlarge the back to 135%. 

3 Gather the back with ease stitches and sew to the front. 

Easy peasy 🙂

4 You may then use cuffs, waistband and neckband to finish. 

I used my Renfrew pattern, now I know it fits me, and included sleeves as I didn’t fancy the kimono style in the book – too much excess in the armpits!  One advantage to using the Renfrew pattern is that it includes seam allowances (though not on the sleeve which I cut in half at the shoulder then added the SA).  Once the front and back were sewn together,  the original-sized Renfrew cuffs, neckband and waistband fit the new T perfectly.

Tip: I recommend using a copier with an A3 bed, i.e. one large enough for naked drunks to sit on at office parties… oh how I miss abusing work facilities!  Doing it piecemeal on an A4 machine was the only time consuming part to this project. 

The Verdict

Two Peas in a Pod is an ideal Pattern Magic project if you’re in a hurry, especially if you have a TNT stretch pattern that you can quickly shrink and enlarge. 

The nicest design features, in my opinion, are the ruching on the inner side and the horseshoe neckline.  The downside?  Well, I have a sneaking suspicion that the shrunken front appears under a certain glare like a tiny person – my inner teeny dancer if you like – waiting to get out.  

If ever it does, I’ll stamp on it!

Steampunk Dress

Why on earth am I hanging around these dummies, you may wonder.  In my Gathered Hole dress? 

Well, after adding the black lining to the shell of the dress, I thought the gathered holes had the appearance of apertures on old-fashioned cameras: the way they can be closed by pulling on the cords as well as those dark, dead interiors.  This, together with the raised, Victorian-ish sleeves, made me think that my new dress wouldn’t be out of place in the wardrobe of a Steampunk so I’ve come to Bromley High Street and the birthplace of H.G. Wells, the writer whose sci-fi machines have fuelled the Steampunk genre.

Wells is said to have been quite sneering of Bromley, calling it a “morbid sprawl”!  He may have had his reasons but it’s in the neighbourhood and I find the fabric and haby stalls at the Thursday market quite useful actually…

By the way, the site is currently a branch of the pile-’em-high clothing emporium that is Primark.  Oh, the irony!

The Design

Inspired by the Gathered Hole concept in the first of Tomoko Nakamichi’s Pattern Magic books, the dress is my contribution to the Pattern Magic Challenge.  I’d wanted an elegant daytime dress that I could wear with high-heeled boots and perhaps a scarf this autumn and winter.  It had to be:

  • Warm.  I have plenty of summer dresses and nowhere near enough summer.  This meant that the dress needed lining and sleeves.  The sleeves made it impossibe for the dress to have an opening tab at the shoulder as the one in the book did.
  • A-line.  The dress in the book is designed around a basic block and I knew I wouldn’t be able to stride about if it was narrow around the knees.  Normally, I’d put in a kick pleat around the centre back but the back is gathered and can’t accommodate a middle seam.  This meant that the zip had to be a side one.

I’m not sure if the project was a success or a failure. Here are a couple of good pics that might help you help me decide.  What do you think?

The kids like it.  My OH has reservations about the asymmetry, as I do too.  In wearing the dress, I’ll often have to check that the neckline is not pulling to the side of the waist hole.  He also said he’d prefer there not to be any lining, just flesh!  “What kind of blog do you think I’m running here?” I told him…

The Making of the Dress: a Gallery

The original concept:

My sketch:

A-Line Dress Muslin:

Some steps of the pattern-drafting process:

Another toile:

The paperwork involved (the dress isn’t as “green” as it looks):

Back View:

 Side view:

Just two more days till the Pattern Magic Reveal post.  Email me your entries, Pattern Magicians, however late, and I’ll add them to the updates!


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?!

Bamboo Shoot Tote

For the Pattern Magic Challenge, I’d like to make a garment featuring the Bamboo Shoot Bodice and being slightly overwhelmed by the task, I thought I’d get to grips with the design by trying it out in its simplest form: 2D.  Putting it on one side of this tea-dyed calico tote bag enabled me to make those folds and to see what happens behind the scenes (i.e on the wrong side) without the added complication of darts getting in the way.

Of all the Pattern Magic designs, the Bamboo Shoot seems to be one that’s both eye-catching and universally appealing.  It’s also simple, or simpler than it looks.  If you’re thinking of giving it a go, do!  Just be prepared to first try it out on paper, lots of it.

Drafting the 2D Bamboo Shoot Pattern

I’ve prepared this tutorial not as a definitive guide but as demonstration of what I did, should you need a bit more than the instructions in the Pattern Magic book.


Step 1 

Cut out a piece of paper the same size as the area in which you want the design to appear.  Make a note of the measurements (you’ll refer to them in Step 4).  Draw the bamboo lines, extending them to the ends of the paper (if you were working on a bodice, you’d only go as far as the bust point as the book specifies).

A note on the positioning of the lines:

The lines should intersect at 45°.  I’ve made my parallel lines 5cm apart.  If I were designing a bodice for a size 12 frame, I’d space them closer together at 4cm.  On a petite or larger frame, 3.5cm and 4.5cm might be more in proportion.

Step 2

Cut along the lines, almost all the way to the ends of the paper.  Place on a larger sheet and spread, leaving gaps of equal width (mine are 2cm).  Pin to the target paper.

Step 3

Trace around the top layer.  I’ve used a highlighter, half on, half off.

Step 4

This is where it gets interesting… and kind of fun.  Unpin the original piece.  Start folding, making long straight folds along the lines, working top right to left then down.  

This becomes similar to the process of french-plaiting hair, where you have more material to deal with the further you go down.  When the area gets too crowded, unfold and cut the paper on the fold lines.  I’ve coloured the fold lines orange to help me see where I’m going.    

Towards the bottom, the area between the fold lines can be cut away.  Refold the paper, using pins to keep the sections in place.  The wrong side will eventually look almost as neat as the right side.   

Measure the area: it should be the same size as the original piece, before you began cutting it. 

Unpin and your pattern is revealed! 

When I added this pattern to the tote, I started off with a copy of the bag pattern: 

I drew the Bamboo Shoot lines as in the process above, extending them right up to the seam allowances (if it’s easier, you can cut off the seam allowances then add them back on in the final stage).  Here’s what the pattern looked like with the middle cut out (Blogstalker enjoying himself in the role of pattern weight….)

Sewing the Bamboo Shoot

One advantage the paper pattern has over the fabric version  is that you can use pins to keep the folds in place and behaving.  When it comes to sewing the pattern, the instructions in Pattern Magic specify:

I’m hoping this gentle control of the folds will be enough for my garment to hold its shape.  It didn’t seem enough for the folds of the tote so I backed my fabric with iron-on interfacing.  Whilst this fused the folds permanently to their backing(and provided the calico with some desired stiffness), I don’t suggest doing this to a bodice as it’ll ruin the softness of the original design.  Some kind of lining will be necessary to protect (and hide) the business-at-the-back side of things.  And, I suspect, the garment will have to be one for the more delicate end of my wardrobe.

Pattern Magic Challenge

The deadline for the challenge is mid-November so if you’re feeling brave and inspired, get in touch!

Pattern Magic Challenge

Calling all adventurous, experimental and courageous sewists! Oh, and anyone fascinated by Tomoko Nakamichi’s Pattern Magic. Have any of you made stuff based on the ideas in the books? How did it go? If you haven’t, would you like to give it a try, with a bit of hand-holding in the form of a group sewing challenge?

The Inspiration

When I bought the first Pattern Magic book, I hoped that this much praised and beautifully produced tome would throw some light on the relationship between the two-dimensional pattern and the three dimensional body. To some extent, it did that, but mostly I was awestruck by image after image of possibilites in garment design.

Some achievable, as I’d like to think these lumps and bumps on a bodice might be.

A dress for Björk, perhaps? She used to be in the Sugarcubes, you know.

Then there was the outlandish. This design of the Otoshiana almost freaked me out, bringing back supressed memories of Ring, the only genuinely creepy horror film I’ve ever seen!

I can laugh about it now, but only because I showed the book to my pattern-cutting tutor and far from being frightened, she reassured me that the pit would make a handy holder for one’s lunchtime Lucozade.

Other designs, such as the elegant Bamboo Shoots bodice, made me wistful for the day when I’d be grown up enough to attempt this pattern-drafting feat.

And as I waited for that day, guess what?! Two more Pattern Magic books came out….

Now I was taunted by even more designs of blatant originality. Like the Knots.

Some with a twist on the sophisticated and classic.

Some familiar but, er, more confrontational.

And some plain bonkers, like the Stingray. What a glorious celebration of fish and hips!

The Challenge

If you too have had enough of looking at the pictures and feel ready to try out one of the ideas in the book, then I’d love you to join me. Your project can be as simple or as complex as suits you. The only requirement is that your creation is inspired by what you’ve seen in one of Tomoko Nakamichi’s books.

Maybe you have a teen with endless legs that can accommodate the Shar Pei-like folds of the Apple Peel leggings?

Or how about incorporating a detail from the books into one of your already tried’n’tested patterns. The Pocket Vanishes?

Or one of my favourites: a modern take on the leg of mutton sleeves.

You’ve got plenty of time to decide, maybe even to practice.

Here are details:

The Deadline

Email me your images by the end of Saturday 10 November GMT. Your message should include your name, a link to your blog or picture gallery, and maybe a picture of the Pattern Magic design that inspired you (and I’ll email back to confirm receipt).

If you wish, tell me:

Why you chose that particular design,

The fabric you used,

How much drafting experience you’ve had,

Any other tidbits of info you’d like to share.

The “Catwalk”

I’ll compile our creations into a review to be posted on Wednesday 14 November.

The Button

If you’d like to display the Pattern Magic Challenge button in your blog, copy the text in the box below and paste it into a text box of your widget area.

Pattern Magic Challenge


In the meantime…

Please leave a comment below if you’d like to take part so that we can keep in touch – or, if you’ve already had a go at Pattern Magic, let us know how it went. As my blog is relatively new, I’d be very grateful if you could forward the details of the challenge to Pattern Magic enthusiasts you may know, as well as pattern-drafting students and fans of clothes that get talked about. I’ve taken part in some very lively and creative group challenges this year and though I realise that a Pattern Magic challenge might be intimidating to some people, this needn’t be an overly ambitious project. Give it a go and you never know – you might just get a sensational Christmas party outfit out of it!

“No, no hoodies. Oh, I am sorry… I thought you were wearing a hoodie”.