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Inspiration

Burda magazine November 2014

30 October 2014, 14:57

I received this issue a good week ago, but I hadn’t been overly enthusiastic about this one, even though there are a lot of interesting designs going on. There are noticeably fewer patterns included this time, too, which seems to be related to there being some huge gown patterns which take up more space than usual on the pattern sheets.

So if you’ve got a formal occasion coming up over the holidays, you’re about to become very excited, but there’s plenty of casualwear included too…

There are some great separates in this issue, but I personally don’t rate either of these! The top is made for lightweight wovens, but that hem is just far too wide, in my opinion, and really gives the sort of “is she pregnant?” look even when teamed with slim trousers (not to mention that deep neck pleat which will look terrible on large busts!). In this case, they’ve teamed it appropriately with leggings, but delving a little deeper into the pattern, these leggings have: a) interfaced waist facings, and b) an invisible side zipper. On a knit. Errr. The pattern itself looks fine, just not the finishing!!

So are these cigarette trousers any better then? Well, I personally think the inset leather pieces would be more flattering slightly curved rather than straight, but that’s just drafting preference. The zipper on the side though – if you read the instructions, you do 80% of the work of creating a zippered welt pocket, only to seal it up with a facing to make it utterly useless! Otherwise, it looks like a decent pattern for stretch wovens, with a back yoke and nice front pockets.

I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot of this knit top across the sewing world in the next few months! It’s what Burda does best – a great knit top with interesting details and great fit that can be made up in a thousand different fabrics.

This lightweight coat is super flattering with the wide, dramatic lapel collar, nipped in waist, and hip-length hem. Burda have styled it quite vintage, but I think this could be flattering on a wide variety of body types- much moreso than the longer version (which has illustrated instructions).

You wait ages for a transitional “car coat” pattern and then two come at once! I’m not entirely sold on the gathered, wide portion on the bottom nor the weird patch pockets, but with a bit of tweaking I think it could really work. Since the bottom is just a gathered rectangle, I’d attach it 1:1 with the front to make it flatter, and shift all the gathering to the back instead!

And now for something completely different (and feeling more like something Manequim magazine would do!) – Burda have printed patterns for five iconic gowns! My favourite is probably this gown similar to the one Eva Green wore in “Casino Royale”. I just adore the back view, and the sleek silhouette.

I love that this asymmetric gown with an overskirt actually could become something really quite modern just by leaving off the overskirt, and shortening the hem to cocktail length (and saving you about 5 meters of satin, too!). Even though the design is over 50 years old, it’s something I’d totally wear.

And as a teenager of the 90s, I totally love that they’ve knocked off Julia Roberts’ red gown from “Pretty Woman”! The neckline looks quite dated IMHO, but I never realised before how similar the draped skirt is to that green “Atonement” gown (this could totally save you some time if you’re recreating the latter).

The children’s patterns this month are for babies, with onesies, teeshirts, little trousers, and even a pacifier holder. All very useful if you have a bunch of friends having babies that need gifts!

And finally, the Plus section this month features cozy jersey patterns, the highlight of which are these sweatpants! I love the yoked seaming, integrated pockets, and front fly so much I’m actually considering drafting my own in my size! Edit: As pointed out by Lauriana in the comments, what’s with the fly? I totally just assumed this was a mock fly, but I’ve looked in the instructions, and ermagod, they actually want you to do a fully functioning fly and button. Even though it’s a knit and has an elastic waist…!

Flip past all the scarf-collar tops and dresses and you may have missed that there’s also a super-flattering, super-useful jersey sheath dress here, too. It looks like the perfect winter dress, as far as I’m concerned!

So not really anything this month I’m on fire to sew ASAP, but plenty of interesting designs to pique my interest. What was your favourite?

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Comment [9]

Return to the set

27 October 2014, 13:55

Remember last April when I told you all about my day on set of the Great British Sewing Bee? Well, that was at the very end of Season Two, and I must’ve made a good impression on the production company because by the time that post went live, I had already begun work behind the scenes on Season Three!

Over a span of about four months, I spent a lot of time working on the Bee with a team of fantastic people, including the Thriftystitcher herself, who heads up the entire behind-the-scenes sewing team. Most of it was involved with the pattern challenges (the first portion of each episode, where the contestants are given a mystery pattern to make). I can’t discuss details of how we produce the patterns, but just trust me that a lot of work goes into each one before the contestants ever see them! A lot of this work was done in the production company’s offices – which are a pretty normal looking workplace, except at my desk there was a sewing machine and ironing board instead of a computer, which was quite funny!

My work involved a lot of sewing, fitting, digitising, but also illustration, too. I did the latter together with Rosie from DIY Couture (whom I’m not afraid to admit is way better at these than I am!). This proved to be great practice for my own pattern line, as the more I did these for the Bee, the better I got – it was especially helpful for someone to say “ugh, that one looks weird, do it again!” Seriously, this helped up my Illustrator skills immensely!


The Haberdashery, empty and quiet

I was super chuffed to see some of my drawings made it into the final tv shows, too! Here I thought they’d only have an audience of ten, at most!

I wasn’t actually on the set at all for the third series (which will air sometime in 2015, I believe), which I was ok with as I’d heard enough about the super long filming days, and because I’d been on set before.

Once the third series finished filming, however, we had to start work almost immediately on the BBC Children in Need specials which were commissioned using celebrities who had never sewn before! This was a big challenge in both making the patterns easy enough for absolute beginners, but also spelling out e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g in the instructions. Even though the CIN specials were only three episodes, they probably took nearly as much work as the full season, since we had to make a huge number of revisions to make sure the challenges ran to time and were easy enough for beginners.

To make everything go smoothly on the day, each celebrity was given an afternoon’s very basic sewing lesson, too, so that everyone was on a level playing field. I personally got to teach five how to sew, and they were all honestly absolutely lovely and enthusiastic about making the simplest of items. I don’t work with absolute beginners much so I’d almost forgotten how magic those first few steps can be.

I was also thrilled when I was asked to make the “perfect” version of the Men’s teeshirt pattern challenge – this is the one which is paraded on tv as the one the contestants should aim towards. Sewing a “perfect” version of something to be scrutinised on tv in front of millions of viewers – no pressure then!!


I love the Pudsey ironing board covers, which you can buy for a tenner!!

Because one of the pattern challenges involved using the overlockers (sergers), I was asked to be on set during the filming of that challenge, both to help out should anything need re-threading, but also to assist the celebrities and the crew. I soon found out that filming is another world – I was soon crawling on the floor like a combat soldier to get to the other side of the set without getting in shot of a camera filming behind, then contorting to take out a sewing machine to thread up in the right thread colour and drop back in without interrupting. I even got an overlocker working that 5 separate people couldn’t get to stitch properly. So proud!

It was that day on set that I was given the moniker “the overlocker ninja”. I may have to put that on my CV (resumé).

Really, I had a brilliant morning on set, but it was utterly exhausting – I had to be on my feet and thinking and reacting the whole time, so much that I went home and had a nap afterwards!

When I started work on the Great British Sewing Bee, I was warned that it’d ruin the show for me as I’d know everything that was going to happen before it went on tv, but actually, it hasn’t at all. In fact, I love the show even more now for knowing all the work, care, and love that goes into each episode, and that the people behind the cameras are as skilled as the people you see on tv. And by only being on set for one third of one episode, I figure it’ll still be a surprise to see exactly what the contestants do with the challenges we’ve devised for them, even if I already know what those challenges will be.

And holy crap, my name is actually in the end credits!!

Bring on Season Four!

UK residents can watch all three Children in Need episodes on iPlayer right now, plus donate to the Children in Need charity and bid for items made on the show via the official eBay shop. Please give generously!

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Comment [17]

Free Running Armband Pocket pattern (and new Shop!)

17 October 2014, 17:23

I promised you earlier in the week that I had a free pattern on the way, and it’s here!

Please welcome the FREE Running Armband Pocket pattern, a super quick pouch to wear on your arm that takes way under an hour to sew (10-15min for most!) and uses scraps you’ve probably got lying around anyway.

This armband has a pocket on one side with a simple fold-over flap for keeping things like a phone, keys, travelcard, etc tight against your arm while you run. There are no closures – the band just slips over your arm and the stretchiness of the fabric holds it in place.

Now the astute amoungst you are probably thinking “Wait – didn’t she do a tutorial for this already?” and you’d be right. You’d also be correct if you tried to follow said tutorial and found it a little bit confusing! I know I sure did when I went back to it a few months later and struggled to follow what Previous Me was talking about…

So I’ve taken the same concept, regraded it into five different arm sizes, created illustrated step-by-step instructions, and released it as a free pattern. If you’ve never bought one of my exercise patterns, then this is a really great way to see what they’re all about! It’s got the same pattern frame size as all my patterns, and with the same instruction layout as my latest Threshold Shorts pattern. There are also instructions included if you’d like to change the height of the pocket (say, if you’ve got a really big phone!). And it’s only four pattern pages to print out!

I’ve also taken this opportunity to create my own shop – I’ll still continue to sell my patterns on Etsy for the foreseeable future, but shopping directly with me means that:

My shop accepts Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Paypal, and downloads are automatically sent you you upon payment (or in the case of this free pattern, when you complete the checkout process!), so you’re still able to get your hands on the patterns any time of day without waiting around for me to wake up in my time zone or anything.

If you’ve got any questions, or notice any problems with the new pattern or the new shop, please drop me an email or leave a comment below.

Thanks again for all your wonderful comments and support over the last year. I’m hard at work on (full) Pattern Number Six right now!

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Comment [8]

Why pdf patterns?

15 October 2014, 14:33

There’s been some discussion around the internet lately about pdf patterns and their ability to stand the test of time, and it’s one that I’ve felt very strongly about. I’ve worked in technology for over 12 years, and have created and run my own websites for 20 years now (seriously!). I’ve seen the world move from owning cds and taking photos to be developed, to ripping cds into mp3s and printing our own digital photos, right through to streaming music subscriptions and purely-digital photos in the cloud. The idea that digital patterns might somehow die out seems absurd when you think of it in this context.

Think of photos – which is more accessible when you want to look at them, the photos in your album on the shelf at home, or the ones backed up in your cloud account you can view from anywhere, share, and search by date and keyword? Frankly, I’m terrified that my 10 year old collection of Burda magazine patterns might be ruined in a fire or flood, because they’d be gone forever. But my digital patterns are backed up in several places, ready for me to re-print at any time.

But all this is from a user perspective. As a business owner, why would I not want to offer my patterns in every format possible? Why only pdf patterns?

In short, time and money. It’s grossly inefficient (not to mention extremely eco-unfriendly) for me to print a pattern and ship it halfway around the globe to customers when printing places exist closer to you. Adding on the cost to print the patterns, to package them, and then my time in posting them, I’d quickly end up with a price point that not very many people would be willing to spend.

Making the choice to only sell pdf patterns means I can keep costs low for my customers, and spend my time developing new patterns instead of fulfilling orders and walking to the post office. You get the pattern instantly, without having to wait for the post, too. There’s nothing worse than getting excited about a project then waiting two weeks before you can even get started!

“But assembling pdf patterns takes forever!”

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that you’re probably doing it wrong. Earlier this year I watched some people put together some pdf patterns who’d never encountered them before. They sat down with their scissors and diligently cut off all four sides of every pattern page, then laid everything out and taped every single join along its entire length. My eyes boggled.

If you’re doing this, definitely have a read through Sewaholic’s post on quickly assembling Print At Home pdf patterns – it’s very close to the way I assemble pdf patterns, and it takes me roughly 1min per page (so a 15 page pattern takes me about 15min to trim, assemble, and cut). And I assemble a lot of pdf patterns during the development process!

A few more tips for assembling:

Or if you’ve tried the above and still really don’t like assembling patterns (which is fine!), most pattern companies offer a large format version of the pattern which you can take to a copy shop and get printed onto a large sheet of paper. I’ve always offered these “Copy Shop” versions, but I’ve recently changed to include copy shop versions in all my purchases by default rather than by request to cut down on the time delay for you all.

If you’re having trouble finding somewhere near you to print these out economically (they really shouldn’t cost more than about £5/$8 for the average pattern), then you may want to read this Pattern Review discussion on finding cheap places to print large format pdfs. It’s US-based, but a lot of the tips (like asking for engineering or architectural prints when getting quotes) are applicable anywhere.

So, after all this – it doesn’t necessarily mean I will never offer printed patterns for sale – just that the current infrastructure and price isn’t there to support it yet. I would consider selling printed patterns should there be a company which handles the printing and order fulfillment for local customers, for example. Or if I were to have a stall at an expo and sell patterns in person. Or should drone technology advance so that I can have an automated way of delivering direct to those in my local area (am I the only one who sees the potential good in drones, like the Harry Potter owl postal system?).

But I do definitely see that digital patterns are the way the industry is headed, and for all the reasons outlined above, I vastly prefer them both as a customer, and as a patternmaker.

Oh, and I’ve got a freebie pattern coming out very soon…

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Comment [19]

Manequim magazine September 2014

13 October 2014, 13:13

It may be turning blustery and cool here in London, but in Brazil it’s just starting to heat up – what better reason to look into the latest issue of Manequim magazine while I mentally warm myself in the Rio sunshine…

The first to catch my eye in this issue was in the “designer style” feature, which this month looks at Paco Rabanne. It’s mostly separates (with the exception of the pleated party dress on the right), but I love the asymmetric shell top seen here on the left! It’s got pleating on one shoulder, and on the other, a leather panel which wraps over to the back with no shoulder seam. I can’t think of a better way to utilise a small piece of silk and a scrap of leather (let’s face it, neither are getting thrown in the washing machine anyway!).

I’m having a bit of deja vu on this sleeveless, crossover top, and I realised it’s because there was an almost identical pattern in the May Burda magazine (seen here on the right for comparison’s sake). I’m guess they’re both inspired by the same runway look…

There’s nothing groundbreaking about this shirtdress, but it really looks like something I’d just live in should I find myself in a hotter climate. Great cut, great print, and easy to wear.

Manequim often have interesting trouser seaming details, but the ones I like will inevitably be in a different size. So I like to keep my eyes open for basic trousers in my size so that, with a little bit of slicing, the basic pattern can be transformed into the fancy one. These linen trousers are a great basic shape, and offered in the full set of Manequim regular sizes, score!

This teeshirt design is quite striking for its colour blocking, but it’s quite a simple pattern concept. It’s a flat front and back piece, with a black cap sleeve, and a triangular black panel in the side seam to give some shaping. Simple, yet effective.

Manequim usually only contains two or three Plus-sized patterns per issue, but twice a year they have a full Plus feature, like here. Not only do we get six Plus-sized patterns, but we also get the Brazilian comedienne Fluvia modelling again. I love it when she models for Manequim, because she just makes everything she wears look fantastic and you can tell she’s having so much fun!

In other news, it’s Spoonflower free shipping day right now (by the time you read this, anyway)! So go stock up on FehrTrade x Laurie King exercise fabrics and save yourself a few bucks!


More on the fabrics and how to use them over here!

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Dates for Your Calendar

10 October 2014, 13:09

There are some big things happening in my sewing world over the next month or two you should know about (no, not another pattern release just yet though I am working on the next one already!). So get out your calendar and take note of these…

Monday 13 October


Spoonflower have announced another free shipping day (international shipping, too)!. This is a perfect opportunity to try out our Fehr Trade x Laurie King exercise fabrics if you haven’t already. The fabrics coordinate perfectly with my sewing patterns so you only need to buy one yard of wicking fabric to get coordinating colours and prints.


Seen above, the VNA Top and Duathlon Shorts (booty length) in the coordinating “Maps” citrine & black colourway.

For UK buyers, this means you save $9 on shipping, and if you buy one yard of the Performance Piqué it should fall under the HMRC exemption and you won’t get hit with nasty surprise customs charges.

Thursday 16 October


Next Thursday evening I will be teaching the Slouchy Breton Tee class at the Thriftystitcher studio in Stoke Newington (London), and there’s still space for you to join!


Me in my Purple & green Slouchy Breton Tee

This class uses a pattern drafted exclusively for the class, and has the magic ability of fitting everyone I’ve taught so far without needing an FBA! Magic. Stripey fabric is provided just you just need to turn up and enjoy learning the stretch fabric basics, and go home with your own tee and exclusive pattern.

Tuesday 21 October


OMG, it’s the return of the Great British Sewing Bee, but with a twist! The first of three charity specials for BBC Children in Need airs at 8pm, featuring celebrities who have never sewn before, going through a set of three challenges. Dum dum DAH!

I’m super excited for these to air because, well, I may have spent half my summer working behind-the-scenes on these (there’s a blog post ready for when I’m able to post it!), so I can’t wait to see the finished episodes!

Also, I can confirm that these Pudsey ironing board covers are super cute! Serious bargain at £10 (for charity!), if you ask me.

Sunday 26 October


Stretchtacular Day! Come to the Thriftystitcher Studio and learn to sew your own leggings in the morning and a slouchy Breton tee in the afternoon! You could indeed wear both home, should you be so inclined (I’ve had many students do just that…). Or you could choose to do either class individually, too.

There are nice cafes and pubs just round the corner for a break at lunchtime, or if it’s a nice day you can pack a lunch and eat it in nearby Clissold Park, too.

Wednesday 29 October Sunday 2 November


Edit: the workshop has been moved to 2 Nov to better accommodate 9-5 workers!
Cult running magazine Like the Wind are holding a week-long popup in Shoreditch (London) with a series of workshops, talks, films, and… a sew-your-own-leggings class, taught by yours truly!


My Acid-trip leggings producing “an effect”!

This class will have a running focus, so I’ll talk about things like wicking fabrics, chafing, seam finishes, and other design considerations specific to activewear, and you get to choose your own fabrics, too.

Thursday 6 November


Leggings! Everybody loves leggings! Come and learn how to deal with stretch fabrics and sew your own in an evening with me at the Thriftystitcher Studio. You get to choose your own fabric and use the overlockers (not-so-scary “overlords”, no!), and come home with your very own pair plus a pattern to make as many as you want at home.

Sunday 16 November


If teeshirts and leggings seem too daunting, perhaps dainties hold more appeal? In this class at the Thriftystitcher Studio, you’ll learn the basics of lingerie sewing, including a clean-finish crotch lining, applying lingerie elastic, and using different types of lace.


A detail of a turquoise Lacey Thong I made last year

We’ll be using my Lacey Thong pattern or a new Lacey Brief pattern I’m developing from the Runderwear base pattern, so you have your choice of style!

Phew! And… I think that’s everything. Happy weekend everyone!

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Comment [1]

Burda Easy magazine Fall/Winter 2014

6 October 2014, 13:24

While we were off holidaying through Bohemia, I didn’t really get a chance to do much fabric or haberdashery shopping. There are tons of fabric shops all over Budapest, but we were definitely more concerned with the street food and thermal baths while we were there. In Vienna I really meant to stop in at Komolka and Stoff und Faden (thanks, Shannon!), but we were short on time and all I could manage was a peek through the windows of the latter while they were having a class at night. I didn’t see anything sewing-related in Prague, but I spotted a few fabric shops in Berlin along the marathon route (sadly, not really the time to be stopping to shop!), so my lone sewing souvenir this time around was a copy of the latest Burda Easy magazine, which I was happy to pick up!

If you’re not familiar with Burda Easy, it’s published twice a year in several languages (German, French, English, Italian, and Russian, I believe?), and has fully illustrated instructions. Sometimes the designs are simpler, but in this issue they’re happily on the more advanced/interesting side and not too difference from what’s in the monthly magazine. The patterns come on tissue and are printed in such a way that they don’t overlap each other so you could cut the out rather than trace if you’re that way inclined. They don’t contain seam allowances, which is the norm everywhere except the US.

The last time I bought an issue was two years ago when we were in France but I think I prefer the designs in this one even to that. Burda Easy really only provide four base patterns, then spin a huge amount of variations off of those, so you can get a pretty wide variety of looks (also helpful if you need to do things like an FBA, you only need to do them once!).

First up – I’ve cooled off the peplum look rather a lot by now, but I really like the paneled pencil skirt (either with the asymmetric godet or not).

I thought this foldover clutch with the bow detail was really cute – it’s explained in a series of colour photos on the facing page, and it’s only rectangles so doesn’t require any tracing, either.

Here’s another variation on the seamed pencil skirt, but this time it’s shorter and with more godets inserted to give it more of a skater skirt shape. I also like the look of the colourblocked tee, but not being a sweetheart neckline kind of woman, I’d personally smooth out the point so it’s just a curve over the bust.

Love this coat! The colour, the cut, the shoulder shaping, the collar, everything!

The jacket from the cover is the same base pattern as the coat above, but with a great cutout panel from the waist seam. I can’t stand the clichéd Chanel jacket, but I think this would be a much fresher alternative, made up in bouclé or tweed.

Here they’ve taken the diagonal-seamed base pattern, lengthened it into a dress, and really gone crazy with the geometric cut-outs at the neckline! I really like the cut-outs, but I think I personally would get more wear from a top than a dress – the nice thing about the patterns here is that it’s easy to swap in details from different variations and build your own.

There were a few inspirational articles included in the magazine, too – an article on Berlin vintage shops (much more useful to me while I was in Berlin!), plus this feature on a Dutch designer would has a really cool scribbly style (enlarge the photo to see the jacket in the bottom right!).

Burda Easy doesn’t have a nice “At A Glance” page to scan for my records like the monthly magazine, so I created my own from the overviews on each of the tissue sheets. The advantage here is that you can easily see what styles are included on each sheet without unfolding them all, but the downside is that the tissue is so thin you get a lot of bleedthrough of other lines.

And finally, I wanted to show you an example of the instructions, which all contain coloured illustrations and make it much more easy to understand (even if you don’t speak German, like me). These are similar to the illustrated instructions in the glossy part of the monthly magazine that Burda have been including over the past year or so.

This issue of Burda Easy is available to buy now, in English from GLP in the USA or Newsstand in the UK or you can have a look at all the designs on the Russian BurdaStyle site.

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Comment [5]

Burda magazine October 2014

3 October 2014, 12:33

I received my subscription copy of this magazine the day before we left for our Bohemia trip, but by that point I’d already written a full week’s worth of posts (I hope you enjoyed all those book reviews!), and didn’t have any time to spare to scan this until after we came home.

I haven’t seen much about this issue online yet, but after two mediocre Fall issues, this is the Fall fashion issue I’ve been waiting for!

I usually shy away from “nautical styles” since it can be a bit cliché to live on a boat and dress like a sailor, so I was surprised that I really liked a lot of the styles in this feature, including the His’n‘Hers pea coats.

It’s hard to beat a good long sleeved cowl neck tee as far as I’m concerned (they’re pretty much my uniform in the colder months) and I really like that this version has a crossover at the shoulder which brings the cowl a bit higher. This should prevent any “leaning over gaping” issues that some cowl tops have, but there’s only one way to find out! (There’s also an un-pieced version of this same tee)

Now, I thought the trousers pictured with the stripey tee above looked nice enough, especially since they have an interesting back view, but then I saw this note in the instructions! What?? That sounds like a problem, not a feature! I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons I sew is to avoid RTW fitting issues like trousers falling down as I wear them…

This “egg dress” is so far removed from my usual preferred sheath dress style, but I recently wore a similarly-silhouetted dress and absolutely loved it, so this (plus the cowl tee) is at the top of my To Sew list from this issue. I’ve got the perfect silk twill I’ve been itching to sew into something, and this might just be it!

I hate the main fabric they used here, but love the detailing and gold leather patches on this biker jacket, sized for Petites.

Huzzah! A designer pattern, this time from the Italian label Ports 1961. The dress seems a bit better suited to a South American October, but the construction details are really interesting. Whenever I’ve made the Burda designer patterns in the past, I’ve found them to be a cut above in terms of drafting and attention to detail.

This paneled dress is shown a few times in the magazine and I think it could be a really flattering dress on a lot of different figures, especially when you consider the different colourblocking options. It’s also the pattern with the full-colour illustrated instructions for this issue, too.

This cowl dress is the same base pattern as the stripey nautical top I showed you earlier, but the fabric makes it easier to see the neck detail. That, and I just love the styling, muted colour, and textured fabric they used – totally something I’d wear myself!

There were a few nice patterns in the Plus section this time including a bomber jacket, but I thought this woven blouse and skirt combo looked both super flattering, and really versatile for Fall. You could easily leave off the ruffle and straighten off the hem on that skirt and have a great, basic pencil skirt to wear with just about anything.

I don’t usually care about the kids section, but this time Burda just knocked it out of the park! For starters, they’ve sized these for tweens (up to their largest kids size, 164cm), which they hardly ever do, plus they’ve included patterns for boys and girls, plus the designs are really timeless and classic!

First up, the two patterns for tween boys – a raglan sweatshirt and a classic trench coat.

Tween girls also get a raglan sweatshirt, but with some added seaming that reminds me a lot of the StyleArc Ivy tunic I made last year, especially with the angled seaming at the hem.

But the absolute best is this trench cape! Omg, how much do I want this in adult sizes?! The belt really nicely gives waist definition, but it still has the classic trenchcoat details, too. Plus there’s a cute satchel pattern to complete the Fall look.

So what did everyone else think – do you like these patterns as much as I do?

Coming up next week: Burda Easy, which I picked up at a Berlin newsagent.

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Comment [10]

Book Review: Two Pattern Grading books

25 September 2014, 13:28

I’ve got not one, but two books to talk about today, both on the subject of pattern grading, which, to be honest, has hardly any books published on the topic and seems to be a bit of an industry secret or something.

If you’re not familiar with what pattern grading is – it’s the process of taking one pattern and adding or subtracting amounts at various points to make it another size, or multiple sizes. This isn’t just a simple equation of “well, size Y is twice as big as size Q” because humans’ shapes don’t grow at the same rate (ie: the difference between a size 0 and a size 18’s shoulders aren’t likely to be as great as the difference in hip sizes). In general, the measurements around the body change much more than the vertical measurements, so you need to follow some rules to know how far to move different points and in which directions.

Now, there’s an old-fashioned way of doing this with paper patters, scissors, tape, a special “grade ruler”, and several hours of your time, and this was covered pretty extensively in the September 2014 Threads Magazine (#174). In my personal opinion, this is fine if you only want to change one pattern to one other size, for instance if you have a vintage pattern but want it in your own size. Doing more than one size this way is a great way to end up throwing everything into the bin after several hours of swearing.

In my opinion, the far less stressful way to do pattern grading is digitally. You select a point, tell your software (like Adobe Illustrator) to move it xx cm vertically and yy cm horizontally, and you do that to all the points around the pattern. No taping, no cutting, and no weird ruler. Plus it’s way more accurate. So with this in mind, my reviews of both books are skewed heavily towards how they deal with digital drafting.

Let’s look at “Grading Workbook” by Connie Crawford first. It’s been out as a print book for a while, but I bought an early edition of the pdf ebook last year, which has been extensively cleaned up and digitised. I checked about a month ago, and there haven’t been any revisions so the copy I’m reviewing here is indeed current.

The book is targeted at someone who has some knowledge of pattern drafting, but is a beginner at pattern grading – most home sewists would be able to follow along with the introductory chapters which explain the methods and theory, and how to select different grades.

For each of the grade tables (ie: bodice, skirt, sleeve, stretch, child, etc), there are a few pages which show which point is being selected and which direction to move it, shown in a series of diagrams, like these two:

Then at the end, there’s a table which shows exactly how far vertically and horizontally you’re to move each of those points shown in the preceding pages.

This is really nice, as most grading books don’t do the legwork for you and expect you to fill in your own tables based on however you want the grade to be (even or uneven, and how much in between each size). Or rather, it would be nice if it was a bit more user-friendly. I found myself, each time I wanted to use the table, having to flip back several pages to see which point they were talking about, then flipping back to the chart to see the amount. For every point on every size. So I eventually just took screenshots of the diagrams and chart and made myself my own cheatsheet in Photoshop just so I could have everything on one page. This is time-consuming, and made me annoyed since this is something that could’ve easily been done on their end. But no matter.

The real problem, though, is that there are a freaking million typos/errors in every single chart. Really.

Those numbers below are supposed to be the decimal equivalent of the fraction, which is important for entering it into your digital system. But if you’re not paying attention, you’ll just type in what’s there and screw up your entire grade and waste hours of work. THANKS!

This is the major reason why I can’t really recommend this book.

But moving on… I rather liked this explanation of the different types of women’s figures, even if it is light on specifics. I’ve never seen a “Half size” explained anywhere before that I can recall…

But the drawings of the various childrens figures really just creep me out.

But let’s move on to the second grading book, “Concepts of Pattern Grading” by Carolyn L. Moore et al. I bought this one after tearing my hair out one too many times using the Crawford book, and it’s significantly different.

For starters, this book is definitely more technical, aimed at professionals or fashion students. It’s highly geeky, and you need to be in the right frame of mind to read and absorb it. But it contains interesting details such as this table, showing the grading differences between sizes if you’re targeting a youthful figure versus a 55+ figure:

This book also contains rules and tables for all the basic pattern types: bodice, skirt, sleeve, trousers, collars, etc, but the major difference here is that all the tables are blank and you have to fill them out for yourself. The book comes with a cd containing all the blank tables and worksheets as pdfs, so you can print out your own for each project. I personally would’ve preferred if this info was all in metric rather than inches, because it’s a ton easier to add and subtract mm than it is fractions (I actually downloaded a fraction calculator app for my phone), but the concepts are really well explained and it doesn’t take that long to fill out the table yourself.


Two of my actual worksheets – the Crawford is on the left and Concepts on the right

Beyond the basic grading rules, though (which Crawford’s book also covers), this book gets into the really weird stuff, too, like asymmetric designs and draped designs that continue onto two planes (think Pattern Magic). But useful-weird stuff, too, like raglan sleeves.

Shawl collars are used to show how to draft when flat shapes wrap around into 3D, but frankly, this is starting to get a bit beyond me.

And then we get into the stretch stuff, which should be second nature to me but waaaaaaahhhhh does this book make it overly complicated. I suppose they’re being thorough.

The back of the book is filled with a huge amount of table of measurements of various figure types, which is really helpful if you’ve, say, measured someone in a bunch of places but forgot one little thing…

In my opinion, I vastly prefer the “Concepts of Pattern Grading” book. Yes, you have to do a lot of the work yourself before you can start grading, but there’s a lot more information there, it’s very neatly explained, and there’s a lot of room there for your skills to grow. I would recommend the “Grading Workbook” for beginners if the hundreds of typos (or errors?) are fixed and they improve the usability of the charts. The Workbook is significantly cheaper and has the potential to be more beginner-friendly, but at this time, I’d choose Concepts… every single time.

I’m currently on a much-needed holiday through Central Europe, ending with running the Berlin marathon. I’m trying not to work while I’m away, so I’ll respond to anything non-urgent once I’m back. Thanks!

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Book Review: Pattern Cutting for Menswear

24 September 2014, 13:34

Unfortunately, menswear really is the ugly stepchild of the fashion industry – there seem to be about two menswear books for every ten for women, plus there are hardly any commercial patterns out there for men (and if there are, 90% of the time it’ll be that same button-down shirt I’ve seen a million times, argh).

The Aldrich book seems to be the de-facto standard for menswear drafting as far as I can tell, but I tried her teeshirt draft for men and hated it so I’m loathe to buy it to test the rest, really. Perhaps it’s the standard just because there are so few to choose from and not because it’s particularly very good? So I asked for (and received!) this book instead for my birthday, as I’d love to draft more menswear for James and possibly for future patterns, too.

Now I haven’t actually tested the drafts in here yet (though I fully intend to), but I really like a lot of things about this book. Most obvious is that it’s a modern menswear book – instead of just covering the basic tailoring styles, it shows you how to draft things like hoodies, jeans, and parkas on top of the more standard jacket and button-down shirts. There are 20 different styles in all, with instructions on how to adapt the basic blocks to match the given style. So this is more like how the Japanese pattern books do things, only a bit easier to follow than the standard Pattern Magic “instructions”!

There’s also tons of info on measuring, finding fit models, production stuff, etc, but of course I was more drawn to the geeky pattern stuff, like the tables showing size differences between Chinese men, American men, and European men. Very interesting if you want to make sure your fit is perfect for a specific market.

And even though this sort of thing is covered in much greater detail in David Page Coffin’s excellent “Shirtmaking” book, I liked this breakdown of the different collar styles and how to change the fit around the neck.

Overall, I really like this book, and I think it gives you a lot of style options in addition to general menswear info. The real test, of course, will be in actually making up the drafts and testing out the fit, but that will come in time.

“Pattern Cutting for Menswear” by Gareth Kershaw is available from Laurence King publishing (who occasionally do amazing sales btw) in addition to loads of other book stores.

Up tomorrow: a pattern grading smackdown!

I’m currently on a much-needed holiday through Central Europe, ending with running the Berlin marathon. I’m trying not to work while I’m away, so I’ll respond to anything non-urgent once I’m back. Thanks!

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