Instant gratification Part 2: Using PDF sewing patterns

Using PDF sewing patterns topper

If you’ve never used a downloadable sewing pattern before, then we hope that Part 2 of our blog: ‘Using PDF sewing patterns’ will encourage you to take the plunge! Apologies to those of you who are well-versed in all of this – but if that’s the case please do share your top tips!

What exactly are PDF sewing patterns?

A PDF sewing pattern is a pattern that you can download onto your computer and print out. It will often come in two downloadable files; one containing the actual pattern; the other with the instructions and sizing guidance etc.

The ‘PDF’ stands for ‘Portable Document Format’, which is the type of file that you download. A PDF file always displays and prints out in exactly the same way, regardless of the kind of computer you have or what software you use. Your computer, tablet or phone will probably be able to display a PDF using in-built software or your web browser (e.g. Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Windows Explorer).

If your device can’t handle a PDF file then don’t panic!  All you’ll need to do is download free software called ‘Adobe Acrobat Reader’. Your computer probably has it already – if not then you’ll find it here.

How do you buy a PDF sewing pattern?

Couldn’t be easier. All you need to do is complete your purchase online just as you would for anything else (you already buy your fabric online, right?) Then, instead of the usual email telling you that your purchase will be packed and despatched, you get an email which either…

– contains your PDF pattern file(s) as attachments (scroll down when your email arrives – they’ll likely be at the bottom)

OR

– contains a link for you to click on to download your pattern file(s)

Once you have your file, you just double-click or tap on it to display the pattern and instructions.

Producing your PDF sewing pattern

This is the bit that irritates non-PDF sewing pattern aficionados  since it can take a good 20 minutes or so to put your pattern together. At this point I usually remind myself of all the advantages – and that even a paper pattern needs trimming, tracing and cutting. If you have a local print shop they will print your file off for you – and if you’re really irked then by all means give them a call. I promise you can get quite nippy at putting PDF sewing patterns together once you have the routine down.

1. Print your PDF sewing pattern

First off, you need to print your pattern. The pattern pieces will be laid out on a single large sheet, however since your printer will probably take A4 paper as standard, your pattern sheet has to be constructed using multiple ’tiles’ of A4 paper.  Typically the pattern sheet might comprise anything from 20 – 30 pages or more – so this is a good opportunity to use that pile of half-used A4 paper you have hanging around.

TIP: It’s worth investing in a black and white laser printer – far cheaper to run and much quicker than inkjets which tend to be slow, with expensive refills.

WARNING! Some phones and tablets may print your PDF file without a problem but it’s worth checking and testing as others may not. If in doubt, then us a laptop or desktop computer.

WARNING! Whatever you do – make sure you print your PDF file off at full size. There’s always a 10cm square printed on one page – if in doubt then measure this square to make sure you printed the pattern correctly. Your PDF display or your print options both have the capacity to reduce/increase your printing scale – and it’s easy to overlook that (I speak from experience)

using PDF sewing patterns blog print size2. Assemble your PDF sewing pattern

Next comes your chance to release your inner Valerie Singleton – since your next job is to stick those A4 ’tiles’ together to create your pattern sheet. You’ll usually find an assembly plan for your pattern pages as part of the instructions.

Using PDF sewing patterns plan

To help you, each A4 page will usually have a letter and number to indicate how they fit together – Row A, tiles 1,2,3… Row B, tiles 1,2,3… and so on.

Along each edge of each page will be a mark to help you align that page with the adjoining ones

Using PDF sewing patterns align

Sometimes you’ll need to trim the edges of the A4 sheets in order to line it up with the next one.

TIP! I always used long-bladed wallpaper scissors for this – they’re very cheap and make quick work.

EVEN BETTER TIP! Thanks to the Fold Line for this one – if you’re a regular PDF sewing pattern user, consider investing in a paper guillotine for trimming your pages – it makes the job even quicker.

Using PDF sewing patterns guillotine

It’s then just a case of sticking your paper together, matching alignment marks, letters and numbers.

TIP! Thanks again to the Fold Line for this one – use a stick of glue rather than sticky tape – it’s quicker and allows you to reposition pages if required.

I’m lucky enough to have the ClothSpot cutting table for assembling PDF patterns – but whatever surface you use to cut your fabric is perfect. Here are some ideas and here are some more – from fold-down surfaces to a trestle table kept under your bed!

TIP! It’s easiest to stick together one row of pages at a time, then stick the rows together

Sticking together rows using PDF sewing patterns

3. Trace and cut your PDF sewing pattern

You’ll find that different publishers present their PDF sewing patterns in a variety of ways; here are some examples:

BurdaStyle offer a single sheet containing all the different sizes. Each pattern piece is laid out separately meaning that you can cut your pattern direct from your pattern sheet rather than tracing it off.

StyleArc provide each size on a single sheet. You select the size you want when you purchase your pattern – but they also send you two additional sizes in separate files – one size up and one size down from the the one you selected. Again, you can then cut your pattern pieces straight from the pattern sheet if you like.

Named Clothing provide all the sizes on one sheet – but the different pattern pieces are overlaid on the sheet using different line patterns to distinguish between them. You’ll need to trace these off and cut them from your tracing paper.

Of course you may prefer to trace all your pattern pieces anyway – especially if you’re doing alterations. However the advantage of cutting straight from the A4 sheets where possible is that your pattern pieces will be more durable.

TIP! We agree with Marion that it’s worth investing in a roll of tracing paper if you’re adapting any pattern or using PDF patterns regularly.

TIP! Where pattern shapes are overlaid, Sarah suggests it’s a good idea to use a highlighter pen to mark out the one you want to trace.

4. Store your PDF sewing patterns

With no handy envelope in which to refold your patter, you’ll need to improvise. I have two storage system:

I like to use transparent A4 pockets, into which I fold the pattern pieces. I insert the pattern instructions at the front, so I can see what the design is. The added advantage here is that I can fold my final toile into the pocket too! My folders live in a handy white box from Ikea (naturally…)

Using PDF sewing patterns box

For pattern pieces that I use regularly, I have a stash of bulldog clips which I hang from hooks on a coat rack. Another option is to use trouser hangers with clips – they can then which can be hung on a clothesrail.

Using PDF sewing patterns hanging

5. Quick checklist

Here’s a final reminder of what you’ll need to get under way with using PDF sewing patterns. Nothing resembling rocket science equipment we think you’ll agree – a whole world of creativity will soon be your lobster!

– Computer (a tablet or smartphone may work but test first!)

– Printer & A4 paper

– Wallpaper scissors or guillotine

– Sticky tape or gluestick

– Tracing paper (a roll of Swedish Tracing Paper would be good – we use rolls of pattern tracing paper from Morplan

–  Pen/pencil, highlighter pen & ruler

– 20 – 30 minutes of your time (and just a smidgeon of patience!)

…and finally

Please do let us know if you have any handy hints for using PDF patterns – we’d love to know! Likewise if you have any questions then post those too – if we don’t know the answer then we surely know someone who will!

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Instant gratification Part 1: Why we love PDF sewing patterns

PDF Sewing patterns

Regular ClothSpotters will know that we like to offer sewing pattern suggestions for all our fabrics. We think it’s helpful to illustrate the kind of garment that a specific fabric could be used for; it also focuses our mind on the purpose and potential of a particular cloth. Our suggestions regularly include PDF sewing patterns as well as the more usual printed paper versions. Following questions from some of you we thought we might explain why, as well as offer some tips for using PDF sewing patterns.

Pattern anticipation

Invariably we find ourselves carried away by a potential project for every fabric that comes through the door – leading to a certain amount of excitement as deliveries arrive, photographs are taken and fabrics are described for the website

That excitement is a familiar feeling. In my case I’m standing in front of a large, hardbacked Vogue Pattern book in one of the two (imagine – two!) fabric shops in the small town where I went to school. They were a doorway into another world, confined only by imagination, skill and a suitable occasion for wearing my latest creation. In the absence of the latter, ‘wear it anyway’ became my motto as I became bolder and older. For the sad tale of what happened after that, I refer you to my Style Crisis posts – but the enchantment and excitement of leafing through those pattern books is aptly summed up by Stanley Tucci as Nigel the Art Director at the fictitious Runway magazine in the film The Devil Wears Prada.

You think this is just a magazine, Hmm? This is not just a magazine. This is a shining beacon of hope for – oh I don’t know – let’s say a young boy growng up in Rhode Island with six brothers, pretending to go to soccer practice when he was really going to sewing class and reading Runway under the covers at night with a flashlight.

Yes I know – we might all have issues with other aspects of that film – but this moment was heartfelt and a perfect illustration of the positive potential of the fashion press.

Despite my waxing lyrical about those pattern books however – there were drawbacks. Getting to the shop when it was open was always an issue, living miles out of town with a limited bus service. There was also that moment where I’d ask for the pattern number in my size and wait, breath bated, while the shopkeeper fingered through her drawer of envelopes. Sometimes I’d have a list of two or three alternatives – just in case – but on other occasions it was my chosen design or nothing.

Of course the obvious solution to that was ‘make my own pattern’ which I gradually began to do, with varying degrees of success. However where a design involved complicated construction or a new technique, that wasn’t always an option.

But then – the internet! An early adopter because of my work at the time, the potential for downloading sewing patterns as documents was an obvious opportunity for the sewing pattern industry. The excitement – just imagine – any pattern in any size at the touch of a button! My anticipation was almost unmanageable.

The reality was, however, that this vision took a long time to come to fruition, partly because this was the mid-1990s with the home sewing market  in decline as fast fashion took over the high street. However over the course of the last few years the market has taken a turn for the better and we now have a wealth of independent sewing pattern designers and publishers. As you might imagine, I couldn’t be more excited.

Why we love PDF sewing patterns

Here at ClothSpot we have a limited stock budget and what we do have, we like to spend on gorgeous fabrics rather than keeping stocks of multiple sizes of pattern design. That’s in no way a judgement on paper patterns or their stockists – far from it! We love a nice-to-handle paper envelope and we do appreciate a beautifully-produced instruction booklet.

PDF Sewing patterns

Obviously I still have a paper pattern collection!

On the stock front however, we have to cut our cloth according to our means. (Thank you! Yes, we were quite pleased with that too.) So – although we offer some patterns that can be sent direct from the distributor or publisher, we don’t currently stock physical patterns ourselves.

Like many of you, we’re located some distance from a large town – and we’re not immune to a bit of instant gratification when it comes to our sewing projects. For us then, it’s a natural inclination to turn to downloadable sewing patterns as a means of getting what we want when inspiration strikes. Frankly, PDF sewing patterns are a bit of a dream come true – and we love to share the joy, especially now there are so many to choose from. Many independent publishers increasingly offer their patterns in both formats – and the BurdaStyle site in particular has been built around its digital offering for some years now.

However we know from conversations with many customers that many of you are new to online sewing patterns – so in Part 2 of this post we’ll try and to demystify, reassure and offer some guidance on how to get started and make the most of what’s out there waiting for you.

Click through to Part 2!

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Style Crisis breakthrough: Leah Lounge Pants

Leah Lounge Pants topperNow I admit – a pair of taupe trousers might not have been what you were expecting to emerge from my style crisis deliberations. But please – no eye-rolling or comments about backsliding – for me, these Leah Lounge Pants are more than a pair of trousers – brown, grey or otherwise.

Trouser troubles

Last year I had a shot at fitting a pair of trousers based on a BurdaStyle block (or ‘sloper’) pattern. That fitting process turned into a two-part blog and resulted in a pair of beautifully-fitted (if I say so myself) bronze wool crepe trousers.

Predecessor to Leah Lounge Pants

Bronze wool crepe trousers from BurdaStyle block pattern

However I’m no professional pattern cutter – and although I’m perfectly able to replicate those trousers and cut them in different leg styles, I was struggling to incorporate the right amount of ease in the right places, especially for more tailored or loosely-fitted designs.

I was still hankering after a better understanding of where off-the-peg trousers and commercial patterns were parting company with my fit – in particular my bottom. My style crisis resolution has reached the stage where more trousers are definitely required and so I needed another approach.

Sailing by…

My first outing in this direction proved to be a bit of a false start. I had hopes that Vogue Pattern 9067 might be my solution for a more relaxed cut.

Vogue pattern 9067 predecessor to Leah Lounge Pants

Vogue Pattern 9067

Despite my qualms regarding its elasticated waist (Danger, Will Robinson!) I told myself this was a feature of many a sport-inspired trouser these days. I pressed on, with our ‘Classic capsule’ ivory stretch suiting fabric.

I don’t have many sewing disasters nowadays but these trousers certainly fit that bill, if they fitted nothing else. With a crotch at mid thigh and enough fabric to keep me ahead of the field in Cowes week, my trousers inspired a raised eyebrow and an invitation to bowls from one of my two evaluators – and a suggestion that they ‘might be a bit big’ from the more polite of the pair. In the hope that I can recut the fabric into something a little less accommodating, those pull-ons (and drop-right-off-agains) are now in my ‘rescue’ pile in the ClothSpot workroom.

Retail investigations

With the intention of trying some different styles to see where I might be going wrong, I headed off to our nearest shopping centre with Rebecca (the better-mannered of my advisory duo). There, my gaze fell upon this pair from John Lewis’s Modern Rarity collection.

Modern rarity trousers prior to leah lounge pants

‘Cross-front trousers’ by Modern Rarity at John Lewis (Tent pole not supplied)

These have a fold across the front of the stomach, constructed from the fabric of one leg; my hope was that they would hang nicely with an elegant line down the front.

Unfortunately I don’t have a picture (we were laughing too much) but suffice to say that far from hang, they just about stood up by themselves. Except, that is, for the acres of spare fabric that were collapsing under my bottom. The fabric was uncomfortably stiff and the trousers really were seriously enormous. So much so in fact, as to beg the question:

If a pair of trousers flaps its legs in a John Lewis changing room, can it really cause a tornado in Texas?

“Do you think they’re a bit big? Is my bottom actually in there?” I mused.

“Dunno” replied Rebecca, idly lifting up the front fold with the end of a coathanger. “What’s behind here?”

“Not sure. It’s all a bit mysterious down there”

“They make you look at bit…well…flat. Everywhere. Do you think they’re for someone taller?”

I pointed out that I at almost 5′ 8″ I’m well above average height. Eventually we stopped laughing; I wiped my eyes, got dressed and handed the trousers back before we were thrown out for creating a disturbance.

Over tea and cake, we figured out that in order to cope with a wider leg, my trousers needed something to hang from, other than my waist (e.g. hips, bottom). Otherwise they were always going to look ridiculous. (Is this right? Please, do tell!)

However, further investigation revealed that although my upper hips are in the same size bracket as my waist (let’s leave out my shoulders on this one), my lower hips are at least a size smaller. The challenge now was to find a pattern that could accommodate that difference.

The pattern

A number of you have been reporting lots of trouser success with Style Arc patterns. So, in search of a more relaxed, sport-luxe style of trouser to add to my nascent wardrobe, I eyed up their Leah Lounge Pants and decided to give them a go.

Leah Lounge Pants pattern by Style Arc

Leah Lounge Pants pattern by Style Arc

Working with their PDF patterns (that’s a whole other post) Style Arc helpfully send you the size you order, together with one up and one down from that size. I made a quick toile based on my selected size with no alterations – and lo! What resulted was the best-fitting first-go pair of trousers I can remember, straight off the pattern. It helps that they’re not a high-waisted design, but the crotch shape and rise were near perfect. However I still had quite a bit of excess fabric in the under-bottom area.

Toile 1 leah lounge pants

Is this what I’m reduced to – bottom shots on the internet?

There are lots of online guides on trouser fitting as detailed in last year’s post; one solution in particular according to the handy Colette guide to trouser fitting, might have been a fish-eye dart under my bottom. However before resorting to the numerous toiles that I feared that option might necessitate – I wondered if there was a more obvious solution. What if I simply graded down a size between my upper and lower hip – and flattened off just a sliver of that curve around the hip area?

This I did (thanks to the additional size downloaded) and hey presto!

Toile 2 Leah lounge pants

That’s better…

Running out of old toile fabric here (hence the ankle-swinging), but plenty to reassure that this was the way to go.

The fabric

I’ve been itching to get trousering with our triple crepe fabrics for ages – and the drape in this design seemed to call for a spot of creperie (fabric, not pancakes).

Taupe brown triple crepe fabric for Leah Lounge Pants

Draping taupe-brown triple crepe fabric

My choice of our Draping taupe-brown triple crepe might give just cause for concern to those of you who’ve been urging me to be brave on the colour front – but I reasoned that:

– I needed a neutral colour to work with black, white and ivory – and a plain fabric to cope with a (potentially) patterned top.

– I needed a dark-ish colour for practicality – I might want to go out in these – but I also want to use them for work and not have to worry about being overly careful.

– I know from experimenting in the ClothSpot workroom that this colour is a fabulous base for pinks and teal blues to ‘pop’ against – and that if I wanted to ‘go brave’ with a top then these trousers would be a great complimentary colour.

The making

This triple crepe fabric is wide at 150cm – and had I not forgotten that I only needed one of each of the two facings, (one at the front, one at the back; not difficult, Alice) then at a size 10 (and a few sizes up from there, I’d say) the length of fabric required would be dictated by the length of the trouser leg. In my case 1.2m should have done it.

The triple crepe fabric was surprisingly well-behaved. It was stable to cut and since I overlocked each garment piece right away, no fraying. Aided by the ClothSpot pressure steam iron (the kind that doesn’t have a heating element in the plate) the seams eventually pressed well – I might have had to be a bit more cautious with a regular steam iron.

A word to the wise – the Style Arc instructions are minimal. As in, they’d make a haiku verse look verbose. Fine if you’re confident – but if you’re used to Vogue Patterns’ clarity or Tilly’s pictures then a phone and a friend – or access to YouTube – are advised.

In the event I only had one hiccup – my front facing was at least an inch too small. It was cut precisely to size and although the unfaced trouser front might have bagged when being tried on, it was overlocked so should have been stable. The back facing fitted perfectly. Eventually I cut another and all seemed well.

The result

If I’m being picky then I’d say there is something funny going on with the front waistline which doesn’t quite seem to hug my tummy as it should. I can only assume that I pulled it out of shape when overlocking, hence the non-fitting front facing. Other than that though, it’s a case of ‘Hurrah!’, ‘Yippee!’ and ‘Deck the halls!’

Leah lounge pants front

Trousers!

They actually fit my bottom…

Leah Lounge Pants bottom

Bottoms up!

…and I love the way they drape and pool a little over my feet – suggesting width and excess when in fact they’re not that wide.

The wearing

My Leah Lounge Pants feel incredibly comfortable. They’re about to endure a weekend involving multiple long car journeys, lounging around (fittingly) and general wandering. If they can do that with an air of elegance as well as practicality (and I think they will) then I’m onto a winner. I will report back.

Leah lounge pants jacket

The look of relief…

The feeling

It’s very early days, but in these trousers I really feel like me. I love that they have some movement – and (whisper it) I actually feel a little bit elegant in them. I don’t feel in the least swamped – they make me feel lively and energetic – able to get on with what I need to do.

The decision

Time will tell – but I’m very hopeful that these will be keepers. If the trial weekend goes well, then versions in navy, black and even something bright might be in the offing (not that I’m going overboard or anything). I’d like to try something a bit more decisive on the style front – perhaps a wider leg, a turnup, some structured shape perhaps – but the idea that I can adapt a commercial pattern with a fairly simple adjustment is unfeasibly exciting. In fact, I’m getting quite worked up about the upcoming autumn season.

So…

…any suggestions for tops? For what it’s worth, my Leah Lounge Pants look great with my ‘Selja’ knot tee but I wouldn’t mind expanding my shirt wardrobe… Ideas for that – as well as for other autumnal trouserings – welcome as always!

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Style crisis: You say ‘tomato’, I say ‘shirt’

Tomato shirt topper

In an ideal world, this is the post where I would swan into shot on my newly-minted vlog (Ha! Don’t hold your breath…) sashaying elegantly to a tall stool. There, poised and articulate I would announce myself transformed; an accurate representation of my stylish inner self, only slightly distracted by the sound of my alarm clock going off…

Nope – not happening. No surprise that the reality is a little more prosaic. I have dipped my toe into the waters of my new personal style adventure and come up with – a shirt! Now – hold onto your hairpieces there, people – I know it’s not the most inventive of directions but the aim here at least in part, was for me to understand a bit more about me and my style. I’m sure I won’t be challenging Stella McCartney any time soon – and frankly you could probably drape me head-to-foot in Dior and it wouldn’t stop me behaving like a Duracell bunny with an inappropriate sense of humour.

A shirt was the first thing on my list – something cool (in the practical, rather than stylish sense – let’s be realistic) to wear with jeans in the summer. Not only did I make it – but I road-tested it for the day, too. Here’s how it went.

The pattern

Tried and tested, all over the Internet – Vogue Pattern 8772. Minimal agonising here – I had it to hand, knew it just needed a small bust adjustment (SBA) and I liked the idea of a no-sleeves, tunic length version.

Vogue Pattern 8772

Vogue Pattern 8772

Plus, it has a little bit of dart-shaping – enough to give it a bit of shape but not so much as to be too fitted. So off we went, with View E; sleeveless, tunic-length, proper collar, no bow.

The fabric

I’ve had my eye on our Coral-floral printed purple cotton lawn fabric for some time. It first arrived last summer and the colours cheered me up right the way through a long, dark winter, glowing in the cotton store. I wanted to try a cotton lawn for the shirt – and was already inclined towards it for this project when comments on my last Style Crisis post suggested purples and tomato-reds as being colours which might work well with my colouring.

I needed no further encouragement. Stepping away from black and grey was a definite goal for this project and not only does this fabric feature a background of purple and a print pattern of tomato reds – upon closer inspection those red berries almost looked like little tomatoes. Or pomegranates, perhaps? Rosehips? Who knows – tomato-ey enough for a decision to be made.

The making

I think this has to be the cheeriest make I remember. I knew that something was different when I realised that my black/grey/navy/white overlocker threads weren’t going to do the trick – and rummaging in my thread box I found a set of red ones. Red – I ask you! Unheard of hereabouts.

Tomato shirt overlocking

Cheery red overlocking!

Overlocking pattern pieces prior to construction is one of my pleasures in life – it makes me feel in control, organised and tidy. Not a feeling that ever lasts long in my experience – but it served to launch me into my Happy Place with a smile on my face. And in fact, that smile stayed put throughout.

Having shortened the back length by 1.5cm and reduced the bust darts down a size, I risked going without a toile having made the pattern up once before as a sample and knowing it was fairly true-to-size. For once my judgement was fairly accurate; a quick try-on after the main pattern pieces were assembled was reassurance enough on that front.

Rather than hope for an entire day to make my shirt (another entry in my ‘favourite dreams’ catalogue) I spent a happy wet Sunday afternoon followed by a few hours here and there later in the week. I’m a great subscriber to Lladybird’s belief that ‘little and often’ is the key to getting a sewing project done and although I do need a fair run at a project to get it going, I’m fine picking it up in shorter sessions thereafter. (Just in case anyone was wondering, running ClothSpot doesn’t magically conjure up lots of sewing time – quite the opposite.)

Happily however there were no disasters to report. (Something to do with no sleeves to sew on back-to-front, I imagine.) Top-stitching the collar reminded me that I really do need to do more practicing – one collar point requiring a couple of re-runs. My only pattern gripe was with the sleeve binding method. It’s not the first time I’ve had an issue with patterns instructing me to create binding using the main fabric and sew my binding strips in a circle prior to attaching to the armhole. In my experience, the binding strips always, always end up too large, necessitating much unpicking and re-sewing. Any suggestions as to why would be greatly appreciated.

The fabric however was a dream to work with. Stable and well-behaved, it kept its structure throughout (even while unpicking and restitching the aforementioned collar point) and pressed up a dream. My machine (a Janome Atelier 3 which I still think of as ‘excitingly new’ nearly two years on) created 10 perfect buttonholes with ease (oh, joy!) and we were away.

Tomato collar close up

Loving a proper shirt collar

The wearing

This is where it all gets a little weird. I happily went to it on the Monday morning with my (increasingly dishevelled) jeans and my brand new orange clog sandals. Orange is a new shoe colour for me (as I suspect it would be for most) but I felt an infectious jolliness from my shirtmaking when I ordered them with my birthday money. On went the shirt and off I nipped to the local shop to pick up milk and ClothSpot’s traditional Monday lunchtime soup. Walking into the shop, a polite chap stood back from the door to let me through and smiled. Not in a dodgy way – just a cheery smile. Then at the checkout the store assistant commented on my scent and told me all about the perfume her husband had recently bought her. Definitely not the kind of reaction I usually expect – not that people aren’t friendly  round here – quite the opposite. It just seemed…different. My ClothSpot colleagues were enthusiastic (although one of them should know that I caught that look of amused scepticism that she flashed around the workroom).

Alice in tomato shirt

The big reveal. (Ignore the hair. Apparently I did…)

It all went a bit downhill when we had a rescheduled visit from a supplier in the afternoon. My usual habit is to make a selection of fabrics then play with then on the floor so I can decide what works and how. The clogs came off as their wooden soles wouldn’t flex as I squatted on my knees. I then discovered I’d over-cut a buttonhole on my midriff which annoyingly refused to hold onto its button. Finally, kneeling on the floor for half an hour rendered my holey jeans even more so. As a work outfit then, this clearly wasn’t the ‘killer app’ I’d hoped for

The feeling

In my last Style Crisis post I listed all the ways I’d like my new wardrobe might make me feel more like me. There are some feelings I was searching for that my red and purple shirt delivered on; I did indeed feel ‘fresh’, ‘lively’ and ‘energised’. Partly to do with the colours; also the sleevelessness of the shirt worked for me on a hot day. I was cheery and jolly – and, apparently, so was everyone else around me. I’m suspect they weren’t responding to my shirt; is it actually possible they were reacting to the liveliness and good humour that I was projecting, partly as a result of wearing vibrant, happier colours? The jury is still out…

I’m less certain that this is a garment that made me feel ‘inspired’ or ‘connected’ however – and I’m pretty certain that it doesn’t fit my definition of ‘sophistication’, ‘elegance’ or a number of other criteria that I’d set for it. And as it turned out, my outfit as a whole wasn’t particularly practical either – certainly not for the job in hand that afternoon.

The colours I loved, actually. It was just that I had a sense that the scale and style of the print pattern were perhaps less ‘me’. I’m not so used to wearing such a small-scale, delicate print – and just maybe I should have warned myself off wearing actual tomatoes, as opposed to the colour. In addition I think that a longer tunic shape might have worked better in a less crisp, more flowing fabric. So – I might well have another go at the pattern – but possibly with a more draping fabric in a simpler design.

The decision

Keep or give away? Well – it’s hard to contemplate abandoning so quickly a garment that I enjoyed making and which in part, I enjoyed wearing. I’m going to hang on to it for the summer to see if it’s the kind of thing I might like wearing on a holiday road trip or to the seaside. I think it might cheer any of those – but if it doesn’t get that opportunity, even during summer weather like this, then realistically it’s not the style for me.

Opinions are welcome as as ever! Meanwhile a new shirt pattern has just arrived from France and I’m eyeing up our ‘Café Bleu’ rippling navy blue Irish linen fabric

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Quick fabric cutting tip: get a lot from a little!

We thought we’d share a quick fabric cutting tip that we often find ourselves recommending to customers. We’ll begin by apologising to those of you who are old hands at making the most of your remnants when it comes to fabric cutting. (You know who you are!) However we get lots of calls from customers who want to know how much fabric they need for a pattern, particularly when a fabric is an unusual width – or when we’ve posted an oddly-shaped remnant on the website!

Most patterns will give fabric cutting layouts for fabrics that are 115cm wide (aka 45″) – and again for 150cm widths (that’s 60″ in old money). What happens though, if there’s a mis-shapen (but potentially useful) remnant on offer? Or if the fabric you want to use is an odd width, such as 140cm? You’ll often find that linen and viscose fabrics in particular lie between the standard widths – and obviously the pattern publishers can’t cater for every eventuality.

You could of course use the amount given for a 115cm fabric – however if you do, then you’re probably going to have lots left over – and unless you’ve a use for that surplus, then that’s money you could have spent on something else (shoes, bags, more fabric – take your pick…)

We’re always very happy to advise on a project whenever we can, but when it comes to pattern cutting, even if we have the pattern in question and can see the recommended layout, there’s not a lot we can do to help. Absolutely, we know that if you can squeeze a sleeve alongside a bodice piece then that might be half a metre saved at least. However layouts can change between sizes – and never underestimate the width of a sleeve head. Before you know it, a couple of centimetres in a fabric width has become the difference between triumph and disaster.

However we’re just as keen as you are to get maximum monetary value from your sewing. That’s why we usually recommend that you get yourself a roll of sticky tape and a newspaper – in true Blue Peter Style.

Cut and stick your newspaper until you have a length that’s the width of your folded fabric and then use this as a template to represent your length of fabric. Lay out your pattern pieces to try out different fabric cutting layouts.

Fabric cutting tip

Here’s one we made earlier…

For a start  you might want to stick to the approximate layout recommended by your pattern, but as you become more expert, you can get quite cunning. However we should sound a couple of notes of caution…

DO make sure that you take note of pattern and nap directions as you position your pieces – your newspaper print might not be important but the print on your fabric might be!

DO be accurate in measuring to make sure your pieces line up with your newspaper ‘selvedge’ too – that’ll affect the angle of your pattern pieces and how they’ll fit.

It won’t take long – just 10 or 15 minutes. If you like, email or call us first and we’ll be happy to reserve your fabric while you do your calculations. Don’t forget – we’re always able to cut to any length if you place your order by telephone or email.

Do you have any other clever tricks for saving fabric or for fabric cutting? Let us know if so!

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Darts in a dash

Let this salutory tale be a warning. First, there’s a reason why some of us have been told to wait 24 hours before publishing anything on social media. Second, never make assumptions about the extent to which our body shapes can differ.

Following up with readers regarding our last blog on the subject of summer tops, darts and the benefits of toile-making, we were on a bit of a roll. We’d tried out the M&M Curlew top, reporting that this blogger and a customer had both found the darts to be positioned rather too high, despite our contrasting body shapes. Offline, we both questioned (rather bluntly – yet wittily, we thought at the time) the likelihood of any body type existing which that top might fit. Yes, yes – we know, we know – we’re sure M&M test their patterns and thousands of makers have, justifiably, loved their collections. As indeed, do we. But why let that stop us in our tracks when our tongues and typing are running faster than our brains?

We know we should have left it there. Especially since the Curlew make in question had since been tried on one of our ClothSpot itinerants and deemed to be a perfect fit.

Never ones to take a hint, much less to miss an opportunity to over-work a line, we took it upon ourselves to relay our sharp-tongued exchange to a third party. Namely, the prolific and stylish Sarah (known to Instagram as sewinsarahjane). Unbeknownst to us, upon reading our blog, she’d already dashed upstairs to try on her three iterations of the Curlew pattern, suddenly concerned that she’d been wearing malpositioned darts all this time. Which of course she hadn’t.

One might imagine that when confronted with our conjectures as to the likelihood of that design fitting a grown adult, that she might justifiably have taken us to task and at the very least, deleted us from her Christmas list. However not only are we blessed with a readership possessed of the best good humour – but also of extensive knowledge and experience. Our correspondent not only responded with good-natured laughter but what’s more, was resourceful and kind enough to send us some suggestions for patterns without darts which she thought we might like to consider, given our obvious difficulty in that department. We thought it would be churlish to keep those to ourselves – so here goes.

First up we have Sewaholic’s ‘Pendrell Blouse’. This has princess seams to avoid the need for darts – so is still fitted, but with a different cut.

Pendrell top without darts

‘Pendrell Blouse’ by Sewaholic Patterns

Next, another design from Sewaholic Patterns – this time their ‘Belcarra Blouse’. This is an interesting one in that it has a raglan sleeve which is another way of allowing for some shaping in the chest department without using side darts.

Belcarra blouse without darts

‘Belcarra Blouse’ by Sewaholic Patterns

Finally we have the ‘Inari Tee Dress’ by Named Patterns. This is a looser, less-fitted affair with a slight cocoon shape – therefore using a wider-cut top as a design feature.

Inari top without darts

‘Inari Tee Dress by Named Clothing

We’re very grateful to Sarah for our lesson in dart-avoidance – and we’d love to hear about other favoured dart-free designs you’ve used – please drop us a line! In the meantime we promise to look, learn and listen before posting. Until the next time we’re caught out…

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Slip dress slidin’ into summer

The slip dress is everywhere this summer, it seems – and we’ve been looking at style, fabric and pattern options for this classic garment that’s turned into this summer’s must-have.

Scroll down for some inspiration – including styling options for the avoidance of wardrobe malfunctions! You can also find out about our vintage-styled slip dress – we’ve been in satin heaven here at ClothSpot this month…

There’s more of everything our SS16 Slip Dress Pinterest board – or skip straight to some fabric options here.

Slip dress in wind

Slip dress as SS16 staple

The resurgence of the shirt dress last year (which still continues, we’re happy to say) was a big step away from the highly-structured, fitted dress silhouettes a la Roland Mouret that we’d seen populate the catwalks for some time. This year many designers have continued their foray into less structured styles – and the slip dress has been a popular means of developing an even more fluid approach to dresses.

Slip dress SS16 composite

Calvin Klein SS16 (L) and YSL SS16 (R)

Lines are simple; there’s a hint of vintage styling with dropped empire-lines but these are offset with metallic fabrics and simply-draped ribbons. Oh – and tiaras are apparently a ‘thing’…

Isn’t this a bit familiar…?

As ever there’s little that’s completely new under the sun. Even these bias-cut 1930s nightgowns were developing a style of dress originally seen in the 1920s. Those in turn were based on the less structured dress styles of the Arts & Crafts movement….and so it goes.

 

1930s bias-cut gowns - slip dress inspiration

Although these gown styles were probably intended to be nightwear, they echoed the simple, draping lines much beloved by Schiaparelli and Fortuny among others. Fast forward a few decades and we’d become much more used to the notion of ‘underwear as outerwear’. Gaultier’s cone-breasted corset for Madonna’s Blonde Ambition tour is possibly the most well-known example of this – and it was followed a soon afterwards by Calvin Klein’s slip dresses.

Calvin Klein slip dress SS94

Calvin Klein SS94 collection

It’s obligatory at this point to reference Kate Moss attending a party in 1993 – following which slip dresses became a staple part of many wardrobes for some years.

Kate Moss in slip dress 1993

Kate Moss parties in a slip dress, 1993

Mostly the high street adaptations of this style were opaque and a little more practical – but the simplicity of the bias cut, spaghetti straps and fluid fabrics were common themes.

I’d love to, but…

Of course that picture of Kate is a scary notion (sorry!) for most of us trying to adapt a style for our purposes – and our real bodies. Hold tight though! We’d like to convince you that the spirit of the slip dress goes way beyond that – and that there are options which don’t require you to put everything on display.

Even in 1994, Winona Ryder (with a very different body type to La Moss) demonstrated the practical solution of layering a flimsy slip dress over a more structured, supportive underlayer.

Winona Ryder slip dress 1994

Winona Ryder layers her slip dress in 1994

Another option is to take the delicacy of lace and the styling of an undergarment and build the structure into it, as Elizabeth Taylor demonstrates here…

Elizabeth Taylor slip dress

Elizabeth Taylor in a slip dress in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

In his SS16 collection, Calvin Klein shows how slip dress styling doesn’t have to be a dress at all. These flowing layers are styled as a trouser, there’s a high neckline and a print pattern breaks up the silhouette – yet there’s still a sense of elegant lingerie here.

Calvin Klein slip dress in layers SS16

Calvin Klein’s alternative approach to the slip dress, SS16

We rather like the approach which Cos has taken here. The front of this silk slip dress is fairly modest and easy to wear – with cool spaghetti straps showing off the model’s back and shoulders.

Cos silk slip dress composite

Cos slip dress alternative, 2016

Alternatively you can take an individual approach to styling your slip dress. Layering over less flimsy garments is quite the thing this season – you can see here how a slip dress has been draped over a fitted t-shirt or even a semi-fitted plain white shirt. And of course there’s always the ‘cosy cardigan’ option which is a favourite of ours. Flash a shoulder, a hint of decolletage – and give a hint of satin seduction beneath that safety-layer.

Slip dress styling options

Style your slip dress according to personal taste and individual comfort levels

 

Slip dress fabrics

We’ve gathered together a selection of our fabrics which we think would be just perfect as a slip dress. Satins, draping cupro fabrics, crepe de chines and even viscose linings – all of these will billow and drape to your heart’s desire – just click here to take a look.

Slip dress fabric composite

Have a riffle through our slip dress fabric suggestions!

 

Slip dress patterns

We’ve done the leg work (click-work?) for you and found a delicious selection of slip dress patterns for you to consider. Don’t forget you can find these and more on our SS16 Slip dress Pinterest board.

Tilly and the Buttons Fifi pattern used for slip dress

Tilly & the Buttons ‘Fifi’ Pyjamas

This is the pattern we adapted (simply by lengthening the top) for our slip dress – scroll down to see more of that. Cut on the bias, it drapes beautifully and was easy to make.

Colette slip dress patterns composite

Three slip dress designs by Colette Patterns – (L-R) ‘Lisbon’, ‘Cinnamon’ and ‘Oolong’.

These three Colette patterns all offer a take on the slip dress. We know that the ‘Oolong’ dress isn’t really a slip dress as such but we love the sleeves and delicate ruching and like the Calvin Klein SS16 catwalk variation above, it carries that ‘essence of lingerie’ despite its differences.

Elizabeth Gown by Named Clothing slip dress option

The ‘Elizabeth Gown’ by Named Clothing

The ‘Elizabeth Gown’ by Named Clothing is an elegant ‘occasion-wear’ version of the slip dress. We haven’t used it but we’d love to hear if you have a go!

BurdaStyle slip dress patterns composite

Three patterns by BurdaStyle – (L-R) Lace slip dress, Satin/chiffon slip dress, Simple slip dress

These three BurdaStyle patterns are all fabulous slip dress options. They include the more ‘grown-up’ Satin/chiffon slip dress as well as a classic simple Slip Dress design. We like the idea that the Lace slip dress design could be made up in cotton for a very easy-to-make solution.

Our slip dress

We created a simple, 30s-inspired slip dress from our Vintage-draping peachy pink satin fabric. We used the camisole top from the ‘Fifi Pyjamas’ pattern by Tilly and the Buttons as we especially liked the gathering of the bra cups into the dropped empire line. We also thought the bias cut would suit our delicious satin perfectly – and we weren’t disappointed. We lengthened it to mid-calf and used a commercial satin bias binding for the straps. We cut to a Size 4 on the Tilly pattern sizing – approximately a 12 – and with those adaptations we used 2.5m of our 150cm-wide fabric.

Slip dress on mannequin

Our simple slip dress

We styled our slip dress with a wrap made simply by cutting a length of our Vintage-creased cream stretch lace fabric. It’s a frothy fabric which we felt was the perfect complement to our very simple satin dress design.

ClothSpot slip dress front angle

ClothSpot slip dress full length side

ClothSpot slip dress back
Thank you to the delightful and patient Fiona for acting as our lovely model for the morning. Fiona’s yet another of ClothSpot’s wonderful friends – we let her finish her coffee then took her off her usual perch in the workroom and put her to work!

If you’re going to try a slip dress then do let us know how you get on! We love seeing your makes and it’s always exciting and educative to see how you combine your fabrics and incorporate them into your personal style.

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Seeking the ultimate…trouser pattern: Episode 2

Welcome to Episode 2 of our trouser saga! We thought it might be helpful for you to get a feel for the process we went through in creating the best possible fitting for our trousers. Obviously everyone has a different shaped body – any two people with seemingly-similar body types and sizes will find that a pair of trousers can fit completely differently, such are the idiosyncracies of a decent fit. In this post we’re not trying to give you a full-on guide to fitting your trousers. There are lots of books, courses and online resources that do that far better than we could (see Episode 1 of this blog). The point is that we’re not experts in fitting – but that even so, achieving a good fit is possible with a bit of time and effort. We wanted to share the process we went through, simply to explain our frustration and to demonstrate that the effort was worth it.

The problem

Buying a pair of straight-forward classic black trousers is be something that most of us will have attempted at some point. However over the last couple of years it’s become apparent that even this most basic of wardrobe items is nowhere near as easy as it should be. To illustrate this, here are two pairs of classic black trousers currently in our wardrobe. Setting our dignity aside in the service of this trouser quest, we’ve photographed these to illustrate our dissatisfaction…

Trouser 1 – Wide-cut trousers

You’d think that a pair of wide-legged trousers, loose-fitting right down the length of the legs, would be an safe option. Not so. Here you can clearly see there’s an excess of fabric around  the front crotch, the trousers hang straight down from the widest bit of the tummy, and there seems to be a vacuum under a rather flat bottom where excess fabric has gathered.

Wide trouser front

Excess fabric at front crotch

Wide trouser excess

They’re meant to be loose fitting but….

Wide trouser side

Excess fabric and poor fit at rear affects the drape

Add to that a slightly tight and overly-high waist and hey presto – a badly-draping set of black curtains.

Trouser 2 – Narrow-leg trousers

Here we have a perennial attempt at finding a cigarette trouser to fit. Sad to say this is one of two pairs of trousers currently in the ClothSpot wardrobe, both of which share the same problems. Any trouser-shopping session usually commences with a face-off between relatively narrow hips compared to a relatively large waist. There’s usually some sort of compromise between a slightly snug waist and excess hip space. You can also see that excess fabric at the upper thigh as well as around the overly-long front crotch.

Narrow leg trouser front

Excess fabric at front crotch and upper thigh; tight over calf.

Here though we can also see that the trousers are too  tight around the lower thighs and positively strained over the calves. So much so, that the entire garment is being pulled down as the legs can’t be pulled up any further. Sit down and they get jammed around the calf. Stand up again and this is the result.

Narrow leg trouser after sitting

After sitting down and standing up again. Eeuw…

The wearer has to surreptitiously work the trouser hem back down again as the trousers are still stuck on the calves and gathered around the knees.

Narrow trouser adjustment

Yoga required to surreptitiously edge trouser back down.

This, readers, is what happens when you use your legs as the good lord intended. In our experience ‘serviceable’ calves are something that neither healthy eating nor plenty of exercise will help. As with all the issues we can see in these images, it is our trousers that need to adapt. Hence…

The toiles

These are the toiles we prepared. We used our Calico fabric which is a medium-weight fabric, well up to the task of repeated unpicking and re-stitching and which holds a shape well. Alternatively you could use old sheets (we know of someone who’s working through their spare bedlinen!)

Toile 1

This one was straight from the pattern (the BurdaStyle Basic Pant Sloper as described in Episode 1). We selected the size based on the hip measurement. This resulted in tight thighs, an overly-low crotch, a baggy lower back and excess fabric around the front of the crotch. Yet, oddly, a baggy waist. That’s a new one…

Trouser toile 1

Toile 1 has lots of excess fabric at the front. The ‘frown’ line is the giveaway sign of an overly-long crotch.

Trouser toile 1

That long crotch is obvious when taking a step.

Toile 2

We attempted to correct the crotch length and the excess front-crotch fabric by following the steps set out in this video. This explained how to deepen the curve of the front crotch as well as how to remove a horizontal segment to remove excess fabric. We also slightly widened the lower thigh and both deepened and lengthened the back darts to accommodate the back curve. The result was a relatively well-fitted rear but still too much fabric in the front crotch area and still too low a crotch – partly because we’d deepened the crotch curve without reducing the overall length. We also realised that there was excess fabric at the top of the inner thigh.

Trouser toile 2

That long crotch ‘frown line’ still in evidence, as well as excess fabric at the upper thigh.

Toile 3

We tried to correct the front crotch issues by repeating the previous steps; also reducing the overall crotch length. We then found that by altering the angle of the hip seam, we’d lost too much fabric just below the waist and across the tummy, so we’d need to compensate for that. Plus there was still too much fabric at the inner thigh and that crotch was still too long…

Trouser toile 3

Not enough fabric over the tummy, but still too much at the upper thigh.

This toile had its other leg used as the basis for the subsequent attempt. Since these were a closely-fitted trouser they were all made up with two legs (contrary to the advice given in some quarters) in order that the fit could be properly assessed.

Toile 4

And bingo – almost there. We can’t show you this one as in our excitement we’d dismantled it for pattern-tracing before remembering to take a picture. However we can tell you that tweaked by deepening the front crotch curve just a fraction more to remove yet more fabric from the front – but also reducing the overall crotch length as we did so. We also added a little bit of ease at the sides, on and above the hips to compensate.

From that point on we were able to create a pattern for our trousers. We did this by carefully unpicking and pressing a front and back section of the toile…

Calico trouser block

Toile pieces unpicked, pressed and marked up

…then carefully tracing these patterns and markings to a paper pattern. It’s now very obvious that the pattern is a different shape than before – narrowing to the hip and with a much shorter front crotch.

Paper trouser pattern

Final trouser pattern pieces with tissue added to widen legs for this project.

The result

To make up our final trousers we added width to the leg from the thigh downwards to create a ‘fit and flare’ style trouser. To do this we just added some additional tissue paper to our pattern as you can see in the last image. The aim was to have a good close fit around the hips and upper thigh, but to add some draping movement to the rest of the trouser leg. We thought this would make best use of the Drapingly-deep bronze crepe fabric which we desperately wanted to have the opportunity to make up. This is our final result.

Final crepe trouser front

Front view of our finished trousers – no ‘frown lines’ here!

Final crepe trouser rear

Rear view of our finished trousers – look – no baggy bits!

Final crepe trouser side

Side view – comfortable to wear and hang well.

We can report that these are beautifully comfortable and inspire a huge amount of confidence in the wearing. Being picky, we’d say that the back waistline is a little high and the front a tad low – also we think we might want to pull the side seams round to the back a little. So much excess was taken from the front crotch area that there’s just a little too much fabric on the back sections compared to the front. However that’s for our next make – for now we’re very happy! These trousers have been worn in real life – retaining their fit and comfort despite the consumption of an indulgent meal out (which we felt was much deserved after all that…)

Cost

We know how much this matters! We used 4m of our Calico fabric @ £3.95pm, plus 1.3m of our Drapingly-deep bronze wool crepe fabric @ £17.50pm. Add two 22cm zips @ 95p each (it’s perfectly possible to re-use the zip between each toile – we did) and the cost of the pattern (about £4) – and the total for our project was £44.45. Less than a decent pair of trousers from the shops – plus they fit – and are fabulous quality (if we say so ourselves). The real prize is that we have a pattern to re-use, meaning we can crack out a pair of simple stretch cotton drill trousers for not much more than a tenner in future.

And finally…

Our fitting process is obviously based on one specific body type; nonetheless we hope it will convince you of the value of making a toile for the best possible fit – especially for trousers. Now we’ve got our basic pattern to fit, we’re planning to use and re-use it. We’re currently eyeing up the different colourways of our Linen-textured stretch cotton drill fabric for one or two pairs of sturdier cigarette pants and we’ll post these as soon as we’ve had a moment to run them up.

Do let us have any suggestions as to how you have dealt with fitting your trousers – and the sources of help and advice you’ve used.

 

 

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Seeking the ultimate…trouser pattern: Episode 1

Welcome to our first blog post of 2016. We know – it’s February and it’s been a long time coming – but it’s not been for the want of effort, we can promise you.

We had various titles in mind for this saga, among them ‘If at first you don’t succeed, toile, toile again‘, ‘Toile and error‘ and the inevitable ‘Wrong trousers, Gromit‘.

Wrong trouser pattern

Wrong Trousers, Gromit!

We’ll spare you the rest – but you’ll get the drift. In short, this is about our search for the perfect trouser pattern.

About our trouser frustration…

We don’t have to tell you that women’s trousers are amongst the most difficult garments to fit well. Managing multiple dimensions in an area which is the equivalent of Spaghetti Junction in terms of intersections and movement – a nightmare. Modern fabrics with spandex have helped us to forgive shortcomings in our trousers but there are some things that even a bit of stretch won’t help with. Short crotches, long rises, pear shapes, round bodies, thin thighs, broad beams, runner’s calves, round tummies, descending bottoms – the list is endless. Our bodies are real, working specimens and we reckon that everyone has a right to trousers that fit well, look stylish and feel great. Hence our January was spent with a roll of calico, a tracing wheel and a sense of ‘now or never’ determination at the cutting table.

What we wanted was a pattern that fitted perfectly, adaptable to a range of simple trouser styles. Crops, capri pants, cigarette trousers, wide-legged bags and fitted jean-style among others. Sometimes we have a fabric that we think would make a perfect pair of trousers and it should be possible to run them up and finish them well within a couple of hours, based on a simple design a side zip and some well-judged darts. All too often however we get them made up based on our measurements but then it all goes wrong or takes far too long to get a good fit. Obviously if we’re working to a more complex, styled pattern then that’s another thing altogether – but we figured that a good pattern block should help get that fit right from the start and enable us to knock out some decent samples. So with that in mind, off we went…

First things first

Our starting point was the plainest-possible trouser pattern. We went back to first principles, courtesy of a City & Guilds Fashion Design course some thirty years back. Make a basic pattern block, and all things shall come from that. With that in mind, we made a quick trip to the BurdaStyle website and downloaded their ‘Basic Pant Sloper‘ pattern.
Burdastyle Basic Pant Sloper for trouser pattern
(Glossary:  Pant = trousers; sloper = pattern block. Don’t get us going on American-English clothing terminology or we’ll get our panties in a twist and that’ll be the end of it…)

Trousers don’t come more basic than this. We forgot about length for the time being – just took our measurements and selected a size based on our hips. Hips, we learned, are where to start, since they’re the most complicated area where lots of movement happens at the junction of limbs and torso. We cut carefully, marked up and assembled. Four pattern pieces, four darts and a zip. Having run through that routine four times (plus adjustments) we are seriously chuffed to report that we can knock up a basic unfinished trouser within an hour.

A note about zips

We should also note at this point that we used (and re-used, and used again…) a concealed zipper. There’s a new sewing machine in the ClothSpot workroom and it came with a specially-requested concealed zipper foot. If you haven’t got one, we can heartily recommend it. Our zip insertion is now speedy, accurate and delightful to observe – due in part to the excellent instructions provided by Tilly and the Buttons on their ‘How to Sew an Invisible Zip‘ page.

Some fitting resources

At this point it’s also worth noting that here here at ClothSpot we’re not ones for reinventing the wheel. We’re well aware that there’s a wealth of amazing tipsheets, guides, instructions, videos and entire books out there, explaining how to fit a pair of trousers. Among the ones we found most useful were these:

  • Colette Patterns have a fabulous ‘Cheat sheet’ which explains the main areas of alteration. It describes the key ‘symptoms’ of bad fit to look out for, and how to remedy each one.
  • Pants for real people‘ by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto has some great guidance for a range of body shapes (as well as some very cheery looking trouser-wearers on the cover!)
  • Glenda and her videos from SureFitDesigns on YouTube helped us determine that we were dealing with a very specific issue of a short front crotch and a long ‘derriere’
  • The ever-resourceful and helpful Fabrickated has lots of wisdom to share on trouser style generally as well as trouser fitting

These are all worth taking a look at – but there is so much out there. Bearing in mind that of course the whole point about fitting trousers is that no two bodies will be the same, we picked and chose the best guidance that worked for us. You’ll need to do the same for your shape – we suggest you start by googling your specific fit problem and take it from there. We won’t deny that there was still a dollop of common sense required, involving the use of a decent-fitting pair of jeans to give us a steer as to the main areas of alteration. We make no excuses – as Wee & Twee explains in her (extremely helpful) Guise Trouser blog – sometimes a maverick approach (and a bit of hope) is what’s required.

Next up…

Next week Part Two of this posting will explain the main areas of alteration we went through – just to give you an idea of what it took for us to get what we wanted. We’re thrilled to report that it was all well worthwhile and that our first pair of trousers resulting from this process was a beautifully-comfortable pair of bootcut trousers in our Drapingly-deep bronze wool crepe fabric as seen here.

Wool crepe trousers using our fitted trouser pattern

We’ll be adding more to our collection in the coming weeks and months so stick with us. Meanwhile do comment with any trousering resources you’ve found helpful!

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Modern romance – Spring 2015

Modern romance themed fabricsWe’d like to be able to say that we thought this one up all by ourselves but that wouldn’t be quite true. Not, of course, that we’re being that innovative (as Miranda comments disdainfully in The Devil Wears Prada: “Florals for spring? Groundbreaking…”)

As our regulars will know, we’re partial to mixing up a bit of vintage style in our ClothSpot collections – but we’re also subject to what turns up at our suppliers. Vintage florals, muted pinks, apricots, blues, greys and purples recurred throughout the winter months as we researched and planned our spring collections. Then of course – we saw the early spring collections from designers and we began to understand why.

Perhaps the most obvious example is the SS15 collection from Prada. Delicate chintzy florals, lace, semi-sheer fabrics – all the usual suspects. In Prada’s case, as with Chanel and other collections, we’re seeing these fabrics put together with lapping seams, unfinished edges (and some worryingly loose-hanging threads). We’re not 100% sure about this approach to garment construction. Yes – we know it’s all very edgy and ‘now’ but there’s always a danger that when someone knows you’ve made your own clothes, unfinished embellishments are open to misinterpretation. We can imagine the comments – “Were you in a hurry or did your machine break?”

Moreover, for those of us of a ‘certain age’ (whatever age that denotes) it can also be a little daunting to contemplate unstructured garments made from delicate fabrics. (Is that a dress or a nightie? A question you’ll want to avoid…).

We’d share that concern but there are lots of ways to incorporate structure and fit into a garment made rom a delicate fabric – as in fact we suspect those designers will have done. Try using a more robust fabric as a foundation – as a tailored skirt or dress perhaps. That will give you a base which can then be embellished or overlaid with more delicate fabrics. Alternatively consider using interlinings to take the strain and provide structure, with the more delicate fabrics incorporated as an outer layer.

We have, of course, been here before. For instance, the soft apricots and wisteria shades are highly evocative of the 1920s and 1930s – hence their vintage air. More recently the 1980s saw lots of designers using ornate fabrics such as chintzes and jacquards.

Modern Romance inspiration from Scott Crolla - Vogue 1984

Scott Crolla collection from 1985 (Vogue)

Scott Crolla often used furnishing fabrics in his collections from the early and mid-1980s – famously commenting: “My clothes are for someone who disregards fashion but enjoys fabrics… I would call it a calculated disregard for conventional taste”. We’re right there with you, Scott.

As you might expect, Crolla’s designs from that era were very structured – he tended to take a much far more tailored approach than what we’re seeing this season. Very much representative of the New Romantic movement, we’re very conscious as we post this week that just yesterday we heard of the death of Steve Strange. He inspired so many of us to revel in dressing with a difference in the late seventies and early eighties. It’s a sad coincidence that we’re looking back to a time when his influence was so evident in the world of fashion. You did us all proud, Steve.

ClothSpot’s ‘Modern Romance’ fabrics for SS15

Here are a few of our fabrics which we think evoke the modern romance theme in the spirit of SS15. We’ll be adding to these as the season continues so do keep checking in!

Dusty pink crepe fabric for modern romance

‘Cornucopia’ draping dusty pink crepe fabric

Wisteria chiffon fabric for modern romance

1930s posy-printed wisteria chiffon fabric

Wisteria cotton lawn fabric for modern romance

Wisteria cotton lawn fabric

Palest peach viscose fabric for modern romance

Palest peach viscose fabric

Pink floral organza fabric for modern romance

‘Roses in the attic room’ pink floral organza fabric

Satin-backed lace fabric for modern romance

Pearl and oyster satin-backed lace fabric

Grey jacquard fabric for modern romance

‘Deja vu’ vintage-flowered grey jacquard fabric

Silver grey crepe fabric for modern romance

‘Properly dressed’ silver-grey crepe fabric

Vintage Patterns for Modern Romance

Many of you may want to try out these fabrics using vintage patterns. Of course some of the current publishers have a range of updated vintage classics and ClothSpot offers a selection here. You may want to try and source some originals – in which case beware – we hear from our customers that they are worryingly habit-forming! Those of you who’ve used them will know that their instructions and markings are quite different to patterns published nowadays. We’ve found a very helpful blog here that gives you some tips and guidance on how to read and adapt vintage patterns. Ebay and Etsy are both very good sources of vintage patterns – or you can also try patterns such as those by Eliza M Vintage Sewing – contemporary patterns designed to reflect classic vintage style.