9 tips to elevate your sewing to the next level

Kim Collins, designer and owner Ann Normandy Design shares her tips on how to create a beautifully constructed investment garment from your sewing room:

* All fabrics used in the garments show here are made from reclaimed antique hand-woven French linen. The Maxi Dress fabric was a late 18th century French duvet. All fabrics are sturdy enough to be machine laundered.

* All fabrics used in the garments show here are made from reclaimed antique hand-woven French linen. The Maxi Dress fabric was a late 18th century French duvet. All fabrics are sturdy enough to be machine laundered.

  • Where are you at? Consider your skill level, analyse the pattern details and the techniques needed to create the garment. If you’re a beginner sewist, pick one new technique to learn with each garment. Perfect your skills by creating a muslin/toile first.
  • Fabric quality. Select the best quality fabric that pairs well with the design and the construction techniques for the garment.
  • Fabric prep - prewash and dry as per manufacturer’s recommendations and press. Eliminating the fabric sizing brings the fabric to its original drape and hand qualities.
  • Pattern prep - cut just inside the edge of the pattern line. Once the pattern is traced and marked, carefully cut on inside edge of the tracing line.
  • Pressing matters! The iron is as important as your sewing machine. Proper focus, heat, pressure and moisture and time taken to allow your pressed seam to cool are essential to achieve a crisp seam finish. Use a Ham for pressing curves and shaping curved seams and a wood Clapper puts pressure on a freshly pressed seam to help set the press. Carefully manipulate the fabric/seam with your fingers as you press. Blocking can add or eliminate shape. Press the fabric with steam until it’s damp, shape as desired, and let dry completely.
  • Elevate the quality and finish of your garment by encasing your seams into a flat, finished seam. The seams aren’t only a beautiful couture technique, but they give the garment additional weight and stability to hold its shape.  
  • Binding – applying a strip of fabric to cover a raw edge seam gives a clean finish. A beautifully bound seam starts with precise and evenly cut seam allowances. When folding the binding over the seam allowance, keep the fabric taut over the fold.
  • Control your single needle stitching. Take it slow, especially when approaching corners, and pivot points. Each stitch matters.
  • Interfacing. Consider using a lightweight, fusible interfacing to help stabilise loosely woven fabric, as well as reinforce shape and create body.
Kim Collins.jpeg

A bit about…
Kim Collins, designer and owner Ann Normandy Design. Kim lives just outside of Detroit, MI, in the US with her husband, 13-year-old son and their St. Bernard, Bode. She also enjoys travelling, cooking, singing, playing the violin and snowshoeing.
It doesn’t get any better than to bring together constant lifetime passions to create a women’s apparel sewing pattern collection. Kim Collins’ journey in clothing design started early in life while being taught how to sew by her grandmother. From there, theatrical costume design was the natural next step continuing the creative thought process of ‘making do’ with limited budgets and resources. Period pieces between 18th and 20th century are her forte and passion, using studied design and observing time-honored techniques as her guide. Inspired from sewists and the linen textiles of those periods, she created a sewing pattern collection using careful consideration to construction details that surpass most high-end ready to wear garments on the market.


Sneak peak of the Trouser and Shorts pattern that will be released early autumn this year showing the detail of flat felled seams and a welt pocket. 


How to sew....

Take one - classic white shirt

Embroidery, see how it’s done by the professionals. The Janome team showcase what their machines can do!

The Janome team love to use the machines they sell. To highlight just what can be done with an embroidery machine, they’ve transformed a simple classic white shirt.


1. shirt 1 Jan 28.jpg

Shirt 1
Appliqué flower embroidery by Ann White

The designs that Ann chose came from two different Janome machines. The appliqué flower design came from the Janome Memory Craft 14000. By using Digitizer MBX V5 software the size has been adjusted. On the machine itself, you can use the edit screen to adjust designs 20 per cent larger or smaller without altering the stitch count, by using the software it adjusts the stitch count in the design giving endless options for using the same design from a tiny flower to a huge bloom!
While the leaf design was taken from the new MC500E embroidery-only machine, the size has again been altered in the Digitizer MBX V5 Software.
Templates for the embroidery designs were created in the MBX software to help with the accurate positioning of designs these were printed onto vellum.
The pocket was removed from the shirt for the embroidery to allow this to fit into the hoop. Ann placed Tearaway stabiliser in the hoop, and attached the pocket piece to the stabiliser using the basting stitch in the embroidery trace and baste function.
The template was then used to make sure that the design was paced in the correct position.

Shirt 2
Parisian Style by Ruth Cox

The shirt provided a great blank canvas, Ruth wanted a design that was bold but with clean lines and not too heavy in terms of stitches and colours. Because the shirt is a classic tailored style in a crisp cotton fabric, she felt the overall look should be smart but also feminine.
The Parisian Girl design was initially selected as it evokes images of fashion and travel. Ruth looked for designs in the machine that would work with this and selected the Redwork range by Y.Ganaha on the Janome MC15000. She loved the idea of swallows flying over the Eiffel Tower, and there was a good variety of shapes in the rest of the collection to create a pretty scalloped edge on the front band and embroidered cuffs. The designs are quite open and delicate to balance the Parisian Girl design, and the touch of red in the shoes and lipstick helped bring the whole look together.
This Janome MC15000 embroidery/sewing machine was used to stitch the designs after editing them initially in Digitizer MBX software. Ruth also used the Janome AcuSetter app as this is the perfect tool for embroidery placement on a ready-made item.
With AcuSetter, you can photograph the shirt using an iPad once it’s placed in the embroidery hoop, then you can manipulate the embroidery to ensure that it’s correctly aligned on each area of the shirt. Once you’re happy with the positioning of the design, it can be transferred wirelessly to the MC15000. You can stitch out with the confidence knowing that the finished result will be successful!

Shirt 3
Blue lace butterflies by Jayne Brogan
Jayne used the Janome MC15000 for all the embroidery and machine stitching of the Blue Lace butterflies. The inbuilt lace designs are beautiful and intricate although they’re not shown very often especially when demonstrating the machines as they take quite some time to stitch out. Jayne felt that the design could be altered or added to at a future time if required as the motifs are removable. The lace designs give a good opportunity to further embellish the motifs when they’re applied. In this case, she used some beads and a small crystal on each motif to add a little extra sparkle.
Jayne enlarged the butterfly design by the maximum 20 per cent in the machine itself and then duplicated the design to fit as many designs as she could into the hoop - five individual butterfly patterns could then be stitched out at one time!
A double layer of Janome Ultra Solvy was used as a stabiliser to ensure the design was stable throughout the stitching process. The motifs were then soaked to remove all the Solvy and pressed flat. By leaving some residue of Solvy in the motifs, they could be also be shaped into 3D designs if required.
The motifs were placed on the shirt and stitched using a mono filament thread and a small zigzag stitch by stitching down each wing. The beading was attached by hand and the stitches down the centre of the bodies then held the butterfly flat against the shirt and added extra stability.
The big plus when using presewn motifs is that you can easily rearrange them before finally stitching them onto the shirt to give the desired look and you can also remove them at a later date and re-use them!

For more information visit www.janome.co.uk
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sewing advice


With a change of season just around the corner, the pattern makers are wowing us with knit dresses and tops to take us from summer into autumn. Well-made knit fabric garments
create a wonderful flattering drape and require much less fitting (which is good news)
but at the same time, they can be a little tricky to work with.
Here are our top tips of handling and working with them:

Frankie Knit dress from Tessuti

Frankie Knit dress from Tessuti

What actually is knit fabric?
Knit fabrics are made up of rows of interlocking yarn loops providing the fabric with its stretch.

1. Knit fabrics can suffer from pilling when worn and washed. You can test a fabric before buying by rubbing a swatch together to see what affect friction has on it. 

2. You’ll need to know how much stretch a fabric has and how it reacts when it’s stretched. Sewing patterns that have been designed for knits will have a stretch gauge to measure a 4in piece of fabric’s crosswise stretch to check for distortion. For Simplicity, this is called the Pick A Knit Rule.

3. Knit fabrics although don’t fray, the raw edges can roll up when cutting or washing. For knits that are more prone to this, finish raw edges with a top-stitched hem and twin needle. This will produce a neatening zigzag stitch on the reverse.

4. When buying a knit fabric, it’s important to feel the quality. Some knits can be quite rough on the skin, and usually the softer the feel, the better the drape.

Best needle - ballpoint
Best presser foot - walking foot
Best stitch – narrow zigzag
Best seams – Use a stay tape or knit interfacing within the seam to keep the seams from stretching out of shape.



sewing tips, sewing advice, flattering your figure


10 tips for flattering your figure when being your own wardrobe designer!

Choose a hemline that makes the most of your legs. Most practical and flattering is a hemline that is just above the knee.
For more ideas check out Savvy Skirt in the Sewing tips & styling know-how section.

Make sure you have the correct bra size and that its doing the job it should. For larger busts, choose a bra with slightly thicker straps and not too much padding. For smaller busts, wear a bra that has extra padding in the lower part of the cup so that the bra pushes what you have got up and out! Why not try making your own?

measuring for bra.jpg

How to take accurate measurements:
Band size: This is the measurement taken under your arm and around the front just above the bust where the straps meet the top of the bra cup. Experts suggest the measurement here should be rounded down to the nearest even inch. 
Bust size: Without pulling the tape measure tight, measure the fullest part of your bust. Expert suggest rounding the measurement up to the nearest inch.

Wear colours on the top or bottom depending on which you want to play up or down  Wear light and bright colours to highlight and dark colours on the areas that you want to cover up.

Pick a pattern range that offers fitting options. Simplicity's Amazing Fit range is tailored to suit different figure types from slim, medium and curvy shapes plus separate pieces for bust sizes A to DD.

Think about your fabric choices carefully and make sure that you select a fabric weight and pattern that will suit your frame ie small petite framed ladies should choose smaller prints.
Fabrics that can be draped are also a good option. Jersey can be seen as fabric that can be a bit on the clingy side but on the other hand, its a very forgiving fabric to wear and will skim and fit your form, and actually make you look smaller.

Make sure you select the correct pattern size. Measure yourself and go by the sizing on the pattern (not the size you pick for ready made clothes). For more information about this check out our guide to
How to take accurate body measurements.

Diagonals, chevron prints, asymmetrical hemlines - all angles that are sloping downwards make you appear slimmer.

Accept that you'll need to make adjustments to your sewing pattern to make it fit you best.
Very few of us will match exactly a pattern company’s standard measurements for each of the measurements of a size.

dressmaker measuring.jpg

wear heels, a little height will make you seem taller and also slimmer. Make sure you wear the shoes when you're taking up the hemline to get the correct length for you.

It's all about making the most of what you've got! Empire line garments and the latest colour block dresses are brilliant at disgusting areas you want to hide. Wrap tops are great as they give the illusion of a tiny waist. Showing a little cleavage with a sweetheart neckline or a little leg with a slit is also a good way of drawing the eye away from troublesome areas.

The rule is that small petite frames can add flounces, beading and bows while fuller figured ladies should keep things more simple and add additional detailing with jewellery or accessories.

Shortcuts for successful sewing  - Tips for saving time
Skirt savvy - Which skirt style is best for you
3 smarter stitches for professional looking sewing - under-stitch, edge-stitch and top-stitch and
where to use them.
Threads to get good results - Different types of threads and when to use them.


sewing equipment


Essential tools for dressmakers

We've teamed up with WeaverDee and Prym to chat about the essential tools for making your own clothes at home including some items that you might not have heard of!

What you need for the 3 key areas of dressmaking: measuring, marking and cutting out.

Tape Measures
"A good, quality tape measure is an essential item for your dressmaking tool kit."

Prym offer an excellent range; the top-seller is the Tailor's Tape measure. This has a metal strip at one end (approx 50mm). Very popular too is the Prym Ergonomic Tape. It's clever, award-winning design allows the tape to lay flat instead of twisting when rolled out, which makes the tape much easier to handle."

Sew & Knit Gauge
'This is a really handy and useful measuring aid that has an integral sliding piece which you position for equal spacing of buttonholes, buttons, and for accurate folding and marking of hems."

Advanced Level
Those among you that either create your own patterns or adapt existing patterns will no doubt be familiar with special tools available to aid the process.

Here, we list two very commonly used professional dressmaking rulers:
French Curve
"Used for marking out armholes, sleeve heads, shoulders, neck, hips, waist, etc."
Dressmaker's Rule
"For making uniform or recurring spacing such as seam/hem allowances, buttonholes and pleats, as well as on neckline and sleeve/armhole curves and hip, crotch and waist curve."

TOP TIP: Buy a long, heavy ruler

"Most haberdashery suppliers, whether on the high street or online don't sell extra long, heavyweight rulers so take a look in the ‘Man Shed’ or visit the building tools section of your local DIY store. A builder's or carpenter's metal ‘T’ Square is a fabulous aid for marking long, straight lines across or along a large piece of fabric. The extra weight will help prevent the ruler from slipping or the fabric from shifting. Also, invest in a metal metre rule, which has more weight than it's wooden counterpart."


Tailor's Chalk and sharpener
"Probably the most commonly used and cost effective method for marking lines on fabric. The marks can be easily removed by brushing with a soft-tooth brush but always test on a piece of scrap fabric. On the down side, the chalk piece will soon blunt, making the markings too thick for accurate, recurring marking. However, this can be rectified and sharpened using a sharpener.

Chalk Pencils
"The pencil lead is made from special chalk. Using an ordinary pencil sharpener will enable you to sharpen the tip down to a fine point allowing finer, more accurate marking. The pencil has a brush at the other end, which is used for removing markings."

Water Erasable Pencil
"This white pencil is ideal for marking on dark fabrics, and marks are easily removed with water or a damp cloth."

Chalk Wheel Markers
Fine lines give more accurate measurements. An ergonomic Chalk Wheel marker will produce fine, erasable chalk markings. The chalk is contained in a renewable cartridge that just clicks into place. The wheel action will prevent the fabric from puckering as the marker is being drawn along the ruler edge. You can choose either white or yellow interchangeable cartridge refills. The ergonomic parallel chalk wheel mouse is equipped with an adjustable edge tracing wheel for altering patterns, adding seam allowances, etc."

Free Standing Chalk Hem Marker
"This is ideal for marking garment hems. White chalk puffer deposits thin line of chalk around skirt at the desired hem height. Then you're ready to pin, baste or slip stitch to the hem level."


Marking Pens
"There's a huge choice available, some very good, some not so good. They mainly come under three categories: Vanishing Ink, Water Erasable and Permanent."

Vanishing Marker Pen
Useful in situations where you are unable to remove markings. The vanishing ink pen is perfect for sewing, quilting, dressmaking, embroidery and much more. The pen has a medium fibre tip, and purple ink which is suitable for use on medium or light coloured materials. After a few hours, the marking becomes invisible, so no unsightly markings will show once the project is complete.

Water Erasable Pen
"This marker penis perfect for marking out your project. It's water-erasable, so the markings are removed with a damp cloth or water."

Fine-line Vanishing Pen
"This works in the same way as the regular vanishing pen. This one gives a finer line for more accurate marking."

Fine-line Water Erasable Pen
This also works in the same way as the regular water-erasable pen but this one gives a finer line for more accurate marking."

Permanent Black Ballpoint Pen
This one permanently marks fabric and the markings won't wash out. It's ideal for name tabs, etc.


Tracing Wheels and Carbon Tracing Paper
"These are generally used in conjunction with dressmaker's carbon paper to transfer lines and markings from the sewing pattern onto the fabric. There's two types: serrated to produce a dotted line and smooth for continuous lines."

Ergonomic Tracing Wheel (Serrated)
This a professional quality tracing wheel with recessed index finger rest and curved ergonomic design that helps reduce fatigue. Serration on wheel produces a dotted line. The ergonomic tracing wheel (smooth and blunt) is the same but makes continous lines.

Prym ergonomic serrated tracing wheel


Dressmaker's Carbon Tracing Paper
Simply lay your fabric onto the carbon paper, then lay the sewing pattern onto fabric. Trace round pattern using a tracing wheel. Markings will then be transferred onto fabric.


It's well worth investing in good quality dressmaking scissors. Budget-priced scissors will only lead to fatigue and frustration during the cutting out process.

Prym Kai scissors are by no means the cheapest available,  nor are they the most expensive. However they do provide exceptional quality, comfort and cutting power along with innovative design at an affordable price.

A dressmaker's tool kit is normally equipped with the following scissors: dressmaking and/ortailoring shears, general purpose and/or needlecraft scissors, fine point embroidery scissors or thread snips and pinking shears. The latter not being essential, but can sometimes be really useful. 


Dressmaking/Tailoring Scissors
TOP TIP: The longer the blade - the straighter the cut!

When stating a size, most scissor manufacturers are referring to the overall length of the scissor (not the blade) so 21cm for example is measured from the start of the handle to the point of the blade.

Most of dressmakers will buy dressmaking scissors with a length of around 21 to 25cm. As a general rule, it's easier keep a straight cut with a longer blade. This length is generally ideal for both long straight cuts and for cutting round curves, etc.

Here's the top sellers in the Prym range:
KAI 21cm Hobby Dressmaking - Smaller sized, good quality and very reasonably priced.
KAI 25cm Hobby Dressmaking - The extra long blade makes it easier to keep a straight line on long cuts.
KAI 21cm Professional Xact General Purpose Dressmaking Scissors - Micro serration on the edge of one blade - ultra sharp cutting edge on the other. This combination gives you tremendous cutting power. The blades are made from Vanadium steel for longer life.
KAI 25cm Professional Tailor's Shears - Larger version of the above. The longer blade will give better performance on long straight cuts.
KAI 23cm Professional Sidebent Tailor - Dressmaker Shears - The raised handle (sidebent) and straight lower blade allows you to rest your hand on the table whilst cutting. This makes it easier to achieve a straight cut as well as providing extra comfort.
KAI 21cm Professional Left-handed Tailor/Dressmaker Shears - As above, slightly shorter blade - reversed for left hand use. In addition, the ergonomic shape of the handles has been designed for holding in your left hand. Larger version of the above. The longer blade will give better performance on long straight cuts.


Small scissors
Popular ones include:

KAI 16cm Hobby Needlework scissors
KAI 11.5cm Hobby Embroidery
KAI 13cm Professional Embroidery/Needlecraft Scissors
KAI 12cm Professional Thread Snips
KAI 10cm Professional Embroidery Scissors

Other specialised scissors
KAI 13.5cm Professional Textile Curved Scissors -
The unusual 'banana' bend blade with specially rounded tip allows you to cut between fabric layers without snagging.

Pinking Shears - Pinkers produce a zigzag cut to the fabric that prevents the edge from fraying. They're handy for finishing and trimming a fabric edge where you are unable to neaten with an overcast stitch. A common mistake is to buy cheap pinking shears because they won't be used very often. However, cheap pinkers are useless on fabric; they'll only work on card or paper.

All Prym sewing tools mentioned in this feature can be purchased from WeaverDee. We'd like to thank WeaverDee for helping put this blog post together.



sewing advice, sewing tips


Zips are probably the most common fastening but also the one of the most feared to insert! Choosing the right zip can be tricky as zips come in variety of colours, lengths, types,  some have metal or plastic teeth so which one should you choose?

Types of zip

There are the main zip types:

regular/conventional zip

Conventional (regular all-purpose) zip
Conventional zippers are the most commonly used, and only open at one end and are sewn into the seam. This type of zips comes in a wider range of colours, and come with both metal and plastic teeth. Centered insertion is the most common way to insert this sort of zip and used for front and back closings.

Concealed zip

Concealed (invisible) zip
This sort of zip provides a garment with a totally concealed closure, and on the right side, the teeth are invisible. These have to be used with an invisible zipper foot, which unrolls the coil as you stitch. The zip is stitched from the wrong side, and once it’s installed is hidden in the seam.

Open-ended (separating) zip
Metal separating zippers available in mid and heavy weight and these are as they sound – open at both ends and used for garments that need to be opened at both the top and bottom such as jackets and sportswear. These types of zips are available in standard black and white and not too many to other colours. It can be sewn so that the zipper teeth are on show.

Brass jeans zip

Metal (brass jean) zip
Patterns that require these sort of zips will specify its use on the pattern envelope as this zip needs a wider overlap to put in correctly. Brass jean zips have brass teeth, a closed bottom and are purposely designed for jeans and other medium to heavy fabrics like Denim.

Decorative zips
These are usually plastic and as such lightweight, durable and strong. Quite popular at the moment are the lacy edge zips that can be sewn on the outside of the garment to add to the garments style.

trouser zip

Trouser (front fly) zip
Always buy a zip that is longer than the opening it’s intended for. Inserting a fly front zipper is among one of the easier zips to sew where most of the sewing is done on the wrong or inside of the garment.

Zip anatomy
Originally named the ‘Hookless Fastener’, Elias Howe invented the first zip in 1851, but it didn’t really become popular until 1930’s.

1. Stop (Top) – This is the small bracket at the top of the zip that stops the zip pull/slider from coming off the tape.

2. Zip slider or zip pull – This small pull operates the zip, and makes the teeth come together to close or come apart to open.

3. Tape – This is the woven fabric strip, which the teeth are secured to, and its this that is sewn to the garment.

4. Teeth – This is the part of the zip that locks together and can be made from nylon or polyester.

5. Stop (Bottom) – This is the bracket that the slider/pull rests on at the bottom of the zip.

Parts of a zip

How to shorten a zip
·       Measure the correct length from the top of the zip
Mark with a pin
While zip is closed and zip coil facing down, machine zigzag using a stitch width 5.0 and length 0.5 across the zip teeth several times to secure.
Cut off the unwanted zip part of the zip about 25mm below the stitching and use

 Tips for choosing a zip
·       A pattern will specify which length of zip you should buy. If you can’t buy one the right size, always pick one slightly longer, which you can shorten.
Choose a zip that matches your fabric.
Always close the zipper and press the creases out before inserting
If using a cotton-tape zip, wash and pre shrink it first to avoid puckering
Always consider the weight of the zip with the weight of your fabric – if the zip is too heavy for the fabric, it will cause the garment to sag and not hang right
Applying basting tape to the right side of the zip can help keep your zip from moving while stitching.

 Thanks to WeaverDee for the zip images. WeaverDee has a wide selection of zips for all your sewing needs. To shop for a zip, click here. 


Buying a sewing machine


Chosing a sewing machine

Buying a sewing machine suitable for dressmaking needn't cost you a fortune.
WeaverDee explains what you should be looking for.

If you're in the market for a new machine for dressmaking, it can be a minefield when it comes to which features you really need. Here’s some helpful points from WeaverDee to help you in making the right choice which will suit your budget and requirements.

Most sewers will spend between £100 to £500 maximum on a sewing machine, and basic to mid range models will fit the dressmaking bill perfectly. 

For general garment construction you’ll require the following stitches:
1. Straight stitch - used for making seams and hems
2. Zigzag stitch - used to neaten the raw edge of seams
3. 3-step zigzag - for attaching elastic and neatening lightweight fabrics. Also very handy for mending.
4. Blind stitch - for invisible hems. Lets you turn up hems without the stitching showing on the outside of the hem.
5. Overcast/overlock stitch - will do a better job when neatening seams, particularly on stretch fabrics. Also used for closed seams where the two layers of fabric are sewn and neatened in one operation.
6. Stretch stitch -  for seams on jersey fabrics. The stitches won't break when the garment gets stretched.
7. Buttonhole facility - depending on the price and feature level of the machine, there are two types to consider.
·      Buttonhole 1 – Step – auto sizing
Automatically produces a buttonhole to match the size of the button being used on the garment. The size is gauged by placing a button (from the garment) into a receptacle in the buttonhole presser foot. Buttonhole is then sewn out in one, non-stop operation and can easily be repeated throughout the garment. The main benefits with this system are they're very easy to use, perfectly neat, and every buttonhole is the same size.
·      Buttonhole 4 – step
This system is generally found on more basic machines. The process is far more complicated than the 1 – step system because the buttonhole is produced in four stages with the size of each buttonhole being individually marked out. Beginning with the buttonhole dial, set at stage one.  The first side of the buttonhole is sewn until the length is reached and sewing is then paused. The dial must then be set to stage two and a few bar-tack stitches are sewn and then paused. The dial is then turned to stage three and the second side of the buttonhole is sewn and then paused. Finally the dial is set to stage four to sew the second bar-tack. 

Handy presser feet
These are the most commonly used and ones most useful to those who like making
their own clothes:

Zipper Foot - for accurate zip insertion
Concealed (invisible) zip foot - for easier insertion of concealed zips
Overcast/overlock foot (use with the overcast / overlock stitch) - makes it easier to neaten seams. The foot has a guide that helps to keep the fabric edge in line; it also helps prevent the fabric edge from curling in.
Blind stitch foot (use with the blind hem stitch)
This foot helps maintain a straight line when sewing the hem. Also allows you to align the strike point of the hem with the needle so that the stitching doesn't show on the outside of the garment.
Button sew-on foot - makes it easy to sew buttons onto the garment - it's a real time saver.
Narrow hemmer - produces neatly folded narrow hems (usually of 2 or 3mm) perfect for hems on dresses and blouses made in lightweight fabrics.
Walking foot - for slippery, stretch and fabrics with a pile. This foot solves the problems encountered when sewing tricky fabrics:
·      Jersey fabrics
-Because the fabric stretches as it's feeding through the machine, you'll find the seam will have a waved or curled effect. The walking foot prevents the fabric from stretching resulting in a perfectly flat seam.
·      Satins, Silks, Dress Linings, Velvet fabrics
When sewing seams on slippery fabrics, the lower layer will feed along more so than the upper layer causing the seam to pucker. The walking foot ensures that both fabric layers are fed through the machine evenly, producing pucker free seams. The walking foot is also the perfect aid for matching striped or patterned fabric and for sewing quilted layers.

Which type should I go for and what are the differences?

Basic mechanical sewing machines
Basic mechanical machines will generally feature stitches for alterations, repairs, basic dressmaking and soft furnishings. As well as the plain straight and zigzag stitches, most basic models will have overcast, stretch and blind hem stitches along with a 4-step buttonhole.


Recommendations from WeaverDee from left to right: Brother LX17 - currently £99, Janome 2015 - currently £85 and Janome 2200XT - currently £119

Mid-range mechanical sewing machines
This range will offer a larger number of stitches, possibly a few decorative patterns and (depending on make and model) a 1-step buttonhole. You should normally expect to pay from £99 up to £250 for a mechanical machine. Mechanical machines are actually more difficult to operate than its computer counterparts. For example, once you've selected your stitch, you'll then need to work out where to set the stitch width and length controls, as well as having to find out if a different presser foot is needed. That’s fine so long as you're prepared to read through the instruction manual each time you want to make a change. However, getting the settings wrong may lead to poor results.

Recommendations from WeaverDee from left to right: Janome J3-24 - currently £179, Janome Sewist 525S - currently £229 and Husqvarna Viking Emerald 116- currently £249

Recommendations from WeaverDee from left to right:
Janome 423S - currently £279 and Bernina 1008S- currently £674

Basic and mid-range computerised sewing machines
You'll find basic and mid-range computer machines available that are perfect for dressmaking and they're easily affordable - you don't need to buy one with thousands of fancy stitches. However as you look higher up the range, you may find that some of the gizmos on the mid range models could prove useful.

Due to popularity, sewing machine manufacturers are now producing more computerised machines than mechanical. From a user standpoint, they've become more popular due to simplicity in operation. Recommended stitch settings for the task at hand such as width, length, thread tension (depending on make and model) are automatically selected for you, and the info screen will even tell you which presser foot is required. You can easily change the stitch settings to your own preferences when required. Making buttonholes on this type of machine couldn't get any easier; they're of the 1-step variety, plus you'll have a choice of styles from standard, stretch, keyhole and rounded end to cater for a varied range of garments and fabric types.

1. Knee-operated presser foot (often referred to as knee lifter).
This system leaves both hands free to position the fabric.
2. Auto thread trimmer
This snips off the thread tails at the start and end of the seam.
3. Auto tie off
This ties off the thread tails with a neat little knot.
4. Needle stop Up/down
You can make the machine stop with the needle down in the fabric ready to pivot; it's ideal if you have lots of corners to turn.
5. Speed limiter
This enables you to select a speed range that suits you comfort zone. 

Thanks to WeaverDee for their expert advice on choosing a sewing machine for dressmaking. For more information about any of the sewing machines above, visit the WeaverDee website or click on the images. 

Please note: prices shown here are as of  1st November, 2015 and are subject to change.


sewing tips, sewing advice, dressforms and mannequins


A dress form is also known as a tailor’s dummy, and owning one is like having a second pair of hands
and makes sewing your clothes so much easier!

Prymadonna Violet dress form from WeaverDee - priced at £135

Prymadonna Violet dress form from WeaverDee - priced at £135

You can pin patterns and garments to the dress form, while leaving your hands free to make alterations and deal with fitting decisions. They’re great for making sure that collars lay flat, inserting zips and for taking up hems unassisted, and other tasks that are near impossible to do by yourself.

Shown here is the Prymadonna Violet dress (8-part body with dial adjusters and adjustable back length from Prym and stocked by WeaverDee. It has everything you need from integral pin cushion on top of neck, metal stand for greater stability, adjustable hem marker with pinning attachment.


It also adjusts at the neck, bust, waist and hips by means of push-rotate dial on the front, and rotating wheel at the back and at the sides. In total, it has13 adjustments possible. Shoulders designed to offer a better hang to sleeves, lightly padded fabric covering allows pinning. The body form is fully assembled and simply slides on to the metal stand. It comes in four sizes: XS (sizes 4-8), S (10-16), M (sizes 16-20) and XL (sizes 20-24) and is great value at £135 whatever size you choose from WeaverDee.

What I also like about this one is that you can buy a cover for it. The cover is washable and keeps it clean, and pattern pieces can be pinned to it without damaging the dress form. This costs £15 (normally £19.90) from WeaverDee at the moment.

Is there a difference between a dress form and display mannequin?
It can be quite confusing as dress forms and display mannequins are quite often sold side by side but they are totally different from one another. Display mannequins are designed for displaying garments, and looking pretty in the home, and although can be a place to hang up clothes, they’re not the best for fitting and mking your own clothes.

What things should I consider before buying a dress form?
Who’s sewing?

If you’re sewing for yourself, you could buy one that isn’t adjustable? However, most of us don’t stay
the same size so choosing one that allows you to make some adjustments will help to get a good fit.
Many companies stock small, medium and large versions so you’ll need to buy the one that relates to your size.

How often will you use it?
If you love making clothes, then you’ll probably use it a lot, so it makes sense to invest in a good one that will last.

Here’s a few things to look out for:

  • Check how many adjustments it can offer
  • Make sure it doesn’t tip over when it has garments draped over it – cheaper makes can be lightweight!
  • Some dress forms come in two halves, which is perfect if you need to put it away between using.
  • Some include covers, come with a chalk hem marker, and some have lockable wheels to make moving it from place to place easy.

What are you sewing?
If you like to make fitted garments, a dress form with adjustments is must-have. Some come with a dial that you can expand and adjust key areas like waist, hips and bustline. Some of these styles can be difficult to pin because of the gaps – we’d recommend the foam version, as it is better for pinning and for draping.

Some dress forms feature part leg forms designed to help fit trousers. Make sure you go to a reputable retailer where a good quality dress form will set you back between £100 - £300.


Make choosing a sewing pattern easy - we discuss paper, digital, printed fabric sewing patterns,
as well as drafting software and other pattern sources

It’s exciting times for sewers as new sewing pattern companies have sprung up making pattern choices much more interesting. But what type of pattern do you choose? Choosing the right pattern is important, it’s the first building block to a successful garment.

measuring a sewing pattern.jpg

This has been the most longstanding way of making and sewing your own clothes. Printed patterns usually have 3 elements: the envelope, the tissue pattern and the instructions.


  • You’ve a tangible pattern that can be used time and time again
  • Comes in an envelope that can store everything together
  • Many have multi-sizes so you can cut out the size that best matches your measurements.
  • Making adjustments for a better fit can be marked on the pattern


  • Well-used patterns become tatty and torn. Although you can make a duplicate pattern from freezer paper or from special squared pattern paper

Many companies now offer the digital choice and being able to download a pattern from the internet is becoming a popular way to buy patterns.


  • There's no print production or postage charges so these can be a cheaper way to buy patterns
    (but not always).
  • Pattern is immediately downloadable
  • The pattern can be saved on your computer and printed out as many times as you need for making different sizes or alterations.
  • Many of the patterns are exclusive
  • There can be a much wider range to choose from
pancake blouse from Waffle Patterns PDF front cover.jpg

Some sewers don't like to join the printed A4 pages together to form the pattern pieces but this should take no longer than 20-30 minutes.

Waffle Patterns PDF sewing patterns (Pancake Blouse shown here above) are particularly good quality PDF's and have arrows on the pages to help line up the pattern.

Here's just a few of our favourites:
Waffle Patterns, Go To Patterns, Lekala, Colette Patterns, Sewaholic, So Sew Easy, On the Cutting Floor, Tilly and the Buttons, Christine Haynes, Sew Over It, Megan Nielsen, Liesl & Co, Burda Style, Indiesew, Salme, Tessuti, Victory Patterns, Jamie Christina, Made by Rae, Thread Theory.

Some companies offer their patterns printed directly onto the fabric providing a kit that contains everything needed to make the garment. This makes the dressmaking process quick and easy, and it's ideal for beginners and experienced sewers.

skirt printed pattern kit from clothkits.jpg

Clothkits has a fab range of fabric kits. This skirt is designed exclusively by Minimodern and has a fun pet and sounds fabric design that's been printed with a special pattern  guide so that you just select the size you want and cut! Available in sizes 8-20 for £38 and along with many other skirt and dress designs from Clothkits.


  • Very simple to make and follow
  • the kit contains printed fabric ready to cut and sew, zip, thread, label and the step-by-step instructions


  • Can be more expensive but remember this does include fabric and everything you need
  • You are limited to the fabric chosen

Pattern drafting software is a digital computer programme that allows you to input your own measurements and print out a personalised pattern block and eliminates some of the fitting issues.

Here's a couple if you are considering buying software:

Soft Byte - Fittingly Sew is a UK based company whose main products are built-in pattern and body blocks for woven fabrics. The software gives you full control of where to place darts, tucks, pleats, as well as  seam allowances.

Wild Ginger - PatternMaster V5 software has a host of software packages for pattern drafting and looks like pattern envelopes with each CD-ROM containing one garment with a variety of variations much like a regular. The come with tutorials to show you how to save the patterns with your won measurements, and there's no size limitations! You can get a demo to download before you buy which is really useful.

TIP: Do make sure that any software you buy is compatible with your PC before buying!

wild ginger patternmaster.jpg

There are a wide selection of books and magazines that feature patterns including:

Burda style is a beautifully laid out magazine with over 40 patterns in each issue that offers a whole world of fashion for sewers. All patterns are rated by sewing expertise and there’s something for everyone, from the beginner to the more advanced. A great magazine bringing the craft of sewing to a new generation of fashion designers, fashion enthusiasts and DIY’ers. Priced at £9.99 per issue.

Burda Style summer 2105.jpg

Many of the  sewing magazines have a selection every month of sewing patterns and sometimes with pattern sheets. Sewing books can sometimes include a selection of patterns too like the new Merchant & Mills Workbook (read the review) or Sew Over It Vintage (read the review).

Fabric or pattern first
This is the age old question. The pattern has been designed with specific fabrics, fabric weight, drape and stretch in mind. If you’ve a certain fabric in mind, make sure that you choose a pattern that includes it on the back of the envelope. Fabrics are usually listed from the easiest to the more difficult.

Easy, Intermediate and Advanced
Most patterns will have a sewing rating to show how difficult the pattern is to sew from beginner (easy), intermediate and advanced. The rating can be quite subjective and can vary between the pattern companies but it’s a good stating point. To understand more about the pattern, you should read the insturctions to see whether it has techniques that you’re happy to tackle buttonholes and adding a zip.

 If you have just started to make your own clothes, choose a relatively simple pattern with a not too fitted style such as an A line skirt or tunic top. Many sewing patterns companies will have their own collection of patterns for beginners. 

How to take accurate body measurements - Simple tips to help you get the best fit possible!
Every pattern you'll ever need to know - We've A-Z directory of pattern terms.
Dress for my body shape - Learn to balance your silhouette and choose styles that suit it!
Beginner's guide to sewing pattern - get to grips with pattern lingo!

sewing tips


We share a few of our favourite shortcuts and tips for successful sewing

1. Lengthen the stitch
Your sewing machine is likely default to a 2.5mm stitch length but it’s actually a little shorter than required for making garments. Start by increasing to 3mm.

The thread should break first when you pull a seam apart and not tear the thread. Increasing your stitch length will also make unpicking is less painful!

2. Pinning
Place the pins at right angles to the seam with pinheads to the right side of the needle. This makes sewing much quicker, the pins are easier to remove as you sew, and you won’t prick yourself.

However why use pins at all on straight seams – they’re sometimes more trouble than they’re worth! Simply hold the fabric pieces together in you right hand as you sew to get the right tension. Try using a fabric template instead of pins to measure hems accurately and press into place.

tracing sewing patterns.jpg

3. Prolong the life of your sewing patterns
As sewing patterns are made from lightweight tissue paper, they tear easily when using especially if use more than once. For your favourite patterns, consider cutting out pieces of interfacing and fusing on to the reverse of the pattern pieces or tracing onto freezer paper.

Always iron the pattern piece before using as working with torn, tattered and creased patterns can affect the finished fit of the garment. Consider using pattern weights instead of pins when cutting out.

4. Clip corners
Make sure you clip the corners and trim away the excess fabric on pieces that require turning to the right side. This gets rid of the fabric bulk and makes the fabric lay much flatter and neater.

Sewing Threads.jpg

5. Posh threads
Don’t be tempted to skimp on your threads. Cheap threads can cause all sorts of problems from frustratingly breaking every few stitches, upsetting the tension on your sewing machine and causing skipped stitches or birds nesting where the threads bunch up underneath near the throat plate. You can diminish a lot of the problems buy choosing quality threads. For example the Gutermann thread pack has been specifically designed to be used with its fabric range Notting Hill.

6. Every which way you press
You should be pressing as much as you’re sewing. You can use your iron to help manipulate the fabric into place and just by adding steam if can help shape the fabric. It also makes top-stitching much easier.

Pressing and sewing.jpg

10 tips for flattering your figure when sewing
Skirt savvy - Which skirt style is best for you
3 smarter stitches for professional looking sewing - under-stitch, edge-stitch and top-stitch and
where to use them.
Threads to get good results - Different types of threads and when to use them.

sewing tips, sewing advice, Styling tips


Simplicity 8176 easy gathered skirt pattern

Simplicity 8176 easy gathered skirt pattern

What’s the best length skirt for you?
Whether you like it or not, the following factors should come into play when choosing what skirt length is best for you: skirt shape, your shape and then governed only a little by the fashion of the time!

Skirt shape
The right hemline for you will depend on the shape and cut of the skirt. Age shouldn’t matter but many women will draw the line at wearing a mini skirt over a certain age or wearing if they’re  a plus size or have chunkier legs or like me hate their knees (although a thick pair of tights can often solve problem!).

A couple of pieces of advice:

  • The length of the hemline constantly changes with the times, but it’s important to stick with a length that flatters you the best. The best length is often where the hem hits the leanest part of your legs – usually mid-thigh, just above or below the knee. Hems should sit straight when the skirt is on, without dipping front or back, if they don’t the fit isn’t right for you.
  • Pretty obvious but worth a mention, pattern size is important. If the skirt is too tight, it will feel uncomfortable and pull in all the wrong places and if too lose, it will look frumpy and hang off you. Both can alter how the hemline looks on the final garment.
  • Always wear heels when measuring and pinning a hemline and check in the mirror to se how it looks all the way round.

Body shapes:
Petite –
choose a knee length slim fitting skirt such as pencil, wrap or A-line. Make in a lightweight to medium weight fabrics. Skirts with slits either centre or off-centre are great for making your legs look longer. Stay clear of frilly bits and embellishment as these can also make you look dumpy.

Apple or pear shape – choose a skirt shape that shows off your legs and draws the attention away from your lack of a waistline. Choose a skirt pattern with a drop waist or no waistband such as A-Line and pencil skirts. Bottom heavy figures should avoid any frilly styling around the middle such as pleats, darts and front pockets.

Top heavy shapes: skirts should aim to even out your top and bottom so choose A-line skirts and skirts with volume such as tiers, dropped waists and pleats.

Hour-glass curves – choose skirts with more subtle shaping like A-Line and other styles that have a defined waist such as a yoke and tulip

Skirts with subtle tapering and flat fronts look understated and stylish. Select more fluid fabrics to skim over curves. Avoid boxy style skirts and stiff fabrics. Adding peplums and flounces to accentuate your curves like the Charlotte skirt from By Hand London.

Boyfriend straight up figures – Anyone this shape needs to choose a skirt that will create a defined waist. Choose skirts with high waists like this Anémone skirt from Deer & Doe or detailing such as pleats, slits, belts, panels, wrap around, slant pockets, and skirts cut on the bias. Maxi skirts also suit straight up and down kinda gals too.

Happy Hemlines

  • Short mini length – best for petites (5ft 3” or less), short/slim legs. Not good for women who have a little bit of a tummy and perhaps not professional enough for wearing to work.
  • Just above knee length – universal length that is flattering on most body shapes.
  • Mid-calf length – hemline that hits around here can make legs look short so best suited to taller women and can also be tricky as this length falls at the widest part of your leg.
  • Maxi length – choose a maxi skirt that doesn’t have lots of fabric around the waist, a length that sits at the ankle and wear with a semi-fitted top. Gypsy style and flooring skimming skirts leave for the tall folk, if you’re short or small framed avoid at all costs this length as it can make you look even shorter.

A-Z of the most common shapes:

The A-line is a simple, classic shape that is shaped like an A from waist, skims the hips and flares to hem. They can be knee, calf and ankle length.

Lisette brand is being released this spring with Butterick and one of the patterns Butterick 6182 features a safari-inspired A-line skirt with wide waist band – that works well with shorter tops– and has side front pockets and show-stopping deep centre-front pleat.

Asymmetrical skirt
This skirt style has made a real comeback recently and looks great in stretch knits and is commonly shorter at the front and longer at the back but could also be asymmetric from one side.

Shown below is Simplicity 1695 which features pull-on skirts with elastic waist that can be made in straight maxi length or in two lengths with hi-low asymmetrical hems. Great patterns for beginners.

Bubble skirt
A memory from the 1980’s that I’d rather forget it but it can be great for those who are slim or haven’t worn it the first time around. They usually have an elasticated or fitted waistband and the bulk of the material is sewn into a narrower hemline to create the puffball look. Usually these have an above the knee hemline and look best made in satins and silks.

Circular skirt
This skirt style will suit most body shapes. Reminiscent of the 1950’s glamour, it’s full circle shape suits lightweight fabrics. For extra volume, wear it with a full slip petticoat. Can be worn just below, above the knee and mid calf.

Dirdnl skirt
This type of skirt is full and fitted at the waistline and is essentially two rectangles sew together, gathered at the waist to allow it to flare out toward the hemline. Best results with lightweight fabrics.

Gored skirt
This flared skirt is similar to the A-line skirt but has a bit more flare in the hemline. Can be made with 4, 6, 7 and 8 gores.

Gypsy/ Peasant skirt
This is perhaps a skirt style that is more widely worn in the summer in lightweight fabrics. It can be worn full, knee or mini length and usually featured a series of three tiers or more depending on the length.

Maxi skirt
This is a favourite in summertime but becoming popular in winter too and covers all. It’s the same shape as the pencil or can be slightly A-line but make sure you make it ankle length and not longer so you can walk in it! McCalls 6931 shown here with princess seams, elasticated waist and side pockets.

Mini skirt
The casual mini was an essential in 1960’s. Curvier body shapes can wear a straight mini but make it in a medium to heavy weight fabrics like denim or corduroy.

Pencil skirt
This skirt shape hugs your body and is usually worn mid-calf and made from stretch fabrics and slims down the figure. Made in a woven fabric it’s a more practical solution for other body shapes.

Made from fine fabric and a beach classic for covering up and tied into place.

Straight skirt
The same shape as the pencil skirt but with slightly more room and looks stylish when finished with a knee-high hemline. Any shorter this style of skirt can be a bit of the revealing side when you sit down. Made in a longer length and side slits it can look very elegant worn with heels.

Tulip skirt
Tulip by name and tulip shape by nature. This style of skirt exaggerates any curves and has a slimming effect.

Wrap skirt
A wrap skirt is fastened around the waist. Wrap skirts are suitable for most body shapes.

Dress for my body shape - Learn to balance your silhouette and choose styles that suit it!
Handy guide to dress shapes - The most popular dress shapes and what will suit you best
Dressing for your body shape - Learn to balance your silhouette and choose styles that suit it!
10 tips for flattering your figure - Style tips when making your own clothes

sewing patterns, sewing tips, sewing advice


Presented with a printed sewing pattern, it can be quite a challenge to understand it but
once you’ve
start to grasp the terms and learn what you are looking at
– you’ll find working with sewing patterns becomes easy!

The choice of patterns is much more exciting today with lots of new contemporary independent designers and companies, but whatever pattern you choose, the pattern language remains the same.



Most pattern envelopes show a model wearing the garment styles so that the sewer can get a feel for how it will look when the garment is made up. Some pattern brands also include illustrations showing seams, pockets, sleeves and any other styling options – these are known as views.

Patterns are usually multi-sized. Many pattern companies will also provide a pattern in two different size ranges that have a crossover of sizes. For example  Simplicity 1279 comes in H5 and R5 that covers sizes 6-14 and 14-22.

Named or Numbered
A sewing pattern has a number to identify the pattern design, which is usually a four-digit number. Smaller independent companies prefer to give their patterns a name, which helps sewers remember them easily.

The envelope may also have a description about the garment advising you on the sort of fit to expect or that the pattern belongs to a collection of patterns. In this case, the pattern (Simplicity 1279) shows that it is part of the Threads Magazine Collection.

Skill level
Most pattern envelopes will point out what sewing skills are required to make up the pattern ie beginners, intermediates or advanced level. Some patterns will also say how long it will take to sew – mainly found on more simple patterns.

If the illustrations or views weren’t shown on the envelope front, they’ll appear here on the back.
These explain about the design as well as particulars like zip location.

Pattern Types
This information will assist in selecting the right pattern for your height (without shoes) and your shape. The options are typically as follows:

  • Misses – Designed for women of average proportions between the height between 5ft 5″ and 5ft 6″
  • Women – Designed for women who are between 5ft 5″ to 5ft 6″ tall with larger bust and hips than Misses
  • Petite – Designed for women with a shorter back-waist length, and a height of between 5ft 2″ and 5ft 4″ tall

Fabric Suggestions
The suggested fabrics will be listed here and the pattern has been specially designed to use with these fabric types. We recommend following these suggestions as they’ve been rigorously tested to obtain the most professional finish for the garment. The list is very comprehensive and may also carry a warning of fabrics that aren’t suitable.

Here, will be listed any items that you’ll require to make the garment such as items like threads, zips and buttons.

Body measurements
This section is important section to compare with your own measurements (height, chest, bust, waist and hips). It’s likely that you’ll  be a combination of sizes so if you are making skirts, shorts and trousers – choose your hip measurement. And if you’re making dresses, tops and jackets – use your bust measurement.

“We recommend highlighting each of your measurements on the pattern across the pattern sizes to see which pattern size is the closest to your actual size.”

Pattern sizes
Don’t be alarmed about whether you are a pattern size 10 or pattern size 20. Your aim is to make the garment fit you the best it can so always use your body measurements rather than a pattern size.

It’s a common misapprehension that you should select the same size that you buy readymade clothes on the High Street and the main reason why finished garments don’t fit as well as expected. It’s important to realise that very few of us will match a pattern company’s standard measurements. For more information of taking accurate body measurements.

“Keep a record of your measurements but always redo these every time you make a new garment, even if it’s a pattern that you’ve used before.”

Fabric requirements
The two most common fabric widths will be quoted 115cm and 140cm (45″ and 60″). This will help you choose how much fabric you require for your size and pattern choice. The yardage block indicates how much fabric, interfacing and lining you require to make a particular pattern view. Always take the pattern with you when go shopping for fabric to check the width and so that you don’t forget any notions you may require.

Finished garment measurements
What is ease?

These measurements allow for garment ease, which essentially means how much room there is to move around when the garment is completed.

It may also quote a wearing ease. This is the minimum amount of ease for comfortable. Within the sewing industry wearing ease is usually 6.4cm at the bust, 2.5cm at the waist and 7.6cm at the hip area. Design ease is the amount that the designer has added/subtracted to create a specific silhouette.

To determine ease, measure your pattern from seam to seam (excluding any seam allowances) and match these up to your body measurements to the total pattern circumference measurement – the difference is the amount of ease the pattern has.

“We suggest that you never cut corners here by skimping on fabric. Always use the correct seam allowance as these can affect the final fit of the garment.”

All the above information is provided in a neat table on the back of the envelope, so its easy to follow!

Instruction pattern sheet

This is your guide to making the garment. It will provide step-by-step through the making process with relevant images to explain trickier steps. Instructions do vary from company to company but the basics will the same.

Amazing fit skirt from Simplicity 2058, www.simplicitynewlook.com

Always read through instructions carefully before starting, as they will include advice on cutting layouts, how to arrange the pattern on the fabric and more useful information. On Burda patterns, cutting layouts are unusually on the tissue.

Pattern Tissue
This fine tissue paper is your pattern template and you will need to cut out the pieces that relate to your size and view. Check that the pattern includes seam allowances, some patterns from overseas sometimes don’t.

Croquis Kit
Croquis is French for rough sketch and this is basically what it is. Some patterns contain a Croquis Kit that can help you gauge whether a garment will suit you. Be the designer and use these rough line drawings designs to shade in fabric colour, texture and mix up the pattern pieces in order to get the right style for you before you buy and cut out fabric.

Other pages you might like:
How to take accurate body measurements - Simple tips to help you get the best fit possible!
Every pattern you'll ever need to know - We've A-Z directory of pattern terms.
Dress for my body shape - Learn to balance your silhouette and choose styles that suit it!
Sewing patterns demystified - We discuss paper, digital, printed fabric sewing patterns,
as well as drafting software and other pattern sources

sewing tips, sewing advice, Great British Sewing Bee


Chinelo Bally has joined up with Create and  Craft TV to offer sewers some simple sewing tips, fun ideas and a unique approach that will inspire everyone to get creative with their sewing

Sew Fabulous with Chinelo Bally includes a series of short video tapes that demonstrate and inform stitchers how to get started with sewing, and in particular how to overcome the harder and more intricate techniques. In this video she shows how to spruce up a plain or  refashion an old garment with some hand-sewn embellishment.

To view more of Chinelo Bally’s Sew Fabulous videos, go to www.createandcraft.tv/chinelo.

How to sew....


Not keen on pockets, then you’ll love these in-seam pockets that hide neatly in the side seam. Handy for holding a mobile phone or emergency lippy! Meghan Hunt shows how to make inseam pockets

Find them in side seams of skirts, dresses, and jackets to create a hidden pocket or just tucking your hands in. Use the same fabric as your garment to make them nearly invisible, or pick a contrasting fabric to add a fun touch as shown here. Add this style of pocket to a commercial pattern before sewing up the seams or open up the side seam on a ready-made garment. Press as you go for best results.

Steps to make
1. Cut two pocket pieces using the template at the back on page 124-126. You will also need to decide where you want to position the top of the pocket on both the front and back pattern pieces of your garment at the side seam.

2. Lay the front and back pieces of your garment right side up. Position the pocket pieces right side down lining up evenly on both sides. Using a 1cm seam allowance, sew each pocket piece to the garment piece along the straight seam line.

3. Finish the edge by sewing a narrow zigzag stitch or by cutting along the edge using pinking shears. This will prevent the raw edges from fraying.

4. Press each pocket piece open, with the seam allowance pressed toward the pocket.

5. Pin your front and back garment pieces right sides together along the side seam, making sure the pocket pieces line up. Using a 15mm seam allowance, start sewing the side seam at the top of the garment. Continue sewing down the side seam 2cm past the top edge of the pocket, then backstitch to secure your stitching in place. Leave a gap with no stitching where your pocket opening will be, and start a new line of stitching about 2cm before the bottom edge of the pocket, again using a 1.5cm seam allowance. Stitch all the way down from the pocket to the bottom of the garment.

6. Now stitch the pockets together along the edges. Start stitching where you left off at the top of the pocket pieces, sew all the way around the pockets, and finish at the bottom of the pocket, connecting your line of stitches to your side seam. As before, use a standard 15mm seam allowance.

7. As in Step 3, sew a narrow zigzag stitch or use pinking shears to prevent the raw edges from fraying. If you use a zigzag stitch, trim off any excess seam allowance without cutting through the zigzag stitches. Turn the garment right side out and admire your beautiful new in-seam pocket!

NB: These instructions are for making one in-seam pocket. For a pocket on each side of your garment (such as in a skirt, dress, or jacket) repeat these steps on both the left and right sides of your garment.

This guest feature was written by Meghan Hunt. For more excellent tutorials from her visit: MadebyMeg.

Making your own clothes, How to sew....


Up the ante by adding pockets to restyle a tired garment in your wardrobe or easily add then to a sewing pattern. Meghan Hunt shows how to add patch pockets

Patch pockets are versatile and very easy to sew, and can be found on anything from shirts and trousers to purses, dresses, tops, bathrobes and more.

Steps to make
1. Cut two pocket pieces using the template at the back, or drafting your own by cutting a rectangle that is 2cm wider and 3.5 cm taller than the desired pocket size.

2. On the right side of the pocket, mark 2.5cm down from the top of the pocket. Fold down with right sides together and press.

3. Using a 1cm seam allowance, sew down one side, across the bottom, and up the other side of the pocket. This secures the folded top down and creates a fold line. Don’t sew across the top. 4. Flip the folded section right side out so that the wrong sides of the fabric are now together.

4. Flip the folded section right side out so that the wrong sides of the fabric are now together.

5. Press the remaining sides of the pocket in towards the middle, folding along the stitching line as your guide. For nice and neat corners, fold the corners at a 45-degree angle.

6. Turning the pocket to the right side, stitch 2 cm from the top, catching the folded edge underneath. This secures the top folded edge of the pocket in place.

7. To attach the patch pocket to your garment, place your garment right side up and position the pocket on top. It may be helpful to secure it in place with pins. Then, sew along the edge of the pocket, starting on one side, stitching across the bottom, and sewing up the other side. Don’t stitch the pocket closed across the top. You now have a beautiful patch pocket!

Secrets of a stylish patch pocket:

  • Use a contrasting fabric to make your pockets stand out
  • Add extra detailing such as flap, pin-tuck or bias binding for a designer look.
  • To achieve perfectly straight edges: cut the pocket template from thin card minus the seam allowance and iron around that to get achieve the perfect shape pocket. Works even better on the curve edges.
  • Topstitch pockets in place with a contrasting colour thread.

This guest feature was written by Meghan Hunt. For more excellent tutorials visit her blog: MadebyMeg

sewing tips, sewing advice


Give your garments a professional finish with 3 smarter stitches:
top-stitch, edge-stitch and under-stitch and when to use them

This is a decorative stitch that's sewn parallel to the seam at is sewn on the right side of the fabric. Used to give seams a neat and professional look and the best news is it makes ironing much easier! There’s nowhere to hide with top-stitching, and every stitch is on show so this needs to be done as accurately and carefully as possible. Take time with your top-stitching.

When to use it:
To help keep fabric layers in place.
Maintain the seam’s integrity with normal wear and washing and avoid the seam from distorting.
Use around necklines and facings, hems, collars and lapels, cuffs and as a decorative stitch on pockets and patchwork.
It can be done with straight stitch or decorative stitches.

Tips for perfect top-stitching:

  • Choose a thread that is the same fibre as your fabric
  • Choose a slightly longer stitch for top-stitching than the stitch used for the seam. Longer stitches lay slightly smoother.
  • Choose the correct needle for the chosen fabric – this will help prevent skipped or pulled stitches.
  • Used parallel to the finished edge approx. 6mm (1/4in)
  • Try not to watch the needle and keep your eye focused on the inside edge of the presser foot. It’s easier to keep straight this way.
  • Use a thread colour that closely matches your fabric.

Styling idea:
Once you've mastered the art of top-stitching, you can use a contrasting or complementary thread colours to make a feature of your neat stitching!

Edge-stitching is much like top-stitching but its more of a functional stitch that's used to stop fabric rolling and help fabric to stay in place permanently. It helps to hold and condense thickness when layers of fabric are placed together on fabrics like denim.

When to use it:
Use on collars, facings and around a garments edge.

Tips for perfect edge-stitching:

  • Sewn very close to the finished edge, about 3mm (1/8 inch)
  • New sharp needle
  • Stitch length: 3.0mm
  • Most sewing machines will have a special edge stitch presser foot.

A great little stitch for stopping linings and facings from showing on the outside of garments. This is a line of straight stitching is sewn on the right side of the lining/facing fabric to give a crisp finish to a seam. Its purpose is the same as edge stitching, and stop the fabric from rolling and showing when you wear the garment.

When to use it:
Used a lot in garment construction especially around necklines and armholes that have facings, and also to keep linings in place.

Tips for success

  • Make sure to press at every stage for best results, begin by pressing the right side of seam.
  • Trim the inner seam allowance
  • Stitch inside the seam line approx 3mm (1/8 inch) on the facing/lining
  • Stitch as close as you can to any corners, don’t try to under stitch into corners

This was originally featured in Love to Sew bookazine, priced at £6.99 and availbale from My Hobby Store

sewing tips, sewing advice


Pins are the tiniest piece of haberdashery in your sewing box but probably one of the most valuable item and when there are many to choose from, when is one pin better than another?

Pins and all you need to know about the different types.jpg


  • Holding together fabric and pattern temporarily
  • Holding seam allowances together
  • Quick way to transfer markings

Different pin types have been designed for different tasks and the 5 parts to a pin determine which task it is best for:

The type of head will determine whether the pin can be pressed or not.

Flat (no head)
These can be used with a hot iron and are good for hand sewing because the thread doesn’t get tangled around the head. However the negative side of these sort of pins, is that they can be difficult to see on patterned and textured fabrics.

Use glass pinheads (instead of plastic ones) as these won’t melt under a hot iron which can then stick to your fabric and ruin it. Glass headed pins won’t melt and are also easily visible.

Metal pins are less common today, and experts advocate that “you use the best—toss the rest”. Mainly because metal pins bend and rust over time and will mark your fabric.

These come in different colours and sizes with ballpoint and flat, being the most universal.Pins with colourful plastic heads are easier to see, both on your fabric and when you drop them on the floor.

Flat & Flower
Flat, flower shaped plastic heads are ideal for using with loose weaves, slippery fabrics and laces where the large heads won’t slip through the holes in the fabric.

Pearl headed pins are generally for use with finer fabrics where it’s essential not to damage the fabric structure such as shirt and bridal pins.

The pointy end helps glide smoothly through the fabric, avoid snags and any unnecessary holes. Pins need to be sharp, and different fabrics require different types of points.

Like sewing machine needles – there’s a choice of sharp, extra sharp and ballpoint:
Sharp are all-purpose points for loose woven, medium-weight, and heavyweight fabrics whilst extra-sharp have a more defined and tapered point, which will pass through delicate fabrics easier. Ballpoints are for knits and they have a slightly rounded point and hence won’t pierce the fabric. Generally the finer the pin the finer the fabric!

Choose between long and short pins – dressmaker’s pins are medium in length, quilting pins are a longer length made for pinning lots of layers together.

Rule of thumb
The longer the length the less likely the pin will slip out of place.

There are many types of metal pin including nickel-plated steel, nickel-plated brass, chrome-plated steel, stainless steel and these vary in strength. Bridal and lace pins are made from nickel-plated brass, which makes them very durable and won’t rust so are perfect for delicate fabrics where pins need to be in place for longer periods of time.

The pin test
Pick up your pins with a magnet, everything but stainless steel and brass will be attracted to the magnet. Magnetic pincushions are great for picking up lots of pins and saving you from pricking your finger – simply point in the direction of the piles of pins and watch them fly towards the pin cushion!

Never leave pins in fabric for any longer than necessary, and always put pins in at right angle to the edge of fabric. It’s a good idea to make a note of your favourite brands, so when you run out you’ll know where to buy.


  • T-pin, use for upholstering and heavy weight fabrics (such as canvas).
  • Fork pins have a 2-prong curve which is good for slippery fabrics like lining.
  • Pleating pins are strong and fine and as named useful for pinning pleats.
  • Safety pins, still a pin and useful if transporting sewing as won’t fall out.
  • Curved pins as the name suggests are bent making basting quilts a doodle and also stops the layers from moving out of alignment.

The age-old question
“Should you remove pins or machine sew over them?
Some sewers will sew with the pins in place at right angle to the edge of fabric but it is advisable to set your sewing machine to a slow speed. However many sewing machine manufacturers, and sewing experts, feel it’s not worth the risk of damaging your machine from unnecessarily blunting. You can also break a lot of needles so best answer to this question is always remove pins as you go!

Styling tips, sewing tips, sewing patterns


Here’s our handy guide to the most popular shapes for dresses
as featured in Love to Sew

dress hsape and style.jpg

From left to right:

Shirt, A-line, empire waist dress
Shift , tent or trapeze , princess-seam
Yoke, drop-waist dress, tunic, asymmetrical hem


Shirt dress – It’s styled as it sounds like a button through shirt.
A-line dress – Shaped like a capital ‘A’ in silhouette, and narrowing at the waistline to flare out to a wider hemline.
Empire-waist dress – A comfortable high waist dress that sits neatly under the bust.

Shift dress – Classic unfitted style made famous in the ‘60’s, featuring straight and simple lines. Usually knee-length or shorter.
Tent or trapeze dress – A pyramid-shaped dress that flares out to a very wide and flouncy hemline.
Princess Seam dress – Fitted dress is fitted with long front seams found that fit the body.

Yoke dress – This dress has a fitted area of fabric along the front and back of the shoulders.
Drop-waisted dress – A dress style where waistline sits on hipline.
Tunic style dress – A dress (or top) with a loose fit, worn slightly shorter and usually with leggings.
Asymmetrical hem dress – Uneven hemline either at the front or back or with different shape layers. Low high hemmed dresses are very popular at the moment.

Styling tips, sewing advice


Don’t let not understanding a sewing term stop your dressmaking creativity.
We’ve the A-Z of pattern terminology

Adjustment line: Indicates where a pattern can be lengthened or shortened.
Alter: Term used to change or revise a pattern or garment to fit an individual.
Buttonhole placement: A cross marks the spot where a button needs to be placed. A solid line indicates the length of the buttonhole.
Cutting layout: These are like a map showing how to fold the fabric and position the pieces for the most economical use – this will vary with garment view, fabric width, pattern size and nap.
Cutting line: This is the outermost dark line marked with the size.
Dart: A tapered fold in a pattern to allow for fullness which helps shape garment to body contours. Mark and fold along the centre line, matching the dots and stitch to the point.
Dots, squares and triangles: These indicate areas of construction where precise matching, clipping, gathering or stitching is required.
Ease: There is often wearing ease and designer ease. This will affect how close or loose fitting a garment is. Wearing ease is calculated to allow garments to move with the body whilst Designer ease is the style element. Woven garments need wearing ease to allow for movement.
Easing line: This short broken line, with dots at either end has a directional arrow to mark the area to be eased.
Fold line: This indicates that a paper pattern piece needs to be placed on the fold of the fabric so that two identical halves are cut as one avoiding additional centre seams.
Grain line: This is the suggested direction in which to place the pattern piece on the fabric with arrow parallel to the selvedge.
Hem allowance: Amount of fabric allowed for the hemming.
Line drawings: These show the shape and outline of the design plus any details such as seams and zip location.
Notches: These diamond shapes appear along the cutting line for matching seams.
Pattern layout: Diagram found on instruction sheet, which indicate how to lay out pattern pieces on the fabric.
Seam allowance: The area between the fabric edge and the stitching (usually 15 mm (5/8”) for dressmaking).
Seam line: Denoted by a long broken line along. These must be matched when putting the garment together for stitching and not the raw edges.
Toile: This is a garment made from cheaper fabric like Calico and is used to ‘prove’ a pattern and make sure the pattern fits perfectly.
Views: Designs that appear on the paper patterns to show optional styles such as length, sleeve and hem variations
Yardage block: Indicates how much fabric, interfacing and lining you require to make a particular view on a pattern.

Back waist length: Measurement from middle of most prominent bone at the base of the neck down to waistline.
Bust line: The horizontal line running across the back and around the fullest part of the bust. It’s an important measurement for correct pattern sizing.
Full bust: Measurement taken around the fullest part of the bust and straight across the back.
High bust: Measurement taken above the full bust measurement under the arms and around the back and chest.

TIP: If this measurement is more than 5cm (2”) larger than the full bust measurement then pattern size should be selected by the high bust size and alterations made to fit the fuller cup.

Hip point: Measurement from around the fullest part o your hips.
TIP: If waist and hip measurements are not both included on the pattern – choose pattern for hip measurement.

In-seam: The inside leg seam that runs from crotch to hem.
Waistline: This is the thinnest part of your body – tie a piece of string around your middle and allowing it to settle at natural waist.

If there is a term that is not on the list, email us (info@thepatternpages.com)
and we’ll add it!

Styling tips, sewing tips, sewing advice, sewing patterns


Everyone’s shape has its own silhouette attributes that you need to know to make clothes
so that they not only fit well but also look nice too.
Learn to balance your silhouette and choose styles that suit it!



  • Stand in front of a mirror in your underwear
  • With your legs together and your arms by your side
  • Look at your silhouette from your bust down to your waist and to the fullest part of your hips to decide your shape.


1. My shape is Rectangle:
I'm the same size on top and bottom
I've a boyish figure
I've a small bust and little or no waistline
My hips and bottom are straight?

Style solution:
Rectangles need to create a defined waistline
Avoid straight lines and garments with no shape
Create a waist with a waistband or belted garment
Choose low-round necklines like sweetheart and scoop

Jacket - Choose boxy jackets that split your torso in two
Sleeves - Choose loose fit sleeves like cap, 3/4, puff and flared
Tops – Any style must fit you around the bust. Choose empire line that separates waist from hip area. Use ruffles and frills to add texture and volume (and femininity). Tops should be short to medium in length.
Dress – Choose dresses that have a definite waistline and structured with darts
Skirts – Select cross-over, panelled, ‘A’ line and straight skirts and wear with medium to wide belts. Add embellishment.
Trousers – Choose flare, bootleg and ankle skimming styles that flow into the leg with detailing like pockets and embellishment. Avoid any style of trousers that is baggy and loose including dropped waist jeans, tapered or cropped.

2. My shape is Inverted Triangle (carrot)
I wear a larger size on top than bottom
There's not much difference between my waist and hips
My hips and bottom are quite flat
My shoulders are wider than hips and I have a straight shoulder line

Style solution:
You need to wear and make clothes that make your hips look wider to balance out your top half.
Keep detailing to the lower half of your body
Make sure your top half has clean lines and clutter free
Choose straight lines, as they're a natural extension of your silhouette
Create a waistline with a belt or waistband
Use large collars and lapels to disguise a small bust

Skirt – ‘A’ line or straight skirts with volume such as tiers, dropped waistline, panels, box pleats are good choices. Most length skirts will suit you.
Jacket – Choose a straight line or flared jacket with vents, lower pockets and a full hemline.
Coat - Select a longline coat that tapers towards the hemline and has hip pockets.
Dress – Straight lines suit you best such as the shift or ‘A’ line with tiers, pleats and patterns.
Trousers  – Select patterns with detailing such as back pockets,  use pattern fabric, turn-ups, combat trousers, wide-legged, Palazzo, flares and culottes. Boyfriend styled jeans are perfect and in other styles, choose coloured-denim or add big pockets.

3. My shape is Pear (inverted triangle)
I carry most of my weight on the hips
My shoulders are narrower than my hips
My bust is smaller
I have a defined waistline
I wear a larger size on your bottom half than your top

Style solution:
Those with triangle silhouettes need to balance their top half by wearing garments that make the shoulders look broader to balance the narrowest of their hips

Tops - Layer and embellish tops to draw the eye upwards. Tops and blouses should finish above the widest point of your hips. Make a fuss on top and keep the bottom half simple. Wear fitted blouses and tops with a fitted waist such as empire line, wrap-over, waistcoats, straight yoke, breast pockets, large collars and structured waistlines. Add shoulder pads or sleeves that add volume like puff, cap. Wear boleros and shrugs to cover up tops of arms.
Trousers - Avoid wearing trousers with too much detailing such as turn-ups, pleats or wide-legged trousers and avoid pockets on the hip area. Flat fronted, bootleg are the best choices with no belt loops, creases, pleats, pockets.
Skirts – Stay away from mini (however good your legs may be), dropped waist or panelled skirts. Choose straight knee-length or mid calf-length pencil, ‘A’ line and wrap skirts. Bias cut is good too.
Coat/jackets – Choose a longer line coat with detailing such as on a trench coat. Double-breasted is a good choice for this shape.

4. My shape is hourglass
I wear the same size top and bottom
I've a visible waist and bust line
I have a shapely bottom

Style solution:
If you are classic feminine hourglass shape – you need to wear make clothes that are shaped, fitted and defined to show off these lines.
With your shape you can wear most styles of garment but make sure that whatever you're making is always fitted or has a belt.

Dress/Coats – Show off that waist! Make sure it's fitted or semi fitted. Empire-line dresses are excellent and those with structure with darts. Wear belts both wide and thin to draw attention to the smallest part of your body.
Skirts – You can choose straight, ‘A’ line, pencil, dropped waist, bias cut, pleated and full skirts.
Trousers – All styles will work right through from wide-legged to ankle-skimming straight-legged. Always make jeans with a waistband.
Tops/Blouses – ‘V’ necks and scoop necklines are a good choice

5. My shape is Apple
I carry my weight/fullness around the tummy area?
I have good legs
I have a flat bottom
My bust is larger than average
My shoulders are rounded

Style solution:
Round silhouettes need to follow the line of their body and avoid adding any fussy detail around bust, tummy and hips. Detail should be above the bust and below the hip line.
Garments should be slightly straight or fitted and fabric soft to avoid creating bulk around bust, tummy and hips.
Apples should pay attention to both front and side view. Always keep garments fitted under the bust and avoid styles that finish at the fullest point and have excessive fabric in the middle section.

Coats – Select coats single breasted and a single button positioned under the bust and above the tummy. Lapels are good.
Skirts - The best length for you is just above the knee.
Tops - Necklines need to be low and wide like scoop, square, ‘V’ neck or sweetheart. Shoulder pads are a good idea as they help garments drape from the shoulders. Make sure you've  a well fitting bra. Blouses should have simple lines and opt for side and back zips and fastenings.
Trousers – Select flat-fronted, wide-legged that don’t cling to the body. Choose trousers that fasten at the side or back. Dark coloured boot cut jeans are best for your shape. Don’t choose high waist jeans.