Posts in Styling tips
How to choose the right skirt shape

Are you skirt savvy? Do you know which skirt style is best for your body shape? Knowing this can help you choose the right sewing pattern for you!

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 certain skirt styles such as a mini length skirt if like us, you hate your knees or have chunkier legs (although a thick pair of tights can often solve problem!).


hemming a skirt
Always wear the heels you plan to wear with the skirt when measuring a hemline

Choosing a skirt style

  • 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 but if too lose, it will look frumpy and hang off you. Both can alter how the hemline looks on the final garment.

  • Always wear the heels you plan to wear with the skirt when measuring a hemline and check in the mirror to see how it looks all 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
Select 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
Pick skirts with more subtle shaping like A-Line and other styles that have a defined waist such as a yoke or 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 or detailing such as pleats, slits, belts, panels, wrap around, slant pockets, and assymetrical skirts and those 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

A-line
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!

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.

Sarong
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 and is suitable for most body shapes and come in lots of different lengths.


OTHER PAGES YOU MIGHT LIKE:

Dress for my 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

What are sewing terms and what do they mean?

Don’t let not understanding a sewing term stop your dressmaking creativity.
We’ve an A-Z of guide to all terms you’ll find on a sewing pattern

SEWING PATTERN
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.
Anchoring stitches: These machine stitches are sewn with zero stitch length to keep from pulling out and also the term is used when you stitch backwards for a couple of stitches to anchor.
Armscye: The opening in a bodice to which the sleeve is attached (also more commonly known as an armhole).
Baste: Temporary long running stitches, made by either hand or machine, that holds the fabric together before permanent stitches are applied.
Bias: A direction of a piece of woven fabric, usually known as ‘the bias’. This is a 45-degree angle to the grainline or diagonal direction of the fabric.

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.

Sewing terms and what they mean

MEASUREMENTS
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 isn’t on our list drop us a comment below.


A handy guide to sewing with print fabrics

We all love to sew with print fabrics but it can be slightly daunting, use these helpful tips to help you sew with print fabrics and inject some much needed colour into your wardrobe

Print fabrics have become a staple all year round and there's such a a wide range of printed fabrics to choose from these days. As soon as you mention print fabrics, we automatically think of the wonderful cottons fabrics but print fabrics are available in all sorts of fabric types and weaves. What fabric you choose will determine which interfacing, seam and hemming techniques that you decide to use.


TIP 1 - Sizing up your print
Be aware that prints with large floral images and one-way designs will require more fabric. They  need care in placement and are best for simple patterns with very few pieces.

TIP 2 - Rule of thumb
Use small print for smaller garments
Use large print for larger garments
Some prints require a lap layout especially if it has a one-way pattern

TIP 3 - Print Size
If you're a beginner to dressmaking, always choose a small print to work with, sewing imperfections are less likely to show here. However from a distance too smaller print, can look like a plain fabric. Consider wearing a belt to pick out one of the dominant colour’s or adding contrasting plain piping and decorative facings to accentuate the garment.

TIP 4 - Getting a feel for the fabric
Try to avoid choosing prints from a sample – unfortunately you won’t be able to get a proper feel for whether the fabric hangs nicely and whether the print suits you. Be brave – different size prints look great together but don’t mix too many patterns. Use a common colour, same weight and drape to hold it all together.

TIP 5 - Pattern Layout
If you're using a print fabric with a large motif, drape the fabric over your body to try different placements to check the best place for the larger motifs. You don’t want a huge bloom somewhere inappropriate!

New Look 6271

New Look 6271

Simplicity 1459

Simplicity 1459


Handy guide to dress shapes and what they are
dress hsape and style.jpg



The most popular shapes for dresses as featured in Love to Sew bookazine


dressshapes.jpg

DRESSES
From left to right:

Shirtdress, 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.

How to sew and dress for your body shape

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

How to sew and dress for your body shape
How to sew and dress for your body shape

Determine your body shape

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


What shapes matches your silhouette?

Simplicity 1104 by Cynthia Rowley

Simplicity 1104 by Cynthia Rowley

My shape is Rectangle:

I’ve 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.


Astrid Pants from Named Clothing

Astrid Pants from Named Clothing

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.


Simplicity 8694

Simplicity 8694

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.


Marguerite Dress from Sew Over It

Marguerite Dress from Sew Over It

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


Pembroke Dress from Cashmerette

Pembroke Dress from Cashmerette

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 jea


What threads should I use and why?

Threads have come a long way since the caveman was sewing hide and fur together with fine strips of animal hide. The first uses of thread were to create woven tapestries from wool yarn and then seamstresses began to use the same material to create garments

THREAD TYPES

What threads should I use when sewing and why?

Cotton
Cotton thread is the most popular, and made from cotton fibres. It’s soft and won’t stretch. This thread has a low in lustre but can fade and shrink. High quality cotton threads are made from the long cotton fibres, these tend to be stronger and less likely to fray in your machine. You can buy mercerized cotton-wrapped polyester threads (holds colour and lustre is better).

Use for: all-purpose sewing and dressmaking with medium fabrics

Polyester
Polyester thread is man-made and tends to be extremely strong with a medium lustre. It’s also economical to buy and comes in a wide selection of colours, with the added benefit of not shrinking or fading.

Use for: quilting and light and medium weight fabrics, machine embroidery

Silk
Silk is made from the silk worms cocoons and is thinner and more elastic with a high lustre. It tends to sink into garments, when sewn which is good for hand embroidery and needlework.
Use for: seaming, topstitching, buttonholes and hand sewing

Rayon
Rayon thread is also man-made and has a high-lustre. It’s soft, durable and available in a wide selection of colours. Rayon thread works well with high-speed sewing such as machine embroidery and doesn’t suffer from fraying or breaking. Disadvantage is, it’s not heat resistant or colourfast.

Nylon
Nylon threads are synthetic, and although it is a very strong thread, the negatives of using can overweigh any positives. It's not colourfast nor heat resistant, and will deteriorate over time with washing.


CHOOSING THREADS

Rule of thumb
A good thread should pass easily through the eye of a needle

You gets what you pay for!
Always choose a good quality thread over cheaper alternatives to ensure best results. If you look at cheaper threads under the microscope (if you have one handy…) you’ll find that they are not smooth and looked frayed and bumpy.
If in doubt, stick to brands that you know or that have been recommended.

Match
Make sure you match the thread’s fibre content to the fabric that you are using. For example, use natural fibre thread with natural fibre fabric and synthetic thread with man-made fabrics. Always use the same thread type in both the
needle and bobbin.

Tension
Thread type can also affect the tension on your sewing machine. If you are using rayon thread, your tensions will have to be a little looser than for a polyester thread, which can stand a tighter tension to avoid looping.


SPECIALTY THREADS

Basting – Lightweight thread usually 100% cotton for temporary stitching
Invisible – Usually nylon, and used for mending and attaching trims where you don’t want to see stitching.
Machine embroidery – High gloss finer threads available in a wide selection of colours, textures and sizes. Often polyester or rayon and comes in plain, variegated and iridescent colours.
Metallic – These have a shimmer to them and are ideal for decorative stitching/machine embroidery.
Overlocker – Sold on cones especially for high speed overlocking.
Topstitching – Strong thread that produces a well defined stitch that is to be seen.
Bobbinfil – Designed for use with machine embroidery, it comes in black or white and forms the underside of heavily stitched embroidery preventing puckering.