Posts in sewing advice
How to choose knit fabrics

The pattern makers are WOWing us with knit dresses and tops and a well-made knit fabric garment are 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’s a few pointers for you

Working with knit fabrics

What actually is knit fabric?

Knit fabrics are made up of rows of interlocking yarn loops providing the fabric with its stretch.

Top tips

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.

Look for the crossgrain in the knit fabric you’ll be using which is found from selvedge to selvedge. The standard tube fabric crossgrain will be found across the width of the knit. Take two pins and measure a 4in line across the grain while it isn’t stretched. Place the measured line on the fabric over the pattern where your pick-a-knit gauge from arrow to arrow. Place one pin at the start of the gauge and move the other pin to the end of it to see how far the fabric can stretch and mark the point where the stretched fabric reaches before it changes appearance.

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



What kind of pins should I be using in my sewing?
Prym magnetic pincushion with glass head pins

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?


  • Holding together fabric and pattern temporarily

  • Holding seam allowances together

  • Quick way to transfer markings

3 Prym Products to keep your
pinning perfect


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

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

flat dressmaker pins.jpg

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.

prym plastic head pins.jpg

Experts advocate that “you use the best—toss the rest”. Mainly because metal pins bend and rust over time and will mark your fabric, ensure you get some top quality metal pins such as Prym Easy Grasp pins that don’t rust.

plastic head pins from prym

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.

Shirt and bridal pins

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!

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

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

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.

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.


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

How to flatter your figure when sewing

Become your own wardrobe designer - we’ve advice on how to choose the right garments to sew!

1. Know your neckline
When choosing a neckline take into account your bust size, shape of your face, length of your neck and your body shape. Do you want to emphasis or play any of these areas down?
Generally, higher necklines suit slim builds and lower necklines can accentuate the bust line.

measuring for bra.jpg

2. Up close and personal
Make sure you your bra is the correct size and doing the job it’s supposed to do!
For larger busts, choose a bra with 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 up what you’ve got!


Band size: Measure under your arm and around the front just above the bust where the straps meet the top of the bra cup. This measurement should be rounded down to the nearest even inch. 
Bust size: Without pulling the tape measure tightly, measure the fullest part of your bust. Round this measurement up to the nearest inch. 


3. One size doesn’t fit all
Make sure you select the correct pattern size. Measure yourself and go by the sizing on the pattern (and not the size you pick for high street clothes). Pick a pattern range that offers fitting options.

4. You’ve got style
Empire-line garments 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, and banish those bingo wings with a pretty bell sleeve.

 5. All in the detail
The rule is that small petite frames can add flounces, beading and bows while fuller-figured women should keep things a little simpler and add pintucks or darts and accessorise with jewellery.

 6. Colour coding
Wear colours on the top or bottom depending on which area you want to play up or down. Wear light and bright colours to highlight, and dark colours on the areas that you want to disguise.

7. Fabric matters
Select a fabric weight and pattern that suits your frame as well as the sewing pattern. Fabrics that drape are a good option to hide areas you don’t like. 

8. Adjust and improve
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.

9.  Healthy hemline
Choose a hemline that makes the most of your legs. The most practical and flattering is a hemline that sits just above the knee.

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

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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

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

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

What marking tools should I use when sewing?

Marking tools are one of the most helpful tools in your sewing box but regretably, there’s not one marking tool that will handle every job

Range of marking tools from Sewline

Range of marking tools from Sewline

Marks made with marking tools indicate to sewers:
where to cut, fold and stitch and also to mark essential garment construction details like dart placement


  • Keep marking tool sharp for accurate and precise lines

  • The darker the fabric colour, the lighter the marker colour

  • Always test chosen marker on a fabric swatch before you use and check to see if it shows through to the fabric’s right side (especially if markings aren’t removable)

  • Pressing can set the marker, so always removed before pressing

Sewline marking pencil

Dressmaker’s Pencils

These are great for the placement of finer lines, and you hold it like a pencil so you have more control over your markings. It’s available in a range of colours and many pencils will also have an eraser or brush on the opposite end to rub away unwanted chalk markings. Chaco-pencils are the latest edition to create the thinnest of chalk lines and these can be refilled like a mechanical pencil.

Dressmaker's Chalk

Tailor’s Chalk

The most basic marking tool which comes in the familiar wedge shape for easily grip and marking and available in blue, yellow and white. Chalk makes a non-permanent line that brushes or washes out (there’s also a vanishing chalk version that disappears on ironing).  Chalk wedges need to be kept sharp, otherwise you’ll end up with un-sharp lines! Chalk marks can wear off so not the best marking tool, if you need to handle your sewing project constantly such as in patchwork and quilting. A disadvantage is that, it doesn’t always make a precise line and can be difficult to manoeuvre. If your preference is chalk, try using a chalk wheel for fine lines, it’s shaped like the wedge but has a plastic casing that is easier to handle. Chalk is superb for marking long fold lines for hems and garment alterations.

Marking Pens

Prym Love marking pen

  • Water-soluble – these look like children’s colouring pencils and come in a range of colours suitable for different fabrics. Any marks made will dissolve in water when you wash the fabric, but always test on a swatch first. Use these on the right side of the fabric.

  • Air-erasable (vanishing/magic pens). This style of pen leaves a bright pink line that will fade after 48 hours and is best used over smaller areas for intricate drawings on embroideries and appliqués.

Tracing Wheel

Tracing Wheel

Use these in conjunction with tracing/dressmaker’s paper. There are 2 types: one with a serrated edge and one with a smooth edge. Tracing paper is placed between the pattern and fabric, the wheel then applies pressure to transfer marking to fabric. The serrated edge wheel produces a dotted line and is suitable for most fabric types whilst the smooth edge wheel creates a solid line which avoids piercing the fabric so is ideal for more delicate materials and transferring marks internal lines such as darts on garments or positioning marks for motifs.

Clover Hera Marker

Hera Marker

This ink-less and chalk-less tool looks like a plastic butter knife. Press the edge along your fabric to create a temporary crease, which will stay visible until you wash or press. Used with a ruler, it will allow you to make long straight lines for quilting. The other end is thinner and can be used for folding appliqué back.

What are sewing patterns and how do I use them? The beginners guide

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.

Getting to grips with the envelope front

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.
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.

Selection of Pattern Envelopes

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.”

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.

The envelope back

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.

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.”

Additional information

reading the back of a sewing pattern envelope.jpeg

Finished garment measurements
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!

Inside the pattern envelope

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. 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.

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Taking accurate body measurements when sewing

It’s important to take accurate measurementswhen making your own clothes.
Here's our essential guide to help you get the best fit possible!

What other measurements may I need to know?

Shoulder length
Measure from the base of the neck to shoulder point.
To find base of the neck – place tape measure around your neck under the thyroid.
To find the shoulder point – raise the arm to shoulder level and this is where the dip forms at the shoulder bone.
Waist height from floor
Place a book between your waist and the wall, and mark this position on the wall and measure distance from waist mark to the floor.
Front waist length
Measure vertically down from the prominent shoulder bone over bust point to the waist.
Back waist length
Measure from the top of your spine to natural waistline.
Arm length
Measure from the shoulder bone to elbow and then with elbow bent measure to the wrist.

Make sure you update your measurements regularly

Always keep a record of all your measurements but redo these every time you start to make a garment, even if it’s a pattern that you have made before unfortunately we don’t all stay the same size, no matter how hard we wish it!!).

Tips for choosing a sewing pattern

For skirts, shorts and trousers – use your hip measurement to choose a pattern size.
For dresses, tops and jackets – use the bust measurement to choose a pattern size.

Pattern Types

This pattern style is designed for women of average proportions between the height between 5ft 5in and 5ft 6in (without shoes)
Designed for women who are between 5ft 5in to 5ft 6in tall (without shoes) with larger bust and hips than Misses.
These patterns are designed for women with a shorter back-waist length, and a height of between 5ft 2in and 5ft 4in tall (without shoes).

What is ease?

Garment ease
For a garment to fit comfortably, the pattern might say it has ease. This is so you can move freely.
Wearing ease
This is the minimum amount of ease for a garment to be 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
This is an amount that the designer has added/subtracted to create a specific silhouette. To determine ease, measure the pattern from seam to seam (excluding seam allowances) and compare it with your body measurements to the total circumference measurement of the pattern. The difference is the amount of ease the pattern has.

What zip should I choose for my sewing project?

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?

Main Zip Types

regular/conventional zip

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 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.

Brass jeans zip

metal (brass jean) 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.

trouser zip

trouser (front fly) 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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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 as normal.

Chinelo Bally, Great British Contestant, shares her top tips for hand sewing

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

Tips for better stitching - top-stitch, edge-stitch and understitch

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

How to topstitch


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.

Top stitch ideas

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!

how to edge-stitch


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.


How to under under stitch

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

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


What threads should I use when sewing and why?

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 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 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 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 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.


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.

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.

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.


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.