Learning pattern making

My dream is to draft my own patterns rather than spending hours trying to get a commercial pattern to fit me.

Enter Sarah of Workspace Fashion and Design Studio.

Sarah was the magician, who wrapped me up in duct tape for the dress form. She helped me create a bodice and sleeve block and now she is teaching me how to draft patterns using my personal blocks.


We have spent a lot of time playing with paper and Sarah taught me how to rotate darts and how to create a lot of different designs simply by manipulating the darts.

It is so much fun!

We have also looked at contouring and my bodice block now have all the contour lines for future reference, like avoiding gaposis on necklines or creating more fitted designs.

These lines helped us design a fitted bust section for the cover for my dress form.


Today we made a half scale pattern for a dress I would like to make. It is loosely based on a sketch I have seen on the internet. This is the result made up in paper and pinned to Sarah’s half scale dress form.


I feel happy with the result and my next challenge is now to make the pattern using my blocks, and of course then make it up. This may take me a while, but I’m really excited about it all.

By the way, I totally love the half scale dress form for trying out a pattern or a design before committing and using a lot of paper testing various options in full scale.

They are so cute 🙂

Did you notice the pretty pale blue corset in the background? Sarah runs classes teaching corset making. Can you be too old for pretty corsets such as that one? It would certainly help to keep some of my extra ‘fluff’ under control.

I think I will enroll in her next term of classes. It will be a lot of fun, and who knows, my husband might even approve of such pretty underthings. 🙂




Duct tape fitting double – part 2

It took me a while to gather all the supplies I needed to finish my dress form.

My aim was to preserve its shape and make it as durable as possible. I soon discovered that wadding was useless in preserving the shape, as it was too soft. Newspaper, however proved to be perfect. It was easy to obtain, could be scrunched up to create bulk and it could also be packed tight to make the form very firm.

Pillows were excellent at preventing the neck from being bent or flattened, and they kept the form upright.

The most difficult problem to resolve was what to use for a stand.

A base and stand from an old standard lamp may have worked, except that I didn't have one and I couldn't think of a way to get one. I searched the net and found instructions on how to build a stand from various hardware supplies, but my husband is not into woodworking and we don't have a workshop.

After a much thought, I decided to make the stand out of PVC pipe. It would be clean, lightweight and easy to do. The biggest problem was finding a five way joiner for the base, but that was sourced, and I was on my way.

I joined two short pieces of PVC to a T and thereby created an internal support under the shoulders. The main pole was then attached to the T making a kind of coat hanger for the stand. I stuffed newspaper all around this support and filled up the body with the scrunched paper making sure that all hollows were filled and made firm. This took me a little while as I also had to make sure the main pole stayed in the middle and that I didn't distort any parts of the body.

I was very pleased when I was finished and checked the bust, waist and hip measurements – they were all correct.

I had one final problem to solve. How to make the base of the form. Initially I thought of using ply wood, as cardboard proved not to be strong enough to support the shape at the hips. I roped my son into cutting out the shape as I knew he had the required tools and know how.

He rang me a couple of days before our arranged 'workshop date' suggesting I used core flue instead of ply wood. This was a brilliant idea. It is strong, clean and best of all – I could cut it myself.


Being able to cut and trim the core flue myself was a real bonus, as my template was not one hundred percent correct. Trimming a little bit here and a little bit there – and the base was ready to be fitted. This is a progress photo. I taped the base all the way around.

And here is the final result.

It has my exact proportions!

It is strong and sturdy!

I couldn't be happier.

Actually, it would be brilliant if I could make a linen cover so I can pin patterns and fabric onto it.

This will be my next challenge in a month or so.

First I have to go on a holiday 🙂





Duct tape fitting double

This week in my class at ‘Workspace Fashion and Design School‘, Sarah helped me make a duct tape copy of ME!

Yes, I agree. These are not very flattering shots. I will spare you with the worst, but this is how the afternoon unfolded.

There is plenty of information on the web about how to do this. We used cloth duct tape initially. This type of tape doesn’t stretch so it will give a firm base. A bonus is that you can just tear it, so you don’t need scissors to cut the lengths. Next we used regular duct tape, which behaves very differently. It stretches and can therefore be moulded around curves a lot easier. Unfortunately it requires scissors to cut and it tends to stick to anything you don’t want taped, such as hands, scissors, table etc. The best thing about this kind of tape is that it gives a smooth finish.



Sarah then cut through one shoulder of the cast and down one back princess seam to be able to get it off. It was a simple to stick it all back together again and then we began a process of stabilizing it by cutting out cardboard shapes to fit the neck, armholes and the bottom section. Sarah was a wizz at this, eyeballing it and getting the shapes right first time every time. These cardboard pieces did help the body to retain its shape, however, I need to stuff it full of newspaper/wadding/? to preserve it.

Sarah warned me against using expandable foam. It is very hard to control and creates a horrible mess, so I’m not going to go there. There are some funny examples on the internet of how the foam process can go horribly wrong.


I bought som PVC tubing and a T-joint to build an internal framework, just need to find the saw! I also plan to use some cardboard under shoulders, dĂ©colletĂ© and back probably with some wadding to prevent distortion. I’m also thinking of stuffing the boobs with some 80’s style shoulder pads.

Do you have any other suggestions of how to preserve my dummy?

I also need to give it a name. Sarah suggested Dolly because it is like a big doll and Its for dressing and undressing. So far I haven’t thought of a better name, so I think that will be it.



‘Couture’ Jeans

Well…… maybe I am stretching it a bit calling it ‘couture’ as there is no hand stitching, and as to being classed as jeans? It can probably be debated too, but regardless, I am really happy with my creation.


I purchased the Kenneth D King Craftsy course on how to copy your favourite jeans. The sad thing is that I don’t have a favorite pair of jeans to copy, so I just watched the technique, and moved on.

Recently, I learnt how to draft my own torso block pattern at Workspace Fashion and Design School. I already had Winifred Aldrich’s book ‘Metric pattern cutting for women’s wear’, but never had any success drafting my own torso pattern, so the book was put away on top shelf.


I decided to try drafting my own skirt block using the book and what Sarah had taught me. I took my own measurements as that is relatively easy on the lower half of the body……. It seemed to fit really well!

Next I tried drafting The Classic Tailored Trouser Block, and again it seemed to fit. I took both my trial muslins along to my next class with Sarah, and she agreed. They fitted me, and no alterations were necessary!

Can you imagine how excited I was?

I was on a roll. Next I tried drafting The Very Close Fitting Trouser/Jean Block. A few minor corrections were necessary on this block, but I was able to do this myself.

Now the test. What would they be like made up in a fashion fabric? I had a cotton sateen sitting on my shelf and I had always wanted to use it for pants. But jeans? It did not have enough body for jeans and the fabric was prone to creasing. What if I underline the jeans? Ridiculous idea! People don’t underline jeans!

Well, I can do what I want to! ….. And I did!

I used tips gained from Kenneth D King’s class during the construction. The underlining is a light cotton shirting, and it is doing its job in preventing a lot of the creasing and the fabric now has a body and richness it didn’t have before. My jeans feel so luxurious to wear.

A few more photos, although it is hard to see the details in the dark and busy print.



Now I just need to make a new (many) top to wear with the jeans instead of this ten year old shirt. My wardrobe is seriously lacking ……. everything!


Look what I’ve got….!

In recent years I have struggled with achieving a good fit. In fact I have had so much trouble that from time to time I have given up.

I then spend an incredible amount of time shopping for well made, flattering clothes, that actually fit me. Fail again. You would laugh if you saw my wardrobe – there is hardly anything there. I refuse to spend money on something that either strains everywhere or that covers me like a sack without any shape.

In frustration I return to my sewing machine and try again.

This pattern keeps repeating over and over again. Does anybody feel the same, or is it just me?

Enter ‘Workspace Fashion and Design Studio‘ run by Sarah. The best thing that has happened to Perth in a very, very long time.

I now have my own torso block pattern.


I tried to create this myself using various sources of instructions, but without a sewing partner to assist with measuring and correcting the fit – it failed.

I have at different times approached sewing teachers, but they all wanted to fit me into ‘their’ block pattern, rather than look at my particular measurements. Sarah, however, is very different. This is from her ‘About me’ page on her website.

“I have more than 20 years of experience in every aspect of design, from costume design to fashion, both ready to wear and bridal couture, printing, dyeing and quilting . So if you are wanting to learn pattern making or sewing, you have come to the right place!”

We are lucky to have her in our midst.

Whilst on her web page, have a look at her blog to see what is happening in her corset making class. Pure magic!

Sarah measured me and then proceeded to teach me how to draft my own torso block pattern. Once made up in calico, the fitting process began. Sarah’s expert eye quickly determined where my problems were and how to fix them. She taught me how to make adjustments and before long a second muslin was prepared and the the fine tuning of the fit was done. The end result is my very own personal block pattern.


I am so excited!!!!!

Now I am learning how to use the block patterns to create my own designs or copy something I have seen in shops or magazines.

More to come …


A year has passed …….

Time flies when you are having fun.

And I’ve had fun!

I ran and finished the Perth Marathon in June 2013 – granted, I didn’t finish in a very good time – but even so, I was the second woman in my age group 60-65. I’ve got to be happy with that. This was my first ever marathon.

No, I’m not doing another! All those months of training? No, definitely NO!

This was just something I’ve had on my Bucket List for many years. Tick!

Perth Marathon 2013

I am not an artist, far from it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t play around with a pencil and paper, pretending….. I have taken a couple of workshops/classes in portraiture and even ventured out joining a life drawing group for a couple of months.

P1060615 P1060618

I won’t be specific. Just know that I did a lot of travelling this last year, both within Australia and overseas.

Have you ever wished you could play the piano?

Me too, so I have been talking lessons and …. I don’t practice enough …. but it is fun trying. I have never played a musical instrument before and therefore can’t read music ……. so there is a lot to learn! I can’t tick this one off the list just yet, if ever!

I did, however, managed to tick off another item on my Bucket List. I walked the Camino de Santiago in May and June this year. I wrote a blog along the way, and if you are interested go and look here.


I also did a little sewing as an invitation to a wedding came in and of course, I had nothing to wear.

This is from the latest Marfy catalog, pattern number 0303.

I had never heard of Marfy till I read some blogs and I became interested. I like a lot of their designs. The postage from Italy to Australia for a heavy catalog is steep and although I initially wanted catalogs from the last three or four years, I soon changed my mind. The catalogs are also available in the US, but they don’t ship to other continents.

As usual I had a lot of trouble with fitting and ended up doing three muslins before I had an acceptable pattern to work with. I used a Thai silk, which I underlined with silk organza and basically followed the couture method as demonstrated by Susan Khalje in her Craftsy course The Couture Dress.


I am reasonably happy with the end result although there is definitely room for improvement.

I still haven’t conqured the perfect fit.

BUT, I’m back working on it!

Chasing the perfect fit #1

I have been trying to achieve a fit that I can be proud of for many years. The difficulty I have is the reason that I have had many on and off again love affairs with my sewing machine. I am now retired and have more time. Therefore this is the time for me to overcome my fitting problems.

I expect it could be quite a journey, so I have labelled this post #1. Lets see if I can achieve, if not a perfect fit at least one that is acceptable – but of course I would love perfection – wouldn’t you?

I have been following many blogs over the last year and I have learnt so much from other people. Thank you everyone. I think I would have given up were it not for your amazing creativity and inspiration. Many of you have difficult fitting issues too, but you overcame those hurdles – congratulations! I want to get there too.

I saw Bunny of La Sewista! giving pants fitting a go using the Sure-fit Design system. I deeply admire Bunny’s creations, so when I saw she wanted to improve her pants fitting using SFD, I was sold. I ordered the three kit package – pants, dress and shirt.

I have now had a couple of days to work on my first muslins and I will post the pictures although such photos never look good, hopefully something can be learnt.

First the pants. I have achieved acceptable fit for jeans and stretchy pull on pants, but I want to make more dressy pants too.


I emailed these exact photos to Glenda of SFD last night, and this morning I had the following answer (I also emailed other photos dealing with the bodice and skirt, and I will cover that in a separate post). I must say I am very impressed with her speedy reply and attention to my specific issues – thank you Glenda:

“I’ll address the pants first. Initially, you are off to a good start.  If these are supposed to be ‘regular’ pants vs. jeans fit – they are too tight.  Even though you are pretty straight from your waist down, you are getting drag lines toward your high hip and at the bottom of the back dart.  Go to the next size high hip dot, and you can test this by simply letting out the seam a little from the high to the low hip.  They are a little tight there too.


The back crotch needs to be scooped out and re-shaped.  If you have the new Jeans DVD this scooping is covered in the fitting section of the DVD.  If you don’t have that, watch this video – P.6.6 How To Refine the Back Crotch Fit for a Dropped Buttocks – Droopy Butt


Also, if that doesn’t eliminate all the folds under your butt, then you may want to consider doing this Fish Eye Dart for a Flat butt – P.6.5 Drawing a Fish-Eye Dart in Pants Back for a Flat Backside


Another reason why they are looking so bunchy in the leg is that the fabric looks to be a little stiff and you don’t have your hem in or the creases in place.  This all makes a difference to how that leg will look.  If you have the Pants Fitting Course on DVD, please watch that.”

I will now work on Glenda’s suggestions and follow-up with more photos when that is done.