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Thursday, 5 June 2014
Shirt for Dave based on the Guayabera: pattern notes.
Topic: Graph Paper Patterns
If you have a basic non-yoked men's shirt block it's easy to turn it into one the shirts in my previous entry.  If you know how to make blocks then these alterations are easy-peasy lemon-squeezy -as categorized by Dean Pelton.

I started with a simple loose fit shaped shirt with a shoulder seam and no yoke. For casual shirts it's easy to cut the pattern and stick the front and back together to make a yoke that fits the design rather than being stuck with whatever yoke is part of the draft. Casual shirts can have larger or artistically shaped yokes and the shoulder seam can be kept intact or eliminated.  Because Dave has a bit of stooped shoulder keeping the seam at the shoulder gives me more fitting options. A one piece yoke doesn't fit him as well and that will get worse with time -not better.  .

I started with a very basic mens "hip line shift" draft and worked it into a casual shirt block that I use as the starting point for all of Dave's short sleeve shirts. An un-yoked casual shirt pattern such as BurdaStyle's Hawaiian shirt -lengthened and contoured in the side seams -will also work to develop this pattern.

On the left is the piece for the front and the right is the piece for the back. The dashed lines are the original drafting guidelines. The solid black lines are the pattern shape.   Notice that even though this is a casual loose shirt the side seams are still curved. This is because the human body is made of curves, not straight lines. There is no seam allowance but there are matching points -also called notches. Don't be afraid of notches -these are your friends and makes sewing things together so mush easier. The shirt tail goes below the hip and curves at the bottom because that's what Dave prefers.

The green lines bisecting the upper part of the shirt are for the yoke.  You have two choices: the lower shirt can be cut away and a two part yoke used, or you can trace the yoke and appliqué it to the main shirt cut whole.  It's up to you and your skill level. For me I like straight line yokes cut off the main shirt and sewn to the lower part and any shaped, scalloped pointed or western yokes sewn as appliqués. The yoke can be as long or short as you like. The back should not end too far down the back. All men have a natural curve in the shoulders and the yoke shouldn't go lower that where the curve is fullest.

In the front the red dashed guidelines are perpendicular to the chest/waist/hip and parallel to the Center front.  One drops down from the neck/shoulder intersection and the other drops from the shoulder matching notch -one and a quarter inch in from the armhole/shoulder intersection. The top edge of the pocket is along the yoke line.   The lower edge of the pocket is person taste but it must be lower than the chest line.  The lower the pocket ends the smoother it fits over the chesticles. Never end the pocket right at the nipple line. Really, do I need to explain why? The dashed lines are also useful for style details if you are making a pleated Guayabera shirt -this is the placement of the pleated bands. The pocket is placed where the pocket is placed in this pattern -on the upper chest

There is no button allowance on the block pattern, this needs to be added while developing the pattern into a fashion garment. If you are using the BurdaStyle or other commercial pattern then ignore the button stuff. A fold-over button band is more casual and easier to sew while a cut separate sew on button band is dressier but a bit more time consuming. If you use a cut and sew band on the overlap also use it on the underlap. If you use a fold over facing type band use it on the both the over and underlap. Be consistent! It's less confusing.

The center front line is where the buttons and buttonholes are placed.  When developing the pattern be sure to have extra paper beyond the center front line so you can add the space that goes beyond the buttons.  For the fold over facing simply fold the paper over beyond the center front. How much? How large are your buttons? Standard dress shirt buttons are about 5/8 of an inch so add 5/8 beyond the center front. Larger buttons -perhaps a more casual 3/4 inch button needs 3/4 of an inch more. A one inch button will take ______ inch more. That's right! One inch! Don't use buttons larger than one inch -guys hate large buttons.

For a separate stand use the smaller 5/8 to 3/4 inch buttons.  The band needs to be the width of the button+ 3/8 inch both sides. for a 5/8 button this would be 1 and 3/8 inch wide. The hole side should be the same as the button side -simply because it's easier. Draw a line half the total width towards the shoulder seam. Now draw a line the same measurement beyond the center front. cut the first line you drew: you'll be cutting off the center front and it becomes part of the new pattern piece. fold the paper so the edge of the shirt front is the fold and then trace the seam on the shirt side. Add a matching notch near the top.Want to be super fancy and drive yourself insane at the same time?  Cut the button band on the bias! Be sure to interface the sucker well unless you like the rippled puckered and stretched-out look.

Add seam allowances to all pieces except the back yoke. A  5/8of an inch allowance is is best. Decide how you will cut the back yoke before adding allowances

The back yoke above shows grainlines, the basic arrangement is to place it on the fabric fold -in the straight grain. You can also cut the yoke in one piece so the bottom edge is running parallel to the selvage. You'll need to cut a new pattern piece: place the center back line on a piece of folded paper, trace the lines and marking and cut. open the the paper and this is a full size back yoke. Place the lower edge parallel to the selvage -this is the cross grain.  Or you can cut it in two pieces with grainline arrow two following the grain line. This will give you a bias cut yoke.  The large dot is where you would match plaids and stripes.  It's the focal point of the yoke so take your time and carefully cut the yoke halves so the seams meet in a well defined chevron. You get extra [points for matching the yoke well and you lose points for a poorly off-kilter chevron.

And that's that.  For dress shirts the two piece collar is best. For Hawaiian and very casual shirts the convertible collar works. A convertible collar needs the fold over facing button band. The book Shirtmaking by David Page Coffin has instructions on collars that are far superior to anything I could write and his instructions for cuffs, collars, plackets and fiddly bits are what I use. So you can use them too! 


Posted by lincatz at 11:50 AM EDT
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Friday, 19 April 2013
Making T-shirt Patterns: Q's and A's
Mood:  bright
Topic: Graph Paper Patterns

Wow!  I never expected that my t-shirt articles would get this kind of response! Over one hundred views in one week!  I guess I'm not the only one who loves to have a whole wardrobe of plain and fancy t-shirts in the summer. I have received a few questions about my patterns so today I am answering them.

Do you have a pinterest account? Can I follow you?  No, I don't have a pinterest account. I have no plans to get one. I don't have Instagram either.  I have a Deviant Art account that I almost never ever use.  I also have a BurdaStyle account and you are welcome to follow me there.  I am also on Twitter but again I almost never use twitter.  Look for @Lincatz on both. 

What level do I need to be to use your patterns?  I assume that you already know your way around the sewing machine and that you are at the advanced beginner intermediate stage.  You should be able to make a t-shirt already and you want one that is custom fitted to your body shape and measurements. You should also be able to alter patterns -this means that you are aware of the importance of grain-lines, the meaning of place on fold, and why there are those little diamonds on seam lines. 

Do I need one of those curve things?  They seem expensive!. Unless you can draw perfect curves freehand then yes, you need one of those curve things.  They aren't that expensive, not when you factor in how often you use the curve while making patterns. Good tools are important for professional results. Trust me, once you have it you'll wonder why you waited so long. 

When I place a ruler in my armpit and measure from shoulder to ruler for armhole depth I get four inches. Is this right? You show seven inches.  Your ruler is crooked.  It's angling up.  It must be parallel to the floor.  This is quite common.  You might need a measuring assistant.  It can also happen the other way, the ruler can angle downward, giving you a too-deep armhole. 

I'm having trouble with my sleeve cap.  When I make the armhole and measure my torso I get a sleeve opening of 7 inches, but when I measure my bicep to shoulder I get only three inches. what's wrong?  You are measuring yourself and you are raising your arm from shoulder to bicep, or shoulder to elbow. Raising the arm shortens the cap and your arm should be hanging down loosely beside you. Again, a measuring assistant might be helpful.  Let's take a closer look at measuring thearm for the sleeve cap.  It's one of those things that you don't know that you need to know.

This is how you should measure.  I've got a measuring tape around the bicep right where it attaches to the armhole.  A measuring tape is held at the shoulder point and tucked under the bicep tape.  The curve of the shoulder is included.  Notice the the arm is loose beside the body and you get a measurement of about 7 inches. 



This is what happens when your arm is raised even a little?  As you can see the tape measure has bulged outward and instead of being 7 inches it's now 6 inches. 

This is all wrong!  When you measure yourself you need to raise up your arm. As you can see the cap is shortened to the point where the proper measurement is bulging way up and if you were to pull the tape tight against the body -which is correct -except it isn't -you would end up with a cap of 4 inches. Showing the tape looping illustrates what's happening when you raise your arm while measuring.

So if you need an assistant to measure the armhole and sleeve cap area then recruit someone.  The original basic easy fit shirt had a diagram showing how some of the drafting guidelines related to the body.  It helps if you can imagine the pattern on your body and where each line is on both your body and the pattern.  It is tricky to imagine one and the other at the same time, but it's an essential skill.  The more you can relate the flat paper to your body and understand were the lines are on the body and how the flat paper is translated into a three dimensional form  the easier pattern making will become.

Something that pros do -and you should too -is make scale models and test samples of ideas and concepts before cutting into fashion fabrics.  Scale models are helpful when testing out slash-and-spread designing.  Some ideas look good on paper but don't work in fabric on the first try.  You can slash, spread, gather and drape without wasting yards and yards of fabric.  Once  scale model is working you can test the design in cheap fabric.  If it works in the cheap fabric then you can cut out the expensive fashion fabric.  By testing and experimenting you can perfect the fit or you might find something that works better, or come up with something completely new and different. 

Hope that helps anyone who was having trouble.  Sometimes it's little things that cause the biggest problems.  If you have any other questions please feel free to email or comment. 

Posted by lincatz at 11:07 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 16 April 2013
Turn a Tank Top Pattern into a Trendy Shark-Tooth Top Pattern
Mood:  caffeinated
Now Playing: English Electric by OMD
Topic: Graph Paper Patterns


Not really graph paper -I ran out of graph paper and haven't gotten to the store to get more so I used plain paper! today's article is how to change a basic tank into  the so-called shark tooth hem tank -as seen in my khaki sequined tank a week ago.  There's been so much interest in the shark tooth hem that I decided to put together a simple tutorial on turning any fitted tank top pattern into a shark tooth pointed hemmed tank. notice the clever keyword stuffing in the last sentence?

First things first: OMD's newest album English Electric: WOW! It's a concept album: an exploration of something that I have pondered about myself. It's the exploration of the failure of the future to deliver on the promises made in the past.  The future isn't what it used to be. The anachronism of the "retro future" -the utopian 21st century world we were promised and the reality of the semi-dystopian 21 century we live in.   It's not as bright and shiny and perfect as promised: we can't travel to Australia in an hour and none of our devices have made or work loads any lighter and none of us are in clingy polyester jump suits. Which, for those of us pushing the fifties, is probably the best thing about the failure of the future. 

And in addition to the high concept -this is more Dazzle Ships than Junk Culture -the music is pretty good and the non-music parts enhance the musical message rather than detract from it.  Yes, there's non-music parts, no they aren't quite as weird as some of the ones on Dazzle Ships. You won't hear a sample of Andy shouting "Blue!" over submarine alarms and sonar pings. Which can be good if you think music is three and a half minutes of verse chorus verse chorus bridge verse chorus repeat -but bad if you like having your concepts of "music" and "songs" constantly challenged.

Onto the patterns: It's quite simple to add a ragged shark tooth bottom to a fitted tank pattern.  All you do is extend the waist to high-hip angle at the side seam outward. Instead of going downward to the low hip it continues outward.  In all examples and illustrations the original pattern is in purple and all alterations are shown in light turquoise.  Dashed guidelines are shown for the center front/back. The waist is marked and the side seam match point/notch is shown. The front pattern piece is shown, the back side seam is traced from the front pattern piece. 


Diagram One (far left fashion sketch) above is what I did for the khaki top.  This makes a very nice tunic style that can be worn over skinny jeans,  narrow pants or leggings. The back is traced off the front.  Because the side seam is angled when it's worn the side seam droops way down and is longer than the center front and center back. To turn into a dress measure your desired finished length from the center front and center back: if you use the side seam length as your guide you might end up with a dress that doesn't cover the butt in the back. Oops! 

The first pattern works best with wide width fabrics.  But what if you don't have a wide width? The above pattern (middle Fashion Sketch) works better for narrower fabrics.  The drape on the side isn't as full, but you still get a reasonably full shark-tooth hem.  I simply free-handed the side curve and used a dressmaker's curve on the hem to ensure that it was smooth and not ragged.  You can make the side seam droop lower if you want.  This style works well lengthened to dress length.  Because it isn't as full it's less embarrassing if the wind catches the hem and blows it up. (Get it? Em-Bare ass ing?)  Again, pay attention to the center back and center front length so all the naughty bit are covered.


The above alteration takes a bit more work but gives you the ultra-trendy double tooth look.  There's four points on the bottom of this one. In tunic length it works well with leggings or very skinny pants and in dress length it's super fashion forward.  The side seam is straight and at less of an angle than the first pattern.  You'll notice that the lowest point of the tooth lines up with the orginal side seam when extended downward.  I find that this gives a long slimming drape line from the hip to the hem and looks best. Also not the the line from the point of the tooth to the extended side seam is a 45° angle. Again, it looks and drapes the best.  The other side of the pointlooks best if it's a perfectly squared 90° angle up to the same line across as the end of the side seam, then the rest of the hem curves up to the desired center front/center back length.  



Here's a close up of how to angle the seam.  As you can see I show a straight edge ruler lined up with the waist to high hip angle and use the edge to extend the line.   If you want a fuller cut then angle out more, if you want a less full cut then use less of an angle.  There's lots of room to improvise and if you make a few trial tops in one-fifth scale using a cheap knit fabric then you can see how the angles and the points drape. You can experiment and play with length, fullness -if you are brave you can add even more shark tooth points.  Be careful! Too many points will look like you are wearing a jester shirt or a Harley Quinn cosplay top -not like you are wearing a trendy shark tooth top. 

And that's really all there is too it.  It's not complicated.  Sewing is simple too: If you have a serger use a four thread safety stitch with wooly polyester in the loopers and serge the side and shoulder seams.  Bind the neck and the armhole with rib knit, the same fabric as the top or with bias cut binding.  If you have a coverlock machine then turn, press and cover stitch the hem. OR serge the bottom edge, turn press and top stitch.  OR use a three thread overlock with a short stitch length to overcast and finish the edge. Use wooly polyester in the lower looper and a decorative thread in the top and you won't need to turn, press and stitch the hem. 

If you don't have a serger then use a zig zag stitch set at 3.5 width and 2 length.  Sew the shoulder and side seam first.  Bind the arm and neck with self-fabric or rib knit. zig zag the raw edge of the hem to overcast it, turn press and top stitch using the zig zag. 

And that's how to turn a boring fitted tank pattern into a trendy shark tooth tunic top or dress. 

Posted by lincatz at 11:25 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 17 April 2012
Basic Fitted T-shirt Pattern (and a couple variations)
Topic: Graph Paper Patterns

As wonderful a plain t-shirt can be it can be a bit shapeless. And belting it or tucking it in can look a bit lumpy or bulky.  A T-shirt that fits closer at the waist would look better, wouldn't it?  So today I present another of my all time favorite patterns: The close fitting contour fit t-shirt.  This one is designed to fit a woman's body, a bit larger in the upper front for the bust, narrower at the waist and wider at the hips.  You can make it up as is:  a simple round neck with short sleeves pain as it gets T-shirt. But why be boring?  It can be easily adapted into any neckline shape you want. You can make it sleeveless, racer back, scoop back, long sleeve, short sleeve; you can slash and spread the pattern so it can be gathered, ruched, pleated, wrapped, tucked and whatever.  It's a basic pattern with infinite possibilities.

And as a bonus it loves embellishments.  Because the silhouette is so simple, the shape so basic and the construction so easy you can take it from plain to fancy without a lot of work. I like to use pre-beaded and sequined lace trim on the neckline, it's easily zig-zagged into place and it ads sparkle to jeans, peasant skirt and looks fantastic when under a jacket or over-blouse.  

You need a couple more measurements than the loose t-shirt because the fit is closer to the body. There's one measuring point that I do different than you may have learned in school, this accommodate larger busts better than the standard method which assumes everyone is a B cup or smaller. .  There are a couple grading points, where the points will be different for larger or smaller sizes -specifically in the shoulder/neck area. These will be noted.  Because the fit of the shoulder and neck area is so important you might want to refine the fit by making a mock up in stretch fabric and fine tune the fit. Many fitting issues for larger bustlines won't be as much of a problem with this draft.  Because the front is larger than the back you shouldn't have the horizontal fold you normally get across the bust and the shoulder area will overall fit better. 

You will need to use a dressmaker's curve for this pattern.  It will give you a smoother more professional fit in the neck, the side seam and the armhole.  Use translucent paper because there will be some tracing involved when drafting the sleeve.  


Start at the top left and mark point A.
A-B 3 inches
A-D FRONT BUST WIDTH square down
B-E 4 inches *grading note 1
F-G square across to front width line
G-H 1 inch
E-J 4 ½ inches *grading note 2
J-K 1 ½ inches Shoulder point
H-L SIDE SEAM armhole to waist
L-M 2 inches

A-B 2inches
B-E 4 inches
A-F Neck to Bustline Depth
F-G square  across
G-H 1 inch
E-J 4 ½ *see grading note 2
J-K 1 ½ shoulder point
H-L side seam to waist same as front
L-M 2 inches same as front

You can trace the side seam from the front to the back.  K and L are squared over to form a right angle.  Use the curve to draw in the armhole, as shown with the pink lines.  where the line crosses the dashed line mark one notch on the front and two nothes on the back.  These will assist when tracing the sleeve. The front is wider than the back.

Normally the bust measurement is divided in half and the side seam is at the halfway point.  If you have a larger than a B bust the back is often loose at the center-back waist and too tight at the armholes.  By measuring and drafting the back and front separate the shirt fits better in the back and front. This illustration shows how to measure.  Be sure you are wearing something that fits close to the body or measure in just your bra. 



This picture illustrates the measurement when taken on a dress form padded to a D cup. The boobs stick out beyond the skeletal frame and there isn't a corresponding part that sticks out on the back. There's no shoulder blade ease required because knit fabric flex and stretch with the shoulder blade movements. 

The original idea was that anyone over a B cup was fat and there would be the same amount of fat distribution in the back as the front.  In the real world large busted woman aren't fat and thy don't have fat backs.  Added to the problem is that modern women love their padded push up bras, and rightly so, and they feel no need to pad the back. Can you blame them? Good for them!  So the idea that the front and back are the same at the bust is no longer true and the drafting method that resulted has long passed it's usefulness. Use my method and you'll notice lots of fit issues are no longer an issue!


To start the sleeve draft you will need to measure your bicep at the fullest part of your arm.  Measure loose or tight, whichever fit you prefer.  Because the shirt os close fitting it's best to use a close measurement.  It's easy to amke the sleeve larger through slashing and spreading the pattern. 

A-B The back armhole length formed by K-H on the T shirt back piece
D-E BICEP CIRCUMFERENCE.  Place center point A at one half of the circumference
B-G Shift: 3/4 inch front to back. G is shoulder point, mark with dot.
G-F ELBOW CIRCUMFERENCE measure somewhat loose to allow the joint to flex. C is center-point of circumference.
At point D trace back armhole H to where curve crosses dashed line. Mark the crossover with a double notch. Repeat at point E with the front pattern piece and mark the cross over with a single notch. Cap is drawn with the aid of a designer's curve. The front curve needs to be longer and needs to bump out a bit.  The back curve is shorter and flatter.

After drafting "walk the pattern" to check the fit.  Place shirt front at sleeve match point and then pivot the paper along the seam lines.  There will be a difference of 1/2 to 1 1/2 inch on each side -with the sleeve cap being larger. This extra ease is needed to cover the shoulder and to allow free movement of the arm.  The armhole is close fitting so a high sleeve cap fits and looks better.  If there's too much ease for whatever reason then flatten the cap by folding it horizontally above the match points and tucking in the excess.  

This basic pattern can be made up in many ways.  One of my favorite adaptations is the tank top which I can embellish with beads, lace, sequins, appliques and whatever.   Here are a couple sketches:

This is a scoop neck variation.  A different color ribbing is used at the neck and cuffs. The only alteration is the lowered neckline

This one is quite simple in spite of the gathers and ribbon trim. The shirt is the scoop neck above and I simple gathered the side at the match point and then neckline at the bottom.  After I zig-zagged ribbon and lace trim along the gathers.  The ribbon was pinned into place while I was wearing the shirt.  After the shirt was removed the ribbon looked lumpy and bumpy but when sewn downs and stretched over the body the ribbon is smooth.

For this one the shoulder was brought from back to the front, I cut off the front shoulder and taped it to the back pattern piece.  and the front was slashed and spread along the neckline and the center-front.  I used elastic under the fabric and stretched as I sewed.  It gave me the perfect amount of shirring.  I used a fancy thread on the right side so it looked sort of smocked.


This is one I'm in the process of making right now.  The shoulders were cut away and part of the neck scooped out.  The scooped and cut off part is interfaced and faced so it will hold the heavy cabochon shaped embellishments.  Here's the cutting, slashing and spreading diagram:




 The pink lines are the basic pattern.  The blue lines are the new pattern shape.  The solid black lines with the X's are where the new pattern will be cut.  The black lines with the x's and arrows show where the pattern will be slashed and spread.  The arrows indicate the direction of the spread.  Yes, the center front is spread as well. No, I don't care that your pattern teacher said to never do that.  trust me, it does work and the top wont look weird. 

In this version all the spreads are equal.  The fabric is a polyester microjersey with lots of drape.  If the fabric was a little less slinky I would have spread like this: 


This slash and spread diagram shows the new center front (see, your pattern teacher was wrong!  You can slash and spread a center front!) most of the fullness is at the yoke, where it has the most effect and less is at the hem, where it won't look as bulky.

And that's the basic close fit t-shirt and a few of the many ways to turn it from basic to anything-but-basic. 

Posted by lincatz at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 17 April 2012 10:34 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 28 March 2012
T-Shirt Patterns: The basic easy fit t-shirt block
Topic: Graph Paper Patterns

The T-shirt is a wardrobe basic and can play many roles in the modern woman's every-day wardrobe. T-shirts never go out of style and having a rainbow of colorful t's makes getting dressed effortless and easy.  A bright t-shirt  can play a starring role: adding zip to plain khakis, a focal point to a basic denim skirt and a pop of color to simple jeans.  And if you want a bit player that will fade into the background and let another piece take the attention then a basic T is willing to play a secondary role to a fancy leather jacket or those high fashion studded jeans or that patchwork boho skirt. For fancy beaded jewelry lovers a basic t is the perfect backdrop for a one of a kind beaded necklace. As a co-star it can enhance the piece by either coordinating with it or contrasting and balancing.

Even better: the basic t-shirts are a breeze to make so there's no reason not to have one in every color!  All basic t-shirts come from two simple basic block patterns.  One pattern is an easy fit t-shirt block with no shaping in the torso and the other is the close fitting block with a fitted waist. The easy fit block works for basic casual and sporty crew neck t's similar to a guys fruit of the loom type t-shirt while the close fitting block is used to make fashion  t's that can be casual, sporty or dressy depending on embellishments and fabric choices.

All t-shirts must be made with stretch fabrics.  Interlock and jersey knit are the two favorites and the easiest to find.  Cotton jersey is the fabric most associated with basic white t's and it's inexpensive and comes in a bunches of colors.  As a bonus 100% cotton is easily dyed using dyes labelled "permanent dye" found sold under the Dylon and Tulip brand names. But this isn't about dyeing, this is about pattern-making.  Always use stretch knit fabric for t's.  No, you can't use woven fabrics for simple t-shirts. They won't work. So don't waste your time. And stop sending e-mails asking how to adapt this pattern for woven fabrics, You can't.  

The basic easy fit t-shirt requires several measurements.  Take your time when measuring and check while drafting.  If something is looking weird or wonky then double check your measurements.  Hold the pattern up against you body to see where the problem is, often it's an error in measuring. You'll need the basic supplies, paper, pencil, measuring tape,metal or wood ruler, sharpies or other markers, scissors.  You might also want to invest in a dressmakers' curve. 

These range in prices from 10$ to 75$ Needless to say you don't need the stainless steel Fairgate rulers.  A simple combination dressmaker's square/french curve will be more than enough.  Here's a couple basic ones from sewing stores:  and:  These are sold in the notions department of almost every fabric store.  Use it for the neck and armhole for professional looking and fitting clothes. 

This pattern is my favorite and one that's about as tried and true as it gets. I've distilled it down to as few measurements as possible. In my experience I have found that one size fits most necks and it's easier to adjust and customize the neck opening after drafting the whole pattern. All the little fractions and ratios are easy to mess up and a single miscalculations can make drafting an easy garment far more difficult than it needs to be and throw off the fit of everything.  Most bodies have similar proportions so this draft should work for most people.

  1. Bust: measure across the fullest part of the bust.  Ease will be added later 
  2. Back width: take this across the back from the "fold of the flesh" where the arm separates from the torso.  Scroll down to Note A  for illustration.
  3. Armhole depth.  This one is a bit difficult to explain.  see the illustration in Note B.  Do not make this too low or too high.  Too low will look sloppy and too high will make horizontal folds under the arms. Sc 
  4. Back neck length: Nape to Hip. This measurement is the finished length of the shirt.  It can be made longer or shorter when you trace it off for sewing.

Begin with a large sheet of paper and draw on the left side a long line.  This is the main guideline and the center front/back line.  The block is drafted the same for front and beck with the only variation being the neck. Mark point A near but not at the top.

A-B Neck to Hip.  Finished length. Square across.
A-C 2 inches. Square across at C.
A-D 2 inches
C-E 4 inches. Square down from E 4 inches and then square across from A and square across from D until the reach the E guideline.
A -F Armhole depth + 3/4 inch ease. Square across.
F-G One quarter of Bust measurement plus ease.  For an easy fit add 1 and 1/2 inch to 2 inches.  For a looser fit add 3  inches.  Don't add more or it will be too baggy and shapeless. Square up to C-E line and down to B line to make a basic rectangle.
F-H one half back width plus 1/2 inch ease. Square up to CE line.
H-J one half A to F measurement.  Mark on C-A-D-F-B center line and square across. Square up and down from J. Mark point K when this squared up line reaches to top line of the draft.
K-L 1 1/2 inch.  Lightly draw an angle joining L to G. This angle is used when making sleeve pattern. I used a green colored pencil so it's easy to see.

Now you need to join the dots. Use the curve for all curved lines. A-E is back neck curve.  D-E is the front neck curve. B line is the hem. G down in the side seam. A-B is the Center front/ Center back.  To draw the shoulder see the additional shoulder detail in picture below: Join E to L and extend out another 3/8 of an inch.  Mark end point with a big X. join X to J.  This will be a 90° angle. Join J to G using the curve. 

Sleeve: Fold paper in half. Use the fold as main guideline for ABC points. 



A-B 5 inches. Square across
B-C Sleeve length.  8 inches is ample and will bring the sleeve just above the elbow plus it makes drafting the arm shaping easiest.  Most t-shirts have a 3-6 inch sleeve length. Square across
A-D Diagonal line measured from G-L on main shirt body piece. Square down B-C A-D intersection is point F
F-G 1 1/2 inches.

Join the dots: join D-E inward from line using curve.   join E-A Outward from line using curve. D-G is arm seam. G-C is hem. Trace finished seam lines onto other side of paper and unfold. 

To turn the basic pattern into a sewing pattern you need to add Seam Allowances, Match points -also called Notches and hem allowances.  I added a 1/2 inch allowance.  This is what pros use.  Most home sewers are used to the 5/8 allowance.  It's really a matter of preference, if you like the 5/8 allowance use that and be sure you add the same seam allowance to all seams.

Back: Trace the center line with a solid line.  This line is placed on the fold of the fabric when cutting out. Trace the block's lines with a dashed lines. This is the seam line. trace the very bottom line with a solid line.   This is the hem fold line. Add a 1 1/2 inch hem allowance. Be sure to trace the correct curve for the back neck. Around the seam lines add your desired seam allowance. From point L extend a line to the seam line.  This is match point/notch 1. Measure  2 inches down from bottom of arm-hole along side seam.  extend mark through seam allowance.  This is notch 4. Extend point J out through seam allowance and mark a double notch. This is notch 3.


Front: repeat  up to notch 4 being certain to trace the front neck curve.   For the armhole extend point J out to the seam allowance and mark a single notch. This is notch 2.

 Sleeve: Trace all seam lines. Note that the fold used to draft the pattern is used as the straight grain line.  Add seam and hem allowances. Note that the hem allowance is flared out opposite of the sleeve. When folded the hem won't be too small which is what happens if you continue the shaping into the hem allowance. (This is a common beginner mistake) point E on the sleeve lines up with J on the body.  Extend E on both sides and mark one E as a single notch as notch 2 and one is a double notch and marked notch 3. Measure down the sleeve seam one inch and mark notch 5. Do this on both sides. The stretch goes across the body and the stretch line is perpendicular to the grain line. Be sure that the maximum stretch of the fabric  goes around the body, it can be on the cross grain of some stretch fabrics.

Note A: back width: Measure from crease to crease, where the arm starts and the back stops. Err on the side of "a bit loose" rather than "a bit tight" Measuring too small will give you wrinkles in the front under the arm and across the bust.

Note B: Pattern and body: This little quick/n/dirty illustration shows how the different points of the pattern relate to the three dimensional body.  Understanding how two dimensional points on flat paper relate to the three dimensional body is impossible for most people so seeing it this way should help you understand how the pattern relates to the body.

To sew: match up the notches and sew the seams in order of the notches: Shoulder, sleeves, and then the side seam and sleeve seam in one long seam. Sew up the two sleeve hems and the main hem.  Finishing the neck can be as easy as overcasting or serging the the seam allowance, turning the allowance under and sewing in place with a simple zig-zag stitch.  This will give the neck enough stretch to fit over the head.  You might want to make the neck larger, make it a scoop neck, a V neck or any other shape. Or you might want a smaller neck.  The pattern is drafted with a one size fits all neck so if it doesn't fit YOU then don't hesitate to change it. For a rib-knit finish like on store t-shirts. that will need to wait until after we cover the drafting of the close fitting t-shirt. Don't use a traditional dressmaker's facing on this neckline. This does not have enough stretch and the shirt will be impossible to pull over your head! 

Coming soon: The basic close fitting t-shirt block. This one is less casual and far more fun. 

Posted by lincatz at 10:35 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 3 April 2012 9:31 AM EDT
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Friday, 18 November 2011
Topic: Graph Paper Patterns

When Dan was a teen he would randomly shout "PANTS! Of POWER!" for no reason.  I am shouting PANTS!~ Because I am on a pants sewing binge right now.  My semi-annual closet expedition revealed than many of my dressier pants are old, worn, ugly, faded, or weird.  My summer pants are nice...but the fall and winter ones?  My "go-to" pair that are the nicest are ones that I wore to my niece's baptism...the niece that I made a grade 8 grad dress for last spring.  It's time to let the old go and welcome in the new.

So I've been on a pants making binge. The very first pair were the brown twill made from the same pattern as the shorts I made earlier in the year... only longer -needless to say.  The first pair are from some grey and brown on a black background pinstripe fabric.  It's soft, quite stretchy, but the stripes make it look quite dressy.  So I decided to make a pair of pants from a casual pant pattern.  Okay...a yoga pant pattern.  Here's the sketch:

There's a contoured waistband with eyelets and fancy cord for closing. There isn't a a fly front, it's an invisible zipper instead.  There's no darts, the pant is eased onto the waistband. The legs are slim and straight, but not clingy or skinny.  As a pair of yoga pants they are okay, but made up in the pinstripe makes them fantastic.  I can be wearing comfy pants...and no one will know that are as comfy as yoga pants.  I think they will be perfect for when I have people over and I need to be dressed up...but I need to be comfortable too. By pairing with a dressy top or blouse they will look casually dressy...if such a term exists.

The next pair is from the same casual pant pattern, only I added a fly front and made the waistband lap over and close with snaps. I added bold curved pockets to the outside and just below the hip I also added some larger flapped cargo pockets.  It's made from a black cotton stretch sateen -which sews up and fit very different from the soft stretch fabrics I usually use for the pattern.  It was a bear to fit, I didn't want it too tight and clingy, nor did I want it loose and baggy.  It took a while to work out the quirks, especially in the side seam which have a major hiccup around the hips.  Let's just say that the cargo pockets serve more than one function than holding a cell phone. These are for every-day casual wear.

Last pair come from a pattern in an older Burda Magazine. I made view A in some grey polyester blend dress pant fabric. I originally made the pants in some basic black and I recently retired them due to age and excessive wear. The pattern is from a 1998 (!!!) magazine. They are still contemporary and modern looking. The side vertical welt pockets were a bear to sew back then and still a bit of a challenge today. Although this time I did them far better and they won't need to be sewn shut in order for the pants to fit. 

In 1998 I would have never made pants from a 13 year old pattern: styles had changed so much from 1985 to 1998 that I would have looked ridiculous.  However the fuller, straight leg trousers with a lowered contoured waistband that sat on the hips and slightly below the belly button was so fashion forward back then that I actually had people comment on them.  Usually it was a polite "those are different" and "those must be that new fashion I was reading about" -comments from women in "mom jeans" Back then they were only in expensive stores and not many wore them.  Now this pant style is found almost everywhere.  These are classics and available in most higher ends stores.  The waist fit is now called "modern" or "contemporary" The only major change I made was to change the pleat in the front to a dart and eliminate the cuff. 

Thinking about it...a pair of 1985 pants in 1998 would have been derisively called "mom jeans" after people stopped gagging and laughing!  The cut, the fit, the silhouette and so much more had changed radically in 13 years.  1980's pants were very high-waisted, very full-fitting below the waist while being pleated and gathered to the waist, the fit was extremely loose in the seat, hip and thigh while the leg line tapered down to a very narrow ankle. Here's an example of a 1985 pants pattern:

The problem is quite obvious, don't you think? I made those pants!  Got the pattern and fabrci at Duthlers"s and I made them for christmas to fit over my baby belly after having Dan. To be fair there's plenty in the 1889 pattern magazine I wouldn't make.  The dresses all look quite odd and the tops are all a little strange in the sillohette.  I think we've all become so used to the raised under-bust waistlinbe that anything at or below the waist looks strange.  Here's the pattern diagram I used to make the pattern of the first two sketches:

These basic pants are designed for stretch fabrics and for casual styles. The block is close fitting in the waist, hip and seat but not in the thigh. The detail to note is how the pants are cut off a few inches below the waist and the darts are taped together to make a fitted contoured waist band. I overlapped a little bit to make the waistband a bit snugger and hold against the body.   Place the center front and cente rback lines on grain, this puts much of the band on the bias and it makes for a closer, comfortable fit. The center front is curved, this was done freehand and they slightly overlap when the cord is tightened.  The back is cut with the centerback line placed on the fabrcis fold while the front has the centre front line as the grainline.  I also showed what I did for the black pants, lengthening the waist beyond the center-front and giving the legs a slight flare that begins two inches above the knee.  Always start flares above the knee.  When seated the pants are pulled up a bit due to the bend of the knee and if the flare starts below the knee then the pants will be uncomfortable and bunch up.

And that's the story on my PANTS!  of POWER! When my camera has ne batteries I'll add photos of the finished pants. Of power.

Posted by lincatz at 11:45 AM EST
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Tuesday, 27 September 2011
Hip Length Hoodie
Topic: Graph Paper Patterns

A hoodie is a fall fashion basic.  This pattern needs only a few body measurements plus ease.  The fit is not excessively loose and baggy, but it's still generous enough to allow an extra layer.  I wanted a hoodie that wasn't based on a shapeless boxy sweatshirt block.  I wanted a contoured nipped at the waist fit that would look feminine rather than masculine.

I made this from some fancy interlock knit I found at the Toronto Creative festival. It was a cotton/wool/angora goat blend and it was  printed with the colors of blue sky and autumn leaves. (picture when I get a new USB cord for my camera). I embellished the print with some fancy yarns from the same show.  I was walking past the yarn display and noticed it was the same color story as my fabric so I grabbed it.  Much of the yarn detailing in on the pocket as it is a focal point.

the measurements required are:

  1. Bust+ease
  2. Back length to waist
  3. Back length to hip
  4. arm length
  5. arm width at bicep+ease.
  6. Optional: shoulder to armhole depth
  7. Optional: neck width and depth.

One square = 2 inches and this pattern as is will fit a medium/large figure.  My bust is about 38 inches and the pattern as illustrated will fit from 36 to about 42 inch busts.  

The hood is based on body proportions, so you don't need any head measurements.  Notice that the side seams are curved in at the waist and the sleeve is also curved.  Since your body is made up entirely of curved lines and rounded surfaces it only makes sense to make curved pattern lines. I curved in at the lower back because I have a curve at the lower back.  I bet you have a curve there too!  That's one reason why you get lines and ripples across the lower back at the waist -too much fabric where the back bends. 

The neckline curve going up from the center front and back was drawn with the aid of a neckline curve ruler.  A few general neckline pointers:  Front necklines are deeper than back necklines. For a garment that goes over other garments the neck needs to be a bit loose. A good loose fitting neckline is 4 inches depth in the front and 2 inches in the back.  The neckline is pretty much universal for all sizes from small to X large. Once you get below a 34 inch bust or above a 44 inch bust the neckline will need to be a bit smaller/larger.  About 10% difference is all that's needed either way. Simply make your squares larger or smaller.  The armhole depth is about one half top of shoulder to waist.  That doesn't change as sizes go up or down, that's based on body proportions.


These are the other pieces.  The hood is one half your back neck to waist measurement plus an inch and bit for the neck.  If you have a long neck then make this longer. The pocket is easiest to draft if you outline on the hoodie front where you want it to be and then trace that.  Add seam allowances and a hem allowance at the bottom of the main body pieces -the hood, center front, and sleeve bottom have extra for hems, casings and buttons/buttonholes.

Be sure that the raglan sleeve seams on both the front and back match up in length and add match-point notches to help you sew them the right way.  The front always gets a single notch and the back always gets the double notch.  Add other match-point notches where needed, the pattern has the ones I used.  And no... you don't get extra points for leaving out notches.  Making up a garment without notches does NOT make you better or special or more talented: It makes you clueless because match points keep you from making two left sleeves or sewing the left front upside down the the back piece.  Real designers use notches for match-points and so should you!

This pattern is meany to be simple and free from too many fussy cutting details. Double check the neck and armhole length by either a tape measure of the pattern and compare to your body, or pin the paper pattern together and try it on for fit.  Line up the center front and back with your body and any major issues will be obvious.  

Sew all seams with a five thread safety stitch on the serger (Very Best) or sew a straight stitch seam and overcast edges with a serger (Next best) or a straight stitch and overcast edges with a zigzag. Press seams to the back, press Center Back seam to the left.  You may top-stitch all seams for a sportier look. In the fashion sketch I show the sleeves top stitched on both sides of seam, when I made it up I top stitched on the main body side, but not the sleeve side. 

The hood edge and the wrists  have a bit of elastic in them to draw them closer to the body.  Don't put drawstrings in the hood, they can get caught up in things and strangle you.  Make the elastic 20% smaller than the hood edge and insert it into the casing.  For the sleeve use a loose wrist measurement and add two and half inches.  This makes it loose enough that the sleeve can be pushed up the arm when needed. 

The pattern is marked for fancy metal buttons, but you can change it to a zipper if you want. Buttons make the hoodie look less athletic.  Back both the buttonholes and the buttons themselves with an extra layer of interfacing on the wrong side.  Metal shank buttons look best if backed with a layer of fleece interlining, the kind used for place-mats etc. If you prefer a zipper then the fold line becomes a cutting line and the zipper is added along the center front line. In the cold weather zippers need a storm guard under them.  To cut a storm guard you need a strip of fabric the length of the hoodie by four and half inches.  sew the ends wrong sides together then turn.  Sew under the zipper on the left side. this will keep the wind from blowing through the zipper. 

Here's a full size PDF of my original graph paper design that I used to make a full size pattern: Graph Paper Hoodie Pattern in PDF

And that's a basic contoured fit hoodie.  It can be made as plain or fancy as you wish and looks good in more expensive knits such as cashmere and silk jersey. I like that the fit is made for girls; it isn't a bulky box and it doesn't look like  I stole from my hubby's closet. 

Posted by lincatz at 11:07 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 28 September 2011 10:02 AM EDT
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Friday, 2 September 2011
A Cool Nightshirt Pattern for Hot Summer Nights.
Topic: Graph Paper Patterns

New topic!  I've been posting lots of these patterns on graph paper lately and by popular request they have their own topic.  If there's enough demand thatn they will be spun off inot their very own blog.

Not all fashion design is for ball gowns or even pretty dresses, the bulk of fashion design is for everyday wearable clothes.   Most of the time designers design boring "need to wear clothes" This pattern is a good introductin in how a designer uses a basic pattern blovk to make a simple uncomplicated everyday basic.  In my case, I needed a simple night shirt for summer nights.  I didn't want one that was too skimpy, or one that was complicated to sew -meaning no sleeves. I had some single knit jersey so the nightshirt is designed with slightly stretchy knits on mind.  I came up with this simple sketch: 

It's a simple design: loose fitting, sleeves are cut as part of the shirt, faced V neck, and in two lengths, short to wear with pajama shorts and long to wear alone.  I had my basic bodice and skirt block right beside me so I used that. I put the bodice on top and the skirt under so they were barely touching at the waist.   I decided not to over-think this one and just trace over the blocks as they were arranged on the tablle.  This is a night shirt, after all; not a ball gown.

The purple lines are the original block. There's a gap between the bodice and skirt, this is for a little bit of extra wearing ease. I extended the skirt in an A-line from the hip -the red line.  I ignored the darts.  The aqua lines are the new pattern traced over the block. I traced about three inches outside the block seam lines -including three inches beyond the A-line.  I added sleeves freehand, leaving enough room for the shoulders and adding extra ease above to the shoulder and armhole.  I compared the pattern measurement for the shoulder length to my body and was happy with where the sleeve ended up.  I curved the sleeve into the side seam, being sure the opening was below the armhole opening on the block.  At the neck I traced several necklines: a V neck, a scoop and a square.  Notice they are all wider than the basic jewel-neck of the block. The V is my favorite and the one I used.  For the back I used the same tracing, only I used the upper aqua neckline, the one that looks like a back neckline.  I drew that using a fairgate curved neckline ruler.   I measured the neck opening to be sure my head would fit through.

That's a very common error made by beginning pattern makers, they forget that the head is bigger than the neck and in pullover garments the neck hole needs to be big enough for the head to fit through.  Measure the neck opening and be sure it's larger than your head circumference taken over the ears. 

Add seam allowances! Above is is how the facings were traced off the pattern.  There's only a quarter inch allowance at the edge of the facing that isn't sewn to the neckline.  This allowance is for serging or overcasting. Interface the facing with a lightweight non woven fusible or with a fusible tricot interfacing then overcast or serge the unsewn edge.  Sew the shoulders of the neck facing together before sewing to the night shirt.  The shoulders of the night shirt are sewn next.  Sew the facing to the shirt, wrong sides together.  Pivot with the machine needle down at the point of the V. Add an extra line of very close stitches to the V for stay stitching and clip both layers down to the stitching line.  This will make the V and the facings turn and press flat, not bulgy. Clip into the curves before turning, pressing and understitching IN THAT ORDER!  That's another beginner error: not clipping V's, curves and points before turning and messing up the order: Clip. Turn. Press. Understitch.

Then sew up the side seams.  I used a five thread safety seam on the serger.  A simple four thread overlock would work too. For the sleeves I decided to keep it simple and I serged the raw edge, turned to the inside, pressed and sewed it down with a twin needle. Same with the hem.  

This nightshirt could be turned into a very simple summer dress if it's worn with a tie belt around the waist and made up in a dressier jersey knit rather than plain single knit made for nightwear.  To make this from non-stretch woven fabrics a fish-eye dart can be added to the  front pattern pice three inches under the bust point, widening to two inches at the waist and going down five inches toward the hip. A zipper will be needed in the center back so cut the center back with a seam -the centerback line is the straight gran line.  For the back pattern piece make the dart only an inch and half wide at the waist. On both lengthen the hem so it's about two inches above the knee and continue that A-line down to the hem. Don't sew the shoulder seams all the way from neck to end: Leave a vent in the last three inches at the armhole.  this will give your arms room to move and add a little flutter detail, a bit of extra visual interest. 

Here's the whole pattern on graph paper as a PDF:

It's simple fuss free pattern so don't over-think the cutting and sewing.  Do compare the pattern measurements to your body and adjust where you need to at the side seams.  It's meany to be a loose easy fitting garment, whether made in single knit cotton jersey for a night shirt, a fancy jersey as a dress, or a woven fabric for a simple summer dress.

And this is the first in my new topic: Graph Paper Patterns. 

Posted by lincatz at 11:39 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 8 March 2005

Mood:  caffeinated
Topic: Graph Paper Patterns

Today I plan on talking about all my kreative little projects going on. is a picture:this is the diagram for my swirl skirt pattern. It's one piece --although the piece has guidelines so it can be cut apart to make a patchwork skirt. It can be adjusted wider or narrower to suit. It looks best done in at least four panels, that gives a "mermaid" effect and the bottom of the skirt forms a circle. Done in six or more gores in a very lightweight floaty fabric gives an airy, floaty fantasy feeling to the skirt. The side seams, line a to b must be equal on both the straighter side and the curved side or the skirt looks skewed and not swirly. Also, the straight side can be curved in the same direction as the swirl, once again, as long as a-b on one side equal a-b on the other. If you want an even more swirly effect, semi circles can be added between the main skirt panels.

This skirt is one of my "outside the box" ideas. Can you tell how this forms a skirt? One clue, it hangs on the bias. The straight diagonal line on the left side is the waist. The two straight lines are the side seam. The half circle is inset into the cut out. This arrangement forms an intriguing series of corners and curves. It works best in two pieces; front and back. If three or more are used then they need to overlap each other in a wrap style skirt, or the skirt is too full and looks heavy and awkward.

This one I call "inside the box." What appears to be the center is cut out, and more rectangles are added in the cutout part. The insets are then slashed and more insets added. In this example I've added three insets. This idea once again must be executed in a very light fabric because it makes a very full skirt.

Here's one more "inside the box" idea. This is similar to the other, only all done in right angles. The center dots are matched, the notches are matched, and then the side seam sewn up. This one looks best with an elastic waist and is more of a daytime look in challis or other rayon. It might work in a very light wool with a good drape, also even plaids might give an interesting visual effect in this design.

Posted by lincatz at 9:15 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 25 April 2013 11:01 AM EDT
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