Saturday, 30 July 2016

My Half Size Mannequin

I'm quite excited to show you my new toy!

This is a half size mannequin. I remember when I was little, perhaps 7 or 8, seeing a half sized (or half scale) mannequin in a fabric store and thinking it was pretty nifty. It's funny how these odd little memories stick. :) 

Recently I have been wanting one even more - so that I could experiment with drafting and play with styles that don't suit my figure. Particularly as it makes such experimentation more cost effective.

So when I saw one on The Great British Sewing Bee, I finally cracked. Why should the sewing bee contestants get to play with a cool little mannequin and not me? I talked to Jon about it, and he totally enabled my decision (because he has golf clubs in the garage which he has never used for as long as I've known him, so he's obviously going to be with me on this). I realise this looks like the adult version of seeing another kid with an ice cream and then crying because I don't have an ice cream too, but whatever people. This thing is an investment.

According to the manufacturers, she is half scale to a UK standard size 10. Although her waist and hips are about 5mm larger than the measurements state, so clearly she has been eating a little too much ice cream too.

I had a go at making the standard blocks up. 

Snug fit!

Previously, I made some half size skirts as models for explaining drafting techniques. These aren't quite the right size, but I tried them on anyway. Check it - 

So although right now my play time is dependent on when the little one naps, there's a lot of fun to be had here!

Update: I omitted this information before. The mannequin is from

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Make This Look #6 - Claudie Pierlot Robyne Dress

This Make This Look is a bit different, as I've sourced the pattern from a book, rather than a printed pattern.

I haven't yet made anything from this book, and therefore can't comment on the patterns (not that they would fit me straight out of the packet) but I quite like it - a simplified drafting book where you mix and match and modify pre-drafted parts. Quite good explanations too. Generally I find project based books a bit limiting - you might end up with a whole book of patterns where there might only be two you want to make, but because of the open ended nature of the projects in this book there are a lot more options. I also think it would be a good launchpad for taking the designs further after making a couple.

Claudie Pierlot Robyne dress from
Fabric from
Tanya Wheldon's book is available at or

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Drafting The Basic Pattern for the 4 Piece Maternity Wardrobe.

I have finally had the chance to sit down and write up the drafting instructions for the 4 piece maternity wardrobe!

The pattern is really essentially a really simple change to a basic knit dress. I used my existing basic pattern (block), although you could change pretty much any simple knit dress pattern (or t-shirt) in the same way. I made mine by tracing existing clothing (details/tutorials here) and have tweaked it over the past few years for a good fit. Burda style has a knit sloper which would work well for this.

I have used my pre-pregnancy size to start with. I added extra along the side seams as I go, for 2 reasons. Firstly, I gained weight that wasn't all baby, and secondly little extra along the seams will allow me to re-cut and convert things to non-maternity at a later point. I've kept the shoulders the same because my shoulders haven't gotten any wider. 

The fabrics I've chosen are quite stretchy, mostly viscose jersey. This is clearly important because these garment needs to have a bit of give! I swear I felt bigger each morning when I got up.

So I'm starting with this.  Front on the left, back on the right throughout.

Mine has a dart at the bust, although it would work well with or without.

I have three horizontal lines across this pattern - one on the bustline, one to mark the underbust line and a waistline. You can get away with just a waistline.

The block also has sleeves (long and short shown here). I haven't included them as they remain unchanged throughout.
 To begin with, I drew in the hip line (based on where the pattern is at it's widest) and marked some notches. The notches are placed 2.5cm (1 inch) above the hip line, and 2.5cm (1 inch) above the waistline. These will be a reference point for the gathers.

I measured the distance between the hip and waist.
I used this measurement as a guide for how much to add. I doubled mine, but with hindsight, I decided that an increase of 75% would be sufficient. So I am going to add 75% of that measurement to the length. I've drawn it just under the waistline to the side here. My measurement was 16cm (6 1/4"), so I would use 12cm (roughly 4 3/4") on the side. 
 I split the pattern at the waistline, and spread it apart that 75% measurement.
I connected from below the bust dart (I would work from approximately where the bust would be if there were no dart) creating a bit more space rather than coming into the waist. I also added 1cm (3/8") all the way down the side on both front and back.
 I eliminated the vertical darts in the front to make space for the bump.
 Which when filled in, looks pretty much like this.
This pattern is the complete basic dress pattern just as is. I can switch up the necklines / sleeves as I would for any basic dress.

To create the t-shirt I crop the pattern by the same amount front and back. So here, with a t-shirt pattern laid over the back, I establish how far below the notch the t-shirt should finish.

 And I mark the hemline on the front for the same space below the notch.

 Which when cut down looks like this. In the case of the t-shirt, I ignored the back dart on construction.
 To make a tank top or tank dress, I cut the neckline a bit lower, and the shoulder in a bit to make a narrower strap. Obviously I cut to t-shirt length for a tank top.
To create an above the bump skirt, I use the underbust line, or a line 2.5cm (1") above the top notch... 

 And then an additional line 2.5cm (1") above that for an elastic casing. This is based on using a 2.5cm elastic, which is zigzaged to the edge, folded and zigzaged again. If you wanted to create a casing, it would need to be deeper than the elastic to have an edge to fold over and stitch down. 
Which when cut out looks like this. I ignore the back darts on the skirt as well.

 So that left me with a basic pattern, from which I could trace the different variations.
 Construction for all garments starts with gathering the front between the notches to match the back between notches. For the dress or tank dress, also sew the back darts.

Then construct as you normally would for a t-shirt, or skirt with elastic waist. I started by making the dress, and basting the sides together in case I wanted to move the gathers up or down slightly. Once I was happy with it, I made the other variations.

All up, fairly quick to make, but it covered most of my requirements.

For more maternity and bump friendly stuff, have a look here.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Make This Look #5 - Oscar de la Renta Dress

I had been trying to get one of these up each week, but missed last week as I spent a few days in hospital. There were stitches, sadly not in fabric. I did get to take home the cutest baby of all time however, so will consider it a win. There will be a bit more fantasy pattern shopping on the agenda for a while yet, as my sewing for self plans have been scuttled by my dramatically morphing figure. Still need to write up the instructions for drafting the 4 piece maternity wardrobe! I haven't forgotten.

I really liked the panel detail on this Oscar de la Renta Dress, as I think it could be really flattering, particularly to visually lengthen the body with the vertical lines throughout. McCalls 6834 is a pretty close approximation - there is also a style with a capped sleeve in the pattern which I think is even nicer (see below). Bit of a switch from the printed silk in the original dress - instead this fabric is a cotton sateen. Certainly much more economical, also laundry friendly.

Fabric from minervacraft,com
Shoes from
Earrings from
Purse from
Pattern also from

Pattern view B with the sleeve, from McCalls website. Model looks grumpy though. I imagine the photographer just made some rudely condescending remark, and she's trying to be professional about it.