I am drafting a classic, set in sleeve to fit to the armhole of my bodice block ( see previous post), however, there are three basic types of sleeves, set in, kimono, and raglan. The classic sleeve has a high
sleeve cap which has a more tailored appearance but restricts movement.
The sleeve cap is the curved top section of the sleeve from the front underarm to the back underarm. The sleeve cap height is that area of the sleeve from
the biceps or underarm line to the top of the sleeve cap. Cap height for the classic sleeve should be about 12.5 cm -15 cm.
To establish the length of the armhole and notch points, I laid the front and back bodice together at the shoulder seam (matching seam lines) and pinned
a piece of cord along the seam line. I marked the front single notch, back double notch and shoulder seam join on the cord in blue pen.
On scraps of paper I traced the front and back armhole shape up to the notches.
I measured the fullest part of my upper arm including ease and marked this as a horizontal line across the pattern paper, this is the biceps line. I drew
the grain line at a right angle at the mid point. I then measured my forearm, including ease, the length of the sleeve, from the bottom of the armpit
to the finished hem and my wrist. I used all these measurements to plot the lower sleeve shape. I slipped the armhole template under the paper to trace
the sleeve cap shape up to the notches.
I pinned the cord in place matching up the notch points and shaped the cord into a curve and drew a line just inside it.
Additional cap ease of around 3.75 cm - 5 cm is needed to go over ball of the arm since the sleeve cap is high and bicep or underarm line is narrower.
Personally, the less ease the better to make sewing the sleeve into the armhole less tricky. I removed the cord and drew a second line above the curve
to add minimum ease, slightly more is needed at the back.
This is what the sleeves looks like sewn into the bodice I made in the previous post, I now just need to extend it into a top.
I have been meaning to re-visit my bodice block for a while now as the one I always use is a standard size which always needs a bit of tweaking when I
use it to make a pattern…..and lets face it, who is a standard size?
It is virtually impossible to fit a bodice on yourself so I gate-crashed our bodice fitting workshop to get some expert fitting from Jeanette.
Jeanette started the workshop by getting us all to take our measurements correctly to establish a starting size, then most of the class required a full
bust adjustment as the standard patterns only go up to a mere C-cup. Being a B-cup, I was able to start checking my front and back lengths against
the starting block and adjusting before cutting out in calico.
On my first fitting, I was surprised to see how much I needed to take out of the back width. This was a revelation in itself, as I would usually use an
additional dart from the shoulder or princess style seam to remove the excess. I wanted to take an equal width out at the centre back seam, however,
this meant it was a bit tight at the back waist so I would need to decrease the width of the back darts a fraction and I would still have a gaping
back neckline so I needed to lift the shoulder seam at the neck.
The front was a must better fit across the width, however, the bust and waist darts needed repositioning to end at the new points marked on the calico.
The front neck was also gaping so I needed to lift the shoulder seam at the neck and take some excess out of the neckline.
These are the adjustments I made to the back block:
-Remove width at the centre back seam
-Decrease dart width
-Reduce shoulder height at neck
These are the adjustments I made to the front block:
-Lower and shorten bust dart
-Shorten waist dart
-Reduce shoulder height at neck (more on front than back)
-Fold out excess in neckline and smooth away to nothing
Eager to test my new bodice out, I took it home and cut it out in some fabric from my stash. It will always look different in different fabrics but I am
pretty pleased with the fit, I may just need to have another look at the bust dart position.
Most customers come back to our fit and flare workshop to use their bodice and add a gathered skirt to it, but I think I am going to make it into a longer top after I have tackled the sleeve!
What have I been sewing lately? This was a garment I cloned and originally made in a Liberty cotton print (see previous Blog post), but I also wanted to recreate it in a fabric similar to the original garment to achieve the same look
and drape. I chose a polyester satin fabric from our online shop,
it was however, much more tricky to work with. Fabrics like chiffon, charmeuse, georgette, voile, sateen, organza and many others are notorious for
being slippery and unstable, making them difficult to sew. When sewing with such fabrics (which includes many lining materials as well), having some
essential sewing tools and knowing proper techniques can transform a difficult sewing experience into an (almost) enjoyably rewarding one.
The fabric slipped around a lot while laying up, using a piece of corduroy, wool, velveteen or something like that to act as an underlay that ‘grabs’ the
slippy fabric or tissue paper sandwiching the fabric can keep the layers in place, making cutting easier. I used long sharp pins to hold the fabric
in place and serrated scissors to grip the fabric when cutting. However, when it came to the bias binding, a rotary cutter and mat worked much better
as it kept the fabric flat.
For sewing, I changed my needle to a thinner size 9/70, reduced the thread tension to prevent the fabric puckering or gathering up, made sure I wasn't
using a thick thread and attached a walking foot to help the material glide smoothly through the machine while keeping the fabric layers together.
I starting by finishing the back neck edge with bias binding and used a lot more pins than I usually would to hold the fabric in place.
The back piece was gathered onto the back yoke, slippy fabrics are very easy to gather because the thread slides easily through the weave.
I found the frill pieces didn't quite match up when I sewed them together, probably a result of them sliding around during cutting. Interfacing small
parts prior to cutting helps, however, interfacing would have probably changed the fall of the frill if I had used it.
I used the coolest setting when pressing and on the wrong side of fabric where possible. I used a pressing cloth where I needed to press on the right
side of the fabric. I avoided using steam as it can leave marks on the fabric, the weight of the iron, more than the heat helps achieve neatly
The method for attaching the frill second around time was easier (although handling the fabric was more tricky). I used a separate piece of binding
for the front and back, however, next time I am going to attach it in one piece to hide the end of the shoulder seams at the inner neck edge.
The fabric managed to recreate a similar drape for the frill to the original garment.
The bodice and sleeves were made up with an elasticated finish at the bottom hem and sleeve openings, it was easier to overlock the hems and press
a single turning rather than try and press and double turning. This is what the finished garment looked like.
If you ready for the challenge to tame those slippery but beautifully draping fabrics, join us for our Kimono or Kimono jacket workshop......if you dare!
What have I been sewing lately? It was a bought garment that I picked up on holiday (for 5 Euros!) that gave me the inspiration for this project. It was
regularly admired when I wore it and everyone always asked if I had made it myself. Unable to say 'yes', I decided it was time to Clone My Closet and make my own version of it.
The main bodice was pretty easy to clone as there was little fitting, I extended the sleeve length a little but except for that kept it the same. The challenge
was the neckline feature and getting the fall of the frill right. It was easy enough to copy the neckline shape but calculating the folds and length
of the frill without unpicking it was a bit tricky and required making up a couple of mock samples of just the frill to get it right. The original
garment was a lightweight polyester satin with plenty of drape and I was using a cotton Liberty print from my fabric stash (a bargain from Standfast and Barracks). I knew it would not drape as well but I really wanted to use it anyway and am really pleased with the
way the folds sit.
The bodice and sleeves were easy to make up with an elasticated finish at the bottom hem and sleeve openings. It was a bit more tricky to work out
how the fill was attached to the front opening and how the raw edge of the neckline was finished. It had a separate piece of binding for the front
and back, I got there in the end and it will be much easier second time around!
This is what the finished garment looked like........
and I managed to get a second top (Simplicity 1280) out of the left over fabric...
I am currently making a second sample of the clone in the below polyester satin fabric from our online shop which will drape in the same way as the original sample, it will however, be much more tricky to work with.
What have I been sewing lately? It was a garment a customer brought along to Clone Your Closet that gave me the inspiration for this project. It was one of her favourites she was going to learn how to make a pattern from and it was the pockets
hidden in the seam that I wanted to recreate.
I used the pattern block for our wiggle dress as the starting block and after a bit of pattern
cutting on the front bodice I created the design I was looking for. All I had to do to the back bodice was make it shorter. After shortening the front
bodice, for the centre panel, I sliced the bodice vertically from the neckline, down the left side of the waist dart and across to the side seam creating
a curved pocket opening. For the side bodice, I sliced the bodice vertically from the neckline, down the right side of the waist dart (this removed
the waist dart) and across to the side seam at a lower position to incorporate a pocket bag (I cut this piece in a contrast printed jersey from our
online shop). I then cut a front pocket bag and because the garment was being made in jersey, I reduced the sleeve width.
To prepare my machine for sewing with jersey, I used a regular stitch but changed to a ballpoint needle and walking foot and reduced the pressure of my
presser foot (not all machines allow you to do this). With everything cut out, I stitched the bust darts and back waist darts.
The pocket bags were then sewn onto the right side of the centre bodice panel starting at the side seam and finishing 1cm from the end of the pocket bag
curve to leave a seam allowance to allow me to add the side bodice. The pockets were then pressed to the wrong side.
I joined the side bodices to the centre panel from the neck, stopping exactly at the point where the pocket bags were attached and pressed the seam flat.
Raw edges could be left, as they did not fray.
I pinned the pocket bag and side bodice pocket bag extension together and stitched from the point where the side bodice and centre panel seam ended to
the side seam.
With the pocket bags sewn, I put in a couple of pins to hold the 2 pocket bag layers to the centre bodice panel at the side seam (this could be machine
I placed the right side of the back on top of the front and joined them at the shoulder seams.
Sleeves were inserted on the flat, easing the sleeve in was easier on jersey than woven fabric.
The sleeve underarm and side seams were sewn together and sleeve and bottom hem pressed and stitched.
I used the navy jersey to finish the neckline with a binding.
And this is how it looks on…..
These are a couple more I made, the stripy jersey is from our online shop and
Well done Martina for being awarded our latest Ministry Makes Winner! Martina has attended a number of our workshops, however, she made these two lovely
items on her own and both are in a knit fabric so she gave herself a bit more of a challenge. Thank you for sharing the below pictures and information
with us, I particularly like the polar bears.
First up the Tilly and the Buttons Coco dress in a leopard print scuba (from Abakhan).
Second the Grainline Studio Linden sweatshirt in a pale pink sweatshirting with polar bears on (from Guthrie and Ghani).
I was very surprised how much easier Knit is than I thought. Everyone is always making it out to be super hard but it's not at all. I really like working with knit (and I do wear many knit clothes). By now about 60% of my wardrobe is me made and I do enjoy wearing and making it. :)
Cut out and ready to sew is the Tilly and the Buttons Lilou dress (from the book) and the Colette Patterns Wren dress.
Happy sewing everyone and maybe see you in the new year if I can convince family to get me some more Ministry vouchers for Christmas. ;)
Well done Martina, you are a worthy winner. We look forward to seeing you again soon, I hope you get those Gift Vouchers and good luck with the next two
dresses, you look amazing in your makes!
A six-month subscription to Love Sewing Magazine is on the way to Martina.
Whether you're looking to treat a sewing friend or drop some ‘subtle’ hints for yourself, then look no further, here is some inspiration……
A new sewing machine under the tree this Christmas?
Everyone one who comes to a Ministry of Craft workshop gets to use the top of the range Janome computerised model CXL301 and walks away wanting one, well now is the time to ask!
If you are thinking about an overlocker, we use Janome model (C234XL) which is quite a big investment but a real treat for the keen sewer. Janome currently
have model 9300DX on sale and it comes in at half the price (£229)
making it much more affordable.
From one extreme to another (£1.95 on Ebay incl. postage!), a good stocking filler and an extremely useful tool is a loop turner for turning those fiddly straps
through to the right side.
Brighten up your sewing box with these beauties from Ernest Wright (£40). Their famous quality hand-made eight inch Dressmaking Scissors. The pink version are in support of Breast
Cancer Care and a sum will be donated to the Breast Cancer Care charity in the UK.
A Love Sewing subsription to keep up to date with the latest projects, patterns
and fabrics. And don't forget we regularly give away a six-month subsciption to customers who share their homemade creations with us.
Sewing inspired jewellery. Scan the Etsy pages for some very unique and
Another good stocking filler and an absolutley ESSENTIAL tool in your sewing box is a seam ripper. And frame this image for a piece of encouraging sewing
room wall art.
A tote bag with a sewing quote, or a workshop
gift voucher for our screen printing class so you can design and print your own.
If you can't decide on a specific workshop, our GIFT VOUCHERS (£5-£100) allow recipients (or yourself) to choose the workshop and date for themselves.
Buy them from our website and we'll email them straight to your inbox!
Christmas party season is fast approaching and planning your party outfit is one of the most fun parts of the Christmas period - all the more so if you’re
making it yourself! We’ve rounded up just a few ideas, now which to choose!?
First up is our very own Wiggle Dress, free your inner bombshell with this seriously
sexy dress to flatter your womanly curves. It can be made either sleeveless or with a flattering mid-length sleeve, the ultimate dress to flatter your
The Grace Dress from Sew Over It is a simple design, she
transforms depending on fabric choice, go wild with a metallic jacquard or bold brocade for a party look.
Anna from By Hand London is a great beginner’s dress as she features easy kimono
sleeves and bust pleats, plus there is an option skirt feature for a daring split seam.
This Vogue sewing pattern 1179 was designed by Donna Karan (out of print but still available if you hunt around).
It makes an easy to wear pullover dress with a draped and pleated neckline that forms a soft cowl collar. Make it an eye catching bright red or metallic
knit and you are ready to go!
Well done India for being awarded our latest Ministry Makes Winner! We have loved having India on our workshops and are so glad she has shared her story
below with us.
I'm having a year of creativity: drawing, painting and printing, and dressmaking. I want to be able to design clothes to fit me and my 'odd' shape and well as be able play with colour, textures and form. Clothes that express 'me'.
I hadn't done any formal sewing since school, which was off-putting to say the least, but since messed about on machines, altering clothes, free-machine embroidering and felting/embellishing; making cushions, bags, hats....but not really much confidence, patience or self-discipline for following patterns or doing things neatly. My skills were very rusty on my first course at Ministry but the tutors have been great in helping me develop skills and confidence very quickly, even accommodating myself as a wheelchair-user, offering extra support when tired and ill. I have recently attended courses to make personal blocks (bodice and skirt) with the wiggle dress course... (wiggle dress 2 in red is well on its way now at home. See pic.)
The Doris dress course was a breeze, stretch fabric and done on an overlocker, my first time but it inspired me to buy one, so did beginners overlocker course too. Now I can be more speedy, as suits my personality, but I have also gained patience and enjoyment of the whole process, even the bits that need unpicking and redoing!
Can't wait to try new patterns, and even had a go at making a couple of simple garments from clothes I have already. Having a background in architecture, the creating of the 3D from 2d is a teeny bit similar.
I have found the Ministry courses great fun, informative and supportive and have my eye on a couple more!
Well done India, you are a worthy winner. We look forward to seeing you again soon and thank you for all your lovely comments, you look amazing in your
A six-month subscription to Love Sewing Magazine is on the way to India.
Thanks Rae for sharing your sewing journey with us, the garments you have made look great, you should be really proud and we look forward to the next installment……..
After I struggled a bit with darts and inset seams not quite behaving, I decided to try something ULTRA simple, and bought the April Rhodes Staple Dress Pattern. There are lots of images and blogs of people who have made this dress beautifully, just so nice to see how differently it can look in different fabrics on different people, here is my favourite. You can really learn so much by reading around the pattern and seeing it in different fabrics before you commit to spending your precious pennies... So I decided to try this in a soft-ish cotton and made the green dress with cream spots from Leons in Chorlton I was really pleased with the result. The pattern kind of did what it said on the packet - which was not my experience with the Merchant and Mills patterns I made (but this probably means that I am a little too inexperienced to tackle these yet - and maybe if I try again later they will come a little easier). Anyway, no darts, no shoulder seams just a great pattern cut and some trusty shearing! I went for an XS on top and graded to a Small for the skirt, and I made the version with the level hem not the dropped back hem. I altered the dress by adding 5 inches to the hem, as I do like a below the knee length, and I only put one row of shearing in because I wanted it soft, and anyway I will wear with a belt. After making this in the cotton, I decided it would certainly suit a more flowing, drapey fabric and went for a viscose from Abahkan in MCR it was harder to handle, but worth it. And I decided to use the french seams throughout - including the inseam pockets and because the fabric was so thin that worked just fine. Here are the pictures - I really recommend this pattern. I am planning to make a long sleeved version it in an organic linen knit. I could literally live in these dresses.
After making The Fielder, my other pattern to try was The Camber top.
I had read so much great feedback online, that I felt sure I could tackle these two, but in fact they turned out a bit tricky for my brain! I was meticulous in approaching this, and even made a Toile where I discovered a slight issue with the yoke not matching the facing, still not exactly sure what I am doing wrong here, but after looking at it from all angles in consultation with my problem-solving husband we decided that they only way was to create a 'fix' and make the yoke a little longer so that all seams could line up and sew up. Which did work. BUT I was left with an uncanny ill fitting bump on the back of the shoulder, which seems a shame. Also there are other things that make this top not perfect. However, I will endeavour to make it again and see if I can't sort these things out because it is a pretty useful top. I don't have tops like this in my wardrobe, woven fabric tops, they are kind of smart-casual and although I can't move enough to teach Qigong, I can cycle and dig and do other things in this top - so it can work for my life and be a little smarter when I need that too. In November I am booked onto the Clone your Closet workshop and I am very excited about this because this is what I have wanted to be able to do for years. The difficulty is going to be in choosing one item to bring, but hopefully learning how to clone one item and also keeping my ears and eyes open to see how other people are doing their patterns should be a real skill development for me. I shall start digging in my wardrobe. Unfortunately certain key items have been lost in the depths of time and space (or are they in the loft??). But for those lovely pieces that I am lucky enough fit me well and work well I can have a go at replicating them in new and fresh fabrics. Can't wait - thanks for offering this course!
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