Category Archives: Pattern adjusting and drafting

First Time Skirt Drafting

I was not only wrong; I was dead wrong, in fact.

Skirt drafting class by Sew Maris

Young sewing students CAN draft their own patterns.

I really thought drafting patterns from body measurements would prove too difficult and too frustrating for teens. Too much math and “plotting” lines and angles. I thought it was a skill that required both more sewing experience AND more experience taking an idea from concept to final product.

But it turns out that fashion designing is a good way to practice that concept->product process.

Mistakes WERE made. By all of us. But working together, these three young gals were able to learn how to take accurate body measurements, draft a straight skirt sloper, adjust the fit, and finally design and draft a “real” skirt using the sloper as a pattern base. Oh yes, there is plenty more to learn. More practice would be a good thing, too. I need to tweak the course curriculum. But much was accomplished in just 4 days as well.

Skirt drafting by Sew Maris

Did you notice one student, “I”, is not wearing her skirt? She made a darling circle skirt with a high waist. Out of PLEATHER. And yes, it is adorable. But her mom recently moved back to Germany and somehow the skirt ended up packed somewhere and was not available for picture day. You’ll just have to take my word; it rocked!

“D” made a cotton print skirt with soft pleats in the front and back, and added an organza overlay before adding the waistband. There is a slit up the back to provide enough walking room, and a nicely inserted zipper in the back. Looks great, right?

Skirt drafting by Sew Maris

“H” wanted a slim skirt silhouette with pockets in the front. She drafted the pocket pattern based on another skirt she had at home, and used a contrast solid color to accentuate this feature of her skirt. She has already worn her skirt to a birthday party, and loves the great fit!

I am so proud of these gals, and we all enjoyed spending the week together working on these skirts. I will definitely be hosting more pattern drafting classes for teens in the future!

Have you ever taught young teens to draft their own patterns? Have you done any pattern drafting yourself?

Happy sewing!



The magic of pattern-making

Start by learning to take accurate body measurements.

Write ’em down. Do a little dividing, adding and subtracting.

Plot the results as a “shaped” rectangle.

Pattern drafting students by Sew Maris

Cut out some fabric according to this “shape”, stitch it together, and BAM! you have a skirt pattern custom-fit to your body measurements. Easy breezy,right?

Ummmm, sort of.  While it is true the individual steps are not really difficult, they are quite a few of them, and there are plenty of opportunities to make mistakes. For this and other reasons I have resisted offering pattern drafting classes to kids.

Skirt drafting class by Sew Maris

But the kiddos keep bugging me.. Some want to learn the process of pattern-making; some are not satisfied with the current pattern options; and some are just anxious to get started designing their own fashion line.

This week the first ever Sew Maris kids pattern drafting class is underway. In the first two days measurements have been taken, skirt block calculations calculated, basic pattern blocks drafted, muslin samples sewn, and sample skirt fitting has happened.

Pattern drafting by Sew Maris

Next up these students will learn how to modify a basic block to create a personalized skirt design. This is where they transform the skirt in their own mind into reality.

This is an ambitious undertaking. For them AND for me! Hopefully on Thursday we will have 3 completed skirts to show you. Fingers crossed!

Happy sewing!



Perfect Fitting — a mini review

Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting












I recently ordered Sarah Veblen’s new book, The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting, and I have to say that at first blush it looks appropriately named. Some concepts are not new. Making muslins, or test fitting garments, is hardly revolutionary. Though I was a little surprised that Sarah makes from 4 to 10 test garments to get the fit just right. Ten! It seems she is indeed striving for perfection. She shows photographs of fitting issues on real bodies, not stick thin models, so that is also helpful to illustrate specific points. Again, other fitting books have done this as well. The part that was new to me was her method of showing fitting problems related to length issues. Sarah visually shows the impact of too much or too little length by having sewists draw a horizontal balance line, aka HBL, on all fitting garments. For example, on pants this line should be drawn across the hip area. If the HBL dips down toward the floor, the crotch is too short and the solution is to add more length. Doh! Just by having this visual marker you can instantly see a fitting problem, AND you can also see when you have corrected it sufficiently. Nicely done, Sarah! I am going to try this method to adjust my jeans pattern since I am not at all happy with my current fit. I promise to post again after actually using her techniques and provide details. Maybe once I get my own jeans fit corrected I can stop looking at everyone’s butt to see how well THEIR pants fit! 🙂

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

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Pants with lots of topstitching

Jeans! They are just pants with lots of top-stitching, right? I must be a glutton for top-stitching – I love making my DH’s dress shirts and am having loads of fun experimenting with making jeans. I don’t have the pattern fitting right yet, partially because I keep playing around with different fabrics (stretch, non-stretch, different amounts of stretch), and partially because I keep messing around with a variety of patterns. So far I think the Jalie 2908 is the best-fitting pattern for my body type. Huh. readers already figured that out…doh!

But….I have been kind of obsessed with my vintage Calvin Klein 2442 pattern, so I based my latest black jeans attempt on this design.


At least it was my starting point. I tapered the thighs a little and added some flare below the knee instead of keeping the full, straight leg design. And the pattern’s curved waistband was not working for me at all, so I ditched that as well.  What I did love about this CK pattern though were the little construction details. Great little coin pocket. Sewn on fly extension. Great curve on the front pockets.

I still need to work on the booty fit. I am definitely making progress on the construction details, the fit is improving, but perfection…..not quite there yet. Anyway, I plan to wear these jeans around the house tomorrow and see how they perform. Pictures coming!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

How to shorten a sleeve pattern

I bet you thought you could just whack the excess length off the bottom edge of your sleeve pattern, am I right? Bad idea, unless of course you like a really loose fit on your wrist. 🙂 Instead, I’ll show you how easy peasy it is to shorten a sleeve pattern.

Here is what you need to get started:

  1. a “too long” sleeve pattern
  2. an 18 inch ruler
  3. a pencil
  4. some kind of tape – either blue painters tape (easily removable) or transparent tape (permanent)
  5. extra tissue paper
  6. paper scissors

 Everything needed

One thing you really need to keep in mind is when doing any pattern adjusting is the grainline. You either need to maintain the existing grainline, or redraw it so it is accurate. For this adjustment it is easy to maintain the existing grainline.

Step #1. Fold the pattern piece perpendicular to the grainline mark on the pattern piece. There may or may not be a “lengthen/shorten” line drawn on the pattern, but you can always draw your own. There is already a lengthen/shorten line on my sleeve pattern, so all I did was fold “horizontally”  on one of the 2 lines across the entire pattern piece. Notice that the vertical grainline marks are directly on top of each other. This means grainline goodness, peeps.

First Fold

Step #2. Fold the pattern piece again half of the total amount you want to shorten the sleeve. I am shortening the sleeve 2 inches total, so my second fold is 1 inch from the first fold.

Second Fold Measure 1

To make sure the grainline is maintained, this second fold must measure exactly one inch across the entire pattern piece, and the vertical grainline must stay parallel. I like lining my pattern pieces up on a grided mat so it is easy to see/correct the grainline.

Second Fold Measure 2 

Step #3. Draw the hemline (shown in blue on the left side) across the pattern piece. My pattern piece specified a 1 1/4 inch hem, so I drew a blue line 1 1/4 inches from the bottom edge of the pattern. This is all in preparation for blending the little “jog” on the sleeve seam that was created by folding the pattern. You can see the little jog about in the middle of the picture below.

Side Seam Before Blending

Now why, you ask, do I need to draw the hemline? Because you are blending the line between the hem edge and the top of the sleeve seam – not between the bottom of the pattern piece and the top of the sleeve seam. If you blended all the way to the bottom of the pattern piece you would remove the shaping needed for turning up the hem allowance inside the finished sleeve. Just trust me on this one. 😉

Step #4. Place the ruler between the “blue hem edge” and the top of the sleeve seam, as shown below, and draw a new line.

 Blending Ruler Position

Your new sleeve seam line should look like this:

Blended Side Seam

Easy peasy, right? Tape down the new tissue underneath the original pattern, cut the new sleeve seam on the blended line, repeat drawing, cutting and taping the other side of the sleeve pattern, and then party with your “just right” sleeve.

Happy sewing!!

Maris Olsen

Take something and make it better


I haven’t talked about Malia in a while around here, and I think it is about time to change that! She recently had a fun school assignment – to invent something new, or improve an existing product. Well, it is no secret Malia loves to sew, but she also loves magnets. 😉 Besides my magnetic pincushions, she likes to use my little “scrap bag”  next to her sewing machine while she works on a project. The scrap bag holds cut threads and fabric scraps, and also includes a pincushion and a couple of pockets for small tools. Even though Malia does like to use this tool, she thought it would be cooler if it had a magnet pin holder instead of the traditional sand-filled pincushion. See where this is going? 😉

At her last sewing session, we worked on mocking up her design in paper first. She decided about how big she wanted the thread/scrap holder to be, and then set to work designing the shape and style.  After she was happy with her paper prototype, we evened up the pleat placement and transferred all the measurements and markings to a clean paper pattern. Who says you don’t use math in real life? Here are all her paper pattern pieces, the initial inspiration product on the bottom left, and the green fabric she is going to use for the new-and-improved-Malia-scrap-bag-pincushion. It’s true I gave her a little advice and a couple of suggestions, but Malia was in totally charge of this project. She had a very clear design concept, and gave a quick, definite answer to every one of my questions. I was blown away that a 10 year old could manage a project with this many steps, draft a pattern from scratch, and transfer it to fabric and make it come to life. I doubt I could have accomplished that at age 10!!


I did cut the fabric pieces out for her since rotary cutters and sewing scissors are not intended for use by children, and then Malia transferred the pleat marks to her bag fronts.  Check out her concentration while she is working on her project!


Malia was ready to get going assembling her bag. Since she had made a few lined zipper bags during other sewing lessons, she had a pretty clear idea how to go about the first steps of the construction process. And of course, she is a whiz at using her machine and doesn’t need any help from me in that department.



Malia took her invention project home and planned to try to finish it up on her own. Just like last week when she found a rip in her snow pants, set up her sewing machine,  and mended the rip so she could stay dry while playing in the snow. LOVE that independent spirit of self-reliance, Malia!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen


Another fitting method









One of my favorite classes from conference was titled Working with Your Pattterns for Fit and Creativity, taught by Susan Lazear, a teacher in the fashion program at Mesa College in San Diego. Contrary to many sewing instructors, Susan is not keen on using fitting muslins. Her approach is to measure clothing that you already have in your closet to learn the garment measurements you prefer, and then to use that information to modify commercial patterns.

For example, if you have a v-neck  t-shirt that you really like, measure both the length and width of the neck opening. Use those numbers to help you tweak the fit on all shirts and dress patterns calling for a v-neck.

What a great idea! Simple, achievable, and a real time-saver (by eliminating making a test muslin). The only issue I can really forsee is if you do not have many clothes in your closet with a fit or proportion that you really like, which would be a bummer all around. 🙂

Susan also developed a software program named Garment Designer by Cochenille Design Studio to help sewists with fitting problems. I have not used this software program, tho I have to admit it looked rather intriguing. The main reason I have balked at all of the pattern-making software programs is the Scoth tape issue. The thought of taping up a million or so sheets of 8.5×11 inch paper and driving to the store every week for a new ink supply has no appeal. None whatsoever. Simply BOR-ring!  But Garment Designer caught my eye, so I may have to investigate this one a bit.

What are your thoughts? Do you use any pattern-making software? What do you like and what do you dislike?

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen