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How to Draft A Fitting Back Bodice Block

I’ve talked about pattern blocks and how they can make pattern making easier by offering a basic template to work on. Instead of buying pre-drafted pattern blocks I decided to make my own. It isn’t as difficult as it sounds, especially if you have a copy of Helen Joseph Armstrong’s Pattern Making for Fashion Design.

The instructions are clear and to the point. The illustrations in this post are taken from this book.

For the front bodice check out my previous post, Sewing Course Lesson 2 – How To Make a Basic Bodice Block.

Step 1

How to Draft A Fitting Back Bodice Block

Starting from the left side of your paper, draw a line AB with the same length as your full length measurement (check out this post if you’re not sure which measurements you have to take).
Then draw a line AC equal to your across the shoulder measurement. Square down from C 3 inches.
Draw a line BD measuring the same as your center back length, then square out 4 inches from this point
Draw BE, which is equal to your back arc + 3/4 inch. From E square up a few inches.

Step 2


Draw AF, which is your back neck measurement and add 1/8 inch so the bodice won’t feel to tight around your neck.
Draw BG, which is the shoulder slope measurement and add a 1/8 inch
Daw FH, which is your shoulder length + 1/2 inch. Square down from F to D
BI is your dart placement and BJ is your waist arc, plus dart intake of 1 1/2 inches, plus another 1/4 inch for ease.
IK is your dart intake measurement.

Step 3

To get JM square down 3/16 inch
MN is your side length measurement
To get LO square up from L 1 inch less than MN
Draw the fart legs from O and then draw lines from K to M and from B to I.
Mark half of GH to create a point P
Draw a 3 inch line PQ in the direction of the O point
PR measures 1/4 inch. Draw a dart leg from Q and connect to F. Mark 1/4 inch from P and draw the other dart leg.
DS is 1/4 of DB
ST is your across back measurement with a 1/4 inch added for ease.
Draw the armhole and the neckline with a French Curve.

Even though this looks a little complicated, once you have the measurements drawing the lines is pretty straightforward.

This bodice has a vintage vibe: super slim waist, (almost) pointy bust, fits at the true waist. It’s also interesting because those back darts make it very stylish. I think I could use this bodice as it is to make a fitted dress, I made the bodice our of fabric to see how it fits, but I am not sure I want a dress that’s that form fitting at the moment.

I will update this post when I write more about the adjustments I made to it.

Do you draft your own patterns? Any tips?

A Cute Vintage Gathered Yoke Blouse

This is another idea from ”Precision draping; a simple method for developing designing talent” by Nelle L. Weymouth.

And it seems so easy to make also: just cut a (sort of) diamond shape above the bust, then slash and spread the remaining part of the bodice to create pleats. Then sew back together.

I would work with a relaxed version of the bodice for this. The bodice I made with this method comes out very fitted. For this blouse I would just grade it to a bigger size so the blouse has some movement. And it’s easier to take in then release a garment anyway 😛

This is a very similar garment (image from here), with long sleeves, a shirt collar and made in black silk.

Various Vintage Necklines and How to Draft Them

Happy New Year! May 2013 bring you many new sewing ideas and lots of hours of sewing fun.

One of the books I started the year with was “Precision draping; a simple method for developing designing talent” by Nelle L. Weymouth. Published in 1889, this is a lovely book; everything is so well explained and it just makes pattern drafting seem so easy! I got to this book via The Perfect Nose, who posts lots of vintage goodies as well as marvelous sewing projects of her own.

One of the things that I sketched into my notebook for future reference were the necklines and how to design facings. My favourite were the sweetheart neckline, the triangular keyhole neckline and the peter pan collar, both the rounded and the pointed version.

The full lesson on neckline facings can be found here and these are the drawn notes I took while reading. Drawing helps me both remember notions I would like to experiment with and understand better what it is to be done. Just don’t get to bored by the repetitive busty lady shown below.

1. The Sweetheart Neckline
A rounded and rather modest sweetheart neckline is shown here, but you can make it as generous or as square as you like it.

The Sweetheart Neckline

2. The Keyhole Neckline.
A triangular shape is shown here but the same can be done with an oval shape.

The Keyhole Neckline

3. The Peter Pan Collar
The Peter Pan collar has been getting a lot of attention lately and I’ve seen many tutorials and even made my own following the pattern of a blouse I have. This all seems silly when you notice how simple it actually is to draft. If only I had pictured it like this 6 months ago.

The Peter Pan Collar

4. The Pointed Peter Pan Collar
Another reason why I am such a sucker for sewing books is learning the names of things. And then calling them by their names, dammit 🙂 This is such a pretty collar; did you know it was called a pointed peter pan? How do you call it?

The Pointed Peter Pan Collar

Hope this sounds at least 25% as exciting as it does to me and if not, well, I expect you to write about it in the comments section 🙂 I’d rather be told when I am boring than yap yap yap alone.

Sewing Course Lesson 2 – How To Make a Basic Bodice Block


Why a basic bodice block?

A basic bodice block that fits you like a glove is a precious pattern to have. This will be the starting point of many designs, from relaxed tank tops to dress up shirts and summer dresses.

You can create a basic bodice from a close-fitting commercial blouse or dress pattern, or you can draw your own, pencil and ruler in hand, based on your very own shapes and curves.

In this lesson I will be showing you what kind of measurements you need to take in order to make your basic bodice and in the third lesson I will compare a store-bought bodice pattern to the one that I draft for myself. This will show us the differences between a commercial pattern and a self drafted one.

But enough talking, off we go making sewing patterns.

1. Before we start

I will make a list of measurements you need to make for a basic bodice, in the order they are needed for drafting, I suggest you keep these numbers for future reference before adding or subtracting the ease inches.

All the info related to drafting the basic bodice block takes from Helen Joseph Armstrong’s Pattern Making for Fashion Design, a very complete pattern making book I recommend you get if you are serious about learning how to make your own sewing patterns. In my lesson I will keep the name of the measurements, but I will use my own illustrations, drafted using the explanations given in the book.

I am one of those people who need to draw or make to understand and I suggest you do the same.

Start with two pieces of basic printer paper, some coloured pencils, a ruler and an eraser. Get a cup of green tea and breathe deeply 🙂

2. Understanding your body and the measurements you will need to take

1. Center length or center front – from your collar-bone to the belly button

This is a nice video explaining how it’s done, if you have a bit of trouble with this measurement

2. Full length – from the side of your neck to your waistline

For measuring your waistline, check out this video

3. Shoulder slope – from the end of your shoulder to your bellybutton.

This video shows the back shoulder slope, but you get it 🙂

4. Bust depth or bust point – base of the neck to your nipple

5. Across the shoulder  – from your collar-bone to the end of your shoulder

6. Bust arc or under bust – measure over the fullness of your bust, 2 inches below your arms

7. Shoulder length – from the side of your neck to the end of your shoulder

8. Across the chest – measure over your nipple, exactly below the arm, from your your armpit to the center point of your chest.

9. Dart placement – from your bellybutton to your side waist divided by 2 (or the waist arc divided by 2)

10. New strap – from the beginning of your shoulder (close to the neck) across your bust to the side of your waist

11. Side length – from under the armpit to the side of your waist

12. Waist arc – from your bellybutton to the side of your waist

3. Drafting the front bodice

If you got this far, you should know you’re halfway there to drafting your one of a kind bodice pattern. It’s not easy work and you might need that second cup of tea, but it’s worth it, so keep reading 🙂

This section follows the instructions from Helen Joseph Armstrong’s Pattern Making for  Fashion Design only to break down the design even more, making it easier to draft and remember.


First draw a line AB corresponding to your full length + 1/8 inches (0.3 cm)


Then, draw a line AC, corresponding to your across the shoulder measurement and subtract 1/8 inches (0.3 cm) from it, then draw a 3 inches (7.6 cm) perpendicular line on C, downwards.

Mark the D point, where BD is your center front length.


Now draw a line BE, perpendicular on AB of a length equal to your bust arc + 1/4 inches (0.63 cm).


Draw a line perpendicular to E measuring 11 inches (28 cm).

Draw another line, BG intersecting with this perpendicular line your just drew measuring your shoulder slope  +1/8 inches (0.3 cm)


Draw a point H on your GB line. The distance between G and H is your bust point measurement.


Draw a line perpendicular to GB, touching CA in the point I (mark it). Make sure GI is the same size as your shoulder length.


From I draw a line on AB to meet D.


Mark point J in the middle of DB. From J draw a perpendicular line on AB and mark a point K on GB.


Mark a point L in the middle of DJ. Draw a perpendicular line on DJ from L, touching GB. This line should measure the same as across the chest point + 1/4 inches (0.6 cm). Mark the end point of this line M.


Mark a point F, dart placement, BF measuring as much as the distance from your bellybutton to the side of your waist divided by 2.

Draw a line IN measuring as much as your new strap + 1/8 inches (30 mm). N should touch EB outside the drawing and touch E a few inches above.


Draw NO, your side length. Draw a perpendicular on NI and mark a point P at 1/4 inches (65 mm) distance from N. Where the same perpendicular touches EB mark R.


Draw a line PQ, perpendicular on RK, measuring (waist arc + 1/4 inches (65mm)) minus BF.


Draw a point S 1/6 inches (1.5cm) downwards from K. Draw darts from S to F and S to Q.


Draw armhole touching points G, M and O. Draw neckline touching points I and D. Start erasing the lines your don’t need (the dotted one in the illustration) and what do you know, you have a front bodice. The challenge now is to make it look prettier than mine, which with real measurement is a sure bet 🙂


What about you? Have you ever made a basic bodice block? How do you draft it? Any tips?

A Free Barbie Dress Pattern

barbie doll in blue dress on colorful sofa

In two weeks time, my niece, the one who made me actually consider (end then actually do it) buying a Barbie doll and start re-learning how to sew doll clothes, is going to be two years old.

Happy Birthday to her!

Apparently she is too small to play with fashion dolls and her father tells me she might prefer cars and balls when she grows up – but we’ll see. I still have one year left to get pro at sewing doll clothes. I’ve posted some of my adventures, tips and patterns before, but I plan on sewing better clothes and posting more free patterns.

Until then, here’s a free_barbie_dress_pattern!

Here’s the dress again laid flat.

barbie blue and green summery clothes set

How to make a pair of fancy shorts – tutorial and free pattern


Remember these shorts that I made the other day? Want to make a pair? I bet you can do it in 3 hours today!

Below you’ll find the step by step tutorial. If you just want the pattern, just dowload the PDF here and print them normally on your printer. Connect them following the red, green and blue arrows. Keep in mind that the pattern is a size S and don’t forget to leave 2 cm sewing allowance.

Sorry for the low quality scan!

I strongly advise you to make a muslin first. You will see the fit and be able to correct it this way.

About the tutorial, if you never made a pair of shorts before, this is a good start. It’s not even necessary that you use my pattern. You can make your own pattern by using a pair of shorts that fit you loosely.

Last, but not least, if you fail, just have a drink and start again. And have fun!


First, cut your pattern, cut two backs (A in the pattern, drawn in red), 2 fronts (B and in blue in the pattern). When you cut, fold your fabric in two, good sides together and then cut. This will make it less likely that you end up with two left fronts 🙂

                    how to make a pair of shorts tutorial and free pattern 1

Now, measure your waist and divide it by four. Let’s say your waist is 66 cm/ 26 inches; cut two pieces of wide elastic of 16.5 cm/ 6.5 inches.

how to make a pair of shorts tutorial and free pattern2

Cut four pieces of fabric with the same 1/4 of your waist length +2 cm sewing allowance on each side.

how to make a pair of shorts tutorial and free pattern3

Now for the pleats, take the fabric from the first black arrow on the left and touch the marked spot. Pin. Do the same with the next arrow. The yellow arrow shows you how the pleat should look like after you’ve done this.

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Over that pin the interior of the pocket or C2 – the brown line – in the pattern. Sew.

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This is what you should have at this point. You can topstitch the edge of the pocket if you want.

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Now, after you’ve turned the fabric rectangles into 2 tubes, insert the elastic into the tubes and pin. Before sewing, tuck inside the margins of the tubes.

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Do this with both sides of the elastic. You should end up with a circular waist strap.

how to make a pair of shorts tutorial and free pattern 8

Now back to your pocket. On top of the back of what you just sewed, pin the hip part of your pants (or C1 in your pattern).

Note! In the picture it says A but, it should be B in your pattern, sorry!

how to make a pair of shorts tutorial and free pattern 9

Let’s check if this is what you have. Do we have pockets? : )

how to make a pair of shorts tutorial and free pattern 10

Now sew the center seam of your front.

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It should look something like this.

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And now sew the center seam of your back pieces.

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If your shorts look like this, you’re on the good track.

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Now, on top of that, good side down, place the backside of your shorts and sew the outside seams. Like this.

how to make a pair of shorts tutorial and free pattern 15

Now pin your waist strap to the edge of the pants.

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Then iron the leg openings, fold once inside and one more time and sew.

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You’re done! Go out and celebrate!

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Hope you liked the tutorial. If you have suggestions of how it could be improved, or questions you know where to find me.

Oh, and Happy New Year!

how to make a pair of shorts tutorial and free pattern action shorts how to make a pair of shorts tutorial and free pattern shorts in action