Archive of ‘Patternmaking’ category

Fitting a Moulage

drafting a moulage | Cloth Habit

When I’m really craving a learning challenge I like to try out a new patternmaking method. It’s so much fun pulling out rulers (or in my case, Illustrator) and giving my analytical side something to circle around for a little while.

For my latest challenge I tackled a pattern fitting project I’ve been wanting to try for a few years–a moulage!

What’s a moulage, you ask? The term literally means “molding” or “casting”, and its use in garment making has origins in French couture. Sometimes “moulage” refers to an actual pattern, a skin-hugging hip length bodice that is fitted precisely to a person’s body. Often it refers to the whole process of manipulating fabric on a dress form as a method of developing women’s patterns and designs—aka draping or draping on the stand.

The art of moulage at Christian Dior:

Now you all want to go out and take draping courses, right?

So let’s turn back to the moulage as pattern. My favorite vintage patternmaking book, Dress Design: Flat Patternmaking & Draping, calls the moulage a “French lining pattern”. I suspect that it became known as a moulage precisely because it was connected with dress form draping. Couture houses have a long tradition of creating personalized dress forms that represent their wealthiest or most regular clients, and to get there, a form would be padded out to “map” a client’s body, thus quickening fitting times.

My goal in drafting one is exactly that–I’d like to pad out an older dress form to better replicate my body.

The Pattern

Kenneth King moulage book | Cloth Habit

For my draft I pulled from my shelves Kenneth King’s book, The Moulage. He has been publishing this for several years as a CD book. Thankfully I printed it back when I first bought it because Macbooks no longer have CD slots!

If you are interested in other sources of moulage drafting, Suzy Furrer’s Craftsy course and her patternmaking book are places to learn. Her drafting method is nearly identical to Kenneth King’s; they learned from the same teacher and couturier. (The vintage book I mention above has a drafting method for a similar pattern but is not as thorough.)

In both Kenneth and Suzy’s methods, the moulage becomes a foundation for drafting a less fitted “sloper”, a bodice with a bit of ease, which then becomes the foundation for other garments. I don’t have a need for a bodice sloper, and if I didn’t already have one, there are other (easier) ways of drafting one without having to start with a moulage.

The Fitting

So how did mine turn out?

Drafting the moulage was actually the easy part. I had fun with it! The part that needs the most attention is measuring as it relies on a few really accurate points. Thankfully I had most of these measurements recently taken and just had to double check a few more.

fitting a moulage | Cloth Habit

This is my 2nd fitting. In my first try-on everything was surprisingly close but it all needed to be taken in at various points. Adjusting it all is actually fairly easy since there are so many seams. My pattern has 16 pieces in all, 8 in the front and 8 in the back.

With all these seams and lines it’s been helpful in seeing imbalances on my body. For instance my right shoulder is lower, which causes that diagonal wrinkle near the armpit and pushes a bit of excess fabric into the neckline:

fitting a moulage | Cloth Habit

And my right hip is slightly higher. You can see in these photos that after moving around a bit fabric tends to get hung up on my right hip. (The pants back is a photo from a fitting I did in the fall but illustrates the point!)

fitting a moulage | Cloth Habit

For these fittings, I used an inexpensive cotton twill that I found at Joann Fabrics. It was a perfect test fabric! Twill has a tighter weave than cotton muslin, which gives it a bit more shape and substance. (Muslin has a tendency to squish into the flesh a bit.) Any kind of tighter cotton woven, such as cotton twill or cotton drill, would fit more smoothly.

So where will I go from here? I’m going to tweak some of the remaining issues (a little too much length in back, uneven shoulder and hip), which means I’ll end up with separate right and left patterns. Might sound crazy to some, I know! If you happen to take the Craftsy course, students are often encouraged to move on to their slopers when they achieve “good enough”, since the moulage is just a starting point.

However, I’m going for as perfect as possible for my dress form. For my final version I’m using cotton coutil, a traditional corset fabric. It’s a an unusual choice for a dress form cover, but coutil has a really tight weave with a gorgeous smooth surface. I want a cover that will last a long time!

Have you ever tried a moulage? I’ll admit it’s kinda freaky looking at myself in a body envelope but I’m having so much fun with it!

Tees Galore

mariner tee | Cloth Habit

Nearly every year around the holiday season I tend to take on some big creative project. I think this has to do with my introvertedness; for every extroverted activity I need about twice the amount of introverted time to recuperate. There was the year I spontaneously decided to sew a red cashmere cape a mere three days before we left for Christmas travel. I seriously believed that even with all its hand-sewn lining, slip-stitched pockets and bound buttonholes I’d be able to finish in it time for actual Christmas day. Y’all, I’m not a fast sewer.

This year I got a wild hair to draft and make up a bunch of knit tops. I’ve actually been in need of some basics as part of my wardrobe curating plan, and while I’m not opposed to buying these basics it was about time I used up some of my knits.

First I cleaned up my basic fitted tee pattern so it was a little more form fitting. Finally I have something to layer under jackets and cardigans!

Basic Tees | Cloth Habit

I also made a white cotton knit version but already spilled coffee down the front… that’s fairly de rigeur with me and white clothing!

Then I cut a couple of basic tanks…

Basic Knit Tanks | Cloth Habit

For the tank on the left I used a very light metallic gold rayon jersey. I wish I could get a good photo of this because it’s very pretty. For that pattern I added some ease for a flared style since it’s going to be layered and I knew that a tissue weight knit wouldn’t look so hot in a fitted top.

Then I decided it was time to try something completely different, and give myself little bit of a challenge. I had a go at drafting a cowl neck tee, which I thought would work beautifully for this metallic striped jersey:

Cowl Neck Tee | Cloth Habit

I make an effort to line up stripes when cutting but almost never get them lined up with sleeves—this was an unintentional surprise!

Cowl Neck Tee | Cloth Habit

The reason why this stripe match worked has to do with the shape of the armscye. In some cowl neck alterations the front armscye can almost end up as a diagonal line, which can help with lining up stripes in the sleeve cap. I used this Threads tutorial for the alteration, where you can see how the armscye changes direction.

Since I was on the stripes bandwagon I cut into this luscious cotton knit that I saved up for a boxy mariner-style top. For this top I added about 4 inches of ease to my t-shirt pattern and drew in a wider neckline.

mariner tee | Cloth Habit

Oops, I forgot to cut a thread down there!

I did these all assembly-line style so that I was cutting everything, then serging, and finally hemming all the tops with my coverstitch at the end. And clearly I took the photos assembly line style, too! After all this I’m a little worn out on knits and I think my serger needs a trip to the spa. I’ve been working on shirts (I made an Archer!) and a new trouser pattern that I”m hoping to have done in January.

Have you ever made a bunch of similar garments at once?

Patterns: self drafted
Fabrics: cotton and rayon jerseys from my stash. All of them are a few years old except for the blue and white striped sweater knit from Emma One Sock (still available!)

Pattern Drafting With Illustrator

After my last post about pattern drafting I got so many great comments about the various programs you use, whether as a hobby or professionally. This subject definitely brings the patternmakers out of the woodwork! That makes me happy because I love patternmaking minds. I want to put you all in a room together so we can geek out on subjects like bone structure, sleeve caps, and pattern puzzles.

Today as promised I’d like to share a few of my favorite Illustrator tools for drafting patterns. Now just to warn you, I am not writing a tutorial on “how to draft in Illustrator”, nor am I trying to exhaust the subject. I’m also assuming that you are a hobbyist drafting for yourself. If you are interested in making sewing patterns for sale, there are many issues to consider and these are worthy of a tutorial series or course on their own. I’ve included some resources at bottom if this is your interest.

So let’s dig in…

Learning the Pen and Line Tools

If you are brand new to using vector software of any type, I recommend spending some time playing with the pen tool. This is the most basic tool and when drafting you’ll use it over and over again. You’ll also use the Line tool, which allows you to draw straight lines and transform them into curved ones later on.

When I first started using Illustrator I created documents and made a bunch of random shapes freehand with the pen. Play around with it until you get used to the motions with your mouse or trackpad.

Get to Know Anchor Points

Anchor points are little dots that “anchor” a line or curve into a particular spot. These points have handles that can be pulled out to create curves. The more anchors the more complex a curve can get.

Illustrator Drafting Tips | Cloth Habit

You can add anchor points to any line by clicking on the “Add Anchor” tool (the shortcut in Illustrator is the + key).

Measuring Lines

There are two ways I measure lines. The simplest is through the “Document Info” window.

For example, let’s say I want to measure an armscye. First I select the armscye line with the “Direct Selection” tool (shortcut: “A” key). Then I look in the Document Info window. If this is not visible, click on “Window > Show Document Info”.

Illustrator Drafting Tips | Cloth Habit

The Document Info window has an additional dropdown menu for “Objects”.

Illustrator Drafting Tips | Cloth Habit

When a line is selected, this information window will give you an exact measurement of your line down to fractions of inches, millimeters or centimeters.

The second tool I use for measuring lines is a plugin called Vector Scribe. Years ago this plugin was called SnapMeasure. It cost a mere $10 or so. Unfortunately another company bought it out, repackaged and amped the price but I’ve gotten so used to the tool that I had to bite the bullet once I upgraded Illustrator.

Vector Scribe allows you to measure segments of curves and lines, rather an an entire line. So for example, I can measure just the front part of a sleeve cap:

Illustrator Drafting Tips | Cloth Habit

(DWP means “Distance Within Points”, which is the actual curve measurement along that red line.)

This plugin makes tasks like walking and checking notch placements on my bra patterns so much easier!

Using Guides

Guides are non-printing lines that you can pull into your document. Most Adobe software use guides in some form and they are really helpful for lining pieces up, finding exact corners, or maintaining a control point.

In Illustrator, to pull a guide your rulers have to be visible and you simply click on the ruler and drag downward or inward and a guide appears:

For example, on this sleeve pattern, I pulled in guides to mark the bicep line and the shoulder notch position. I locked the guides (View > Guides > Lock Guides) so they would not move while I was drafting and moving the sleeve seams around.

Duplicating Objects and Layers

Now here is the real beauty of Illustrator—the ability to copy over and over without losing previous work. Illustrator uses layers just like Photoshop.

If I draft something in one layer but need to make an adjustment, I just duplicate the layer. I’ll make the adjustments on the new layer and then go back and make the original layer visible so I can view and assess the changes.


Unless you are lucky to have a wide-format printer or want to take your patterns to the copy shop, you’ll have to print tiled patterns and tape together just like any pdf sewing pattern! Here is the template I use for all my patterns:

Illustrator Drafting Tips | Cloth Habit

Illustrator has a feature called Artboards, which are hidden in the background and create printing boundaries. In my template I created a 7″x9″ printable rectangle for for every page, then an Artboard that covers each rectangle. Explaining Artboards would take up a post in itself so I’ll leave that to you to explore.

Seam Allowances

There are several methods of creating seam allowances. “Offset Path” is the easiest but all your paths have to be closed. Select your path, then go to Object > Path > Offset Path. Enter the seam you want in decimals:

Illustrator Drafting Tips | Cloth Habit

I also use a an Action that I made up to create bra seam allowances (very curvy seams need special seam allowance treament!). I’m not going to share it because honestly it is a totally hacky workaround and would take me too long to explain!

Further tips:

  • Keep your lines or strokes under 1 pt (point). I use .5 pt lines. Think of the difference between a sharp pencil and a sharpie marker—if you get thicker than 1 pt you are making your seam line almost a part of the seam allowance.
  • Use the text tool to write notes on your pattern with the date and any adjustments you make. I can’t tell you how many times I used to make multiple versions of a pattern and couldn’t remember which was the most recent! Now I have a practice of putting dates on everything.
  • Learn some shortcuts! There is a shortcut key for everything in Illustrator. The Pen Tool is P, Select Tool is A, and so on. When you start using one tool over and over there is a good chance it has a keyboard shortcut. You can actually make your own (go to Edit – Keyboard Shortcuts), and it will save you time from dragging your mouse over and over again.

Further Resources

(Please note: I am not affiliated with the courses nor have I taken them.)

Is there something you’d like to know how to do in Illustrator? I tried to think of the basics here, but if you have a question feel free to ask!

Drafting Patterns with Software

Pattern Drafting Software | Cloth Habit

If you’ve scooted around these parts for awhile you may have noticed that I like to make fancy-dancy illustrations for my tutorials. Most of the time, those illustrations are scaled down versions of actual patterns that I either drafted on my computer or scanned and then turned into a digital pattern.

Many readers have been interested in how I draft or what program I use to do those things, so I thought it’d be fun to open up the subject of pattern drafting software.

I use Adobe Illustrator, which is a vector program. I’ve been using Adobe software since the 90s and feel very comfortable with the tools in Illustrator so it was easy to teach myself how to draft in it.

Drafting in Illustrator | Cloth Habit

However, my ease with Illustrator did not make me a good patternmaker. Even if a computer or some online program automatically drafted a pattern after inputting your measurements, there is still the work of learning to to fit, learning what makes for a good pattern. Whether you like drafting old-school on a big piece of paper or in software, the end results can have the same greatness or the same mistakes depending on your skill or the method of drafting you use.

A pro for paper drafting: A drafter can view the pattern in “real life scale”.

Pros for computer drafting: The ability to copy, paste and repeat very quickly. (No more tracing pattern to make adjustments.) Lines and curves can be measured down to millimeters which makes tasks like walking a pattern and matches notches very quick and accurate.

So let’s talk about the types of software you can use for pattern drafting.


In the software industry, CAD is short for “computer aided design”. CAD is a type of modeling software that is used in many fields including architecture design, interior design, 3D modeling and pattern drafting.

Adobe Illustrator and other vector drawing programs are not technically “CAD”, although some like to call it that, short for “computer aided drawing”. If you have ever tried to import a CAD drawing into a vector program or vice versa, you know the chaos that ensues! They are two totally different languages with different purposes.

Three Types of Software Tools

Among options for pattern drafting software, I’d boil them down to three types:

1. CAD-based software for the fashion industry.
There are many different companies making professional pattern software. The biggies are Gerber, Lectra and Optitex. These are all based on CAD technology, very specialized, and cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

2. Scaled down CAD software for home sewists or custom clothing makers.
Software of this nature is based on CAD technology but has less options in order to make it more affordable.

A few programs of this type:
Wild Ginger PatternMaster
Telestia Creator

Some of these programs work by measurement input. You put in measurements, it forms the pattern blocks for you. Others offer full-fledged tools to draft from the ground up. Some of them include additional “style libraries” to add on to your blocks. The market for these kind of programs varies from home sewists to custom apparel and smaller garment companies.

One very important caveat about all of the CAD-based programs: they are based on Windows and only run on a Mac when you own a copy of Windows and run it through Bootcamp or an emulator. (Both of which really slow down my computer…)

3. Vector drawing software.
While vector software is not created specifically for drafting, it is a wonderful tool that puts a highly accurate ruler and pen in your hand. With this kind of software, you draw the patterns as you wish. There are a lot of little tools within a vector program that speed up the process over paper drafting.

The main options:
Adobe Illustrator
Inkscape (free)

Another option: Adobe just released Illustrator Draw, a free iPad version of Illustrator. It used to be called “Adobe Ideas”, which I used quite a bit last year. It’s actually pretty sweet and has all the important tools you need for drawing. I drafted a pair of pants on it!

Despite its cost I keep using Adobe Illustrator since I am so familiar with how it works and have collected a lot of plugins over the years that increase its functionality. I’ll admit that I was never attracted to the CAD-based programs because I’m such a Mac girl.

In my next patternmaking post, I’ll explore some different ways you can use Illustrator (or any vector program) to draft patterns, along with some of my favorite tricks.

Have you tried using a patternmaking program? And if so, do you feel comfortable working in it? I’d love to hear what others use.

Bra Making: Fitting a Strapless Bra

Fitting Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

A few weeks ago I reunited with my Juki, the machine I busted sewing in belt loops five months ago! It turns out there is one person in the whole country that can fix the gear I broke and he’s a very busy guy. I have an older Bernina on which I can sew lingerie and all its requisite zig-zags but the Juki is still my love, probably because it is the machine with which I’ve had the most daily relationship. We talk shorthand with each other, ya know? I missed it so much that I brought it home instead of the studio and have been on an elastic sewing marathon ever since.

Fitting Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

I’ve been finishing up some lingerie sets this week but in the midst had a chance to work on my strapless pattern. I’m taking my time with it because I want it to be right. Which meant sewing up a few tester bras…

Fitting Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

Truthfully, I’ve grown quite fond of sewing up bra muslins. It’s kind of an excuse to relax a little bit, and even practice a few techniques without worrying about things going wrong. And as you can see, a bra muslin doesn’t have to be all that jazz. I use scraps, and make sure to use the same band fabric I plan to use in the bra. I used to leave out the elastic but these days I always put it in because it changes the fit. Here I stitched it in the spot I want it to be, but without folding it under, and that is all you need for a quick test:

Fitting Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

Anyway, after three fittings I’m feeling very happy with how it all fits and stays up. I drafted this from the bottom up, since I have gone up a cup size and it was time to do some refitting. I’m also testing my own method for drafting and grading bras, so anything that gives me an excuse to practice is a good thing.

The 3-piece cups are a pretty typical pattern for strapless and bustier-type bras and very similar to the bra I made in my foam cup tutorial. They have a top piece and a split lower cup. At first my cup was quite tall, as I was playing around with a longer wire. In the end I felt much more comfortable with a wire that had a bit of a regular length in front. The band is a little bit longer than a typical bra band and this is what took a couple of fittings to get right. I might share more about band adjustments in another post; perhaps they’d be useful for others wanting to adapt a regular band to a strapless one!

So that’s all for today. I’m off to collect materials–the fun part! I’ve got boning and some great satin lycra and want to dye a few things so it will all pull together, including a little bit of this lovely lace.

Fitting Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

Happy weekend!

Bra Making: Designing a Strapless Bra

Hello all! So I have been a little quiet here on the blog and elsewhere online, but I’m working on some really fun projects, which include lingerie patterns and even a mini collection of handmade pieces. I have a hard time stopping mid-process to write about it, but promise I’ll give a sneak peak soon. First let’s dive into my obsession du jour:


As you have probably picked up from my previous hints and attempts at a bustier, I’ve been working my way towards fitting a strapless bra this summer. I needed one like yesterday! They aren’t just for formal occasions but super functional in my climate–under summer tops with narrow straps or bare shoulders, which I’m wearing almost daily now. I’ve never found one that fits me properly, but in all fairness they harder to fit. I knew this would be a fun project to engineer. I’m not going to write any tutorials for this but thought y’all might like to follow along as I design one for myself!

First I made a list of what I don’t like about the ones I’ve owned:

  • The wires often poke too much under my arms. (RTW strapless wires are usually higher and often stronger than regular wires, and don’t splay as much.)
  • If the cup fits, the wires are often too narrow, resulting in more poking.
  • The bottom of the cup often collapses because the band won’t stay up where it needs to be. I looked inside every one of my strapless bras and they all had this little flat folded spot in the foam at the bottom of the cup. This could be the result of the wires being too narrow for me, but the most likely culprit is the band not holding the bra up enough.

To get some strapless ideas, I had a look through some of my favorite online shops. And I’d basically boil them all down to two types: the no-holds-barred structured torsolette with boning, corset-type seams, and firm powernet fabrics (examples: one, two, three). Or 2. The seamless “everyday” kind with molded cups and one piece of fabric that covers the entire outside of the bra for a smooth look (examples: the popular Fantasie Smoothing bra). There is a rare breed in between, with cut-and-sew cups and retro-inspired design. These tend to be my favorites! I’ve pinned a few of these to my Lingerie Design board if you want some ideas.

Next I drew out some ideas on my handy-dandy bra template. I drew this up so I could think quickly through bra designs and future patterns.

Planning a Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

Kitty bomb!

I think I am going to go with a 3-piece cup. A two-piece vertically-seamed cup could work but it is harder to fit in a taller cup with more coverage. The taller the cup the more contouring it needs along the neckline, especially if it is strapless. Perhaps in a future post I’ll explain how that works!

Planning a Strapless Bra | Cloth Habit

Then I need to figure out the band. This is really the crucial part. A lot of strapless bras have such narrow bands of lightweight fabric, and rely too much on gripper elastic to hold it in place, like the bra in the above photo. (My current and very ill-fitting strapless.)

Finally, I need to do some overall re-fitting due to size changes, and try different wire lengths. Normally I cut my wires down to something much shorter than a full cup wire. I like them short in front and at the sides, but I’m not sure my usual short cups will work so well in a strapless. I’ll get to work on the fitting this weekend and report back on what I came up with. Stay tuned!

Blue Jeans Baby


Hello, hello! Hello, November and goodbye to my favorite month of the year. Am I in the minority in that I love autumn? I can finally spend blissful hours in my garden without sweating or getting attacked by mosquitoes. But it’s more than the weather; I love the transitions, slowness and more contemplative emotions of fall. It’s also the time of my birthday, so I was born for it.

So this is what became of my jeans project. Since my last post about these, I took a long & scenic route to fitting. I’d take them apart, re-cut and stitch them back together, preen in front of the mirror, pin out here and there, take them apart again, then take a few days off and distract myself with a fun dyeing project so I didn’t get overwhelmed. Wash, rinse, repeat.


I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what’s going on with this outfit. I have had one of those months where I feel like throwing my clothes out and starting all over. It doesn’t help that most of my winter clothes are in our attic, stored from our move this spring. What I really wanted to do was roll up the jeans and wear a long tunic–a favorite style of mine–but then you wouldn’t get the all-important booty shot!


This month I’ve been working on a lot of pattern drafting projects. These kinds of projects are slow and full of learning, and really excite me, because they involve learning the fundamentals of fit and not just fixing symptoms. So while fitting these jeans, I went down some very fascinating rabbit holes reading about pant design. I read online and off, including stuff from arcane men’s drafting journals.

One of my very scenic side roads involved watching the videos in my long-ago purchased Craftsy Jeanius course, and then spending an evening making a pattern from one of my favorite pairs of wide-legged jeans. They are a totally different style than what I’m working on but the resulting pattern was very educational! (The front leg of this pattern was so much narrower than the back, for instance, while almost every draft I’ve seen makes front and back nearly equal.) I still plan to make up the pattern I got from my jeans, but that will have to wait for another rainy day. If you have been frustrated with jeans patterns, but already have a pair that you love, I’d recommend trying this class as one way to start.

So I left this project with a head full of fitting ideas, but for now this is how far I got. I love some things and am bothered by others, which I will fix the next go-around. Because of all my unpicking, recutting and re-stitching until I had just a shred of a seam allowance left in some parts. The waistband and fly are attached by something like 1/8″, and I couldn’t fit a fly that covers the zipper. Don’t tell the jeans that, because they seem to be holding up just fine! Unfortunately, I also had no length left for hemming so had to settle on an odd ankle length.

The scenic route was totally worth it! Drafting my own was worth it. I’m not sure I had a clear idea of the style I was after, hence the scenic route, but the process got me a lot closer to learning about my fit, and I ended up with a couple of potential patterns which won’t require starting a major fit process all over again. Win win!

Alrighty, who hasn’t tried jeans yet?

Pattern: self-drafted (starting with Bunka Pants & Skirts, with details like the yoke and pockets copied from other jeans)
Stretch denim: Gorgeous Fabrics, but at least five years old!
Pocketing: B. Black & Sons
Rivets & Button: Cast Bullet

In Process: Jeans Fitting

I spent a good rainy indoorsy Sunday sewing up and fitting my jeans.

Just for a good laugh, here’s version 1.0:


What is going on with that waistband? you might wonder. It’s a cautionary tale about pattern drafting. I know that I should always measure twice, double-check my calculations. In this case, I drafted the waistline in metric but accidentally added ease in imperial, about three inches too much! Oops. I like to draft in metric as it’s more precise–it’s also what my pattern book used–but I think in imperial. It’s sort of like learning a language; I’m not quite at the point where I dream in metric, so I switch back and forth with my rulers to “translate”.

I took apart my pieces and cut out a version 2.0 with a completely new pattern adjusted to zero ease with a little bit of negative ease in some parts, including the waist. On my first pattern I drafted the hip and thighs with about 2.5cm total ease, which is a really small amount for a non-stretch woven, but this denim has 35% stretch–and it fit like it had almost 10cm of ease. So rather than take in adjustments willy-nilly here and there and everywhere, I figured it was easier to recut.

On version 2.0, some things improved and others seemed to get worse…


There’s some excess here and there, especially around the seat and the front crotch length. Ahh, that dreaded crotch fit. I have fit this area before with success in pants and shorts, but working with stretch fabric is a different beast. And jeans curves are shaped very differently than other pants. If you have ever examined your RTW jeans you might have noticed that the front fork is often much shorter and the curve is flatter than you think it’s going to be. Really slim stretch jeans and pants often have the inseams and outseams closer to the front around the seat/crotch area than trousers. This could have been my first problem–I used a slim trouser draft that wasn’t specifically for jeans.

But thinking about the differences gave me an idea I want to try but it will have to wait until next weekend.

The glorious mess…


At the bottom is Leo. He snuck in this room overnight and did some kind of happy claw dance on my fabric, which left snags I had to cut around. I think he’s plotting his next move.

So jeans 3.0 will have to wait but at least I got to play with topstitching! (Thanks to readers who suggested that I use regular thread in the bobbin. That really helped.)


The J Word

Look ma, I’m making jeans!

jeans cutting

It’s taken me awhile to jump into jeans sewing. Now and then I’d see a cute pair on a sewing blog and get the warm fuzzies. They’d send me hunting for some dream denim, of which I have now accumulated a few yards. And I blame those fuzzies for seducing me into buying Colette’s Clover (to transform into slim fits–I blame Sallie!) and the famous Jalie jeans pattern (I blame the rest of the sewing universe!). I even signed up for Kenneth King’s jeans knock-off course on Craftsy. Inevitably the warm fuzzies wear off, and I swear up and down that jeans are just not something I want to make. I still like to buy them and love trying out different styles and cuts. High waisted, yes please. High waisted and wide-legged, double yes. Straight and slim, colored, waxed and trouser-style jeans are all in my wardrobe.

So obviously I’m having a change of heart again. Here’s what really sealed the deal: We just got back from a week in San Francisco, during which I landed on a massive denim sale at Discount Fabrics in the Mission. $3.50 PER YARD. That’s insane for beautiful Japanese selvage, designer stretch denim, in every weight and color of blue and black. Thank goodness I didn’t have an extra suitcase.

And honestly, drafting my own jeans, rather than using an existing pattern, would keep me interested, plus teach me a thing or two about fit and style lines. I had a couple of options for that:


One was a “classic jeans” draft from Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting. The other was a close-fitting trouser from Bunka’s Skirts & Pants. They’re fairly similar but I liked some of the finer points of the Bunka draft. It also includes better explanations of ease and shaping, and how they relate to different pants styles. All the Aldrich books tend toward a “just the facts, ma’am” sort of drafting style.


Skirts & Pants is a part of a 5-book pattern drafting series published by Bunka Fashion College in Tokyo. You might recognize the name as the original publisher of the Pattern Magic books, and it seems like most of the Japanese sewing authors (Drape Drape, etc.) teach or were educated there. A veritable hotbed of pattern drafting goodness! I bought the whole series a couple of years ago but have never gotten around to using them till now. They’re unique books in that they are more than just drafting books. Each drafting section includes actual sewing instruction (great illustrations) and fitting ideas. They’re really holistic for a self-taught drafter.

So I spent a weekend in and out of the patternmaking zone and came up with this:


I played around till I came up with a basic slim-cut jean, narrowish around the thighs but straight to the floor from the knee. This is one of my favorite styles for every day. Just as a side note, one of my biggest frustrations with just about every pants draft I’ve come across–and I have a serious patternmaking book addiction–is the drafting of the center back, and how to angle it depending on style. The Bunka method is better about this, although I still like the backs of pants even higher, so I fudged around till I got the back length I wanted.

I already know I’m going to have to tweak the yoke shaping but I’m looking forward to sewing them up this weekend! I’m going to make a trial pair, sans pockets, out of this space ranger denim I bought about five years ago. It’s really shiny and metallic on the reverse, and not my favoritest color in the universe. I don’t know what I was thinking at the time–I blame half my fabric stash on the warm fuzzies!


Lingerie Friday: The Frameless Bra


I love fashion etymology. My friends have been getting an earful education in lingerie definitions–things like nursing sling, cookie (you know, that insertable floating foam thing in bra cups), and longline. The distinction between a tanga, a boyshort, or a cheeky. (For example, the Ladyshorts pattern is drafted in a style of cheeky.)

Outside of poetic retail descriptions that often lump really different styles under the same terms, there are many distinct cuts and styles in underwear. In the first chapter of Bra-makers Manual II, Beverly Johnson reminds her readers that there really aren’t any standard naming conventions–in lingerie or in any apparel category. “The more a bra style evolves,” she writes, “the more specific its definition becomes.” She uses the example of padded bras, which twenty years ago referred to any bra with any kind of foam or fiberfill lining, but are now a distinctive (extra-padded) idea in the sea of foam-lined bras.

Among underwired bras, one could at least divide them into two main types: those with a frame and those without. The frameless bra is sometimes known in sewing as a “partial band bra”.


In frameless bras, the underwire and its casing are sewn into the cups, since there is no frame or cradle running under the cups. The wings and bridge have to be completely finished before sewing them into the cup. The cup seams are different than a framed bra, since there needs to be enough room for the wire to go into the cup. One of my patternmaking books calls it the “hook-up bra”, which I’m guessing means that the wings and bridge are “hooked up” to the cup?

I never really noticed the difference between the two types before I started making bras. When I looked through my older purchased bras, nearly all of them were frameless. So by default, that’s what I made for my first-ever bra. Since then I’ve veered into all kinds of new styles. I just love longlines, and that you can’t do with a frameless bra.

There are pros and cons for each. I find that the frameless bra is just a bit easier to sew, but it is also harder to modify into new styles. I tend to put more plusses under the frame bra since it can be a foundation for all sorts of other styles (bodysuits, longlines, strapless). On a frameless bra, there is a limit to how wide the band can be which is a con especially for larger cup sizes. A too-narrow band wouldn’t put enough balancing force in the back, causing the front to drop down. I have been thinking of the band as a lever. Wearing it more tightly is one solution but then there is the potential for pinched skin and pushing the elastic–and fabric stretch–to its limits. Then the straps want to absorb some of the pressure. All that to say, a wider band can alleviate strap pain, pinching, and help with a little smoothing.

But I still dig the frameless style, so I had a go at designing one of my own.


Last summer I spied a cute little leopard bra in one of my favorite lingerie shops and wrote it down on my “project idea list”. Oh that long wishlist. The muse did strike eventually, when I found the right fabric, an unusual jacquard mesh. I made the knickers right away but kept them neatly folded in a sewing drawer until I could get around to a matching bra. I’m just that particular about finishing. My studio is happily strewn with bits of lace lying about like lines of half-started poems. I also have notebooks full of just lines, phrases I hear right in that half-dream state when I’m about to fall asleep.

I’m so glad I experimented with this pattern. I drafted the cup with a single dart and used a plunge wire for a demi style. It’s the shortest cup I’ve made so far, but I really love how it fits and it has turned out to be a good style for me. The undies are a simple high-waisted knicker (the same pattern from which I based my bodysuit).


Now how did I end up putting levers, red leopard and poetry in the same blog post?

Patterns: self-drafted
Main Fabric: leopard mesh from Etsy
Lining Fabrics:stretch mesh and sheer tricot lining, Fabric Depot Co.
Plush and strap elastics: Fabric Depot Co., a few from stash
Elastic and Lining Dye: Rit “Scarlet”

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