Self-drafted retro top

retro check top

A couple of months ago, I signed up for a local adult education course to learn how to draft a bodice. The need for a go-to-template is great now. My need to save hours in a day is bigger than ever and so the idea is, that if I have a master block, I won’t have to keep reinventing the wheel, each and every time by having to make alterations to a preprinted bodice pattern. I would also very much like to realise some of these gazillion designs floating around my head and create them for other people too.

The course was cheap. Just £85 for four Saturdays, 10-3. And the teacher was lovely. There were 5 other students at first class and 3 at the last. So we pretty much had one to one teaching for the last session. pattern-drafting tools

To begin, we were instructed to pick a set of body measurements from a table of standardised sizes, that matched closest to our own body measurements. My first furrowing of brow. The whole point of me wanting a custom fit is that I don’t fit standard. Even my shoulders dropped an inch with that first instruction! As is usual for me I just kept shtum. But someone else in the class just couldn’t, and with gusto unabashed, questioned the task out loud! Hoorah for the confident ones!

The teacher assured us it was easier and quicker to go from a standard set of measurements whereby most of the calculations were done already and then make alterations to fit, afterwards.

And so I did as was asked. But the confident one did not! She used her own measurements and although, indeed I finished drafting first, she had a better fitting first toile. Funny, that!

But, with fear of the wind changing, I relaxed my jealous scowl and approached the teacher with questions on how to fit this bodice… that really didn’t fit at all!

She drew on me with red pen. The neckline needed to be made deeper. The side seams taken in; the bust point needed to be moved; the fullness taken out of the bust; the back bodice needed shortening; and the shoulders were too long. Mmmmm…..!

first bodice muslin

OK. Not a problem. In fact quite a few extra lessons in alterations were absorbed in the process so I didn’t feel too robbed.

I made the above adustments and sewed another toile. A better fit but it still needed changes. A third toile and although I knew it still wasn’t perfect. I was determined to draft my actual top and make it before the end of the course. I thought it would be useful to have the teacher hold my way throughout the process. And it was.

I ended up with a completely wearable top. She helped me to draft the collar and showed me how to create the facings. I based the design on a pattern I already owned. Did I just state a distain for reinventing wheels?! There is a method in my madness. I want to be able to create things that I see in pictures, everywhere, armed with a knowledge base of skills to custom fit, rather than have to have a standardised pattern that doesn’t ever fit. And of course this top is a great vintage design and I love it!

self-drafted retro-style top

But there are issues. The underbust is too big and it doesn’t feel perfect enough. In fact it’s true to say that it’s too big all over.

back view of top


The material was a cheap soft cotton with quite a loose weave so that probably didn’t help my fitting issues either. But it is comfy!

I added the zipper at the side, in true vintage stylee and owing to the bias cut funnel-like collar that rolls over the back. I also added a shaped extension to the waistline so that I can tuck it in without bulgy lumps round my middle. I usually wear it tucked in with a wide belt but I wanted to show it in full for the post. I’m quite happy with it hanging out too!

retro check top full length

self-drafted top side view

I made another one up last night, with some alterations. I took a little out of the side seam allowance and made the waist darts more concave at the point. There wasn’t much improvement to be honest. In effect I made the best of a bad job and went to bed in a huff!

I am irritated that with all of the alterations that were made in order that this bodice fits, the pattern pieces are really irregularly shaped now. And owing to the massive darts that were removed horizontally from the back pieces (to reduce the excess fabric), I won’t ever be able to pattern match across the back 🙁

There is no way I am going to be beat though. With renewed vigour, I got up early this morning to draft another from scratch. I used my real body measurements along with some armhole standards, and low and behold it was a pretty close match. I just have to make a couple of small amendments. The armhole gapes at the front and there is a bit too much excess over the bust and so I have cut and closed a dart at the armhole on the pattern, to reduce the gape. The mid-armhole at the back gapes a little too, and I have smoothed the excess up to the shoulder, and remarked the shoulder seam to both front and back pieces.

And best of all, with this new draft I get to have a perfectly straight back seam so I can have a continued pattern across the back if I so please, yay!

Wow! this really is a learning curve.

Hope to share some more new Ooobop designs soon. Ones that actually fit! So come back soon and in the meantime, don’t forget to enter the Giveaway if you haven’t done already. Only 3 days to go!


PS. All credit to Mr O, of course, for the lovely photos and a lovely day out with the children on the Southbank


Happy birthday Mr Ooobop!

dans pyjamas

Rocking up, fashionably late for Karen’s pyjama party but with good reason. This pair of pjs was one of Mr Ooobop’s birthday pressies and couldn’t be properly revealed until yesterday.

I sewed them in secret and so I was over the moon when they were so gratefully received! This was my first sewalong and my first pair of pjs… and my first time using a side-cutter!

ooobop pjs

Karen did a great job of providing a stress-free and leisurely sewalong. Just the ticket for someone who, like me, has taken on far too much recently… but who can’t resist an extra sewing project! And hey… it helped to solve what to buy the most-difficult-to-buy-for boyf, for his birthday.

I started the project armed with lots of tracing paper and an old pair of pjs from ‘Marks Expensives’, intending to draw round them and create my own pattern but this proved to be trickier than I thought so I headed to Jaycotts sewing patterns for an easier option. I don’t know if you’ve ever checked out the envelopes in the general nightwear section but there are some hilarious options even ones that include doggie loungewear!

Anyhows I narrowed the selection down to these two:

Simplicity S2317
simplicity s9871
Simplicity S9871

I set out to use Simplicity S9871 but when I realised how big that one pattern piece was, I changed my mind! My kitchen table just wasn’t big enough! So I decided on Simplicity S2317 instead, only real difference being, it had front and back leg, with side seams. But what I did like about S9871 was the drawstring feature. It just involved adding a couple of vertical buttonholes at the front, before making the casing. The drawstring was threaded through after the elastic. Turning a 1cm wide tube of 66 inch fabric inside out, I’m sure took longer than making the pjs themselves!

ooobop pjs

I used a lovely brushed cotton shirting fabric, cream with red and navy checks. It feels so lovely and reminds me of my bedsheets when I was little! It sewed up beautifully. I enjoyed using my side cutter foot for this project. It acts like a serger and cuts 1cm of fabric as it ‘overlocks’…genius! The only not-genius thing about it was unpicking an overlocked seam when I realised I’d sewed wrong sides together, doh! Wont be making that mistake again!