Choosing the right pattern size

Saturday, January 14th, 2017

Sticking with the commercial pattern theme, I thought I’d share some tips on choosing the right size for you. This topic tends to confuse because many think that if they’re a size 12 in the shops, they’ll need a size 12 pattern. But it doesn’t work like that. It’s all in the measurements. Before buying a pattern, take all your measurements and compare these to the pattern measurements, which should be on the packet. You’ll probably find that you need a size or two up from your normal size – but don’t despair, you haven’t put weight on, it’s just different that’s all. Then choose the size nearest to your measurements.

However few of us have a standard figure, so there are often discrepancies between the pattern measurement and ours. Depending on the pattern, it’s best to choose the size that corresponds to the most important area of fit.

  • For a dress or jacket, choose the pattern nearest to your bust size and adjust the other measurements to fit if need be
  • For skirts and trousers it’s the hip measurement that’s important so choose a size that matches your hips and adjust the waist to fit
  • If you choose a pattern which has several different garments in the one packet (skirt, top and dress for instance) it’s best to select the size that corresponds to your bust measurement and adjust all the rest if needed. If there’s a large difference or you don’t feel confident adjusting the pattern to fit, buy two sizes of the same pattern and mix and match the pieces until you get the closest fit for you. Most patterns these days though come in multi-sized options all within the one packet, which makes life so much easier as you can use whichever size you need for the different ares of the body.
  • Take note of the description on the packet. For instance a blouse may be loose fit, very loose fit or fitted. If you don’t want it too fitted, choose a size up. Or a size down if you don’t want it too loose.



Beginners guide to using commercial dressmaking patterns

Monday, November 14th, 2016

When you first start using patterns it may seem a little confusing, but like everything, the more experience you get the easier it will become – but you have to start somewhere, so find a pattern marked ‘easy’ or ‘great for beginners’ and get stuck in. Here I’ve given a bit of insight into what you can expect.

Commercial patterns tend to have three main parts – the envelope, the instructions and the pattern tissue or paper.

The envelope contains a raft of information including the pattern number and photos or illustrations of the garment and the different variations available (usually called views) – all of which are included in the one pattern.

The pattern envelope

The back of the envelope contains all the information you need to prepare for you project and should be studied before you buy any fabric. You’ll find the following on the back:

Suggested fabric:

This will tell you what the designer recommends you use and also gives advice on plaids, stripes and napped fabrics. There tends to be a number of options so you can choose something that suits your style or needs.

Fabric quantity chart:

This tells you how much fabric to buy, based on the width of the fabric and the size you’re going to make. It will also tell you what lining and interfacing you require and how much. Ask for help from the shop assistant if you’re unsure.

Notions required:

These are the buttons, ribbons, bias binding and anything else you need to complete the garment.

Finished garment measurements:

This section tells you the measurements of the garment at various points – hipline, bust etc. once the garment is finished, If this isn’t included on the envelope or pattern instructions, it will be on the pattern tissue instead. Make sure you’ve measured yourself before you buy then you can buy the right pattern for your size.

Inside the pattern envelope

The instructions will contain illustrations or drawings of all views and also pattern piece diagrams to show you what pieces you need and what they look like. Each piece is numbered and it will tell you what numbers you’ll use for the particular garment you’re making.

You will also have diagrams of the cutting layout – how to place the pattern pieces on the material – this helps get all them all on in the most fabric economical way.

On each pattern piece you’ll see instructions on how many of each piece you need and whether you also need that particular piece cutting out of interfacing or lining as well as the main fabric.

You will find all the information you need on how to make your garment on the instruction sheets – glossary of terms, list of pattern pieces, measurements, and of course step-by-step guides to making the garment. Many patterns also have sewalongs online and the information for these will also be on the instruction.

 If in doubt, take the pattern into your local shop as the assistants will be more than happy to help – at Sassy Sewing we’ll give you all the help and advice you need.




Book Review – The Great British Sewing Bee From Stitch to Style

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

So it’s been a while since The Great British Sewing Bee finished and what a great series it was. I secretly wanted Jade to win as I thought she had a lot of talent for one so young and had the sort of potential that winning could have helped her tap into. Hopefully she’s heading for greater things anyway.

I’ve been having withdrawal symptoms since the final so to re-live some of The Bee I’ve been having a better look through the accompanying book – From Stitch to Style.

It’s a really comprehensive book with a whopping 27 patterns in total. There are a handful of men’s and children’s patterns but most are for the ladies. Full price for this book is £25 but at Sassy Sewing we have it for £14.99 – which is a bargain if you think how much regular sewing patterns cost.

There is the obligatory introduction section covering sewing kit essentials, sewing machine basics, choosing a size, using the patterns, some common fit alterations, and popular sewing terms and hand stitching too.

To cover the ‘style’ part of the title there is a summary of common body shapes and tips on what styles would suit you best.

Then the book splits into three sections – Foundation, Inspiration and Exploration and all the patterns fall into one of these.

As part of the instructions of each project there is core skills section, which goes into more detail, so it’s great for the novice dressmaker and if you’re more advanced it makes it easy to skip the bits you don’t need.

The patterns are full size and come in a separate pack. You’ll need to trace off your size as the pattern pieces are overlapped and printed on both sides. It can be a bit tricky to find the sheets you need as they aren’t labelled when you slide them out the pack. But all in all this is a minor irritation.

My favourite pattern from the book is the asymmetric skirt (or Japanese Bunka) which featured on the show. It’s an interesting shape and goes together a bit like a jigsaw puzzle. You may remember that the contestants struggled with it a bit as it does take some thinking about – and of course they were against the clock, which doesn’t help matters much.

If you want a book that has some really good instruction and tips and also provides inspiration and lots of patterns, then I’d recommend you get your hand on this – it certainly ticks all the boxes.





Sewing the Tilly and the Buttons Orla

Monday, April 4th, 2016

I love Tilly and the Buttons’ patterns. Inspiring designs, clear and easy to follow instructions and more help online if you need it. What’s not to like as they say.

So I was very excited to get started on my Tilly and the Buttons Orla shirt. Well I call it a shirt but it’s in fact a top, which can either be long or short sleeved and made with or without a snowdrop collar. I went for the long sleeved version and the collar too in a plain brown viscose as I wanted something to showcase some of the subtle design features, which I’m not sure a patterned fabric would do quite so well. This top suits fabrics that drape nicely so cotton lawn or silk or crepe-backed satin would have done a good job too.

This is a semi-fitted top with curved French darts at the front for shape and shoulder darts at the back to give a good fit. I really like the little pleat at the shoulders. The hemline is gently curved and finished with a facing, a technique I don’t tend to use too often so I was keen to see how this one worked out.

Tilly’s patterns aren’t sized in the regular way – instead she has sizes one to eight so it’s imperative that you measure yourself carefully to choose the right one. Get some help with this if you can cos measuring yourself accurately isn’t always the easiest thing to do. She makes it very clear what size will fit which measurements so don’t be worried about this. If your measurements land between sizes always go for the bigger one.

Out of all the Tilly patterns I’ve used so far (which I think is them all now) I would say, for inexperienced sewists, this one could possibly be the most challenging. I’m not saying it’s overly hard because it’s not. But it just has more techniques to get to grips with. I think the two things that need a bit of experience to complete are the collar and the exposed zip. The collar needs a bit of precision sewing to get the curves equal (drawing in the sewing line will help with this) and the technique used for the exposed zip is possibly one that could be a little tricky for some. When I make this again I’ll probably try a different way to do the zip. The facing on the hemline gives a nice finish but I’m not sure it works as well as it could on the viscose as I think it just makes the hem a little more visible when wearing it. Also I chose not to draw the sewing line for the collar and consequently, it’s not quite right. I have to admit to sewing this is a hurry too, so it’s not my best make – sorry Tilly! Must try harder.

I would highly recommend trying this pattern and it’s such a versatile garment. If you’re not massively experienced, just take your time and read the instructions carefully. As always, Tilly has online instructions too so head to her website if you need a little bit of extra help.

I’m looking forward to making another – going to try patterned lightweight cotton this time and might even try one of these fancy zips too (see pic). They look pretty and are easy to sew as they sit on the outside of the garment – a different kind of exposed zip.

Have fun everyone.




Love vintage? You’ll love these patterns

Sunday, March 13th, 2016

If you, like us seem to be spending more and more time in vintage shops, then you, like us, probably also spend more and more time wondering how the heck all those strapping 50s housewives ever managed to get into those teeny, tiny dresses. Half my wardrobe is taken up with beautiful things that I’ll be ‘slimming into’ any day now.

Mr Sassy points out that the answer back then was probably some tortuous girdle and strong medication. He’s probably right and, even if they still sold them (the girdles that is), you’ll never get me into one.
Thankfully, we have a solution. These cool new patterns from an artisan English designer on the south coast blend vintage style with modern sizes. Sew La-di-da is a new company making some gorgeous designs and the patterns themselves are works of art. Beautifully packaged, substantially made (so they’ll last for ages) and there’s a selection of lovely garments to choose from.
We’ve just had our first batch come in along with some lovely new retro-style fabrics. I doubt they’ll be here too long. We have five different designs to choose from and each are £16.50p. Pictures of two of the designs below. Divine!



Our pattern drafting workshop

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Last Sunday at Sassy Sewing, a gaggle of keen sewists and instructor, fashion designer and seamstress Kate Pinfold huddled over calculators, paper, rulers, measuring tapes, calico and a whole host of other essentials. This weekend we were pattern drafting for a woman’s shirt. Pattern drafting is the art of making a pattern from your own measurements – so it’s as good a fit as a pattern can ever be. Once you’ve got your basic pattern, you can then go on to design whatever shirt you want – even a Vivien Westwood copy if that’s your thing. It’s very addictive because it’s just so fabulous being able to design something from scratch. Now I love commercial patterns too, don’t get me wrong but pattern drafting is so exciting. Your design may start out as one idea, then a tweak and a twiddle here and there and your finished garment may be quite different to what you had in mind – it’s a very  creative process. All our workshop attendees went away with a pattern for a long sleeved shirt with front and back yokes with gathers at the yokes. Some had fashioned a collar with a neck stand (one or two very pointy collars amongst them) with a Peter Pan collar being an option for others. We learnt so much on this workshop but here are six things that stick in my mind the  most:

1 When drawing a curved line, its easier and more accurate to draw it in such a way that you are pulling the curve towards you, not pushing it away.

2 When making a shirt from your own pattern, ditch the usual 1.5 cm seam and use a 1cm one instead – less is more to avoid bulk.

3 When marking the right spot for your bust darts, remember it needs to point upwards towards the middle of your bust not downwards. It’s much more flattering this way and will make you look perkier than you are if you need that kind of help (many do).

4 It’s great to be excited by pattern drafting, but there are maths involved so be prepared to concentrate. My first attempt at a collar looked like something made especially for one of the Bagpuss mice!

5 The measuring tool called a pattern master is a very useful investment

6 Winifred Aldrich is the goddess of pattern drafting and her book Metric Pattern Cutting is a must have if you really want to get serious about this. Yes the illustrations look like something out of the fifties, but the advice is invaluable. It’s an oldie but a goodie – available from Amazon.

Here are some shots of the day. We were a messy lot!







Buy a skirt. Noooo – make one instead!

Sunday, January 10th, 2016

I saw this lovely, eye catching skirt on a London boutique’s website and fell in love instantly. I liked the simple look of the skirt, the way the plain yellow colour really popped and most of all the unusual shape. I had to have it! Problem is, so did everyone else and my size was just never in stock.

Skirt 2

What followed was a few months of disappointed website watching then it came to me – there was only one thing for it, I was just going to have to make my very own version. I love pattern drafting my own clothes although I must admit sometimes I have no idea where to start! But that’s the beauty of this skill. It’s all about having a vision, playing with shapes and doing a spot of engineering to pull the perfect garment out of the bag. It’s so liberating to design something from scratch, just exactly as you want it to be. And because you’re not constrained by a commercial pattern, you can change your mind half way through the design and end up with something you really weren’t expecting to get. Which is very exciting.

This skirt started with my normal skirt block, which I traced around on to spot and cross paper. The paper was then slashed and flared out to ensure the skirt would be wide enough to allow for the folds. It made for a very unusual pattern. Yes this picture is the right way up!

Draft pattern

I choose a plain purple medium weight cotton for the job and used the same fabric in a light green to line it. Now some would say these are two quite unusual colours to put together. But I was pleased with the result and if I get bored of the purple, it wouldn’t take much to reverse it so the green is on the outside.

PD skirt

This really was not a hard skirt to make – took about four hours including making the pattern, which of course I can now use again. It made me glad that I didn’t pay the boutique for one when it’s such a simple skirt.

Mine doesn’t look exactly the same I know, but I’m very pleased with the result and like the added touch of the buttons at the ends of the wraparound pieces. I promise, it does hang gorgeously when it’s on – the mannequin doesn’t do it justice.


New year, new projects

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

Ok, so here’s what’s going to happen in Corrie/Eastenders/Emmerdale this year. The three people who you would never expect to have an affair will all have one with three others who you would. Two of your favourite characters will also finally get together and then fall apart when one of them has a drunken one-night-stand. Two key families will fall out, someone will battle against a horrific illness, there will be at least three implausible pantomime-type villains threatening to cause mayhem unless £20k is forthcoming (it’s always £20k) and, one of the previous villains who you thought you’d seen the last of will return to cause more of the same.

Right, now that’s done we can all agree that soaps are like a time-Hoover that only serve to make us think life is more miserable than it actually is and take away valuable sewing time. So this year, I’m swapping badly-scripted Meerkat-sponsored misery for sewing-related inspiration. The plan is to use the time formerly spent on the sofa in front of my machine with some uplifting soul music blasting through the speakers instead.

Apologies for a lack of blogging over the last few months. Having a few ancient injuries put to rights gave me some alternate priorities, but now, I’m back with a soul-powered whimper, if not quite a bang.

Simple, skinny jeans


Is it just me who’s fallen out of love with shop bought jeans or is it that the shops have dropped the denim ball in the last few years? I’m not sure why but I can’t remember the last time I even looked at a pair in a shop, never mind actually bought some.

Truth is it’s probably because they never quite seem to fit like I’d hope them to considering the price.

So, I’m going to try something different – making my own using a lovely pattern from Sew Liberated. They look adorable and the pattern is particularly simple to put together. I’m hoping this could be the start of something.

Do-anything dress


You know that feeling when you’ve been in a job for just long enough that everyone is, er, used to your eccentricities? Finally, that time when you can stop wearing the anonymous stuff that no one notices and allow yourself to start turning up in the stuff that really says ‘Coo-ee, this is me’.

I’m just about there right now with my full time job and I’m hoping that this little number, the Brynna dress – also from Sew Liberated, made in the right fabric will be the stepping stone between the two worlds. Sort-of still conservative enough to not raise too many eyebrows, but with the potential to make an impact too (especially with the right combo of spangly tights and ‘look-at-my’ shoes).

All I need to do now is choose the right fabric to make it work. I’m going to start off with something subtle and simple – not too much pattern matching – until I’ve made it once and  got the fit sorted. And then, it’ll be time for the fireworks.

These Sew Liberated patterns have great instructions with them and even more fabulous is the online tutorials that accompany them. You get a code with each pattern which allows you access for as long as you need it. I’ll let you know how I get on.

My current favourite sewing book

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

OK, I’ve had this book for a while now but have only just got round to having a really good look – and I love it. I am such a fan of all things vintage and this book, the second from Lisa Comfort has managed to fill me with inspiration to sew even more ‘old style’ stuff. Called ‘Sew Over It Vintage’ it’s packed full of great projects – dressmaking, accessories and beautiful things for the home. All are inspired by the fashion of the 1950s and 60s – two great decades.

There are no patterns with this book, it’s all done by drafting your own and Lisa starts the book by giving lots of instruction and advice on how to do this. Some projects are done from scratch and others are up-cycled. All levels of sewists are catered for and beginners are encouraged to move from one project to the next, gathering skills and experience as they go. The book has dozens of lovely photographs and easy to follow illustrations to accompany the instructions. All very fabulous.

I love every single project in this book and I can’t wait to get stuck in. I’m going to start with the 1950s capelet which is right up my street, then I’ll have a go at the 1920s kimono dressing gown – very Downton Abbey.

I would very much recommend this book – it’s £15 (although shop around for the best deal) and it’s available from good bookshops and Amazon of course.




Sewing liners for a good cause

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Warning, the following post is unsuitable for anyone still eating supper or likely to leave the seat up! You might remember that Sassy Sewing’s latest recruit, Judi and I are having a challenge this year to not buy any clothes and make everything we wear.

So far it’s going well, but I fear that Jude has just played an ace that I can’t quite match.

When she told me last week over lunch that she was making a reusable cloth panty liner I was initially relieved that I’d chosen the toastie and not the pitta bread.

Really? Have I slept too long and woken up in the 1850s? Apparently (and thankfully), Judi’s efforts are all for a very good cause. To provide the means for third world ladies to enjoy better lady-hygiene. As a sewing challenge it’s certainly interesting. Flicking through our pattern books revealed all manner of shirts, tops, skirts, dog carriers (yes, really, a dog coat with handles so you can lift Fido over tall fences), but nothing resembling Judi’s efforts. .

So, to avoid further blushing we’ve renamed this project the ‘Designer Judi Jockstrap’…Expect to see all the Essex A-listers swapping their Vajazzles for one of these hanging out of their Armanis by next summer.

And if you want to take part in the good works visit and for a tutorial on how to make these little gems, go to

Panties 2

Panties 1

A very useful sewing site

Welcome to Sassy Sewing

Here it's not just about 'how to' but also 'why not?' We're not experts, more like curious enthusiasts and this is the place where we can all learn to be successful at sewing together. Helpful (hopefully), inspiring (ditto) and we promise not to take ourselves too seriously. Let's put some fun into fabric.

Let’s connect:

Subscribe to my posts:

Created by Webfish.