Category Archives: Patterns

Grokking Pavlova

(Isn’t ‘grok’ a great word? I first heard it on the Knit Knit Café podcast, and according to Google it means “to understand (something) intuitively or by empathy”.)

I love sewing pattern geometry. Actually, I love geometry altogether – when I was in my third year at university I decided to code from scratch a visual representation of matrix transformation algebra because I honestly couldn’t think of anything more exciting to do for my ‘Teaching Mathematics in Schools’ project*.

Mostly my grasp of sewing pattern geometry realises itself in the same few fitting alterations I have to perform upon variations-on-a-theme of the standard garment blocks. Every so often, however, a challenge presents itself. This time, it has been in the form of Cake Patterns’ Pavlova Wrap Top.

The starting point is this: I am tall, 6’0″ tall to be precise, and have a proportionately long lower abdominal region. This means that trousers and jeans tend to ride uncomfortably low, and tops tend to ride annoyingly high, resulting an good inch or two of bare skin if I am not careful enough when choosing my outfits. I want to be able to wear my Pavlova top in cosy knitted jersey with jeans, and this is going to mean lengthening it.

(Unfortunately this is also going to mean that I have to lose the “hole-less” side seam feature of the original – a shame, but a sacrifice I’m prepared to make for a warm and covered tummy).

The thing is – how do you lengthen a top like this, where the main pattern piece bears very little resemblance to anything you’ll find in a drafting textbook? StephC, the designer, provides a ‘lengthen/shorten here’ line but if you own the pattern then you’ll notice that the line given on sizes 35-45 is in a completely different place and at a completely different angle to the corresponding line on the size 30.

Er, what?

So I went back to the start. I hammered out exactly how the geometry of this pattern works – where the back is, where the front is, where the neckline runs, and how attaching the wrap around ties is going to effect the vertical hang of the fabric.

Let me share my results, as a help to anyone else who is struggling with the same problem. You need a lengthening line parallel to that given on the size 30 piece if like me you are performing a fitting alteration for a long back. The line on sizes 35-45 is what you use to add length in going diagonally across the body – and you could also use this line to add a pivoted wedge in for an FBA if the side gathers and the stretch of your knit combined aren’t sufficient for your boobage.

Some people will need to do both alterations, of course – but they are not the same thing.

I have to admit, I am slightly dubious at the methodology being employed here by StephC, someone who advertises herself as an experienced sewing teacher and a fitting revolutionary. Yes, knits have give in them which means that the fit of the garment doesn’t have to be quite as precise as in a woven. But I am not convinced that you are doing beginner sewists any favours by encouraging them to take short-cuts. Help them really understand the pattern – help them grok the pattern – and they will get much better results in the long run.

(This is of course assuming that she understands the issue herself. I am not at all convinced having seen her take on knit grainlines – sure, a wrap top employs lots of different angles and the rest of it, but not all knit fabrics are created equal. If you have a knit where the horizontal stretch is significantly different from the vertical stretch then surely it will affect the finished result?)

All of that said, I do love the design of the Pavlova, and am really looking forward to putting scissors to fabric, hopefully easier this afternoon or tomorrow. Watch this space as to how it goes…


*Sarcasm-free zone. I am a geek, and I don’t care!


Finding Local Cake

A happy envelope appeared for me in the post today. It contained Cake, or perhaps more accurately Pavlova:

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I’ve been wanting to try the top from this pattern for ages*, so when I came across a gorgeous rusty-red knit jersey in a small shop in Kenilworth recently, I knew it was just meant to be.

I’m not a very loyal customer by habit. Choosing to order my pattern from The Polished Button was a simple case of wanting to make my purchase as cheaply as possible within the UK (so that I wouldn’t have to wait for it to be shipped from Australia) and little more. Looking after the pennies is a philosophy that has been deeply ingrained within me for a long, long time.

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Still, the envelope with themed sticky tape caught my fancy – and imagine my surprise when I turned it over to find a local postcode written for the sender address! It turns out that The Polished Button is physically located under four miles from my current home, and only two miles from where I grew up.

I don’t know the business owner. To give you an idea, my postcode was recorded at the 2011 census as having a population density of 4660 people/km². But it’s nonetheless nice to think that (however inadvertently) my pattern purchase has supported the micro-economy of Ruth and our shared community.

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*recent spat on Stitches and Seams notwithstanding

UK Summer Stash

I blogged about my holiday haul from Holland at the end of July. Today it’s the turn of all the crafty bits and bobs that I have acquired during my various UK travels this summer.


My in-laws moved to Richmond, North Yorkshire in July, and we visited them on their first weekend in their new house. It was a busy weekend, but we did poke our noses into Richmond market where I was delighted to discover Woolmouse*. The pictures on the website really don’t do it justice – it was a large and cheerful stall packed with nice-quality-but-not-extortionate yarns.

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I was tempted by the huge range of local Yorkshire yarns that they had for sale, but they were all in worsted weight which is not something that I’m really knitting with at the minute. It would have been rude to buy nothing, though, so I got some undyed Araucania Ranco and a pack of lovely little mother-of-pearl-esque buttons:

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Then there was Suffolk. We arrived in Southwold on the Saturday. On Sunday I was wandering down the high street and saw a sign pointing to a quilting display and fabric pop-up shop in a room at the Swan Hotel. Who was I to refuse?

In the downstairs, DaisyMay Quilting were showing off an assortment of their long-arm quilting work. They had some fantastic quilts on displays, but there was no contest when it came to picking a favourite:

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Upstairs, Glenroy Designs had a fabric sale. Even though I’m not normally one for quilting fabric, I spent about an hour in there, oohing and aahing over the fantastic range of cottons, chatting to the ladies in charge and trying to decide what to spend my pennies on (because there was no way that I was leaving empty handed). Eventually I settled on three fabrics. Two fat quarters – autumnal leaves for myself and a Japanese-inspired design as a present for K – and 1.5m of a rich berries design, which I intend to turn into a top of some sort.




I came across some yarn which I didn’t buy, but totally would have done if they’d had it in the 4-ply weight. Dunwich Heath is one of my very favourite places to be and we were there at the very best time of year for it – when the heather is in full bloom and the bright purple sets off the yellow gorse, just-turning bracken and the blue of the sea behind. I think the notice displayed by the yarn speaks for itself really:



And last but not least, I finally bought Simplicity 1882 because I found it on sale in John Lewis in Norwich!

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It’s been a great summer 🙂



A Work Skirt For K

Last night a friend of mine, K, came over to raid my pattern collection. She’s started in the workplace again after a long period of being self-employed, and while her wardrobe is not exactly empty*, it suffers from the same affliction as mine in that a too-high proportion of the clothes are not really smart enough for her current needs.

K’s biggest current need is another work skirt. So we rifled through my paper patterns and picked out a handful of contenders, before moving on to the tech drawing scans of the 31 Burda magazines that I own**.

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It’s a really interesting exercise looking at patterns for somebody else. While K is also tall*** and curvy, we are really quite different shapes and also have slightly different tastes. We kept saying, “that wouldn’t work for me… but is so you!”

The two patterns that we eventually whittled the shortlist down to are BWOF 02-2009-107 and BWOF 03-2009-105 . Fascinating, because they’re totally not the ones that I’d’ve picked out.

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Now K gets to be introduced to the joy of Burda pattern sheets. Fortunately for her, they’re both the old-style ones…


*Understatement of the century 😉

**It might be 32, because I have a sneaky feeling that there’s one issue buried in a bag with a languishing UFO somewhere.

***Well, 5’9″. But I think that does fall into my acceptable range for women considering themselves tall. 5’8″ is up for debate. 5’7″ categorically does not, I’m sorry.

Patterns in the Post

Money’s been pretty tight this month due to a car repair bill at the start, but I did allow myself to buy three patterns in the recent 3-for-the-price-of-1 sale from That’s what justifies my membership, damnit! And it is a pretty good deal when all’s said and done.

Two of them arrived today: Vogue 8825 and Vogue 8747, which I’ve had my eye on ever since it came out.

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Vogue 8873 is due to arrive as soon as they have it in stock – this was a bit of an on-a-whim purchase, but I do love the line of the curved waist seam and the layering effect of a drapy cowl over a fitted underbodice. Plus back darts for fitting and skirt options!


What more could a girl ask for?

BurdaStyle May 2013 – Preview

How can it be this time of year already? This is the third day of something approximating Spring-like weather in the UK, and yet Burda’s preview is all about the summer wear*. How bizarre.

Anyway, onto the magazine. When a preview comes out, I hop straight over to the French Burda site, as it still has useful things like archives and technical drawings and what have you, unlike its English-speaking counterpart.

And really Burda? Once again I am thoroughly overwhelemed by your mediocrity. There are a couple of nice dresses in there but nothing really that we haven’t seen before…

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…a nice but relatively unremarkable graded vintage pattern…


…and then just a whole load of gumph. Does the fact that you’ve used a scalloped lacy fabric really justify the fact that this pattern is essentially a load of rectangles stuck together? Oh, sorry, you’ve used two different fabrics. Well that makes all the difference.


The one pattern that I do actively like in May’s issue is 128 – a cardigan/ jacket designed for drapy, lightweight wovens. On the subject of workwear, this could work really nicely for a smart summer wardrobe in the right fabric – I like their navy crepe version. I’d be interested to see a back view – do those pockets end at the side seams?


Is that one pattern enough for buying the magazine? The jury’s out. Unless of course I’ve missed anything?

*This may say more about our weather than Burda’s publishing schedules.


Warning: blurry and wonky self-taken shots coming up

You know when you really really want something to work? And you know it’s not going to, but you keep trying anyway?


So, I’ve been making BWOF 03-2012-121 out of a beautifully soft poly knit remnant that I got at Abakhans, not this time but the last. I knew there wasn’t much of it but I didn’t realise quite how little until I got it home – about 85cm. But seeing as I can get a long-sleeved torso-length t-shirt out of 1m (just), I figured I’d be all right with a cropped cardigan, omitting the ties and just doing two simple rectangular panels for the midriff section.

I did my normal FBA, added my normal half inch above the bust in length, made a size 40 rather than a 38 so I could wear it as a cardigan…

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Admittedly I’m wearing it there with my sports bra while my normal ones are in the wash but still…

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…just no.

If I were feeling really conscientious, I’d finish it off and then offer it to someone else. You’re not imagining it – the midriff pieces do still need attaching. My mother-in-law is 5’2″ – alternatively I have a 5’5″ and skinny friend who is always hinting that she’d like something.

I’d hesitate to blame the pattern. It’s not Burda’s fault and I would like to try it again because I think it’s got some really great bones. I will just remember to add in plenty of length next time and to start with a bigger piece of fabric.

Do you like the skirt, by the way? I LOVE it. It’s self-made, unblogged, and is Simplicity 2608, alas now OOP I believe. Best pattern ever.