Double French Darts: How to create them

Naomi is getting into the flattering effects French darts create.  She recently made a top using single French darts at the side seams.  Encouraged by the results, she asked me how double French darts are created.

The pattern transformations that follow are from “The Custom Touch” by Mary J. Wadlington, published in 1981 by Gem Publications.

I recommend practicing on 1/2 or 1/4 scale pattern diagrams first.




Note:  In some of the diagrams Mary leaves the vertical bodice dart and the skirt dart open.  I have not used her system so I’m not in a position to say if this is good practice or not.  My own experience has taught me that if a dart intake is not closed and integrated into the style line there will be a bubble or excess fabric looking awkward when the toile is created.

In the patternmaking system I learned, the vertical waist dart is closed and integrated into the bodice style line.  The skirt dart is closed first and the flare created.  Then the skirt is taped to the bodice with the vertical dart closed.  The style line is created and then the paper pattern is cut.






The Dressmaker’s Library: Vintage books on-line

I’ve just discovered two on-line vintage books  you’re sure to enjoy browsing through.  They are complete and available for viewing.  You’re able to print one page at a time but not download the entire book.

“The Mary Brooks Picken Method of Modern Dressmaking” by Mary Brooks Pickens was published in 1925.  Many of the new techniques Mary promotes are now very familiar to the home sewist.  What I found interesting were the chapters dealing with figure types and standard measurements.  The average measurements give some indication that women did have curves and were not at all the wispy, tubular shaped girls we  imagine when we think of the 1920s.  There are many photos of garments, seam finishes and Mary at her sewing machine.

Use this link to get to the on-line book:;cc=hearth;idno=4116088;node=4116088%3A4;view=toc;frm=frameset

“Pattern Drafting, Pattern Grading, Garment Making, Garment Fitting” was written by a professional tailor named Edmund Gurney.  He teaches a method of pattern drafting using standard measurements.  This is done to keep the drafting, as he says, simple.  A method for adjusting the resulting pattern to your own measurements is provided.

Mr. Gurney must have had what I’d consider a sparkling personality.  He intersperses pages of poetry and witty quotes between the technical chapters.  He does draw the reader in.  I especially liked his family history and how one of the earliest ancestors became a tailor.

This book was published in 1939.  The basic shell has the beginnings of what we see as the fitting shell used today.  The main difference I see is that the 1939 fitting shell had an A-line type of skirt.  Today ours is closer to a pencil skirt.

This book is available at:;view=1up;seq=1

Draping: The art of patternmaking with fabric

Draping in action

As part of the 1930s Sew-along with Norma I’m going to use draping to create a pattern for a simple 1930 dress and shrug.  The outfit is based on a 1930 Butterick pattern featured in the book “Paris Frocks at Home.”  You can see scans of the outfit in this posting.

The draping technique is very different from what I learned at school.  This will also be the first time in over 15 years that I’m relying exclusively on draping to create the entire pattern.  Three years ago I renewed myself with basic draping techniques when I draped the bodice for the Dirndl Dress.  I’m so excited by the big challenge that lies ahead for recreating the Butterick pattern using an authentic technique from the 1930s.

Norma had wanted to know more about draping.  I also needed to see some YouTube tutorials just to get back into the flow.  So here are two different teachers sharing their techniques with us.  There are as many ways to drape as their are to draft so you will see many differences between bodices and dart placement, dart sizes and so forth.

The tutorial by Tutor Couture shows a technique that is very close to the one I learned in French Fashion Academy.  I think this video gives a good example except that the front bodice looks like it’s pulling a little bit at the side panel.  It should be absolutely smooth.  Since she’s working with a larger size dress form with very straight shoulders there is no neck or shoulder dart.  A smaller dress form with shoulders that slope a little will end up with excess fabric needing shaping into a dart.  Still, I like the simplicity and clarity this video offers as an introduction.

Sten Martin’s tutorials are more freehand in that he does not draw any grainlines or guidelines.  I do not recommend starting out like this unless you have many years of experience.  The value I find in his tutotials is that they motivate you to get started and give a good idea as to how the fabric is manipulated.

I hope this answers questions about what draping is all about.  It’s basically an exicting way to create patterns and experience the behaviors of different fabrics.  To get started, though, I highly recommend the Tutor Couture method first.  When you have more experience and awareness with grain lines then you can try Sten’s approach.

Tutor Couture

Tutor Couture: How to Drape on the Stand, Taster of Lesson 1

Draping tutorials by Sten Martin

1. How to drape a basic pattern, ladies’ front – by bespoke tailor Sten Martin

2. How to drape a basic pattern, ladies’ back – by bespoke tailor Sten Martin

RetroGlam Tutorial:  How to create a dirndl skirt in your size plus sample pattern in Misses Size 4

Using the technique in this tutorial will result in the correct amount of gathers for your own size and body shape.

Part 1: The Dirndl Skirt: Flat Patternmaking using the Basic Skirt Pattern

Part 2: Dirndl Skirt Pattern Diagram for Misses Size 4

Draping the Dirndl Dress


Back bodice drape for the dirndl dress.  Note the corrections needed  The shoulder dart didn’t look good for a sleeveless bodice so the fullness was shifted to a neckline dart.


Front drape of the Dirndl Dress bodice with French darts.  The corrections for the dart are marked in purple on the muslin.


Completed drape of the Dirndl Dress.  The skirt portion was created from a basic sheath flat pattern.  I provide a link to the tutorial plus a pattern for size 4.  You can use the technique for any size.




1930s Sew-Along: Trumpet Skirts and 6 Gore Skirts

As promised here are the drafting instructions for a gored skirt using the method I spoke about in previous postings. The patternmaking system was created at some time in the 1950s. This pattern represents some simplifications I made to the process as well as some additions. The original did not include any allowances for style ease. My first attempt at drafting a gored skirt turned out too tight.

Please, Please, Please make a muslin. You must test the method and adjust it to suit your own unique figure. Spending time to ensure a good fit will save you money and worry later. Nothing ever hides a poor fit so consider time spent on a muslin an educational process that will ensure a wonderful garment once your fashion fabric is cut.

Permissions to re-use

This pattern can be freely circulated and reused for whatever purpose you want. I’d love to see any photos of finished skirts you make.

Six Gore Skirt Drafting Instructions

Before drafting this skirt pattern please see How to Take Measurements.

The measurements used in this pattern are for a Misses Size 4. They are used to provide an example. You will substitute your own measurements to draft your custom pattern.

The Flattering Qualities of a Gored Skirt

Gored skirts are flattering to all figure types, especially when the pattern is drafted to your own measurements. This is because the pattern is drafted with a slight curve from waist to abdomen or waist to hipline. After the slight curve, the line becomes straight and ends however many inches from the center of the skirt that you want. The greater the width of the hemline the more flare and movement the gores will have.

The point at which the curve stops is best determined by your own hip and abdomen measurements. In general these are the guidelines:

—If your hips are larger than your abdomen let the flare start at the hipline. If this is your body type, then you will use the measurement Waist to Hip line for points A-C.

—If your abdomen is larger than your hip let the flare start at the abdomen. In this case you will use the measurement Waist to Abdomen for Point A-C.

The Front Skirt Length used is completely up to you. A length of 27-30” will give you a retro looking skirt reminiscent of the 1930s. To achieve such an effect use the diagram for creating a Trumpet Skirt with flare starting at the hip line.

Style Ease to add to measurements

For a gored skirt add 1-2” of ease for the abdomen or hipline. To the waist add about 1/2″ of ease.

Misses Size 4 Measurements (used for an example) for a Gored Skirt Pattern

Waist 24”+ 1/2″ ease=24 ½”

Abdomen Circumference 35”+1” ease=36”
Hip Circumference 36”+ 1” ease=37”

Waist to Abdomen 4”
Waist to Hip 8”

Front Skirt Length 28”

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Retro Glam Secretary Blouse-Finished at last!


2015 has been such a busy year for me.  I never thought I would successfully finish Version 2 of the Secretary Blouse.  But it’s now completed and I’m happy to share the results along with a few details.  This vintage pattern envelope illustration served as the inspiration.   I provide complete instructions for the Retro Glam Secretary Blouse  through a series of step by step instructions.


The beautiful simplicity of this style works well with a solid color fashion fabric.  Version 1 was made with a silky poly print fabric.  The work on the tucks and the bow got lost in the busy print.  This time the lovely drape of the bias cut pussy cat bow is visible.  This fabric is a poly crepe called “Whipped Cream.”  It was very easy to work with and is very soft.


The dart tucks are also noticeable.  They serve to control the fullness below the waistline so that the fabric will not be so bunchy when tucked into a sheath skirt.  In some ways vintage blouses use darts or dart tucks to control fullness in a way similar to the use of a blouse yoke.

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Online Vintage Patternmaking Book: “Modern Pattern Design”

“Modern Pattern Design” by Harriet Pepin was written in 1942.

I’m very happy to share a discovery with you today–a complete vintage patternmaking guide that is available FREE at

“Modern Pattern Design” offers a complete system for creating pattern blocks along with the techniques to transform them into various styles.  There are many illustrations and the instructions for drafting are given step-by-step.  Harriet also provides very detailed commentary.  I plan to read through each chapter before incorporating any of her techniques into the system I use.  Her tone and style of writing is very conversational so it is easy to follow along.

This website does not have a “Save as PDF” link but I found a way to save each chapter.   The link provided brings you to the Table of Contents which consists of links to each chapter.  After getting to the site do the following:

  1. Create one folder on your drive and name it “Modern Pattern Design.”
  2. Within this folder create sub-folders named for each chapter as well as the Author’s Statement, Acknowldegement and Summary.
  3. Click on the first link to navigate to that page.  On the menu of your browser click on “File” menu.  Then click on “Save As”.
  4. Select the correct sub-folder by clicking to open it.
  5. Then click the “Save” button on the File Save screen.
  6. Use the forward arrows at the top right hand portion of each screen.  This navigates to the next chapter.
  7. Repeat steps 5-7 until all chapters are saved.
  8. Within each sub-folder your PC will create a sub-sub folder that holds all the graphics from each webpage/chapter.  Below that will be the saved webpage.  Do not delete the sub-sub folder.  It is important to keep.
  9. Print out each saved web page if you want to have a hard copy of this book.

I hope you will find this book as useful as I am.  It is thorough enough to give you a good foundation to get started in creating your own custom made vintage garments.  The illustrations present many wearable, everyday styles of the early 1940s.  They can serve as the basis for your own interpretations.

Ann Adams 1940s Sewing Pattern Instruction Sheet

Mid-Summer greetings to all!  I’ve been so busy with my job that sewing is limited to that strange realm called whenever.  As in whenever I get an extra hour or whenever I have an afternoon off.  I’ve learned that it’s very true that haste makes waste so I don’t fight the trend.  The Secretary Blouse and Sheath Skirt are coming along very nicely.  At least at the end of a session, whenever that is, I leave feeling satisfied and progress is being made.  I do think, though, that I’m reaching my limit with synthetics.  It is true that in terms of pressing and laundering they are low maintenance but in terms of sewing they often require as much effort as more expensive natural fibers..  I’m seriously considering going to natural fibers or natural-synthetic blends once I use up the remaining poly gabardine and rayon I bought for a New Look Suit.

In the meantime, I want to tell all visitors, THANK YOU FOR LOVING AND SUPPORTING MY BLOG.  The stats show a steady stream of visitors coming each week.  There are at least 40-60 views each week.  I’m truly delighted that so many people from around the world are learning from the post “How to sew an all-in-one bodice” or how to draft the Donna Skirt.

I’m going through the vintage patterns my Mom bought for me many years ago, before she passed away.  She thought that if I studied the diagrams, instructions and layouts I could adapt the system I learned to produce something comparable.  Mom was very sensible about apparel.  She thought style was more important that fashion.  Time has proved her on the mark as far as I’m concerned.  I’m sharing in this post the instructions and diagram for a 1940s dress designed by a pattern company called Ann Adams.  I think it would look just as flattering today.  The dropped waistline and below-the-knee hemline can create a slimming effect.  This style would also look good on a very slender, small busted woman because the shirring stitched into the side dart creates the appearance of a fuller bustline.  The optional sash can cinch the shaped waistline in even further if a more fitted look is desired.  The pattern illustration shows the dress made in a print but I think a solid color would show off the topstitching, shirring and flared skirt panels to better effect.  What do you think?

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