Sew Your Kibbe: Jacket and Coats

So in my first post on plans for the Sew Your Kibbe challenge hosted by Dr T Designs I am going to focus on ideas for jackets and coats.


I love jackets and I love making jackets. One of the first garments I made for myself at the age of 11 was a jacket. Talk about throwing yourself in at the deep end – collar, lapels, sleeve insertion, flap pockets and I remember there was a lovely angled seam where I learnt all about clipping! You can see a picture and read about it here. Anyhow from that moment I was smitten with making jackets.

I’ve got a few ready to wear jackets I live in during summer including a really comfortable ponte one but they do really need replacing this year and Sew Your Kibbe could be the perfect opportunity to do that. At the moment I am contemplating several styles of jacket.  I keep referring to the Kibbe jacket description for classics:

Should always be narrow and tailored with a smooth outline. Standard length is best (just below break of hip). Lightweight unconstructed jackets are fine when they are kept sleek and narrow. Blazers, cardigan-style, elongated Chanel (not cropped) are all good choices. Slightly longer jackets are possible when the corresponding skirt is also elongated to match. Avoid: overly angular jackets, oversized jackets, boxy jackets, cropped jackets and flouncy jackets.

I’m glad it mentions blazers as I really like this style from Patrones magazine 393 a relative has just brought me back from Spain. I think it looks good in the plain black and that it could be very versatile for wearing over dresses, skirts or trousers. I’ve never used a Patrones pattern and I am really eager to try them out.


Another style I am contemplating is a simple collarless style. Burdastyle has produced some good designs and I am leaning towards replicating the grey ponte one in the February 2019 issue. As I have enjoyed wearing my current ponte one I know that it will be very comfortable and travel well plus I have some fabric already eyed up for this.

ponte blazer

There are another couple of styles I also like. The one on the left from Burdastyle  from September 2016 and the one on the right from said Patrones magazine.  Not much to choose between them but I think the Burda is more fitted and features princess seams.


Of course there is also the bog standard classic jacket. I have had Butterick 4610 in my stash for many years and I even bought some fabric to make it.

classic jacket

I still do like it but now that I mainly wear trousers I think I appreciate a slightly longer jacket like the one in Burdastyle October 2018.



I haven’t made myself a coat for several years and really feel I need to now because they are basically elongated jackets. However I am dithering about what style to choose.

I think a longer style (below knee) is really useful as they can be worn with skirts, dresses and trousers. After a bit of a drought Burdastyle did produce a great coat design in the October 2018 edition.  I love how the lapels can be worn open or closed creating two quite different looks.


But I do have a love of overcoats because they wear so well with trousers. My pinterest board shows a selection of overcoats which I especially like in camel and grey. I am going back a long way to find an overcoat pattern I like in my Burda stash, in fact to March 1999.


Lutterloh also have a really nice design in their supplement number 308 but I don’t think it is economical to buy the supplement for just one design plus I would have all the pattern drafting to do – so much easier to do the tracing off of patterns.

Finally there is the lure of a simple trench coat and these are so good as transitional and lightweight summer cover ups. Burdastyle February 2019 issue has a lovely minimal relaxed design that I am imagining in a soft twill and I feel it is also a pattern which could also double up as a wrap coat if it were made in a woollen fabric.


So that’s my thinking so far on outerwear.  I worry that they may seem too tame and I ought to throw a more flamboyant design in there somewhere.  My flamboyancy would probably come through fabric choice and a nice corduroy or velvet could really turn some of those classic jackets into the dramatic.


I also feel some exaggerated lapels would feed into the dramatic classic in me and McCalls M4841 view B with its 70s retro feel has always appealed. Something to ponder on while I now move on to skirts and trousers choices.


Sew Your Kibbe Challenge

The Kibbe system is a new concept which I have been introduced to through an amazing series of blogs on the subject by Dr T Designs.

At a simple level it is choosing garment styles to complement body shape and facial features with four major categories – Dramatic, Romantic, Classic and Gamine – although there are also sub-categories of these four types. There are tests which you can do to identify which category you fall into. I suspected I was a classic and sure enough the test reinforced that belief with some leanings towards dramatic.

Dr T Designs has now set up a challenge whereby you look at your existing wardrobe through new eyes and add 12 me made pieces based on your particular Kibbe type. I love that this is a challenge rather than a competition and that if forces you to focus on the type of garments you should be making for your body type rather than going off into flights of fancy and ending up with garments that never see the light of day. I also love that there is a real ‘community’ feel to this challenge bringing sewists together, sharing ideas and working on the same project.

Despite time constraints due to other sewing commitments, with this challenge in mind I have begun planning what I would like to make and have been putting together a Pinterest board of inspirations and pattern ideas. The 12 garments should in a way comprise a ‘capsule wardrobe’. Dr T makes suggestions of how to go about this but so far I have come up with the following plan:

  • 2 x jackets
  • 1 x skirt
  • 3 x trousers
  • 1 x dress
  • 2 x tops
  • 1 x blouse
  • 1 x coat (I feel a coat should squeeze in there somewhere)
  • The last one could be another skirt, dress or top

To be honest I’m not even sure I will get round to making the full 12 and my ‘capsule wardrobe’ might be reduced to 6 garments.

My lifestyle has changed over the last year or so and I now work out of home so I do not need so many ‘office appropriate’ outfits. Most of my makes will therefore be at Level 1 (casual) with some Level 2 (more formal) but unless I’m suddenly invited to a wedding no intentional Level 3. I do know fabric choice could elevate a Level 1 to a Level 3, for example, by making a jacket in a velvet or brocade which could also even move it into the realms of dramatic but at this stage I do not have plans for that to occur. Although I have an overlocker I do not use it to sew a lot of knits so I might need to venture into that area.

What I really liked about Dr T’s series of blogs was the extensive use of pattern illustrations to suit the various Kibbe types. The visual referencing made it so much easier to understand the system. When I saw the classic jacket and blouse patterns I could not believe how many I already owned or had on my to sew list. However with the skirts and dress patterns I tended towards the Dramatic Classic. To make it more manageable I’ve decided to break the planning down and I intend to do three short blogs highlighting possible pattern and fabric options as follows:

  • Jackets and Coats
  • Skirts and Trousers
  • Dresses, Blouses and Tops

An Edwardian Divided Skirt: Making Up

Following the drafting of the pattern, the skirt was very quick to cut out as it only has two pieces plus a waistband. I then proceeded to make the skirt up like a pair of trousers. I began by sewing the inside leg seams followed by the crotch. I then pressed and stitched the inverted pleats at CF and CB top-stitching them down to hip level to hold them flat . After a fitting I completed the skirt by sewing the side seams, inserting an invisible zip on the left hand side and attaching a straight narrow waistband.

The only alteration I made was that I found I needed to raise the CF and CB about an inch in order to get the pleats to lie correctly and I have my theories about why I needed to do this which relates back to the pattern drafting and pattern cutting.

When drafting the divided skirt pattern I needed to create a new slightly sloped CF and CB to allow the inverted pleat to hang correctly. However it was not indicated anywhere in my source books whether the old CF and CB or the new CF and CB were to be placed to the straight of grain.

As I was working with a self striped fabric I decided to put the new CF and CB to the straight of grain, that is along a stripe so that I got a vertical stripe up the centre of my skirt front and back. However because I found that I need to raise the CF and CB on my made up skirt I began to suspect that actually the original CF and CB on the pattern drafts were in fact the straight grain lines although if I had cut the fabric like that the stripes would have hung at an angle.

When I came across this sewing pattern picture during a Pinterest search I felt it confirmed that suspicion as I can see that the stripes on the check hang away at an angle from the CF creating an upside down V shape. To be honest I don’t suppose it looks that bad and with plain or flowered fabric it absolutely would not be a problem but I began to wonder what you do if you want your striped or check fabric to hang vertical at front and back and not at an angle.


I looked through all my reference books again and found that in Pattern Cutting Made Easy the author states that when using check or striped fabric do not create the new sloped CF and CB for an inverted pleat and just use the original CF and CB (it was also when I read this that I realised it substantiated my suspicion that the original CF and CB are the straight grain). I can see that this would lead to the check or striped fabric hanging vertically but I began to ask myself how would this affect the hang of the inverted pleat if you remove the sloped CF and CB. Obviously this is something I need to play around with trying out different pattern drafts with and without the sloped front and seeing how the inverted pleats hang (especially on striped and checked fabric) but that will be saved for another day.

Although I love the self striped fabric I have used for the divided skirt, it is very soft and I think the pleat will fall out readily and need regular pressing to maintain its shape. A crisp fabric is definitely better for pleats. Also another way to keep the pleat laying better would have been to cut the pleat as two pieces thus creating a seam on the inside fold of the pleat.  The photo on the left below shows front pleat and the photo on the right below shows the back pleat.

Anyway despite these observations, with some tweaking my CF and CB pleats now lay how I intended with the stripe vertical and overall I am very pleased with my attempt at drafting and making a garment from my own measurements.  It is certainly something I want to develop more and use for everyday garments as well as for historical and vintage items.

An Edwardian Divided Skirt: Drafting the Pattern

As part of a planned costume, I want to make an Edwardian style divided skirt. These skirts, along with bloomers, became popular in the late 19th century and early 20th century as women began to participate more in sports such as tennis, golf and particularly bicycling.

Divided skirts look essentially like a pleated A line skirt but are actually culottes and therefore, as well as providing more freedom of movement, they also help to preserve a lady’s dignity, for example, when trying to mount a bicycle. Occasionally the skirt was part of a stylish suit which made a totally practical outfit for outdoor activities. Edwardian designs were often referred to as bifurcated skirts and the front of the culottes was often disguised with a centre front panel sewn into the seam on the right hand side but left to hang loose on the left hand seam as in first picture below. I suppose our modern equivalent would be called a skort. However my design is going to be a straight forward A line divided skirt with centre front (CF) and centre back (CB) pleat.

Initially I thought I would make the divided skirt by drafting an original Edwardian divided skirt pattern buttoned up the CF from Turn of the Century Fashion Patterns and Tailoring Techniques but when I began to do this I realised I just didn’t have enough space on my dining room table for the size of measurements used especially the length of the original vertical line A-B from which other measurements are taken. This drafting method is based on the circular skirt method of swinging a pencil on a string round which is still used today – often in the Burdastyle magazines.


For some time now I have been planning on creating some blocks using my own measurements in order to design my own patterns, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to create a skirt block using my own measurements. I had three source books (the first two from the local library, the third being one I picked up from a flea market) as follows:

Pattern Cutting made Easy by Gillian Holman

Pattern Drafting for Fashion: The Basics by Teresa Gilewska

Dress Pattern Designing: The Basic Principles of Cut and Fit by Natalie Bray

Although all skirt blocks begin as a basic rectangle measuring 1/2 hip measurement x required length of skirt, the way in which the drafting was undertaken varied in each book. The Teresa Gilewska method does not use any ease allowance on the drafting (I presume you must add this when cutting out) and was very calculation based. I did draft her basic pencil skirt for future use. The Pattern Cutting made Easy used a similar system but did add some ease to the measurements and did include a culotte variation.

However in the end I decided to use my Natalie Bray book mainly because the follow up book More Pattern Cutting (which I bought at the same time as the basic book) has instructions for a pleated divided skirt. It is an older system and I suppose some may say old fashioned method but the book is often seen as the definitive guide for pattern cutting. There are updated versions but the copy I have dates from the early 1960s and so many of the variations illustrated have a lovely vintage feel. The book uses the technique of cutting and spreading the original basic rectangle. As I began to draft this skirt block the technique began to feel familiar and I realised I had used it before when I did some basic pattern drafting at school. This method creates more of an A line skirt which is what I wanted for the Edwardian style but the book does show how to reduce hem width to create a pencil skirt style.

1. Creating the Rectangle:

2. Cutting and Spreading the Rectangle at the hip line, then tracing the outline on to new paper:

3.Inserting the seamlines and darts to create the final block:

Ideally the block should be made on something durable like thick card but I had to make do with thick paper.

Once I had made the block I traced off a copy to alter for the divided skirt pattern below. A divided skirt is a full length skirt with a crutch part and usually inverted pleats added on CF and CB. To create the divided skirt the width of the standard skirt block is slightly increased in such a way that 1 inch is added to the CF and CB at the hem but nothing at the waist to enable the CF to slope more for the pleat to hang correctly. A crotch part is then added to the new CF and CB (this would create simple culottes pattern) but to create the divided skirt the crotch part has to be cut off and pleats added to the new CF and new CB and then the crotch part re-attached. Stage I below shows the new CF and CB added and the crotch part drafted on. Stage II shows the pleat added at back and crotch ready to be reattached and the front shows how it lies with pleat closed.

Here is the pattern for the front showing the pleat and also with the pleat on the pattern folded to make sure it lies correctly.

The pattern is now ready to be cut out and made up. Ideally with self drafted patterns it is advisable to make a muslin to test the pattern and make any adjustments to the muslin which can then be transferred to create a final correct block pattern. As I am pushed for time I am going to bypass the muslin (risky I know) and cut out my fabric direct. I shall be writing about the final outcome and any problems I encounter in the next blog, so stay tuned.

Alexander McQueen Corset: The Refashioners

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This is a project I have had in mind for while and seeing the Refashioners’ contest gave me the impetus I needed to get started. The challenge, outlined on Portia Lawrie’s Makery blog, is to upcycle or refashion a garment, textiles, accessories, etc, to create an item you have been inspired by. When I came across the photos below of an Alexander McQueen corset during an internet search I was intrigued that it did not look like a traditional corset and seemed to be a cross somewhere between corset, waistcoat and Wrangler/Levi jacket. However, the rounded elongated centre front sections appear to emulate the spoon busk corsets of the late 1800s and the garment also has an armour like feel reminiscent of the tight cuirass bodices, again popular in the late 1800s, which were named after a piece of close fitting medieval defensive armour worn over the torso and chest. The distressed look and use of leather hardware particularly appealed to me and I wondered if I could replicate its style imagining it in a white denim with tan top stitching.

It is often difficult to get the exact fabric you visualise for a garment but when I came across a pair of white denim jeans in a charity shop, on their £1 sale rail of all places, I scooped them up with this corset in mind. As they were a size 10 long there was some extra fabric to play with for an upcycling project.


I browsed my back catalogue of Burdastyle patterns to find one I could use for the basis of the corset and settled on style 112 size 38 from 07/2008 as it had centre pieces which would be perfect for creating the elongated fronts. I had do some tweaking with the pattern including creating a v neck and yokes, the said elongated front pieces, shortening the pieces to just below waist length, adding more curve to the side seams and finally creating my own collar and cap sleeve patterns.


All in all I needed to cut out 17 pieces from the jeans but some unpicking of seams was required to acquire extra fabric plus piecing of the side back pattern. All pattern parts were cut out with scant 1/4 inch seams. I decided I could reuse the unpicked belt loops on my project and so matched up the topstitching thread to that on the original garment which was fortunate to be the required tan.


I did need a few reels of thread to create the myriads of topstitching this garment calls for. I originally tried using one of my wider double needles as I hoped this would speed up the topstitching process but my double needle kept shredding the topstitching thread and so I had to resort to a single size 16 needle and rely on eye to create the double rows. They may not be entirely perfect (in fact they are not on the original McQueen corset either) but that was not the look I was after and there is charm in the imperfections.


Ideally I would have chosen an antique brass metal zip but I had a 16 inch silver metal open ended zip lurking in my stash which was perfectly suitable for the project. I attached a strip of the white denim to the zip puller as per the original. Before attaching the leather strips and boning I machine washed the garment to create the frayed edges as this process had previously worked well on some denim shorts. It was nerve wracking cutting into the collar and sleeves but it had to be done!

A corset implies boning and this is when it would have been useful to handle the original item and see which seams had been boned. It may well be that all the vertical seams are boned as in a traditional corset but some of the seams do not look to have that rigidity about them. The denim fabric provides a fairly solid garment. I toyed with putting boning in the front panels but decided the zip and leather provided enough structure and boning might be uncomfortable when sitting. In the end I settled on just boning the side seams. I used rigilene boning because I had some spare strips left over from previous corset making. I normally make boning channels using a wide seam allowance (at least 5/8 inch) but in this case did not have that luxury. The beauty of rigilene boning is that it can be sewn through and so I decided to securely zig zag the boning to the insides of the side seams before topstitching them down.

For the leather strips at centre front I used a leather belt also gleaned from a charity shop for £1. I already had a leather belt I wanted to use on the corset which has a curved buckle echoing the one on the McQueen corset and so I was pleased to find a leather belt in almost the same shade of brown. It was actually a rather nice leather belt and I felt guilty cutting into it but needs must. I cut out two 3/4 inch wide by 16 inch long strips. There was some curvature in the back of the belt from wear which made it quite difficult to cut entirely straight strips.


I had some brass dome claw studs but the claws were too short and delicate to go into the leather so after racking my brain I remembered I had a pack of copper colour rivets lying around. As the pins are designed to go through several layers of denim on jeans they were perfect for my leather trim. I had 17 rivets left and so it had to be 8 rivets on each strip. I marked the rivet placements using an expander gadget.


I’m not really a gadget person but I recently bought the expander to help with eyelet placement on corset construction. If you read my blog on the fan laced corset you will see that it means I can skip the maths part when working out where to put eyelets! I marked the top and bottom rivet placement and stretched the expander out between the two and hey presto it shows where to mark the others equally. I had to create the holes for the rivets but my punch would not work on the thick leather and so I had to resort to an awl and hammer. The rivet and attachment pin are then loaded in the insertion device provided and more hammer whacking later the studded strips were completed ready to be sewn onto either side of the zip. I did wonder whether I would be able to sew the leather strips to the garment as the leather is quite sturdy in addition to two layers of denim. As I don’t have a leather needle for my sewing machine I stuck with a size 16 using the longest stitch length and also a piping foot to avoid the rivets.


It’s been a bit of a time consuming project from having to create the pattern, fiddle with the cutting out, sewing all the top stitching, washing and riveting but overall I am very pleased with the end result.

Sure there are tweaks I would make if I were to repeat the project but as with all upcycling challenges there were constrictions regarding the amount and shape of the fabric available. These photos show the piecing of the side back panel. It sits on the waist line and so looks part of the design but is also hidden by the belt. Three of the belt loops were sewn back on and matched the topstitching perfectly.

Here is a photo of the leftovers. I shall be removing the zip from the jeans to add to the stash. Both ends of the belt remain. The large buckle is lovely and I am sure I will find a use for it. In fact I actively hunt down belts in charity shops to obtain nice buckles as they are so expensive to buy new. The leather scraps will also come in useful for creating small details on corsets and waistcoats for example.


Finally I must say thank you to my valiant sewing machine (the Janome Sewist 525S). I know I complain about its little foibles but overall it is a good little work horse and has coped admirably with thick layers of denim and leather.


A Reworked Project: Victorian Spencer Bodice

I love reworking and up-cycling unwanted garments to give them a new lease of life and at the same time hoping that I am doing my small bit to save the planet.

Just lately I have been putting together a Pinterest board of striped Victorian outfits whilst simultaneously looking at the use of stripes in 20th century and contemporary fashion.

Striped fabric can be used in such creative ways depending on how the fabric is cut and draped. The stripes can be used both horizontally and vertically and both orientations can even be used for different pieces of the same garment. This is particularly effective on yokes and pockets. Stripes can also be cut on the bias and used diagonally to create some fantastic chevron patterns. Another technique is also to tuck some of the stripes to produce solid blocks of colour within a striped garment.

At present I am fascinated by the designs of the American mid 20th century designer, Claire McCardell who has been credited with being the pioneer of the American look comprising simple sportswear styles. Her designs were ahead of their time and would not look out of place on the catwalks of today. What was really innovative was her use of patterned fabric particularly stripes and checks.

So when I saw this shirt made of an attractive striped satin fabric in a charity shop I scooped it up. I could immediately see the reworking possibilities and knew I wanted to create a Victorian Steampunk garment from a basic office work shirt style.


One bonus of the shirt was the high collar band and another was the wide cuffs featuring turn backs.
To create the Victorian Spencer bodice:


  1. I cut off the collar leaving a small allowance to hem the edge and attached a some ruffled lace to the allowance using my overlocker. I turned the allowance to the inside and topstitched it down. The lace I used was flat and I used the ruffler foot attachment on my sewing machine. I only bought the ruffler a year ago for a specific project that required me to gather reams of ruffles. Although expensive the ruffler foot has proved invaluable as I can now gather anything I like quickly and efficiently. In fact the ruffler is so much fun I could easily spend all day playing around on it.
  2. I chopped off the cuffs above the placket to make three quarter length sleeves and again added the ruffled lace. Initially I thought about inserting some elastic to the cuff but in the end did not think the sleeve was quite wide enough and it works well as it is. I then shortened the shirt to waist length.
  3. Finally I used the 2 cuffs and 2 turn backs to make a wide corset waistband to create the spencer look. This was a bit more complicated but with some tweaking I was able to line up the stripes to create a horizontally striped band. As there were buttonholes in each end of the cuffs and turnbacks I successfully sewed them into the seams but it left a buttonhole at each end of the band. I therefore machined three more buttonholes next to the remaining buttonholes to create four lacing holes for the corset. The band was then attached to the waist of the bodice.

Using the Sewing the Seventies Prize

A few months back you may remember I entered a Sewing the Seventies competition run by the Steely Seamstress. Well I am pleased to announce that following an online vote I won the prize of some fantastic retro inspired fabrics.

One of the fabrics was a jersey with a surf inspired print that made me think 1950s. I decided to use Kwik Sew pattern 2247 to create a tied top that would look good paired with capri pants, cut off jeans’ shorts or a circle skirt.

This is the only Kwik Sew pattern I have ever used. They are not widely available in the UK but I picked this one up going cheap at a craft fair. I quite like that the pattern comes sized in XS, S, M, L and XL. I don’t know if this is true of all Kwik Sew patterns but I like the way it helps if you are between sizes. The paper pattern is also very thick and good quality but I decided to trace off the tie top in a medium as the tie top pattern is printed over the same pattern piece as the straight blouse so cutting it out would mean that I would be unable to use the pattern for the other styles. As the paper pattern is thick it lends itself well to being traced off which maintains the integrity of the pattern for use for other styles and sizes.

I don’t sew a lot with knitted fabrics or jerseys but as this fabric is a thick jersey and very stable I treated it like a woven. The only noticeable difference was a tendency for the edges of the cut out pieces to curl. Another thing which surprised me about the Kwik Sew pattern is that there is a 1/4″ seam allowance. This makes me wonder if the patterns are designed for sewing with an overlock machine. I guess the only problem with such a narrow seam allowance is that there is not much manoeuvre for fitting. I sewed the garment using a straight stitch sewing machine but did overlock the seams together.

The only frustrating thing about sewing with jersey is that I am a bit of a stickler for pressing believing in the old adage ‘half pressed is half sewn’ but actually this jersey did iron well and as the collar, armholes and ties are top-stitched this helps them lay well.

Choosing buttons presented a dilemma. Should I go for straightforward cream to match the background or use one of the many colours in the fabric. In the end I opted for red to give the garment more pop.

This is a pretty cute pattern which goes together very easily. However I did alter the collar construction as the instructions were different to the method I normally use and seemed back to front to me. For example the pattern calls for you to interface the upper collar but I have always interfaced the lower collar. So I used my usual method although I expect the instructed version works okay too.

I am very pleased with the end result as it reflects the 1950s custom culture look I was after and I was very happy to have found the perfect project for the jersey. I also have a vintage project in mind for the second bolt of prize fabric and I hope to post about that in the near future.