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PATTERN HACK…How to make an Off the Shoulder Top!

Off The Shoulder Tops…



…they’re everywhere this summer, aren’t they? I’m not one to usually bother with fashion trends. I’m not a big fan of buying or especially making clothes unless it’s something I really love and will wear loads. I do, however, like to get the maximum mileage out of a pattern, fabric and mostly out of my time. I thought about this trend for a while and came to the conclusion the off the shoulder top, or The ‘Bardot’ Top (or as my eldest called it Bar-Dot, worth writing a tutorial just for that!), could actually become a holiday summer basic.

I started with The Wendy Artisan Smock pattern and thought this would be a great little pattern hack to share. It does make the most perfect beach cover-up, just lengthen your pattern to get the leg coverage you are after. It would also make a delightful holiday dress with a little tie belt at the waist too. I’ve made it in an embroidered spot voile. Beautiful fabric – but be warned, it is quite sheer in the white if you are going down the dress route!

And I thought I should probably share it now as in England we’ve had more than 3 days of glorious sunshine this summer, and it’s now 50/50 (yes, I know that’s being optimistic) for the rest of August wether we get any more sunshine.



Wendy Artisan Top Pattern, Tape measure, Scissors, 1 metre (approx) of 2.5cm wide Elastic, Safety Pin

I recommend, as always, making a toile: it’s a test run in calico or a cheap fabric – you don’t want to waste your favourite fabric on a less the perfect top!

  1. Cut out your pattern using VERSION B (with no centre front neck opening) and don’t cut the binding pattern.
  2. NECKBAND: cut one long rectangle 7.5cm wide  x  SMALL: 123cm long / MEDIUM: 128.5 cm long / LARGE: 134cm long. It can be cut along the selvedge or across the fabric width on the straight grain. 


Make up your top, following the instructions in the pattern: Attach pockets and sleeves, close side seams.

Cut neckline down by 4cm. Of course you could trim down your pattern pieces before cutting out your garment.


Press the neckband in half length wise


Join with a 1cm seam allowance to make the neck band into a loop, press the seam open


| Attach the band |

Pin neckband to RIGHT SIDE of the body. Depending on your fabric your neckline may ‘grow’ as it’s on the bias grain in places, just ease your garment onto the neckband.


Stitch your band to the body with a 1cm seam allowance. Leave a gap of about 5cm to thread your elastic through.

To get your elastic length: wrap elastic around shoulders where you want your top to sit, pulling slightly so it stretches, and mark. It needs to be tight enough to stay up but not so tight it cuts off the circulation and if it’s too tight it will ride up, too loose and it’ll drop down! Everyone’s measurement will vary as it depends on a lot of outside factors how stretchy is your elastic/ how tight are you comfortable with etc?


| Thread the elastic |

(This is the same process as the sleeve hem for the Smock) Attach a safety pin to your elastic to help thread it through the neckband channel. Once threaded lay the elastic with the ends flat on top of each other and stitch where you marked it earlier. Try your smock on and see how that elastic feels, now is the time to adjust if you need to. Once you are happy, make sure that elastic is stitched securely, and trim away excess elastic.


Then just stitch the gap closed, and neaten the raw seam allowance.



Now just enjoy the sun in your off the shoulder top, like the fashionista you are!



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Block Fuse and Spot Fuse Tutorial

Block fusing your facings is a great little industry trick that anyone can use.

Why? It is more accurate to cut out facings from a pre-fused piece of fabric, rather than cutting the fabric and interfacing separately and then trying to fuse them together. They don’t always stay on the straight grain, they may shrink and it’s just so fiddly!

When? On facings, collars, pocket flaps, on any pattern piece that requires the WHOLE area to be interfaced. Maven Patterns are marked as CUT 1 PAIR SELF + BLOCK FUSE,  but other sewing patterns may be marked ‘cut 1 pair fabric + cut 1 pair interfacing’. This is an especially fabulous method to use for hideously slippy fabrics!



It’s really very simple. When laying up your garment to cut out, leave an extra couple of centimetres around your pattern pieces (a bit of wiggle room and enough in case of shrinkage when fusing) and roughly cut out the fabric. Ideally, make sure you use a piece with the selvedge on, so you can keep everything on grain.


Should you be cutting a front facing on the fold; cut out roughly again and snip with your scissors along the folded edge. You’ll have a marker to re-fold on the grain after fusing. I find marking with chalk etc tends to disappear under the iron.


Do a test piece first, don’t burn your fabric!

Cut a piece of interfacing very slightly smaller than your fabric, so it doesn’t overhang your edges and stick to your ironing board cover. Placing a cloth over your ironing board first is a good idea too. It saves the cover from gluey gunk which can transfer on to other garments – this is that voice of experience you hear of.

Lay the interfacing with the GLUE SIDE to the WRONG SIDE of the fabric. Cover with a cloth and PRESS into place. Refer to the manufactures instructions but heat, steam and pressure are usually the best combo. Don’t be tempted to drag your iron over it either, it will stretch and shift. Just place and press with your iron. I usually allow it to cool before turning over and pressing on the right side too. You can do quite large pieces if necessary, but it is a lot easier to manage if you use smaller pieces and you are less likely to get creases and bubbles in the interfacing.

BLOCK FUSING TUTORIAL_MAVEN PATTERNSNow just cut out your facings and collars.


When and why? If BLOCK FUSING is used to interface an entire piece, how do you strengthen one small area of a garment? That’s when you SPOT FUSE.BLOCK FUSING TUTORIAL_MAVEN PATTERNSBLOCK FUSING TUTORIAL_MAVEN PATTERNSYou might, for example, want to add a patch pocket on a jersey t-shirt. You know that each top corner is going to be a really weak point and wear badly after a few washes. Spot fusing means you can add a small piece of interfacing for extra stability but only where it’s needed. The pocket mouth on The French Dart Shift and the Kitty Dress, and the neck opening on The Wendy Smock all need a little extra reinforcement with fusible interfacing. We don’t need it all over the garment- just in a specific SPOT .


So easy! Cut your pattern piece out in fusible interfacing only as directed (marked on Maven Patterns as CUT 1 PAIR FUSIBLE INTERFACING). Apply directly to the area of your garment that needs extra support. That’s it! 


*a little note…

I’ve called this SPOT FUSING for the last 30 odd years while working in the industry. But, just to confuse you, sometimes the term ‘spot fuse’ is also used to describe attaching fusible interfacing to the fabric when you block fuse a LARGE area. Interfacing is difficult to attach over a large area without it twisting, bubbling or other such delights. Lifting your iron and placing the tip down in various places working from the centre outwards is a good method, basically, STEAM BASTING the interfacing into place rather than the attempting to do the whole piece.


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How to Grade Between Two Sizes

How to Grade Between Two Sizes

We are a unique and amazing bunch of individuals, all different shapes and sizes. Even those of us with the same measurements can be different shapes! You’ll understand them, with the best will in the world, it’s not possible to create a pattern that fits everyone straight off. The best course of action is to arm ourselves with enough fitting knowledge and skills to adjust, as necessary, our patterns to create great fitting garments.

So, what is a girl to do when she falls between different sizes on the size chart? This is where you need to know how to grade between two sizes. This method is also known as blending sizes, and it allows you to use the top half of one size and join to the bottom half of another size.

How do you know?

Once you’ve checked your measurements against the body measurement chart, may well find you cross 2 sizes, perhaps your bust is measuring for the size 12 and your hips are measuring for the size 14.

Take a look at the garment measurement chart – a looser fitting garment may give you that extra you’re looking for. I often find, that for me, this is the case for the waist on a less fitted style – no alteration needed!

You made a toile: perhaps your dress is a little too snug on the hips but great on the bust… then this one’s for you.

WARNING: If your toile is pulling because of a fuller tummy or bottom, or because you actually need to do a full bust adjustment this alteration may not do the trick, this is really just to add a bit of extra wiggle room.

How To Grade Between Two Sizes Tutorial_MAVEN PATTERNS-36


  • your nested pattern
  • contrast coloured sharp pencil
  • french curve/pattern master (optional)


If you have a pattern that is layered, use that option to select and print only the sizes you need.

Then all you need to do is draw a line from one size to the next, use a contrasting colour so you can easily see which line to follow later.

In this case I’ve used the bust from the UK size 12 and the hip from the UK size 14.GRADE BETWEEN SIZES TUTORIAL-03

It’s important to make a nice smooth line, remember bodies are rounded, so keep your lines curved rather than joining to each other in a point. A french curve or a Pattern Master is really useful and a good investment for the long term. But, you can also use the pattern as a guide by copying the side seam shape on to a piece of paper, cutting it out and using it as a template between your sizes. It will need pivoting between points, and the line will change but it does give a good starting point.

GRADE BETWEEN SIZES 01_TUTORIAL_MAVEN PATTERNS-01Of course it works the other way, to allow for smaller hips / larger bust combination too (but sadly not instead of a full bust adjustment).

Good To Know:

  • The Chain Effect: Alter all corresponding pattern pieces so they still fit together and the pattern stays balanced.
  • Front and backs need the SAME treatment.
  • This dress has a side seam pocket, as the side seam shape has changed, the pocket pattern needs to be checked against the side seam to make sure it still fits and adjusted if not.
  • Make sure the correct size sleeve pattern is selected, it should be the same size as your selected bust size, so it still fits into the armscye (Fancy word for armhole. Don’t ever get put off by terminology – that is possibly the first time I’ve ever actually used the word armscye , & I’ve been doing this since I was 16!)

NOW CHECK YOUR PATTERN FITS TOGETHER: nice smooth line? side seams the same length? 


But, it’ll be worth the effort because you are going to have a beautifully fitted pattern you can use again and again, now that you know how to grade between two sizes!








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Lengthen or Shorten a Sewing Pattern Tutorial

How to Lengthen or Shorten a Sewing Pattern

This is just about the easiest pattern alteration to do!

You’ve probably noticed, many patterns have horizontal length adjustment lines marked on them to show where to alter the length. I don’t do that on my patterns, I prefer a cleaner look. It’s so easy to get in a muddle with too many lines everywhere and so simple to mark any length adjustments only if you need them. This straight forward tutorial will show you how simple it is to lengthen or shorten a sewing pattern, to help achieve a great fit.


Your pattern (or copy of your pattern if you don’t want to alter your original)






Things to be aware of:

  • If you are doing lots of alterations to your pattern, do any length adjustments first.
  • Keep the grainline or “place to fold line” IN A STRAIGHT LINE, do not allow them to stagger.
  • The Chain Effect: when altering one pattern piece, also alter the corresponding pattern piece in the same way and remember to check they still fit together after your alteration. It is very annoying to end up with the front skirt longer than your back skirt!


HOW TO LENGTHEN OR SHORTEN A SEWING PATTERN TUTORIAL_MAVEN PATTERNS-01Once you’ve made a toile, you’ll know how much and where you need to add or subtract length to your garment. You can just change the bodice length, or a skirt length or the sleeve, or all 3!

Draw an adjustment line horizontally across your pattern at a right angle to the grainline or to the “place to a fold line”

On a bodice: mark the line above the waist line but below a bust dart, and straight through any waist darts.

On a skirt (or skirt portion of a dress) below the hip line, but avoid any pocket details – no point making life complicated!

On a sleeve: half way along the underarm seam, unless it’s a fitted sleeve or has an elbow dart, then divide between two lines. (See “Good to Know” at the end)

Step 2:


HOW TO LENGTHEN OR SHORTEN A SEWING PATTERN TUTORIAL_MAVEN PATTERNS-02Cut along the adjustment lines and separate the pattern piece.

Place a piece of paper behind your pattern and tape the top portion of your pattern to it.

Extend the grain line. Draw a line parallel to the your adjustment line the amount you need to lengthen the pattern by. Tape the lower portion of your pattern to the new line, matching up the grainline. Re-draw the seam lines so that they match up again, these may need to be curved or may be straight depending on your pattern piece. It’s quite usual to need to blend the new lines together, adding a bit to one and taking a bit off the other.



Place a piece of paper behind your pattern and tape the top portion of your pattern to it. On your pattern, draw a line parallel to the adjustment line the amount the pattern is to be shortened. Overlapping your pattern pieces, tape the lower portion of the pattern to the new line, matching up the grainlines. Re-draw the the seam lines so they match up again, in the same way as lengthening a pattern.


Check your pattern pieces still fit together before cutting out your garment. Toile again if you need to!

Good to Know:

The Maria Wrap Apron: lengthen the straps



This is a great method to use if you need to alter the length of the straps of The Maria Wrap Apron too. Be sure to keep the grainline aligned as before, but you can just chop through the strap, spread the pattern the required amount and re-draw the edges with a straight line – all without changing the length of the angled edge that attaches to your apron! You will need to do exactly the same alteration to both the TOP and UNDER straps.

If you are lengthening or shortening a larger amount, you can spread the amount between two lines.

HOW TO LENGTHEN OR SHORTEN A SEWING PATTERN TUTORIAL_MAVEN PATTERNS-05On a bodice, for example, take the amount needed to lengthen and place half above the bust dart, and half below the dart, this will of course lower the bust dart a little, so be sure you want it lower!

On a skirt, especially a maxi skirt style, half could go through the skirt in two places, this will lengthen the skirt and keep the hem circumference the same as the original. Alternatively, use one adjustment line and extra length could be added straight to the bottom of the hem, but the hem circumference will get bigger.

For a fitted sleeve: Spread the amount between two lines one above and one below the elbow/elbow dart.

Now, do I always use this method for changing the length of every pattern? ( I’m 5’2″ so it’s always shorten, shorten, shorten)

HOW TO LENGTHEN OR SHORTEN A SEWING PATTERN TUTORIAL_MAVEN PATTERNS-04NOPE, I don’t! If it’s only a little bit, or a boxy shape I’ll just chop it off/add the extra on to the bottom of the pattern. That works just fine too in some cases.

I do hope you’ve found this tutorial useful, and can now confidently lengthen or shorten a sewing pattern.

Happy Sewing!