Always learning – bodices and bottoms!


So once again, life has got in the way of both sewing and blogging and it’s all been rather quiet on here – apologies.  There’s been all sorts of stuff going on, work and personal.  On the plus side, there has been some sewing and related fun going on over the last week or two so hopefully “normal” service may be resumed.

First up, and very rarely, I went on two one day courses last month.  This is pretty rare for me; I’ve been on a sum total of two sewing courses after the first 6 week course where I learned to sew. It’s not for lack of interest, it’s merely that courses I’m interested in appear to be few and far between around here.  So usually I’ve settled for Pinterest, Instagram, the odd Craftsy course and feeling of slight envy when reading about other bloggers’ courses!

Anyway, I read about Ministry of Craft, Manchester somewhere, had a browse and saw a couple of pattern cutting one day courses I liked the look of.  Some negotiation with the other half ensued and I booked the Pattern Cutting : Introduction to Bodice Fitting and Pattern Cutting: Made to Measure Trousers workshops on consecutive weekends.

The courses were held in the Manchester Fred Aldous shop.  The space is down two floors into a basement but despite that is a bright, pleasant space.

IMG_3249There’s certainly a lot more light than in my usual sewing space!

First up was the bodice block.  The course was taken by Jeanette Archer who was a lovely and competent teacher.  We started by taking measurements in pairs with Jeanette’s help (all numbers were in cm which does help protect one’s ego – why do we think in inches when sewing when everything else is in cm??) This was then used to select a size on a standard block pattern from which we traced front and back bodice and then a sleeve.

For most, the next step was a full bust adjustment, something I’ve done before but for which a slightly different technique was used here.

IMG_3248Darts were redrawn, masking tape applied and at this point, we cut out our blocks from calico and started sewing the front and back together.

Other than a very brief break for lunch, which we all took at a point which suited us, the rest of the afternoon was spent having the bodice block fitted to us by Jeanette.

It was an enlightening experience having something fit to you by someone who knew what they were doing (as opposed to by a husband who looks scared when you suggest he might guess which end of the pin was which).  I ended up taking a strip of fabric out from each shoulder down to the waist, removing most of the depth in the back bust dart and redrawing the armscye.  This actually tallied with a lot of the fit adjustments I’ve been making on the go – apparently I have a relatively narrow frame for my height.


The photo shows my finished block placed over the original pattern piece post FBA.

Overall, I enjoyed the course.  It was lovely to spend almost a whole day in a room with lots of other sewists, chatting and sewing – a very new experience.  However, I came away feeling a little disappointed.

What I really wanted was a means of adjusting commercial patterns to me.  I was hoping for a better understanding of the measurements and adjustments I’d need to make on a new pattern to have a much better chance of amending it to me without spending too much time making multiple muslins or being unhappy with the finished fit.  What I don’t have at the moment is much wish to draft my own designs – I’m quite happy with buying all the pretty patterns! And this course didn’t really give me the tools to either do that or set off drafting my own patterns from this.

Much of this is down to my not being clear what was being offered to be honest; with hindsight, I don’t know how you could have covered any more than what we did in the time available to us so my dreams of understanding the mathematics behind everything were a little optimistic!

I do think that another half hour on what to do with our bodice blocks would have been lovely, or even some links to good places to start, but it’s a very minor criticism of an enjoyable day.

I’ve found a link through Threads magazine with a technique to use my block on a commercial pattern here and I’m hoping to use it to make the Emery dress for Christmas Day – watch this space!

I think I’ve waffled enough for one day, so I’ll cover the trouser block another time.

Anyone got any recommendations for really good courses in the North?

Becca  x

5 thoughts on “Always learning – bodices and bottoms!

Add yours

  1. I have had exactly the same experience. Finished my 6 week course today and all I have is a toile to make up a frock of my own design but like you I really wanted to know how to adapt commercial patterns. The tutor told me that in 6 x 3.5 hour sessions and had only really scratched the surface. I feel a bit disappointed to be honest. I don’t really like the dress I have “designed” – it is rather basic/ frumpy. It was great that you got to do a course though. I love meeting other sewists at workshops.


    1. Oh that’s disappointing, I kind of hoped your “proper” course would give you more of a steer. It’s a baffling old world out there: think I just want a magic wand to make all the patterns fit!
      It’s definitely good to meet other sewists though, maybe I can find some more courses somewhere!


  2. Oh that’s a shame it wasn’t quite what you were looking for! 😦 All this talk of blocks/slopers and how to use them is rather baffling to me as well to be honest. My friend Amy (who got me into sewing) and I are trying to convince our sewing/dressmaking teacher to run a block/pattern drafting workshop as we’d like to get to grips with this more as well! Her reaction makes me think there is just so much to cover. At the moment, I’m happy with buying patterns and understanding construction that way.

    Like you, right now, I have to make a toile every time rather than having a block or a list of standard adjustments. Sigh. Maybe there is a course of Craftsy? I might look into that. I’m also going to look into Swedish tracing paper which you can actually sew, rather than having to buy reams of calico/curtain lining. Thanks for the Thread Magazine link; it looks really useful!


    1. I think I just want a magic wand really! I get such limited time for sewing and I’m not imaginative enough to want to draft my own patterns, I just really want the ones I buy to fit properly!

      Having said that, the technique in the Threads link seems to work pretty well. I tried it on my Christmas Emery dress and, allowing for it being the first time I’d done it on a brand new pattern plus I’ve lost a little weight since the course, I was pretty pleased with the fit on the bodice so maybe the course was more useful than I thought!

      I struggle with Craftsy courses for some reason: I’ve bought a few but then never seem to get through them! Would love to know if you find a good one though.

      Incidentally, very jealous of your having a sewing teacher to hand!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

Red W Sews

Adventures in dressmaking from an improving sewist!

Susan Young Sewing

Passion for sewing, fashion and fabric

Button & Pip

Sewing a Handmade Wardrobe

run | sew | read

and all things related that make this a good life.


Sewing, crochet, crafts, accessories, baking, tutorials,

Naomi Sews

All things sewing with Naomi

The Little Dressmaker

Finding my Style & Sewing a Practical Wardrobe


A Sewing Blog for Everyone

jessamy b makes

building a handmade wardrobe and home

Jodie Laura

Buttons, bows and pearls

DIY Wardrobe

Making clothes for real people

Spare Room Style

My sewing show and tell

Sew Make Me

Sewing Making and Me

Merrymaking Sewing

Adventures in learning to sew

%d bloggers like this: