Mathematical sewing


So how’s life where you are?  It’s building up nicely to Christmas around here – one Christingle down, two Nativities, four Christmas parties (ours, nursery’s, school’s and work’s) to go plus no end of family meals.  But there has to be some time to sew, right?

So this is another catch up post on some of the stuff I’ve been up to of late (well, the fun stuff, not the migraines and fun and games with children not settling into school!).  In particular, the Made to measure trouser pattern workshop at Ministry of Craft, Manchester I attended at the end of last month.

As I mentioned last time, although I enjoyed the bodice pattern course the previous weekend, it hadn’t exactly lined up to what I wanted so I set off for this course with some trepidation.

On the plus side, this course was on a Saturday rather than a Sunday, which meant there was a direct train to central Manchester available, rather than the 2 hour meander which would have been involved the previous week.  Much as I used to hate commuting by train (never been as grateful as when I was allocated a parking space at work!), these days the idea of an hour or so alone, on a train, with a good book is actually quite appealing so I went for that option and was on a train before 8:30 on a Saturday morning. Which would be much harder work were my children not awake before 6 most days!

At least this time I knew where I was going, so there was less wandering around some of the dodgier looking bits of central Manchester, clutching my iPhone and relying on Google maps (anyone else feel they rely too much on the old smart phones?) I also managed to resist having a swift browse of Fred Aldous on my way down to the workshop room, which was much better for my bank balance!

The first thing to greet me on arriving in the room was this lovely sight.

IMG_3291Calculator, rulers, grid of numbers to fill in? Oh yes, this is definitely my kind of course – numbers, calculation, certainty! Bring it on!

The course this time was given by Alison Leese who is also the owner.  Again, she was lovely and an extremely good tutor, going through the required measurements and calculations clearly and spotting quickly when people were getting stuck.

We spent an awful lot more time on this course measuring, both ourselves and our paper.  Instead of working from a standard, commercial block pattern and making minor adjustments, we drafted the entire pattern from scratch based only on our measurements and a few standard assumptions.  These were all explained in the course notes and on the grid we were given to fill in.


As well as the metre rule, we were also introduced to the joys of the French Curve.  I’d never actually seen one used before, so it was really useful to see someone using one properly!

Trousers have always been something of a nemesis for me, which is slightly odd given they’re what I wear 90% of the time!  It’s fair to say there are some strong genes coming down from mum’s side of the family, which means I have a larger than average bum and (pre kids!) a very small waist.  That kind of vanished after the second pregnancy but I have lost a little weight recently and it’s slightly reappeared, which is nice! I also have dodgy knees so spend a lot of effort building the muscles in my legs – this is not trouser friendly!

So I was still somewhat dubious that these trousers were going to fit when we finally got to sewing up a muslin out of calico.  However, other than a couple of centimetres out of the centre back (did I mention my swayback?!) , the only adjustment I had to make was to take some of the fullness out over the hip.  Given that this was the only bit of the pattern that you freehanded yourself, I’d consider that to be a major result.

The centre back adjustment – much smaller than usual!

The hip adjustment, taking out my over enthusiastic curves
I am seriously impressed with any technique that gets you a pair of trousers to fit you with only one lot of very minor adjustments; if you read my first blog post about my floral trousers, you can compare this with my previous experience!

I was also really impressed again with the tutor.  Part way through the course, I started to get yet another migraine (not all that surprising given I’d got to bed at 4am on the Friday after having to take my youngest daughter, along with her big sister as I was on my own, to the emergency doctor with breathing difficulties).  As I was on the train and knew I didn’t have to drive, I kept going but Alison spotted I was struggling.  Additional drinks were offered (there was free flowing tea and coffee anyway) and she even went and got the shop music turned down for me.

The final step of the course was to transfer the perfectly fitting muslin back onto the pattern pieces.  I started to attempt this, realised I couldn’t see straight and gave up rather than make a mess.  Alison spotted this and took over, transferring my markings over for me.  This definitely falls into the category of above and beyond!

The fitting seemed to go really well for most people on the course, which meant Alison had time to spend 10 minutes starting to talk about how you would use the block to draft your own trouser pattern.  I think I’m probably more likely to do this with trousers than the bodice somehow – time will tell! Obviously next up on my to make list is a pretty dress…..

Becca  x

7 thoughts on “Mathematical sewing

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  1. Such a shame you had a migraine. It’s a wonder all non-mathematical bods didn’t get a migraine too. I have yet to make up my dress from the blocks – the toile needed a number of adjustments so I suspect I did something wrong. Anyway, well done you and presumably three cheers for the mister who had the brood for the day.


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