Collars with stands are one of the tasks I tend to procrastinate on when sewing. Given that I, and the people I make shirts for, do not wear them buttoned up to the top, the back and front of the topstitching, particularly around the front opening, must be bang on. I have devised this way of attaching collars with stands that works the best for me so far.

I like a 10mm seam allowance in general. It uses less fabric (I know it’s only a tiny bit), and eliminates the need for trimming a lot of the time. I know that in the garment making industry a 5mm seam allowance is applied to curves, I am not yet confident with this and find 10mm to be ok (I don’t mind trimming the curves). However, I make an exception to my 10mm rule when attaching a collar stand. I have found that a 15mm seam allowance on the neck edge, and on my collar stand, allows me to achieve much neater attachment. I follow a pretty standard method for attaching the collar unit


but I break the topstitching of the stand into two parts as I find it’s less likely my stitches will veer off the edge of the stand into the “ditch” or into the body of the garment (see first paragraph for the need for stitching to be bang on inside and outside collar opening).


– first I stitch along the edge attaching the inner collar to the neck edge, finishing seam ends by hand for a neat seam end (blue line)

– then I stitch round the curves and along the seam attached to the collar (red line)

I also vary whether the interfacing is attached to top or bottom collar depending on how I want the garment to look (formal and stiff = interfacing on top collar, less formal = interfacing on bottom collar).

I think next time I will try this method, though I will eliminate the back neck stiffening.

Other tasks I faff over;

set in sleeves on coats and jackets in stiff fabrics

buttonholes – I’m terrified my maching will screw them up with no possibility of reversing the damage when the whole garment has been finished

Related: Men’s shirt details

Drafting and making a men’s shirt


I found the fabric for this trench coat in a craft shop in Tooting around a year ago. I was there getting my sewing machine serviced and wasn’t planning to buy any fabric but thought I had to snatch up this bargain. I think it was £12 p/m, and the label said it was ex-Burberry stock. Given that this is the nicest quality fabric I have worked with apart from silk, I believe it. The handle is quite firm, perfect for the boxy, traditional style trench coat I was after.

A lesson for the future, however, is to buy more when I come across a bargain. I think I must have asked for 2.5 metres, which given all the bits and pieces needed for a trench coat, was only enough because I drafted a pattern for a single breasted design. This style seems to be more common in men’s trench coats. I am completely happy with single breasted (I like to wear coats buttoned up to the neck most of the time and a double-breasted coat doesn’t have that option, neither are they the most convenient to wear open).

Drafting your own pattern also means that you can make sure it fits the amount of fabric you have to work with too, sometimes.


Trench coat

Trench coatVisual Dictionary – Copyright © 2005-2011 – All rights reserved.

I spent lots of time looking at illustrations like these, not to mention eyeballing people’s trench coats on public transport. Running after them up escalators in order to look at a bit of shoulder  top stitching, and other things that make me look like a crazy person.

I got a bit more carried away with the innards that intended originally. But the home-made shoulder pads were worth it in the end.


Now all I need to do is decide on some buttons. I’ve already bought and rejected some.

I decided to try the Pattern Magic 3 Apple Peel Leggings. I don’t have the book, but they proved pretty easy to free style.

The pieces


Weird thigh shot

Full length


The knee area is very tight and needs altering. This area fell with the length wise grain running across the knee, which meant little stretch due to the fabric having only a width wise stretch. It makes the fit quite uncomfortable, and didn’t look good close up. I do like this pattern, and woud definitely wear these leggings but I’m going to need a multiway stretch jersey to make a wearable pair. I have only managed to find multiway stretch jerseys either too fine, or too shiny (I want to avoid the ice-dancer look).

The area marked up for alteration


The tank top was my first project on my new overlocker. I’m desperate to wear it but the weather has been too cold.

How I made this sleeve detail

Sleeve pattern piece with lines marked where final pleats will fall

Slash and spread to depth of pleats, and draw in pleat guidelines. I have used a dotted line for the valley fold here

Fold pattern pieces along pleat lines and trace sleeve head line with tracing wheel


It looked like this when cut out


Sleeve piece cut out, with pleats pressed into place


Inserted into bodice as normal set in sleeve


When out browsing the shops at the weekend I saw a lovely, lovely example of a Pattern Magic-ish “wearing a balloon” (PM2)  type structure on a dress in All Saints. I could only get a tiny picture from their website, but click on it to see the webpage.


All Saints “Marilyn” dress



I’ve been thinking about a way to try this kind of structure. the All Saints dress uses a similar principle for the “balloon”, but blends it into a crossover front piece, making the piece flow seamlessly from inner bodice, to collar, then down to the waist. I had a go at drawing what the pattern pieces might look like, then got totally confused. But this dress was too perfect to try to recreate anyway. Now, if only I could find £165…


Made up a second time, with some help from my mum. I made them a little longer, in a drapey, cool grey, woven cotton.


Excited to be given Drape Drape (a book I had admired other people’s efforts from, but never felt inclined to try to decipher it when it was only available in Japanese), I threw myself into the tuck drape pants. Luckily it was a toile.

I’m sure the waistband will improve with wider elastic, which will give top a bit of structure too. I’m more worried about the tucks coming from the waist as they don’t lie flat. I’m not sure if it’s due to the rather bulky seam the tucks create, which would be neater, and flatter, done on an overlocker.

I also need to lengthen the legs. The one on the left in the picture has the elastic in as the finished trousers should, but it falls right on my knee joint, uncomfortable.

Funnily, only one side at the back has the problem of the tucks not lying flat. Trousers – to be continued…

So, deciding I would not be beaten by Drape Drape, I charged on to make the loose drape top. This has got to be simpler, I thought…

It took a lot longer to complete that I expected (again, blame it partly on lack of overlocker, finishing seams neatly on jersey is a pain on a normal machine), but I have fallen in love with my twin needle, it makes the finish look so much more professional.

It is longer than I expected/intended as I had to add the bottom band, the stretch lace was impossible to hem neatly. The band doesn’t stick out so much when it’s on a moving body. I also had to reduce the front armhole and taper the side seam to the hem as applying the hemming fabric (thin strip of jersey for binding) stretched the lace so much. I’m not sure how the shoulders will stay in place during wear, the lace means this will be occasional anyway.

And I forgive all for the pretty back.

This top could also be made in a woven fabric with a good drape, though I would think about cutting on the bias, especially if I was going for a more fitted version.

Large – grey corduroy, yellow cotton drill, blue piping made from unknown fibre content (very synthetic)

Small – blue fabric as before, yellow and grey polycottons

I made the small cover using a modified log cabin patchwork technique which I think has a more contemporary feel than the traditional square design.

Large cushion in situ…

. …the jacket.  To be honest I never thought I would get round to making this (there is not really much call for me to wear a suit), but I’ll admit it feels nice to have made a suit.

 a bit Margaret Thatcher on the stand, but on me the skirt sits quite a bit higher.

Back of skirt – not my neatest zip ending.

Ludicrously short back vent – probably not necessary, but I thought the skirt was going to be longer originally. The pinstripe looks so staid I decided I’d wear it more if it was shorter and lopped a load off the length.

Lining vents is tricky, I hadn’t done it before. As it turns out, a vent probably wasn’t needed at all, but I’m glad I learned how to line them.