4 Tips For Pattern Drafting with a Compass

Pattern Drafting with a Compass

Today I want to talk about using a compass. I don’t mean the magnetic thing that helps you point north, I mean the pointy one you used to carve your name into the desk during maths class (or someone else’s name if you’re smart). Pretty sure mine hasn’t seen the light of day since I left school, but this weekend it was just the thing I wanted while I was pattern drafting. Compass1

I don’t have one of those big fancy rulers with the squares on and I needed to get  perpendicular lines, which a compass does perfectly. For those of you who weren’t paying attention at school, I’m going to outline some of the useful things that you can do with a compass that I found came in really handy for pattern drafting.

Perpendicular lines

To get a perfectly perpendicular line, first draw a little mark on your original line where you want your new line to cross. Place the point of your compass on the mark and open the compass up – it doesn’t matter how much, but somewhere in the middle is easier than a very small or large distance, which are likely to cause the pen to slip. Draw an arc through your line on one side. Compass2Now, keeping the compass open exactly the same amount, pivot around the point and draw an arc on the other side of the line. I like to then go back and check the compass is still the length of the first arc. You could also just draw a circle, this is my way of keeping the guidelines minimal. Compass3Now take the compass off the paper and open it a little more. Again, it doesn’t matter how much as long as you keep it consistent. Put the point of the compass at the point where one of your arcs crossed the blue line and draw another arc above your mark. Compass4

Repeat this with the other side, making sure the compass stays open the same amount. This line should cross through the one you just marked.Compass5The point where the lines cross will be perfectly perpendicular to your original line at the point you marked, so draw a line between the cross and the mark and admire your right angle!Compass6

45 Degree Angle

Now we can do exactly the same thing to get a 45 degree angle, which I’ve shown in green. First, set the compass to an arbitrary length , put the point at the centre where the blue lines cross and draw an arc that intersects both the horizontal and vertical lines.Compass7Now, place the compass point at one of the points where the green line meets the blue and draw an arc between the two blue lines. This time it doesn’t matter if you open it up more, it will work fine staying at the same length. Compass8Repeat this step with the other green-blue intersection, keeping the compass open the same amount and you should have made a cross. Compass9Draw a line between the green cross and the crossing point of the blue lines and you have a perfect 45 degree angle. The camera angle I’ve used makes this look a bit off unfortunately, but it did look pretty perfect, I promise!Compass15For a longer perpendicular (or 45 degree line) I would sometimes do 2 crosses different lengths away from the line to give me another guide. Because it doesn’t matter which distance the compass is set at you can do this as much as you like and every cross will be perpendicular as long as you use the same length for the left and right arcs of each cross.

Specific Distance Between a Point and a Line

Sometimes a pattern drafting step will require you to measure a certain distance from a point to a line. This can be done by moving a ruler around until you’ve got the right distance, but a compass does it so much more quickly and accurately! Just set your compass at the desired length on a ruler…Compass11

…then place the compass point on your point and draw an arc that intersects your line. The point where they meet is the point you’re looking for. Eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that it could intersect at two points, but in most cases it will be obvious which one you need. Compass12

Adding Seam Allowances

One last thing I found a compass really handy for is adding seam allowances once you’ve finished pattern drafting. Set your compass to the desired seam allowance – here I’ve used the standard 1.5 cm – and move along the pattern piece marking small arcs all the way along the pattern piece. Once you’ve gone all the way round, join them all up and you have a perfectly added seam allowance. Woo!

Compass13At the corners you’ll need to extend your lines a bit to meet at a point because the compass would give a curved corner, which isn’t what you want. Compass14

So there you go! Do I have some compass converts? For the drafting itself I found that using a soft pencil for the lines and a harder pencil in the compass for the guidelines worked well, making the guidelines fainter and the main pattern lines more prominent.

Swimsuits and New Domains

a sewing blog

If you look in your browser bar you might see I’ve started using a shiny new domain! I am a website tester by day and I always planned to switch and be able to tinker around with the site, so here I am. Hopefully none of you will see any difference, but please do let me know if something’s not working or you’re not getting my posts! All followers and comments have been transferred over, so hopefully it will be seamless! Haha, a sewing pun! Not even deliberate.

Anyone who knows me knows what a BBC News junkie I am. It feels like a more legitimate way to procrastinate at work than blogging or crosswords and who would want to miss the “Can you create a majority government?” game, articles about dogs driving cars or today’s favourite, “Kim Jong-un’s brother visits London to watch Eric Clapton”?

But I digress, what I want to tell you about is today’s fabulous magazine article about swimsuits through the ages. If you haven’t seen it, it is a vintage fashion lover’s dream and I urge you go and take a look – beach pyjamas anyone? Then when you’ve read it we can all go to the exhibition that sparked the article at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London and drool over all the exhibits (not literally obviously, might get thrown out). And THEN we can all make some lovely vintage swimsuits!

I’ll leave you with my favourite swimsuit from the article, the women’s tan and blue scalloped edge swimsuit. I REALLY need this in my life. When I’m a master pattern cutter, this will be the first item on my list. Can you even buy “lastex” these days?

Women’s tan and blue scalloped edge swimsuit, 1953 (Copyright: Leicestershire County Council Museums Service)

Gathered Cream Mathilde

mathilde blouse

Here she is folks! My version of Tilly’s Mathilde Blouse.  I used some lovely cream cotton from my shopping spree the other week, which has a gorgeous drape to it, just perfect for a blouse. IMG_8854

I’m not so keen on the pin-tucks in the original pattern, so I went with the gathered bodice hack from her website. Construction was pretty simple; the pattern comes with lots of photos for each step and there’s also tutorials on the website if you get stuck, which I did briefly with the button placket at the back. Happily her blog tutorial got me on the right track and I didn’t have any further problems. One thing that was a bit confusing was that the material used on the blog tutorial had no obvious right and wrong side. It was fairly clear what was going on in most cases, but left me scratching my head a couple of times.


As you can see, the sleeves are on the long side, so I might shorten them if I find the time. I’ll happily wear them as they are, especially because I have tended to just push them up, but they would probably look a bit less weird if they decided whether to be a full sleeve or a three-quarter length.

IMG_8838When I finished the whole thing and put it on for the first time I felt a bit like I was in a tent – I had forgotten that using gathers instead of pin-tucks meant all that extra fabric would be around my hips! I ended up taking in the side seam quite a bit so that I wasn’t swamped in fabric. I feel like it’s still a bit billowy, but I’ll probably wear it mostly tucked into skirts, where that won’t matter so much. I took in the cuffs quite a bit as well. Maybe I actually need to go down a size next time?


So I used self-fabric interfacing throughout this garment.  I thought it would be nicer to retain the transparency of the material and also give the interfaced parts a nicer texture. Oh, and I ran out of interfacing 😉 Does that make me a terrible person? I was worried it would, but I did a bit of googling and it turns out it’s a vintage technique and definitely not lazy… Anyway, I really like how it looks and feels, I sometimes find interfacing a bit ‘crispy’. Just me? Anyone else tried self-fabric interfacing? Anything it really doesn’t work on that I shouldn’t try?


And here are the buttons! I didn’t want anything too busy and these buttons are perfect. The gold rims look lovely next to the cream fabric and the black really makes them pop out from the rest of the blouse. I love buttons in pretty much any place on a garment (haven’t tried all over yet, maybe I should give it a go…), but buttoning up the back has to be one of my favourites. The back of your clothes normally don’t get as much love, so it’s fun to spice it up a bit!

IMG_8861 IMG_8862All in all I’m pretty pleased with this blouse. It’s mostly sewn with french seams (instructions included in the pattern), so it looks pretty good from the inside too. Plus it means I can wear trousers for Me-Made-May now! Oh yeah, speaking of MMM, I’m afraid I fell off the photo bandwagon pretty quickly – the boyfriend was away and the photos I attempted to take in the mirror were pretty terrible. I’m still very proudly wearing my me-mades though and to be honest I already showed you nearly all my outfits last week, so I’m probably saving you from me-made boredom. And terrible photos. I’ll do a round-up at some point though and include any outfits that didn’t make it into week 1.