Anna Dress Sprout Hack

Today’s guest blogger is Kelly, Director of Engineering over at Spoonflower. She also writes a blog where she focuses on sewing, weaving and reading. It’s called Dress Insouciantly – check it out!


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We’ve all had this moment before: It’s late at night and you got carried away working on a project when you realize you’re missing an essential element. But of course, the craft store is closed. Why oh why can’t craft stores be open at reasonable times? Say, 24-hours a day, 7-days a week? Sadly, I found myself in this position just last week.

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I’ve been eyeing By Hand London’s Anna dress ever since Sprout Patterns listed it. It looks elegant without being fussy, and can serve as both casual day dress or evening wear depending on what fabric you choose. With a birthday coming up, I decided now was the time, and designed the dress with a beautiful floral design called Winter Garden Antique from Ceciliamok. I chose the poly crepe de chine fabric because I love the light feeling it has and I really wanted that draped effect the slash-necked bodice has.

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As life so often goes, time caught up with me, and it was the night before my birthday party before I really got down to business and started sewing. I wasn’t worried though, this pattern is beautiful in its simplicity. The use of pleats in the bodice, instead of darts, makes it very easy to fit. And the long straight sides of the skirt are a breeze! And then, of course, I get to the very last step: the zipper. But wait, where is my zipper? I know I put it around here somewhere…

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Long story short, I had no 22inch zipper; what I did have was a 7-9 inch zipper. It was nearly midnight, there were no craft stores open anywhere. And yet, I was determined to wear this dress tomorrow, what could I do?

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Eventually, I realized that the zipper is really only needed for the narrowest part of the waist. Because the dress uses kimono sleeves instead of inset ones, and the bodice pleats encourage a relaxed fit and gathered look, the back of the dress isn’t actually supporting any structure. As long as the back of the neck is connected, the zipper really only needs to go as high as the bodice pleats. I decided that it would be completely possible to still finish the dress and create an open back feature.

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I set my 9inch zipper in the back seam so that the bottom of the zipper met the marks in the pattern and the top of it reached just past the bodice darts. Then I drew a gentle curve on the remaining section of each piece of the back bodice and cut away a little bit more than an inch of fabric. I hemmed these pieces with a double fold, making sure to catch the back facing in for a clean finish. I attached a button to the top of one back piece, and a loop of elastic thread to the other. Voila! I now have a key-hole back on my Anna dress!

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I am very pleased with how this dress turned out. I’m even happy I forgot to get a zipper of the right length; because of that mistake I ended up with a unique dress with an interesting feature. I feel like there are plenty of open back styles that would still work with the Anna dress pattern. You could add cross pieces, or cut the key-hole in a different shape, or don’t cut it out at all and let the pieces overlap each other for a more subtle look. With a little bit of extra scrap fabric you could create a draped cowl. Or you could add a large sculptural button for a statement piece… With so many ideas I’m going to have to save up to buy another Sprout dress again!

Sprout Everyday Tote transformed!

bag.jpgSpoonflower’s new Lightweight Cotton Twill is an absolute dream to work with.  The weight is the perfect go-to for a multitude of projects, especially totes!  The combination of this easy to work with material and its tough weave will ensure that you’ll end up with something that will not just look amazing, but wear well. In this tutorial, Gia from the blog Sew Gratitude will to take you through a simple “hack” using the Lightweight Cotton Twill and an Everyday Tote project.  Each Tote is printed to order on a full yard of twill.  Which means once you cut out and prep your tote you’ll have a HEALTHY chunk of fabric leftover to work with, almost 400 square inches worth!  It’s an amazing deal to have the leftovers to coordinate. Read all of the details and how-to on the Spoonflower Blog.

And if you liked this post, Gia will be doing more hacks using the Everyday Tote in the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned!

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Cat Power Projects on Sprout

At Sprout, we stand for women’s rights. The power of handmade can be a impactful statement, especially when using pink to signify not only caring, compassion, and love, but also STRENGTH. Maybe you want to send a certain message but want to err on the side of subtlety? Or perhaps you just adore cats and the color pink. Regardless, we’ve got some amazing designs that we’ve chosen from Spoonflower for just that purpose.

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How cute are these kittens in mittens on a Penelope Peplum by See Kate Sew? LOVE this design by Andrea Lauren.

 

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Power through peace and diginity on an Alder Shirtdress by Grainline Studio. Demure kitties by Kimsa are perfect!

 

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How about a delightful Emery Dress from Christine Haynes? Cats and flowers by Petfriendly = YES PLEASE!

 

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We love the Moneta Dress from Colette Patterns. Caja_Design has the cutest cats in both big and small. SWOON!

 

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Want to scream your message from the rooftops? Check out this Inari Crop Tee by Named Clothing with a frightfully wonderful design by Susiprint.

These are just a few of the literally hundreds and maybe even thousands of awesome cat designs at Spoonflower to use when creating your Sprout project. Have fun creating and stay strong!

 

 

 

Wearable Art = A Memory Tribute

Today’s Guest Blogger is Duncan Carter, a contestant on this year’s “Great British Sewing Bee.” Duncan runs a fashion website of his own and is also a monthly blogger for Minerva Crafts in the UK.


You know what, I don’t actually have many dress shirts in my wardrobe. There are two reasons for that: First off, ready-to-wear shirts rarely catch my eye and secondly, constructing a shirt at home is not quick and can be a bit of a headache. So when I saw Sprout offering the Negroni shirt by Colette Patterns I knew it was a sign to face my fears and make a unique garment, without worrying about tripping over a million pieces of tissue pattern!

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Thus began many days of searching through Spoonflower’s massive selection of fabric designs. Anyone who has read my blog or seen my videos will know I like colour and a bold design. There’s plenty of that on Spoonflower but what intrigued me more were all the stories that designers like Whimzwhirled had attached to their creations. When I found this design (Burning Down the House), I knew it was for me.

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Is it colourful? Yes. Bold? No question! But it was the story that really caught my eye. After a fire burned down this designer’s studio and left her with nothing she made this design from a collage of newspaper cuttings that reported on the fire. She talks of a phoenix rising from the ashes, letting go and moving forward. I like a cool design, but a cool design with a story like this? Perfect!

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This was my first time using a Sprout pattern and I wasn’t sure what to expect. When the parcel arrived I tore in and was thrilled at the colours, design and feel of the fabric. I waited patiently as my machine pre-washed and used the time to read the downloadable instructions. I am big believer in keeping good notes so the printable instructions were brilliant to have.

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I did part-print some of the pattern pieces from the digital pattern to get my pleats and buttons lined up, but I must say it was a dream to get stuck in without having to wrestle with any pattern pieces.

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Another thing I love about this fabric design is that the intricate collage effect would help to cover any little flaws. (Although, of course, there aren’t any in this garment. Honest. Maybe.) Seriously though, if you’ve never made a shirt before then choose a design that is a little forgiving and you’ll sew it up no problem! The Negroni shirt is a great pattern – nothing is under-explained and there was a cool wee tip for perfectly shaped patch pockets.

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The Cotton Sateen fabric is medium weight so it has a sturdiness that means I will be able to use the shirt as a top layer in the springtime but it is also soft enough to wear against my skin as a casual shirt.

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I have to say my experience with Sprout and Spoonflower was amazing from start to finish, and who knew something could get across an ocean so quickly? A million thanks to Caroline at HQ for being so welcoming and patient with me. I already have ideas for a design of my own on the next garment, maybe something with a little Scottish flavour…

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Sprout and a Girl’s Best Friend

Today’s Guest Blogger is Heather Dutton, the creative genius behind Hang Tight Studio. Besides being one of the nicest people we know, Heather is also a longtime Spoonflower designer! We asked Heather to create a special Harley Dog Jacket for her fur baby, Gracie Mae. Mutual dog lover, Caroline, sewed it up for her in warm and snuggly fleece.


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I’m not only beautiful, I’m also warm and cozy!

Two of the big loves in my life are designing patterns and my sweet Sussex Spaniel Gracie Mae. Being able to combine those two things & create a custom dog jacket for her made me wiggle with happiness 🙂

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Shelter dog Prince models the Harley Jacket, also in fleece

The first time I saw the Sprout dog jacket pattern I immediately fell in love with it. Winters in Maine can be brutal and Gracie definitely needs a little extra help staying warm on our morning beach walks.

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Mom, it’s cold on this beach!

I spent a lot of time trying to decide what kind of design I wanted to create for her jacket. I wanted the pattern to be something that reflected her fun personality and I wanted it to make me smile as much as she does.

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Baby Gracie. Winning cuteness awards globally

We were at the beach for our morning walk one day & that’s when I had my Ah Ha design moment.

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Where did that bird go!

Gracie’s totally in her element when we’re there and it’s the one place where all of her favorite things come together… Chasing birdies, swimming, playing frisbee, catching balls, getting cookies and shamelessly asking for belly rubs from all of her beach friends. It’s doggie nirvana! How cool would it be to have a design that celebrates my sweet girl?!

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I WILL find that bird!

When we got back from our walk I quickly grabbed some paper & started sketching Gracie doing all of her favorite things. I had a perma smile on my face the whole time 🙂 She’s such a character and it was so much fun to try to capture all of her silly poses and tail wags.

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Gracie Mae’s favorite things

When I was done sketching I scanned all of my drawings into my computer & started working on re-illustrating everything in Adobe Illustrator.

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After a little bit of playing around with the repeat & picking colors that would look extra cute with her red hair, my new “Gracie Mae Dog Days” design was done! I knew that the Sprout dog jacket had designs on the inside & outside of the coat so I created a fun stylized dog bone pattern to coordinate with the main print and give the jacket an extra pop of color.

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Ok, time for cookies and belly rubs!

This was the first time that I’d used Sprout & I can’t say enough amazing things about them! The whole process was incredibly easy & I’ve already started a wish list for other patterns that I want to try out! Gracie’s new jacket fits her perfectly (thanks to Caroline’s canine tailoring!) & I have to admit I had a little bit of coat envy. The fleece is so soft & snuggly, she’s probably going to be warmer than I am when we’re on our walks. One things for sure… she’s going to be the talk of the beach this winter & all of her friends are going to flip over her new jacket! Thanks so much Caroline and Sprout!


Heather.jpgHeather Dutton is an imaginative designer with a passion for pattern and color. After receiving a BFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design, Heather began her career as a fashion designer in San Francisco, combining her sense of style with her love for textiles. In 2000, she said goodbye to the world of fashion design and launched Hang Tight Studio, an innovative surface design studio.

Today, Heather runs a successful business, creating commissioned & licensed surface designs for companies across the U.S. and Europe. She’s been fortunate to work with a list of exceptional companies including Pottery Barn, Smith & Hawken, Tupperware, Real Simple, O.R.E, Andrews McMeel Publishing, and IMGS Custom Wallcoverings.

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In a Galaxy not so far away…

Today’s guest blogger is Allison Bowles, the patternmaker behind Artemis Clothing Co. and a pajama-maker extraordinaire. Her blog post is all about using Adobe Illustrator to create a repeating design for her Ezra pajamas, using outer space as her inspiration.


If you are like me, you love getting crafty when it comes to gifting. Sprout Patterns takes my gift crafting to the next level by letting me customize projects with my own prints so it’s super personal and I know it’s something that my friends will love.  My friend Jacob loves all things space; he is always telling me the latest stories in space exploration. I felt especially inspired by the recent Perseid meteor shower, so space it was for the design!

I typically use Adobe Illustrator to create my prints because I find it very versatile.  So for this tutorial, I’ll be using Illustrator to create my surface print.

The very first thing I do when I am making a repeating pattern in Illustrator is to find some inspiration photos. Since I was making space themed Ezra shorts I needed to find a great space motif for my pattern repeat. This photo of all the planets was my reference point and Saturn’s colorful rings were my inspiration for the color palette.

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When using Illustrator, I first need to prepare my workspace.  Once the program is open, I create an artboard that is exact size that I want my repeat to be.  I am going to start with a 5” x 5” square and make adjustments as needed as I go.  I also want to pull in my inspiration photos to the workspace so I can see everything around the artboard.

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Next, I need a color palette.  I love the bright blues and pinks in this photo of Saturn’s rings and I think it would be a wonderful color palette for the Ezra shorts.  To make the palette I need to select the color palette icon on the right toolbar.  Then I create a new color group by selecting the folder icon at the bottom of the color palette window.  I can use the eyedropper tool to select colors directly from my color inspiration photo and add to the color group.  Here I’ve selected a range of blues and greens from the photo as well as a few of the pinks for some color pops.

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After I have a color palette I can begin drawing the motifs, which in this case is going to be each of the planets in the solar system.  For each planet I’m using a combination of the shapes tools and the pen tools to create a very basic outline of each planet.

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After I’ve outlined all of the planets that I want to use, I can add color from my color palette using the color fill tool, which is the paint bucket icon on the left tool bar.  I want to make sure that I stick to colors that I have selected from the color group so that everything looks cohesive.

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Now that I have a bunch of planets drawn I can begin to place them in my 5” by 5” artboard to create the pattern repeat.  First I want to give the repeat a background color by creating a 5” x 5” square right on top of my arboard.  Since I’m working with an outer space theme I am going to choose a dark color for my background.  I think this dark, slightly-navy gray will really make the bright planets pop really well.

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Now I can move the planets around on the artboard so that they are spaced out well and fill up enough space in the repeat. I like the way these are positioned, but I still have a lot of negative space that needs to be filled.

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I’m going to fill some of that negative space by creating small starbursts to put in the background.  I think the starburst shape will contrast nicely with the larger planets. I’ve placed just a few in the largest voids since I don’t want to over do it.

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Once I have all  of my motifs placed the way I like I’m ready to use the pattern tool.  This is a very powerful tool in the newer versions of illustrator that allows me to put my motif in different types of repeats very quickly and easily.  You can find the pattern tool in the options tab of the top toolbar.  Scroll over the pattern option and select “Make.”

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I love that this tool allows me to preview all kinds of repeat tiling before I have to commit to one.  I can even adjust each element while I am working in the pattern repeat.  So if I decide I need to slide one of the planets over a little or change a color I can do that in this window and see the total effect it has on the repeated pattern.  I am going to select “brick by column” from the tile type drop down menu, as I think a ⅔ repeat offset works well for this pattern.

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Once I have selected the tiling that I like best I simply close the window and Illustrator automatically adds the repeat to my swatch palette. As a final step, I want to check the new swatch for any repeat errors, like pixel lines or shapes that have been cut off, so I am going to create a large square and fill it with my swatch.

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I can see from the pattern fill that everything looks good, so now I am ready to prepare the repeat to upload to Spoonflower. Since I changed the tiling of my repeat with the pattern tool, I need to use the new swatch tile instead of the original repeat that I was working with before.  I can easily do this by dragging the new swatch out of the swatch palette into the workspace.

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Now that I have the new repeat in my workspace, I want to create a new artboard that is the exact same dimension as the rectangle that surrounds my repeat.  Then, I am going to add the background color back in the same way that I did in the original repeat pattern.

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Ok, I am ready to export this new repeat pattern. Keep in mind as you work, that Spoonflower accepts JPG, TIFF, GIF, or PNG files. I want to make sure the “use artboards” option is checked at the bottom of the dialogue box so that the artboard that I set up as my repeat creates the boundary for the repeat tile.

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Now that I have a JPG repeat that I can upload into my Spoonflower design library.

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Once the file is uploaded into my Spoonflower design library, I can select the repeat in the Sprout design palette for my Ezra shorts.

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The coolest thing about making a Sprout project is the 3D simulation of my garment.   I can see exactly what my print will look like on the Ezra shorts before it is ever printed!  I think it looks pretty good!

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I love the way the planet pattern looks printed on Kona cotton!  The colors looks great!

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Sewing the Ezra shorts was so easy, just stitch up a few seams, hem, and throw in a drawstring.

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I even used one of my Artemis tapes as the drawstring for an extra special touch.

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There you go! Here’s Jacob lounging around on campus in his new pair of Ezra shorts! Looking good, Jacob!


artemis_headshot.jpgAllison Bowles is a graduate of North Carolina State University College of Textiles, where she is currently finishing up her Master’s degree studying zero­ waste garment design. She founded Artemis Clothing Co. in 2014 after working in the textile industry for several years and realizing that she wanted to focus on locally ­made sustainable clothing.

Allison Bowles is a graduate of North Carolina State University College of Textiles, where she is currently finishing up her Master’s degree studying zero­ waste garment design. She founded Artemis Clothing Co. in 2014 after working in the textile industry for several years and realizing that she wanted to focus on locally ­made sustainable clothing.Extra-photo-5.jpgSave

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Altering The Alder, Part 2: Adding Sleeves

Our guest blogger today is Kelly Walsh, the Director of Engineering at Spoonflower and an avid seamstress who loves a good hack. In the second of two parts, she explains how to alter the very popular Alder Shirtdress from Grainline Studio to add sleeves. If you missed it, part 1 of this post is here.


I don’t know about you, but I’m a sleeves girl. Short, long, three-quarter, poofy, flowy, bell, cap—about the only sleeves I don’t go for are the old historic ‘leg of mutton’ sleeves, I can’t imagine many things less comfortable looking. Sleeves are an extra element to an outfit, they’re another place to add detail, structure, balance, or style. The shape of a sleeve can totally change a garment. When I was looking at the Alder dress after my first round of alterations, I just felt like it was crying out for sleeves!

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Good news! Drafting a simple short sleeve is actually a lot easier than you think it is. There’s a fair number of choices to make along the way, but there are some things you can do to make it easier. The Alder is actually great for this modification because the bodice structure is pretty normal, and the armscye (AKA the armhole) is quite standard. If there’s a blouse or dress you’ve made before that has a similar shape, and sleeves you like, there’s a really good chance you can just lift that pattern piece wholesale and sew it right into the Alder. I wouldn’t recommend trying that without testing it on some scrap fabric first, just in case. But I can tell you that it’s worked for me in the past! There are a whole lot of great tutorials on the internet that go into a lot of detail, but I’ll touch on some of the basics of a simple short sleeve, and then look at how you might modify it for different shapes.

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There’s several important aspects to a basic sleeve shape that I really look at. The circumference of the bicep of the sleeve, the circumference of the armsyce (aka the armhole) of the garment you’re fitting it in, the “height” of the cap, and the length of the sleeve. On my super high tech drawing below, the red line represents the bicep of the sleeve. The purple line is the length of the sleeve from your shoulder until the end.

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The green line is the circumference of the armscye. And the light blue line is the “cap height,” or if you think about it another way, the difference between the length of the sleeve at your inner arm (armpit) and the length of the sleeve from your shoulder. You can also get this measurement by looking at the pattern pieces for your bodice, and measuring in a straight line from the side seam top corner straight up to the outside corner of the shoulder seam.

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Now, one of the most subtlest things about sleeves is how you draw that curve along the armscye. It can absolutely make the difference between a poofy sleeve, and a sleek tight fitting sleeve, and it’s all in what effect you want. I didn’t really want a poof sleeve here, but I’m also too lazy to do some of the intense work that is required for getting a perfectly fitted inset sleeve. And that’s where “ease” comes into play. It’s the fudge factor, the simplifier. It means that, for all intents and purposes I kind of eye-ball it, test it out, and in the end just go with it. Ease is your friend. The curve I draw might not fit perfectly into my armscye, but with some basting stitches and a tiny bit of fidgeting, I make it work.

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After taking my measurements, thinking about how long I wanted my sleeves, and using some tricks I learned before, this is the sleeve shape I came up with. One of those tricks, by the way, is to use Spoonflower to print what is effectively graph paper fabric. It’s a 1-inch grid printed directly on their basic cotton fabric, and it is GREAT for pattern drafting. You could even get a roll of it on gift wrap and use that way!

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Above you see my sleeve shape, with the red line representing the sleeve length. It’s about 9” inches, which I know from past experience works for me, and is similar to most other sleeve shapes I’ve found.

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This green line is the bicep line. Now, if you want sleeves that really hug your arms, you’d make measurement similar to your own bicep circumference. I like a bit of moving room, so I usually just draw the cap lines nearly vertically down. You can also even expand them a touch further out if you want a more flared shape. As long as this measurement is more than your bicep, it’s more about what style you’re looking for.

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The sleeve cap curves I usually draw with my french curve ruler. Its useful that way. But finding that “inflection point” where the concave curve becomes a convex curve is pretty important. Its easiest to do it with your bodice pattern pieces in mind. Think of it as the same point where the curve changes in the shoulder of those pattern pieces. This is where the fabric is curving around your arm, and finally folds into your armpit.

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There’s a blog post by ikatbag that goes into a whole lot more detail in this area that I really like. Check out her cardboard box demonstration if you really want a good understanding of how this curve and the cap height of your sleeve can really change its shape. If you’re curious I definitely recommend if.

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If you just want some sleeves and you want them now, then forge on ahead, trust yourself, and trust pattern makers who have gone before you. And when you’re drafting it all up, don’t forget your seam allowance! Trust me. It’ll go downhill fast if you forget that. Not that I ever do that of course (yeah right!)  If you want a basic short sleeve, you’re done, it’s really that easy. But there’s also a lot of things you can do to get interesting sleeve shapes.

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If you like cap sleeves, it’s as simple as shortening the length so that your entire sleeve is basically the cap height, and if you want the edge higher, just give that line a curve upwards.  There are so many sleeve options, but one of my favorites are called “tulip sleeves” or “petal sleeves.” They’re really only one extra step beyond a basic sleeve shape, but they add such a lovely detail that it instantly becomes the start of any garment.

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Tulip sleeves are made by visually layering the fabric in the sleeve with a curved edge, so that it looks like two flower petals over top each other. Seamwork Magazine has done a great tutorial on transforming a simple inset sleeve into a tulip sleeve, and I definitely recommend reading it as well, you can find it here.

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First you take your basic sleeve shape, and draw a curved line from one of the shoulder notches to the opposite corner. Yep, here comes that handy french curve ruler again!

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Then you do the exact same thing going in the other direction. Your one sleeve piece has now become two separate pattern pieces. Your two sleeves will actually require four smaller pattern pieces  (or 8, if you choose to line them.) See how their shoulder points line up, and overlap in the middle, and the bottom edge creates a flower like shape?

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Actually, this is the other reason I chose tulip sleeves for this Sprout Patterns project. When you’re working with scrap material, it’s frequently easier to find lots of small pieces than a few large pieces. I found it easier to fit four of these smaller curved pieces within the margins of fabric. But, if I’d wanted more expansive sleeves, I could have just bought a fat quarter of the same design from Spoonflower and that would have been more than enough extra fabric. It’s part of what makes the whole Sprout Patterns concept amazing!

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In the end, my sleeves looked like this, and in my mind they are just right for this dress. I love the playful effect the tulip shape gives them, which I think matches the gathered skirt and adds an overall balance to the garment.

Don’t be afraid of drafting your own sleeves, and experimenting with other shapes. It’s part of why so many people enjoy sewing, because they get to have some creative expression with what they make, and what they wear! There are a lot of great resources out there if you’ve seen a sleeve you like but have no idea how you’d go about making it.

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And don’t think that just because the lines are printed on the fabric, you’re trapped into that shape. Sprout Patterns is about helping you express your creativity in sewing, and it’s about giving you a starting place. Add onto what you’re given and change it up. See how many different ways you can use the scrap fabric to add unique details. A pocket, or a ruffle, or some sleeves. It’s all in what you can imagine.


kellybiopic.jpgKelly Walsh attended the NC School of Science and Mathematics and graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in Philosophy. She spends most of her free time reading, sewing the most elaborate Halloween costumes she can envision (and the occasional everyday outfit), and learning to weave on her 1900s Leclerc floor loom. Her favorite Sprout Pattern of the moment is the Archer Button Up. She joined the Spoonflower team in 2011 as a printer operator, and is currently the Director of Site Engineering.

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