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AT THE MAKEHOUSE: Pattern Making Essentials with Alexandra Morgan

Pattern making blocks

Written by Cady Brimacombe of Cady Made

Pattern Making Essentials is a 5-week course at The Makehouse taught by the very experienced Alexandra Morgan. Alexandra studied a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Fashion Design at Ryerson University and has worked as a pattern maker, designer, technical designer, and fit technician since 1995, specializing in women’s wear. She has her own pattern making company, In-House Patterns, and also teaches private lessons here in Victoria.

Over the last five weeks I attended Alexandra’s pattern making class. Pattern making is the practice of turning a sketch into flat pieces that will be sewn together to fit and flatter a three-dimensional body. I loved this class. It was the best combination of math and precise measurements mixed with creativity and problem solving. The workshop covers foundational knowledge about how a pattern is designed as well as how the design and layout of a pattern on a certain type of fabric will affect the end shape of the garment. Alexandra has so much knowledge about pattern making. She explains and demos the pattern making techniques in easy to understand methods while also giving students lots of time to practice the techniques.

I attended a pattern making class about a year ago at the Makehouse and I was excited to further improve my skills with this new 5-week course. This class is perfect for you if you are new to sewing and want more of an understanding about how patterns work together, or if you work with sew-at-home patterns a lot and would like advice about how to manipulate them to better fit your body.

In the first few classes we covered the bodice and skirt blocks and how to manipulate those to make different shapes. With the skirt block we started with a straight skirt pattern, and manipulated it into different styles of skirts including an A-line skirt, flared skirt, and four-gore skirt with a yoke. With the bodice block we worked on single and double dart manipulations and moved darts around the bodice to create different looks.

In the last few classes we worked on understanding how to add ease and remove ease in order to change the way a garment fits. We started with adding ease to the bodice block in order to make a basic button up shirt. With this we removed darts, changed the styling, added a pleat, a facing, and a collar, and shortened the sleeves from long sleeves to short sleeves. This practice was a great opportunity to see how something can be changed from one shape to another while maintaining consistent fit measurements.

Next, we focused on removing ease to create a contoured dress that fits closely to the body. This project was mostly bodice manipulations where we removed ease in relation to the bust point. Then we separated the bodice block to create an empire waist and changed the neckline to be deeper and the shoulder width to a strap. For the skirt of the dress we changed the straight skirt into a flared skirt.

Throughout the course Alexandra offered many tips and techniques for creating a more professional looking finished garment. Here of some of my favourite ones that she shared with us.

Tips for pattern making:

  1. Walk your patterns and make sure that all seams match up properly. This is especially important if you have changed any styling or manipulated any darts. This will make things so much easier when you are trying to stitch pieces together and are wondering why certain seams aren’t lining up.
  2. When manipulating darts for the bodice, pull the dart back from the bust point about half an inch to get a better fit and no pointy corners. As cool as Madonna’s cone bra was, you don’t really want that for your handmade summer dress.
  3. When creating patterns and when cutting the fabric, make sure to draw on the notches. This will help you keep track of back and front pattern pieces and will lead to less confusion when you are trying to put together a yoke and a skirt piece and wondering which are the front and back pieces.
  4. Ensure that seam lines and waistlines are at 90 degree angles. This will create a nice straight edge when the two seams are sewn together rather than dipping down or creating a point on the seam where the front and back pieces meet.

Pattern Making Essentials is one of my favourite classes at The Makehouse. The next class will be held in the fall, so make sure to pencil it in to your calendar. Other ways to get your pattern making fix are the Fit Nights where you can bring your latest project and get some feedback on how to make it fit better, and the Skirt Block and Bodice Block classes where you can create blocks that fit your personal measurements.

Keep on designing on.

xx Cady

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Furniture DIY: Chairs

One of our most popular workshops is Simple Upholstery. This is a class we run regularly and spans four weeks, giving you the opportunity to reupholster a small item of furniture. If you are a fan of vintage chairs, this is a great opportunity to learn how to fix things up.

In the meantime, here is a round up of our favourite chair DIYs which you an find on our Upcycled Furniture Ideas Board.

The “Upholstered” Wooden Chair

Okay so this first one would probably horrify Miro, our upholstery teacher, and you couldn’t really do it to a better chair than the one used, but for a bottle of Mod Podge and some cute fabric, this is pretty cool. For the full how to, go to the blog, Designer trapped in a lawyer’s body.


The Mash Up

Take an old dining room chair, reupholster (come to our class to learn how) and then go all Frankenstein on it and attach it to an office swivel chair. We found this tutorial on MyMorningInspiration.

mash up chair

The Blah Office Chair

Again, this apartmenttherapy how to doesn’t require authentic upholstery skills, but instead calls for fabric and a nail gun. Looks pretty sassy for a blah chair!


The Belt Chair

Although this tutorial from EchoPaul Official doesn’t call for fabric, it does call for traditional furniture tacks, which we just love as they look so darn classy. The seat of this chair is made of belts.


The Vintage Webbed Chair

This tutorial from A Beautiful Mess might be a little more difficult than it looks, but we’d definitely give it a try. Keep your eyes peeled for frayed or seatless aluminum chairs and given them a new lease of life with coloured paracord.

cord chair

The Burke Chair

Although you might have a hard time finding a good vintage version of the Burke, look out for a similar style. This chair we found on is refurbished with a vintage blanket!


We hope our finds have inspired you. For more information about our traditional upholstery class, click here.

The girls at ( took our Simple Upholstery class and loved it, taking a cute vintage foot stool back to their office. Take a look at the video they made.

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Recycling 101- Glass Bottle DIY Projects

Is your recycling bin overflowing with glass bottles? Rather than contribute to the overflow at the local dumps and landfill sites, consider upcycling them. One of the unique features about jars is their ability to be used over and over again. So rather than throwing them away, consider using them for your next upcycling or decorative craft spree. You don’t need a whole lot to get started, you would be surprised at how a simple piece of string or even a touch of paint can turn even the dullest jar or bottle, into an incredible conversation piece. Interesting in learning more? Keep reading to see how a simple, mundane bottle can be transformed.

What you need to get started

  • An overflowing recycling bin of glass bottles
  • Copper wiring (optional)
  • Wire cutters for the cutting the wiring
  • Spool of Cord
  • Yarn or para cord

Note: While this list isn’t conclusive, it’s the bare minimum to get started. Always check with your tutorial of choice for the materials needed.

How to remove labels from glass bottles

You’ll need:

  • An empty/clean sink
  • Your craft bottle/s of choice
  • ½ cup baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. dish soap (Dawn works best)
  • 2 cups white vinegar

Upon mixing all of the materials together, the concoction will fizz for a short while, but the end result will leave a clean canvas (void of sticky labels) for you to work with.

Wine bottle lantern


Chances are you have all the materials you need already lying around the house. You can get started with this project with a completely clean wine bottle, acrylic paint, a paintbrush (for the exterior design), and some string lights.

After you’ve cleaned your glass bottle, paint your chosen design/s on the exterior of the bottle. While our particular project example features a simple tree, you can paint more advanced designs.

If you have access to multiple acrylic paints, try alternating between splashes of colors and possibly gluing sequins with a hot glue gun. Not only is this wine bottle lantern easy to make, but if you make enough of them, they would look great as a set.

Glass bottle wind chime


Who doesn’t enjoy the sound of a wind chime on a warm summer day? The wind chime, like hummingbird feeders, have become the tell-tale sign that summer is near. If you enjoy the enchanting unique song of the wind chime and have tons of glass bottles lying around, the possibilities are endless.

While this particular craft might require some skill (mostly glass cutting), it’s still not overly advanced. See the image below for methods of cutting glass. There are a couple of incredible tutorials on YouTube showing viewers exactly how to do this. Once you know how to cut glass, the only decision left is to determine how you want to decorate your original wind chime.

The piece in the photograph features round loops and beads. Depending on your confidence in cutting glass, you could easily get creative and flatten various bottles and create varying shapes to feature on your wind chime. A strong string material (fishing line), along with beads and your bottle is all you need for this project.

Glass bottle flower vase


You can’t get any easier than this. However, the possibilities for this project vary depending on the creativity of the artist. You could paint designs on the outside of the bottle (like the first craft mentioned in this article), etch designs into the glass, or even wrap and paint the bottle itself. We love using Mod Podge and cool crafting paper. If you have a ton of bottles sitting around, you can experiment with designs and possibly give away the vases as gifts.

Bird feeder


You can’t have wind chimes without a bird feeder. A bird feeder can vary in complexity, but hot gluing a pan like foundation to the opening of the bottle, will provide the perfect perch for your birds to rest as they consume their treats. A few minor adjustments would make this ideal for a hummingbird feeder.

Tiki torch made from wine bottles


Next time, before spending money on that Tiki torch setup you saw in that home decoration catalogue; consider making your own. Incredibly easy to make and even unique, you can proudly exclaim to your neighbours that you made it yourself, when they ask you where you got them.

How to cut glass bottles

Learning to cut glass is an important part of some wine bottle crafting, though not all. Cast a glance at the gallery below to learn more about the process and various other do it yourself projects.


About our guest author

Giuroiu Anton is the Founder of Homesthetics Magazine, an online architecture art and design resource. In the spare time he writes as a guest for several architecture websites like Freshome and Architecture`n`Design. He is currently studying Architecture and Urbanism at Ion Mincu University in Romania where he also graduated Tudor Vianu National Computer Science College, his educational background fuels his thirst for technology and design.

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Upcycling Men’s Shirts

We are huge advocates of upcycling clothing and making the most of fabric scraps. If you can’t pass it on at one of our legendary clothing swaps, then turn it into something else.

You can follow us on Pinterest for a ton of upcycling ideas or attend one of our Wardrobe Surgery workshops to learn techniques and tips to turn clothing you can’t wear anymore into revived functional fashion pieces.

This blog post focuses on upcycling men’s shirts. Men’s formal shirts can be picked up cheaply in very good used condition and there are so many fun options for them.

Turn a man’s shirt into a summer skirt or dress


There is a really easy way to do this and that’s just to climb into a men’s shirt and wrap the sleeves around your waist. Or you could tailor something. This is a nice and easy skirt from men’s shirt pattern on (image shown) whilst there are many links to dress patterns on our Pinterest board, from easy pinafores to structured peplum styles.

From men’s shirt to girl’s shirt


Boys can wear girl’s, who wear boy’s, who wear girl’s! But if you want something a little more feminine there are lots of great options. Our favourite is this cute tank style shirt because of the added bow.

Turn men’s shirts into kid’s clothes

Daddy's little girl dress

Again, lots of options here but the love the classic pinafore style dress like this one from

Turn men’s shirts into cute collars

We love an added Peter Pan collar and it’s so easy to do from men’s shirts of any size. Check out this tutorial from Leafy Treetop for an easy to follow Peter Pan collar pattern.

Patterns galore

Remember we have a large selection of patterns online and in-store that can help you on your way to upcycled clothing heaven!

patterns galore




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Holiday Maker Market

Join us on as we kick off the holiday season with our 3rd annual late night shopping event sponsored by

Date: November 26th

Time: 5pm-9pm

Place: The Makehouse 833 1/2 Fort Street

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Festive Shopping

Come and join us to kick off the holiday season with our annual late night shopping event!

Date: Thursday November 27th, 2014

Time: 5:00pm – 9:00pm

Venue: The Makehouse – 833 1/2 Fort Street [between Blanshard & Quadra Street]

We are so lucky to have a Brent Jarvis playing our beautiful piano from 5:30 – 8:30pm! Come on by even if it’s only to lounge around and soak up the atmosphere!

Special festive treats first come first serve!

We stock the following:

We stock unusual buttons, fabrics, trimmings and haberdashery for the makers in your life. We also stock an wide variety of paper crafting supplies including a wide range of Graphic 45 papers.

Festive retro tea towels, napkins, aprons and stockings alongside comfy bamboo knickers and shorts made by The Makehouse

Hand crocheted scarves by Dela Wilkins

The most beautiful knits from Hats by Elayne

Gorgeous handbags and wallets by Sugar and Candy designs.

Painting, prints and cards by Alexa Gibbs Artist Page

The most unique decoupage canvases, magnets and boxes by Uniquely Cedra

Paintings and cards by Freyja Zazu Art

Colourful big and small works by Andrea Soos of Poppet Studios

Imaginative illustrated prints and cards by Jesse Beauvilliers [featured above]

Upcycled silver jewellery by Trinkets by Design

More details coming up! If you are interested in selling your work at this event, please get in touch by email