Episode 810

Lynn Strobel

Patternmaking Prowess by Lynn Strobel

Sweeten your spring wardrobe with a pretty peasant top. Learn how to alter a basic bodice pattern to create the top's flowy silhouette.  


Bodice & sleeve slopers (or pre-fitted bodice & sleeve pattern) copied onto heavy paper (See "Sources.")

2 yards of lightweight woven fabric

All-purpose thread

1 yard of 1/8"-wide elastic

Three yards of pattern paper (See "Sources.")                     

Rulers: clear 18"-grid, curved & right-angle                           

Clear tape

Safety pin

Serger (optional)

Draft It

Download the half-scale sloper HERE to practice pattern alteration techniques.

Alter a basic bodice sloper using the following instructions. Or download the peasant blouse pattern here.

For help printing large patterns from your home computer, click here.

On a large, flat work surface, lay out a large piece of pattern paper. Place the front bodice sloper right side up on the paper, and then trace the perimeter. Transfer the bust dart and apex.

Connect the dart legs to the bust apex. Draw a straight line from the neckline midpoint to the dart apex (1; how-to images to come).

Cut along the line to, but not through the dart apex. Cut along one dart leg to, but not through, the apex, creating a tiny paper hinge. Rotate the dart closed by aligning the dart legs; tape in place. This alteration transfers the bust dart fullness to the neckline (2). Position a piece of pattern paper under the new dart area at the neckline; tape the slashed edges in place.  

Measure and mark the center-front edge 2" below the neckline. Measure and mark the shoulder seam 1" from the neckline/shoulder intersection. Use a curved ruler to draw a gently curved line connecting the center-front and shoulder-seam marks. This is the new lowered neckline (3). Cut away the excess paper along the new neckline.

Place the altered pattern on a new large piece of pattern paper. Trace the center-front line. Measure and mark 1 1/2" from the side-seam lower edge. Draw a line connecting the armscye lower edge to the mark, straightening the side seam. Measure and mark 2 1/2" from the center-front lower edge. Draw a line connecting the center-front upper edge to the mark to straighten the center-front seam (4).

Extend the new center-front and side-seam lines 4" to 8" as needed for the desired blouse length. For a cropped look, as in the featured blouse, add 4". Trace the remaining pattern edges to create the final front pattern; cut out. Mark the center-front line to be cut on the fold (5).

Place the back bodice sloper on a new large piece of pattern paper; trace, transferring the shoulder and waist darts.

Mark the center back 2" below the upper edge and the shoulder seam 1" from the neckline/shoulder intersection. Draw a gently curved line connecting the points to create the new back neckline. Cut out the pattern along the new neckline, and then place it on a new piece of pattern paper.

Mark 1 1/2" from the center-back lower edge, and then draw a line connecting the center-front upper edge to the mark. This is the new center-back line. Trace the remaining pattern edges, and then add the same amount to the back bodice lower edge as you did for the front (6).

Check the front and back side-seam accuracy by aligning the pattern edges; adjust the length as needed to match.

Place the sleeve sloper on a new piece of pattern paper, transferring the markings; trace the cap. Measure and mark each sleeve underarm seam edge 4" below the upper edge. Draw a straight line connecting the marks to indicate the new sleeve lower edge (7). Cut out the new sleeve.

Draw a vertical line from the cap center to the lower edge. Cut along the line to, but not through, the upper edge. Place the sleeve on a new piece of pattern paper. Spread the sleeve 2" apart at the lower edge; tape the cut edges. Mark a line 1 1/2" above the sleeve-cap center point to create additional fullness for gathering. Use a curved ruler to blend the sleeve cap lines to connect to the new center point (8). Cut out the new sleeve.

Add a 1" seam allowance to the front and back necklines to account for an elastic casing, and then to the front bodice, back bodice and sleeve lower edges to account for a hem allowance.

Add a 1/2" seam allowance to the side seams, shoulder seams, armscyes, sleeve cap and underarm seams.

Cut It

From the fabric, cut one front bodice and one back bodice on the fold. Cut one sleeve pair.

Sew It

Align the front and back bodices with right sides together; pin. Stitch the shoulder seams.

Machine baste 4" along each sleeve-cap center using a 3/8" seam allowance and leaving long thread tails. Gather each sleeve cap 1 1/2" by gently pulling the bobbin thread tails. Evenly distribute the gathers (9). 

With the bodice side seams open, align one the left sleeve-cap upper edge with the left armscye with right sides together, matching the notches and center points. Pin, and then stitch the sleeve cap to the armscye. Repeat to stitch the right sleeve cap to the right armscye. Press the seams toward the sleeves. Serge- or zigzag-finish the seams.   

With right sides together, stitch each sleeve underarm seam and bodice side seam in one step (10). Serge- or zigzag-finish the seams.  

Serge- or zigzag-finish the bodice and sleeve lower edges. Fold the bodice lower edge 1" toward the wrong side; press, and then topstitch close to the raw edge. Repeat to finish each sleeve lower edge.

To create the elastic casing, fold the neckline 1/4" toward the wrong side; press, and then fold again 3/4" toward the wrong side; press. Stitch close to the first fold, leaving a 2" opening at the center back. 

From the elastic, cut a 26" to 28" length. Attach a safety pin to the elastic end, and then thread the elastic through the casing. Align the elastic short ends, and then stitch using a 1/4" seam allowance. Evenly distribute the neckline gathers. Stitch the casing opening closed.

Easy Alternatives

Make simple changes to the blouse for endless styling and design options.

  • Rather than adding elastic to the neckline to gather the fullness, fold four 1"-wide pleats at the center front; pin. Double fold the neckline 1/2" toward the wrong side, and then topstitch, securing the pleats (A).
  • Shirr the bodice neckline with elastic thread rather than adding an elastic casing (B). Finish the raw neckline edge with a narrow hem, and then stitch the neckline with all-purpose thread in the needle and elastic thread in the bobbin.
  • Create a long sleeveless shell by lengthening the bodice and eliminating the sleeves. Stitch a vertical line of gathering 4" to 5" along the center-front upper edge to create a V-shaped neckline (C).


Fashion Supplies, Inc. carries pattern paper: fashionsuppliesinc.com.

Synergy Art and Design carries custom basic patterns: synergyartanddesign.com. 





Products used in this episode:

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