Current Project(s) – Dec 2015








What I am working on:

The Fall semester is over, the grades are in.   My major sewing oriented project at the moment is revising my pattern program to work in inkscape as an extension. Thus far this has involved learning  how use inkscape, python,  svg,  xml .  It is nowhere near complete  however I am making progress. So far, it only draws the yoke.

Some of the advantages of writing it as an inkscape  extension are:

  • Inkscape is open-source
  • Inkscape is multi-platform
  • It is very easy to install extensions into inkscape.  Just drop a few files into the inkscape extension folder and you are done. ( the major challenge on the Mac is to find the inkscape extension folder)

The screen shot below shows the inkscape window with the PPD-Shirt extension dialog.

Screen Shot of inkscape with PPD Shirt as extension
Screen Shot of inkscape with PPD Shirt as extension

Of course as I work on this program I realize ways to refine the program to make  it more flexible.  For example, giving the user the option of changing the shape of the yoke by adjusting a few parameters.

(Thanks to David Coffin for suggesting  that a standard yoke should be included in the pattern.)

Yoke variations
Yoke variations

I expect to have a fully working version sometime in the  Spring.  I will have partial versions to play with before that.

Meanwhile,  not wanting to spend all my time on the computer,  I have been sewing a few more shirts (I still have much to learn about sewing shirts). Currently I am having fun with snaps instead of buttons.  Snaps may not be as classy but they are way more fun to install.

White linen shirt with snaps and a shaped cuff:

White Linen shirt
White Linen shirt
Linen shirt with snaps
Linen shirt with snaps

I have also been experimenting with shaping the  cuff.  The goal was to make the cuff longer but have it cutaway around the thumb metacarpal so as not to impede the hand motion.

Shaped Cuff
Shaped Cuff
Cuff with Snaps
Cuff with Snaps

I also made the same shirt out of a pink chambray.

Pink Chambray
Pink Chambray

My next sewing project will probably be some trousers.

I did a very-very quick  muslin of  Joost De Cock’s “Textbook Trousers” at  and they look very promising.  Also, I am in desperate need of trousers.

Thanks for reading.




The PPD-0102 Pattern

This post is about the PPD-0102 pattern which is now available for download.

PPD-0102 Work in progress

I am showing here a work in progress,  ivory twill. I have not had time to complete it yet.

The Back
PPD-0102 The Back

Eventually there will be  step-by-step instructions and  more  photos.

The shirt pattern has its own page,  PPD-0102  where you will find links to the pattern files.

My goal in producing these patterns is to help a sewist produce a shirt that fits well. The commercial patterns available for a sewist  tend to come in the  standard sizes 34-36-38-40-42-44-46.  The skilled sewist is then expected to adjust the pattern as necessary to achieve a good fit.  My initial plan  is to produce the patterns in a finer gradation of sizes and hopefully make it easier to get a good fit (34-52 in 1/2 inch intervals).   Eventually I should  be able to offer custom sized patterns.

Admittedly this shirt pattern may not be of  interest to the average sewist for  a couple of   reasons:

Yoke Pattern Piece
Yoke Pattern Piece

1) This pattern  features a “shaped” yoke instead of the traditional “straight” yoke .  I am considering making the next pattern with a standard yoke so that a standard basic dress shirt pattern would be available in a wide range of sizes.

2) This pattern looks a bit different than traditional sewing patterns although I do believe that  the pattern is fairly clear   (I still need to finish the instructions).

A remaining challenge  is actually take measurements of a person and produce a pattern and a shirt for that person.  I know it works for me, but that is a sample size of one.  There are about 15 measurements that go into this pattern.    I will describe these measurements in a future post.

In the meantime, I hope  you find the patterns interesting and/or useful.

Thanks for reading.



The Collar Stand and Fall

In this post I will try to examine the shape of the collar.


In my first pattern, PPD-0101,    the collar is not quite right.  I  admit that over the last few months I  put more effort into developing the software to produce a pattern based on body dimensions than I did on perfecting the pattern itself.  Also, I admit that I do not quite understand the shape of the collar itself.  So, in the pattern I produced a collar that seemed to work.   As I now have more time to spend on the pattern,  I want to understand the shape of the collar.

Several of the books I have on drafting shirts show something like the following from “Fundamentals of Men’s Fashion Design,  A Guide to Casual Clothes” by Edmund B. Roberts and Gary Onishenko, 2nd edition, 1985,  page 73:

Dress shirt collar drafting instructions
Dress shirt collar drafting instructions

They don’t say any more  than just that ”  A dress shirt has a crisp look and consists of a fall and a stand”  They do not explain the shape or how they arrived at it.

When I look at one of my few sample RTW shirts I see this:



The collar seam does have a bit of curvature. The collar stand looks completely different. This shirt does   looks similar to what I have seen In Kwik Sew Pattern 2777:

KwiK Sew Collar pattern


My impression is that the shape of the collar stand is not crucial to the fall.   I believe the shape of the collar stand has more to do with fitting the neck and that this becomes more important as  collar stand becomes larger and/or  stiffer.

To study the fall, I am going to proceed  on the assumption that  a good fall can be achieve by shaping the collar only.  I will test the different collar shapes on an un-shaped collar stand

I drafted the following three test shapes:



I then constructed the collars as normal and sewed them onto ribbon to test the shape of the fall:




And here are the results:


  • In Case A;  The fall was so tight to the collar stand that I could barely get the tie on.
  •  Case B is very good but the collar is still slightly pinched at the shoulder seam and does not flow  smoothly over the over the knot (right side of image).
  • Case C seems to be the best fitting  collar. The edge of the collar has a nice drape, the collar does not pinch at the shoulder seam and the collar passes smoothly over the knot.

What I have learned from this study is that   the curvature of the collar at the collar seam is necessary to provide the volume between the collar fall and the collar stand.  More curvature = more volume.  Now it seems to me that the back of the neck would need less volume and less curvature and the front of the neck, especially in the area of the knot,  would need more volume and more curvature.  I will consider this as I play around with the collar design a bit more.

The next challenge is to understand the shape of the collar stand.


Lavender Seersucker Shirt

Here is a quick look at  my latest shirt:

Before the buttons:






I have been working on instruction to go with the shirt pattern.   That is not so much fun.

I am also in the process of revising this pattern.  One of the redesigns has to do with the sleeve cap:

SIZE43hv1_Sleeve BoardSIZE43hv1_Sleeve Board


The sleeve cap in PPD-0101 is a bit flatter  which yields more ease of movement but also produces excess fabric under the arm when the arm is in the relaxed position.

Other changes for PPD0102 are

  1. Redesigned collar
  2. Redesigned cuffs
  3. More ease in the forearm

Also in the preliminary stages of developing a women’s pattern

Here is  Ms. Mini Ten  (Half scale form)




The Shirt Pattern Project (Pattern 1)

In this post I describe a bit about the pattern files and provide a    sample file.

I identified my first pattern as PPD-0101.  The PPD  (Partlan Pattern Designs)  is obvious.  What about the 0101?  I gave myself some room here:  01xx  refers to a dress shirt design  and xx01  referes to  the first version of that pattern.  Thus 0101  is the first version of my dress shirt pattern.  I am already working on refinements to this pattern so the next pattern will be 0102.  When I get around to a different style of shirt, say a polo,  It will be numbered 0201.  So much for the numbering scheme.

I have produced the pattern in sizes from 34 to 52 in half inch increments.

Here is a table of finished garment dimensions:

Finished Garment Dimensions.pdf

I am happy to give the patterns to anyone who is interested.  There are too many to post on this website.  Send me an email at and I will email you the .zip file.  Each .zip file is about 17MB.

I have uploaded a sample file.  It is the .zip file of the pattern  PPD-0101  based on the  ASTM body measurements of  44 Regular:

This .zip file contains 10  .pdf  files.  Since I am planning for the home sewist who may be printing at home,  I broke the pattern file into separate pieces.

  • The Yoke
  • The Front
  • The Back
  • The Collar  (also contains the collar stand)
  • The Sleeve (also contains the sleeve placket)
  • The Cuff(1)  a mitered corner barrel cuff
  • The Cuff(2) a rounded corner barrel cuff
  • The Cuff(3) a french cuff
  • A Test Page

The  10th file is the full plot (42in x 74 in)  for those who have access to a 42in plotter.

Full Plot
Full Plot

If you  are printing at home on  standard 8.5x11in paper, you will need to test your printer to be sure it is not doing anything strange with the scaling.  Hence the test page.   Make sure “Actual Size”  is selected in the print dialogue box.


Test Print Page
Test Print Page

On the Test Page ( and in all of the files )  is a 1in grid.  Measure the grid after you print it and be sure that it is 1in   in both directions. If it is not then you will need to play with the scale settings in the print dialog until it is.  The grid lines will also help when you assemble the pages into the pattern piece.


The pattern contains 10 pattern pieces

  1. Yoke (cut four)
  2. Front (cut two)
  3. Back (cut one,  on the fold)
  4. Collar (cut two fabric plus 1 of interfacing (optional))
  5. Collar Stand (cut two)
  6. Sleeve (cut two)
  7. Sleeve Placket (cut two)

Cuff Options:

  1. Mitered Barrel Cuff  (cut four fabric + two interfacing)
  2. Rounded Barrel Cuff  (cut four fabric + two interfacing)
  3. French  Cuff  (cut four fabric + two interfacing)

In up-coming posts I will present step-by-step instructions and discuss more details about the pattern.

Happy Sewing!


The Shirt Pattern Project

In this post I introduce my Shirt Pattern Project.

I have always had problems with Ready-To-Wear (RTW) shirts.   They  are sold in collar size and sleeve length combinations.  Thus it should be  possible to purchase a RTW shirt that fits in the collar and  the sleeve  at the same time.    This is sufficient if one always wears a  coat.  Collar size and sleeve length are all that matters.   However,  I don’t wear  coats often.  Thus, for me and probably many others, the shirt is an outer garment  and hence it is desirable  to have a shirt that fits well everywhere.   The goal of  my Shirt Pattern Project   is to produce a pattern or patterns that allow the home sewist to produce a well fitting shirt.   A tall order to be sure; it and may not be achievable. However, I should at least end up with a pattern that works for  me and I will have learned something  along the way.

Disclaimer: I have neither credentials nor experience in this field!

Here is an example of  a  typical inexpensive RTW shirt.

Ready-To-Ware Shirt
Ready-To-Wear Shirt

I don’t know if there is anything   conceptually wrong with a curved yoke.  However,  I wanted to see if I could design a shirt that did not have this artifact.



Here is the result. Most of the curvature has been removed.




And the front view with the button-down collar.  Mr Wolf sports a tie once in a while.

I don’t wear ties.


Yoke Pattern Piece
Yoke Pattern Piece

Here is the yoke pattern piece.  This is a split yoke so that the grain could be  parallel to the shoulder seam.



The new yoke
The new yoke pieces.



Here is the yoke on the  form.



My Shirt Pattern


Here is the full pattern layout  This pattern is based on my body measurements.     A few of the features of this pattern are:

  • Cut-on front plackets
  • A front placket finale.  This is the extra fabric at the bottom of the front.   This makes a nice way to finish the front placket and transition to the hem.
  • A single piece sleeve placket which I find easier to sew.

FinishedShirt4small FrontPlacketFinal








I am using Adobe  Illustrator to do the drawings.  In addition to drawing the pattern in illustrator,   I developed an algorithm to produce the pattern in  different sizes based on body dimensions.    I used the ASTM D6240/D6240M  table of body measurements for adult males  for the body dimensions  and have produced the patterns in sizes from 34 to 52  in 1/2 in  increments.

In the next post I will describe the pattern and sizes as well as upload a sample pattern.






Thread Tension Part 1

Kenmore Tension Dial

Thread tension is a bit of a challenge: without it nothing works. Getting it right seems to take a bit of fussing.  There are many good descriptions available of how to adjust the thread tension.  The point of this post is less about setting the perfect tension than it is about understanding what is going on with thread tension. My goal was to measure the thread tension directly.   Having  access to a force sensor and some other incidental equipment that I usually use in the physics lab where I teach, it occurred  to me that I could use the force sensor to measure the thread tension on the sewing machine.

Kenmore-bwI took my Kenmore into the lab and spent Friday afternoon playing around with this. The results are as follows:

Kenmore Mara 100 Tension.xlsx

As one would expect, the higher the tension setting number the higher the thread tension.  The standard unit for measuring tension is  Newtons (or mN): here I have converted  the measurements into grams, another common way to measure tension.

The data here are the numbers I measured.  I have no idea of what they should be.  I have not been able to find any clear reference as to what should be expected for the top tension.

BobTenI also measured the bobbin tension. I found the tension to be about 35g.  I used a digital scale purchased for under $10.

I did find a reference for this: the TOWA bobbin tension gauge.

It suggests the bobbin tension should be 25-30g

Having calibrated my top tension and the bobbin tension,  I made various sample stitches to determine which setting gave the best results.  The sample consisted of three layers of  cotton muslin,  Gutermann  Mara 100 polyester thread,  and a 65/9 needle. The best results were achieved with a tension setting of 5 which corresponds to a top tension of approximately  68g and a bobbin tension of 35g (I used a microscope to photograph the following pictures).

Sample top: The dark spots are the bobbin thread just visible
Sample Bottom, The dark thread is the bobbin thread

The microscope tends to reduce depth perception so I attempted to cut away the fabric to look at a cross section. You can just see the loop formed inside the fabric.


My best guess as to why there is a difference between the top tension (68g) and the bobbin tension (35g) is the resistance of the fabric.  That is, some additional top tension is necessary to pull the lock-stitch into the fabric.  However,  I am no expert, these are only my observations.

Based on the above observations, I’m assuming that the correct thread tension depends on the following parameters:

  • Thread type and size
  •  Fabric and weave
  •  Needle
  • The desired properties of the stitch to be sewn

My next challenge is to explore these other combinations.

Thanks for reading.

Picking Up Where I Left Off?

Singer Buttonhole Attachment on a Kenmore

Well sort of.  I have had time over the summer to reassess my goals for my sewing and designing projects.  Most definitely I am not going to try selling the patterns.  As I complete them I will make them available for  downloading — my contribution to the creative commons concept.

Susan is now focused on her own projects which can be found here.

I am fully taking over the blog for Partlan Pattern Designs (PPD)  as of this post.

To make this transition,  I thought I would provide a little back story.

I wanted to learn how to make my own clothes.

Vintage Kenmore 158.14001

Why? Partly because I like to make things and partly because I felt that the ready-to-wear (RTW) industry was not producing garments I liked or that fit.  And, an additional consideration was that the mass market RTW industry has a reputation for employing  garment workers in abysmal conditions  (though certainly not all of it).

I started sewing and found there was a lot to learn:  sewing technology & techniques, fitting techniques, fabrics, threads, equipment, photography and social media. All of which have steep learning curves.

Surprisingly, on the sewing front, I was able in a fairly short time to produce a garment that was crude but passable enough for me to wear. In my work (teaching physics at a local community college) casual clothing is appropriate most of the time.

This was enough of a success to encourage me to keep going.

As I wore the garments that I had sewn, I found that in wearing them one begins to really  understand the fit and function.   When I had time I modified the designs and tried again.  As Susan says, I am a tinkerer.

My first shirts left much to be desired.  However, I felt I could improve on the implementation, and have.


As I was tinkering with aspects of shirt design and fit, I became interested in designing my own complete shirt pattern.  Basically a pattern self-drafted on me, until I got  the form.

Because I had experience with AutoCad in my past I was able to fairly quickly get the design into a pattern software program (using Pattern Works).

So far so good.  At the time it seemed like this might be a plausible business,  hence the name Partlan Pattern Designs

Then,  the tunnel at the end of the light appeared in considering how to grade the pattern to all other sizes, and, in my naiveté, thinking there might be many of them. Another barrier to producing a viable pattern business is to produce an intelligible set of instructions for the pattern. Susan spent several months on that part of the project in addition to managing the communications, social media and the infrastructure required to actually sell the patterns.

In the end for reasons she discussed here,  we decided to close the business.  I am taking the pattern design on as my personal hobby.  I do plan to release the shirt pattern, probably sometime in the summer of 2015 as there are a number of revisions I want to implement between now and then.


My Shirt, (Brooks Brothers Shorts, Dobbs Hat)

As I begin my blogging adventure, I plan to reflect on the learning curves and share some of my experiences.

Up coming blog topics will include what I learned about:

  • threads and needles
  • fabric (natural fibers)
  • sewing the different parts of the shirt (multiple)
  • drafting a pattern
  • grading a pattern

I will intersperse these with posts on some sewing projects I am working on.

Thanks for reading.

New Directions!


Partlan Pattern Designs is closing. Martin does not have adequate spare time to work on the business and as it turns out, given a number of new church and other commitments in 2014, neither do I.

We considered outsourcing the pattern making and just focusing on designs. In exploring that option we realized we don’t have a robust business marketing strategy. For example, we don’t really have a collection of designs for a specific target market. The few designs Martin has in mind are fairly general and classic. The engineering behind apparel construction was always of more interest to both of us than the designs themselves.

It’s possible Martin will resume development of the Shannon pattern and other classic menswear designs when he retires from teaching. Or maybe it will just be an ongoing hobby. As noted in previous posts, it became pretty clear after our research that there isn’t likely to be much profit in selling menswear sewing patterns. Putting it another way, it looks like we would have to invest more capital and time than we’re prepared to invest in order to make it profitable.

In the coming days, I’ll be removing and archiving the content on this blog to prepare the blog for deletion.

We’ll still keep sewing, but I won’t be blogging here or elsewhere about sewing or style. So this is the last sewing related post. What you see in the first picture is a dress in progress that is a copy of this dress Miley Cyrus wore to the Bambi awards last year. This post on Wendy’s blog is where I learned about the dress.

Here’s a close up of the sleeve in my version of the dress.


I constructed the velvet cuff using 1 inch piping cord covered with two layers of cotton batting.

When not busy sewing and working on church projects we’ve been busy adjusting to life as new dog owners. For those who saw the previous tweets and facebook posts about our mixed terrier rescue dog Coco, here’s a snippet I posted on facebook Wednesday that explains what happened with Coco.

Sadly, Martin and I had to surrender Coco back to the SPCA this afternoon. She’s been increasingly prey-focused (squirrels, birds) and aggressive towards the cats, other dogs and certain people since we got her 3 weeks ago. She attacked Brownie kitty twice (jaws on neck) and has extreme difficulty controlling herself whenever he’s around. Yesterday Coco got vicious with a boxer mix dog at the dog park. The boxer provoked her first, but even after the owner got that dog under control Coco kept attacking with viciousness. Like she was another dog, not the one we first met 3 weeks ago. Today, a friend came with a sweet dog to play in the back garden. All was well for the first few minutes, then Coco attacked (bared teeth, growling, etc). We leashed her, settled her. A few moments later she tried to attack the dog again. The dog was just sitting there, and was obviously afraid. Martin & I talked over the various incidents over the last 3 weeks, e.g., leash aggression, near bites of our hands that felt uncomfortable because of the look in her eye, the aggression towards the post man, gardner, etc. It turns out we’ve BOTH been concerned. The little things adding up. Just in case the garden incident was a fluke (protecting her turf), we went back to the dog park. More attacks, this time with NO provocation. It’s almost like a “switch” went off in her brain sometime this week and now she feels free to attack. When we surrendered her, I mentioned that there was nothing cautionary in the notes about her behavior at the time of adoption and that we said we had a cat. In fact the notes indicated she was a cuddly lap dog who likes to lick your face. The surrender intake volunteer said she knew Coco — she knew Coco could be a real problem. It kind of shocked me. I asked why this wasn’t in the notes? She said they only record what is known from the previous owners, which in this case didn’t apply because Coco was found abandoned. So the SPCA knew she was a risk, and didn’t let us know because of protocol. Very sad.

This was a terribly upsetting experience for us, but we know we’re meant to become doggie parents. We’ve been busy since Wednesday researching reputable breeders from which to purchase a pure bred dog. I’m happy to say we are very likely to become the proud parents of an CKSCS-USA and AKC registered Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy born Nov 14 next Friday Jan 17, assuming all questions are answered to our satisfaction and the puppy’s health records are in good order. It’s sort of going in the completely opposite direction buying a certified pure bred dog, but Martin and I feel really burned by the SPCA rescue experience with Coco. We understand there are more reputable rescue organizations out there using foster parents who really get to know the dogs before placing them with families, but we’ve decided we do not want to do another rescue adoption. This way we know for sure we’re getting a healthy dog bred for companionship, not a special-needs dog we can’t trust around other dogs and small children let alone grownup people like the gardener and post man. It’s not that we don’t support rescue adoptions, just that we personally do not want to do another one.

We have already named her Annie :). If I do blog again, it will be a different blog about Annie, involvement in the daily and weekly work of my church and the wider community, and about living as a committed Episcopalian trying to make sense of life without getting too religious (in a doctrinal sense) but hopefully spiritual enough, open enough to receive the wisdom necessary to age with grace and self respect.
I’ll leave this post up for a couple weeks to give people a chance to visit and then I’ll take it down and delete the blog. I do miss reading blogs but am finding that spending less time online and more time outside, e.g., playing with the dog, walking the dog, gardening and so on is healthier for me, both physically and mentally. I will keep in touch on facebook and will visit blogs from time to time.
I wish you all the best in your endeavors and we thank you very much for your support and interest in our sewing pattern project!