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Can I Hack it?...Yes I can

Hacking the Chameleon Dress + Victoriana Sleeve = Pussy Bow Shirt

I love transforming clothes and it's something I've been doing for as long as I can remember. Even though I've been making clothes for myself for many years, on occasion I do buy pieces from a few favourite designers. Vintage pieces either found in shops or given as gifts also make it into my wardrobe. However, after wearing my homemade and shop-bought items a few times, I always make changes by hacking the pattern or garment to improve the fit, change the look, or prevent them from falling apart as is usually the case with vintage items. One dress, in particular, is worn only once a year. I'm proud to say that I have 30-year-old garments in my wardrobe that are regularly hacked. I just can't help myself.


Before accidentally getting into the commercial pattern world when I was invited to design the Kimono-inspired pattern for the V&A,  and subsequently developing the Chameleon dress pattern, I didn’t know how popular pattern hacking was or even that it was a thing.  Yet because of this, there is something I've been thinking about; does the hacking of a pattern into a designer piece you've seen on the catwalk or in a magazine mean that pattern companies are not giving consumers what they really want? Or does the idea of transforming the pattern into something else inspire you to rise to the challenge? After all, you will be exercising your pattern making muscles, muscles you possibly didn't even realise you had.


The dressmaking community expects a lot from a pattern and so they should. Making your own clothes is one of the most sustainable, ethical ways to dress and you tend to appreciate clothes that you make with TLC more than those bought in a shop. You can use fabric from a charity shop or a pair of old curtains from home, use a pattern that your mother had in her stash when you were a child and transform it, by way of a hack, into the garment of your dreams.


When I designed the Chameleon dress pattern plus sleeves, I wanted to use its simplicity as the base for pattern hacking.  As a designer/pattern cutter I always make patterns that are based on my own designs. Therefore, this challenge is to hack my own dress pattern into a selection of items that I hope you will like and want to create yourself. The hacks will be done as a series of blog posts with full instructions for transforming the pattern into tops, skirts, trousers, shirts and jackets.


The first blog post will see the transformation of the Chameleon dress into the Pussy Bow Shirt with two versions of the Victoriana sleeve. The pussy-bow blouse is a classic design that never really loses its charm. It's quite an austere design that symbolises strength and power in its wearer. However, we don't need to wear a blouse to know how strong we are.

What you'll need.

Chameleon Dress Pattern A                                                                                                              

Victoriana Sleeve Pattern                                                                                                                              

Pattern Paper                                                                                                                                                 

Soft Tape Measure                                                                                                                                             

Magic Tape                                                                                                                                                              

Paper Cutting Scissors                                                                                                                         




Pattern Amendments - Lengthening

 1. Cut out the Chameleon dress pattern A, front and back

2. Lengthen the front and back, if required, by cutting between the two lines

3. Add pattern paper between the top and bottom sections at the desired length increase

4. Tape the paper into place

5. Trim off the paper on either side of the pattern pieces.

Shortening the pattern

1. Cut between the two lines on the front and back.

2. Overlap the two sections to the desired reduced length.

3. Tape into place.

Should you require a Full Bust Adjustment follow the instructions here.

Hacking the Chameleon Dress Pattern

1. Cut out the Chameleon dress pattern A, front and back.

2. If desired, shape the hem at the side seam of the front and back. Start to taper the side seam midway between the waistline and hem.

3. Measure the CF neck. Start measuring 3.5 cm from the CF and finish at the shoulder just before the SA. Front neck = A                                                                                                                                                                       

Measure the CB neck. Start measuring from the SA on the CB and finish at the shoulder just before the SA. Back Neck = B

4. Draw the neck tie. Add the front neck and back neck measurement together PLUS 56 cm for the pussy bow tie. The total width of the tie is 11 cm. Add a 1 cm SA (seam allowance) around the net pattern and a broken line to reference the foldline. Add a bias (45 degrees to the straight grain) grainline marking.

5. Cut out the neck tie pattern. Make double notches along the back on the vertical. Make notch 1 along the top right, this should be the back neck measurement (B). Make notch 2 which should be the front neck measurement (A). Mirror the notches onto the opposite side of the pattern.

Hacking the Victoriana Sleeve Pattern: Version 1

1. Cut out the upper and lower sleeve in the correct size.

2. Mark the hem reduction as shown.

3. Remove the hem.

4. In red mark drill holes on the back area of both patterns. This should be made 1 cm below the lower fold notches. Draw in a row of broken lines to reference the gathering of the lower sleeves.

Making the cuff pattern

1. Measure your wrist loosely, add 3 cm plus 2 cm for the button or press stud stand. These measurements will form the length of the pattern. The cuff pattern width should measure a total of between  12  - 16 cm, whatever your preferance. Divide the width in two with a broken line (foldline reference). Add a 1 cm SA around the pattern.

2. Cut out the cuff pattern and mark notches 2 cm in from the net pattern measurement, on both sides. Fuse these pieces after cutting out in fabric.

Hacking the Victoriana Sleeve Pattern: Version 2

1. Divide the upper sleeve into eight sections starting 1 cm in from the notches along the sleeve head.

2. On a piece of paper, draw a vertical line that is the same length as the middle of the sleeve.


3. Cut through the centre line of the pattern and lay it onto the paper. Spread the pattern and add a total gap of 2 - 4 cm to each section.

4. The slashed sleeve pattern.

5. Draw a curve at the sleeve head to close the gaps. Touch the higher points of the slashed sections while drawing the curve.

6. Tape each section to the paper to secure them. Draw arrows at the sleeve head to signify the direction of the tucks. In red mark a drill hole on the back area. This should be made 1 cm below the lower fold notch. Draw in a row of broken lines to reference the gathering of the lower sleeve. Draw the new grainline marking by using the old arrow heads for guidance.

7. Cut out the pattern. Notch the folds.

8. Sleeve pattern version 2. The sleeve hems should be gathered to fit the cuffs.

Follow the sewing instructions for the chameleon dress/tunic A that are included with the pattern.

Bind the front neck opening between the notches, with a bias cut strip 9 cm x 2.5 cm. Finish close to the neck with an edgestitch. Finish the loose edge with a slip stitch if required.

Neaten sleeve opening by rolling the edges, pressing and stitching with a foot stitch.

Add jumbo press studs or buttons and button holes to the sleeve cuffs.

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